Magazine article The American Conservative

Unanimous Consent

Magazine article The American Conservative

Unanimous Consent

Article excerpt

When Israel acts, Congress applauds. No debate required.

IN MOST OF THE WORLD, the Israeli attack on Gaza is viewed as an intensely controversial act and, more commonly, an excessive, unjustifiable, and brutal assault on a trapped civilian population. But not in the United States-at least not among America's political and opinion-making elite. Here one finds a bipartisan consensus as simplistic as it is unquestioned: Israel's bombing campaign and invasion of Gaza are right and just, and it is the duty of the U.S. to support these actions unequivocally.

From the moment Israel began dropping bombs on Gaza, leaders of America's two major political parties rushed to announce their total support, competing to see who could most fulsomely praise the offensive. So complete was the agreement that they all seemed to be reading from the same script While other Western governments issued even-handed statements condemning both Israel and Hamas and their diplomats worked furiously to forge a ceasefire agreement, America's political leaders stood on the sidelines, cheering with increasing fervor.

When it comes to Israel's various military actions, there is far more dissent within Israel, where one commonly finds prominent, vehement criticism of the Israeli government, than there is within the U.S., where such criticism is all but nonexistent. Indeed, in the U.S. Congress, there is far more unqualified support for Israel's wars than for America's own.

The refusal of our political leaders to deviate even slightly from this ritual reached its zenith during the week of Jan. 5, when events in Gaza heightened worldwide opposition to the Israeli attack. The Palestinian death toll exceeded 800, with more than 3,000 wounded. The UN reported that roughly a third of the dead and wounded were children, that Gaza was on the verge of collapse, that its residents were on the brink of mass starvation. Israel bombed a school where the UN had established a shelter, killing 40 refugees hiding there in terror. The Israeli Defense Force initially claimed that Hamas militants had shot from a rooftop of the school and Israel merely returned fire. But the following day, when the UN investigated and found that claim to be false, Israel was forced to acknowledge that no such provocation occurred. Instead, the IDF said, the bombing of the school was merely an accident.

The next day, the Red Cross, which for a full week had been prevented by the IDF from entering Gaza, unveiled a gruesome discovery: numerous children, too emaciated even to stand up, had spent days in an apartment complex lying next to the corpses of their parents and other relatives as the DDF blocked ambulances from reaching them. The same day, the UN suggested that Israel had committed war crimes, citing an appalling incident in which the Israelis ordered some 110 civilians to enter a house and stay there, then proceeded to shell the building, killing 30 civilians inside. Though the IDF physically prevented journalists from entering Gaza, even in the face of a week-old order from the Israeli Supreme Court directing them to allow access, documented stories began emerging of large extended families in Gaza - parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts, and small children - extinguished by Israeli attacks.

The world recoiled in horror. Angry street demonstrations erupted in Europe, and condemnations of Israel from the UN and Red Cross were unusually strident.

It was at this moment that the American Congress inserted itself - and, in effect the United States - into the war, and did so in the most one-sided manner possible. As the Palestinian body count and international anger mounted, Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.) introduced a nonbinding resolution that expressed unequivocal American support for the Israeli attack and formally declared that all blame for the war and all responsibility to end it rested with Hamas - none with Israel. …

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