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The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

Georgetown University’s Newspaper of Record since 1920

The Hoya

MAIN: Speaking Up on Israel’s Occupation

Within the House and the Senate, unwavering support for Israel and its actions is as monolithic a political opinion as they come.

Although the United States gives Israel more money than it gives any other country, Senate Resolution 526, “Supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas,” passed the body unanimously July 29, while House Joint Resolution 76 granting Israel an additional $225 million for its Iron Dome defense system, made it through the House with only eight representatives voting to oppose it.

Powerful Democrats, such as Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), are particularly vocal in their support, going so far as to condemn the United Nations for merely investigating possible Israeli violations of international law.

Looking at the congressional response to the conflict in Gaza — the most recent flare-up ending with an Aug. 26 ceasefire — it would come as a surprise that nearly half of all Democrats see Israel’s actions in the area as unjustified.

A Gallup poll conducted in late June, weeks before the murder-by-missile of four boys playing on a Gaza City beach, showed that 47 percent of Democrats did not support the country’s current military campaign.

People with this opinion have essentially no representation in Congress, not even from self-proclaimed democratic socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and the two co-chairs of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.

That more members of the Israeli Knesset spoke out against Operation Protective Edge than members of Congress shows there is a fundamental misunderstanding of the conflict by the American government. The countless congressional resolutions that framed the conflict as a war between two equally matched powers took an inaccurate, short-term view of the situation, which is really one between the occupier and the occupied.

The people of the Gaza Strip, 1.8 million strong, are caught in one of the planet’s most shameful situations. Ninety percent of the water in their main aquifer has been contaminated from runoff from Israeli sewage, and electricity — even before the Israeli Defense Forces bombed Gaza’s main power plant in late July — was available for only less than half the day. There is no possibility of internal economic improvement, as a strict Israeli blockade had barred the import of construction materials like cement and iron.

Agriculture, too, has its dangers; around 35 percent of Gaza’s arable land falls within the “buffer zone” by the Israel border, where IDF guards restrict access, and successful ventures, such as the el-Bader flour mill and the Sawafeary chicken farm, have been targets of military bombing.

The result is an area entirely reliant on foreign aid for food, education and other necessities, with a citizenry unable to leave because of borders with Israel and Egypt that are, for all intents and purposes, closed, even after ceasefire terms eased restrictions somewhat.

It would be difficult, however, for a U.S. politician to speak up against the occupation using specific language. Hamas is correctly regarded as a terrorist group, and support of the new Palestinian unity government, a step toward the two-state solution supported by Congress, is politically toxic because of the group’s necessary involvement. With Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s insistence that key Palestinian requests — namely right of return for the relatives of those expelled in the 1948 exodus — are permanently off the negotiating table, a major pro-Palestine push by anybody in the Democratic Party will likely fail to pick up any steam.

A more fruitful alternative is to shift the focus to condemning Israel’s actions in both Operation Protective Edge and the decades-long conflict. Rhetoric insisting that the IDF went out of its way to avoid hitting civilians means little when nearly 80 percent of Palestinians killed during the latest conflict were non-combatants.
These numbers deserve more than just concern — they require vilification.

In addition, the illegal appropriation and settlement of land in the West Bank — most recently with the enormous expansion of the Gush Etzion settlement, announced less than a week after the ceasefire — should be condemned not just as theft, but as antagonistic to the peace process as a whole.

Of every representative, only Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) has taken a broader view of the situation, asserting in a Washington Post op-ed that ending Israel’s blockade of Gaza will do wonders for reaching peace in the region. That only one Democrat was willing to look at the conflict in a way that prioritized the end of human suffering over the destruction of Hamas is disappointing, for his is the only approach that treats the suffering of the people of Gaza as a solvable problem instead of an unfortunate reality.

Hunter MainHunter Main is a senior in the College. Left Behind appears every other Friday.

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    CharlieSep 17, 2014 at 3:45 pm

    This is a well-informed article. It seems Congress is more concerned with protecting the interest of Israel than it is representing the views of the American people. It’s about time more people started coupling condemnation of Hamas with criticism of Israel’s illegal occupation and quasi-apartheid structure in the West Bank, where, as the author stated, Palestinian land is frequently literally bulldozed and stolen to build Jewish settlements.