We Share the Blame…
“Is it for freedom or our comfort and convenience?
Is it to profit for big business we pledge our allegiance?
Are we prisoners in the land of the brave and the bold?
Held by indifference, our hearts grown hard and cold?
From Sara Thomsen’s song “Is It For Freedom.”
As a nation, our hearts have become hard and cold to the killing of innocent people all over the world. We are so accustomed to our government constantly bombing someone, somewhere that we can not see the humanity of the victims. Claiming to be defending freedom, democracy or protecting “national security” we have become prisoners of militarism. We have pledged our allegiance to the “big business” merchants of death. We have normalized the violence that our government perpetrates and enables.
Today in Gaza our government is enabling ethnic cleansing and genocide. We are accessories to the crimes against humanity being perpetrated by Israel. We should be ashamed, but we are not.
We are also blind to the harm we are doing to ourselves. By normalizing violence to others we are becoming a more violent people. Acceptance of violence spills over into our communities. We are becoming desensitized to mass shootings, domestic abuse, road rage, police brutality, hate crimes, threats to public officials and angry political discourse.
Our unqualified support for Israel’s war on the people of Palestine is destructive to the United States and our standing in the world community. The rest of the world is increasingly tired of our domineering, selfish, violent behavior. Many international polls say people across the world regard the United States as the biggest threat to peace. Worldwide protests against our support for Israel show our “leadership” of the world is unpopular. Other nations are working to end our dominance of world economic systems. Weakening our national standing in the world is not in our “national interests” or good for our national security.
The root causes of the 9/11 attacks were our aggressive, militarized foreign policies (going back to the CIA sponsored coup in Iran in 1953), our unqualified support for Israel and our support for religious radicals opposing the Russians in Afghanistan. The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan increased this animosity. On 9/11 we reaped the violence we had sowed across the Middle East for decades.
We are the biggest supplier of military equipment and munitions to the world. The weapons sales often supply dictatorships and oppressive governments. We are frequently the stumbling block to international agreements to foster a better world. Our government’s opposition to climate change treaties, abolition of nuclear weapons, restrictions on the weapons trade and outlawing of cluster bombs or land mines are examples. When will the world begin sanctioning us as a “rogue” nation?
Other nations are taking action against Israel’s war crimes. South Africa, with the support of other nations, has filed a complaint with the International Court of Justice (ICJ) charging Israel with multiple violations of the 1948 Genocide Convention. South Africa is asking for an emergency order to immediately halt Israeli’s military operations in Gaza.
Genocide is the deliberate killing of people from a nation or ethnic group with the intent to destroy that nation or group in whole or in part. Deliberately causing disease, starvation, or dislocation can be genocide.
Tembeka Ngcukaitobi, one of the lawyers presenting South Africa’s case, summed up the charges, “The scale of destruction in Gaza, the targeting of family homes and civilians, the war being a war on children, all make clear that genocidal intent is both understood and has been put into practice. The articulated intent is the destruction of Palestinian life.”
Under international law it is a war crime to target, or fail to protect, civilian populations in a war zone. It is a war crime to use collective punishment on civilian populations. It is a war crime to use unnecessary or “disproportionate” force in responding to an attack. Vaughan Lowe, a British barrister speaking for South Africa said, “No matter how monstrous or appalling an attack or provocation, genocide is never a permitted response. Every use of force, whether in self-defense or enforcing an occupation or policing operations, must stay within the limits set by international law.”
Palestinians in Gaza have no safe place to flee. They are subject to bombing everywhere in the tiny space of the Gaza Strip. They are being killed in their homes, in hospitals, in schools, in mosques, in churches and in refugee camps. Food and water are unavailable. Deaths by starvation, dehydration and disease are increasing as a result of Israel’s restrictions on international aid coming into Gaza. These actions certainly look like genocide.
Action is also being taken against the United States. President Biden, Secretary of Defense Austin and Secretary of State Blinken are being sued in federal court for providing weapons, funding, and diplomatic support for Israel. The lawsuit alleges the administration is unlawfully participating in genocide in violation of federal and international law. The plaintiffs are Palestinian Americans who have family members being killed by Israel. The lawsuit has been joined by 77 humanitarian and civil rights organizations.
The U.S. government has obligations under U.S. and international law to oppose genocide and not to enable it. One is these is the “Leahy Law” (amendments to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961) which prohibits the government from providing military assistance to foreign countries that violate human rights. It will be hard to argue that Israel has not violated the civil rights of Palestinians.
Rather than military actions, the proper and more effective response to terrorist attacks should be criminal law enforcement. You arrest and prosecute the perpetrators in open court. By choosing war, the U.S. took the wrong approach following 9/11 and we are still fighting an unsuccessful “war on terror.” The Cost of War Project at Brown University estimates 4.6 million people have died directly or indirectly (disease, starvation, etc.) from the post 9/11 wars.
Yes, Hamas is a terrorist organization and has committed crimes. But this does not justify Israel’s actions in Gaza nor will this prevent future killing of Israeli citizens. Nor are we justified in supporting Israel to drive the Palestinians out of Palestine. We are clearly complicit in the crimes Israel is committing. As Sara Thomsen says in her song:
“As the innocent die, you rulers carry the shame,
And if we stand idly be, we share in the blame.”