What’s the body count today? More than 500 Palestinians and maybe half a dozen Israeli’s. By Bibi Netanyahu’s perverse standard this is a perfectly acceptable ratio. Hamas “militants” are firing rockets at Israel, and therefore the Israeli military has a God-given right to fire back – with fifty times the firepower – from land, air, and sea. Bibi is going to teach Hamas a lesson it will not forget, and if thousands of innocent civilians with no where else to flee get killed or maimed in the process, well, that’s the fault of Hamas, not Israel. Doesn’t Israel take the extraordinary humanitarian step of calling Gazans on the telephone before raining bombs on their homes? Bibi claims this is a sign of how much Israel values the lives of Palestinians.
Americans have no concept of what is happening in Gaza, no idea of what it means to be under constant bombardment, with shortages of food, water, overcrowded and overwhelmed hospitals, and sporadic electricity. I sit in sunny Santa Barbara and try to imagine what it would be like if this upscale seaside city were to suddenly come under bombardment, if artillery shells were whistling down from the foothills, and warships offshore were lobbing projectiles into the center of town, if entire blocks of office buildings and houses were reduced to smoking rubble. And suppose this kind of intense bombardment was happening for the third time in six years?
The world community should be calling for Bibi’s scalp for engaging in actions completely contrary to international law: collective punishment, disproportionate force, and the targeting of civilians. But of course nothing like that happens, Israel, as always, is immune from criticism and consequences. Other than the United States, can any country on earth flaunt international law and UN resolutions with such impunity? Israel wraps itself in its right of self-defense and the shadow of the Holocaust, while it uses many of the same tactics against Palestinians in Gaza that were employed by the Nazis against Jews in the Warsaw ghetto.
The double-standards are astonishing: Arabs are almost always referred to as militants or terrorists, while Israeli’s are depicted as embattled folk just trying to protect their homeland. Never mind that Israel has stolen thousands of square miles of Palestinian land to build settlements upon and reneged on one negotiated settlement after another; the motives of Arabs are evil and warlike, the motives of Jews are decent and peaceful.
I don’t blame the majority of Israelis for the actions of their political leaders. It’s not that difficult for the political system of a nation to be highjacked by whack jobs. I think the average resident of Israel understands that endless war with the Palestinians – and official policies that call for treating Palestinians like animals -- can lead to nothing but more carnage, hatred, and suffering. But just as millions of Americans failed to stop George W. Bush from invading Iraq, reasonable Israelis cannot stop Bibi Netanyahu. Bibi is leading them over the edge, to a place from which there may be no return.