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Just Another Word for Nothing Left to Lose January 15, 2009

Posted by Kate Ryan in Barack Obama, Gaza, Hillary Clinton.
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photo courtesy of The Jordan Times

photo courtesy of The Jordan Times

The Israeli attacks in Gaza have entered their 19th day and though news of a forthcoming cease-fire abounds, there has been no action.  Today, the Israelis shelled the U.N. headquarters in Gaza and destroyed an adjoining warehouse that held food and other humanitarian aid.  U.N. officials said hundreds of Palestinians staying in the compound were forced to flee, and that the compound was shelled with white phosphorus, an incendiary agent that can cause horrific injuries.  Current estimates are that over 1,100 Palestinians have died in the conflict; about 50% of the casualties have been civilians.  Al Jazeera reports that 40% of the civilian deaths have been children.  Thirteen Israelis have been killed, three of whom were civilians.

Israel says that it has a right to defend itself and that the Hamas rocket attacks that began as the Egyptian-brokered cease fire ended in December were a grave threat to its security.  True enough.  But the Israelis have been swinging a sledgehammer to kill some flies and they are, in fact, jeopardizing their security through this action.  Israel is creating a future where its citizens will be less safe and will face threats from an increasingly emboldened fundamentalist Muslim world.

Protests against the Israeli action are igniting across the globe, and not only in Arab states.  Every European leader, the United Nations, and several Asian states have condemned the level of violence in Gaza.  In Los Angeles today, a group of Jewish-American protesters chained themselves to the doors of the Israeli Consulate and demanded a cease-fire and resolution to the conflict.

The root of the current conflict is the total blockade of Gaza enacted by Israel in 2007 after Hamas took control from the Palestinian Authority.  Since then, Palestinian citizens of Gaza have suffered through shortages of food, medicine, electricity, and basic sanitation.  They have been unable to leave the enclave to work or go to school.  Conditions in Gaza are not unlike those in a prison camp.  Meanwhile, Israeli incursions into Gaza and the West Bank have continued, creating and building new Israeli settlements.  Neither Hamas nor the Palestinian Authority have been able to negotiate any agreement with Israel to stop the theft of Palestinian lands.  Is it any wonder that the citizens of Gaza have embraced Hamas?   When a person has lost everything possible that he can lose, what value does he place on his own life?  Is it not easier to sacrifice yourself in the hope that it will be better for your children? 

This is the corner that Israel has painted itself into.  Its heavy-handed actions against Hamas and the citizens of Gaza have created much ill-will toward it in even more moderate Arab states.  It is earning the condemnation of most of the western world, with the exception of the Unites States, and is emboldening the truly dangerous regimes – like Iran- that actively seek its destruction.

Incoming President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will need to address Israel and the current Gaza crisis immediately upon taking office.  The Unites States will need to wade into this mess and try to broker first, some sort of truce, and second, a more lasting peace.  But no peace will ever be found in Gaza if peace is just another word for nothing left to lose.

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