Moral clarity in Gaza
100 days into this horror
Last week marked 100 days since the war between Israel and Hamas began.
On October 7, Hamas militants launched an unprecedented assault on Israel from the Gaza Strip, killing 1,200 people and taking some 240 hostages.
Five days later, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken stood next to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a military base in Tel Aviv and said, “Too often in the past, leaders have equivocated in the face of terrorist attacks against Israel and its people. This is — this must be — a moment for moral clarity.”
Blinken was correct. Moral clarity requires that the world condemn the atrocities committed by Hamas on October 7 — as well as its ongoing imprisonment of hostages — as unmitigated evil.
But do those atrocities render morally justifiable retaliatory airstrikes on Gaza that have so far killed over 25,000 Palestinians, including over 10,000 children? Or causing more than 570,000 people in Gaza to now face “catastrophic hunger,” equivalent to famine levels of starvation, as defined by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification?
The answer is a clear and resounding no.
Condemning what is occurring now in Gaza is not to exonerate Hamas from its brutal attack of October 7 and its hostage-taking.
It is morally wrong to seek to justify Hamas’s actions, as some have done, by arguing that 76 years ago, three-quarters of a million Palestinians were driven from their homes, or by tallying up the number of Palestinians more recently killed by Israeli forces in the West Bank.
There is no justification for what Hamas did.
Condemning Benjamin Netanyahu and his government for wreaking disproportionate vengeance on innocent people in Gaza is not to be anti-Israel.
It’s to be pro-Israel.
Israel’s security and moral authority in the world are being undermined to the point of near collapse. As Thomas L. Friedman wrote on October 10:
What Israel’s worst enemies — Hamas and Iran — want is for Israel to invade Gaza and get enmeshed in a strategic overreach there that would make America’s entanglement in Falluja look like a children’s birthday party. We are talking house-to-house fighting that would undermine whatever sympathy Israel has garnered on the world stage, deflect world attention from the murderous regime in Tehran and force Israel to stretch its forces to permanently occupy Gaza and the West Bank.
Criticizing the Biden administration for its failure to speak out against this catastrophe is not to be anti-Biden. Nor is it to lend support to Republicans and Trump, who would in all likelihood give Netanyahu far more encouragement and funding.
Besides, it’s far from clear that Biden has the power to stop Netanyahu and his cronies.
Yet it is important for America and the world to hear Biden oppose this moral calamity.
Last week, in a statement marking 100 days since the war began, Biden showed appropriate empathy for the plight of hostages, whose abduction by Hamas is a continuing war crime.
Yet Biden’s failure to mention the plight of Palestinians was a profound error, which he can rectify by taking a strong stand against the atrocities in Gaza.
There is no moral clarity in wreaking vengeance on innocent people.