Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Israel Kills Innocent Protestors: Rest Of World Not Bothered

I mean, come on, exactly what does it take for Israel to provoke a truly international outcry? In case you missed it, yesterday Israeli commandos rapelled from helicopters onto a ship carrying humanitarian aid to the imprisoned population of Gaza and killed between 10 and 19 unarmed (unless you think a stick is an arm) civilian activists. Get this: the ship was in international waters about 70km from Israel. So, act of war? Piracy? Mindless, vicious and brutal over-reaction? Whatever it was, Israel has once more enthusiastically leapt over the line that divides civilized nations from rogue states.

Half a dozen countries have given their Israeli ambassadors a ticking off (including Spain, God bless 'em). Billy Hague in the UK has expressed 'regret'. The US is 'seeking to understand what happened' - by the time they've sifted through the lies of the Israeli government, everyone will have forgotten the incident.

There were some fairly heated exchanges about this on Twitter yesterday - especially in the afternoon when America woke up (#flotilla & #freedomflotilla). The Israeli PR machine pumped out the most outrageous lies and that was the only news most Americans got.

Listen, I think it's a great idea for Jews to have their own state. Really, I do. The only thing I have against Jews is exactly the same thing I have against followers of any organised religion (basically 'you are deluded about heaven and hell, your antecedents have done some real shitty stuff in the past, and no, I'm not going to join you if that's what it takes to be "saved"'). Zionist zealots, on the other hand, can go fuck themselves, along with fundamentalist Christians, radical Islamists and anyone else who thinks religion has the answer to anything.

The problem with Israel is that it's in the wrong place. Its location could not be more wrong if you tried. But the Jews were given this bit of land in Palestine, on the understanding they'd get along with their Arab neighbours and not try to expand. They immediately kicked out the Arabs and began appropriating more land. On reflection, it would have been far better to give them Tierra del Fuego. They'd still have caused trouble, but at least not in such a religious- and oil'n'gas-sensitive area.

But that's by-the-by. There will never be peace in the Middle East as long as Israel is allowed to carry on like the spoilt brat it is, with the financial, political and emotional support of the US moneygarchy.

I had hoped that Obama would really make a difference in the world, and the Middle East in particular. Imagine his surprise when he sat down in the Oval Office for the first time and was told who exactly runs the US (it ain't the Pres, that's for sure).

So I don't know what should be done about Israel, an immoral, amoral, illegal and brutally violent state that does exactly what it feels like, no matter what the United Nations says. Should it stay or should it go? 'Go' would be my answer, but I know that's never going to happen. So, 'stop being a bastard and get along with thy neighbours' is probably the best we can hope for.

And you know what? Stranger things have happened. Here's a few that I would have ranked in improbability along with England winning the FIFA World Cup again:

1) Abolition of apartheid in South Africa
2) Demolition of the Berlin Wall
3) Collapse of the USSR

I hope this incident will change the way the world (especially the UK and the US, who are responsible for the whole damn mess in the first place) views Israel, and they can be made to just behave themselves. I doubt it, but stranger things have happened.


Marcella O'Connor said...

Watching Israel's foreign policy is like watching someone banging their head against a wall over and over again and expecting a different result. I've been arguing with their defense minister over twitter since yesterday and they keep tweeting these justifications like, "They were sailing parallel to Israel." Who cares? In international waters, they can sail in any direction they please.

They've also tried to argue that their blockade is legal, which seems a bit implausible seeing as how the UN has rushed to condemn the blockade.

I'm happy that Ireland has actually condemned the attack on the flotilla and are demanding that the Rachel Corrie be allowed to sail through. And doesn't the government of Israel have some cheek to forge Irish passports for their agents when they're carrying out political assassinations?

And just what the hell are they doing on twitter arguing with people like me? It would be sad if it wasn't so comical.

Brn said...

I'm trying to make sure that I hear all sides of this story, so I'm curious if you'd tell me which of the stories are outrageous lies. Also how you know that all the outrageous lies are on the Israeli side.

Also, I'm fairly certain that a stick is a weapon and that people have been killed by them. Certainly not as deadly as a firearm, but still a potentially deadly weapon.

I really do mean this honestly, I'm not trying to provoke or anything, just looking for more information.

Keefieboy said...

Marcella: welcome!

Brn: welcome back! It's too late at night for me to go trawling the web for links. Let's just say, if you are on a ship in international waters (this is the undeniable and absolutely crucial bit of the story) and 45 commandos descend on it from helicopters brandishing lethal weapons (some reports say actually firing before they landed), what are you going to do? It's either an act of piracy, or an act of war. Israeli authorities have said the Turkish organising outfit has links to Al-Qaeda, Hezbollah, the Taliban, and any other bad guys it can think of. none of that is true. They say the activists are terrorists, also not true.

