Jim Besser has it right in his post today in the New York Jewish Week.
There is no doubt that Operation Cast Lead launched some fierce public discussion here in the US, but most of it was centered on the Goldstone Report and how best to defame one of the leading figures in international law (who is, also Jewish and a strong supporter of Israel) and delegitimize the report he led the production of.
But the ongoing siege of the Gaza Strip is something rarely debated in either American or American Jewish political
Naturally, I disagree with Besser that Israel is justified in its siege. It certainly has a right to defend the security of its people, but that right is not limitless and does not justify teaming with Egypt to hold 1.5 million people inside a small patch of land and bar most imports from entering.
But whether one believes the siege is justified or not, it should be self-evident that this is a matter of humanitarian concern and a policy that, having not weakened Hamas one iota in its more than 2.5 year duration, is certainly open to debate.
This should be fundamentally clear: the human toll of the siege is undeniable, and both the ethical and legal justification for it as well as the effectiveness of a policy that has such a dramatic and inevitable impact on so many innocent people must be debated.
As Besser points out, it isn’t. He overstates the degree to which it is being debated in Israel (Ha’aretz may be popular overseas, but it’s not close to being Israel’s most widely read paper), and this is a problem, but one that Israelis must deal with. The Jewish community, however, has every stake in Israel’s behavior, and we, and our government, give crucial support to Israel.
I believe we should give that support, but giving it conveys involvement in Israeli actions. Ensuring that Israel, in exercising its legitimate right and responsibility to defend its citizens, stays within the boundaries of human rights norms and the ethical values we all – Jewish and non-Jewish, Israeli, American, whatever – generally share is our business.
Let the debate begin.
PS. Just saw another piece on this, at Muzzlewatch. Click here to read it.