Over the past few months, the Israeli Knesset has passed a series of laws that seriously undermine Israel’s claim to be an open, tolerant democracy. As advocates for the rights of Palestinian citizens ofIsrael currently visiting the United States to meet with policy makers and members of civil society, we are deeply concerned about these developments. Sadly, while a wave of democratic uprisings sweep the region, Israel, the self-proclaimed “only democracy in the Middle East” is moving in the opposite direction, towards a less open, less democratic society.
While this disturbing trend has been in evidence for a number of years now, the election of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his extreme right-wing coalition government has accelerated the process and laid it bare for all to see. Thus, in just the past few weeks we have witnessed the passing of a law that will deny public funding to any institution that commemorates the disaster that befell Palestinians during Israel’s creation in 1948 (the so-called “Nakba Law”) and another law that will allow small communities to have selection committees that can reject applicants on the basis of "social suitability.”
History repeats itself. But not always. Not when those who are able step up to change the course.
The Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda and Darfur all share major, tragic anniversaries this month, which is why April has been named Genocide Prevention Month by the world’s growing anti-genocide movement. As communities across the globe commemorate past atrocities, we can best honor those who lost their lives, their homes, and their families in these major atrocities by working hard to make ‘Never Again’ a reality.
On Monday evening, President Obama finally addressed the American people to begin explaining why almost two weeks ago, he called for military action in Libya.
I am still scratching my head trying to figure out why it took ten days for the president to address the nation about our military involvement there.
As Americans, we are known as a compassionate people and it is no secret that as a country we assist in humanitarian efforts across the globe to help ensure safe conditions for those less fortunate than us. In Libya, Muammar Gadhafi’s attacks on his own people are tragic.
The Arab spring that awoke in lands throughout North Africa and the Middle East was a site to behold. The spigot of unrest was too powerful, the energy too spontaneous, the movement too organic for any government to turn off. Seasons of discontent were reversed by the keyboard clicking and smart phone tapping of a youthful generation expressing their exuberance in 140 characters on Twitter, and organizing movements of shared struggle on Facebook fan pages.
While too many lives were cut short, regimes accustomed to wielding a particular brand of power did not respond to these uprisings with sheer force that was despotically ruthless and inhumanely cruel.
There was one exception.
In Libya the fist of tyranny reigned down with brutish might on a people who refused to be excluded from this season of uprising and change.
Today as American Naval aviators in the Mediterranean wait off shore to fly combat missions against the Libyan Army, as Marines wait for the call to go ashore to rescue a downed pilot, or as Air Force pilots fly combat air patrol, we are confident that all military orders will be met with the same professionalism and skill we have come to expect of our all-volunteer force. The valor and loyalty of the men and women of our nation’s armed forces have never been in question.
And yet despite that certainty, many Americans view our military intervention in Libya with anxiety and uncertainty. They’re wondering why U.S. forces are once again engaged in combat action against an Arab regime in the Middle East. They’re wondering when this operation will end; and when their loved ones will return. And they’re asking another reasonable question; ‘What is the mission?’
Last week the Obama Administration took the United States to war against Libya without bothering to notify Congress, much less obtain a constitutionally-mandated declaration of war. In the midst of our severe economic downturn, this misadventure has already cost us hundreds of millions of dollars and we can be sure the final price tag will be several times higher.
Why did the U.S. intervene in a civil war in a country that has neither attacked us nor poses a threat? We are told this was another humanitarian intervention, like Clinton’s 1999 war against Serbia. But as civilian victims of the U.S.-led coalition bombing continue to add up, it is getting difficult to determine whether the problem we are creating on the ground is worse than the one we were trying to solve.