The Israelis call it ‘Operation Rainbow’ but there is nothing pretty about it. Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was lauded by President George Bush for offering to unilaterally withdraw from the Gaza Strip a few weeks ago. Well, hold the applause, Mr. President because Sharon also seems bent on unilaterally destroying Gaza before Israel withdraws. Or do you even care?
Dozens of Palestinians have been killed, hundreds wounded, and 2,000 have been made homeless in recent days. Scenes of breathless Palestinians running with the wounded in their arms and bodies scattered all over the place have bombarded TV screens. Yet, not a word of condemnation by President Bush. ‘Israel has the right to defend itself’ is what we keep hearing.
The problem is that the Israelis fired a missile into a crowd of unarmed civilians who were peacefully protesting the recent destruction at the Rafah refugee camp in Gaza. What was Israel defending herself from?
The rationale for ‘Operation Rainbow’ is that the Israelis need to foil attempts at weapons smuggling. But Ofer Shalah of the respected Jewish Forward newspaper wrote, ‘No one called the overall operation ‘revenge’ or even ‘retaliation,’ but it seemed well in line with sentiments expressed by senior military leaders in the days between last week’s attacks on Israel’s troops’ – referring to the 13 Israeli soldiers who were killed.
aside that the 13 soldiers were legitimate targets in the current state of conflict, it is stunning that an entire refugee community is being destroyed and our government merely looks on.
It would behoove President Bush and Congressmen to know about an April poll conducted by Zogby International for the Council for the National Interest. The results: 56 percent of Americans agree and 29 percent disagree that Congress should pass an Israel accountability act on weapons of mass destruction and human rights violations. Nearly one in three (30 percent) strongly agrees. Fifteen percent are not sure.
And interestingly, the pro-Israeli Anti-Defamation League released results of a poll in December, 2003 that showed 43% of Americans believe Israel is a threat to world peace, placing it behind seven other countries.
Some believe that if the matter has little to do with domestic politics, the lack of neutrality may have a religious basis. Evangelical Christians are a strong political force and believe that Israel must remain intact for Christ to return. National Security Council Near East and North African Affairs director Elliott Abrams even attempted to ease concerns about a withdrawal from Gaza by stating in an e-mail briefing that ‘the Gaza Strip had no significant Biblical influence such as Joseph’s tomb or Rachel’s tomb and therefore is a piece of land that can be sacrificed for the cause of peace.’
But in an April 16 letter, the powerful United States Conference of Catholic Bishops wrote to President Bush ‘Palestinians rightly insist on an end to the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, an end to the construction of the wall along its current path . . . and an end to the collective punishments and the daily indignities that make their lives so hopeless.’
And Jim Winkler, General Secretary of the United Methodist Church General Board of Church and Society, was even more to the point about President Bush’s acquiescence of Sharon’s refusal to honor the right of return of Palestinians or to dismantle all of the Israeli settlements when he reportedly said, ‘This is a road map to war.’
I guess that Christ’s words, ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God’ don’t hold a lot of water for those who voice their religious belief that the US must stand by Israel, right or wrong.
Ultimately, I’m not sure why President Bush never condemns the killing of Palestinians which alarm the rest of the world. He has no problem condemning the deaths of innocent Israelis by suicide bombings. Or is that the problem? Innocent Palestinians killed in Gaza were not killed by suicide bombings and therefore their deaths are not going to warrant a presidential condemnation? Bush may not mean to but he gives the impression that Israeli humanity is more valuable than Palestinian humanity. That’s hardly helpful to future Middle East peace. Nobody’s humanity is greater than anyone else’s.
President Bush says he supports a Palestinian state. But his words would be more believable and better-received if he supported the Palestinian people.