The Fine Line Between Self Defense & War Crimes

Throughout the last several years most of my studies have focused on issues going on around Sub-Saharan Africa. However, becoming more involved with Amnesty International in the city and meeting people from around the world I became anxious to learn about more and more cultures around the world. The Israel-Palestine conflict has never been one that I personally have been as informed on as I would like, and it still is not. However, I do know the difference between right and wrong and after spending the last week researching it as much as I could I have very mixed feelings.

I know the history is extremely complex. However, within recent months the casualties of Palestinians have been extremely high and the Israeli government seems relentless. After seeing media report after report come out with higher numbers of children and civilian casualties I cannot grasp how people through social media and even President Obama are so heavily backing the government of Israel. Both sides, meaning the Israeli government and Hamas should be held accountable. I understand that Israel is an ally to the U.S., but I also know that Benjamin Netanyahu is known for committing war crimes and standing behind atrocities in the Gaza Strip where people are basically refugees in their own land with no freedoms or human rights granted to them at all. I don’t understand how people in the world or the U.S. can look at them getting murdered with more plans coming out to increase the violence and not want to help them. I agree, the extremist groups like Hamas are also killing Israelis, and those should be condemned as well. People seem to not understand that there are families, children, husbands and wives that are not in these militia type groups that can not have the world turn their back on them so that Israel can murder them in self defense to Hamas. I read today that 44% of Gaza is under the age of 15. That’s nearly half, and explains why the child causality rate is so high. How is this right and how can people not care?

I also understand that because of the complexities that Israel may be on the defensive in feeling that if they back down that the violence will switch. So where does it end? Will it always be whoever is the weaker will be the victim of the defensive attacks of the other and so forth? It’s been going on for years–what is the solution? All I know is I do not agree with the U.S. standing so firmly behind Israel. Allies or not, they are murdering people and planning a ground attack that will increase these numbers even further. I feel concerned for what will happen in the coming days for these people. It amazes me, as usual, that this much suffering and fear is going on for other humans and so many people can easily go about their daily lives and the news reports spend a total of 3 minutes reporting anything. I feel strong emotions knowing that at this moment that is going on. I’m continuing to learn more so if you have any resources or things you think would be good to know I am open for discussion.

As I was typing this, I saw protestors on the news that are currently in Time Square. They were orthodox Jews that were protesting in support to end the suffering for the people of Gaza. Gave me a little bit of hope to see interfaith work in action for good to go to sleep with. Reminded me of Jewish Voice for Peace, an organization I’ve been following very closely lately and I strongly recommend. It’s been a rough weekend. Between this conflict and the M23 rebels approaching Goma in DRC makes me feel very fired up again to do something to help and try to find a way to change. A friend of mine posted this today, and it fit in pretty well.

State of the Union Highlights and Lowpoints

I will be the first to admit that I truly do support and believe in Barack Obama as president. I think that he means well, and honestly if we met  he would like me and we would have a good conversation. Maybe even some laughs.  I couldn’t help, however, but be a little disappointed in his State of the Union last night.  Mainly because I felt that he was doing the typical political thing of telling people what they want to hear, and thus digging himself in too deep and avoiding some important topics. Maybe it’s what you have to do to win, but that is a whole different story of what’s wrong with our government and politics.  There were many areas that stuck out to me throughout the evening,

“This nation is great because we worked together as a team,” Obama said in reference to building the United States to where it is today.  I love how he always incorporates bringing people together, whether it be religions, classes, races, ethnicity, or what political side you affiliate with. I’ve found that to be a theme in his book Audacity of Hope as well, I’m currently reading it. I respect him a lot because he does seem to practice what he preaches and genuinely wants everyone to get along.  There is so much party drama, but yet when he talks he seems to stay above it and focus on the task at hand rather than getting caught up in the petty media games.

Obama also pulled out an interesting quote from Abraham Lincoln. “The government should do for the people only what they cannot do by themselves.” I felt that this was a very smart rule of thumb and a guideline on how much control the government could have. Way to go Abe.

Another important point was on immigration. Obama pointed out, “as soon as they get their degree we send them home” in reference to students who are not U.S. citizens. This shows that our immigration control efforts are not in the right place.

It always baffles me as to figure out why people think Obama has done nothing in office.  Yesterday he pointed out that 6 months before he took office America had lost 4 million jobs. That is a rough situation to dive into. Just yesterday I was reading in CNN Money about 25 Fortune 500 companies were hiring 100s and 1000s of new workers.  The fact is, the economy IS getting better, but it is a gradual process. It can’t be emphasized enough that change cannot occur over night.  I’ve also found both by watching GOP debates and  through personal conversations that people who are not supporters of Obama throw out insultes of “socialist” and “turning America into Europe” to counter any argument. I’ve recently decided that I will no longer listen to someone’s argument in that respect unless they can fully explain to be the definition of socialist. I also really enjoyed this Nick Kristof piece on this subject.

Although I hope the best of the upcoming year and hopefully future presidency, I am not thrilled. I was extremely disappointed to not hear the issue of Guantanamo brought up last night.  This is a domestic issue.  There are innocent people, innocent CHILDREN being held in a prison with questionable practices.  How can someone let this continue?  This is the point where I think having a chat with Obama would do some good, because I truly cannot bring myself to understand how this is happening.  I like how this ACLU infographic lays it out.

I am very open and respectful to opinions of all kinds, and I love a good debate. However, it pains me to see how much the media twists and sets political parties against each other. It will continue, but my message to everyone is this.  Inform yourselves.  REALLY inform yourselves on what’s going on before you vote.  Though politics may be a game to some, there are people who these issues are seriously impacting and in some cases it even goes against basic human rights.