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Secretary of State Kerry views the Gaza Conflict through the prism of his Vietnam experience

Secretary of State John Kerry was dispatched last week to begin a new round of shuttle diplomacy between Cairo, Ankara and Qatar endeavoring to find some leverage with Hamas to obtain a longer cease fire. His latest attempt as of this writing was rejected by Israel as the offer he put on the table simply reiterated Hamas’ previously rejected terms. Those terms proposed by Hamas were based on the November 2012 cease fire agreement.  An agreement the Administration used to encourage Israel to relent to shipment of cement, steel and equipment for reconstruction of Gaza. This reconstruction was funded by $405 million from Qatar, a Hamas supporter. Israel’s fears about diversion of those resources were confirmed in the discovery of the elaborate fortifications and tunnel network during the current Operation Defensive Edge. Kerry returned to Washington this weekend via Paris, where he met with foreign ministers from Turkey, Qatar, France, the U.K. and the EU foreign relations commissioner, without the likelihood that further mediation between the warring parties could yield an agreement to return to calm.

Perhaps the lack of success in mediating a cease fire agreement may be that  Kerry views the Gaza conflict with Hamas through the prism of his Vietnam War experience over 44 years ago. The WSJ Weekend Edition “Notable & Quotable” had  this insightful  exchange between Israeli PM Netanyahu and Secretary Kerry drawn from a July 20th New Republic article by Ben Birnbaum  and Amir Tibon:

The prime minister opened the meeting by playing Kerry a video on one of his favorite topics: Palestinian incitement. It showed Palestinian children in Gaza being taught to glorify martyrdom and seek Israel’s destruction. “This is the true obstacle to peace,” Netanyahu told Kerry.

“It’s a major issue,” Kerry replied. “And nothing justifies incitement. I hate it. I’ve read Abbas the riot act about it. You know I have. But it is worthwhile to try to understand what life looks like from the Palestinian point of view.”

“This has nothing to do with the occupation and the settlements,” Netanyahu said.

Kerry pressed on: “When I fought in Vietnam, I used to look at the faces of the local population and the looks they gave us. I’ll never forget it. It gave me clarity that we saw the situation in completely different ways.”

“This isn’t Vietnam!” Netanyahu shouted. “No one understands Israel but Israel.”

Kerry tried explaining himself again: “No one is saying it’s Vietnam. But I’ve been coming here for thirty years, and I’m telling you, what’s building up in the Palestinians has only gotten worse. I’ve seen it. It doesn’t matter if it’s right or wrong; it just is. It can’t be solved if you can’t see it how they see it.”

To get some sense of what Kerry was talking about in this exchange with Netanyahu, I went back to his April 22, 1971 testimony on the so-called Winter Soldiers Study of Viet Nam anti-war veterans before the Senate Foreign Committee, chaired by the late Sen. J.W.  Fulbright of Arkansas.  Here is an excerpt from the opening stanza of his testimony:

We found that not only was it a civil war, an effort by a people who had for years been seeking their liberation from any colonial influence whatsoever, but also we found that the Vietnamese whom we had enthusiastically molded after our own image were hard put to take up the fight against the threat we were supposedly saving them from.

We found most people didn’t even know the difference between communism and democracy. They only wanted to work in rice paddies without helicopters strafing them and bombs with napalm burning their villages and tearing their country apart. They wanted everything to do with the war, particularly with this foreign presence of the United States of America, to leave them alone in peace, and they practiced the art of survival by siding with whichever military force was present at a particular time, be it Vietcong, North Vietnamese, or American.

We found also that all too often American men were dying in those rice paddies for want of support from their allies. We saw firsthand how money from American taxes was used for a corrupt dictatorial regime. We saw that many people in this country had a one-sided idea of who was kept free by our flag, as blacks provided the highest percentage of casualties. We saw Vietnam ravaged equally by American bombs as well as by search and destroy missions, as well as by Vietcong terrorism, and yet we listened while this country tried to blame all of the havoc on ‘the Vietcong.

Fast forward to July 2014 and Kerry’s exchange with Israeli PM Netanyahu quoted in the New Republic  article. The contrast is that Netanyahu   knows his people are besieged with rockets and mortar indiscriminately raining down on four fifths of the Jewish nation from terrorist groups Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad controlling Gaza.  Further, that Hamas and its partner in the Palestinian unity government, PA President Mahmoud Abbas marinate young minds in hatred and violence seeking destruction of the Jewish dhimmi state that has shamed them.  If you substitute Hamas for Viet Cong or North Vietnam, you suddenly realize where Kerry’s head is at when it comes to mediating cease fire between two unmovable adversaries. Israel is the only reliable democratic ally in the region  combating  Hamas, a foreign terrorist organization designated by our State Department.

