US must drop bias to help re­solve cri­sis

China Daily (Canada) - - COMMENT -

The news from Gaza of in­no­cent Pales­tinian civil­ians, in­clud­ing many women and chil­dren, be­ing killed by Is­raeli fire is heart­break­ing.

The shelling onWed­nes­day of a United Na­tions school serv­ing as a shel­ter caused the deaths of some 20 peo­ple and in­jured more than 100. An ini­tial UN as­sess­ment con­cluded that Is­rael was re­spon­si­ble for shelling the fa­cil­ity where 3,300 peo­ple were seek­ing refuge. UN Sec­re­tary Gen­eral Ban Ki-moon has called the at­tack “out­ra­geous and un­jus­ti­fi­able” and de­manded “ac­count­abil­ity and jus­tice”.

The United States has for the first time “con­demned” the at­tacks on in­no­cent Pales­tinian civil­ians in the neu­tral UN shel­ter. But it still did not name Is­rael. In the past days, top US officials and govern­ment spokesper­sons have ex­pressed “re­gret”, and said they are “con­cerned” or “se­ri­ously con­cerned” over the deaths of in­no­cent Pales­tini­ans.

There have been 1,300 deaths and more than 7,000 in­juries on the Pales­tinian side and close to 60 deaths, mostly soldiers, on the Is­raeli side. These fig­ures tell who has been us­ing force re­lent­lessly.

Even while ex­press­ing their con­cerns over the deaths of Pales­tinian civil­ians, US officials and spokesper­sons of­ten first em­pha­size that Is­rael has the right to self­de­fense. They seem to sug­gest that there could be a jus­ti­fi­ca­tion of tar­get­ing civil­ians. But to the rest of the world, tar­get­ing and killing in­no­cent civil­ians should never be jus­ti­fied for what­ever rea­sons.

The bias of US officials and news me­dia in this Is­raeli-Pales­tinian con­flict is noth­ing new. To the US, Is­rael is an ally and an ex­cep­tional ally. It raises a se­ri­ous ques­tion of im­par­tial­ity when the US tries to me­di­ate a cease-fire or peace process.

We all re­mem­ber the trou­ble US De­fense Sec­re­tary Chuck Hagel ran into last year dur­ing his pro­longed con­fir­ma­tion hear­ing when his track record on Is­rael was called into ques­tion. That is prob­a­bly why when Pen­tagon Press Sec­re­tary John Kirby said on Wed­nes­day that Hagel called for a cease-fire and ex­pressed con­cern about the ris­ing num­ber of Pales­tinian civil­ian deaths as well as the loss of Is­raeli lives, he also said Hagel re­it­er­ated US sup­port for Is­rael’s se­cu­rity and its right to self-de­fense.

The same is true for US Sec­re­tary of State John Kerry. De­spite his busy shuttle diplomacy in the Mid­dle East, which should be lauded, he has to plead his al­le­giance to Is­rael be­fore even voic­ing his con­cern over the deaths of Pales­tinian civil­ians. “I spent 29 years in the Se­nate and have a 100 per­cent vot­ing record in fa­vor of Is­rael,” he said on tele­vi­sion on Tues­day.

If so many civil­ians had been killed by a non-US ally, US officials and news me­dia would have been quick to con­demn those re­spon­si­ble. But even as the UN con­demned Is­rael over theWed­nes­day at­tack based on an ini­tial as­sess­ment, US officials and govern­ment spokesper­sons all said they needed fur­ther in­ves­ti­ga­tion, in sharp con­trast to the times when the US has jumped to con­clu­sions, such as in the case ofMalaysia Air­lines Flight MH17 which crashed on July 17 over Ukraine.

Com­men­tat­ing on theWed­nes­day morn­ing shelling of the UN shel­ter, some US officials and TV com­men­ta­tors ques­tioned whether Ha­mas had stocked mis­siles and other weapons in the UN shel­ter, as if the crime of shelling and killing civil­ians could be par­doned or al­le­vi­ated if that was in­deed true.

As the only su­per­power in the world, the US could play a ma­jor role in me­di­at­ing an end to the con­flict. But that will not be pos­si­ble un­til it is will­ing to adopt an im­par­tial stance. Some­thing that holds true for the US’ en­deav­ors in other parts of the world. The au­thor, based inWash­ing­ton, is deputy edi­tor of China Daily USA. E-mail: chen­wei­hua@ chi­nadai­

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