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Gaza flotilla massacre: a Sharpeville at sea [UPDATED]

More than ten people have been killed after Israeli forces attacked a flotilla bringing aid supplies to the besieged people of Gaza. Details are still sketchy – some sources claim twenty people are dead – but it seems that IDF commandoes stormed the vessels and then opened fire with live ammunition.

The flotilla was part of an international effort bringing goods and supplies barred to Gaza, basic items like building materials and water purifiers. It consisted of three cargo vessels and three passenger ships containing 600 activists, including the Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire. There were also journalists on board, including the Sydney Morning Herald‘s Paul McGeough, who is apparently still missing.

Over the past years, we’ve seen many events in the region that shock the conscience but an armed attack on an aid boat is a new low. Already, there are reports of demonstrations around the world.

On 21 March 1960, South African police fired into a group of black protesters, killing 69 of them. That incident – known to history as the Sharpeville Massacre – sparked the movement that eventually brought down the apartheid state. It may be that this latest atrocity will have similarly far-reaching consequences.

[UPDATE]

Even now, it’s still unclear how many people were killed. Why? As the Guardian says, ‘Israel immediately imposed a communications blackout on the detained activists while simultaneously launching a sophisticated public relations operation to ensure its version of events was dominant.’ So we’re yet to see any of the film taken by the activists as the IDF approached – or even hear from the journalists, like the SMH‘s Paul McGeough, who were on board.

The counter-narrative emerging from the professional Israeli apologists (part-gangsters, part-gramophones, as Orwell quipped in a different context) is that the commandoes acted in self-defence in the face of a ‘lynch mob’ directed by al-Qaida (no, seriously). It’s an oddly apt defence of the indefensible, in that it parrots the rationale for the original Gaza war and the subsequent blockade. No matter how grotesque the disparity in casualties, whether it’s scores of protesters killed and zero soldiers, or 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis dead, as in the Gaza war, Israel is always already the victim, always engaged in a regrettable course necessitated by the genocidal forces raged against it.

We might note that if an outside observer engaged in the grotesque actuarial calculations of this conflict, he or she might decide that the assault on the flotilla justified a fully-fledged war. After all, as a popular Twitter meme has pointed out, the number of protesters killed in this massacre seems to have outnumbered the number of Israelis killed by Palestinian rockets over the last decade, the statistic quoted in defence of the Gaza incursion.

The other point worth noting about the ‘self defence’ claim is that no-one denies the flotilla remained in international waters at the time of the raid. There is, therefore, a technical term for what took place.  It’s called ‘piracy’ – and pirates cannot expect their victims to simply hand over their vessels without protest.

But enough of this. We’re dealing with an episode so blatant and so grotesque that anyone who wants to know will know. In the aftermath of past massacres (Sharpeville or Kent State or Bloody Sunday or whatever) there’s always been an official claim that the sufferers brought their misery upon themselves, that the perpetrators were actually the real victims, that up was down and black was white. But in the end, the facts speak for themselves – and that’s what will happen here.

In any case, let’s not forget the circumstances that made the flotilla so necessary. In Salon, Glenn Grenwald notes:

Regarding the blockade of Gaza itself — about which “Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister [said when it was first imposed]: ‘The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger'” — this post documents just some of the effects, with ample links to U.N. reports, including:

* since the intensification of the siege in June 2007, “the formal economy in Gaza has collapsed” (More than 80 UN and aid agencies [.pdf])

* “61% of people in the Gaza Strip are … food insecure,” of which “65% are children under 18 years” (UN FAO)

* since June 2007, “the number of Palestine refugees unable to access food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water, has tripled” (UNRWA)

* “in February 2009, the level of anemia in babies (9-12 months) was as high as 65.5%” (UN FAO)

In other words, the blockade itself was a crime, a terrible collective punishment that the flotilla was making an attempt to alleviate. Gaza has become a huge prison, and every prison has guards. This massacre illustrates the powers those guards have at their disposal.

It should be noted that the response to the atrocity has been immediate and worldwide. The Age carries the following roundup:

In the [Turkish] capital Ankara about 1,000 people gathered outside the residence of Israeli ambassador Gabby Levy and shouted “Damn the Zionist murderers!” and “Israel will drown in the blood of the martyrs!”.

