Sure, there are economic problems in Gaza. There are also economic problems in Darfur and Afghanistan. When discussing military-made humanitarian catastrophes, you generally don’t depict them as economic problems, not if you want to be honest. Discussing Gaza, President Obama sounds as if he’s talking about a struggling Rust Belt State.

Here’s what we’ve got. You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel/Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms. Israel has a legitimate concern there. On the other hand you’ve got a blockage up that is preventing people in Palestinian Gaza from having job opportunities and being able to create businesses and engage in trade and have opportunity for the future.

When I first read Obama’s comments, they slipped by me (as sophistry is designed to do.)
They struck me as just ordinarily bad — less bad certainly than those of Joe Biden, who mouthed the words that AIPAC wanted to hear. But various commenters, including this one at Open Left, made me take a second look at them.

On the one hand, these missiles are "raining down on Israel," which is quite the exaggeration (23 casualties in 10 years is hardly raining). Indeed, no mention of the artillery, white phosphorous or 500 pound HE bombs raining on Gaza. Or the snipers shooting at children. Or the American who was just blinded by a heroic IDF soldier.

On the other, the main problem Gazans have is a lack off business opportunities. That strikes me as some foul Randian BS, eh? No, the lack of clean water, food, schools or medicine isn’t an issue. It’s the lack of business opportunities. Roger that!

Deeply overstating the harm done to Israel while deeply understating the harm done to Palestinians. Note that Obama isn’t merely discussing one aspect of the issue but seeking to sum it up. "Here’s what we’ve got," he says. Here, in fact, is what we’ve got:

A "humanitarian implosion," says Oxfam.

The situation for 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip is worse now than it has ever been since the start of the Israeli military occupation in 1967. The current situation in Gaza is man-made, completely avoidable and, with the necessary political will, can also be reversed…The blockade has effectively dismantled the economy and impoverished the population of Gaza. Israel’s policy affects the civilian population of Gaza indiscriminately and constitutes a collective punishment against ordinary men, women and children. The measures taken are illegal under international humanitarian law.

Perhaps these families would like to create businesses. But more pressing is finding something to eat other grass.

AS a convoy of blue-and-white United Nations trucks loaded with food waited last night for Israeli permission to enter Gaza, Jindiya Abu Amra and her 12-year-old daughter went scrounging for the wild grass their family now lives on.

“We had one meal today – khobbeizeh,” said Abu Amra, 43, showing the leaves of a plant that grows along the streets of Gaza. “Every day, I wake up and start looking for wood and plastic to burn for fuel and I beg. When I find nothing, we eat this grass.”

I’m not surprised by Obama’s comments. Especially where the I-P conflict is concerned, my expectations for him are low. It’s nonetheless horrifying that an American president refuses to, is afraid to, acknowledge what’s happening in Gaza. To portray mass deprivation and starvation as ordinary economic woes is to engage in the kind of denialism taking hold in some quarters.