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In the Business of Killing Civilians


While reports slowly spread that President Obama is secretly behind the scenes attempting to end the latest escalation of Israel’s war on Palestine, his public position is clear: the United States is in lock step with Israel’s bloody aggression.

“There’s not a country on earth that would tolerate missiles raining down on its citizens from outside its borders,” Obama said while touring Thailand. “We are fully supportive of Israel’s right to defend itself from missiles landing on peoples’ homes.”

The mounting Palestinian death toll alone counters Obama’s assertion that Israel is simply playing Good Samaritan defense. As of late Monday, 105 Palestinian civilians were already dead (compared to three Israelis) and countless more injured following five days of intense bombings, with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu vowing he was ready at any moment to “significantly expand” the war. While most news outlets talk of the “hundreds” of bombs launched by Hamas militants, what’s often left out is that Israel has fired over 1000 murderous strikes of its own into the heart of the populated Occupied Territories, causing far more death and destruction than Hamas could ever inflict.

And murderous these strikes are – so murderous in fact that a few in the mainstream press are finally paying attention. CBS News even ran a feature with the headline, “Frantic diplomacy as Gaza Death toll soars.” The powerful lead photo in the piece depicted Palestinian mourners cradling the bodies of dead kids, victims of an Israeli missile that struck a building in Gaza City last week and killed five children belonging to a single family.

It’s this sort of disproportionate violence inflicted upon the Palestinian people that severely discredits Israeli’s hollow rationale for bombing homes, sports facilities and other public infastructure in the name of self-preservation. Other than President Obama’s open embrace of Israel’s targeting of civilians, the country has very little international support for its actions. Even British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that an escalation of Palestinian deaths would diminish its already languishing sympathy among allies.

Let’s be clear: civilian deaths don’t come by accident, they are a central tenet of Israel military policy.

No question that “strategic” strikes have collateral damage. But these deaths are not only avoidable, they are anticipated. No bombings means no maimed and mutilated bodies. Knowing full well that their missile attacks will kill civilians, Israel is directly targeting all Palestinians with its bombing campaign.

Why is there no outrage echoing throughout the White House or the halls of Congress? Perhaps it has a little something to do with the fact that like Israel’s right-to-strike – especially when these strikes murder innocents – is the exact same policy Obama employs with the U.S.’s extensive drone program.

In “Living Under Drones”, a study released last September by Stanford Law School and New York University’s School of Law, the authors found “significant evidence that U.S. drone strikes have injured and killed civilians.” They also accused the Obama administration of misrepresenting drone strikes as “a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the U.S. safer,” which the report of course stated couldn’t be further from the truth.

Surely the same can be said for Israel’s duplicitous air assault that has killed an average of 20 Palestinians a day for nearly a week. Tragically, these civilian deaths will continue to be dehumanized and labeled as “accidental” as long as collateral damage is viewed as an error rather than the true intention of U.S. and Israeli defense policy.

Joshua Frank, Managing Editor of CounterPunch, is the author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush, and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, and of Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, published by AK Press. Hopeless is now available in Kindle format. He can be reached at

JOSHUA FRANK is managing editor of CounterPunch. His most recent book is Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, co-edited with Jeffrey St. Clair and published by AK Press. He can be reached at You can follow him on Twitter @joshua__frank

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