The organisers went to great lengths to ensure that nobody on any of the ships was carrying firearms: apparently two protestors managed to grab pistols from the invaders.

How do I know who's lying and who's telling the truth? Like you, Brn, I'm getting on a bit, and I've seen what happens. If a politician is breathing and talking, chances are he's lying. Accusing the flotilla of being terrorists bent on the destruction of the State of Israel is just self-evident nonsense.


Brn said...

Agreed, even Israel admits that the ship was in international waters, so this isn't like the dust up between the UK and the Iranians a few years ago. And because of that it certainly could be a case of self-defense.

I have seen some pro-Israel defenders claim that that doesn't matter, that the flotilla's clear declaration of intent to violate the blockade meant that they didn't have to wait until their territory was violated. Not being an expert in maritime and/or international law, I have no idea if that is so.

I agree with you about the trustworthiness of the political class, but then in a situation like this, I can easily imagine both sides lying at the same time. Everyone is innocent in their own eyes.

I definitely think that we need an independent investigation to find out what really happened and settle the issues that we just don't know the answer to.

Keefieboy said...

@Brn: yes, the international waters point is a bit of sophistry. The flotilla were openly heading to Gaza to deliver aid to Palestinians, and were openly flouting Israel's wish for them to dock at Ashdod, where the Israelis had promised to take care of it by making sure that not a single item would be sent into Gaza. That was the whole point of their mission. And the point that the rest of the world finds a bit inconvenient is that half a million people are being held prisoner and starved in Gaza under siege conditions.

I personally don't like it that Hamas took control of Gaza and brought this siege down upon the people. I have very little time for Hamas at all, in fact. But, the fact remains that those caught up in it, whether they want to be or not, are well and truly stuffed, and they need help. The whole situation drives me nuts.

Hand on heart, I don't believe for a nanosecond that anyone on those ships had any other intention than to deliver physical aid where it is needed, and to stick a finger up to the Israeli government.

For the IDF to just randomly kill unto death at least 9 protestors makes me sick. I really hope we are seeing the death throes of the State of Israel. They've had 60 years to get their act together and they just cannot understand how a grown-up country should behave.

Brn said...

Again, I'm not expert in maritime law, but if Israel's argument is just a sophistry, they have taken in the BBC with it: 'A ship trying to breach a blockade can be boarded and force may be used to stop it as long as it is "necessary and proportionate".' Can you tell me where you are getting your info about it being bogus? (If you can and have the time - you are under no obligation to me.)

The same article also says "An investigation, either by the UN or by the ship's flag-carrier Turkey, is required to find if the use of force [by Israel] was proportionate to a claim of self defence." That seems right.

I think that everyone would be better off waiting until we know exactly what happened. Trial first, verdict later. That is how I learned it anyway.

Graeme said...

Well a blockade is essentially an act of war. Britain could declare a blockade of France tomorrow and even try to enforce it through the use of arms, but nobody else would be under any obligation of any kind to respect that blockade. You can argue it's a different matter if the international "community" gives support to a blockade. Not the case here. For a country to blockade another territory as an alternative to occupying it directly is something that has no legal basis. Israel has repeatedly breached the international conventions on treatment of occupied peoples and will continue to do so whilst the rest of the world allows it to.

Brn said...


I agree completely that Israel has committed crimes in the past and it is possible that they absolutely without legal standing here. If an investigation shows that, I would support sanctions against them.

But your UK/France blockade is not on point. Gaza is not equivalent to a sovereign country. A better, though still not perfect, analogy would be the UK blockading Wales to stop Welsh freedom fighters/terrorists (depending on your point of view) from getting military supplies from another country.

Please note: I'm not saying that Israel is in the right about this incident or the blockade. I'm saying that the situation is not the black and white one you are making it out to be.

Graeme said...

Well the UK/Wales analogy fails on a couple of issues. One because Wales forms part of the UK whilst Gaza does not in any sense belong to Israel. Secondly, because the blockade is not just aimed at military supplies. Gaza does not form part of a sovereign country because Israel has prevented Palestinian sovereignty from happening. Instead they have converted it into a giant open prison. Occupation or its equivalent creates more legal obligations for a country than a simple blockade does. Israel has systematically ignored those obligations both in Gaza and in the West Bank. A thief that obeys traffic signals doesn't stop being a thief.

Brn said...

