The Zeitgeist Politics

Global Politics with a focus on The Middle East

Updates: Aftermath of Flotilla attack

with 9 comments

Palestinians carry a mock coffin draped with a Turkish flag during a protest at Gaza's seaport May 31, 2010, against Israel's interception of Gaza-bound ships. REUTERS/Mohammed Salem

UPDATE: Third post with fresh news, analysis and choice links.

First of all, if you haven’t already, check out my previous post on this with the preliminary round-up of events.

I’m not going to continue posting the repeated commentary from the leaders of the international community because they all mostly repeat the same thing ad naseum. For those interested, there is a good roundup in this AFP story and the Al Jazeera & Guardian liveblogs will keep you abreast. Maan has a handy list of the nine (and counting) countries that have summoned Israeli ambassadors for an explanation.

Relevant news is coming thick & fast and it’s difficult to keep up with all of it so I will attempt to post what I think is most important.

Steve Hynd pointed his Twitter followers to UNSC Resolution 1860 that called for a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and also called for humanitarian aid, something that Israel has not been able to adequately provide. All reports from Israeli spokesmen that aid is being delivered on a daily basis are basically nothing but propaganda, aid is being delivered but it’s estimated to be 1/4 of what Gazans actually need to survive.

Speaking of the UN Security Council, Reuters is reporting that a meeting is being convened to discuss the issue.

It is being reported that the French equivalent of AIPAC, Le Crif, has condemned the Israeli attack (French) on the flotilla. I’m not sure how stridently pro-Israel-at-all-costs these people are but that strikes me as interesting. Also, Netanyahu has reportedly cancelled his scheduled visit to the US to begin indirect proximity talks and is flying back to Israel immediately to deal with the fall out.

For those interested in what the US has to say about this, first comments are non-commital as expected:

“The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” a White House spokesman said. [AFP]

Over in Britain, much is being made of Nick Clegg’s previously fairly public opposition to Israel’s blockade of Gaza. The question is, will Clegg be gagged by his coalition partners? Reports of protests at 10 Downing Street are already coming. David Milliband, without directly condemning Israel over the Gaza blockade, has voiced his opposition in not so many words.

India’s The Hindu, one of the few newspapers covering this in any detail in India, reports that Syria and Lebanon released a joint statement warning that Israel’s attack on the flotilla could be considered an act of war.

One thing that has been interesting to me throughout this debacle is the reaction of the much-maligned mainstream media. Criticisms over timeliness of reports and their wording notwithstanding, I’ll be looking at some of the personal tweets of celebrity journalists to gauge what’s considered legitimate feeling in the MSM camp. One example, Nick Kristof who has almost 1,000,000 followers on Twitter had this to say:

I didn’t RT early reports of Israeli military assault on #Gaza flotilla, ’cause I thought “Israel wldn’t be that stupid.”

From the Israeli side, most of the claims have been that the activists on board tried to ‘lynch’ and ‘stab’ the commandos who boarded the ship. Haaretz has a piece here. Here’s a quote from the IDF’s website:

During the boarding of the Marmara ship, demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. According to reports, two weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces first employed riot dispersal means, followed by live fire.

According to initial reports, these events resulted in over ten deaths among the demonstrators and numerous injuries. In addition, five naval personnel were injured, some from gunfire and some from various other weapons. Two of the soldiers were seriously wounded and the remainder sustained moderate injuries. All of the injured parties, Israelis and foreigners, are currently being evacuated by helicopter to hospitals in Israel.

It is not clear yet how much of this is hasbara, propaganda and the like and how threatening the people on board were but Glenn Greenwald has an excellent sum-up of the situation at Salon.com. Here are some choice quotes which I will leave you with:

The flotilla attacked by Israel last night was carrying materials such as cement, water purifiers, and other building materials, much of which Israel refuses to let pass into Gaza.  At the end of 2009, a U.N. report found that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory,” and also “blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.”

It hardly seemed possible for Israel — after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade — to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes.  But by attacking a flotilla in international waters carrying humanitarian aid, and slaughtering at least 10 people, Israel has managed to do exactly that.  If Israel’s goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt for it as possible, it’s hard to imagine how it could be doing a better job.

