EDITORIAL: Silence has become complicity

Silence has become complicity

Is the incoming president, world-renowned for his eloquence, about to become better known for his silence?

Barack Obama may not have assumed office yet but a war is already being conducted in his name.

Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, now says that Israel is engaged in a “war to the bitter end” against Hamas in Gaza. And in justifying this war to Israel’s state assembly, the Knesset, Barak said: “Obama said that if rockets were being fired at his home while his two daughters were sleeping, he would do everything he could to prevent it.”

Barak’s war has become Barack’s war — unless he breaks his silence.

Obama chooses his words carefully. He did so when speaking to the press in Sderot in southern Israel, during the presidential election campaign this summer. While he was clearly and shamelessly pandering to American Jewish voters, his statement expressed sympathy for the Israelis being targeted by Qassam rocket fire, but it also underlined that an effective response would focus on preventing further attacks — not merely the retaliatory and bellicose response with which Israelis are so familiar, that is, a military operation whose purpose is “to teach the Palestinians a lesson.”

If Obama continues to remain silent he will implicitly be sending a message to Israelis, Palestinians, and everyone else across the Arab world. His silence will be seen and will have the operational effect of providing an endorsement for Israel’s war on Gaza. His silence will set the tone for his whole approach to the Middle East. If his plan to give a major speech in a Muslim capital has not already been put on hold, it might as well now be scrapped.

But there is an alternative. This is what Obama can and should say:

I support the Israeli government in its goal of providing security for its citizens. However, I believe that the current operation in Gaza is unlikely to serve that goal and in the long run may further undermine Israel’s security.

What can Israel do now? Pull back its troops, offer to renew the truce and lift the siege.

The truce actually worked, as this graph from the Israeli Foreign Ministry clearly shows.

Rocket fire did not resume until Israel broke the truce on November 5.

What we now know, is that Israel did not view the truce as a means to bring calm to southern Israel but instead used it as an aid for gathering intelligence in preparation for war.

Had the Olmert government regarded the cessation of rocket fire as a foundation upon which it could build, it would have taken clear steps to lift the siege. (But to have pursued such a course would not however have provided the Palestinian body count upon which Israel’s next prime minister hopes to ride into office.)

Instead, what we now witness is a brutal spectacle in which, using the Orwellian language of war, Israel claims that it’s target is Hamas, not the residents of Gaza.

Obama is still in a position to exert influence, but the longer he waits, the less power he will have; the more likely he will be seen as the perpetuator of George Bush’s failed approach to the Middle East.

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  1. Michael Renner says:

    I am glad you are commenting on Obama’s silence and agree that it amounts to de facto complicity. What I am wondering is what exactly Obama might do once he enters the White House — assuming he is so inclined (which I don’t regard as particularly likely).

    Would it be cutting/withholding aid to Israel (or at least threatening to do so)? Would it be some arm-twisting so that a meaningful international/independent monitoring and peace-making presence in/around Gaza could be contemplated? Would it be an initiative that makes a intra-Palestinian reconciliation possible, and thus counters the Israeli/Bush tactics of divide and rule?

    This obviously gets at a core issue, namely the question how much influence the U.S. currently has over Israel. (Or: to what extent are we talking about the tail wagging the dog?)

  2. All excellent questions.

    I don’t think there’s any doubt that the White House is hugely capable of exerting influence over Israel — it’s the willingness to use that capacity, not the capacity itself that has been lacking. George HW Bush showed it was possible and he’s surely a role model that Obama is capable of surpassing.

    The first thing Obama can do (ie before the Israeli elections in February) is to say that his administration will throw its support behind the 2002 Arab League peace plan and that he hopes the next Israeli government will join him in making this plan the basis for a regional solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

    The second thing he can do is say that he recognizes that Palestinian unity is in everyone’s interests and that every regional power – Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Iran (along with Israel and the US) – have made the mistake of seeking political advantage through policies that have favored specific Palestinian factions.

    I believe that Obama’s greatest influence can come not through the application of pressure (not least because there isn’t a chance in hell that Congress would support him) but through reshaping public discourse on the issues.

    The fact that Israel has not been able to establish diplomatic relations with all its neighbors after 60 years calls into question its viability as a state. It doesn’t simply say that it is located in a hostile neighborhood but that its policies and its unwillingness to relinquish occupied territory represent a massive failure in governance.

