On September 11, staffers for Barack Obama had a campaign ad taken down that had appeared as a “sponsored link” on Amazon.com’s web page for The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, the controversial new book by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. Obama’s campaign didn’t place the ad; it apparently appeared on the Amazon page because his campaign, like those of other presidential candidates, pay to have their ads pop up when people do searches for key words like “politics.”
That same day, in the face of questions from the media, Obama’s campaign released a statement saying that while he had not actually read the book, its conclusions were “dead wrong” and that the senator “has stated that his support for a strong U.S.-Israel relationship, which includes both a commitment to Israel’s security and to helping Israel achieve peace with its neighbors, comes from his belief that it’s the right policy for the United States.”
Yet just five days earlier, Daniel Pipes–who, as I first reported here, has signed on as a foreign policy advisor to Rudy Giuliani’s campaign–essentially argued for war crimes against Palestinians, and there was no cry of protest from the media or anywhere else.
“Believing that if you don’t win a war, you lose it, I have long encouraged the Israeli government to take more assertive measures in response to attacks,” Pipes wrote on his blog on September 6.
In a Jerusalem Post piece six years ago, “Preventing war: Israel’s options,” I called for shutting off utilities to the Palestinian Authority as well as a host of other measures, such as permitting no transportation in the PA of people or goods beyond basic necessities, implementing the death penalty against murderers, and razing villages from which attacks are launched. Then and now, such responses have two benefits: First, they send a strong deterrent signal “Hit us and we will hit you back much harder” thereby reducing the number of attacks in the short term. Second, they impress Palestinians with the Israeli will to survive, and so bring closer their eventual acceptance of the Jewish state.
The Geneva Conventions label collective punishments as a war crime. “No protected person may be punished for an offense he or she has not personally committed,” according to Article 33. “Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”
For the record, there’s much I disagree with in the Mearsheimer/Walt Book. But there’s something terribly wrong with the American debate on the Middle East when, due to public criticism, Obama’s campaign flees from an unintentional link to that book, while a Giuliani advisor argues for a policy of ethnic cleansing against Palestinians and his comments pass unremarked.