They threw eggs and plastic bottles into the garden of the residency. Reports said demonstrations were held in dozens of cities across the country.

In London more than 1,000 people — some of whom had friends on the ships carrying aid to blockaded Gaza — protested outside the residence of British Prime Minister David Cameron and the Israeli embassy.

Chanting “Free Palestine” and brandishing the Palestinian flag and banners condemning Israeli “war crimes”, activists blocked a major route through the capital.

“We have close friends on the boat on which people were killed and we are here waiting for news,” said Kate Hudson, the chairwoman of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.

In Paris about 1,200 people joined a noisy protest near the Israeli embassy, waving Palestinian flags and shouting “Palestine will survive”. Some through stones at police and tried to break through barriers around the building.

Scuffles broke out when rival protestors waving Israeli flags approached, prompting police to fire tear gas. Officers also fired tear gas at protesters in Strasbourg while there were rallies in cities including Marseille and Lyon.

Greek police used tear gas to force back around 1,500 protesters outside the Israeli embassy in Athens, while another 2,000 people rallied in the northern city of Thessaloniki.

In Lebanon thousands of Palestinian refugees and activists waving Palestinian flags and banners marched in the country’s 12 refugee camps.

“Where is the international community? Where are human rights?” they chanted in the Al-Bass camp in the southern coastal city of Tyre.

In Beirut hundreds called on Israeli embassies in the Arab world to be shut down and for Israeli ambassadors to be expelled.

At a demonstration of about 3,000 people at the Beddawi camp in the northern city of Tripoli, anger also turned on Israel’s traditional ally, the United States.

“God is great and America is the greatest evil,” they chanted. “Give us weapons, give us weapons and send us on to Gaza.”

There were even demonstrations inside Israel, where hundreds of protestors flooded the streets of the Arab city of Nazareth as Israeli police raised the level of alert across the country and deployed reinforcements.

Several thousand Egyptians, mainly supporters of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, demonstrated in Cairo and other cities. Egypt is one of only two Arab states to have peace agreements with Israel, along with Jordan.

More than 2,000 people in Amman protested what Jordan’s Information Minister Nabil Sharif dubbed a “heinous crime” and demanded that Jordan shut down the Jewish state’s embassy and expel the Israeli ambassador.

In Iran’s capital Tehran, dozens of people pelted stones at the UN office chanting: “This savage regime of Israel must be wiped out.” They burnt the Israeli flag and tore up pictures of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In Pakistan politicians, lawmakers and journalists staged a peaceful protest in Islamabad, denouncing the killings and calling on the United Nations and the United States to intervene.

Around 6,000 people rallied in Stockholm and others protested outside the Israeli embassies in Belgium, Copenhagen and The Hague.

In Geneva around 200 people rallied outside the UN’s European headquarters demanding an inquiry into the raid, and hundreds of Bosnians marched through Sarajevo, brandishing Palestinian flags.

Around 2,000 people protested in Morocco while several hundred rallied in the capital of the Saharan nation of Mauritania, where parliament called on the International Criminal Court to intervene.

Details of the Australian protests are below:

Melbourne: Tuesday June 1, 4.30pm, Bourke St Mall, CBD
Sydney: Tuesday June 1, 5.30pm, Town Hall, CBD
Brisbane: Tuesday June 1, 5pm, Brisbane Square (cnr George and Queen sts)
Perth: Tuesday June 1, 5pm, Wesley Church, cnr William & Hay Sts, Perth
Adelaide: Details coming soon – keep checking back here!
Canberra: Tuesday June 1, 5pm, outside Israeli Embassy, 6 Turrana St, Yarralumla. Plus also a rally in Garema Place on Thursday 3 June at 4.00 pm (organised by Australians for Justice and Peace in Palestine)
Newcastle: Tuesday June 1, 4pm, Sharon Grierson’s office, Hunter St

Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.

If you like this piece, or support Overland’s work in general, please subscribe or donate.

