Monday, July 12, 2010

Israel Exonerates Israel in Flotilla Massacre - But It Won't Stop Global Backlash

You've got to hand it to the Israeli government when it comes to chutzpah. They refuse to permit any independent inquiry into their massacre of nine humanitarian aid activists in international waters. Their own "inquiry" has reached the stunning conclusion that the only criticism that should be directed at the operation is that they weren't prepared for the potential for violence.
The report, however, praised the commandos who took part in the operation, saying they were justified in opening fire and killing nine people after being confronted by violent pro-Palestinian activists aboard one of the ships.
Huh? So, let me get this straight - commandos illegally board your ship, firing live rounds from the air and the sea and if you resist this violent assault then you are a "violent pro-Palestinian activist"? I shudder to think what a "better" planned assault would look like: drop a bomb and sink the ship outright?
Well, this bogus inquiry might soothe consciences in Israel where the population is used to killing innocents by the boatload to justify the theft of land from the locals. But in the rest of the world there are a significant number of people prepared to call "bullshit" on such a farce. As Phyllis Bennis, a widely read commentator on US foreign policy notes:
The ferocity of the massacre on the Mavi Marmara has forced even reluctant U.S. allies to criticize Israeli policy, some for the first time. For some countries, the reaction has been exceptionally strong. Turkey, responding to the murders on board the Turkish-flagged ship, withdrew its ambassador from Israel and announced a reduction in overall military and trade relations. Turkish President Abdullah Gul stated that "from now on, Turkish-Israeli ties will never be the same. The incident has left a deep and irreparable scar." Turkey then issued three demands to Israel as the price for restoring normal relations: apologize for the raid, organize an independent investigation, and significantly, to lift the blockade of Gaza. Losing or even diminishing Israel's longstanding relations with NATO's only Muslim-majority country, ties that included access to water, joint military exercises and a ready market for military exports, will have serious consequences for Tel Aviv...
NATO has yet to respond, but Turkey is reported to be considering a request to the NATO High Command to answer Israel's act of war against the Turkish-flagged ship with an act of collective defense as required under the NATO charter.
Even within the US establishment itself, Israel is increasingly seen as a problem, rather than a useful ally. According to this article in Palestine Monitor:
It [is] not surprising therefore to read that the Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset as recently as June 2010: “For the US, we have ceased to be an asset and become a burden.”
The effect of this growing pressure on Israel, and the growing momentum of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign is creating an atmosphere of frustration inside Israel, with the Israeli government proposing a new raft of laws meant to punish any Israeli professors who support the BDS campaign. Rather than squelching the campaign, it has instead drawn more people into opposition to the government's heavy-handed response.
And while there is a bunker mentality forming amongst a significant portion of the population, others are instead critical of the government for not ending the occupation. If the BDS campaign gains further momentum and begins to seriously impact the Israeli economy and visible cultural events and production, it will become clear to ever wider swathes of the Israeli population that the Occupation must end. It's clear that as much as the Israeli government wants to hand-wave and outright lie about what happened on the Mavi Marmara, it has only increased the international opposition and isolation of Israel.
Israeli campaigners believe the Gaza flotilla incident represents a tipping point in raising support for boycotts. Musicians including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron and the Pixies have cancelled shows in Israel. Hollywood actors also snubbed Jerusalem's international film festival and internationally acclaimed writers have supported the BDS movement, which is gaining support in dozens of countries.
In early June, George Galloway announced that Viva Palestina, which was central to the last flotilla, will organize another, more massive convoy from both land and sea. The goal is to have 60 ships and 500 vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses. The convoy and flotilla will set out on Sunday, September 12. The world will be watching.

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