    It is supposedly the shining light of democracy in the region, yet it’s strongest regional ties are with autocratic regimes that are threatened by democracy.

    Israel has chosen a politically unsustainable course. If it’s closest ally can’t help shift that course then Israel will be the author of its own destruction.

  3. Ian Arbuckle says:

    Let us not get lost in trying to be reasonable, in the sense of wasting any effort listening yet again to Israel’s justification for crimes against humanity. Rather let us celebrate the victory of truth and honesty by its deeds, not words. Israel is proving itself nationhood in its actions.

    Israel has proved Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement “بايد از صفحه روزگار محو شود” or that he hoped its regime, i.e., a Jewish-Zionist state occupying Jerusalem, would collapse, or so any intelligent translation such as Juan Cole’s would have it, nothing to do with the propaganda put about of wiped Israel off the face of the earth or pushing into the sea or any Hillary style “total obliteration”. Israel’s present action makes the hope for “regime change” not only a reasonable aspiration but a necessary goal for global security. Israel has literally become a loose “nuclear armed” cannon. So far, and most unfortunately for them, it is “only” the Palestinians who are paying the price.

    Saddam Hussein’s regime was routed for weapons he did not posses, and then he was hanged for minorities he killed. Israel does posses these terrible weapons, has threatened to use them, and has viciously and repeatedly attacked its neighbors in aggressive land grabs, and is regularly murdering and imprisoning the majority peoples of its own land and the land of the territories it has occupied illegally. Jews are the minority. As a state that was originally founded on the Hocus-Pocus of revisionist history of a home-land, mixed with lies, half truths, PR propaganda, combined with American-Jewish-Zionist wishful thinking plus cheques and repeated protection of that country’s compliant government in the face of outright defiance of the universal laws and decency; that combined with its own plain old fashioned state terrorism, espionage, corruption, and all the other black arts, that it justifies in its own defence – to defend that which cannot be defended.

    In short Israel should never have existed without proper accommodation of the Palestinian people who, out of western neo-colonial arrogance and racism, were faced with, and rightly rejected, a UN ‘fait accompli’ in 1948. But now that it does exist, it should be incumbent upon its sponsors namely UK and USA to make sure it is put back behind its legitimate borders (pre 6 day war 1967) and as a state it must be made, compulsorily obliged, to abandon all offensive actions and weapons and in particular those of mass destruction.

    Israel as a state, after repeated invasions and destruction of Lebanon in 82 and again in 06, as well as its continued illegal occupation of Palestinian territory, repeated human rights abuses, and repeated war crimes, has lost any and all credibility, far more so than say Iraq did at the time by invading Kuwait, not to mention any illusive threat Iraq was supposed to pose to the international community from its “hidden” weapons….. Israel is a real and deadly threat to global security and must be disarmed, NOW.

    The security of Israel is not worth the human price the Palestinians are paying. Hamas is by far the more legitimate government of the Palestinians than Israeli occupation and calling them terrorists verges on ironic in light of Israel’s actions today as a state that is bombing an unarmed civilian population under there occupation by blockade.

    Israel has lost its last legs as a legitimate state because it can see no way to justify its position other than through violence and murder. If to get elected Benyamin Netanyahu or Tzipi Livni have to show behavior worse than Nazis to appease an electorate that has no ethical or moral basis in their demands for occupying lands that are not theirs’ and demands for security and protection from those they abuse and those against whom they commit repeated heinous crimes in the name of Israel, this state has become what can only be called a “failed state”.

    Israel’s attempt to inflict murder and pain on Hamas, Gaza and its people is a desperate act of mad aggression made by a looser not by a responsible state. These acts could not happen if not indorsed by another looser, and I don’t just mean George W. Bush and his administration, which are obviously in full approval of this carnage, but I believe the onus here lies squarely with all America including the incumbent Obama. As a nation America is the looser, having financed and promoted, build this monster, created this blind madness in the name of an ally and friendly state. America is morally and ethically the looser. This is the foreign manifestation of that same sop, the constant corruption, the lie, which is internally bringing America to its knees.

  4. In the US we have one president at a time. Perhaps we should explore a more rapid transition, but will we really want Jeb rushing in and Barack rushing out in 4 or 8?