Jeff Sparrow is the former editor of Overland. He is the co-author (with Jill Sparrow) of Radical Melbourne: A Secret History and Radical Melbourne 2: The Enemy Within, the editor (with Antony Loewenstein) of Left Turn: Essays for the New Left and the author of Communism: a love story, Killing: Misadventures in violence, and Money Shot: A Journey into Censorship and Porn.  On Twitter, he's @Jeff_Sparrow.

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  1. Thank you very much for this Jeff. That’s quick work. I was about to suggest the same and write one myself.
    The details from tweets at witnessgaza.com are saying that the Israeli’s opened fire while people were asleep. It’s not just that the act is criminal, but so blatant in its brutality. As if the Israelis are thumbing their noses at everyone and saying ‘Fuck you. We will kill whoever we want whenever we want.’
    Butterly’s video is a pretty electrifying though.

  2. I am worried about the retaliation and crackdown on Gazans. JPost earlier reported that the IDF and Israeli police were preparing for ‘unrest’, but this has now being upgraded to ‘ready for possible Arab riots’.

    And this was the Age with their up to the minute reporting late this afternoon:

    Israel has called the convoy a media stunt, insisting the humanitarian situation is stable in Gaza despite reports to the contrary from aid agencies and offering to deliver the supplies through its own land crossings.

    “This is a provocation intended to delegitimise Israel,” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Saturday. “If the flotilla had a genuine humanitarian goal, then its organisers should have transferred something for the abducted soldier Gilad Shalit as well,” he said of the Israeli snatched by militants in 2006 and held by the Hamas Islamist movement, which runs the enclave.

    So that explains the collective punishment of 1.5 million people.

    To quote Caoimhe Butterly: it’s time to up the ante. We’re at a time that demands action and mobilisation, through local representatives, trade unions, and supporting a BDS movement.

    As Gideon Levy wrote in Haaertz last week, the world has been complicit in a boycott of Gaza and Palestine for long enough. It’s now time to boycott the boycotters:

    It would be possible to identify with these intolerant reactions were it not for the fact that Israel itself is one of the world’s prolific boycotters. Not only does it boycott, it preaches to others, at times even forces others, to follow in tow. Israel has imposed a cultural, academic, political, economic and military boycott on the territories. At the same time, almost no one here utters a dissenting word questioning the legitimacy of these boycotts. Yet the thought of boycotting the boycotter? Now that’s inconceivable.

    The most brutal, naked boycott is, of course, the siege on Gaza and the boycott of Hamas. At Israel’s behest, nearly all Western countries signed onto the boycott with inexplicable alacrity. This is not just a siege that has left Gaza in a state of shortage for three years. Nor is it just a complete (and foolish ) boycott of Hamas, save for the discussions over abducted soldier Gilad Shalit. It’s a series of cultural, academic, humanitarian and economic boycotts. Israel threatens nearly every diplomat who seeks to enter Gaza to see firsthand the unbearable sights.

    In addition, Israel bars entry to anyone who wishes to lend humanitarian aid. We should note that the boycott isn’t just against Hamas, but against all Gaza, everyone who lives there. The convoy of ships that will soon sail from Europe to try to break the siege will carry thousands of tons of construction material, prefab houses and medicine. Israel has announced that it plans to stop the vessels. A boycott is a boycott.

  3. Pingback: killing in the name of…?? « jew on this

  4. Yes the Levy report was prescient I thought. When the convoy left Cyprus I expected stupidity from the Israeli’s – Levy’s comments made me uneasy, but I had other things on my mind – but not this bare-faced. I think some kind of engineered revenge on Gaza is inevitable. Mainstream press is traveling a but slowly on this, but so far I’ve seen one reference to the flotilla’s crews as ‘pro-Islamic activists.’ I await with bated breath (whatever that is) Obama or Rudd’s “appeal for calm and restraint on both sides.”

  5. I do not believe that a single person in the entire world buys anything that comes out of Mark Regev’s mouth:

    Israel says its soldiers boarded the ships in the early hours but were attacked with knives, bars and live fire.

    “Unfortunately this group were dead-set on confrontation,” Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC.

    “Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100% clear,” he said.

