Former President Jimmy Carter, speaking in Cairo, stated the obvious: the blockade of Gaza is a "crime" and an "atrocity," Reuters reports.
"It's an atrocity what is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. it's a crime... I think it is an abomination that this continues to go on," Carter said.
Since the blockade is aimed at punishing civilians, the Carter's statement that the blockade is a crime is simply a statement of fact. It's a clear violation of international law.
But when someone with access to the microphone states an important fact which is not being acknowledged, they deserve attention.
Carter is not just denouncing the conditions in Gaza, but suggesting a way out of the political impasse that is being used to justify the blockade. The United States should abandon its counterproductive campaign to isolate Hamas, and instead work to incorporate Hamas into a process of seeking Israeli-Palestinian peace. While the Bush Administration and its supporters in Congress like Rep. Berman act as if this is an absurd idea, it's supported by 64% of Israelis, the former head of Israel's Mossad, and a bipartisan group of US foreign policy experts including Zbigniew Brzezinski and Brent Scowcroft.
By meeting Hamas leaders, he has already helped create progress toward a different policy. In a proposal given to Carter, an Israeli cabinet minister offered to meet Hamas leaders to ask for the release of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit - a move at variance with official Israeli government policy. Carter said Hamas leaders in Cairo told him they would accept a peace agreement with Israel negotiated by Palestinian President Abbas if the Palestinians approved it in a referendum.
The Bush Administration has said that it wants an Israeli-Palestinian agreement before it leaves office, but the process it initiated has stalled. The opportunity for movement created by Carter's trip should not be ignored. Americans who support Carter's initiative should raise their voices.
Just Foreign Policy and Jewish Voice for Peace have initiated a petition to the Presidential candidates, asking them to support President Carter and support talks with Hamas. Let's not let another opportunity to push forward for peace slip away.