Monday, May 31, 2010

Justifying Murder on the High Seas

Once again the ugly specter of Israel's collective punishment of Palestinians in the Gaza strip has been brought to the forefront of the world's attention and, this time, it wasn't just the actions of activists (who have largely been ignored) that has drawn the laser-like focus and condemnations of nations far and wide. This time, it was the IDF's commandeering of a humanitarian aid flotilla ship in international waters - causing the deaths of 9 activists (that we know of so far) and the wounding of dozens of others - justified as "self-defence" by the Israeli government that has quite rightly been met with scorn by the UN security council (although the wording of the specific condemnation has yet to be agreed on. Typical.)

As Amnesty International noted this past January, "Israel's [Illegal] Gaza Blockade Continues to Suffocate Daily Life". There is no legal or moral justification for this blockade to continue.

Israeli government propagandists and apologists are out in full force spreading their version of the ship boarding - even going so far as to claim that the activists tried to "lynch" their soldiers. Before this display of disproportionate violence, Israeli foreign minister Lieberman made the ludicrous assertion that "there is no humanitarian crisis in Strip" and called the flotilla "an attempt at violent propaganda against Israel". Ships peacefully headed for Gaza with humanitarian aid are "violent propaganda"? Extreme Zionist hard-liners like Lieberman will stop at nothing to excuse the Israeli government's continued crimes against humanity.

The Palestinians can't count on the Canadian or US governments to do anything but support Israel's ongoing inhumanity, as they've done for decades. And while there are reports that Turkey's government has stated it will send navy ships along with the next Gaza aid convoy - a move that could potentially set off a larger conflict - the toothless UN which has issued decades of resolutions condemning Israel's actions cannot be expected to do anything but let this opportunity for real action pass once again. Collectively, and because the US has veto power on the security council, they prefer the status quo to any challenge to Israel's power-mongering.

Meanwhile, the Palestinian people continue to suffer.

Netanyahu, who cut short his visit to Canada to return to Israel to deal with what's happened, has asserted that the only path to "peace" is to 1) have the Palestinians recognize Israel's right to exist and 2) agree to the demilitarization of Palestine. The second condition is unthinkable considering Israel's propensity for using military force at the slightest provocation (or what it perceives to be provocative.) As it has just shown, if it feels threatened by ships in international waters and feels justified launching a thuggish pre-emptive attack as it did this weekend, how can the Palestinian people ever feel secure living in a demilitarized zone? That would be madness.

Those aboard the ships are currently detained in Israel and have not been allowed to speak freely, giving the Israeli government ample time to try to win over public opinion. As far as I'm concerned, they've failed. They can claim alleged ties to "terrorist groups" or "Iran" or say that the activists had no right to defend themselves against IDF soldiers armed with guns (one Israeli mouthpiece actually said the soldiers were at first armed with "paint ball guns") but there's no escaping the fact that they forced themselves onto ships in international waters and there's no justification for that. None.

What, exactly, has to happen before there are actual consequences for these crimes? How many more people have to die?


Free Gaza
Robert Fisk: Western leaders are too cowardly to help save lives
UN Security Council members urge Israel to lift Gaza siege
Several Israeli Arab protesters arrested in mass rallies over Gaza flotilla deaths
US activist loses eye after being shot in face with tear gas canister

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