Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Israel accused of state terrorism after assault on flotilla carrying Gaza aid.

The UN Security Council have condemned Israel's attack on a humanitarian mission to Gaza.

Israel was engulfed by a wave of global condemnation last night after a botched assault on a flotilla carrying aid and supplies to the Gaza Strip ended in carnage and a diplomatic crisis involving the UN security council.

At least nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed as Israeli naval commandos stormed the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the flotilla carrying passengers. Dozens more were wounded and evacuated by helicopter to Israeli hospitals.

Israel said more than 10 of its troops were injured, two seriously, in the battle that began early yesterday morning in international waters, about 40 miles from the coast of Gaza.

The flotilla was trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza, which has been enforced for the past three years.

The UN security council met last night in emergency session and Turkey, whose relations with Israel have been severely strained since the war in Gaza in 2008-9, called for Nato to convene over the military assault. The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who ordered the recall of the country's ambassador to Israel, described the operation as "state terrorism" and said Israel had violated international law. "We are not going to remain silent in the face of this inhumane state terrorism," he said.

Israel immediately imposed a communications blackout on the detained activists – some were taken by bus to Beersheva prison in the south of Israel – while simultaneously launching a sophisticated public relations operation to ensure its version of events was dominant. Its prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who defended the assault, put off a meeting with Barack Obama at the White House scheduled for today to fly back to deal with the crisis.

Israel has now been reduced to defending the siege of Gaza, as if a blockade on goods getting to other human beings could ever be defended as a noble cause.

The activists who set out to highlight the barbarity of what the Israelis are doing have succeeded beyond their wildest expectations, especially because the price they have had to pay was one that none of us could ever have imagined.

I couldn't have foreseen the Israelis attacking people attempting to bring aid to the stricken Gazans; that idea would simply never have occurred to me.

As always, the US was mostly mute whilst others expressed genuine outrage.

The deaths and injuries were condemned by the UN, EU and other countries. The US, in contrast, was restrained in its response, expressing regret and saying it was "currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy".

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, condemned the violence and called for an investigation. "I am shocked by reports of killing of people in boats carrying supply to Gaza. I heard the ships were in international water. That is very bad," he said.

The foreign secretary, William Hague, issued a statement "deploring" the loss of life. "There is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations," he said.

I don't get Obama on this one. This is clearly one of the most shocking acts the Israeli government has ever engaged in. And yet, at a time when he claims that he wishes to repair US relationships with the Arab world, he appears to find it impossible to find the words to condemn what has taken place.

This is a further example of the way the US always manages to make itself appear complicit with Israel's worst behaviour. In this instance one merely has to ask; what's not to condemn?
However, some Israeli commentators expressed reservations about the operation, fearing it would leave Israel internationally isolated. Alon Liel, a former Israeli ambassador to Turkey, told the Guardian the situation could have been averted. "Definitely we made mistakes and in retrospect anything would have been better – including letting the boats reach Gaza," he said.
Glenn Greenwald:
It hardly seemed possible for Israel -- after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade -- to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes. But by attacking a flotilla in international waters carrying humanitarian aid, and slaughtering at least 10 people, Israel has managed to do exactly that. If Israel's goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt for it as possible, it's hard to imagine how it could be doing a better job.
The blockade of Gaza is now impossible to defend. So why does Obama appear unable to find the words necessary to say what we are all thinking? This blockade must stop. We must stop starving the Palestinians for daring to make an electoral choice which we disagree with.

I would have thought Obama would realise that Israel's behaviour has become indefensible. That he would see that that the blockade is about to collapse.
Turkey today "warned that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy."
Are Israel seriously going to go to war with Turkey in order to continue to starve the Palestinians? In any such event does Obama seriously want to find himself on the side of the Israelis? On the side fighting to starve the Palestinians for making the wrong electoral choice?
“This regrettable incident underscores that the international blockade of Gaza is not sustainable,” Martin S. Indyk, the former United States ambassador to Israel, said Monday. “It helps to stop Hamas attacks on Israelis, but seriously damages Israel’s international reputation. Our responsibility to Israel is to help them find a way out of this situation.”
Indyk manages to very clearly state what Obama should be saying. Why can't Obama say this?
No matter what happens, foreign policy experts who advise the administration agreed that if Mr. Obama wanted to move ahead with the peace talks, preceded by the so-called proximity or indirect talks, the flotilla raid demonstrated that he may have to tackle the thornier issue of the Gaza blockade, which has largely been in effect since the takeover of Gaza by Hamas in 2007.
The blockade of Gaza has now moved to the very front of the queue. It is now impossible to continue to ignore this outrage. Obama is looking slow to catch the mood of the moment.


Robert Fisk:

Has Israel lost it? Can the Gaza War of 2008-09 (1,300 dead) and the Lebanon War of 2006 (1,006 dead) and all the other wars and now yesterday's killings mean that the world will no longer accept Israel's rule?

Don't hold your breath.

You only have to read the gutless White House statement – that the Obama administration was "working to understand the circumstances surrounding the tragedy". Not a single word of condemnation. And that's it. Nine dead. Just another statistic to add to the Middle East's toll.
I would say that the statement was spineless rather than gutless, but we are on the same page.
It was people – ordinary people, Europeans, Americans, Holocaust survivors – yes, for heaven's sake, survivors of the Nazis – who took the decision to go to Gaza because their politicians and their statesmen had failed them.
Politicians seem unable to understand the levels of outrage people feel about this illegal blockade. The Palestinians have done nothing wrong. Why don't the political class grasp that?

Click here for full article.

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