Tanbou condemns the destructive Israeli air bombardments and land assault against Hamas and the Palestinians of Gaza. According to United Nations emergency relief coordinator John Holmes, in its 14th day the Israeli offensive has killed 750 people, among them 257 children and 56 women; 3,100 are injured, 1,080 of them children, 465 women. On top of this, the civilian population is facing tremendous environmental and infrastructural damages. The fatalities are growing as this editorial goes to press.
The disproportionate military response employed by Israel and the asymmetrical tally of death and destruction are astounding. The conscience of the world must decry such injustice.
As terrifying as the Hamas rockets have been to Israeli civilians in towns adjacent to Gaza, the historical fact is that only one Israeli was killed, after weeks of Hamas’s rocket launchings, at the start of the Israeli offensive on December 27, 2008. All life is precious, but any child can tell you it is wrong to kill hundreds and injure thousands of people in response to a single death, or because of the threat of rockets. There are other means of deterrence. There is something profoundly sad in seeing grown men and women torturing their conscience and their intelligence to find justification for Israel’s serial massacres in the Gaza Strip.
Untouched by the human tragedy, the Bush administration remains unyielding in its unconditional support of Israel, repeating its truism that “Israel has the right to defend herself.” Israel has certainly the right to defend itself, and even more the right to exist and live in peace. What it doesn’t have, however, is the right to invade, occupy and destroy other countries. As Salah Stétié has said regarding an earlier Israeli-Palestinian conflict, “Israel’s future does not lie across the Atlantic. It is up to Israel to inscribe its future—geographically, politically, ethically—in a Middle-East finally at peace, appeased by the opening of the Jewish state to its neighbors through a sincere and loyal acceptance of the values of these ancient people from an ancient humanity.” [Nouvel Observateur, August 2004].
While we sympathize with the Israeli civilians subjected to Hamas’s unsettling rocket launchings, this should not exclude a space for empathy with Palestinians who have been killed and maimed in the thousands. Intellectual decency obliges us to recognize that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies in the occupation problematic. However deplorable some may be, acts of resistance against occupation cannot be equated with the domineering and expansionist policies of Israel.
The world rooted for and applauded the election of Barack Obama to the US presidency, hoping it would usher in a new era of dialogue and mutual respect among nations and among peoples. Keeping quiet under the pretext that “the United States has only one president at a time” or “the United States has only one Secretary of State at a time,” as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have been saying, does not augur well for the new politics of change Obama has advocated.
Only by addressing the occupation issue, and recognizing the right of the Palestinians to a country of their own, will this problem be resolved. Let us hope the new Obama White House will reject the shortsighted response of previous administrations, and that his government will use United States resources and the moral capital Obama has earned here and in the world, to promote a true politics of peace and friendship among the peoples of the Middle-East.