  6. Actually, while Mark Regev appears to be some kind of weird alien android, and I would love to believe that even Donald Duck can tell that what comes out of Regev’s mouth is utter bullshit, I think that many of the Israeli Govt’s powerful friends will be very thankful that Mark can make up the lies for them. Saves them having to write a press release. Also avoids any unpleasant moral anguish. Should there be any.
    Anyone heard anything from Margaret Attwood yet?

    • Fair call. I should have said ‘actually believes’, rather than buys. There are clearly many who buy his words.

  7. But even (especially) consummate professional liars make revealing slips of the tongue sometimes, ie:
    “Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100% clear,” he said.

  8. The footage of Israeli forces storming the Gaza flotilla appears to have vanished from YouTube.

  9. Liberal wiseacres sometimes condemn the Palestinians for not adopting a Gandhian strategy. This appalling tragedy illustrates how glib such reproaches (usually made from perfect safety in the west) actually are.
    That is, the flotilla did represent a new emphasis by campaigners in recent times on mass civil disobedience, an orientation that in my opinion is politically and morally much sounder than randomly firing rockets. But you have to be incredibly courageous to continue with such methods in the face of an opponent willing to so casually just open fire.

  10. Yes, agreed in spades. There will surely be another flotilla though. There must be.
    The YouTube video was no sooner up than it was gone.

  11. From Haaretz:

    Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said on Monday that the organizers of the Gaza aid flotilla have connections to international terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al-Qaida, and called the aid convoy a violent and provocative attempt to break the blockade on Gaza.

    I suspect we’ll soon learn that bin Laden was captaining one of the ships.

  12. It’s very interesting how the depiction of the flotilla’s passengers and crew has escalated throughout the day.
    First they ‘grappled’ with the soldiers. Then they attacked them with sticks. Then they attacked them with sticks knives and axes. Then they apparently used pistols. Now they are actually terrorists, and the flotilla of old slow vessels ‘violent and provocative.’
    The mainstream media have been incredibly slow to follow this story. Fairfax just following other people’s press releases, nothing at all at the Independent Uk, the Guardian doing a ‘live’ blog – which just appears to be some dude cut and pasting press releases. Plenty of time for Israeli Govt spin doctors to get on top of the story. I have been chasing tweets at various places all day which is where the story has been breaking.
    Catherine Ashton(of the EU) ‘regrets’ the loss of life. Jolly good.
    My head is starting to hurt. I need to go and lie down or take up drinking. Thanks again for being so quick with this Jeff. It saved my sanity.

  13. Look it up on youtube. Israel has shot Mairead Maguire before. No one noticed. Except an interview on democracy now.

  14. Pingback: Nødhjelpsflåten på vei til Gaza – Freedom Flotilla – er angrepet – Flere sivile har blitt drept « Blikk – Nyheter for aktivister

  15. I have been wondering about the ‘why’ for the whole horrific episode.

    We would be shocked if any other country, from Iran (where it most definitely would be considered a declaration of war) to Australia, had done this, but is anyone genuinely surprised by Israel’s behaviour here?

    As you point out Jeff:

    Israel is always already the victim, always engaged in a regrettable course necessitated by the genocidal forces raged against it.

    And for so long, many other nations have condoned and encouraged this conduct and psychology. Maybe we are seeing a sociopathic state that does not realise when it has finally gone too far.

    Or maybe this is more akin to the stolen passports and assassinations, with Israel trying to determine just how far it can push those other nations. So I return to the question ‘why’. Why do they need to know how far they can push everybody?

  16. Gaza’a response:

    We Gaza based Palestinian Civil Society Organizations and International activists call on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings in Israel’s attacks against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing for Gaza, and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.

    We salute the courage of all those who have organized this aid intervention and demand a safe passage through to Gaza for the 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who have lost loved ones in the attack.

    By sailing directly to Gaza, outside of Israeli waters, with cargo banned illegally by Israel, such as the 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies, the flotilla is exercising international law and upholding article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity.

