About those Obama 'thoughts on Israel and Gaza'...
Among the many public declarations spawned by the October 7 Hamas attack upon Israel, none surely is of greater interest than President Barack Obama’s written statement of October 23.
Among many possible spokesmen for the contemporary Democrat party, he is the most eminently credentialed. The party, after all, still bears his influence, as does its doddering, titular leader.
Furthermore, Obama’s foreign policy remains dramatically relevant to the present crisis, particularly as it pertains to Iran.
In his first two paragraphs of his statement, which was published on Medium here, Obama affirms the barbarism of what Hamas did and the right of Israel to react militarily.
It’s been 17 days since Hamas launched its horrific attack against Israel, killing over 1,400 Israeli citizens, including defenseless women, children and the elderly. In the aftermath of such unspeakable brutality, the U.S. government and the American people have shared in the grief of families, prayed for the return of loved ones, and rightly declared solidarity with the Israeli people.
As I stated in an earlier post, Israel has a right to defend its citizens against such wanton violence, and I fully support President Biden’s call for the United States to support our long-time ally in going after Hamas, dismantling its military capabilities, and facilitating the safe return of hundreds of hostages to their families.
In his third paragraph, we get down to business.
How Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters.
That is undoubtedly true. Israel must prosecute the fight decisively, with speed, with overwhelming force, and with ruthless determination to eliminate the enemy, whatever the cost in military or civilian casualties. For the Israelis, it is “them or us,” and General MacArthur’s maxim, “In war there is no substitute for victory,” never was more applicable.
But of course, that is not what President Obama means.
All will not be well unless “Israel’s military strategy abides by international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to every extent possible, the death or suffering of civilian populations.”
Why should Israel be compelled to obey such laws against a foe which takes pride in flouting them?
Obama offers two reasons: “because it is morally just and reflects our belief in the inherent value of every human life” and because “[u]pholding these values is also vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion—all of which are critical for Israel’s long-term security.”
So actually, it is in Israel’s best interest to hold back in its war against Hamas.
As a general proposition, law is not law unless it is enforced equally, so that in exchange for adherence to its commands and prohibitions, the law-abiding may expect protection from those who would violate same.
“International law” has meaning in war so long as belligerent parties mutually agree to respect it and in fact do so. Treaties and conventions that regulate the commencement of hostilities, the treatment of prisoners, and methods of warfare are to be upheld as “law,” provided the combatants each adhere to such. International law has no significance whatever when contending with a gang of savages who joyously decapitate infants and butcher expectant mothers, predators who would as likely heed the Sermon on the Mount as the Geneva Convention.
But Mr. Obama, of course, refers to the innocent Palestinian population when he lectures the Israelis about “the inherent value of every human life.” We shall not quibble over whether the population that actually voted to be led by Hamas and whose members cheer as hostages are paraded through the streets is entirely innocent. Obviously, the children are innocent, and some of their parents recognize Hamas to be the true oppressor. But based on what has been seen so far, it doesn't appear to be everyone.
War between nations, certainly modern war, with the advent of airpower, always impacts civilian populations. One might hope that the Israeli air force does not duplicate the incendiary raids that British Bomber Command and the U.S. Army Air Corps staged over Hamburg and Tokyo in World War II.
There is no law that prevents a nation attacked on its own soil from striking back. And that includes besieging the enemy’s cities.
A state may choose to regulate its methods of fighting to spare civilian lives, as Israel does probably more than any other nation at war. Perhaps Mr. Obama could cite an armed force other than the IDF that warns civilians to evacuate a bombing target by dropping an innocuous projectile on the roof, thereby inevitably also alerting any enemy personnel in the vicinity. Perhaps if he is concerned about the suspension of food, water, and electricity in Gaza, he might admonish Hamas to release the hundreds of hostages they hold, assuming any are still alive, as that circumstance occasioned the suspension.
Israel, nonetheless, must remember that it is under scrutiny: “the world is watching closely as events in the region unfold,” cautions Obama, “and any military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire.”
The world indeed is watching closely, beginning with Iran, Hezbollah, and every other group or country with inimical intentions towards Israel. How would they react to Israel’s failure to achieve its war aims in Gaza, to its failure to finish off Hamas? Does Israel’s advantage really lie in a demonstration of its humanity, in making itself loved? Or does the present crisis rather call for a show of utmost aggression, that Israel may be feared by its enemies, making them disinclined to perpetrate another October 7?
Does President Obama actually offer the prospect of international approbation, of even grudging acceptance of Israel if it obeys his commands? The “world is watching,” so if it likes what it sees the world, as represented, say, by the General Assembly of the United Nations, will applaud Israel?
What applause did Israel get for evacuating the Gaza strip in the first place? Or for giving back much of the territory it had won in the 1967 war? Or for letting millions of Arabs work or live in Israel, allowing some of them to be citizens and members of the Knesset? If Israel forsakes military advantage to be loved, can it hope even to be tolerated? Will this world, now vomiting Jew hatred from its every corner and component, be taught to love Israel? Will it at least accept Israel, that “Apartheid state,” as a “fact of life,” in Anwar Sadat’s words?
President Obama demonstrates his equanimity by bouncing back and forth between points in Israel’s favor (e.g., “[T]here have been instances in which previous Israeli governments made meaningful efforts to resolve the dispute and provide a path for a two-state solution—efforts that were ultimately rebuffed by the other side.”) and iterations of the worst calumnies in the Left’s indictment of the Jewish state. E.g., “Palestinians have also lived in disputed territories for generations” and “many of them were not only displaced when Israel was formed but continue to be displaced by a settler movement that too often has received the tacit or explicit support from the Israeli government.”
Well, if they were displaced when Israel was formed and live on “disputed territories,” that is because their leaders decreed from the outset that Israel would be a disputed territory, United Nations resolution or no United Nations resolution?
The 1947 resolution called for partition of the British colonial possession, forming a Jewish state and a Palestinian Arab state. Was it not implemented because Mr. Ben Gurion and his colleagues insisted that it must all be a Jewish state, or because the other side refused to allow any Jewish nation to be born?
For the entire Arab world before Sadat, and for at least Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran and the Palestinian Authority today, the issue has nothing to do with boundaries, settlements, or the political division of Jerusalem. The issue is not a Palestinian state but the continued existence of a Jewish one. The latter represents an infidel and a western salient in what must be a uniformly Islamic Mideast and so is intolerable, whatever its dimensions. There is no negotiation with that.
The Obama policy of financing Iran, suspended under Trump and resuscitated by Biden, facilitated the atrocity committed by Hamas, Iran’s proxy. Mr. Obama’s appearance upon the American political scene and the dominant role that, we surmise, he continues to play are historic indeed.
Image: U.S. Government, via RawPixel // public domain