Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Gaza update: aid ship rammed, Obama called out

With world opinion already solidly against Israel, the news from overnight isn’t likely to win them many fans.

The Israeli Navy rammed a boat, christened the “Dignity,” that was attempting to run the sea blockade of Gaza and deliver much-needed medical supplies to the territory. Because of the long-standing Israeli blockade of Gaza, hospitals there are suffering from chronic shortages of just about everything. Casualties generated by Israeli air strikes have driven them to the breaking point. Things are so bad that medics are asking patients who aren’t in serious condition to leave the hospitals to free up space for those more grievously wounded (for more on the medical situation in Gaza, click here).

The Dignity was in international waters when an Israeli ship struck it (“deliberately struck” according to a CNN correspondent onboard) smashing windows in the Dignity’s cabin and punching a hole in its port side. The Dignity continued on to Lebanon, where it docked safely. The government of Cyprus is calling on Israel to explain the incident since there were several Cypriots among the passengers. No word from the US government yet on whether they’d like a similar explanation on behalf of the Americans aboard.

Meanwhile a key campaign advisor has called Barack Obama out on his silence over the Gaza crisis. Obama’s camp has said that he is monitoring the situation, but that it wouldn’t be appropriate for him to comment since the United States only has one president at a time. I say they’re being very generous to George W. in saying that he’s still president… It’s been pretty clear that since the November election Dubya is much more interested in starting the rehab work on the legacy of the Bush43 presidency then he is about actually running the country. He hasn’t made a public statement on the Gaza situation; instead the only comments have come from a junior administration spokesman.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni, one of the first military people to publicly back Obama during the campaign, told CNN that Obama has to deal with the Israel-Palestine situation on day one, and should negotiate with Hamas if certain conditions are met. Zinni went on to say that Obama had to remain committed to the peace process “no matter what happens” and that he needs to approach it in a new hands-on way, that discussions around conference tables are fairly useless at this point in building a lasting peace.

I think though Zinni’s even made a public statement at this point is an expression of frustration among some of his supporters over a perceived lack of leadership on his part in dealing with a conflict that is sure to dominate the opening days of his presidency.
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