A long time ago I read somewhere that journalist should never become part of a news story. It was supposed to be an unwritten rule that a journalist checks his or her humanity at the door when he or she picks up a microphone or a camera to shove into somebody else’s face. I often think about this when I see news stories about black ice at night. A local camera crew will setup their gear on a particularly hazardous road under particularly nasty weather conditions and just record all the cars about to crash. They could step from behind the camera and warn people. But that wouldn’t be good for ratings. It’s so much better journalism, and voyeurism, when we see car crashes happen before our very eyes.
I am particularly disappointed when I see journalist try to act like they have absolutely no connection to a particular story. I hate it when a black journalist acts like they have no clue why the black community may feel collective outrage when a high profile media personality lets loose a racial epithet against black people. How many times have I heard something akin to CNN personality Tony Harris asking a black person something stupid like, why do black people care that Michael Richards uses the n-word when black people interrupt his comedy act? Why won’t Tony Harris tell people how he feels about blatant racism being committed? Then again, the way this CNN anchor jigs for the camera, he probably really has no clue how black people feel.
Back during the race for the White House between Arizona Senator John McCain and Illinois Senator Barack Obama, Alaska Governor Sarah Palin burst onto the scene with all the subtlety of a sledge hammer hitting a watermelon. She was a very polarizing figure. People who loved her could see her do no wrong. People who didn’t care for her saw her every gaffe and likened her political interviews to nails on a chalkboard. It was aggravating to see the media giving Ms. Palin the same attention that was being devoted to Mr. Obama as if they were equals. Regardless of their personalities and abilities, one was trying to be president and the other was going to be the president’s sidekick.
The local news was reporting one of Ms. Palin’s many interviews where all she would say is the difference between her and a put bull and blah, blah, blah. The interview ended and the local news anchor came back on camera. It must’ve been a little too soon because the anchor was rolling her eyes as if she was hearing the stupidest thing ever uttered. She caught herself a little too late. I interpreted the news anchor’s facial expression as contempt for Ms. Palin. And it was refreshing to see. It appeared that the news anchor and I shared a similar perspective.
Today I discovered that Helen Thomas, the nearly ninety year old Washington reporter who has covered the White House since the administration of President John F. Kennedy, resigned as a columnist for the Hearst News Service, after sparking a furor when she said that the Jews should get the hell out of Palestine and go home to Germany, Poland, the United States, or wherever they may come from. It turns out that Ms. Thomas is of Lebanese ancestry and has a reputation for being particularly hard against the state of Israel.
Her controversial statement was made about a week ago. Since then, many people have asked why this pillar of journalism would make such a statement. Could the fact that Israel has an embargo against the people of Palestine and has made the news recently when Israeli commandos stormed a ship trying to break the three year old blockade and wound up killing nine Turkish activists who were Palestinian sympathizers? Could it be the fact that Israel has killed and maimed thousands of Palestinians and continues to expand settlements in the occupied territory of Palestine? And while just about every other news reporter wants to remain neutral and somewhat oblivious to the cataclysm brewing in and around the Gaza strip, Ms. Thomas is speaking her mind about the outrage we see.
Instead of just setting up a camera and letting the Palestinian wreck just happen, at least Ms. Thomas is doing something to bring more attention to what’s going on. A lot of people have lost interest in what is happening in the occupied territory. A lot of people simply can’t believe Israel would be the aggressor. By tradition, our media paints the Palestinian people as the ones at fault here. Poor Israel is just trying to survive while Hamas, the legal governing body of Gaza, promises to wipe Israel off the fact of the earth. But if anything, it looks like Israel is trying to wipe the Palestinians and the Gaza strip off the face of the planet.
Ms. Thomas’ resignation is effective immediately. This is truly unfortunate. The woman doesn’t look like she has much in the way of locomotion. But if there was a news conference featuring the President of the United States, you could bet that Ms. Thomas would be there. At her age, she must have really enjoyed the job to keep going at it like she did. That or she really didn’t have much of anything else to do. I hope she continues expressing her opinion. At her age, she’s old enough and cranky enough to let people know exactly how she feels without pulling any punches. Now that she’s quit, her opinions just got a lot more interesting for me.
