“Man’s stupidity has no bounds at all.” W.H. Auden.
“When bad men combine, the good must associate,
Else they will fall, one by one,
An unpitied sacrifice, in a contemptible struggle.” Edmund Burke, 1729-1797.
No matter how Israel attempts to dress up piracy on the high seas, in international waters – described by legal experts and politicians as state terrorism, resulting in nine confirmed deaths, claims of more, and up to sixty reportedly injured; the abduction and hostage taking of the passengers on six vessels – an act from a country given unique legal latitude, which might prove a final act of political suicide.
The ships are illegally impounded, hi-jacked to a country for which they were not headed. (Although the majority of those abducted have been released, those still held, remain unclear. Israel has not released names and has denied access by those held and injured.)
As the US Sixth Fleet patrols off Somalia to prevent piracy, Israel, compounded acts of breathtaking criminality, by boarding and diverting Ireland’s MV Rachel Currie, in international waters, loaded with aid, just five days later.
Speaking at Istanbul airport, on return, Bulent Yildirim, chairman of the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), stated: “We were handed nine dead bodies, but we have a longer list of missing people.”
The storming of the Marvi Marmara, by heavily armed Israeli troops, largest vessel of the international flotilla, carrying building materials, cement, chocolates, sweets, toys, pasta, crutches, wheelchairs and medical aid, a complete dental kit, funded by months of inventive fund raising, in many countries, for Gaza, in the grip of what the UN has described as a “Mediaeval siege.”
Also on board was a consignment of marbles, for the children of the tiny twenty five miles long, by seven mile wide, besieged territory. One could be forgiven for thinking there are some in high places in Israel, who have lost theirs.
Ironically, Bristol Fire Brigade (UK) donated quantities of protective clothing and equipment, for Palestine’s emergency authorities, tackling hazardous situations.
The response from London and from America’s Nobel Peace Prize winning President is still muted to mute. Israel’s Ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor has been given copious air time, to explain that his country was under constant threat, omitting its sixty plus year addiction to unprovoked threats and attacks on its neighbours and the lives, land, livlihoods and homes of its Palestinian citizens.
The response from London and from America’s Nobel Peace Prize winning President has been muted to mute. Israel’s Ambassador to Britain, Ron Prosor has been given copious air time to explain that his country was under constant threat, omitting its sixty plus year addiction to unprovoked threats and attacks on its neighbours and the lives, land, livlihoods and homes of Palestinian citizens.
The BBC which some allege increasingly resembles an outpost of Israeli State Radio, continues to reiterate endlessly that Hamas, elected under UN-monitored and approved polls, “seized power.”
The attack on Gaza by Israel, in December-January 2008/9, which left nearly fifteen hundred Palestinians dead and an estimated five thousand wounded, many maimed for life, and the subsequent blockade, denying rebuilding or repair of decimated infrastructure, was the flotilla’s genesis.
Also included were ninety eight generators, ninety pre-fab homes, six hundred tonnes of iron bars and one hundred and fifty tonnes of iron for building – with a glimmer of childhood normality in sixteen entire playground kits, sports equipment, footballs and basketballs, for a child population considered uniquely traumatised. Volunteers, including Israelis, who risked the journey of compassion, were from forty countries and included thirty politicians, with Hanin Zoabi an Israeli parliamentarian (now with other Palestinian law makers receiving death threats) sixty journalists; professionals, medical practitioners, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, Edward Peck, former US Ambassador, US Colonel Anne Wright, who resigned in protest at the Iraq invasion.
According to Greta Berlin, an organizer and spokesperson, twenty percent of passengers were over sixty, the oldest eighty eight, the youngest under two.
At the organization’s media centre in Cyprus, the four manning the ever ringing telephones, twenty four hours a day,had a total age of two hundred and ninety six. Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 85, Greta, 69 and a 76 and 66 year old. Strange “hard line terrorists”, as Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev has told the BBC., were attempting the voyage to beleaguered Gaza’s 1.5 million residents.
