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A licence to kill in Gaza

President Obama could, if he chose, stop Israel’s continued barbaric invasion of Gaza quickly. He simply lacks the political courage to do so

“At Shifa Hospital, a girl who looked about nine was brought into the emergency room and laid on a gurney, blood soaking the shoulder of her shirt. Motionless and barely alive, she stared at the ceiling, her mouth open. There was no relative with her to give her name. The medical staff stood quietly around her. Every now and then, they checked her vital signs, until it was time. They covered her with a white sheet, and she was gone. A few moments later, a new patient lay on the gurney. At one point in the dying girl’s final moments, a half-dozen journalists with television cameras crowded around the gurney. In the next bed, a small girl smudged with blood cried, “Mama! Mama!”, reporting from the New York Times on 20 July.

"All of the Palestinians must be killed; men, women, infants, and even their beasts." This was the religious opinion issued by Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, director of the Tsomet Institute, a long-established religious institute attended by students and soldiers in the Israeli settlements of the West Bank. In an article published by numerous religious Israeli newspapers, and run by the liberal Haaretz on 26 March 2009, Rosen asserted that there is evidence in the Torah to justify this stand. Rosen, an authority able to issue religious opinions for Jews, wrote that Palestinians are like the nation of Amalekites that attacked the Israelite tribes on their way to Jerusalem after they had fled from Egypt under the leadership of Moses. He wrote that the Lord set down in the Torah a ruling that allowed the Jews to kill the Amalekites, and that this ruling is known in Jewish jurisprudence.

In January of 2009 Israel invaded Gaza in force. After the conflict ended – with some 1,400 Palestinians dead, including many children and other non-combatants – the Israeli government investigated alleged war crimes by its army and heard testimony from Israeli troops that extremist Rabbis had proclaimed the invasion a holy war.

Gaza Yesh Din, an Israeli human rights group, called for the dismissal of the military's head chaplain, Rabbi Avichai Rontzki, a brigadier general. The group claimed that he had distributed a booklet to the troops saying that it was "terribly immoral" to show mercy to a "cruel enemy" and that the soldiers were fighting "murderers”.

In the 2009 election right-wing and religious parties won the majority (65 out of 120, or 54%) of the seats in Israel’s Knesset. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of the conservative Likud party established a coalition government which included right-wing parties, Yisrael Beiteinu, the ultra-orthodox Shas, and United Torah Judaism, the religious Zionist Jewish Home, and center-left Labor Parties.

The increasingly xenophobic and extremist nature of Israel’s political structure encouraged efforts in the Knesset to expel the Israeli/Arab parties. The Israeli Arab populations comprise 20% of Israel’s total population, but are represented by only five seats in the Knesset.

From Haaretz on January 23, 2014: “The Central Elections Committee (CEC) yesterday banned the Arab parties United Arab List-Ta'al and Balad from running in next month's parliamentary elections amid accusations of racism from Arab MKs. Both parties intend to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court. Members of the CEC conceded yesterday that the chance of the Supreme Court's upholding the ban on both parties was slim.

Arab faction delegates in the CEC walked out of the hall before the vote, shouting, "This is a fascist, racist state." As they walked out, CEC deputy chairman MK David Tal (Kadima) and the Arab delegates pushed each other and a Knesset guard had to intervene and separate them.”

The Orthodox political parties, the ultra-orthodox parties, and the nationalist parties are adamantly opposed to any peace with the Palestinian’s, which would require surrendering any portion of the occupied territories of Palestine, or Gaza, in order to create a Palestinian State.

The orthodox parties in the Knesset proposed legislation in March of this year to amend the Basic Law of Israel, effectively Israel’s constitution, for the first time in 22 years, to require approval by the Knesset and a public referendum on any transfer of land to Palestine for a state.

The Israeli Prime Minister, Netanyahu, has made it abundantly clear in recent statements that Israel will not remove its forces from the West Bank. That would create an untenable situation for Israel’s security according to Netanyahu. Gaza poses an equal, or a substantially greater, threat to Israel’s security. There is clearly no possibility for a sovereign state of Palestine that can emerge by this reasoning. That idea, the concept of independence for Palestine would never be permitted by Israel. 

There are other forces at work to encourage Israel’s increasing belligerence toward the Palestinian population, and the intense resistance to the creation of an independent, sovereign state. That influence comes from the United States.

Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu addressed a gathering of Christian Zionists in Jerusalem on November, 3, 2013. In his speech to the Evangelical’s he praised them unabashedly. “time after time, through thick and thin you have stood shoulder to shoulder with our state, and I have come here tonight to thank you for your unwavering friendship”

The potential power of Christian Zionists’ is significantly greater than that of the Jewish Israel lobby in the US. This is largely due to their astonishing size. The majority of Christian Zionists and Evangelical Christians make up 26.3 per cent of the total U.S population (Pew Research Center 2008). In comparison, the Jewish population makes up only 1.7 per cent.

