During the US State Department’s daily press briefing this morning, spokesperson Jen Psaki was asked whether Palestinians in Gaza have a right to defend themselves against Israeli aggression. As of this writing, Israeli bombing has killed more than fifty Palestinians since Monday, including more than a dozen children, and injured an additional 450 in the besieged Gaza Strip.
Psaki responded by feigning confusion and deflecting the question. The question was posed after Psaki repeatedly invoked Israel’s right to defend itself from Hamas rocket fire.
Psaki was also asked by the same journalist whether Israel’s “response” to rockets fired from Gaza has been proportionate. She again deflected and reiterated the United States’ support for Israel. Here is the exchange:
QUESTION: Remaining on the message theme, so you think that all Israel is doing is sending a strong deterrent message and that’s all there is, and that remains within the accepted proportion or whatever, proportionality?
MS. PSAKI: I don’t think that’s what I stated, Said. There is obviously a range of circumstances on the ground right now, as you all know. There are the unfortunate recent deaths of the three teenagers. There are – there is the kidnapping and then the beating of the other teenager.
MS. PSAKI: There is violence and back-and-forth. I don’t have to repeat for you. You know exactly what’s happening on the ground.
QUESTION: I know. I understand and you don’t have to repeat for me. But you feel that sort of the Israeli air raids, like maybe hundreds of them so far this day, are proportionate to the rockets?
MS. PSAKI: That’s not – I wouldn’t validate the accuracy of that number, but I would say, Said —
QUESTION: Okay. Well, the sorties – there are hundreds of sorties.
MS. PSAKI: I would say, Said, that I don’t think any country would be expected to allow rockets to come in and threaten the lives and health and well-being of the citizens in their country, and Israel has the right to defend themselves.
QUESTION: Okay. Do you believe that the Palestinians in Gaza have the right to defend themselves?
MS. PSAKI: I think – I’m not sure what you’re getting at, Said.
QUESTION: I am asking you: Do they have the right to defend themselves against Israeli aggression?
MS. PSAKI: What are you specifically referring to? Is there a specific event or a specific occurrence?
QUESTION: Do they have the right to respond to Israeli rocketing and bombing their homes, their houses, their areas, their schools?
MS. PSAKI: We’re talking about attacks from a terrorist organization, Said. I don’t think you’re —
QUESTION: No, but there is also a population —
MS. PSAKI: — we’re having a conversation about what’s happening here.
QUESTION: I mean, you agree that there is a civilian population in Gaza that is also subject to —
MS. PSAKI: Certainly, and the threat, as I mentioned earlier, to civilian populations is of great concern to us. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so focused on encouraging all sides to de-escalate.
QUESTION: Are you calling on someone like Egypt to intervene, perhaps, that can bring about some sort of quiet?
MS. PSAKI: We’ve, again, been in touch with countries from the region. I’m not going to get into any greater level of specificity.
QUESTION: Have you gotten a response from the Egyptians that they are willing to intervene or perhaps broker —
MS. PSAKI: I’ll let countries speak for themselves.
This is in keeping with the US policy of double standards in the region. No matter how many civilian homes Israel bombs, no matter how many innocent Palestinians are killed and maimed, the US will never respect the besieged and tormented population of Gaza’s right to self-defense.
Instead American officials will continue to gaurantee their unwavering and unconditional support for Israeli aggression in both rhetoric and military aid, as President Barack Obama has done in an op-ed in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz, in which he declared:
Budgets in Washington are tight, but our commitment to Israel’s security remains ironclad. The United States is committed to providing more than $3 billion each year to help finance Israel’s security through 2018.
We should expect nothing less than cartoonish double standards from the regime that finances Israel’s crimes.
It is important to note that Israel controls the Gaza Strip from air, land and sea, and is therefore obligated under international law to protect civilians in the territories it occupies. As Noura Erakat explains on the Jadaliyya website, Israel’s framing of military incursions into Gaza as “self-defense” is part of a long-standing effort by both Israel and the US to weaken and change international law.