Thursday, February 7, 2008

On Gaza, The Presidential Candidates Are Silent. Why?

From the Desk of Ibrahim Abdil-Mu’id Ramey
MAS Freedom Civil and Human Rights Director

WASHINGTON, D.C. (MASNET) Feb. 7, 2008 - This urgent bulletin goes out to our esteemed presidential candidates in the Democratic and Republican party primary elections: There is a Palestine. There is a Gaza.

And innocent people in Gaza are dying because of an economic blockade imposed on them by Israel.

Of course, each of the candidates, Senators Clinton and Obama of the Democratic party, and Senator McCain, former Governor Huckabee, and former Governor Romney, from the Republican party, are all aware that there is a place called Israel - being that they are open and enthusiastic backers of the export of U.S. tax dollars to America's premier ally in the Middle East.

U.S. Dollars - more than three billion of them each year - that are used, in part, to buy the American military hardware that enables their ally to occupy huge chunks of the West Bank, while keeping the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza on permanent economic life support.

The world, or at least the part of the planet not dominated by the U.S. State Department and the Israel lobby, is very aware of the conditions in Gaza.

The economic strangulation of the Gaza territory by Israel is a source of deep condemnation and outrage expressed by virtually every respected human rights organization world-wide, including one of Israel's leading human rights groups, B'Teshelem.

Lets also not forget those little documents otherwise referred to as the "Geneva Convention" and the "Universal Declaration of Human Rights", which say, in essence, that it's illegal and immoral to punish an entire civilian population in the course of waging war against a relatively small group of insurgents.

In this case, the "war" is an embargo of fuel and other necessities that has resulted in the virtual collapse of health care and sanitation in the most densely crowded piece of real estate on planet earth.

Senators Obama and Clinton are both attorneys who, presumably, know that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal under the terms of the international covenants that the United States has signed.

And all of the presidential contenders, I would imagine, have seen at least some of the video footage showing the hordes of Palestinians who recently broke through the barrier separating Gaza from Egypt, in search of food, fuel and other life sustaining necessities, otherwise unavailable to them due to the blockade.

Two weeks ago, eleven intrepid members of the House of Representatives, led by former presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), wrote to our Secretary of State imploring that she use her office to help end the deadly embargo of Gaza.

The letter honorably pled for the right of the Palestinian people of Gaza to survive, and called for the U.S. government's respect for the rule of international law in assuring that the illegal economic embargo threatening that survival must end. However, sadly, the letter failed to challenge the U.S. political alliance with Israel, or call for an end to the massive material and military assistance sent by America to the Jewish state.

The failure to question our government's political alliance with Israel, or to demand an end to the massive material and military support it receives - which directly contributes to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza on a daily basis - is exacerbated by the fact that our current line-up of Presidential hopefuls remain silent on the issue of Gaza.

And their silence is deafening.

And their silence is more than politics as usual.

It is a silence that is morally reprehensible.

Gaza militants allied with Hamas have engaged in periodic rocket attacks on Jewish settlements in southern Israel. For the record, I want to state again my opinion that Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilian populations are militarily ineffective, and morally unjustified. They should end. Period.

But these attacks should not, and must not, justify the blanket economic retaliation from Israel that characterizes the Gaza shut-down. Ordinary Palestinians who are not involved in armed attacks against the settlements should not be punished for the actions of others.

In this case, as in virtually all cases, two wrongs certainly don't make a right.

And the voices of the men (and the woman) seeking the highest office of the land should be sending this message to the world.

From my perspective, this is not a call for some shift in current U.S. policy vis-à-vis Israel, certainly, in the real political world, that is not likely to happen in the foreseeable future (although that, for some of us, would be a welcomed change).

But this is a call for the 2008 presidential candidates to demand that the blockade of Gaza be lifted, in a demonstration of respect for the rule of international law.

Only the United States can exert the necessary leverage on Israeli leadership that could possibly bring an end to the blockade against Gaza and the subsequent humanitarian crisis it has created.

The people of Gaza have clearly heard from the world, its condemnation of the suffering inflicted on 1.4 million human beings living in the territory.

Now, it's time for the people of Gaza to hear from the American politicians who claim to respect the rule of law, and who proclaim respect for human rights - not only for some people, but for all people.

Including, in this sad case, the people of Gaza and all of Palestine.

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