According to a report in The Times of Israel sources in Jerusalem accused Kerry of “completely capitulated to Hamas” in the proposed cease fire rejected by Israel.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review.

Florida: Pro-Hamas Protest in Pensacola

Yesterday in downtown Pensacola a contingent of pro-Hamas supporters showed up with handmade and professional signs. A banner held by two burly kaffiyeh draped bearded young men was emblazoned with “Israel want peace or Land?” Small children, faces painted with Palestinian flags, held signs saying “Save Gaza.” They were  entreating on-lookers and drivers stopped at the traffic light at the junction of Palafox and Garden Streets to hail them with thumbs up signs and honks from cars waiting for the light to change. It was the last Friday of Ramadan, al Quds day. Violence erupted on Al Quds Day in the West Bank and East Jerusalem with thousands engaged in pitched battles with Israeli security forces, six Palestinians were killed.

Al Quds Day was established by the late Ayatollah Khomeini in protest to Israel’s occupation of its eternal capital, Jerusalem, supporting the Palestinian cause. Demonstrations on Al Quds day erupted around the Muslim Ummah from Pakistan to Tehran to Paris to London and Calgary. Throngs in these processions accused Israel of genocide in Gaza against defenseless Palestinian civilians. There were other pro-Hamas demonstrations here in the US in major cities like New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and Seattle. Jewish and non-Jewish supporters have also launched opposing Stand for Israel rallies in a number of these major cities.

Free Gaza Poster in Pensacola

Free Gaza Poster in Pensacola, FL. For a larger view click on the image.

Pensacola has a sizable Muslim community, given two mosques, and a Muslim Student Association chapter at the University of West Florida. Pensacola is the regional medical center for Northwest Florida and it is not uncommon to find Muslim doctors and medical specialists of Middle East and South Asian origins. On Fridays after Jummah prayers we have caught glimpses of men attired in Kufi caps and gabilas. At a major indoor mall it is not uncommon to come across Muslim women attired in burkas sitting  with children eating ice cream. The local community has allies in the anti-war community who showed a series of anti-Israel pro-Palestinian films at the central library during the Bush 43 presidency era in the last decade. We have a local restaurateur who specializes in tasty Middle Eastern fare. He had painted a mural map of the Middle East on the side of one of his three restaurants overlooking a heavily trafficked supermarket parking lot. There is no Israel on it. In February 2010, Former Muslims United sent out a mass mailing to 163 mosques and Muslim leaders in the US requesting that they abjure death fatawas against apostates. Apostates like Meriam Ibrahim just released along with her husband and children from sanctuary at the US Embassy in Khartoum and flown to saftey in Rome to meet the Pope and then on to freeom in the US. 47 of those were sent to community leaders and Mosques here in the Sunshine State. None of those community leaders and mosques responded, including the two Mosques here in Pensacola.

Mural Map of Middle East without Israel on Pensacola FL restaurant

Mural Map of Middle East without Israel on Pensacola, FL restaurant. For a larger view click on the image.

Today, more banned protests are occurring in central Paris where last weekend more Jewish synagogues and businesses were firebombed and attacked, accompanied with cries of “kill the Jews” and “Allahu Akbar.”

We should consider ourselves fortunate in Pensacola that yesterday’s Pro-Hamas rally didn’t engage in menacing threats to the local Jewish community. As we have written that was not the case with a small contingent of both Jews and Christians in Calgary last Friday. They were set upon by thugs from a pro Hamas rally, with five sent to hospital for treatment, while Calgary police stood by. Today there was a, humanitarian pause of 12 hours extended to Midnight by Israel.  Hamas rejected the extension with  rockets once again  launched from Gaza. against Israel. south. The latest toll in the conflict is 40 Israeli dead, with five  IDF soldiers fallen this weekend so far through Saturday night and a reported 1,000 dead in Gaza, including  several hundred  Hamas and Palestinian Islamic jihad fighters.

A local Pensacola community Stand for Israel rally is in the planning stages, with speakers drawn from the local rabbinate, pastors and public officials. Clearly security will be a priority for this public event, poised to balance yesterday’s  pro Hamas rally.

EDITORS NOTE: This column originally appeared on the New English Review. The featured image is of a pro-Hamas banner in Pensacola.