In June 1948, our wartime ally imposed a blockade on Berlin, cutting off and condemning to death or Stalinist domination 2 million Germans, most of whom, not long before, had cheered Adolf Hitler.
Harry Truman responded with the Berlin airlift, in perhaps the most magnanimous act of the Cold War.
For nine months, U.S. pilots flew into Tempelhof, carrying everything from candy to coal, saving a city and earning the eternal gratitude of the people of Berlin, and admiration everywhere that moral courage is admired.
That was an America that lived its values.
And today, President Obama should end his and his country’s shameful silence over the inhumane blockade of Gaza that is denying 1.5 million beleaguered people the basic necessities of a decent life.
Time to start acting like America again.
That bloody debacle in the Eastern Mediterranean last Sunday was an inevitable result of Israel doing what it always seems to do: going beyond what is essential to her security, to impose collective punishment upon any and all it regards as hostile to Israel.
Israel claims, and film confirms, that its commandos rappelling down onto the Turkish ship were attacked with sticks and metal rods. One was tossed off a deck, another tossed overboard into a lifeboat.
But that 2 a.m. boarding of an unarmed ship with an unarmed crew, carrying no munitions or weapons, 65 miles at sea, was an act of piracy. What the Israeli commandos got is what any armed hijacker should expect who tries to steal a car from a driver who keeps a tire iron under the front seat.
And the response of these highly trained naval commandos to the resistance they encountered? They shot and killed nine passengers, and wounded many more.
But we have a blockade of Gaza, say the Israelis, and this flotilla was a provocation. Indeed, it was. And Selma was a provocation. The marchers at Edmund Pettus Bridge were disobeying orders of the governor of Alabama and state police not to march.
Yet, today, liberal Democrats who regard Martin Luther King as a moral hero for championing nonviolent civil disobedience to protest injustice are cheering not the unarmed passengers trying to break the Gaza blockade, but the Israelis enforcing the blockade.
Where were these fellows when “Bull” Connor really needed them?
Comes the retort: Israel is a friend and ally, and we stand with our friends.
But is not Turkey a friend and ally of 50 years, whose soldiers died alongside ours in Korea and who accepted Jupiter missiles targeted on Russia, even before the Cuban missile crisis? Was it not Turkey whose citizens were wounded and killed in the bloody debacle?
Why are we not at least even-handed between our friends?
On the trip to Israel where he was blindsided by news that Israel would build 1,600 new housing units in East Jerusalem, Joe Biden told Shimon Peres, “There is absolutely no space between the United States and Israel when it comes to Israel’s security.”
And that is the problem.
America is a superpower with interests in an Arab world of 300 million and an Islamic world of 1.5 billion—interests Israel treats with indifference if not contempt when it comes to doing what she regards as necessary for her security.
While Israel had a right to build a wall to protect her people from terror attack, did she have a right to build it on Palestinian land?
While Israel had a right to go after Hezbollah when her soldiers were shot on the border and several kidnapped, did Israel have a right to conduct a five-week bombing campaign that smashed Lebanon, killing hundreds of civilians and creating upward of a million refugees?
While Israel had a right to go into Gaza to stop the firing of crude rockets on Sderot, did she have a right to smash utilities and public buildings and kill 1,400 people, most of them civilians?
Is whatever Israel decides to do in the name of her security fine with us, because there is “absolutely no space” between our interests and hers, our values and Israel’s values?
Even with Winston Churchill’s Britain, there was “space” between us on strategic goals and national policies.
Israel has a right to secure Gaza to deny Hamas access to weapons, especially rockets that could reach Israel. But that does not justify denying 1.5 million people what they need to live in decency.
According to The Washington Post, “80 percent of the population (of Gaza) depends on charity. Hospitals, schools, electricity systems and sewage treatment facilities are all in deep disrepair.”
With our silence, we support this. And we wonder why they hate us.
Obama should tell the Israelis that Joe got it wrong. There is space between us. The Gaza siege must end. And America will herself be sending aid, but will also support Israel’s right to inspect trucks and ships to see to it no weapons get through to Gaza.
Let’s start behaving like who we once were.
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