“By sailing directly to Gaza, outside of Israeli waters, with cargo banned illegally by Israel … the flotilla (was) exercising international law and upholding article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity”, stated Dr Mona El Farrer, in Gaza.
World leaders commenting on the Israeli attack expressed: “shock”; “condemned”, “deplored”, cited a “terrorist act”, a “massacre”, a “grave act”, and “state terrorism.”
International law expert Anis Kassi cites: “cold blooded assassination”, and Sabah al Mukhtar, President of the Arab Lawyers Association, says it: “.. is the exact definition of piracy.”
Coincidentally, President Barack “Nobel” Obama, “Middle East Peace Envoy”, Charles Anthony Lynton Blair, QC., and Israel’s spokespeople, originally used the same inadequate word, limp and lacking as as their integrity and spine : “regret.”
Nilufer Cetin, with her one year old son and whose husband was engineer on the Marvi Marmara, described the “regrettable” violence as: “… extremely bad and brutal. The ship turned into a lake of blood.
“I was one of the first victims to be released because I had a child. They confiscated everything, our telephones, laptops are all gone.
“We were aware of the possible danger [in joining the trip] but there are thousands of babies in Gaza. If we had reached Gaza we would have played with them and taken them food.”
Ms Cetin would surely resonate with the people of Ramalla, who gathered in Al Manara Square, on the evening of the onslaught: “with a thousand paper ships, like we made when we we little kids, in support of the Flotilla …. in a silent, non-violent and non-political action.”
In an attempt at damage limitation, beyond laughable and bordering on the psychologically challenged – were the circumstances not so criminally tragic – Michael Oren, Israel’s Ambassador to the US., likened vicious attacks – by armed Commandos in balaclavas, who, allegedly, also fired on the vessels before illegally boarding, murdering, injuring and committing grand theft – to the US fighting Nazis in World War II. He told Fox News: “The US acted under similar international law when (they) fought the Germans and the Japanese in World War Two.”
A saner view might have been that the committed compassionate passengers, were today’s equivalent of those who, at great personal risk, attempted to feed, aid and protect Jewish people, under threat in occupied Europe. Gaza has many times been described as today’s Warsaw ghetto.
It is Turkish Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, in an impassioned speech to his Parliament, who blazed the significance of Israel’s actions:
That ship, he said, might finally have done more than over sixty years of hollow condemnations of Israel’s actions – which John Pilger has described as those of a “criminal state”, with a near unique “record of lawlessness”, defiance of numerous UN Resolutions, defiance of the right of Palestinians right to return to their homeland, affirmed : “… at least 135 times as ‘the will of the international community’ ” – and ignored.
As Israeli Ambassadors, worldwide,were summoned by governments, to explain their country’s actions, and protesters still daily, demanding the closure of Israel’s Embassies, maybe finally Israel’s successive governments’ heartless, lawless behaviour toward citizens and neighbours are to be called to account.
The currency of those who use the inhuman horror of the Holocaust’s vast bloodstain on history, to get away with murder and deny the most basics of normality to others, maybe finally approaching bancrupcy.
Incredibly, the passengers, hi-jacked at gunpoint, were asked to sign a document declaring that they had entered Israel illegally.
As the self declared “only democracy in the Middle East”, deny access to Barzilia Hospital in the Israeli city of Ashkelon, where still unaccounted for injured lie with : “every patient (having) a soldier next to the bed”, according to spokeswoman, Leah Malul (that should aid recovery) it is people of Jewish origin, worldwide, who have been some of the most vocal in their condemnation of the attack.
In the (London) Guardian, (3rd June) political and social commentator Adhaf Soueif writes: “… young Jewish Israeli activists told me they saw that the only hope for their country lies with the international community. Israel is on a path to self-destruction, they said, and it will take the region with it. It will not stop, they said, until the price it pays for its actions becomes too heavy. This price has to be a moral and economic price imposed by the world.”
“Israel is a lunatic state”, wrote political scientist, Professor Norman Finkelstein.