Israel is having a very public dispute with the Obama administration over the Jewish country’s announcement that it was expanding its settlements in East Jerusalem. The Jewish nation was pushing back against Washington’s demands that Israel demonstrate its commitment to the peace process by reversing an announced plan to build new housing units in territory that has been occupied by Israel since 1967. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wants Israel to declare its readiness to hold substantial negotiations with the Palestinians on all issues and easing the continuous siege on Gaza.
But so far, Israeli leaders insist that the Jerusalem construction plans wouldn’t change and responded to Ms. Clinton by declaring that the government of Israel has proven over the last year that it is committed to peace, both in words and actions. No longer sensitive to political pressure from Washington, Israel is ready to thumb its nose at the United States. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appears to be using this dispute to strengthen his political hand to his constituents. By defying the Obama administration’s demand for a settlement freeze Israel is trying to take advantage of the growing political opposition to anything the executive branch does. With a number of high profile Republicans politicians and talking heads criticizing Mr. Obama over everything and anything, Mr. Netanyahu may be gambling that the storm that was clearly building between Israel and the United States over the expansion announcement may be winding down with little if anything to show for the high profile effort.
Honesty, what could we expect. As a candidate seeking the presidency, Mr. Obama was courting Israel’s favor like a fat kid courts cookies. How many times did we hear Mr. Obama assure the Jewish nation that under his stewardship, Israel will always have a friend in the United States? When Israel was dropping white phosphorous magnesium and bunker buster bombs on the people of Gaza for being the launch site for rockets aimed at Israel, Mr. Obama threw his hat into the ring with a comment fully supporting Israel’s over the top aggressive response. And after years, decades, and generations of being Israel’s staunchest supporter, the United States now wants to play tough guy. Why? The expansion announcement came while Vice President Joe Biden was meeting with Israeli officials trying to hammer out a peace negotiation.
The whole flap shows how little progress has made in resurrecting a Middle East peace. The chances of a consensual peace agreement with the Palestinians are about as long as snowball’s chances in hell indeed. And while it appears that a relatively mild form of political pressure is being applied to Israel from the Obama administration, the fact that Israel is expanding into East Jerusalem speaks volumes about their commitment to a meaningful peace arrangement. By no means is Israel going to let a poorly timed announcement or the hurt feelings of an embarrassed United States Vice President derail their plans. Israel’s business as usual attitude with the Palestinians should demonstrate that there will be no peace unless Israel is pressed to take actions that it will not take on its own.
The administration’s squabble with its conservative counterparts has left it pretty vulnerable from a political perspective. And not doing anything is not an option. America’s interests across the region are in a constant state of jeopardy by the failure to resolve the Middle East conflict in a manner acceptable to the other countries that inhabit this part of the world and many countries that lie elsewhere.
In the summer of 2008, then presidential candidate Barack Obama, trying to qualm fears of his commitment to the Jewish nation, declared that Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel and it would remain undivided. And now, Israel rejects the call to halt construction in the eastern portion of the city that is home to many Palestinians, slowly forcing a complete Israeli takeover of the land. In the past, Mr. Netanyahu told the Israeli people that the country’s claim to the occupied territory was nonnegotiable. And although America has routinely and publicly opposed Israeli construction in East Jerusalem, never putting any substance behind its bark, Israel believes it can rally support from corporate, political, and community leaders in America who have sympathy for the Jewish state. Such is the condition of normal when bigotry and prejudice serves as the foundation for social policy.
The entire group of complexities related to this conflict serves as an amazing window into the vulgarity of human intolerance and injustice when we as a collective are willing to tolerate such blatant racism and social discrimination. Anyone who supports any action that continues to fuel this conflict from either side has the blood of thousands on their hands. But like a healthcare reform package that has the potential to change the game for the benefit of the entire community, a lot of people have a vested interest in keeping a suppressing thumb of oppression against people who are perceived to be lesser.
