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Mark Shields
Mark Shields
6 Feb 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. In our polarized politics, the … Read More.

23 Jan 2016
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Mark Shields is off this week. The following is a column by Joe Conason. This week marked the anniversary of … Read More.

The Suffering in Gaza Cannot Be Ignored


The Israeli military invasion and assault on Gaza that began on Dec. 27 "has crushed the military organization of Hamas, killed senior figures of the group, but also killed hundreds of civilians and injured thousands. The basic infrastructure in the Gaza Strip has also suffered a fatal blow. The UNWRA (United Nations Works and Relief Agency) hospital and food agencies that were hit (on Jan. 15) now join a list of population centers and power plants which have already been struck in the operation."

That is not the indictment of the spokesman of a government unfriendly to the Jewish state. That was the Jan. 16 editorial in Israel's oldest newspaper, Haaretz.

Those who care about Israel and its future well-being do that nation harm by uncritically cheerleading — as both American political parties have overwhelmingly done — Israel's unleashing of its modern war machine in Gaza. "Israel, Right or Wrong " is not a strategy, it is a disservice and, potentially, a prescription for disaster.

First, a genuine and deserved denunciation of Hamas, whose "courageous" leaders, such Khaled Meshaal, from their safe havens in Damascus urge the suffering residents of Gaza to suffer more in a futile battle against the Israelis. Hamas' criminal and terrorist actions have rightly earned the censure of so many. And, yes, civilian neighborhoods of Israel had been subjected to Hamas rocket attacks from Gaza.

But just imagine if what has happened in Gaza in the first weeks of January 2009 had happened in the United States. In Gaza, 1.5 million exist on what is commonly called "the most densely populated area in the world." As of this writing, some 1,100 Palestinians have been killed, more than 400 of them women and children, and more than 5,000 wounded in less than three weeks of war. There are by actual count only 164 intensive-care beds in all of Gaza. In this war, deaths and casualties of Palestinians are running more than 100 to one over those of Israelis. If the United States had suffered comparable casualties, the numbers would be mind-numbing: 221,000 dead and more than 1 million wounded.

Life in Gaza is so terrible it could make the survivors envy the dead.

Two-thirds of the people are now without power; half of the residents are without running water. In peacetime, half the population depends on the UNWRA for its food.

In addition to the deprivation, humanitarian and relief workers have reported Israeli forces preventing paramedics and other medical personnel from treating the wounded. Doctors have been denied admission into the territory. The Israelis have imposed a press blackout, effectively keeping out most foreign news coverage. That has meant that the sources of information from the front have been primarily the individuals and officials doing humanitarian work.

That has not been good for Israel. The International Committee of the Red Cross, traditionally dispassionate in its statements, condemned Israeli policy of refusing to allow rescuers to reach a Gaza City neighborhood where wounded civilians were untreated for four days. When Red Cross teams finally gained entrance, they found in one home four small children, too weak to stand up, lying next to the corpses of their mothers. The Red Cross official on the scene concluded, "The Israeli military must have been aware of the situation but did not assist the wounded."

Nine human rights organizations in Israel, including Physicians for Human Rights, charged that Israel's conduct in Gaza "constitutes a blatant violation of the laws of warfare and raises the suspicion, which we ask to be investigated, of the commission of war crimes." Israel responds that it does everything possible to avoid civilian casualties, but that Hamas uses civilian buildings, including schools and private homes, for operations weapons storage.

The question before the world — including most especially the American people, Israel's indispensable and unflinching ally — is this: Does the catastrophic suffering of our fellow human beings in Gaza bother us enough to stop handicapping the Oscars or betting on the Super Bowl or naming the Obamas' new dog in order to end the war and the hurt? Think about it, please.

To find out more about Mark Shields and read his past columns, visit the Creators Syndicate web page at




