Joe Biden has blamed Iran for the killing of three US soldiers in Jordan last Sunday on the entirely logical and credible premise that “they’re supplying weapons to the people who did it”. Yet, counter to his guilt gauge, the US president sends weapons to Israel for the killing of civilians in Gaza and seems to feel unburdened by blame.

Today is day 119 of Israel’s retaliatory onslaught on the Palestinian enclave, following Hamas’s barbaric incursion on October 7th that left about 1,200 people dead, 3,300 injured and 240 abducted.

In Gaza, 1.9 million people have been driven from their homes, nearly 27,000 are dead and more than 65,000 have been injured. Countless numbers have been orphaned, have undergone amputations without anaesthesia, are starving or buried beneath the rubble of 38,000 buildings which, according to BBC Verify, have been damaged or destroyed by the Israeli Defence Forces.

By Biden’s logic, the US shares the blame because it “is supplying weapons to the people who did it”. Our world does not have only one Axis of Evil, to borrow a phrase coined by a Biden predecessor, George W Bush, before he unleashed his “shock and awe” war on Iraq.

Next month, 35 Cabinet and junior ministers, the Ceann Comhairle, the Seanad Cathaoirleach and the Attorney General will love-bomb planet Earth with St Patrick’s Day visits to 48 countries. About one-third of the delegation will swoop on the US, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar bearing a bowl of shamrock to the White House. Colum Eastwood, the increasingly impressive leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party – a party that converted its Oval Office access into peace for Northern Ireland – has said he will not be going because he could not bear to “rub shoulders, drink Guinness and have the craic” with US administrators while Gazans are living “in constant fear of eradication”.

Among those administrators is secretary of state Antony Blinken who rubbished as “meritless” South Africa’s claim that Israel is perpetrating genocide. The International Court of Justice implicitly disagreed when it decided to investigate the allegation.

Varadkar is gung-ho for his Washington trip, arguing that the opportunity for a word in the world’s most powerful ear should not be spurned. He has indicated that he will use it to press Gaza’s case. The argument he makes is plausible – until you check the map marking the countries upon which the Ministers will descend.

Israel is not one of them. Neither is the West Bank, where Israeli soldiers, some disguised as doctors, assassinated three militants in a hospital this week. Nor is Lebanon, where Israel killed seven people, including Hamas’s deputy leader Saleh al-Arouri, in a Beirut suburb on January 2nd. Our Ministers are off to Brazil and New Zealand and Japan, but nobody is heading to Yemen or Syria or Iran or Iraq or Qatar, a pivotal peace broker in the region.

Illustration: Paul Scott

Not a single visit to the Middle East features in the list of 86 cities. If a house call to Washington is necessary to intercede for restraint in the region, why not drop into the cockpits of Jerusalem and Tehran? To be “a small island at the centre of the world”, a vision for Ireland the Taoiseach espouses, the Government needs to broaden its horizons.

The Irish Government has been a rare advocate for humane intervention in Gaza, warning against Israeli war crimes and pleading for humanitarian access. Along with Norway, it refuses to join the bandwagon of wealthy countries withdrawing their funding from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (Unrwa) following Israel’s allegation that 12 of its staff were involved in the Hamas-led October 7th massacre.

The way is led by the US, where Biden had restored the funding – $340 million (€313.9 million) in 2020 – previously terminated by Donald Trump. Unrwa’s remit extends to 5.9 million refugees in the Occupied Territories, Lebanon, Syria and Jordan. Without funding, it has said, it will be unable to provide aid after this month.

Few would doubt there is truth in Israel’s accusation. Some might even wonder that there are not more conspirators working for Unrwa in the hermetically-sealed, over-crowded enclave where famine and a cholera epidemic now threaten. Rightly, the UN has sacked nine of the agency staff – two others are dead – and is investigating the allegations. But compare Israel’s allies’ fund-freezing in this case to their virtual silence about the blocking of aid trucks destined for Gaza by settler protesters when the World Health Organisation is warning of famine there. Injustice is provocation.

Last Sunday, several Israeli politicians, including government ministers Itamar Ben-Gvir and Amichai Chikli, attended a conference in Jerusalem that called for the resettlement of Gaza by Israelis. In the West Bank, Israeli settlers have been seizing Palestinian homes and land, sometimes violently, for years with apparent impunity. Already this year, at least 59 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank.

Palestinians know these things are happening. They know their lives and their children’s lives are but fodder in a war between global strong men. They know it is they who will suffer, again, when Unrwa’s funds run out.

Biden and Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu are facing the possible demise of their political careers in US and Israeli elections this year. To hear some commentators discuss how Gaza’s predicament could rebound on them, one would think their political survival supersedes the survival of the 10,000-plus children who lie dead.

[ With every journalist killed in Gaza, a window closes ]

The slaughter is serving no purpose other than to make everything worse by spreading violence in the region and entrenching enmity that will endure through generations to come.

There is only one good reason why the Taoiseach should accept his invitation to the White House this year and that is, as Varadkar has argued, to urge Biden to demonstrate restraint and fairness in the US attitude to Palestinians.

But a private word in Biden’s ear that, subsequently, can be downplayed or embellished by the men’s spindoctors is a futile exercise. The Taoiseach must convey Ireland’s message publicly, unambiguously and for international consumption in that fleeting moment when this little island takes its place at the centre of the world on Pennsylvania Avenue.

QOSHE - If Leo Varadkar goes to the White House, it can’t be for a quiet word about Gaza - Justine Mccarthy
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If Leo Varadkar goes to the White House, it can’t be for a quiet word about Gaza

9 5
02.02.2024

Joe Biden has blamed Iran for the killing of three US soldiers in Jordan last Sunday on the entirely logical and credible premise that “they’re supplying weapons to the people who did it”. Yet, counter to his guilt gauge, the US president sends weapons to Israel for the killing of civilians in Gaza and seems to feel unburdened by blame.

Today is day 119 of Israel’s retaliatory onslaught on the Palestinian enclave, following Hamas’s barbaric incursion on October 7th that left about 1,200 people dead, 3,300 injured and 240 abducted.

In Gaza, 1.9 million people have been driven from their homes, nearly 27,000 are dead and more than 65,000 have been injured. Countless numbers have been orphaned, have undergone amputations without anaesthesia, are starving or buried beneath the rubble of 38,000 buildings which, according to BBC Verify, have been damaged or destroyed by the Israeli Defence Forces.

By Biden’s logic, the US shares the blame because it “is supplying weapons to the people who did it”. Our world does not have only one Axis of Evil, to borrow a phrase coined by a Biden predecessor, George W Bush, before he unleashed his “shock and awe” war on Iraq.

Next month, 35 Cabinet and junior ministers, the Ceann Comhairle, the Seanad Cathaoirleach and the Attorney General will love-bomb planet Earth with St Patrick’s Day visits to 48 countries. About one-third of the delegation will swoop on the US, including Taoiseach Leo Varadkar bearing a bowl of shamrock to the White House. Colum Eastwood, the increasingly........

© The Irish Times


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