I recently commented on Puer Robustus Sed Malitiosus with regards to Gaza on
the total lack of compassion by the American media and public. We never cared much when innocent Iraqis died during our invasion nor do we seem to care about the civilian victims in Gaza . . . maybe the deaths of UN staff will make people care.
As a matter of fact, the coverage couldn’t be more different in the U.S. than it is in the rest of the world. In following the Washington Post and the New York Times online, neither paper has given Gaza either top page prominence or significant coverage. Meanwhile, European papers have had the numbers of civilian deaths in the headlines, along with frightening footage of the dead and wounded, daily.
Not until today’s editions of the Washington Post and New York Times, with yesterday’s reports of bombings of U.N. funded schools, have we seen much criticism of Israel’s disregard for collateral damage, yet the coverage of Gaza is still conspicuously absent and relegated to the opinion pages.
On situation under which the Palestinian live in Gaza, President Carter writes in Washington Post,
We knew that the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza were being starved, as the U.N. special rapporteur on the right to food had found that acute malnutrition in Gaza was on the same scale as in the poorest nations in the southern Sahara, with more than half of all Palestinian families eating only one meal a day.
In the New York Times today, Rashid Khalidi elaborates that
Israel’s blockade of the [Gaza] strip, with the support of the United States and the European Union, has grown increasingly stringent since Hamas won the Palestinian Legislative Council elections in January 2006. Fuel, electricity, imports, exports and the movement of people in and out of the Strip have been slowly choked off, leading to life-threatening problems of sanitation, health, water supply and transportation. The blockade has subjected many to unemployment, penury and malnutrition. This amounts to the collective punishment — with the tacit support of the United States — of a civilian population for exercising its democratic rights.
In terms of the question of proportionality and war crimes, Khalidi writes
. . . The targeting of civilians, whether by Hamas or by Israel, is potentially a war crime. Every human life is precious. But the numbers speak for themselves: Nearly 700 Palestinians, most of them civilians, have been killed since the conflict broke out at the end of last year. In contrast, there have been around a dozen Israelis killed, many of them soldiers. Negotiation is a much more effective way to deal with rockets and other forms of violence. This might have been able to happen had Israel fulfilled the terms of the June cease-fire and lifted its blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Also in the New York Times, Roger Cohen writes,
Mark Regev, Olmert’s spokesman, has accused Hamas of “holding hostage” these Palestinians. Under aerial and tank bombardment from an alien power, with more than 600 dead and 2,500 wounded, that’s not how most people would view their democratically elected government.
. . . But what of the intolerable Hamas rockets on Sderot, the 14 Israelis killed by those rockets since 2005 (four of them in the current violence), the vile annihilationist language of the Hamas Charter? Yes, there has to be a response to Hamas, but this is the wrong one.
What is scary for me as an American is that we are turning into the country that Sarah Palin had envisioned — your remember the interview on foreign policy — a country that shouldn’t ever second-guess Israel. Unfortunately, that is how the world will see us. We are not only the nation whose rendition program, black sites, Abu Ghraib, and Guantanamo prison camps resulted from our unwillingness to second-guess the Bush Administration’s War on Terror. We’re also that hypocritical war-mongering nation that has no compassion for humanity and sees civilians as mere collateral damage in the war de jour.