    The hardships of Israel’s closure of Gaza have been well documented by all human rights groups operating, most recently by Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluding that the siege has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.” The United Nations continuously states that only a fraction of the required aid is entering the Strip due to what it calls ‘the medieval siege’, with John Ging the Director of UNRWA in Gaza specifically expressing the need for the Flotilla to enter Gaza. The European Union’s new foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton has just reiterated its call for, “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”

    The people of Gaza are not dependent people, but self sufficient people doing what they can to retain some dignity in life in the wake of this colossal man-made devastation that deprives so many of a basic start in life or minimal aspirations for the future.

    We, from Gaza, call on you to demonstrate and support the courageous men and women who went on the Flotilla, many now murdered on a humanitarian aid mission. We insist on severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes and the International protection of the civilians of Gaza. We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as any other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.

    Signatory Organisations:

    The One Democratic State Group

    University Teachers Association

    Arab Cultural Forum

    Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel

    Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info

    Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements

    International Solidarity Movement

    Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations

    Palestinian Women Committees

    Progressive Students Union

    Medical Relief Society

    The General Society for Rehabilitation

    Gaza Community Mental Health Program

    General Union of Palestinian Women

    Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children

    Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children

    Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children

    Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth

    Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens

    Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah

    Rafah Olympia City Sisters

    Al Awda Centre, Rafah

    Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp

    Ajyal Association, Gaza

    General Union of Palestinian Syndicates

    Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat

    Local Inititiative, Beit Hanoun

    Union of Health Work Committees

    Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip

    Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre

    Al Awda Centre, Rafah

  17. Well, that’s the UN emergency session dealt with.

    The US is ‘deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza, and the deterioration of the situation there, including the humanitarian and human rights situation’, yet claims that there is no problem getting aid into Gaza.

    And says that, really, the flotilla was just a bit too provocative and confrontational.

    Thank you, Mr. President and thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Fernandez-Taranco.

    The United States is 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. We are working to ascertain the facts. We expect a credible and transparent investigation and strongly urge the Israeli government to investigate the incident fully.

    As I stated in the Chamber in December 2008, when we were confronted by a similar situation, mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by member states and groups that want to do so. These non-provocative and non-confrontational mechanisms should be the ones used for the benefit of all those in Gaza. Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances.

    The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza, and the deterioration of the situation there, including the humanitarian and human rights situation. We continue to believe the situation is unsustainable and is not in the interests of any of those concerned. We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs. 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.

    We will continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with international NGOs and the UN, to provide adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction materials, through the border crossings, while bearing in mind the Government of Israel’s legitimate security concerns.

    Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region. The only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, contiguous, and viable state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We call again on our international partners – both inside and outside this Council – to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the entire region.

  18. Why did they do it?
    It’s possible it wasn’t very well thought through. You get a bunch of Special Forces all ginned up about stopping a boat full of terrorists in the open ocean — and then they do what Special Forces are trained to do, which is to kill people.
    More generally, though, there might well be a calculation that they can ride out the protests and thus set a new precedent. If you can get away with massacring an international aid convoy, you can pretty much get away with anything.
    I’ve been thinking about Anna Akhmatova.

    Why is this age worse than earlier ages?
    In a stupor of grief and dread
    have we not fingered the foulest wounds
    and left them unhealed by our hands?

    The foul wounds include the Iraq war and the Gaza war. Because no-one was ever held accountable, the political culture has continued to fester, and now we’re plumbing new depths.

  19. I agree that things within Israel have gone pretty sociopathic. Because Israel exists in a state of extreme paranoia, even unarmed boats of civilians carrying medical aid become a threat. When a paranoid mind gets to those levels, everything is a threat and must be destroyed before it gets any closer. Israel’s paranoia is so enormous that its boundaries now extend out into international waters, and indeed into the territories of other states. That is why it pushes everybody else. If Israel does indeed get away with this – as in many ways it will – then yes, anything becomes possible. And we all happily go along with Israel’s paranoid fantasies because it suits us, because we also like them, tend to see threats where there are none, and so forth. Having hyped-up special forces who will shoot unarmed people asleep, or waving white flags is what a paranoid sociopathic entity needs. We have entered a new phase I think.
    Russian women poets seem to have a lot to say about contemporary suffering of this kind:

    \In my own twentieth century
    where there are more dead than graves
    to put them in, my miserable
    forever unshared love

    among those Goya images
    is nervous, faint, absurd,
    as, after the screaming of jets,
    the trump of Jericho.\
    – Natalya Gorbanyevskaya

  20. The best way to honor those killed and to all peace activists, as best you can do is to bring humanitarian aid rather than 750 people and three ships, now 10,000 people and 30 boats in humanitarian aid to Gazans

  21. And it looks like there will be another flotilla too. A few ships didn’t make the flotilla for various reasons. The ‘Rachel Corrie’ got left behind, as it was a bit slow getting out of Ireland, So looks like we may be on again soon.

