Can we get one thing out of the way right off the bat? Hamas is despicable for hiding behind children while lobbing rockets at Israel. Now, can we get a second thing out of the way? Israel is despicable for killing children in retaliation for those rockets. Just call us an equal opportunity offender.
But -- and this will come as no surprise to those critics who took us to task for comparing Israel's policies toward the Palestinians to apartheid -- we find Israel's murder of children, and its defense of its actions in Gaza, horrendous.
Liberals, conservatives and other westerners of differing political opinions have long stood by Israel, but that support has been fading away over the past decade. Yes, we all agree that Israel is the only nation in the West that is existentially threatened by enemies on all sides, enemies who promise to push the Jews into the Mediterranean (and fates much more final than that). But most of that bellicosity is nothing more than heated rhetoric. The fact is, in the Palestine War of 1948, the Six-Day War in 1967, the War of Attrition from 1967 to 1970, the Yom Kippur War in 1973, Operation Litani in 1982, conflicts in South Lebanon between 1982 and 2000 and the war against Hezbollah in South Lebanon in 2006, Israel has proven time and time again that the Arab nations pose no realistic threat to the integrity of its borders. And the not-so-secret secret that Israel possesses nuclear weapons and will use them if necessary is its Ace in the Hole.
Nonetheless, supporters of Israel's tactics against the Palestinians often point to the charter of Hamas and statements issuing from Iran and other bloviators seeking to rile up their base, but Iran and Hamas do not have a monopoly on extremism.
Let's not forget that following the abduction and murder of three Israeli teenagers (which the military immediately knew wasn't committed by Hamas but withheld that pertinent information for two weeks), Jewish extremists then kidnapped a Palestinian teenager, forced him to drink gasoline and then set him on fire ... alive.
Kevin Barrett, writing for Press TV, notes "When the IDF starts dropping cluster bombs, white phosphorous, DIME munitions and other horrendous weapons on Gaza, crowds of Israelis pack the hilltops to barbecue meat, drink alcohol and cheer as they watch Palestinian children being blown to bits."
Mobs in Israel hunt down and beat up innocent Arabs while police stand by and watch. "According to Israeli blogger Elizabeth Tsurkov, the mobs' favorite chant is: ‘Tomorrow there's no school in Gaza, they don't have any children left,'" writes Barrett.
Some Israelis flock to social media to post such offensive comments as "Kill Arab children so there won't be a next generation," "Stinking Arabs may you die, amen," and "Arabs may you be paralyzed and die with great suffering."
Israeli parliamentarian Ayelet Shaked has called for the genocidal murder of every Palestinian and Gilad Sharon, son of Ariel Sharon, advocates using nuclear weapons to exterminate the Palestinians.
"A T-shirt popular in the Israeli army shows a pregnant woman with a target on her belly. The legend reads: ‘One shot two kills,'" writes Barrett.
According to a 2004 study by British Medical Journal, "Two-thirds of the 621 children (two-thirds under 15 years) killed at checkpoints, in the street, on the way to school, in their homes, died from small arms fire, directed in over half of cases to the head, neck and chest -- the sniper's wound. ... Clearly, soldiers are routinely authorized to shoot to kill children in situations of minimal or no threat."
Two of Israel's leading rabbis, Yitzhak Shapira and Rabbi Yosef Elitzur, penned "Torat Ha'Melech," which advocates the wholesale murder of non-Jews. The rabbis claim that under Jewish law "there is justification for killing babies if it is clear that they will grow up to harm us, and in such a situation they may be harmed deliberately, and not only during combat with adults."
So if supporters of Israel are going to dredge up the atrocities committed by Hamas and refer to its charter, they should also be ready to explain the wholesale killing of children by Israeli soldiers and radical settlers and the statements made above.
But what is going on in Palestine today is not really about Hamas, writes Rashid Khalidi in The New Yorker.
"It is not about rockets. It is not about ‘human shields' or terrorism or tunnels. It is about Israel's permanent control over Palestinian land and Palestinian lives. It is about an unswerving, decades-long Israeli policy of denying Palestine self-determination, freedom, and sovereignty."
As Khalidi notes, Gaza has been under siege since long before Hamas took over.
"What Israel is doing in Gaza now is collective punishment. It is punishment for Gaza's refusal to be a docile ghetto. It is punishment for the gall of Palestinians in unifying, and of Hamas and other factions in responding to Israel's siege and its provocations with resistance, armed or otherwise ..."
Though we agree that Israel is inflicting collective punishment on a population that is captive to both Hamas and Israel, the simmering pot of resentment that the Palestinians live in has been on the cooking fire for at least 60 years.
