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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Biden and Israel

It’s time for the administration to put its foot down on the war in Gaza


The United States has long been a friend to Israel and that’s appropriate. But sometimes friends have to tell a friend when they’re in the wrong, and it is well past time for the Biden administration to make that point in the only way it appears that Israel’s government will get the message— by demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and suspending U.S. military support for Israel’s war effort in Gaza if Israel doesn’t comply.
That Israel would respond to the outrageous Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas was understandable. It could not let such an atrocity go unanswered. Yet Israel’s response has been so utterly disproportionate and so destructive to innocent civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza that it borders on a war crime.
The U.S. has rightly decried Vladimir Putin’s war on Ukraine and the devastating bombardment of major cities there. And while the circumstances are certainly not identical, there is one reality that is hard to avoid. In Ukraine, most residents have been able to flee the fighting. That’s not the case in Gaza, where roughly a million and a half Palestinians remain trapped behind concrete walls and razor wire erected by Israel as their cities have been reduced to rubble around them. Most have fled to Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu promises to next bring Israel’s punishing assaults.
Hamas obviously shares responsibility for the horrendous circumstances now facing residents of Gaza, since its own actions put Palestinians at risk. Yet Hamas has been labeled a terrorist organization by both the U.S. and Israel and the world has a right to expect a greater standard of care for civilian populations by the U.S. and Israel than from terrorists. Like it or not, Israel’s response to the Oct. 7 attacks has turned much of the world, which initially voiced sympathy and support for the Jewish state, against it. Through its continued military support for Israel, the U.S. shares responsibility for the devastation currently being experienced in Gaza.
It doesn’t have to be this way. The people in both Israel and Gaza are the victims of a colossal failure of leadership on both sides. The inability of their leadership to find a path forward that recognizes the legitimate rights of both the Israelis and the Palestinians to live in peace and freedom in the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean, has been a failure of imagination. As a series of speakers at last week’s meeting of the group Northern Progressives made clear, the conflict in Palestine wasn’t centuries in the making. This is a conflict over land, not about religion, and until both sides recognize the others’ justifiable desire for peace and security (and freedom in the case of the Palestinians), this senseless violence will continue. Israel can never defeat a group like Hamas through a military response— and its current approach only ensures that the extremism fostered by groups like Hamas will continue to thrive. Peace can only come when both sides take steps to rein in the extremists in their ranks to allow the peacemakers, who are eager to get to work, to find a lasting solution.
That is what the Biden administration needs to tell Israel’s leaders, in no uncertain terms. While the administration has been more critical, at least rhetorically, of Israel’s actions in recent weeks, the administration’s willingness to continue financing and equipping Israel’s war machine leaves America directly culpable in one of the world’s greatest humanitarian crises in decades.
It’s not just the punishing air assaults that have already killed tens of thousands of innocent Palestinians, mostly women and children. According to aid organizations and the United Nations, Israel’s restrictions on food aid into Gaza have left many of those still alive in Gaza facing imminent famine. A growing number of Palestinians, mostly children, have already starved to death. That situation has only worsened in the wake of the Israeli attack on aid workers from the group World Central Kitchen, which has prompted many aid groups to pull their staff from Gaza.
While this conflict may be located half a world away, we all can play a role in making it better. Our elected representatives in Washington could do more to speak out about the need for a permanent ceasefire and for a renewed push for a lasting peace in the Middle East, and we, as citizens of Minnesota can make a difference by urging them to do so. It is as easy to do as sending an email or picking up the telephone to voice your opinion.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar: Virginia office- 218-741-9690 • Metro office- 612-727-5220 • D.C. office- 202-224-3244.
Sen. Tina Smith: Duluth office- 218-722-2390 • St. Paul office- 651-221-1016 • D.C. office- 202-224-5641.
The White House: 202-456-1414 or 202-456-1111.