  22. Thanks Jeff and others,
    The process of dehumanising the activists is in full flight. The process of misinformation can be mapped by the steady change in facts designed to justify a slaughter as self defence. The official supposedly ‘independent’inquiries will take years. Those seeking the truth will be undermined or worse. We need to reveal these tactics for what they are and keep looking for the real information. This attack on a humanitarian aid project is unspeakably sad and destructive.

    • It will be interesting to see how the Rudd government handles this in the light of the recent ‘diplomatic fallout’ over forged passports. Maxine McKew was guarded in her comments on Q&A last night. Expect the same from others. Calls for ‘restraint on both sides’, ‘regret’ and ‘sadness’ can be expected in bucketloads but it is very unlikely that Australia will formally condemn the Israeli action, especially if the Americans remain lukewarm.

      The Israelis have destroyed the peace process and I can’t help but think that it was intentional, again. Pre-emptive escalation to violence is a standard Israeli tactic followed by waves of hysterical, entirely unbelievable hasbara.

      I find the use of language extraordinary. Regev and other Israeli foreign office representatives have portrayed the armed commandos as the victims. The agressors, apparently, were the reportedly unarmed occupants of the boats. Orwellian indeed. Clearly, the flotilla was more than a humanitarian exercise and was designed to draw attention to the effects of the blockade on the people of Gaza. But the killing of these activists is just despicable and entirely unwarranted.

      I also noted an Israeli official referring to the Australian policy of intercepting boats at sea as a precendent for their action. Nice one, Australia.

      Can’t wait for Paul McGeogh’s reports on this.

  23. I kept hearing the word ‘provocation’ this morning used as a justification for the dropping of Israeli soldiers onto the decks of these boats. Then I saw the footage which showed a crutch (presumably one of the so-called weapons on board) and banner poles strewn about between the people who did look like ‘protestors’ or to say it more clearly, ordinary people. In my mind the word ‘provocation’ suddenly became synonymous with the recently-removed defence to murder in domestic violence cases in Australia. And that was all about perpetrators not wanting to hear certain things being said which seems, now, spookily like the Israelis in their quest to demonstrate ‘right’ is on their side.

  24. Thanks Jeff, Jacinda and all. Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire and her colleagues are clearly no actual threat to Israel’s military (except in a symbolic sense)- so why an act of war? Tragic and inexcusable, I hope it is the catalyst for action the article proposes.

    I read Golda Meir’s autobiography and I think she must be rolling in her grave with shame at what Israel has become.

  25. For anyone who hasn’t seen this awe-inspiring clip, here is Glenn Greenwald (from Salon.com) vs Eliot Spitzer (former NYC Governor) on MSNBC, dissecting the current state of Israel (article here):

    • I am constantly astounded by the absolute dehumanisation of Palestinians in the media. This is Jeremy Scahill vs Ed Koch, again from msnbc.

      • My sister is in America at the moment – she says Fox News makes the Herald Sun look like a Communist newspaper.

  26. Israeli government office apologizes for mock flotilla video

    The Israeli government’s press division is apologizing for circulating a link to a video that mocks activists aboard a ship headed to Gaza earlier this week that was blocked by an Israeli raid.

    “Due to a misunderstanding on our part, earlier (Friday) we inadvertently issued a video link that had been sent for our perusal,” according to a statement from Israel’s Government Press Office, which distributed the link to media outlets.

    “It was not intended for general release,” the statement said. “The contents of the video in no way represent the official policy of either the Government Press Office or of the State of Israel.”

    The video was created by JPost columnist, Caroline Glick, who remarks, ‘We think this is an important Israeli contribution to the discussion of recent events and we hope you distribute it far and wide’.