The problem isn’t so much Israel’s settlement expansion into the occupied territory. The problem is that Israel continues to expand its unique brand of racial discrimination into the occupied territory. If people were treated with equality, there wouldn’t be a problem. But the overwhelming attitude is that Palestinians are nothing but a nuisance that needs to be swept aside for the sake of progress. Engaging the people are coming to a true peace of equals is totally out of the question. The only peace this place will ever know is the peace that comes from physically beating the opposition into total submission.
I find it ludicrous that the United States and Israel continue to adopt a policy of attacking any Middle Eastern country that is suspected of working towards nuclear ambitions. The only country that has dropped an atomic bomb wants to dictate to others who can and cannot have a nuclear arsenal. And to reinforce this stance, the United States stands ready to block any move by the United Nations to hold Israel accountable for any of the over the top military escalations it makes towards any of its neighboring countries. Israel used the excuse of rocket attacks to pulverize the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Israel attacked Syria under the claim that Syria was developing a missile complex for the sole purpose of attacking Israel. Israel has attacked Lebanon and Iraq.
And lately, Israel has been eyeing Iran with a great deal of suspicion. Why, because Iran is working to develop nuclear energy. Israel claims that Iran is actually working to develop a nuclear bomb and will use that bomb against Israel at the first opportunity. And thanks to America’s recent history of preemptive strikes when there is a less than reasonable suggestion of an attack, Israel can use just about any old excuse to justify its own preemptive attacks.
Israel is quick to say that if Iran gets a nuclear weapon they are sure to use it against Israel therefore Israel must strike Iran first. Why, because Israel’s such an aggressive bully of a country that the leadership there surely knows that it will have its comeuppance. It’s just a matter of time. And if a country acquires nuclear capabilities it will surely use them against Israel. If the way Israel responds to a few rocket shells that have a little trouble hitting the ground is any indication, any country with plans to use a nuclear device against Israel is surely tempting fate.
With all the warmongering and finger pointing at Iran and the Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, it should be noted that Iran has never attacked another country. Iran never attacked Iraq. Iran never attacked Israel. Iran has never attacked the United States. Why on Earth would that country now develop nuclear weapons for the purpose of attacking Israel now? The fact that Mr. Ahmadinejad threatened Israel is not enough to invite a third World War. Hell, how many people in how many countries have cried death to America? If that’s all it took to bust a cap up some country’s ass then the United States would be the busiest warmonger on Earth. Well, even busier than we are today at least. No country would be safe from one of our machines of utter death. Reasonable people know it takes a lot more than saying death to an enemy to launch a war. Unfortunately, all too often it is unreasonable people who call the shots.
As far as I know there has only been one country ever attacked by nuclear weapons. Japan is the only country on this planet that was attacked by a nuclear powered aggressor. Not just once but twice. And Japan continues to exist very well. This is not to say that a nuclear attack just rolls off a country’s back like water on a duck’s feathers. Japan is still suffering from the effects from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki drops. But the idea that all it takes is a well place nuclear bomb to destroy an entire country is lunacy. The idea that a country can get away launching an unprovoked nuclear attack on another without any worldwide reprisal is truly ludicrous.
But advocates of Israel will hold fast to the rather weak claim that anyone who is so bold to make a threat against Israel must be watched and destroyed at the slightest opportunity. The fact that Israel is free to actually use illegal weapons and rain incendiary white phosphorous in the destruction of civilian populations is not enough evidence that American leadership needs to rethink our position as an enabler in Israel’s foreign policy.
Israel is entitled to defend itself. So is Iran. If Israel feels the need to protect itself from a perceived aggressor, imagine how Iran must feel against a country that is proven to be an aggressor that has already threatened to commit an actual act of war. Israel promises to launch an air assault against Iran if Iran gets too close to its nuclear ambitions.
Yes nuclear power can be used as an energy source and is used as an energy source for most countries with nuclear technology. But the idea that Iran will be the second country to use nuclear weapons, the first country to use nuclear weapons in well over sixty years, against another country is a risk Israel just cannot afford to take. The paranoid belief that Israel will be destroyed if Iran obtains nuclear technology just doesn’t wash in the real world. Israel is the far greater danger in this high stakes game of nuclear weapon equipped cat and nuclear energy ambition mouse.