The size of the evangelical population provides Christian Zionists with significant voting power; their population is four times that of nonreligious voters, ‘and twelve times the number of Jewish voters’. The potential power and scope of the Christian Zionist lobby makes them an unhealthy influence on U.S. foreign policy in regard to Israel and Palestine. They contribute millions of dollars for Orthodox Jewish resettlement on the West Bank as well.

The Christian Zionists population is largely centered in the rural areas of the southern United States, and in the far west of the U.S. They were instrumental in founding the “Tea Party” generally understood to be an anarchist group opposed to a variety of federal and state programs they regard as socialist or populist. The Evangelicals disguise their membership in the Tea Party because of the negative connotation of Christian Evangelicals by the majority of Americans. But they provide the funding and engage the political opportunism of the Tea Party in a number of states.

The electoral power of the Christian Evangelicals forces the political establishment in the U.S. to be cautious, and timid in dealing with Israel’s demands. Politicians who are dependent on their support for election, or re-election are unwilling to engage the displeasure of the Christian Zionists, that is the Tea Party, and will support Israel no matter how dreadful the uncivilized excesses that Israel might engage. Including the ruthless barbarity evidenced in the invasion of Gaza.

President Obama is increasing limited in his attempts to pass legislation in the House and Senate by the Christian Zionist’s or their surrogate Tea Party. The Christian Zionists are incensed by what they believe to be the President’s displeasure with Israeli intransigence in dealing with the Palestinian’s demands for a just resolution. The Christian Zionists believe the Palestinian’s to be an irritant and obstacle to their fanatical belief to reconstructed Biblical Israel.  The creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza would make their fantasy impossible to realize. They are determined to dramatically reduce the President’s ability in any and all measures presented to the Congress, no matter the merits, to fail. In this way they can, they fully believe, intimidate the President into abandoning the agonizing search for resolution of the conflict through the establishment of a Palestinian state.

 “Since 1973, Israel has received grants from the State Department’s Migration and Refugee Assistance account (MRA) to assist in the resettlement of migrants to Israel. Funds are paid to the United Israel Appeal, a private philanthropic organization in the United States, which in turn transfers the funds to the Jewish Agency for Israel. Between 1973 and 1991, the United States gave about $460 million for resettling Jewish refugees in Israel. Annual amounts have varied from a low of $12 million to a high of $80 million, based on the number of Jews leaving the former Soviet Union AND OTHER AREAS FOR ISRAEL. The Migration and Refugee funds for Israel are earmarked by Congress; the Administration usually does not request specific amounts of Migration and Refugee assistance for Israel," wrote the US Foreign Aid to Israel, Congressional Research Services, April 13, 2013.

The Evangelicals support Orthodox resettlement in the firm belief that a reconstruction of biblical Israel will summon forth the Messiah, or the return of Jesus, to fight the final battle of Armageddon. The battle pits the forces of good, Israel, against the forces of evil. In their delusional version of the final battle Jesus appears and summons forth the armies of god who destroy the devil’s army.

The down side for the Israeli’s is that most are thrown into a fiery pit for their failure to recognize Jesus as the Messiah following his first appearance. The few remaining Jews repent, and are converted to Evangelical Christianity and forgiven. The evangelical’s truly believe this, and are as aggressive as the Orthodox Jews in their obsession to remove the Palestinian’s from their lands and homes. This self-indulgence serves to ensure their individual salvation, and to reward them a blissful eternity. 

President Obama is ever mindful of the political, and financial power of the Christian right. He is reluctant to demand Israel stop its brutal invasion of Gaza in fear of antagonizing the Christian Zealots. The President is focused on the mid-term elections for the House and Senate. The November elections are of utmost concern. The Christian Zionist political activists have already caused manifold problems in a number of primary contests throughout the U.S. They have used their Tea Party cover to create challenges to long standing Democratic and Republican Party office holders in both the House and Senate. They are attempting to replace them with their own fanatical candidates.

President Obama could, if he chose, stop Israel’s continued barbaric invasion of Gaza quickly. A simple refusal to provide any further aid to Israel would have that effect. He simply lacks the political courage to do so.

The US Senate voted to provide Israel with $225 million in additional funding in an emergency bill on July 23 ‘14. 

The United Nations monitors in Gaza report that one child an hour dies in Gaza from Israeli bombardment and/or gunfire.

Morgan Strong is a former professor of Middle Eastern History, and was an advisor to C.B.S. News, Sixty Minutes on the Middle East.

This views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Photo credit: President Obama has been accused of helplessness in the Israel-Hamas conflict (AFP)

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