“The Israeli image took a mortal blow ….. deep in international waters (rendering) Israel a pirate state”, commented Ben Caspit, in the Israeli daily, Maariv.
In Haaretz, where Gideon Levy rises eloquently beyond ballistic, his colleague, Ari Shavit, laments that in Israel’s 2006 onslaught on Lebanon: “… my sixteen year old daughter could have conducted it more wisely than the (government.) We’ve progressed. Today it is clear that my six year old son could do better than our current government.”
Sir Gerald Kaufman, in the (UK) Parliament (2nd June) called Israel’s actions: “Piracy, kidnap and murder.”
Professor of International Law, Richard Falk, demanded: ” .. Criminal accountability”; whilst Israeli born and raised Avigail Avarbanel comments on: “Israel’s growing insanity.”
That the Commando who shot several passengers on the Marmara in cold blood, is to be rewarded for valor, according to numerous reports, seemingly confirms this viewpoint.
Professor Avi Shlaim, refers to: “Israel’s insane attack.”
“Israel has always complained, condescendingly, that the neighbors it is forced to deal with are Arabs rather than ‘Norwegians and Swedes.’ Now, when it is dealing with Europeans and the entire world, Israel can see how it itself is perceived − and blush furiously. If it still can”, wrote Doron Rosenblum.
Condemnation in newsprint, by the Jewish diaspora alone, has felled woods, probably forests.
Other aid-giving voyages, including from neutral Switzerland, an entirely Jewish manned and organized one from Germany, are planned for the near future, as international donations pour in. Turkey’s Prime Minister has indicated he may travel on an aid ship, with Israel threatening to attack the NATO country vessel, again. Iran’s aid plan has also raised tensions and concerns.
As shipping Unions refuse to load or unload Israeli vessels and other Unions from Australia to Britain join numerous organizations, in boycotting Israeli goods, with performers, authors and intellectuals calling for a cultural boycott, Israel has declared it will impose penalties world wide against those who promote such action. A move, seemingly, not through with resounding clarity.
With vociferous demands that Israel’s UN Membership and that of the OECD are suspended or rescinded, that it is barred from the 2012 London Olympics, and numerous professional Bodies call for the country’s isolation, might Israel finally change direction?
Being asked is, also, should a country, so apparently out of control – believed with the world’s fifth largest nuclear arsenal – be subject to the unthinkable, until it complies with international norms?
Iraq with a third world, decimated army, no meaningful weapons, was subject to air, sea, even postal, isolation. Spare parts, construction materials, even educational provisions, toys, personal hygiene materials, newspapers, newsprint, magazines, were all denied. Telephone, electricity, infrastructure of every kind, vehicles, factories, hospitals, collapsed or fell in to disrepair.
Sanctions on Iran tighten, with Israel amongst the strongest proponents, toward a country which undergoes ongoing inspections by the International Atomic Energy Authority.
As Israel subjects a Palestinian teritory to an identical deprivation as Iraq, contrary to all humanitarian law, sanctions are becoming a topic which will not go away . Already isolated in mentality, as it hi-jacks and impounds vessels, demands to inspect cargo not even bound for its shores, obtained by brigandry and looting, checking that such threatening items as cardamon and jams (denied to Palestine) are not present, should a State which has consistently refused to ever have its vast weapons and nuclear arsenal checked, finally be forced in to accountability?
A country which also demands to investigate itself over a lawless act of enormity.
Not to be forgotten, as analysts have pointed out, is that the naval blockade of Gaza’s waters, may have less to do with “terrorism” and much to do with the presence of considerable fields of natural gas offshore. There has long been speculation as to lateral drilling by Israel, in Gaza’s water.
Yet, in the week “the world became Gaza”, maybe, a flotilla of committed people, ill-treated, injured and those who gave lives, in solidarity with the humanity of others, are bringing successive Israeli governments’ sixty two year ram-raid through international norms – and neighbouring countries – to and end?
Felicity Arbuthnot is a frequent contributor to Global Research.