Hamas attacked Israel in a vicious and bloody weekend raid that left nearly 1500 Israelis dead, hundreds held hostage in Gaza, many more wounded, and untold buildings destroyed or damaged by rocket fire and gun fights. Israel has since vowed revenge and retaliation for that attack, and is seemingly ready to burst into Gaza in an attempt to wipe out Hamas.
Former President Obama, however, released a statement in which he encouraged Israeli restraint and argued that it should accommodate the views of the Gazans as it prepares for its invasion, rather than doing whatever it things is militarily necessary.
In the statement posted to Medium, he said, “But even as we support Israel, we should also be clear that how Israel prosecutes this fight against Hamas matters. In particular, it matters — as President Biden has repeatedly emphasized — that Israel’s military strategy abides by international law, including those laws that seek to avoid, to every extent possible, the death or suffering of civilian populations. Upholding these values is important for its own sake — because it is morally just and reflects our belief in the inherent value of every human life. Upholding these values is also vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion — all of which are critical for Israel’s long-term security.”
Continuing, he argued, “Now, after the systematic massacre of Israeli citizens, a massacre that evokes some of the darkest memories of persecution against the Jewish people, it’s understandable that many Israelis have demanded that their government do whatever it takes to root out Hamas and make sure such attacks never happen again. Moreover, Hamas’ military operations are deeply embedded within Gaza — and its leadership seems to intentionally hide among civilians, thereby endangering the very people they claim to represent.“
He then insinuated that the world is ready to yank its support from Israel if the little country goes too far in its retaliatory raid, encouraging Israeli leaders to focus on “Palestinian attitudes.” He said, “Still, the world is watching closely as events in the region unfold, and any Israeli military strategy that ignores the human costs could ultimately backfire. Already, thousands of Palestinians have been killed in the bombing of Gaza, many of them children. Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water and electricity to a captive civilian population threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis; it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”
Later in the statement, he added that we should be “acknowledging that Palestinians have also lived in disputed territories for generations; that many of them were not only displaced when Israel was formed but continue to be forcibly displaced by a settler movement that too often has received tacit or explicit support from the Israeli government; that Palestinian leaders who’ve been willing to make concessions for a two-state solution have too often had little to show for their efforts; and that it is possible for people of good will to champion Palestinian rights and oppose certain Israeli government policies in the West Bank and Gaza without being anti-semitic.”
Predictably, he ended the statement with an attack on “misinformation,” saying, “Perhaps most of all, it means we should choose not to always assume the worst in those with whom we disagree. In an age of constant rancor, trolling and misinformation on social media, at a time when so many politicians and attention seekers see an advantage in shedding heat rather than light, it may be unrealistic to expect respectful dialogue on any issue — much less on an issue with such high stakes and after so much blood has been spilled. But if we care about keeping open the possibility of peace, security and dignity for future generations of Israeli and Palestinian children — as well as for our own children — then it falls upon all of us to at least make the effort to model, in our own words and actions, the kind of world we want them to inherit.”
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