As Israeli troops finally rolled into Gaza in tanks on Sunday, January 4th, Arab protesters in both Chicago and New York decried the violence and the lack of comment on it from the president-elect.
Suhail Natour, a Palestinian activist living in Mar Elias Palestinian refugee camp in
Beirut (quoted in the Chicago Tribune: Isly@tribune.com) said, “We want him to say something at least to stop the bloodshed. Waiting until the 20th (Obama’s inauguration date) with the bloodshed continuing, I don’t think is an acceptable way of confirming a new policy in the Middle East. Silence on this means complicity.”
That seemed to be the nuanced reaction to the deafening silence from the soon-to-be 44th President of the United States. But the 43rd, George W. Bush, the lamest of lame ducks, had this to say on CNN on Monday afternoon: “I’ve been closely monitoring the situation in Gaza. I understand Israel’s desire to protect itself and that the situation was brought on by the firing of rockets by Hamas.”
Sounding exactly as informed as usual, which is to say not on point at all and rather clueless as to specifics, Bush went on to pontificate with comments like, “The challenge is to recognize that we’re in the midst of an ideological conflict.” He added, “We care about the people of Gaza,” but said, “Gaza is not a place from which to launch rockets.” Just as profound as the pronouncements of the past 8 years, and no doubt as reassuring to the poor civilians of Gaza, embedded, as they are, amongst the Hamas leadership, which has stockpiled weapons in homes, mosques and other civilian areas.
The entire press conference I watched Monday afternoon seemed to be a public relations opportunity for Bush, who trotted out Salva Kiir Mayardit, the First Vice President of the National Unity Government of Sudan, who was wearing a purple suit and a black cowboy hat and profusely thanking Bush for his good works. (“I come to thank him and wish him the best. The people will never forget him.”) I disagree with Salva. Most of us are already trying to forget Bush. My Bush countdown key chain battery died, and I haven’t even taken the time to replace it, because I know that it is only days now until he’s gone…hopefully gone for good. He has done so much damage to this country in every way, that the only thanks he is likely to get is from Salva. It must have been really difficult to find someone to come out and pose thanking George W. Bush. Even the extremely wealthy are not thanking him, now that the economy has tanked, thanks to the poor oversight of our regulatory agencies and the sub-prime housing mess, and all the rest of it. And George’s message to the CNN Gaza strip civilians who are being killed in their homes by Israeli forces, (albeit unintentionally as “collateral damage”): Rockets killing people = bad. People = good. You have to ask yourself, once again, “Where did they get this guy?” He’s like a bad central casting Tarzan reject.
Bush’s press secretary, the savvy blonde Dana Perino, appeared on CNN on Monday afternoon, January 5th. She briskly and self-assuredly laid the blame for the invasion squarely at the feet of the Arab aggressors, Hamas, and refused to take many questions. It is quite true that Hamas has been firing rockets indiscriminately at Israeli targets for some time now, and, reasoned Perino (and everyone else except the Arab world, it would seem), the general attitude of the current administration is, “As ye reap, so shall ye sow.” Or, to use another cliché, “They made their bed. Now they have to lie in it.”
If I haven’t used enough clichés for one day (and I have), it is imperative to say that calling a prime target 30 minutes before you bomb his house to tell him to get his 4 wives and 12 children out, only to have him stay in the house and cause the deaths of all 4 wives and 9 of the 12 children, not only seems humane of the aggressors and inhumane on the part of the victim, in this case, it also seems stupid. The only explanation is this Hamas member’s desire to become a martyr and a rallying point in the ongoing conflict with Israel. But why does a full-grown male get to choose death for 75% of his children and 100% of his multiple wives? When you also read that this particular terrorist target, a University professor, sent his own 21-year-old son on a suicide bombing run to Israel recently, you realize that probably reasoning with these people is not going to work. Even if Obama’s strength is his ability to get people to work together across the aisle, as he once said, does he have the ability to instill logic and rational thought in a zealot?
The demonstrators in our nation’s cities held up their signs decrying the violence at rallies like the one I watched on January 3rd in New York City. But those Palestinian protesters are demonstrating from the safe streets of a democracy (i.e., the United States) that values political discourse and from the largest cities in a melting-pot nation that, in 40 years’ time, has moved from pronouncements like that of the Mississippi Republican party state plank of 1968 (“We feel segregation of the races is absolutely essential to harmonious racial relations and the continued progress of both races in the state of Mississippi.”) to electing Barack Obama, an African-American, the 44th President of the United States in 2008.
If you reflect on how far our polyglot country has come in overcoming inbred prejudice and hatred and distrust in just 40 short years, maybe there is hope that Israel and the Palestinians can live side-by-side in harmony some day. At least, we can pray that that day comes…and soon.