8 Comments | Post Comment
Sir;... You are exposing your Catholicism, and more importantly, your humanity... What you must understand is that in situations such as this, our traditional moral paradigms do not apply... We all know the Jews are singled out... The Bible says they are God's chosen... They were marked out, if they did not suffer alone, from the Nazis... And they have put themselves ahead in every important field of study and expertice, holding important positions in government and finance and policy.. No one would love it more than I to see these people thinking of themselves as human beings, taking human considerations as their goals, and taking human morality as their guides...But they are different, and not different like horses and donkeys are different, or lions and tigers, but different by perception...From their earliest moments they are told they are better, and it would be a surprise if they did not believe so... The evidence of their success is everywhere... The proof of their power is substantial... If they did not take their reward of Judea as their due that would be more strange than imaginable... So we must understand that traditonal morality does not apply to the Jews... If you are a Catholic you have a long tradition behind you of seeing all as equal in the eyes of God...Nietzsche may have ranted against it, but it was Catholic Christians who first made the political argument in philosophy and law for individual equality... The bloodlust of the past was put behind us, along with feuds, and vendetta... So, too was put behind us the thought that enemies were less than human, deserving no quarter, nor just peace... As much as Jewish people lead the world they are living in the past as much as their Muslim neighbors... And in that past, EVERYTHING one did in defense of ones own people was JUSTIFIED... We think we are a Nation... To understand the word is to follow its root...Nation comes from Natal, meaning navel, our attachement point to our mothers... We are not a nation coming as we do from so many mothers; but Israel is... Sara is in that word, and no matter where Jewish people are,  they are the children of Sara... Israel is not just a place....Israel is a people, a nation... The country is only an excuse to kill...The real reason is a perceived defense of the whole Nation...Now; one  may argue that they endanger themselves far more in showing themselves outside the restraints of human morality... That is another problem... If the object is to understand behavior appearing entirely outrageous; then it must be seen as morals, and as ethics, have always been seen: as defense of ones community... Then ask: What can we do to help the Jews to see themselves as humans, and so bound to the same morality as all other humanity.... Thanks....Sweeney
Comment: #1
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sat Jan 17, 2009 7:06 AM
Disappointing. Mark Shields does not offer any solution. James Sweeney's comment is certainly interesting and educational. It is unfortunate that the U.S. became involved in what was essentially a civil war. Zionists had decided that Palestine should be Jewish, with all non-Jews killed or transported. With all their talents as mentioned by James Sweeney, why in the world did the Jewish leaders set up Israel in land lived on, claimed by, and surrounded by Arabs? A Jewish death wish? Arrogance - Jews can beat Wogs - the name given to Arabs by Brits. Perhaps because of the arrogance, the Israelis, Brits and Americans are surprised by the response of the Arabs, including 9/11. How to explain the omission, in any discussion of 9/11, of the takeover of Palestinian land by Jews, and of the exchange of retaliations for retaliations between Americans and Arabs? 9/11 was simply the Arabs turn. I guess it is the responsibility of citizens of western countries which are involved supporting Israel, to convince their government to stop interfering. Interference has simply not worked. 60 years and more of interference has not worked. One option is to offer to help Israel to move to more friendly territory, Texas comes to mind because of the space available, the climate, and the support given to Israel by the U.S. If the Israelis don't accept the offer, then they are on their own. Just a thought.
Comment: #2
Posted by: Art Campbell
Sat Jan 17, 2009 8:16 AM
Bush's attach on Iraq made set an example, and I believe we will see more attacks like this.

I agree with Mark Shields, and wonder, how dare Israel build a wall around the Palestinians and treat them this way. I will not be surprised if the Arab states attack Israel. The old testament is full of battles and killings by
the Jews.

The people in charge of this 3-weeks of bombing are evil. Surely as evil as Hitler.
After so many Jews were exterminated by the Nazis, how can Israel justify killing innocent civilians?

A recent poll on AOL asked wether Israel was doing the right thing in bombing the Palestinians.

I wish Israel would move to Texas as suggested by Art Campbell. They would not be missed by
their neighbors.
79% said "Yes" and 17%" voted "No". I was shocked.

