While the Biden administration and several Latin American countries have rightly supported Israel’s right to defend itself from the more than 2,000 Hamas rockets launched against Israel’s civilian population, the reaction by other countries in the region has been pathetic.
The governments of Cuba, Venezuela, Argentina and St. Vincent — a small country, but one that occupies a seat on the U.N. Security Council — as well as Bolivia’s behind-the-scenes ruler Evo Morales have tacitly or explicitly supported the Iran-backed Hamas terrorist group.
There is a good reason why the United States and the 27-member European Union officially consider Hamas a terrorist group: It deliberately uses violence against civilians to achieve its goals.
Hamas is shooting rockets into Israeli cities, including Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, aiming at the civilian population. Israel, on the other hand, is retaliating by attacking Hamas’ military targets. That’s a big difference.
Also, Hamas openly calls for the annihilation of Israel and its Jewish population. As recently as May 7, Fathi Hamad, a senior Hamas official, called on Palestinians to “cut off the heads of the Jews with knives” in a speech broadcast on Al-Aqsa TV in Gaza, according to a translation by the Washington-based Middle East Media Research Institute.
In other words, the ongoing Gaza-Israel violence is not really about the Palestinian people’s right to a homeland, — many of us support a “two states for two peoples” solution. Hamas is a right-wing Islamic fundamentalist group that doesn’t want a two-state solution. It wants to eliminate Israel and install an Iran-backed Muslim fundamentalist regime.
But none of that has kept the Cuban and Venezuelan dictatorships from blaming Israel for the ongoing violence, without a word of condemnation for Hamas.
Cuba’s foreign minister tweeted that his country “strongly condemns the indiscriminate bombardments against the Palestinian population in Gaza.” Venezuela’s foreign minister tweeted that, “The world must demand the end of this new phase of Zionist violence against the Palestinian people.”
Most surprising was the reaction from Argentina, whose chaotic populist government until recently showed some moderation in foreign affairs. Argentina condemned the “disproportionate use of force” by Israel, without an equally strong condemnation of Hamas’ rocket attacks.
Mexico and Chile issued pretty balanced statements calling on both sides to de-escalate violence. Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay, like the Biden administration, stressed Israel’s right to defend itself.
Argentina’s condemnation of Israel’s allegedly “disproportionate” use of force is intriguing. One could argue that a “proportionate” use of violence would be for Israel to launch the same number of rockets as Hamas, something that would have greatly multiplied the death toll in Gaza.
At the center of the current Gaza-Israel violence is the fight for Palestinian leadership. Hamas’ rocket attacks are part of that group’s increasingly successful offensive to become the sole leader of the Palestinian cause, making its rival Palestinian Authority (PA) government irrelevant.
Hamas has exploited PA President Mahmoud Abbas’ recent decision to postpone Palestinian elections. It has also benefited from what it has painted as the 85-year-old Abbas’ failure to respond to the Palestinian-Israeli clashes over the property rights of four houses in East Jerusalem, and the tear-gassing by Israeli police of protesters around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.
None of this is to say that Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government is free of blame.
Netanyahu, whose coalition depends on the support of far-right and ultra-Orthodox parties, has allowed Israeli-Palestinian tensions to escalate by, among other things, delaying until the last minute a decision to suspend a Jerusalem Day march by right-wing Israelis in the Muslim quarter of Jerusalem.
Netanyahu is facing corruption charges and should have been voted out of office long ago. He has done more harm than good to Israel, taking measures in recent years that have made a two-state solution increasingly difficult to reach.
Still, at the time of this writing, while the rockets are falling on Israeli cities, it’s Hamas — not Israel — that should be denounced.
Hamas’ terrorists are firing rockets at Israeli civilians, while hiding behind schools and hospitals, using Gaza residents as human shields. Israel is firing at Hamas’ military positions to defend its population, like any other country would do if it were hit by more than 2,000 rockets from next door.
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