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MORAL VALUES MUST GUIDE OUR MIDEAST POLICY
By Hadia Mubarak
WORD COUNT: 711
[Hadia Mubarak is member of the board for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation's largest Muslim civil liberties group. Mubarak is currently a researcher at American University's School of International Service in Washington, D.C. She may be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org]
I do not believe that any American with an ounce of moral conscience can sit idly by as 1.4 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip starve to death because of measures taken by a state that receives billions of our tax dollars each year.
"Starve to death" is not an exaggeration. Not when Israel closes down all Gaza's land, sea and air access routes, preventing the entry of food, fuel or humanitarian assistance for more than two weeks. Not when Israel destroys the only power plant in the entire Gaza Strip, cutting off 700,000 people from water and electricity.
A spokeswoman for the UN's World Food Program said some 85 percent of Gazans are dependent on food handouts and many families are eating only one meal a day. More than 30,000 children suffer from malnutrition, and this number will increase as diarrhea spreads due to food contamination and the limited supply of clean water.
The safe return of a captured Israeli soldier might have been accomplished by other less punitive measures. But Israel did not explore alternatives and instead used "disproportionate" force, according to the United Nations.
How do the deaths of dozens of Palestinians help secure the release of Gilad Shalit? How is Israel fighting terrorism when it drops a missile on the Wahba family home in Khan Younis as they sit down to enjoy their last meal? What will become of one-year-old Khaled Wahba, paralyzed and unconscious from a wound in the head by shrapnel from the missile? How many more orphans like Khaled Wahba will Israel create before it begins to heed international law?
The longer the United States allows Israel to inflict collective punishment upon civilians and civilian infrastructure in Gaza, and now Lebanon, the more our nation's interests and image are harmed worldwide.
As John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt pointed out in their recent study "The Israel Lobby," Israel is a strategic liability to the United States in the war on terror.
It is a well-known fact that America has supported Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories by providing a total of $140 billion in taxpayer dollars from 1976 to 2005. And it is also a fact that this one-sided support for Israel has turned a large part of the world against us.
During a recent six-week trip in the Muslim world for a research project sponsored by American University, Brookings Institute and Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, I observed that the main contention Muslims have with the United States is its unconditional and unbalanced support for Israel.
From high school students in Karachi's elite Grammar School, to university students at Turkey's Fatih University, Syria's Abu Nour Institute and the University of Jordan, the same questions came up again and again: "Why does America support Israel's illegal occupation of Palestinian territories with financial and military aid? Why does it turn a blind eye on Israel's human rights violations?"
I would explain to university students, taxi drivers, waiters, and even my own relatives in the Arab world that the American people have no idea what is going on inside the Palestinian territories. I would tell them that they cannot judge the American people by the actions of politicians more concerned with campaign donations than with our nation's international image. As a native-born Arab-American, I would tell them how the majority of Americans have shown nothing but respect and openness to my ethnic heritage and faith.
Those responses may have worked in the past, but not anymore.
Our failed policies in the Middle East have bred nothing but anti-American hostility and mistrust of our intentions in the region. The only way to rectify this dismal situation is to actually put into practice the principles of freedom and justice upon which this country was founded. We must demand an end to Israel's attacks on Palestinian and Lebanese civilians.
After all, the definition of terrorism is attacks on civilian targets designed to achieve a political goal. What else is Israel doing when it attempts to starve the Palestinians into submission or bomb Lebanon's infrastructure until its soldiers are released?
Our moral values must become the guiding principles of our foreign policy. This is the most important step we can take to make America more secure for our children.