Monday, May 31, 2010

Still looking to lose readers

Updated A flotilla of six ships carrying more than 600 people and 10,000 tons of supplies has been heading for the Gaza Strip in an act of nonviolent direct action intended to break the illegal and immoral Israeli blockade of the area.
“For over four years,” the organizers said in a statement, “Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.”
Israel, to no one's surprise, has vowed to stop the effort, it's attempt to de-legitimize it through propaganda having failed.
Three Israeli naval missile boats left their base in Haifa late Sunday to prevent the ships from entering a 32-kilometer exclusion zone enforced by Israel along Gaza's Mediterranean Sea coast.
The Israelis demanded the ships either turn back or go to an Israeli port where the goods would (supposedly) be sent to Gaza - but of course the entire point is that would still give to Israel the power to decide precisely what of the supplies would go to Gaza and when, which is exactly what the action was challenging. (Israeli government rep Yigal Palmor said the supplies would be "confiscated and examined" before "possibly" being allowed into Gaza.) Considering that some of the supplies included cement to rebuild houses destroyed in the 2009 Israeli assault, and cemet being something that Israel flatly refuses to allow into Gaza, it is undeniable that when the Israelis claimed they were offering cooperation they were actually demanding surrender - and they knew it.

The ships in the flotilla obviously refused. So the Israelis did what, sadly, it increasingly appears is the only course the Israeli governments (the plural is deliberate as this is consistent over time) know: They attacked.
Turkish NTV, a private television station, reported early Monday that eyewitness say Israeli helicopter gunships fired on one of the vessels in international waters, killing two and wounding 30.
While it remains unclear if the ship was fired on before it was boarded, it is clear that it was boarded and that there were casualties. Reports of those casualties varied: ABC (Australia) reported 10 killed and 30 wounded (it also provided video), while CNN quoted its Turkish branch as reporting two killed and 50 wounded.

The initial response of the Israeli Defense Forces was ludicrous:
"We did not attack any boat, we merely fulfill the Israeli government's decision to prevent anyone from going into the Gaza strip without coordinating with Israel," a statement from the Israeli military said.
"Sure, it had soldiers and guns and they shot people and stuff, but it wasn't an attack. It was, um, like a traffic stop. Yeah, that's the ticket."

Of course, Israel denies there even is a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, so perhaps that statement isn't as surprising as it first seems. Even so, the claim apparently was too much even for the IDF, especially after
[a]n Israeli religious medical service, ZAKA, said seven people had been admitted to hospital in Haifa, Israel's main naval base, one of them in a serious condition.
So there was also the attempt to blame the passengers, which the Jerusalem Post reported:
Passengers tried to grab weapons away from soldiers boarding the Gaza protest flotilla, starting the violence, Army Radio reported Tuesday morning, responding to accusations that Israeli commandos assaulted the ships guns blazing.
So in other words, your story is that unarmed passengers tried to defend themselves against a military assault and so it's their fault you shot them? What are we supposed to make of nonsense like that? Exactly how is it different from the wife-beater who says "Look at what you made me do?"

So it seems that wasn't good enough, either, and now the Israeli army, which admits to having killed "more than four" passengers and wounding at least a dozen, is claiming that passengers "arm[ed] themselves with knives and clubs" and that the passengers fired first. We'll see how long it take that story to escalate further into how the poor, peaceful soldiers were in terror of their very lives and only defending themselves from the vicious onslaughts of the well-armed passengers, er, guerrillas.

Two other important points come from that Jerusalem Post report. First:
Apparently, IDF attempts to prevent broadcasting from the ships were unable to block the Turkish camera crew on board one of the ships.
That was the source of the video linked above. But it's an acknowledgment that not only did the IDF attack the ship, they made conscious efforts to hide what they were doing from the rest of the world. It is, after all, easier to lie away the meaning and effect of your actions when it occurs out of sight.

And second:
The initial contact took place about 200 km. off the Gaza Coast.
This was a military assault - by all available accounts a murderous assault - against unarmed civilians on an unarmed civilian ship in international waters. This is by any rational meaning of the word a crime - a murderous crime. And you know fucking goddam well that not only will they get away with it but our great leader, he of the Nobel Peace Prize for Aspiration, won't say a fucking thing about it beyond maybe - maybe - some vague, undifferentiated expression of regret over some ill-defined "incident" combined with some blather about hopes for peace.

Footnote: Here's an area where we could use a Bob Somerby: The passengers on the ships include human rights activists and lawmakers from several European countries, along with some former U.S. diplomats and Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead Maguire. But to our Paper of Record with "All the news that's fit to print," setting the tone for most of the rest of the US media, they are all "pro-Palestinian activists."

Updated to say did I call it or did I call it? This is from AP from Monday morning:
The White House said in a written statement that the United States "deeply regrets" the loss of life and injuries and was working to understand the circumstances surrounding this "tragedy."
Then there was this, from the same article:
Speaking alongside the Canadian prime minister, Netanyahu expressed "regret" for the loss of life but said the soldiers had no choice. "Our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed," he said.
First, no military force engaged in an offensive action has any business making any claims they were only "defending themselves." Second, notice the escalation of claims, exactly along the lines predicted.


JM said...

You think Turkey's gonna start a war with Israel? They've been putting out threat after threat for the past two days.

Lotus said...

No, I don't. Turkey is in a tough position politically, but a number of other players are, too.

Turkey is a NATO member. Declaring war on Israel would threaten to drag NATO in, in some capacity - especially if in the event of a conflict there was and Israeli attack on Turkish territory. I don't think other NATO nations want to be in that position, but failing to support Turkey in that case could cause NATO to rupture. Better to avoid the possibility.

The US also has a political dilemma and also does not want to be in the position of choosing between Israel and Turkey. If war did break out I have no doubt that Congress would side with Israel without even thinking it through - which would be a foreign policy catastrophe with regard to US relations with Muslim nations.

So you can be sure that there will be a lot of voices telling Turkey to take a chill pill.

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