Harsh treatment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza could “backfire,” the ex-US president has said
Former US President Barack Obama has endorsed Israel’s right to defend against “wanton violence” by Hamas, but warned West Jerusalem that a strategy that “ignores the human cost” would be counterproductive.
In an essay released on Medium on Monday, Obama endorsed President Joe Biden’s call for the US to “support our long-time ally in going after Hamas, dismantling its military capabilities,” and freeing the hostages taken in the October 7 attack.
However, Obama argued, it is important that Israel’s strategy “abides by international law” and minimize the death and suffering of civilians. Not just because it is “morally just and reflects our belief in the inherent value of every human life” but because it is “vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion — all of which are critical for Israel’s long-term security.”
Pointing out that thousands of Palestinians have already been killed, including children, and hundreds of thousands displaced, Obama argued that the crackdown on Gaza could “further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts” to achieve peace.
Obama advised both Washington and West Jerusalem to reach out to “those Palestinian leaders and organizations that recognize Israel’s right to exist” and start “articulating a viable pathway” for Palestinian statehood, as “the best and perhaps only way to achieve the lasting peace and security most Israeli and Palestinian families yearn for.”
He also urged both countries to “to do our best to put our best values, rather than our worst fears, on display,” and oppose both “anti-semitism in all its forms” and “anti-Muslim, anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian sentiment.”
This means “guarding against dehumanizing language towards the people of Gaza, or downplaying Palestinian suffering — whether in Gaza or the West Bank — as irrelevant or illegitimate,” concluded Obama, who was the US president from 2009 to 2017.
The October 7 incursion by Hamas militants resulted in the deaths of more than 1,300 Israelis. Israel has responded by declaring war and vowing to “dismantle” the Palestinian group, while imposing a “total blockade” on Gaza. Foreign Minister Eli Cohen declared on Tuesday that there was “no room for a balanced approach” after the terrorist attacks and that “Hamas must be wiped out from the world!”
Meanwhile, West Jerusalem’s envoy to the UN called on Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to resign on Tuesday, for daring to suggest that the Hamas attack “did not happen in a vacuum” and may have been related to “56 years of suffocating occupation” by Israel.