In the New York Review of Books, Jonathan Freedland argues to understand modern Israel, you need to get some long-term perspective on the issue and go back to its founding in 1948, when soldiers of the new Israeli army emptied that city of Lydda of its Palestinian inhabitants and killed more than 300 civilians in cold blood and without discrimination.
"The problem was, the Jewish homeland was not empty," notes Freedland.
"The fact that seven hundred thousand human beings have lost their homes and their homeland (in what is now Israel) is simply dismissed," writes Ari Shavit, in "My Promised Land." "Asdud becomes Ashdod, Aqir becomes Ekron, Bashit becomes Aseret, Danial becomes Daniel, Gimzu becomes Gamzu, Hadita becomes Hadid."
"We have turned their lands and villages, where they and their forefathers previously dwelled, into our home," said Moshe Dayan in 1956.
And Lydda? That is now Lod, home of Ben-Gurion Airport.
But the inhabitants of Lydda weren't the only victims of Israel's nation building. That same year, thousands of innocent people were killed and hundreds of thousands more were terrorized and driven out of their own ancestral homes. In 1967, following the Six-Day War, Israel displaced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians again, occupying territory that it still largely controls, 47 years later, and builds settlements on to the near-unanimous declaration from the world that such settlements are illegal. In 1982, in an attempt to drive the Palestine Liberation Organization from Israel, soldiers invaded Lebanon, killing 17,000 people, mostly civilians, and destablizing that nation, where it still wobbles along today. Operation Cast Lead was in 2008-2009. Operation Pillar of Defense followed in 2012. And here we are again in 2014.
"It is crucial to emphasize that Israel has illegally occupied the Palestinian territories for many decades, is actively engaging in land theft through illegal settlement expansion, and is imposing a system of apartheid," writes Omar Baddar in Salon. "Under those circumstances, Israel's very posture is offensive, and it cannot claim to be engaging in ‘self-defense' against the very people whose land it has illegally usurped."
Chris Hedges, writing for Truth Dig, notes Palestinians "have gradually been stripped of basic civil liberties, robbed of assets including much of their land and often their homes, have suffered from mounting restrictions on their physical movements, been blocked from trading and business, especially the selling of produce, and found themselves increasingly impoverished and finally trapped behind walls and security fences erected around Gaza and the West Bank."
Since the late 1980s, writes Khalidi, when Palestinians under occupation rose up, mostly by throwing stones and staging general strikes, "Israel has arrested tens of thousands of Palestinians: Over 750,000 people have spent time in Israeli prisons since 1967, a number that amounts to 40 percent of the adult male population today. In America, the discussion ignores this crucial, constantly oppressive context, and is instead too often limited to Israeli ‘self-defense' and the Palestinians' supposed responsibility for their own suffering."
About 250,000 Palestinians now are sheltering in schools run by the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, but, as recent reports note, even those locations are not safe.
"Locating rockets in schools and hospitals or even launching these rockets from densely populated areas are violations of international humanitarian law," said Navi Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights. "But, it does not absolve the other party, that is Israel, from not itself observing its obligations under international humanitarian law."
The apartheid and massacre of Palestinians by Israel is an experiment in the manufacture of despair, writes Jonathan Cook in The National, creating a whole society refashioned to accept its subjugation through a combination of violence, poverty, malnutrition and a permanent struggle over limited resources.
"To lock people into a war zone is something that evokes the worst kind of international memories of the Warsaw Ghetto, and sieges that occur unintentionally during a period of wartime," The U.N.'s Richard Falk told Reuters and Haaretz.
"Israel's message to Palestinians is this: You will live under our boot, occupied, besieged, dispossessed and humiliated without any semblance of freedom," writes Baddar.
What happens when you imprison and torture thousands of people on the flimsiest of charges? When you kill their children and claim they are to blame? When you give them no way into your society and no way out of their pitiful environs? When you force them to survive on starvation diets? When you restrict their access to the oceans and limit their ability to farm? When you take their land away and tell them they will never have it back?
"Eventually, the ghetto will fight back," writes Khalidi.
Meanwhile, this oppression of the Palestinians is aided and abetted by the United States, through financial and military aid. While the far-right Israel lobby maintains its stranglehold on American politics, this is not likely to change anytime soon. But it's not the first, and likely not to be the last, time we, as a nation, have been complicit in the murder of innocent men, women and children. The list is long and stretches back across our history from the Native Americans, to the Philippines, to Central and South America, to the Middle East, to Central Asia and the Far East. We have the blood of children on our hands. Is it not time for this to end?