by Dan Lewis
A war is going on in the Middle East and innocent people are dying. Not very surprising news is it? What is surprising is the lack of criticism that the leaders of the United States have towards Israel and its deadly bombings.
While the world has been engrossed with the FIFA World Cup as it comes to a close and the President is focused on immigration, border control, and a Republican lawsuit, the rapid escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza has been placed on the back burner, both in minds of the American people and, in some cases, in the media.
The death toll, however, is quickly approaching 200 casualties and the number of wounded is over 1,300 people. These statistics don’t seem all that terrible for a ‘war’, that is until you consider two facts: one, that this skirmish has only gone on for less than two weeks and two, that all of those casualties are Palestinian.
On July 9, 12 children were killed by an Israeli airstrike. Reports state that 30 children have died so far in this newest clash between the two forces. The UN reports that at least 80 percent of the Palestinians that have been killed in the fighting have been civilians.
A spokesperson for the Defense for Children International in Palestine stated that more than 1,000 children have been killed in the last 14 years in Gaza by the Israeli military.
Egypt’s call for a cease-fire this Tuesday was at first accepted by Israel but then symbolically denied by militants in Palestine, who launched around 50 rockets towards their enemy in response. Israel followed suit with renewed deadly air strikes.
Israeli Deputy Minister of Defense Danny Danon declared that the cease-fire proposal was “a slap in the face of all the residents of Israel.” Despite claims from Israeli politicians such as Mr. Danon, the residents that are really getting ‘slapped around’ are those of Gaza.
In spite of this, American officials are siding with the Israelis in this fight, condemning the attacks by Hamas and barely mentioning the death and destruction seen in Gaza.
White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said on July 8 in his daily briefing that US officials “strongly condemn the continuing rocket fire” and that “no country can accept rocket fire aimed at civilians.” The issue here is that Mr. Earnest wasn’t referring to Israel’s murder of innocents or even to both parties of the skirmish. He was speaking of only the attack on Israel.
White House Coordinator for the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf Region Philip Gordon spoke on that same Tuesday at the Ha’aretz Israel Conference for Peace in Tel Aviv. His remarks were nearly identical to those of the Press Secretary’s, stating in reference to Israel that “no country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians.”
In his Tuesday briefing, Mr. Earnest went on to state that the US government “support[s] Israel’s right to defend itself against these vicious attacks.” In his briefing on the July 14, Mr. Earnest stated that the US was “very concerned” about the Palestinian people’s plight, but continued to assert Israel’s “right to defend itself.”
While radicals in Gaza are indeed firing rockets into Israel and firing them farther and faster than ever before, Israel has yet to have any casualties.
According to a USA Today article, Israeli officials have speculated that the weapons that Hamas have been firing are of Syrian make, supplied by Iran. These rockets are often altered to decrease the weight, by reducing the size of the warhead or quantity of explosives, and therefore can travel farther. Hardly any of the perhaps 10,000 rockets stockpiled by the organization, however, have any sort of guidance system, forcing the militants to fire their weapons randomly and without accuracy.
Meanwhile, the Israel government continues with its extensive bombing campaign while more and more Palestinians continue to die, trapped within a war zone. Perhaps instead of encouraging and supporting the deadly actions of the Israeli military, the US government should condemn or even simply address the tactless and unnecessary killing of civilians. The closest that President Obama has gotten to discouraging Israel’s actions came on the night of Monday July 14.
At the Annual Iftar Dinner, President Obama stated, “we’ve been very clear that Israel has the right to defend itself against what I consider to be inexcusable attacks from Hamas. At the same time, on top of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza that we’ve worked long and hard to alleviate, the death and injury of Palestinian civilians is a tragedy, which is why we’ve emphasized the need to protect civilians, regardless of who they are or where they live.”
While finally beginning to acknowledge the terrible damage and death that Israel has caused to innocent people in Gaza, the president still has yet to fully condemn the tragic and excessive destruction specifically caused by Israel.
International Humanitarian Law states that conflicting parties must always differentiate between civilians and armed forces so as to protect the lives, properties, and rights of the people. Every day that goes by both parties of this fight are in violation of this law set aside after years of talks and conventions in Geneva and the Hague. While one might expect a “terrorist organization”– as Israel, the US, and other have deemed it– like Hamas to commit such a crime, the world must also hold Israel accountable to international law. The US should lead the way in addressing this issue and offering its assistance to conflicting parties so as to reach a peaceful solution.
Israel has called up around 48,000 reservists and has begun to make ground operation preparations. If the US is to act on this issue, it should do it quickly, before even more innocent blood is shed.
Update: The first death of an Israeli soldier occurred Tuesday July 15, after the publishing of this article.
Dan Lewis is a junior at Illinois College studying History and Political Science and working in the college’s archives. Dan is the Student Body Vice-President and the Editor-in-Chief of the Rambler, the school’s only student-run newspaper.