ZOA Criticizes Secretary Rice For Limiting Israel’s Ability To Defend Itself Against Hamas Missiles
September 25, 2007

So much for the power of the ‘pro-Israel lobby’

New York — The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has criticized Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for arguing that Hamas alone is the problem on the Palestinian side, not the people of Gaza who helped overwhelmingly to elect Hamas in 2006. A continuing incessant barrage of rockets has been fired from Gaza into Israel virtually on a daily basis. Discussions in Israel on dealing with the hostilities emanating from Gaza have encompassed various options, including a proposal to cut off electricity to the territory. In a press briefing last week, Secretary Rice commented, ” In terms of what — the Israeli decision concerning Gaza … they’ve been very clear that they have to look at legality, they have to look at issues of humanitarian impact and so forth … one thing that I emphasized several times with the Israelis is that we are very concerned that innocent Palestinians not suffer humanitarian consequences as a result of any action that they take. Because the problem is Hamas; the problem isn’t the people of Gaza” (Rice, Briefing En Route Andrews Air Force Base , September 21).

ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is simply absurd for Secretary Rice to suggest that Israel should forfeit taking legitimate military or other action in Gaza that might entail harm to Palestinian civilians. If during World War Two, America had taken the position that it could not go to war if innocent civilians would die as a result of military operations, Hitler would have won. If this were the basis on which military operations were to be decided, no army anywhere, including American forces in Iraq or Afghanistan, would be able to undertake legitimate military action at all. Legitimate military action should not be aimed at deliberately harming civilians, but that is entirely different to ruling out any action, no matter how appropriate or necessary, if it also harms civilians. It is right to try and minimize civilian suffering — it is an entirely different matter to say that one may do nothing if it causes any harm at all.

“The truth is that even in a just war, civilians are sometimes harmed. To the extent that Palestinian civilians are in harm’s way because of the placement of terrorist groups and their weapons caches, tunnels, bases, training camps and so on in residential areas, the responsibility for any harm that comes to Palestinian civilians belongs to Hamas and the other terror groups that deliberately place armed men and weapons in civilian areas. It is not Israel’s responsibility to forgo the defense of its territory and civilians because carrying out that responsibility may harm civilians in an enemy regime. In the Israeli town of Sderot, hundreds of homes have been hit by missiles, several people have been killed, scores wounded and hundreds more have suffered psychological harm from the incessant bombardment which has caused half the city’s residents to flee. Children cannot attend school safely and families have been forced to live in bunkers. No U.S. government would tolerate this situation if it were replicated here.

“This appalling pressure on Israel to desist from taking legitimate military and other actions in defense of its citizens makes crystal clear the falsity of the claim made by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt that U.S. policies are unstintingly supportive of Israel. If the U.S. was doing only what Israel wanted, there would never have been a long history of disputes between them on major policy questions.

“We call upon Secretary Rice to retract her words regarding possible Israeli measures in Gaza. She should reaffirm U.S. policy that Israel has a right to defend itself from terrorist attacks on its citizens and territory and reassure Israel that it will have American support in fighting Hamas and other terrorist groups which Secretary Rice herself holds to be enemies of peace.”

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