As the Israel-Palestine conflict escalates again this week and the world’s airwaves are flooded with images of grieving families holding their dead, we in the United States must once again ask ourselves: Are we a nation of peace or a nation of war?
From the U.S. government’s actions this week, it seems we are a nation of war. The Obama administration has put its political and financial support behind the newest Israeli attacks on the people of Gaza, which as we write, have killed at least 20 Palestinians, including five children and a pregnant teenager. Militants in Gaza have stepped up rocket attacks into Israel in recent days, killing three Israelis on Thursday and targeting Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.
The U.S. gives approximately $3 billion in military aid to Israel annually. We must ask ourselves why our government is supporting Israel’s attacks on the civilian population in Gaza. And we must ask whether we as Americans agree that this should be done in our name, with our money.
On Thursday, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu stated that “no government would tolerate a situation where nearly a fifth of its people live under a constant barrage of rockets and missile fire.” Of course he was talking about his own Israeli government and referring to missiles fired by Palestinian militants from the Gaza Strip into Israel. But he could just as well have been talking about the Palestinian leadership, which by the same logic should not tolerate the Israeli military’s hundreds of air strikes on Gaza this week.
Retribution can not be a legitimate excuse for violence or collective punishment against civilians. If we were a nation of peace, the U.S. government would be using its leverage with Israel to bring it to the negotiating table with the Palestinians to work for a lasting, just solution to the real conflict over land, resources and the political
rights in Palestine. It would be condemning violence against civilians by all parties, instead of cheerleading an Israeli assault on the people of Gaza.
The U.S. needs to divest from Israel’s military campaign against the Palestinians – a campaign that includes moving Israeli settlers into Palestinian territory, ongoing military occupation, land and resource grabs, military checkpoints that keep Palestinians from attending work and school or visiting their families, detentions without due process and a litany of other human rights abuses.
The Obama administration and the mainstream press are doing a disservice to the American people by obscuring the roots of the conflict. They portray the situation as Arabs trying to wipe Israel off the map, when in reality, they stand by as Israel uses its military apparatus and settlements to colonize increasing portions of the Palestinian’s homeland and make their lives a living hell.
The Obama administration and the U.S. media also disproportionately portray violence against civilians as a Palestinian tactic, when in fact, the numbers tell a very different story. Up until Tuesday, November 13, one Israeli had been killed by Palestinian fire from Gaza this year, and 27 had been injured. In the same time period, Israeli forces killed 78 Palestinians in Gaza and injured 343, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
With Israel mobilizing tens of thousands of troops for a possible ground invasion of Gaza, it appears that the war may escalate further. And, despite protests planned across the U.S. and calls to end U.S. military aid to Israel, the Obama administration is continuing to condemn Palestinian attacks on Israelis, but condone Israel’s use of disproportionate force against the Palestinian people. If the U.S. government’s policy on Israel doesn’t reflect your values, make your voice heard.