Monday, June 14, 2010

White House backs Israeli internal inquiry into Gaza flotilla deaths.

Israel, backed by the US, has ignored calls for an international inquiry into the deaths of activists on board the Mavi Marmara and has instead insisted that it will carry out an internal investigation with two foreign observers.

The inquiry into the raid, in which nine Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara were killed, will be headed by a former Israeli supreme court judge, Yaakov Tirkel. The foreign observers are the former Northern Ireland first minister David Trimble and a Canadian judge, Ken Watkin. They will have no voting rights.

The inquiry falls short of a UN proposal for an international investigation, but was agreed after consultation with the US. The White House said last night that the Israeli inquiry meets the standard of "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation".

If anyone has any faith that this investigation will shine any light on to what happened then they have more faith in this process than I do.

Meanwhile, the international community is continuing in it's efforts to bring the blockade of Gaza to an end.

Pressure to ease it will intensify today when EU foreign ministers are expected to adopt a robust position. Spain, which currently holds the EU's rotating presidency, will press for a vigorous approach, with support from France, Italy and the UK. The Spanish prime minister, José Luis Zapatero, called at the weekend for a strong joint EU position on the siege.

Zapatero said his foreign minister, Miguel Ángel Moratinos, would argue at the meeting that the EU should stand up for the end of the blockade on Gaza and extend all its political and diplomatic capacity to reach that goal.

The Israeli prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, told his cabinet colleagues yesterday that discussions about Israel's policy towards Gaza, which have included three meetings with the Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair in the past eight days, were continuing. Blair, who will brief today's EU meeting, is pressing for Israel to substitute the current allowed list of items permitted to enter Gaza – all items not on the list are forbidden – for a limited list of prohibited items, with everything else permitted. The result would be greater transparency and accountability.

Netanyahu told the cabinet: "The principle guiding our policy is clear: to prevent war material from entering Gaza and to allow the entry of humanitarian aid and non-contraband goods." Despite the pressure to relax the siege, Israel is reluctant to make a dramatic move which would allow Hamas to claim a victory.

Of course, Netanyahu is, as always, being disingenuous. The entire point of the blockade is to punish the Palestinians for daring to vote for Hamas, as Chuck Schumer recently made abundantly clear.

And to me, since the Palestinians in Gaza elected Hamas, while certainly there should be humanitarian aid and people not starving to death, to strangle them economically until they see that’s not the way to go, makes sense.
Netanyahu and the Israelis have very recently started talking of the blockade as a way of stopping rockets from reaching Hamas, but this is a new claim. Indeed, they have long been much more direct about what they hope to achieve through the blockade.

Dov Weisglass said in April 2006:
'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.'
Indeed, at the time when the Israelis imposed the blockade, Hamas had been operating a ceasefire for some sixteen months, so the blockade had nothing to do with stopping weapons getting to Hamas and everything to do with, as Schumer states, teaching the Palestinians the "right" way to vote.

Europe is, at long last, waking up to the barbarity of what is taking place here. For too long we have acquiesced in the collective punishment of the Palestinian people for daring to vote in the "wrong" way.

If the tragedy on board the Mavi Marmara is to serve any purpose, it should, at the very least, ensure that the siege of Gaza is brought to an end.

Click here for full article.

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