Obama Says Israel Should Be Supported, But Warns Against Violating International Law

The former president defends Israel’s right to protect its citizens but urges attention to the worsening humanitarian crisis.

Former President Barack Obama weighed in Monday (Oct. 23) on the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas, the Gaza-based militant group that launched a cross-border surprise attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,400 Israelis.

Israel responded with a bombing campaign that officials in Gaza said has killed more than 5,000 Palestinian civilians, including children, the United Nations reported. Israeli airstrikes continue amid a growing humanitarian crisis.

Israel-Hamas War: An Explainer About This Battle, the Key Players and What’s Really At Stake

The Israel–Palestine crisis continues.

Israel-Hamas War: An Explainer About This Battle, the Key Players and What’s Really At Stake

In a statement posted on the online site Medium, Obama said Israel has a right to defend its citizens and eradicate Hamas, which sees the conflict as holy war (jihad) and in its charter seeks to replace Israel with an fundamentalist Islamist Palestinian state.

But Obama urged Israel to comply with international laws, including those that require countries to avoid harming civilians, as much as possible.

“Upholding these values is important for its own sake — because it is morally just and reflects our belief in the inherent value of every human life,” Obama wrote. “Upholding these values is also vital for building alliances and shaping international opinion — all of which are critical for Israel’s long-term security.”

Obama said the world is watching Israel’s military strategy, and appearing indiscriminately to kill civilians could backfire. He wrote, “It’s therefore important that those of us supporting Israel in its time of need encourage a strategy that can incapacitate Hamas while minimizing further civilian casualties.”

Harvard Protesters Accuse Obama Of ‘Genocide’ At ‘Die-In’ Demonstration, Calling For End To Violence In Gaza

Harvard Protesters Accuse Obama Of ‘Genocide’ At ‘Die-In’ Demonstration, Calling For End To Violence In Gaza

The Associated Press reports that Israel said Tuesday (Oct. 24) that it had launched 400 airstrikes over the past day, killing Hamas commanders and militants preparing to launch rockets into Israel. According to officials in Gaza, those strikes killed more than 700 people. Meanwhile, food, water and medicine are scarce in Gaza as humanitarian relief trickles in from the Egyptian border.

News reports and videos of devastation and suffering in Gaza have ignited widespread protests against Israel in the region and Western countries, including the United States. As tempers flare, Obama said it’s crucial to oppose anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia.

“That means actively opposing anti-semitism in all its forms, everywhere. It means rejecting efforts to minimize the terrible tragedy that the Israeli people have just endured, as well as the morally-bankrupt suggestion that any cause can somehow justify the deliberate slaughter of innocent people,” Obama wrote.

“It means rejecting anti-Muslim, anti-Arab or anti-Palestinian sentiment. It means refusing to lump all Palestinians with Hamas or other terrorist groups. It means guarding against dehumanizing language towards the people of Gaza, or downplaying Palestinian suffering — whether in Gaza or the West Bank — as irrelevant or illegitimate.”

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