Marc Lynch has some sobering words about the attitude towards Gaza by successive US administrations:

This crisis — and it is a crisis — is the fairly predictable outcome of the years of neglect of the Gaza situation by the Bush and Obama administrations.  Bush turned a blind eye during the Israeli attack on Gaza in December 2008, and then the Obama team chose to focus on renewing peace talks between the Ramallah-based Palestinian Authority while continuing to boycott Hamas.  The U.S. only sporadically and weakly paid attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the strategic absurdity and moral obtuseness of the Israeli blockade, or the political implications of the ongoing Hamas-Fatah divide.   Now, on the eve of Obama’s scheduled meetings with Netanyahu and Abbas — the fruits of the “honey offensive” towards Israel — can they be surprised that Gaza is blowing up in their face?

One thing I like about both these pieces is that they maintain the focus on Gaza, Cast Lead and the crippling blockade. If it’s one thing I want you to take away from all this: do not forget to place these events in context. Israel has successively tightened the noose around an impoverished, humiliated and starving population begging for humanitarian aid. This alone constitutes a crime against humanity if there ever was one. The events on the Freedom Flotilla may be another nail in Israel’s coffin when it comes to Global PR but they should rightly point to what caused the boats to set sail in the first place: Israel’s barbaric blockade and the international community’s constant blind eye. Remember these things so that those that died on that boat didn’t die in vain.

Written by alexlobov

June 1, 2010 at 12:46 am

9 Responses

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  1. 1) Personally I am still waiting for an official Indian response. But I doubt if they will have the balls to give a tongue lashing to the Israeli Envoy

    2) Getting traction for Gaza has been interesting in India. There is a wide spread belief that aligning with an apartheid state like Israel is for some silly reason in “India’s National Interest” *FacePalm*

    3) Thanks to US and the international support from Political stalwarts such as Micronesia, we have reached this situation (which can literally and figuratively) be best described as a BLOODY MESS.

    4)In India, you now have to condemn Maoists and an assorted bunch of violent lunatics before you condemn Israel. Failing to do so could mean that you get flamed on Twitter and on a blog. Funny eh?

    #Intifada

    AB

    June 1, 2010 at 1:04 am

    • Funny indeed. I’m no expert on the Indian domestic scene but it strikes me that far too much lunacy is whipped up in the National Interest. We’re talking about one of the founding countries of the non-aligned movement, the country of Gandhi and of so many prominent academics on Orientalism and yet smart people still fall into such narrow-minded nationalism. It’s sad. I guess it’s understandable given the history of the modern Indian state and it’s ongoing problems with identity.

      But yes, for a country that wants to be a world power (and perhaps is) it really needs to break the ‘muslims are bad, terrorists are bad, terrorists are like pakistanis, palestinians are terrorists, therefore israelis who fight them are good and role models’ line of thought. If it doesn’t then it might find itself on the wrong side of history.

      alexlobov

      June 1, 2010 at 1:14 am

      • Well said.

        Fortunately, the takers “For the Liberal Dharma” school of thought are few – and far between.

        Won’t be long before folks realize sounding intelligent is not the same thing as being intelligent.

        AB

        June 1, 2010 at 7:31 pm

  2. There’ll be a few salient facts left out of many accounts of the Aid Hamas flotilla incident, especially if your source is the BBC or the Guardian. After all, an evil state, and an evil people, the Jews… the Israelis, can’t do anything but evil.

    We can guarantee that this will be a major news item today and even over the next week. The Western media usually chronicles every broken finger and upset stomach which the Israelis cause the long-suffering and deeply pacifist Palestinians. Every inch of the situation well be cried over by naive left-liberals and utilised by far leftists in their obsessive anti-Israel campaign.

    So as soon as the media hungrily get hold of a single Muslim on the ship being lightly spanked by an Israeli soldier, many will instantly conclude that this is yet another Evil Zionist mission to exterminate every Muslim on the planet. I bet leftists are going crazy with their FaceBooks at this very moment. Bless them.

    It is almost as if the Turki Foundation wanted this to happen so they could milk it dry in the Western media and elsewhere. Indeed this ‘Israeli crime’ was probably forecasted weeks ago. So it is no surprise that many Muslims have already showed their predictable anger and starting demonstrating. In fact, they started to do so about five minutes after the event occurred. It was almost as if they already knew what was going to happen. Um.

    And surprise, surprise! The Turkish government called for an emergency meeting at least two minutes after the Israelis boarded the ships. The increasingly Islamist Government is slowly falling in the Muslim line of compulsory anti-Zionism. Chomsky will have finished his book about this ‘outrage’ and ‘gross act of pure evil’ by Friday. Symposiums in American universities will begin early next week.