Israeli war planners had vowed to destroy the infrastructure of terror in Gaza. But most Gazans believe that the military operation was directed against general infrastructure. It certainly demolished much of Gaza’s economy and civil society. All along Gaza’s factory row hardly a single building remains standing.
The Israeli military targeted tunnels, arms caches, police stations and the hideouts of several Hamas military commanders. But Israeli attacks also destroyed more than two hundred factories, nearly fifty schools and two dozen mosques were damaged as well as government buildings, including the Presidential Compound and the Assembly building, which Gazans viewed as the possible foundation for a Palestinian state. Representatives of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) say it chose its targets carefully in order to minimize destruction to surrounding property and human lives. The IDF accuses Hamas of putting ordinary Gazans in harm’s way by firing rockets at Israel from within crowded neighborhoods.
Gaza businessmen insist that no militants were taking refugee inside the factories bombed by Israel. The IDF wants people to believe that militants were firing at them from a building, and when the IDF returned fire and utterly destroyed the building that military tactic worked so well that they ran to the next building and did the same thing again, repeating the process over two hundred times until Gaza’s ability to produce anything as little as a bubble gum wrapper was ruined.
Israeli planes targeted the American International School, an institution that served the sons and daughters of wealthy Palestinians. The school had high walls and very good security so the possibility that it was used as a base of attack is nil. A guard at the school wanted to bring family to stay with him because the school was safer than his neighborhood. The guard was killed when an Israeli aircraft fired several rockets at the facility, regarded as Gaza’s finest school.
Initial estimates by Gaza’s Public Works Ministry point to more than two thousand houses destroyed and another forty five thousand left in need of serious repair. Total reconstruction costs for Gaza as a result of the three-week offensive are estimated by the United Nations to be more than one point five billion dollars. But the delivery of reconstruction aid into the territory is a contentious issue for Israel as long as Hamas, the elected representatives of the Gaza people, remains responsible for the distribution of that aid.
Without a doubt there are people in Gaza who are so angry with Israel that they would happily spend every bit of aid in some kind of retaliation. People lost family and their entire means of earning a living. People’s homes were destroyed under some pretense that militants were using them to launch dangerous counterattacks against the IDF. So the chance that aid would be used nefariously is just too great to help the many others in need of help.
To add insult to the IDF inflicted injury Israel is pressing for a continuation of the eighteen month economic siege imposed on the people of Gaza by Israel, America, and other entities in Europe and the Middle East. Obviously, there are people in Israel who think of nothing but imposing as much punishment as possible on the Palestinian people. These are the kind of people who see a few of some of the most rudimentary rockets falling in their streets as an excuse to unleash all out war. Unfortunately for the people of Gaza, the people who want to punish Palestine at the maximum setting are large and in charge.
So now that the Palestinians have to pick themselves up by their bootstrap without the ability to provide for themselves with the lost of their manufacturing base. And without their manufacturing base and trying to recover from being pummeled with American sourced weaponry, people think the people of Gaza should go back to their existence behind an economic blockade. People who were starving before should go back to starving in their shell shocked hovels.
The idea that Israel was striking only at militants with the surgical precision of smart weapons just doesn’t hold water when entire neighborhoods lay flatten. It’s hard to buy into this supposition when every factory lies in a pile of ruin and every school has been obliterated. Israel practiced the same level of restraint and precision with smart bombs that a tsunami would employ trying to pull a single grain of sand off of a beach. For every Israeli killed a hundred Palestinians were killed. For every Israeli injured thousands of Palestinians were made to suffer. And America protects Israel why? Sounds like a fox needing protection from the hens.
