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Gaza Flotilla Successfully Sinks Israeli, U.S. Policy Pretenses

June 1, 2010

I spent my Memorial Day holiday mourning the tragic confrontation that resulted after Israeli troops launched a Sunday night commando raid on one of the six ships of the “Freedom Flotilla” in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 9 of the international peace activists attempting to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza.  This catastrophe took me by surprise, I’ll admit, because several past attempts by the Free Gaza Movement to bring boats of humanitarian aid to Gaza were thwarted by Israel with little commotion. We might never know the true facts or whole story of what happened (for some Q&A check out this BBC piece on the incident) but what we do know is that the international outrage has already begun.

The U.N. Security Council statement called for an immediate investigation into the event, urged an end to the blockade, and encouraged the proximity talks between Israel and Palestine being mediated by the U.S. negotiator George Mitchell.  Meanwhile, the U.S. tried to dampen the statement by the U.N. and the administration issued no condemnation of the raid though Obama expressed “regret” at news of the deaths.  Israeli PR centered on insisting that the flotilla was an “armada of hate” and that it was the activists who were committing “provocation” and illegal activity.

Perhaps the U.S. and Israeli administrations have not caught on, but the journalists and activists know that this event is evidence of a larger crisis that will resonate for months to come.  Even Israeli media acknowledges that the Freedom Flotilla succeeded in exposing the poorly reasoned policies of the Israeli government. Ha’aretz newspaper writes:

When a regular, well-armed, well-trained army goes to war against a “freedom flotilla” of civilian vessels laden with civilians, food and medication, the outcome is foretold – and it doesn’t matter whether the confrontation achieved its goal and prevented the flotilla from reaching Gaza….

The grave political damage caused by the confrontation is all too clear. Relations with Turkey will probably deteriorate further, and there may even be serious damage on the official level. The proximity talks with the Palestinians, which started lamely and with low expectations, will have trouble proceeding, now that Israel has attacked a ship intended to aid Gazans languishing under a four-year siege….

Israel spent the days leading up to the Flotilla confrontation insisting that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza (though Amnesty International reports that 80% of Gazans rely on U.N. aid) but now Israel must acknowledge that their blockade policy has done them enormous harm both security-wise, and in terms of international perception.  The U.S. has tried to sweep Gaza under a rug and pretend that all is well but their policy of acquiescence to Israeli antics will no longer suffice.

Obama and Congress must take a stand and demand accountability for this act and others by Israel that jeopardize U.S. interests in the Middle East.  The plight of the Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, rallies sympathy in the Muslim world the way no other issue can, and when the U.S. is complacent, this will lead to deteriorating diplomacy with Iran, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt, and it will inevitably produce more people who are willing to fight against American troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere.  A persistent U.S. policy that relentlessly pursues peace talks while showing no tolerance to Israeli or Palestinian defiance would help convince people that the U.S. is serious about finding a solution to this problem.

One Comment leave one →
  1. Joanne Baek permalink
    June 2, 2010 2:15 am

    I quoted and reposted this elsewhwere. Nice to see what an Israeli paper is saying… it seems to me we hear “Israel did…” and think it represents the will of the people. When governments fight, it doesn’t always mean the people, or all of the people, necessarily do. Thanks!

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