comment by Lawrence Davidson, June 6, 2010
On June 2 while in Iowa for a Democratic Party function, Vice President Joe Biden commented on the Israeli attack on the Gaza Aid Flotilla. Biden has always been a strong supporter of Israel so no one should be surprised at the tone of his remarks. What is important here are all the things that our Vice President is willing to set aside to maintain his Zionist credentials. Things like international law, historical accuracy and logic. Here is some of what he said.
“You can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not…but the truth of the matter is Israel has a right to know…whether or not arms are being smuggled in.” I guess Mr. Biden has not noticed that in none of the statements issued by Israel have they claimed that they stopped the Aid Flotilla because they believed it was carrying weapons to Gaza. So that part of our Vice President’s statement is misleading and out of place.
The VP continued, “I think Israel has an absolute right to deal with its security interest.” I want to call attention to this word “absolute.” The truth of the matter, to use Biden’s phrase, is that no country now has any such “absolute right.” We seem to have a Vice President who is unaware of things such as the Hague Conventions which set down limits for the making of war and the Geneva Conventions which regulate the treatment of civilians, prisoners and other non-combatants during war. Indeed, ever since the end of the 19th century and particularly since the end of the World War II, the whole direction of international law has been to eliminate this notion that states have “absolute rights.”
And, of course, a good argument can be made that the Gaza Aid Flotilla was not a threat to Israel’s security interest. It was carrying only humanitarian aid, a fact verified by the countries from which the ships set sail. Israel’s government knew this to be the case, but Jerusalem has distorted the notion of security to such an extent that it deems anything going into Gaza that is not cleared by Israel as a de facto threat. Yet when things are sent to Gaza through Israel vital civilian necessities arrive in dribbles so as to purposely maintain a million plus human beings at subsistence level. This, by the way, is a violation of international treaty regulations on the maintenance of a blockade during wartime. So, even if Israel sees itself at war with Hamas, the manner in which they maintain the blockade of Gaza renders it illegal.
But Mr. Biden, the man who is a heartbeat from the Presidency, seems utterly oblivious to these factors. Thus, he continued, “Here you go, You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship–if you divert slightly north you can unload and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza. So what’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza?” But then he contradicts himself, stating that the US, and the whole world, is now putting “pressure on Israel to let material go into Gaza to help those people who are suffering.” Well that is the “big deal” Mr. Biden, you have to use pressure. So, why would you think it is a problem that the flotilla did not want to go to Ashdod? The truth of the matter is, the goal of the Israeli blockade is to not let things into Gaza. This is a situation that has been documented by every respectable human rights organization on the planet
The VP carries on, “Well, its legitimate for Israel to say, I don’t know what’s on that ship.” But the Israelis did know what was on the ships. And even if they did not, they are not allowed to find out by playing the role of pirates on the high seas. But along with everything else, Biden seems oblivious to the legal definition of a pirate.
Biden’s final bit of wisdom comes when he tells us that if the flotilla had been allowed to reach Gaza and unload its humanitarian supplies “Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse, and sell it.” Now how does he know that? Did he pick it up on Fox TV? Did he learn it from the CIA? Or has he been spending his time reading an AIPAC briefing book? Again, the truth of the matter is that Hamas is renowned throughout the Muslim world for its honesty, lack of corruption, and dedication to the charitable dictates of Islam. The very last organization in the Middle East to do such a thing as Biden suggests would be Hamas.
Once upon a time, when federal government officials made scheduled public remarks touching on foreign policy those remarks were cleared by folks with expert knowledge in the State Department. I have a feeling that procedure has lapsed, or a least is being ignored by the Vice President. If you know your history and the facts on the ground, it is embarrassing to listen to a US leader talk such nonsense. But then, Mr. Biden wasn’t talking to those who are knowledgeable. He was talking to the great multitude who are not. And that is the scariest part of all.