Sandy Tolan: Obama and the Perils of Gaza.
If Obama does not say unequivocally that Israel's current folly, with its 85:1 death ratio, is inhumane, unacceptable, and in no one's interest - least of all Israel's own - he will risk squandering his great promise to remake America's image in the world.
Throughout the campaign, one of Obama's biggest appeals was in vanquishing George W. Bush's horrific international legacy: his presidential defense of torture, smug disregard for the rule of law, and lies in pursuit of war. Around the world leaders and ordinary people alike dared to hope that Obama, with roots in Africa, Indonesia and even Hawaii, could bring a worldly wisdom and empathy to peoples sickened by an America-first brutality.
Now Israel's assault on Gaza threatens to smack down all such expectations. For nearly two weeks the Obama team justified its silence on Gaza with its convenient "one president at a time" mantra - one it's been quick to abandon on the economy, or the terrorist attacks in Mumbai. Finally, after Israeli mortar shells killed 42 people at a U.N.-run school, Obama allowed that "the loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern." In a conflict whose latest chapter has killed more than 1000 Palestinians, compared with 13 Israelis, this faux even-handedness was as transparent as it was one-sided. Of course we should mourn all the innocent dead, but ignoring the outsized brutality of Israel's offensive, which is as bad for Israel as it is for America, presents huge hazards for the president elect.
Against Obama's near silence rise ghastly mountains of rubble - the latest being the U.N. compound in Gaza City - there for all of the Arab and Muslim worlds to see. Atop one such pile, a schoolgirl's severed forearm; beneath another, an entire family. As these images build fury across the region and beyond, Obama deepens the pain with his tacit message that his American administration, in the end, may not be any different from the others.