Candidates running for president should show some courage and some morality by condemning Israel’s assaults on Palestinians.
Recently, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 404-1 to denounce the rocket attacks on Israeli cities. The lone dissent was from Texas Rep. Ron Paul.
A week before, the Israeli military assaulted Gaza, killing at least 116 Palestinians, many of them women and small children, an assault that brought on more Hamas rockets, which brought on the vote in the U.S. House. The House did not denounce that assault.
And the three main presidential candidates, Sens. John McCain, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, also stood silent.
That’s what presidential candidates do when the Israeli government causes grave suffering in the Occupied Territories. Nothing.
It’s as though history began last week, and that the original sin is the attack by Hamas with its crude rockets firing into Israel. Never mind that there is a long history of the forcible theft of Palestine by the Israelis, an act designated as “ethnic cleansing” by Israeli historian Ilan Pappe.
Our politicians and our media always define Palestinians as terrorists, Israelis as victims. It’s never the other way around.
It is useless to talk about how the Palestinians feel about living in Gaza, which is nothing more than a huge open-air prison. Their electricity is cut off, as is their water and food supplies.
But their suffering isn’t notice here. It doesn’t count here.
International organizations have been pleading with authorities in the United States and in Europe to allow humanitarian aid in to alleviate the suffering of the people in Gaza. But it is to no avail.
The Bush administration and Israel are determined to punish the Gazans for electing Hamas candidates in the last election, and for, in essence, refusing to follow orders. Evidently, “democracy” is only for those who follow orders given by Israel and the United States. It is certainly not for those people with whom we disagree.
What of the three silent presidential candidates? Their response — or lack thereof — speaks loudly with respect to their priorities and to their morality.
Sure, they don’t want to antagonize Jewish-American voters who support these Israeli policies. But some Jewish Americans oppose these policies, as do Arab Americans. And they vote, too.
And anyway, the question recurs: What is more important — the political future of a candidate, or the lives of hundreds of thousands of people who are on the edge of starvation?
The media have been as complicit as the politicians who ignore what is happening in Gaza. They barely report on the Palestinians who are without food, without water and without the smallest conveniences that will keep them alive. Instead, they run the hundredth story on Eliot Spitzer and the prostitute.
Our media and our politicians are enablers. They are giving Israel a pass on its cruelty toward the Gazans.
If the same treatment — illegal occupation, brutality, deliberate assassinations, imprisonment of political dissenters — were to be committed by any nation other than Israel, our government would send in troops, as it has done in Kosovo and other such troubled places.
We must demand that our presidential candidates address this injustice.
Jim Abourezk is a practicing lawyer in Sioux Falls, S.D., and is a former U.S. senator from that state. He can be reached at email@example.com.