It is very true that the United States of America only has one President at a time. No one ever said otherwise. We had one President when the junior Senator from Illinois announced his bid for the White House. We had one President when Barack Obama debated his opponents for the Democratic primary when he was trying to drive home the point that his policy and ideas run contrary to the then current executive branch administration and why he was the best hope for a change in policy. We had one President when Mr. Obama was driving home the point that his Republican Party opponent from Arizona was little more than a continuation of Mr. Bush’s failed economic, foreign, and domestic policy. We had one President when Mr. Obama promised us he would change the way the White House operated. Why does he now back away from differentiating himself from Mr. Bush’s failed policies now under some guise that we only have one President?
We had one President when Mr. Obama went on record saying that if someone was firing rockets into his daughter’s bedroom at night he would do everything in his power to make it stop and expected the people of Israel to do the same. We had one President when Mr. Obama stood in front of AIPAC, an organization very sympathetic to the nation of Israel , and said unequivocally that as President the people of the United States would stand with the Jewish nation. We had one President when Mr. Obama said that Jerusalem should remain under the control of Israel. Why is it so important to remind the world that the American people have only one President now?
In the past few days Mr. Obama, like many people who have a high profile in the public’s eye, has been asked for his opinion regarding the conflict between the government of Israel and Gaza. Frustrated with the blockade that continues to choke the life out of the people of Gaza , Hamas broke a cease fire by launching rockets into the southern part of Israel . In retaliation, Israel launched a massive retaliatory strike against its Gaza making little distinction between civilians and combatants. The conflict is escalated even further with rocket fire into Israel from Lebanon to the north. And through all of this the only thing Mr. Obama has to say is that his team is keeping abreast of the situation and we only have one President at a time.
I have a question. When did Mr. Obama ever hear the question how many Presidents run the executive branch of the United States at any single given point in time? The President-elect has never given anything less than a clear direction as to what his economic policy will be without ducking under any claim that we only have one President. Mr. Obama knows that people need to understand that he and his team are on top of the economic turmoil that plagues our markets globally and our pockets individually. But when it comes to revealing his position on the conflict in the Middle East Mr. Obama wants to be careful not to step on Mr. Bush’s toes. Obviously, somebody is about to be made seriously unhappy with the direction Mr. Obama wants to go when it comes to foreign policy in the Middle East. We have no clear direction of any change. We have no clear direction of any continuance of current policy. We have nothing but an excuse as to why we don’t know anything for the next few days. We only have one President after all.
Actually, at the most, we only have one President making policy. There is always the chance that a President refuses to put forth any clear policy on a given issue. Maybe Mr. Obama, like Mr. Bush, will let the fires of the Middle East expand until the place explodes into a major conflict that could drag the rest of the world into this conflict. Rockets are already being fired into Israel from Lebanon . More than likely, feeling threatened at the possibility of dealing with two conflicts on two fronts the Israeli army will respond just as harshly on Lebanon . What if there are plans to initiate rocket fire from Syria and Jordan as well? A brew of war bringing imminent destruction and death throughout the region might be in the very early stages. It would help ease people’s minds to know that the current American administration as well as the future administration will do what it can to resolve this issue as soon as possible.
Instead the United States protects Israel from facing any global political retribution by using its veto authority to block any move from the United Nations to rein in Israel ’s attempt to bomb the people of Gaza back into submission. The United States is the only country in the world with any kind of influence over Israel . And yet, the United States does nothing to influence Israel to stop. Weapons of mass destruction are being used against a people who can poorly defend themselves. And the leadership of the United States does nothing but sits back and watches. There is little hope for change when the President-elect is ready to capitulate to the status quo under the lame excuse that we only have one President. When there is a lack of true leadership from the President it is the President-elect’s privilege to step up to the plate and fill the void. We only have one President is not the change we hoped for.
“If somebody was sending rockets into my house where my two daughters sleep at night, I’m going to do everything in my power to stop that. And I would expect Israelis to do the same thing.” – Illinois Senator Barack Obama
With that simple statement President-elect Barack Obama expresses his compassion and sympathy for the government of Israel in their perpetual conflict with the Palestinians. However, I do wonder how Mr. Obama would feel if his two daughters were going to sleep every night hungry because of a blockade that kept him from obtaining food. How would Mr. Obama respond if somebody was preventing his daughters from getting medication they need to control allergies or for other ailments? How would Mr. Obama react if there was somebody who kept his family in the dark refusing access to electricity or fuel? Would these conditions be more acceptable or more tolerable for him and his family?
