American-Israeli War Crimes in Gaza need to be known

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America’s abject subservience to the government of Israel has led us into deep complicity in Israel’s shocking air and ground military assault on 1.5 million defenseless human beings called Palestinians who are crowded in a hellhole called Gaza. I toured Gaza four years ago and was amazed that people could survive in that hot, humid land covered constantly with a heavy blanket of dust.

They could not escape, because Israel long ago converted Gaza — a tiny coastal strip adjacent to Israel and only twice the size of Washington’s District of Columbia — into a miserable outdoor prison. "Inmates" are effectively locked down around the clock, except for a few injured who are permitted to seek medical care in Egypt. For 18 months they suffered from an Israeli blockade that caused food and medical supplies to dwindle down to dangerously low levels.

Eighty percent of Gazans are victims of Israel’s illegal expansion into Arab territory during the Jewish state’s early history. They, or their forebears, fled into Gaza as a place of refuge when they were forced by Israeli military units to leave their homes in what is now Israel.

As I write, 524 [the final total rose to above 1,000] Palestinians have been killed and over 3,000 [now more than 4000] injured — many of them women, children and the sick, or elderly. The pretext for this most recent assault on Gaza is the launching of homemade missiles by Hamas supporters that occasionally hit nearby Israeli villages. The missiles caused four Israeli deaths, a few injuries and some property destruction. The Hamas rocket attacks are also a lamentable violation of international law, but they hardly justify the horrific massacre Israel inflicted in retaliation.

The plight of Gazans intensified several years ago when they voted the Hamas faction into power. Hamas, ironically, is a political organization that Israel helped bring into being as a political counterweight to the PLO. But Hamas developed into a large, independent and popular organization that provided needed social and other services, before emerging as a strong and militant critic of Israel’s mistreatment of Palestinians. Hamas’ leadership proposed an extended ceasefire to Israel but received no response.

The moment Hamas gained authority through free and fair elections, the U.S. government began conspiring privately with Israel on ways to forcibly reverse the electorate’s decision; so much for the democratic process.

Then President George W. Bush publicly defended Israel’s bombing and ground assault by saying, "Israel has a right to defend itself." It would be comforting if he’d also said that Gazans have a right to defend themselves against Israel’s longstanding harsh and abusive treatment. Are Palestinian lives less precious than Israelis? Newly elected President Barack Obama has [at time of writing] remained silent.

Just before the current Israel assault, Prof. Richard Falk, a distinguished Jewish scholar in international law at Princeton University and recently designated as United Nations reporter on Palestinian rights, was refused entry to Israel and unceremoniously deported after being confined in a dirty cell for 20 hours.

Falk writes that the spate of homemade rocket launches does not give Israel either the moral or legal authority to collectively punish the entire population of Gaza. He adds, "Even before Israel’s strike … a recent study reports that 46 percent of all Gazan children suffer from acute anemia " The sonic booms associated with Israeli over-flights have caused widespread deafness, especially among children. Malnutrition is extremely high and affects, in varying degrees, 75 percent of Gazans …The magnitude of Palestinian suffering and the deliberate violations of international humanitarian law by Israel are indefensible."

As a veteran former Republican Member of Congress, I was upset when Senator Mitch McConnell, Senate Republican Leader, brushed off a reporter’s question about Israel’s assault on Gaza in these words: "Israel had no choice."

America’s political structure and most of our media are bereft of balanced appraisal. In the Congress, only Democrat Dennis Kucinich of Ohio speaks out in protest. Almost all other Members of Congress toe the Israeli line and express supportive words similar to McConnell’s.

Only Al-Jazeera television has kept the world fully informed with regular glimpses of the true extent of death and injury suffered by Gazans.

The American people, largely unaware of our government’s subservience to Israel, are unwitting partners in the inhuman brutality being inflicted on the people of Gaza. The fighter planes, helicopter gunships, tanks, and missiles used to bring death, injury and destruction upon Palestinians are gifts of the U.S. government.

In the UN Security Council, only the United States opposed calls for an immediate ceasefire. Without America’s unconditional military and political support, Israel could never carry out the destruction of Gaza or its humiliation of Palestinians in the West Bank. America’s indifference to the plight of Gazans makes me wonder if our citizens have lost all capacity for moral outrage.

If you wish to find out who is really responsible for Israel’s scofflaw behavior and war crimes, look in the mirror. Citizens like you and I are letting the lobbyists for a small, ruthless government make America its uncomplaining servant.

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* First published by the Canadian Islamic Congress

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