As the images pile up of the massacre in Gaza, the word has gone out within the upper reaches of the U.S. government– and that word is “heartbreaking.” That’s the clever euphemism U.S. officials are using to try and cover their bases, to say they’re not moral idiots, they know what’s going on over there, but they can’t come out and say it and they certainly can’t criticize Israel for its actions.
“Heartbreaking” is the talking point:
“we have been heartbroken by the high civilian death toll in Gaza” —Jen Psaki, last Thursday.
“The loss of lives and the humanitarian impact is really heartbreaking”– John Kerry, today.
“The [four Palestinian boys’] deaths are heartbreaking” —Samantha Power.
“Heartbroken” –White House adviser Ben Rhodes in a TV interview about civilian casualties in Gaza last night (I saw this in real time; I’ll get a link later).
It’s not heartbreaking; it’s a massacre.
The number of dead is now 666. The vast majority are civilians. Last night on NBC News Richard Engel did a report on ambulances not being able to get into Shuja’iyeh, the Gaza City neighborhood that has been the focus of the Israeli assault. The report will live forever in my mind because of the video of a young woman found barely breathing, her body covered in rubble, her face half-exposed. Asma al-Helu, 24, had been lying there two days, badly burned. Engel visited her in the hospital.
“All her family had been killed.”
Today Engel says that Asma al-Helu died.
Every hour the Israelis kill a child, according to the UN. John Mearsheimer said to me in a note yesterday.
“How can any person with a shred of decency support what Israel is doing in Gaza?”
It’s a massacre. If you can’t say so, you’re blind or corrupted. John Kerry knows it but he can’t say so, because our leadership is corrupted. Madeleine Albright knows it but the most she can say is it’s hurting Israel’s “moral authority.”
History will record who stood up during this massacre and denounced it. The reporters at State know it. Here’s the briefing yesterday:
Question: The Israeli ambassador last night, he was talking at a group event for – run by Christians for Israel or something like that, and he said that he believed that Israel deserves a Nobel Peace Prize for Israeli soldiers, for the restraint that they’ve shown in going in and doing what he would say is targeted operations. And he thinks – at a breakfast I was at this morning, he says the international community should watch with admiration what the Israeli army is doing. Is it the opinion of the United States that there is restraint being shown by the Israeli army, that they are really working to try and get civilians out of harm’s way, they’re giving them advance warning? Do you believe that his comments are accurate?
Here’s that application for the Nobel Prize. And what does State’s Marie Harf say?
Well, we do think that there could be – they could do a bit more, that they could maybe take some greater steps here.
Steve Walt at Huffpo is plain about the horror, and says we’re paying for it:
As it has on several prior occasions, Israel is using weapons provided by U.S. taxpayers to bombard the captive and impoverished Palestinians in Gaza, where the death toll now exceeds 500. As usual, the U.S. government is siding with Israel, even though most American leaders understand Israel instigated the latest round of violence, is not acting with restraint, and that its actions make Washington look callous and hypocritical in the eyes of most of the world.
A reporter made this same point at State the other day:
You just talked about how the Russians are responsible for whatever weapons that the separatists are using. What about Israel that is using American weapons day in and day out – tanks, airplanes, F-16, bombs, and so on – to kill, basically, a lot of civilians?
MS. HARF: Said. Israel has the right to defend itself, period. They have the right to defend itself from rockets fired from Gaza, from things smuggled from tunnels into Israel, period. At the same time —
QUESTION: And should the Palestinians be given the same kind of courtesy to defend themselves?
MS. HARF: At the same time, the President – first of all, nothing that Hamas is doing has any justification at all, period. Even bringing it up in that context is offensive…. But stepping back, the President —
QUESTION: Let me ask you something, you talked about how–
MS. HARF: Wait. Let me finish, Said. Said.
QUESTION: — offensive. Isn’t it offensive that a hundred civilians were killed in one night?
MS. HARF: I’m going to move on if you’re not going to let me answer.
How can anyone with a shred of decency support this operation?
PS. I have no doubt that militants are operating from civilian settings. But as Yonatan Shapira explained years ago (per James North), the standard for Palestinian civilians should be the same as for Jewish civilians. Shapira was a helicopter pilot ordered to assist in operations on Gaza homes.
Yonatan asked General [Dan] Halutz, What if a Hamas leader were located in Tel Aviv? Would you order our pilots to fire there, risking Israeli bystanders? Halutz said no. So you value Israelis over Palestinians, Yonatan responded. Get someone else to fly your aircraft.