The lack of available commentary from Black journalists and political leaders on the current war raging in Gaza is jarring. My hope is that there exists a sea of relevant expression of which I am simply unaware. If that were so, I would deeply appreciate anyone directing me to it. The debate in the Israeli press far outstrips what is taking place in all segments in America. The discussion here is primarily reflexively pro Israeli or muted. But more frequently there is just a cold detached silence. It is as though Palestinians are not really human and thus their merciless eradication not relevant.
What we are witnessing in Gaza must become the subject of serious concern and dialogue for the entire world. A brazen abuse of power and well-planned carefree warfare is on display against a defenseless civilian population. Israel's political and military leadership seem bent on forcing Hamas to its knees by way of collective punishment of all the citizens of Gaza. In the end this will prove to be just another wrong turn down the same old rickety path leading to a new and even more virulent strain of anti Zionist fervor in the hearts and minds of the next generation of Palestinians.
It is clear that the Israelis and Palestinians are incapable of resolving their complex dispute without intervention. It is equally clear that the most acceptable intervening party is likely to be the United States of America buttressed by allies and states in the region. That said, the entire Middle East would benefit from an entirely fresh approach by American leaders. It cannot continue to be our posture to simply accept, adopt and support the Israeli point of view and corresponding policies without thorough critique and without rigorous objective consideration of other points of view from the region.
Our blind allegiance and obvious favoritism in the current conflict between Hamas and Israel is clearly visible to the entire world. It is quickly unraveling whatever semblance of remaining support that we enjoy in the region and giving great pause to our allies with respect to how closely they can continue to stand with us. And "standing pat" is not a viable option for us, the Arabs or the Israelis. It's time for a drastic change in approach.
Despite all historical interpretations of right and wrong espoused by avenging parties in the Middle East, the United States must not chose sides. Our role cannot be that of dictating winners and losers-there is no credibility whatever in such a posture. America must chart its own course-a course that reflects fairness, justice and our national interests. These must be the collective considerations that balance our approach so as to legitimately render us an honest broker facilitating constructive negotiations between age-old combatants. Our understood purpose must be to help put an end to the violent disputes that too often define daily life for Arabs and Jews alike. Talk of victory by either side is foolhardy, but there must be just and mutually acceptable accommodation. The real victory will be peace through fair and just compromise. And this most desirable state of affairs can only result from an appropriate dose of evenhandedness. It would represent a radical shift in American foreign policy in the Middle East, but it is our only rational course and perhaps the only hope for millions of people.
There is better than an even chance that the current slaughter in Gaza will be over by the time President-Elect Barack Obama takes his oath of office or very shortly thereafter. Regrettably, it appears that the highly disproportional assault on Gaza is operating on a cunningly predetermined timetable-a schedule designed to take advantage of both the aggressive tendencies known to be favored by the outgoing Bush administration and the likely departure there from by the more moderate incoming Obama administration. How I would love to be wrong. For if I am right, we are witnessing a use of force so callous, reckless, depraved and morally debilitating as to defy all concepts of human decency. As a strategy or tactic, such guile would be beneath any civilized people.
The issues driving Gaza are not contrived. They are real and deadly on both sides. Even though some response of the Israeli government to legitimate concerns for the safety of Israeli citizens is justified, what the world is now witnessing is unbelievably harsh. Slaughter is the only appropriate description for the ravaging military pursuit now underway in Gaza. The wanton trampling over the bodies of innocent Palestinians serves no useful purpose. It so terrorizes the populous that it ultimately renders them immune to fear. Thus the fear being engendered loses its desired impact. Docility might be sought but implacability will almost certainly result.
For sure the rockets falling on Israeli territory must cease. But an imprisoned and besieged people cannot be expected to sit and die quietly. It is a chicken and egg scenario that does nothing to inspire hope. Here lies a perpetual breach in search of steady courageous hands. Will those be the Hands of America's new president?
The entire world cries out for a humane response to the death and mayhem visited upon so many women, children and other innocents while the United States stares blankly with a clinched jaw. The "ugly American" is taking on new meaning. No one is always right…not even Israel. For far too long America has invested heavily in never stepping back and never admitting mistakes. That was in another world. In this new world, it is time for a course adjustment in the cause of peace. We must move now and not fail.
January 12, 2009