Mr. President, please move closer to the right. No, not closer to the politics and conservative ideology of Sens. McConnell (R-Kentucky), Kyl (R-Arizona) or Congressman Boehner (R-Ohio). Please move closer to the right side of the issue, the right side of history, law and morality.
In the early morning hours of May 31, Israeli commandos attacked the Turkish flagged Free Gaza Movement flotilla. Six ships were carrying 10,000 tons of aid and relief supplies such as prefabricated homes, wheelchairs, paper, water purification systems, and other humanitarian relief items. The commandos killed nine aid/relief activists and wounded many more.
While accounts vary, there are some facts that are difficult to dispute. First, all six ships were in international waters. Second, all of the surviving passengers were taken against their will to Israel. Third, no weapons, explosives, or other threatening items or devices were being smuggled amidst the 10,000 tons of relief supplies. Taking a ship in international waters is piracy. Taking people against their will is kidnapping. Killing unarmed people without provocation is murder.
Just last year, while in Cairo, President Obama said, “I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
It is impossible for anyone to believe that the United States stands for, “a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world,” and our cultures, “share common principles” when the US stands ideally by and allows one of its allies to engage in piracy, kidnapping and murder. Americans must demand that their president move closer to the right! He must move closer to the right side of the issue, the right side of history, law and morality.
One issue that President Obama could investigate quickly is whether the Israeli government has violated the Arms Export Control Act of 1976 (AECA) during the attack on the Free Gaza Movement flotilla and in other armed conflicts with the Palestinians. The AECA requires governments that receive weapons from the United States to use them only for the purposes of legitimate self-defense. It gives the president the authority to control the import and export of defense articles and defense services. This authority could prove to be invaluable leverage in trying to get the Israeli government to negotiate with the Palestinians in good faith and work toward a peaceful resolution to the conflict.
These questions and issues have nothing to do with Israel’s right to exist, the security of the Israeli people, the Jewish faith or anti-Semitism. It has everything to do with the state of Israel employing illegal means to continue oppressing the Palestinian people. Also, it has everything to do with American tax dollars and influence being used to support an ally whose value continues to be questionable. According to the Jerusalem Post, Israel’s Mossad Chief Meir Dagan recently told members of the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee that changes in US post-cold war foreign policy have left Israel with a diminished role as a US ally in the Middle East. “Bit by bit, Israel is becoming less of a strategic asset for America …” He also stated that Israel has been gradually turning into a burden for the US.
While most of the civilized world has issued statements condemning the actions of the Israeli government, the US, according to a statement released by the State Department, “… regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered …,” but “will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs.”
Instead of hiding behind a politically contrived and weak UN response that was heavily influenced by the Obama administration, the president needs to come out and clearly condemn Israel for this unwarranted and illegal attack, demand an international investigation of the incident and call for an end to the blockade of Gaza. This is the only way that President Obama can regain the moral high ground in the region and truly protect American interests.
Yes, this will be a political challenge for the president. He will face stiff opposition from the likes of the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Defense League, and other pro-Zionist political organizations. It is important to note that many of these organizations are slowly losing their traditional grassroots support. According to the Atlantic Wire, “Some liberal U.S. Jews … are distancing themselves from what the New York Times calls ‘a state whose government is now dominated by nationalist and ultra-religious politicians.’ In the New York Review of Books, Peter Beinart – a prominent, liberal, Jewish pundit who has long supported Israel – says that American Jewish support for Israel is dropping rapidly and could, he says, disappear among the liberals who dominate the group.”
While speaking on the 40th anniversary of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, then-Senator Obama declared: “Dr. King once said that the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. It bends towards justice, but here is the thing: it does not bend on its own. It bends because each of us in our own way puts our hand on that arc and we bend it in the direction of justice….”
Mr. President, put your hand on that arc and bend it in the direction of justice! Please move closer to the right side of the issue, the right side of history, law and morality.