While Mr. Obama wears his compassion for Israel proudly on his sleeves, his compassion and empathy for the people of Palestine and in the Gaza strip competes with the chirping of crickets for silence. The idea that the Palestinians are the only ones responsible for triggering this conflict is about as unfair as the racially generic but predominantly white community of America’s claim that the black community is more prone to criminal behavior based solely on one sided statistics and per capita numbers instead of an all encompassing understanding of cause and affect.
For the past six months there was a cease fire in this part of the world. There were no rockets falling in the northern part of Israel. There were no bombs falling in Gaza. But while people enjoyed life free from falling bombs and suicide bombers, Israel maintained its blockade on the Palestinian people unhappy with the fact that these people exercised their democratic rights and voted for Hamas to run its government. The people of Israel see Hamas as little more than a terrorist organization and decided to put the thumbscrews to the Palestinian people in order to influence them to select a different form of government.
It is true that Israel withdrew from Gaza. But it’s also true that Israel refuses to let the Palestinian people control their own destiny or to exist as equals. If Gaza does not comply it is subject to a punishing embargo designed to make the people regret their collective choice. Israel may feign surprise and innocence to the rocket attacks, which is meant as a retaliatory action for a people who have to see their children doing without the basics other people take for granted with no end in sight. The cease fire was honored, and yet no progress made on the blockade front. Who is the real aggressor in this conflict? Is Israel as innocent as they would like the world to believe?
It is a rather ridiculous notion that the Palestinian people want to erase Israel off the face of the planet is going to do it with the rather low technology rockets that would have difficulty hitting the ground if it weren’t for gravity compared to the United States military contractor sourced smart bomb technology of Israel’s arsenal. While a constant rocket attack is nothing to be tolerated, neither is the systemic starvation and subjugation of an entire community of people.
At last count, well over three hundred fifty Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s four day bombing of Gaza and three times that many have been injured compared to five Israelis. Dozens of Palestinian civilians have been killed in the past four days from Israel’s massive retaliation and the Israeli government has made no signal that the escalation of violence will be halted any time soon. The message is that if anyone thought the people of Gaza was living in hell before, they ain’t seen nothing yet. Those people can deal with their affliction and feel the wrath of the Israeli military at the same time now. They will be bombed back into submission.
And if all that doesn’t work, judging by the public support of Israel by the American President and the President to be, a low yield nuclear device would probably be acceptable. We can’t have other people in the Middle East thinking that they are entitled to the same existence as the people of Israel. The Israeli people have a right to expect to be able to go to bed at night without rockets coming into their home. Whether or not the people of Gaza can have the same expectations, as well as the expectation to food, medication, utilities and the other essentials to meet a civilized standard of life is a matter of opinion.
In the news this morning I saw a member of the Israeli legislature discussing Israel’s options as well as the potential for the American response. Recognizing the fact that the United States is about to go through a presidential transition, one official dismissed the idea of angering the coming Obama administration. The legislator quoted Mr. Obama’s statement at the beginning of this article. Why would Israel worry about Mr. Obama when Mr. Obama made it clear that the United States is fully behind Israel?
The President-elect has never uttered a single word criticizing Israel’s actions against its neighbors in the Middle East. Mr. Obama has never uttered a single word supporting Gaza. Unfortunately, before he can even assume the presidency, Mr. Obama has again demonstrated his bias against any changes in the status quo. All the slogans about a time for change are quickly evaporating into a political vapor of the same old same old. People who continue to hope for a genuine peace in the Middle East brokered by an impartial Untied States government led be Mr. Obama are better off hoping Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny will visit their homes.
So the children of Israel can sleep well at night knowing Mr. Obama looks at them and sees them as he sees his own two daughters. Such empathy and compassion sends a strong message of support. Too bad the other children in the Middle East don’t have an American President who is willing to vocalize a similar compassion and a similar support. What world leader stands ready to empathize with the children of the Gaza strip?