    Who was behind the reprimanded flotilla? Some nice Muslims? Our very own George ‘look no panties’ Galloway and his Viva Palestina? No. It was the Turki Foundation (IHH). Want to know something about it? (The BBC won’t tell you.) It is a radical Islamic organisation which is a major component in Hamas’s worldwide funding machine. And like all other radical Islamic organisations, it hates infidels and sometimes even hates the wrong kind of fellow Muslim. More precisely, it likes those who kill Jews (Hamas, Hezbollah, etc.) and it also likes to spread the anti-Semitic psychosis around the Muslim and leftist world.

    Of course the shipment was only full of flower petals, Superman magazines and white doves. Oh yes. It was also highly likely to have contained explosives, Kal Iranian-made, long-rage Fajr-5 missiles. But only to be used self-defensively by destroying Israeli kindergartens and pizza houses. How do we know this? Because a hell of a lot of similar shipments have contained weapons and explosives heading for Hamas and other nice and peaceful Islamist groups.

    It’s certain that the Turki Foundation, and the other Islamists aboard, were planning on violence. Indeed they wanted violence. They had already said that they ‘fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation of threats of violence against us’. They are only doing their Islamic duty against the Jews! Also, the Israelis, when aboard, were immediately attacked with knives, daggers and cudgels. Instead of killing the Islamists outright, the Israelis chose to use tear gas against the enemy. Al Jazeera also reported that gun shots were heard on the boats.

    We can be deeply cynical, but nevertheless accurate, and say that these ‘aid convoys’, whether run by Islamist militants like the Turki Foundation or, well, by IslamoTrot militants like Viva Palestina, are not really about supplying the death camps of starving Palestinians with food and other much-needed supplies (such as long-range rockets which can go deep into Israel). They are primarily, or even exclusively, about propaganda and publicity. And my God! How they are successful at this!

    The reason for my Zionist cynicism and evil is this. It is possible that the Gaza Strip is not actually suffering a real ‘humanitarian crisis’ at all since the Palestinians are already being supplied by the Evil Zionist Empire that is Israel. Indeed any journalists who care to see will realise that hundreds of Israeli trucks daily supply the Gazans with food and other needies – but not, sadly, offensive weapons. That’s where the Turki Foundation may well come in.

    I don’t suppose it matters to leftists and anti-Zionists that international law allows states like Israel to ask suspicious boats to identify themselves. They are only interested in the times when Israel supposedly goes against international law, which seems to be every day, according to these Israel Watchers.

    John Grahm

    June 1, 2010 at 11:44 pm

    • Thanks for your thoughts, John.

      Foreign journalists have not been allowed in the Gaza strip since the blockade began and there have been plenty of reports by both the UN and mainstream media that the humanitarian aid supplied by Israel is far from sufficient. Israeli officials have themselves made statements about ‘putting the Palestinians on a diet’.

      As for international maritime law. Israel had the right to request identification, not to board it with military personnel. The ship was identified as a Turkish flagged vessel which makes it Turkish territory. That makes Israel’s boarding of the vessel with commandos an Act of War legally.

      There is no evidence of missiles or anything else suspect on board that ship that I’ve seen, only allegations, but your thoughts on the matter are appreciated.

      alexlobov

      June 2, 2010 at 12:10 am

      • Just for the record, here’s what the international law says:

        a state, in a time of conflict, can impose an embargo, and while it cannot carry out embargo activities in the territorial waters of a third party, it can carry out embargo activities in international waters.

        Within this framework it is legal to detain a civilian vessel trying to break an embargo and if in the course of detaining the vessel, force is used against the forces carrying out the detention then that force has every right to act in self defense.

        For that matter, there is a long history of embargo activities in international waters.

        John Grahm

        June 2, 2010 at 1:43 am

      • The reason why the blockade is illegal is because I believe that Israel is still effectively an occupying power in Gaza and therefore must abide by the Geneva Conventions, under which the blockade not only constitutes collective punishment (which is illegal) but also prevents sufficient humanitarian aid from entering the Strip, something that Israel is also responsible for providing but I believe is not providing sufficiently.

        Also, the above law applies in ‘a time of conflict’ however, I believe, that implies conflict between two states. Not one state and an entity that has been denied statehood due mostly to vehement opposition from that state.

        There is also the matter of UNSC Resolution 1860 by which Israel is not abiding.

        There is little point continuing this conversation since we clearly disagree on several major points of International Law.

        alexlobov

        June 2, 2010 at 2:59 am

  3. […] list of names of those killed). To get up to speed on developments yesterday check out my first and second […]

  4. […] routinely ignores? Not to mention the recent UN HRC fact finding missions into both Cast Lead and the flotilla incident? The hypocrisy is […]


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