    And Mark Regev, in his typically paradoxical way, says, ‘I called my kids in to watch it because I thought it was funny. It is what Israelis feel. But the government has nothing to do with it. The GPO distributes non-government items, things that we think that show our side of the story.’

    I have included the video below. It is disturbing and filled with racial hatred – and reveals, yet again, the attitudes of those controlling the media and PR in Israel.

    • Great interview with US/Palestinian lit critic/writer Saree Makdisi this morning on Al Jazeera. He pointed out, among other things, that the actions of ordinary people – the freedom flotilla and the boycott movement – have managed to achieve what decades of ‘peace talks’ haven’t, and that he thought that this would continue.

      • Thanks Stephen, I’ll try and find it.

        Personally, I think something has shifted – tangibly shifted. I went to the rally in Melbourne again yesterday and people are talking about mobilisation and strategies, and there is a much more open dialogue about the bds campaign.

        And, of course, in Sweden and the UK (and at least the Trades Hall Union in Melbourne), unions are taking official positions. It would be good to see a full list of unions taking action. And to see some Australian universities calling for divestment.

  27. I agree. It’s like the beginning of the final period of apartheid in South Africa, when it became increasingly controversial for anyone to have anything to do with the regime.

  28. The Lede blog at the NYT is waging a war against the Israeli flotilla PR campaign:

    The capture of the commandos moments after they rappelled down onto the Mavi Marmara from helicopters to meet fierce resistance from the passengers on the top deck led several Israeli military and civilian officials — including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — to suggest that the subsequent use of deadly force was justified because otherwise the soldiers would have been “lynched” by the passengers who seized them.

    Several of the passengers involved in the confrontation have disputed that interpretation of the chaotic start of the raid. As The Lede noted on Tuesday, Ken O’Keefe, a former United States Marine who told Turkish and Israeli newspapers that he had helped disarm the commandos said, “The lives of the three commandos were at our mercy — we could have done with them whatever we wanted.”

    Ali Abunimah, a founder of the Electronic Intifada, argued in a post on his blog that images of the commando being treated by Dr. Uysal, along with other photographs apparently taken during the raid that show bloodied and disarmed commandos in the custody of passengers inside the ship, contradict Israeli suggestions that the aim of the passengers was to kill the soldiers.

    In a telephone interview conducted in Turkish, Dr. Uysal said that he had treated three Israeli commandos and argued that this proved that the passengers had no intention of killing them:

    First of all it’s against logic that these soldiers would not be killed but instead be taken to the medical center if the intention of the activists was to kill them. If people on board were so eager to hurt them, why would they not just shoot them to death once they had taken their guns? Why bother carting them inside for treatment? It just doesn’t add up.

    I am a doctor, and the Israeli soldiers were brought to me to check their medical situation and treat them properly. I had our dead bodies and injured people lying in front of me and I was treating the soldiers that actually killed and wounded them. None of our friends in the center approached to harm or hurt them. Our injured people were lying on the ground, but I rested the soldiers on our chairs.

    Asked about the wounds the commandos suffered, the doctor said:

    None of the soldiers had any fatal wounds that would cause organ loss or defects. There were scratches on their faces, but since facial skin is sensitive and very likely to bleed in any trauma, there was blood on their faces — which I cleaned carefully to see what kind of injuries they had. In the end, they happened to be only scratches.

    The third soldier, however, suffered a cut in his stomach that reached his stomach membrane but not the organ itself. It was nothing fatal. As a doctor, I wouldn’t want to guess the nature of this injury but it could have been caused by either landing on a sharp pole from the helicopter or a blow from a pipe with a sharp edge. I couldn’t tell.

    Dr Uysal goes onto describe his treatment at the hands of the IDF:

    They handcuffed all of us with plastic bands so tightly that they could easily cause irreversible damage to our shoulder tissues. They made us kneel on our knees with hands handcuffed as the helicopters caused sea water to splash on us for three hours. I was shouting that I was a doctor and that my shoulder hurt in a very serious way. They pretended not to hear me. I wanted to go to the toilet; they didn’t let me. After I kept yelling about my shoulder they let my hands loose but not those of my friends.

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