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Politics too often beats our morality

The past few weeks have demonstrated the dark direction the United States is taking in foreign policy. Our country declared Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank legal, and the Senate blocked a resolution by the House to recognize the Armenian mass killings that took place during WWI as genocide. Politics, domestic and foreign, are guiding our foreign policy far more than the information, history, and morality that should. 

The West Bank, East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip all remain effectively under the control of the Israeli government. However, these lands are outside the recognized borders of Israel. They belong to, and are still inhabited by, the Palestinian people. 

Under International Humanitarian Law, specifically the fourth Geneva Convention, it is illegal for any occupying state to transfer their own civilians into an occupied territory. It is also illegal to forcibly move the protected population from, or even within, the land they occupy. Israel has disregarded these international laws since it began forging settlements in occupied territory following the war with Jordan in 1967. It is important to note that the United States has done almost nothing to stop their expansion and expulsion process. The only administration in the last 50 years to take a stand against Israeli settlements was that of George H.W. Bush. For one year that administration withheld a $10 billion housing loan intended to help absorb Soviet Jews. Other than that, nearly every administration has had a blind, “all in” support for Israel despite their crimes. 

By declaring the Israeli settlements “legal,” the U.S. is not only breaking with international law, we are also abandoning any promise of peace among Israelis and Palestinians in the region. Encroaching settlements limit land available to the Palestinians. Buffer zones, barriers, fences, and imminent conflict that come along with those settlements restrict everyday movement, commerce, and freedom. The more settlements in occupied Palestinian territory, the less chance there is of a viable Palestinian state left to negotiate with. 

The Armenian Genocide took place between 1915 and 1923, when roughly 1.5 million Armenians were murdered within the Ottoman Empire, which is modern-day Turkey. The U.S. has long tiptoed around the prospect of recognizing the event as a genocide in order to preserve relations with Turkey. When then U.S. Ambassador to Armenia stated in 2005 that “the Armenian Genocide was the first genocide of the 20th century,” he was recalled and forced to retire.

So when the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to approve a resolution to formally recognize the Armenian mass killings as genocide, it was a belated recognition of Armenian people, history, and culture. It was also a step in the right direction for official American foreign policy. However, watching Rep. Ilhan Omar, (D-Minn.) vote “present,” as opposed to “yay/yes,” and Sen. Lindsay Graham (R-S.C.) block the resolution from a vote in the Senate, highlights the politics that too often sway our foreign policy. Omar voted “present” because, in her words “accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as a cudgel in a political fight.” Graham blocked the Senate vote at the behest of the White House following a meeting with President Erdogan of Turkey concerning the end to an arms deal with Russia. Both leaders allowed politics to stand in the way of their decisions about foreign policy. 

We should depend on non-partisan entities, like the State Department, and the professionals and academics who run them to guide our foreign policy. The ability to have a coherent, just foreign policy does not fall along party lines. It falls along moral lines. But the politicians that run our country are too steeped in politics, domestic and foreign, to make rational and moral decisions about how to treat and interact with the rest of the world. As we look back in our nation’s history, perhaps the easiest way to grasp, to understand the people in charge of our nation is to look at how we treated the rest of the world. In what ways we looked out for those who weren’t a part of our nation, to those who weren’t entitled to or guaranteed the protections we are by our government. And though this administration falls in a long line of many other political, amoral administrations, it will be remembered as one who put America first in a way that disregarded the rights of humans around the world to further the interests of the United States of America. 

(Hannah McLeod lives in Waynseville. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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