  5. Yes, we have one president at a time – but that has not rendered Obama mute. He’s had plenty to say on the economy. Clearly, “one president at a time” is a line he’s willing to wheel out whenever it seems politically convenient.

  6. Phil E. Drifter says:

    I honestly don’t see it as any of our business. I know all about the long-standing allegiance between the US and Israel; I’m disregarding it. This is exactly why our founding fathers decreed us to never create long-term allegiances with other nations.

    It’s none of our business. Kill them all and let their gods sort them out.

    Every time I come across this topic, I’m reminded of the late, great George Carlin. “My god has a bigger **** than your god!”

  7. Bought and paid for; all the way down. The media chose our candidates. Fear of their lives plays a part as well. Especially Obama. I do believe a second Clinton round may have brought greater results.

  8. michaelrhagen says:

    Perhaps, the president elect should go to Gaza and tell us what he would do if he and his daughters were imprissoned there with no hope.

  9. I’ve stayed up late wondering, with my fingers crossed, if there would be any word from Hawaii. None. If there is nothing soon then his die is cast. Too bad, he hasn’t really started but is actually finished and likely will not be able to spin out of this dead-end. Just great, a fake cowboy riding around in Crawford on his bike and maybe a fake brother wind surfing in Honolulu.

  10. A lot has been said about the incoming president being tested, but it now seems that a supposed ally is the one doing the testing or trying to rig the situation to its advantage while it still has the backing of the incumbent. The unconditional support for Israel is just as stupid as that same verbal support for Georgia.

  11. I couldn’t agree more, Paul. THe longer Obama waits, the less credibility he will have in the Arab world when he DOES assume the presidency. Can you imagine him giving that speech in a major Arab capital after its residents burned Uncle Sam in effigy a few weeks before he arrived?

    Bush is filling an essentially empty chair. Obama has to do something & not allow Bush’s vacuous approach to be the only one that represents America.

  12. I believe that this is Olmert’s ploy to stay in power and bury the corruption charges against him and using this period of leadership slack to do just that. Israel could do with change of their own.
    Yes Obama/ Clinton should stamp their stand, NOW. The Bush Doctrine under the abdication of Rice is bankrupt.

  13. Phil E. Drifter: You don’t see why it’s any of our business?!? Really!? You don’t realize that it is OUR hard-earned tax money that is enabling these pigs in their murderous aggression? They have made us all COMPLICIT in this Genocide, and I, for one, take that VERY personally!
    Anybody here remember “Taxation without Representation”?
    O’Bummer better remember, and he’d better show more courage than he has so far, or he WILL become as irrelevant as a “Fake Bro Windsurfer” who “Changes” every time the wind blows!

  14. If Obama want want Israel to live in peace he can give the a simple advice; Obey international low. End the Occupation. God gave the earth to every body. Settlement on occupied land is Illegal, Ethnic cleansing is war crime and armed settlers are occupiers and not peaceful civilians .

  15. Israeli”s aggression against Gaza looks similar to what did the SS in 1943 to eradicate the Warsaw gettho insurrection.
    I have the same sympathy for the palestinian fighting the israelis today as I have for the jews fighting the nazis at that time.
    I am really schoked by the fact that today Israel is acting against the palestinians as the nazis did in 1943 against them. I am disgusted by our complicity in this genocide

  16. Hey, you guys!
    Were you really expecting that US policy towards Middle East would change with the new administration? After the speech by Obama in front of the US Jewish community? After the nomination of Ram Emmanuel? With Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State? With Gates still Defense Secretary? If so, you were wrong and this silent, which is not surprising at all, is the first of all the disillusionments you will confront in the near future. The fact is that it will be the peoples of the Middle East who will bear it, not us, US or European. But, to console you, our European governments are not better, to say the least.

  17. JP Zinger says:

    Anyone who thinks Barama wasn’t briefed on Israel’s little ethnocide fest in Gaza is naive.

    Why do you think the Zionist lobby installed Emanuel in the oval office?

    I’m sure they didn’t ask for his approval. They just told him they were going to do it and if he knew what was good for him he better keep his mouth shut or have one of his many Jewish handlers repeat his previous AIPAC scripted encomiums to the only democracy in the middle east.

    A great irony: The very first African American to become president of the US–but he is owned by masters in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.