In his statement on the conflict in northern Iraq, Pope Francis helped clarify the moral basis for military action against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), and also defined its limits. President Obama should take some pointers.
In cases where there is unjust aggression, said the Pope, a moral duty exists to stop the aggressor. This is not an endorsement of war but a reiteration of the “just cause” criterion for when limited military force may be permissible. It is a statement of the “responsibility to protect” principle endorsed by human rights groups and adopted by the UN and most countries.
When innocent populations face imminent threat of attack, it is morally justified to take action to stop the killing. No nation alone should decide how to respond, the Pope emphasized. The determination of whether aggression has occurred and what should be done to stop it is up to the UN. The responsibility to judge and act belongs to the international community, not an individual country. The pontiff also emphasized that the imperative to protect does not mean bombing or making war.
President Obama, on the other hand, clings to the threadbare argument that US bombing and drone strikes in the region are necessary to protect American military advisers based hundreds of miles away in Baghdad. The administration is claiming open-ended authority to launch military strikes and seems to be planning a protracted military campaign to counter ISIS.
No one objects to preventing extremists from murdering civilians and taking over cities and towns, but President Obama should follow Pope Francis’s advice and bring this issue to the UN Security Council. Let’s work with other nations to develop a comprehensive strategy for countering ISIS and cutting off its sources of recruits, weapons, and money. If military action is deemed necessary, it should be multilateral, not unilateral.
The article “Fatah And Hamas Reconciliation: Rush-ing to Judgment” by Alon Ben-Meir, (Peace, July-Sept. 2014) is right-on when it points to the possibilities for Israel to negotiate with the Hamas government. The latest war in Gaza concluded with a cease-fire agreement between Israel and Hamas, which demonstrated that Hamas was willing and able to reach an agreement with Israel with the expectation that Hamas would implement it. Israel has not fully implemented the agreement to open up the crossings into Gaza and, although the number of trucks passing into Gaza has increased from 100 to about 400, the minimum requirements of the 1.5 million Palestinians is 600 trucks per day, not including the necessary materiel for reconstruction. Nonetheless, Hamas has continued to maintain the cease-fire agreement.
Considering that Hamas has again shown its capability of concluding and maintaining a cease-fire agreement with Israel, as was the case after the 2008-9 battle, the contention that it is not possible to negotiate with Hamas has been undermined. The image of Hamas harboring intentions to annihilate the Jewish Israeli population, as propagated by Zionist spokespersons such as Eli Wiesel, no longer sticks to the minds of Jewish public opinion. A list of 40 Holocaust survivors and hundreds of such descendants was published in the New York Times to oppose Wiesel’s published statement supporting the Netanyahu government of Israel. In fact, Hamas spokespersons have published op-eds in both the New York Times and the Washington Post offering a long-term 10-year cease-fire agreement with the State of Israel with provision for negotiations over Jerusalem and the Palestinian refugee right of return.
The Jewish opposition that has developed since the second Intifada-uprising in 2000—such as the 100,000 sympathizers of the US Jewish Voice for Peace and even the pro-Zionist J-Street lobby movement—now have gained a legitimacy that was previously denied in the polarized climate of Jewish political life. Not only does Jewish public opinion realize that Israel’s errors reflect upon them, so giving impetus to anti-Semitic populist expressions and attacks, such as in France, but it is now realized that Israel contradicts Jewish values. It remains to be seen how the fragmented Jewish opposition in Canada will respond to the Conser-vative government’s uncritical stance on Israel.
abraham Weizfeld, Ph.D.
Alliance of Concerned Jewish Canadians, Montr&eacure;al