By Yuram Abdullah Weiler
‘History has shown that as long as Israel is allowed to act with impunity, it will continue to violate international law. It is innocent Palestinian civilians who continue to suffer the horrific consequences,’ stated the Palestinian Center for Human Rights.
On 31 May 2010, Israel committed an act of war in international waters by attacking and commandeering an unarmed flotilla of ships loaded with much-needed food, medicine, and other humanitarian supplies bound for Gaza. Based on numerous reports, at least 9 aid workers were martyred in this unprovoked assault by the Israeli regime.
The flotilla was organized by caring individuals and NGOs in response to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Cargo manifests clearly indicating supplies being transported were made available for inspection. No resistance was offered against boarding by Israeli commandos; in fact, a white flag of surrender was hoisted in hopes of avoiding a confrontation.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and International Criminal Court Prosecutor Louis-Moreno Ocampo condemned the Israeli attack on the aid ships, declaring that “no one is beyond reach,” and that perpetrators of international crimes must be held to account.
Expressing understandable outrage and exasperation, Pakistani columnist Mahir Ali asks, “What exactly does Israel have to do in order to earn the pariah status it deserves more richly than most other states?”
Apparently, the above act of Israeli intransigence wasn’t enough. On 5 June 2010 Israel hijacked the one remaining ship of the flotilla, the Rachel Corrie, and its cargo of humanitarian aid. Rachel Corrie was the brave young American peace activist who was brutally crushed to death when run over by a U.S.-supplied Israeli army bulldozer while attempting to prevent the demolition of a Palestinian home in Gaza.
U.S. Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Alejandro Wolff, with a rare hint of criticism toward Israel, stated that the United States was “deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident last night aboard the Gaza-bound ships.”
Then in a dazzling display of illogic, Representative Wolff blamed the victims by claiming, “Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and the work of nongovernmental organizations complicates efforts in Gaza. Its continued arms smuggling and commitment to terrorism undermines security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike.”
For the record, Israel, not Hamas, is responsible for creating the humanitarian disaster in Gaza that prompted the flotilla and Israel, by its barbarous acts, shows a commitment to state-sponsored terrorism. Its ongoing siege of Gaza since 2007 in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 1860, and devastating attacks in December 2008 and January 2009, cause Palestinians to lack food, housing and basic medical supplies.
In sharp contrast to the U.S. representative and not mincing words, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called the attack “murder conducted by a state.” Turkey has lost 9 of its citizens in this Mediterranean massacre and took the first step of an appropriate response by withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv. Understandably, Turkey is calling for international punitive action against Israel.
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey appealed for action, saying, “The international community should not remain indifferent in the face of this attack in international waters.”
Predictably, Israeli deputy U.N. Ambassador Daniel Carmon defended Israel’s attack, claiming the peace activists on board the flotilla “cynically used the guise of humanitarian aid to send a message of hate and to implement violence.” Israeli Ambassador to the U.S. Michael Oren shrieked, “Israel will also do whatever it takes to defend itself from Hamas terror.”
Despite worldwide condemnation of the pariah polity’s latest act of blatant barbarism, American support for Israel remains steadfast. One US media outlet claiming to be “fair and balanced” ran an article implying that the nuclear-armed Israeli entity is in imminent danger of annihilation by terrorists. Another report links the organizers of the humanitarian flotilla to Al-Qaeda and 50 of its passengers to terrorist groups.
It is sad to see such warped press coverage of this unfortunate tragedy and even more disheartening to witness the continuing support by the U.S. of a government that would commit such an atrocity on unarmed humanitarian aid workers. How can the U.S. claim to be a law-abiding, peace-seeking member of the international community and support a country that acts with such arrogance and impunity towards human life?
Dr. Pervez Hoodbhoy, a professor of Physics at Quaid-i-Azam University in Islamabad, answers the question quite succinctly, “The Israeli tail wags the American dog.”
However, with its Mediterranean massacre, Israel has unwittingly handed the international community a rare opportunity to unite in support of the besieged people of Palestine. This tragedy could be the means of finally breaking the siege of Israeli intransigence, exposing their war crimes and relieving the plight of the Palestinians.
Given that this unexpected Israeli impetus has renewed hopes for justice in Palestine, we simply must maintain the momentum. Allowing it to dissipate would profane the sacrifices made by the martyrs who gave their lives on the Mavi Marmara.
– Yuram Abdullah Weiler is a freelance writer and political critic who has written many articles on the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.