Four years ago, when Israel's Operation Cast Lead pogrom against the people of Gaza was underway, President-elect Barack Obama was asked about it. His response: "I can't comment on that, I am not president." Although he had lots to say about other matters before his election, apparently the magnitude of Israel's righteous response to Palestinian rockets was simply too much for the great orator, humanitarian, and Peace Laureate. To give him the benefit of the doubt, perhaps his silence was a splendid example of political savvy. After all, he neither condoned nor condemned Israel's onslaught. Could it be that discretion really was the better part of valor? Or was it more a matter of moral cowardice that prevented Obama from sticking his neck out and openly calling for an end to Israel's criminal aggression against a defenseless people?
In 2008, during a visit to Israel, Obama expressed his profound sympathy for Israeli citizens who live under the constant threat of terrorist attacks in towns like Siderot. Like any loving parent, he would not countenance anyone deliberately endangering the lives of his own children: "If somebody shot rockets at my house where my two daughters were sleeping at night, I'd do everything in my power to stop them." As prominent progressive bloggers duly noted, Obama's understandable concern did not extend to the children of parents in Gaza. Judging by his words, we can reasonably conclude that for Obama only Israeli children matter, in addition to his own, of course. As for the children of Palestinian parents, we can only speculate about what must go through his head when staffers brief him about the rising death toll.
A study of civilian casualties undertaken by the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights, after the conclusion of Operation Cast Lead, found that "313 children were killed among the 1414 who died over a 23-day period. Of the 5300 injured (many seriously), 1606 were children. In all cases, the vast majority were noncombatants." [http://www.globalresearch.ca/israeli-war-crimes-against-children-during-operation-cast-lead/13956Operation
Operation Pillar of Defense, a re-play of Israel's previous cold-blooded massacre of Palestinians, has provided Obama with another opportunity to weigh in on the side of humanity. This time, however, instead of silence, he re-discovered his glorious voice. During a news conference in Thailand, he had this to say about Israel's deployment of overwhelming force against a captive and largely civilian population in Gaza already suffering from a five-year-old blockade: "There's no country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders . . . We are fully supportive of Israel's right to defend itself."
Until the ceasefire took effect on Wednesday, the 21st of November, Israeli missiles, bombs, and artillery shells rained down hard on the citizens of Gaza, killing and wounding hundreds. Isn't it strangely wonderful how this latest onslaught stopped the day before Thanksgiving. I suppose it just wouldn't do for Americans to celebrate the holiday against a backdrop of unmitigated murder carried out by our number one ally with the aid of US-supplied weaponry.
Coincidently, in 2008, Operation Cast Lead, Israel's even more brutal attack on Gaza, conveniently ended in time for the inauguration of the new US President. One wonders how politicians like Obama and Netanyahu calibrate the cost of their bloodletting. Do they and their cabinets agree beforehand on an acceptable upper limit which, when reached, will allow these world leaders, or their representatives, to take to the airwaves and declare that peace is at hand, that once again the defenders of Western civilization have triumphed over terror through the purity of their arms and the righteousness of their cause.
Last night, in Boston, I took part in a well-attended demonstration against the Israeli government's butchering of innocents. In front of the Israeli Consulate, we briefly stopped marching. A group of us held the edges of an enormous Palestinian flag, billowing in the wind while we chanted "Hey, Israel, what do you say! How many kids did you kill today?" I remembered chanting nearly the same words near the campus of MIT in Cambridge where President Clinton, in 1998, was giving the commencement speech. At that time, our concern was Clinton's support of the genocidal sanctions regime imposed on Iraq.
How little has changed since then, at least in respect to our government's continuing practice of attacking relatively defenseless populations while enabling other rogue governments to carry out their own homicidal practices. And so it goes. Obama, how many kids did you kill today with your drones, your special forces, your black ops, your "all options are on the table" stance toward Iran, and your willingness to look the other way when strategically important partners commit war crimes and crimes against humanity. â€¨To tell the truth, I could not bear to join those who were chanting on the streets of Boston about the number of Palestinian children killed by Israeli bombs. I could only think of the children and their families and the grief that flows like blood from the wounded heart of Gaza.
No, chanting will never do. Something more is needed in response to this tragedy. For our Native American sisters and brothers, Thanksgiving is a day of mourning. It will be the same for me, but not because my ancestors were rounded up like cattle and driven from their land on forced migrations, or wantonly killed by soldiers and settlers.
I will mourn the senseless deaths of innocents in Israel and Palestine. I will mourn the dearth of compassion, wisdom, and courage in the hearts of our so-called leaders. I will mourn the failure on the part of so many fellow citizens to understand the role our government plays in enabling Israel's crimes. I will mourn their apparent lack of empathy not only for the victims of Israel's high-tech violence but for all the families in Muslim lands we have terrorized, starved, and murdered while prattling on about our "values" and our noble reverence for the sanctity of life.
And when Thanksgiving has passed, though I may still feel my heart weighed down with sorrow, I will do my best to carry on with my own small part in the struggle for a far better, saner, and more just world than the one we shoulder now.â€¨â€¨
George Capaccio is a writer and activist living in Arlington, MA. During the years of US- and UK-enforced sanctions against Iraq, he traveled there numerous times, bringing in banned items, befriending families in Baghdad, and deepening his understanding of how the sanctions were impacting civilians. His email is Georgecapaccio@verizon.net
His website is: www.georgecapaccio.com/