Comment: #3
Posted by: Gail Moreland
Sat Jan 17, 2009 12:45 PM
Re: Gail Moreland;... Ma'am, whatever else you can say about Israel, there is no way possible to fault their public relations... And I know; having read some in the Bible of the sheer numbers rubbed of the face of the earth never to be heard from again by little Israel.... But those who live to write history have control of what is written, and it is an advantage, since to get the story from the other perspective one must join them, and take on their enemies...I don't want to take on Israel... My son and grand daughters are Israel... It is the people, my people now whose welfare I consider.... If they should turn the whole world against them to own a killing field; in what sense does that help the whole of Israel, the nation, and the people??? They cannot all go there...The place would not support them... The water of many thousands of years is being used up by the hour and by those people, and when it is gone the place will be a desert once again... Like it or not, we have to live with the world and live with those people... Ideology and religon is no longer a fit excuse for genocide, by them, or by us... We must try to learn to live as friends....Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #4
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Sun Jan 18, 2009 8:44 AM
What an exit for George W Bush. Don't enough war crimes? My, How the dog that didn't bark, Howls: "America has two great friends" Will Rogers said,"The Atlantic and the Pacific Ocean." Now GW Bush is proud that he has not 'allowed' another attack, while our proxy (as seen in the worlds eyes) has just killed 350 children with their army. Now when your dog starts eating the local babies ..... the neighbors will come to your porch. Nice leave..... George; in action you say: "Bring it On."
If anyone with eyes in the front of their head cannot see that this is winding the mainspring of the War of Terror, I invite you to look again. We pay the cost for this, the US taxpayer. Three Billion a year outright to Israel and hundreds of Billions via our misnamed GWOT: Global War On Terror. Army War College instructors and Senator George Mitchell have rightly said... "Terror is a tactic", and you cannot make war on a tactic, for a tactic is merely a means. It is as logical as "A war against Shooters." If we cannot tell between a means and an enemy, we are lost in the sand. It is so easy to fall for the trap that what is going on in Israel is about religion and not geopolitics, until one realized quite how much money we are spending for our little burr under the Arab (and Persian) saddle. Our relation with Israel fools no one, except the American People.
The behavior of armies using weapons that we have bought them to kill hundreds of children is sickening. That Israel destroyed the UN supply center and the hospital is an affront to A) the world and B) human decency, without mentioning the kids killed, one of which was the child of a NASA astrophysicist. Our relation with Israel must change. We can choose to harbor Jewish people in guilt of having done so poorly during WWII,
but nobody owns the temple mount, nobody owns the divine and anyone is arrogant who thinks they do.
So it looks like ex-president Bush is daring anyone to talk about war crimes. Boy, does this coming Administration have a lot of cleaning up to do, if ever we will reestablish the rule of law.
Thank you Mark Shields, for your service, your balance, and your courage.
Comment: #5
Posted by: David Bean
Mon Jan 19, 2009 12:01 AM
Re: David Bean; Sir, The true enemies in the war on terror are the usually targets of  truth, justice, equality, liberty, peace, and living human beings...Living human beings inconveniently demand their rights.. Death is so much the expedient... There is no solution like the final solution... We should not think the Muslim prizes his life, his children, his house, his justice, and his peace less than we prize our own; but the difference between us is this: We can punish him more, because in his faith he can endure more punishment... Where is the politician who thinks we would surrender our faith, or the age old need for vengeance upon the exercise of violence against us??? No one believe so... SO Everyone knows that we must cure those people of life... Having injured them without excuse, and beyond correction, only death can now remove their hate for us, and their resolve...It is a obvious fact, that those the gods would destroy they first make mad... We let those people make us mad, and in our madness we let an idiot lead us into war... Certainly it was stupid; but what choice have we now??? With all our wealth and resources pissed away, how can we now buy peace from them??? WE have to kill them all.... We could not afford peace..Now we must afford genocide...Thanks...Sweeney
Comment: #6
Posted by: James A, Sweeney
Wed Jan 21, 2009 4:47 PM
Mark --
Yes, the destruction wrought in Gaza is truly horrible -- but *what* would you have had Israel do? Continue to sit tight while Hamas and related groups continue to lob rockets and mortars at its citizens? More than 700,000 Israelis were recently reported to be within range of Hamas rockets, longer-range, more sophisticated rockets were continually being smuggled into Gaza, and a large fraction of Israel was in danger of being shut down (the city of Sderot writ large).
Or would you have recommended a "proportionate" response in which Israel would launch rockets, tit-for-tat, at civilians in Gaza? Just imagine the outcry from sanctimonious people for whom Israeli lives are, in reality, less precious than Arab lives (no matter what they claim or even think they believe).
Please -- after you read Thomas Friedman's recent NY Times column about how the 2006 Lebanon war "educated" Hezbollah to stop rocketing and otherwise attacking Israeli communities, tell us what *truly effective* but less violent alternatives Israel should have pursued. A practical answer might win you a Nobel Peace Prize. Anything else is probably well-intentioned hot air -- and you know the name of the location where streets are paved with good intentions.
Comment: #7
Posted by: Michael Alexander
Fri Jan 23, 2009 10:03 PM
Michael Alexander. Why are the Israelis complaining? What did they expect when their leaders set up Israel to face perpetual harassing? If extremists are only 1% of the Muslim population of the world, there are 15 million Muslims who must be killed if Israel is to not to be attacked by Muslims. I suspect that the birth rate for Muslims would exceed the killing rate, thus the killing will go on forever. And I suspect that for every Palestinian killed by Israelis, there are at least that many Muslims signing up to harass Israel. Please read my post Sat Jan 17 8:16 AM.
Comment: #8
Posted by: Art Campbell
Sat Jan 24, 2009 12:58 PM
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