Wednesday 2 June 2010

The Second Gaza War: Israel lost at sea

So once again the great might of the Israel Defence Force - the self styled most moral army in the world - excels itself in the art of killing and wounding innocent civilians. A balance of nine dead and countless wounded as a result of the Israeli attack on a Turkish vessel carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza. To make matters worse for Israel the attack took place in International waters. Which makes the attack either an act of piracy or even worse an act of war against Turkey. And despite Israeli claims their Forces did use violence against the other ships in the convoy. CNN has an interview in which an American woman who was on the flotilla headed for Gaza offers a first-hand account of the raid.

And all for what? To stop aid reaching the beleaguered Palestinians living in Gaza. Israel’s excuse that it needs to impose a naval blockade in order to prevent arms smuggling is laughable. Israel has one of the biggest and best equipped militaries in the whole world. While Gaza has what? Rockets from Gaza have only rarely killed anyone. And what right does Israel have to determine who can import arms anyway?

The real reason for the blockade is to punish Palestinians in Gaza for having the temerity to elect Hamas to power in the last free and fair elections in Palestine in 2006. Democracy anyone? Only if you elect our man or woman. Israel immediately imposed a ban on dealing with the Hamas government and started the blockade, supported alas by the USA and the UK. The result has been to create immense suffering and degradation, compounded of course by the massacres during the assault on Gaza in which some 1400 Gazans were killed. Ilegal, inhuman and insane: a medieval siege on Gaza in 2010. This was how the director of UNRWA operations in Gaza, John Ging, described the current situation in a recent speech in London.

But why does Israel fear Hamas so much? Precisely because Hamas can be trusted to fulfill its side of a bargain. As Jeremy Greenstock, a former British ambassador to the UN, points out in an article in the Guardian: “the Hamas government in Gaza has been pretty effective in controlling the few militant groups intent on threatening Israel with rockets – imperfectly perhaps, but not a single Israeli citizen has been killed (alas, one immigrant worker was) by a rocket since the Gaza bombing stopped in January 2009. They are also the implacable opponents of al-Qaida. They won a fair election in 2006 and claim to respect democracy. Let's test them on that. At present, Hamas security people are being sniped at by the Israeli Defence Forces when they try to arrest other militant groups. This is genuinely getting insane.” The trouble for Israel is that Hamas demands that Israel withdraws from all the post 1967 territories including all of the West Bank and East Jerusalem. Which up till now no Israeli government has been willing to even contemplate let alone implement. So Hamas must be ostracized and if at all possible destroyed - hence the blockade.

The Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla has vindicated the Goldstone Report and its central claim that Israel used disproportionate force and deliberately attacked civilians in the Gaza assault—just as Israel, albeit on a much smaller scale, did in the massacre aboard the flotilla. And just to emphasize that the use of disproportionate violence is the norm for Israel, here is an account of the horrifying fate which befell Emily Henochowicz, a young American who lost one eye during a peaceful demonstration in the West Bank.

The continuing use of violence by the Israelis however is beginning to have a counter effect. More and more voices are being raised in calling for a complete removal of the blockade. Gaza needs to be open for normal commercial and human activity-- not just for the trucking-in of international aid. Unfortunately the last country to face up to the reality of what is happening in Israel/Palestine is the USA. Here is Glen Greenwald recounting his recent experience on MSNB. This is what counts as a liberal, progressive cable channel in the USA. And we get three Israel-cheerers, followed by Greenwald for "balance". Among the Israel cheerers is guest-host, Eliot Spitzer, Hopkins law professor Ruth Wedgwood (nee Glushien) and former Netanayahu chief of staff, George Birnbaum. As if that were not enough, Wedgwood, known for her neocon political views and her support of Bush administration policies like military tribunals, was brought back to respond to Glenn Greenwald.

The good news is that in Israel itself there are still some courageous people speaking out against the madness that seems to have taken over the Israeli government. The title for this post has been taken from part of the headline to an article by Brandon Burston in the Israeli daily, Ha’aretz. In the article he makes the damning point (for Israelis): “We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege, which is itself becoming Israel's Vietnam.” Also in Ha’aretz, Gideon Levy has another fine piece with the heading - Gaza flotilla drives Israel into a sea of stupidity.

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