Israel Attacks Aid Convoy

The first two parts of this growing series on the Israeli attack on the aid convoy heading to Gaza try to sort through the mess of reports to find some facts;  part 3 contains some updates from around the world; part 4looks at some of the reactions in the global press; and part 5 looks at official reactions from around the world, including the subdued American statement and the Israeli justification.  Part 6 reviews the statements made by various peace organizations while part 7 reviews yet more reaction from the press.  Part 8 compares the video footage released by Israel and the Flotilla organizers.

Recently I wrote about Israel as a rogue state in the Near East.   Events off the coast of Gaza have brought Israel back into the spotlight.  News reports have been erratic and some are questionable; nonetheless here are the facts as they have been reported.

Just before midnight on Sunday the Israeli navy attacked the peaceful flotilla killing a number (NYT says 14, Al Jazeera says 16) innocent, unarmed civilians in international waters.  Again; between fourteen and sixteen unarmed, innocent civilians who were in international waters have been killed by Israeli commandos.The flotilla was a convoy of six cargo and passengers boats led by the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement and a Turkish organization, Insani Yardim Vakfi. The convoy was carrying 10,000 tons of cement, education materials, and medical materials.

[tweetmeme]  The facts reported by the NYT and Al Jazeera are questioned by Ha’aretz who claims that the Israeli commandos were “fired upon” and once boarding the vessel were “attacked with live fire”. Ha’aretz does, however, concede that the ships were carrying “humanitarian aid” and recognizes that some 700 pro-Palestinian activists were on the boats, including 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland, European legislators and an elderly Holocaust survivor.

This is, unfortunately, not an uncommon occurrence.  Israel has let ships through five times, but has blocked them from entering Gaza waters since the three-week military offensive against Gaza’s Hamas rulers in January 2009. These blockades have been implemented in hopes that they will help prevent Hamas from building up their arsenals; again. However, as the Ha’aretz article notes “United Nations officials and international aid groups say the blockade has been counterproductive, failing to weaken the Islamic militant group while devastating the local economy.” See reports here and here.

Furthermore, according to General Eitan Dangot, the Israeli military’s chief liason with the Palestinian-controlled territories, “We will not allow ships to come to Gaza while Hamas is in control there”. (my emphasis) Notice that this is a textbook illustration of international terrorism.  I am wary of using the term but given the circumstances, I think it justified. Suppose Iran were to attack an aid convoy in the Persian Gulf saying that they would not allow ships to go to Iraq while the US is in control. At the very least, they would be condemned as “enhancing terror”, “destabilizing the peace”, and would probably be attacked by the US or Israel.  This elementary moral principle-applying the same standards to ourselves as we apply to others-is not utopian but a necessary condition for peace and stability.

These actions have already seen mass protests in Turkey where dozens of people rushed the Israeli embassy.  This is bound to complicate the relationship between Israel and the US.  Israel has failed to sign the NPT, attacked civilians in international waters, and continued settlement activity on Palestinian land.  One wonders, how much longer will Obama tolerate this rogue state?

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