Sunday, June 6, 2010

An open letter to Joe Biden

Hey Joe,
I was watching your astonishing performance on Charlie Rose last Tuesday evening, in which you stridently defended current Israeli defense policy after Monday’s raid which killed nine people on a Turkish ship bringing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. Your take on the situation is that Israel and Hamas are at war, and that therefore “It's legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don't know what's on that ship. These guys are dropping 3,000 rockets on my people.’”

Despite a wave of global outrage about the commando assault, you apparently feel that there’s no harm done because Israel “had a right to know” what was aboard the vessel, even though it found itself in international waters.

But you say we must also not forget about the poor Palestinians, or as many as are left alive after the Israeli bombardments of a year and a half ago. “The one thing we have to do is not forget the plight of these Palestinians there ... they're in bad shape,” you say, shedding crocodile tears from those big blue eyes. “So we have to put as much pressure and as much cajoling on Israel as we can to allow them to get building materials in,” you generously suggest, since Israel has forbidden the import into Gaza not only of cilantro and musical instruments, but also of wood and cement for the same security reasons you find so reasonable.

Joe, I voted for you a couple years ago, partially because you’d reportedly gained much experience on the Senate foreign relations committee, even though that experience did not prevent you from voting for the Iraq War Resolution in 2002. At least you seemed more knowledgeable than Sarah Palin, your Republican counterpart. But lately I’ve begun to think that you and I may be residing on different planets.

Joe, the war on Gaza ended on January 18, 2009. In a three-week period between 1,166 and 1,417 Palestinians—less than 375 of them combatants-- and 13 Israelis were killed. In September 2009, a UN special mission headed by Justice Richard Goldstone produced a report accusing Israeli Defense Forces of war crimes and possible crimes against humanity. The UN Human Rights Council endorsed the report, criticizing Israel but not Hamas.*

Israel rejected the report earlier this year, not before inaugurating a policy of collective retribution upon the 1.5 million people living in Gaza, in hopes apparently that they will somehow rise up and oust Hamas from power. For this reason all exports from Gaza are banned, almost all factories remain closed, and almost the entire population is left dependent on food aid. The blockade is supposed to prevent arms smuggling, but the goal is rather to force an impoverished and victimized population into overthrowing Hamas.

The strategy is not only morally scandalous, but categorically stupid to begin with. Hamas is the only administrative organization that exists in Gaza – are you going to shoot the person who is keeping you from starving?

Joe, let me ask you bluntly, who exactly are you working for? Which persons, what shadowy forces have gathered and conspired to transform you into a moral coward of this magnitude? Are you speaking for the Administration when you defend the blockade of Gaza, or are you are simply having fun playing the loose cannon on Public Television?

Hilary came out on Thursday with the usual crap about how the government needs a full and complete investigation of Monday’s events before issuing a position statement – why wasn’t that good enough for you too? After all, in another week or two public attention will have moved elsewhere, and those of us not condemned to spend our lives in Gaza will move on to other concerns.

Joe, I suspect that you and I are not likely to achieve agreement on Middle East policy, so let me instead suggest an alternate proposal which articulates more general and non-partisan principles. Let us agree therefore that:

1. US policy will not support the boarding of ships in international waters without immediately obvious and reasonable grounds.
2. The US will now commit its energies to begin the economic reconstruction of Gaza, regardless of whatever power relations are currently in place there or elsewhere.
3. The US will no longer provide military and financial support to countries that damage the lives and welfare of non-combatant civilian populations anywhere in the world, either in time of peace or war.

Come on, Joe, give us a little help here. After eight years of institutionalized moral stupefaction under Bush Two, you were elected to try and improve things. What you were saying to Charlie Rose the other night is against morality, against history, and against common sense. Let’s go back to the drawing board and come up with something better, ok?

* See Wikipedia, “Gaza War.”


  1. When I tried to email this message to the Vice President, I was advised to "delete 1,858 characters and resubmit" it. I decided to bag it, assuming he'd never see it anyway.

  2. I was very disappointed with Biden's performance on Charlie Rose, too. Turned it off when he began saying the Gaza-bound could be dropshipped at an Israeli port, unloaded, inspected for arms and weapon materials, repacked, and sent overland to Gaza. Wonder how much would get through, lost, or damaged in transit. How long would it take in the face of such need? I expected better from Obama and Biden, too

  3. Right on Plainfeather. If you were running for anything you's certainly get my vote.
    the mole