Agreed that the Wales/UK analogy is not perfect, as any analogy is not. The Gaza/Israel situation is unique. You have certainly found the points where my analogy breaks down. This it the problem with argument by analogy. However it is closer to the Gaza/Israel relationship than the one you provide, which was one of my points.

My main point, in the end, is that we need an independent, international investigation to find out a) exactly what happened and b) what we should do about it. If it is found that Israel is in the wrong here, I would completely support sanctions against them.

Is it really to much to ask that we wait until after the trial to have the hanging?

Graeme said...

Well the big doubt in such cases is whether there will be a trial at all, or at least an independent or thorough one. Israel clearly has lots of video footage of the assault - a good start woud be for them to hand it all over without editing or tendentious captions.

My original point about the blockade before we got mixed up with analogies was that declaring a blockade does not necessarily give you any special rights or legitimacy at all, never mind that of intercepting ships in international waters and killing some of those on board.

Brn said...

Agree completely about handing over all footage, both IDF produced and that the passengers produced, unedited, to anyone who wants it.

Dubai Jazz said...

Great post Keefieboy. Cosign on every word!

You know, Israel committed abhorrent war crimes before (as documented by the Goldstone report on the Gaza massacre, for example) and got away with it. In fact, the Goldstone report categorically mentioned Israel’s impunity as one of the reasons why there’s no peace in the middle east. When Israel realized that it will be held accountable to its actions, it’ll become more inclined to end its occupation, stop settlement building, and allow the refugees to return. But as long as Israel perceives the situation from security point of view, and not from a human rights’ one, (and as long as it’s allowed to do so by the international community), then why should Israel end its occupation? Why should it give a damn about the suffering of the Palestinians?

This incident in particular made the world furious for two reasons: first because the flotilla was, first and foremost, a humanitarian aid campaign. And second, because the victims are, in this case, none Palestinians, and had no political agenda.

Why should Israel be allowed to impose a blockade on Gaza and not vice versa? Given the magnitude of Israel‘s import of weaponry (especially USA-made bombs that Goldstone ascertained were used in war crimes), I think the Palestinians are entitled to be more suspicious of Israel-bound ships than Israel is of theirs… . Just sayin’

Brn said...

Hi DJ,

I did not say that the blockade is right. I said that the BBC says that IF a blockade exists, then...

So IF that is true, then the fact that this happened in international waters is not, ipso facto, proof that Israel is wrong - it also isn't proof that it is right. Again, investigate, let's find out.

Also, in fairness, the Goldstone report also found war crimes committed by the Palestinians, so it isn't as if there is absolute right on one side and absolute wrong on the other. None of that means that the blockade is right.

Good points though.

Dubai Jazz said...


The BBC link you provided says:

"The UN Charter on the Law of the Sea says only if a vessel is suspected to be transporting weapons, or weapons of mass destruction, can it be boarded in international waters."

The idea that Israel had suspicions about weapons being transported in these ships is ludicrous; since these ships have been inspected by customs officials of more than one country. And even then it doesn't justify boarding the ships forcefully, killing some activists and arresting the rest. (and confiscating the aid)

It also said:

"The charter allows for naval blockades, but the effect of the blockade on civilians must be proportionate to the effect on the military element for the blockade to be legally enforceable."

Since the blockade has left Gaza is dire humanitarian circumstances, I guess it's fair to assume that it's illegal. You may refer to reports by Red Cross, Oxfam..etc.. or even the UN statement which Marcella had referred to.

Either way, Israel blockade of Gaza, and its military enforcement of it which had resulted in the murder of peace activists, are illegal and inhumane. I hope this issue, at least, is black and white to you. Yes, Hamas also had committed war crimes, and I'd also like to see those responsible held accountable in court of international law. But what we see in reality is an Israeli prime minister received in the white house with hugs and kisses, while Hamas is excommunicated and boycotted.

Brn said...


Yes, the BBC article says those things, as well as what I said that it did. I think that that fact that there are so many conflicting and interlocking laws and treaties is why we need an investigation. The reason why I pointed out what I did is that it went against our hosts statement that the interception was unlawful. I'm willing to believe that it is. I would just prefer that that fact be decided by an international panel of experts on these arcane matters.

As for the "Israeli prime minister received in the White House with hugs and kisses", that isn't what happened most recently. I don't know if you saw the reports about Netanyahu's reception when he visited in March, but it was far from friendly. (I just used that link because it was the first one I found - this was widely reported and caused great consternation on the part of Israel's supporters here.)

I'm sure that it still isn't what you and many others want, but it is also far from the usual cosy relationship.

I agree, it is black and white that the blockade (as well as many of the other things that Israel does) is horribly unfair and oppressive to those that want to live in peace. But so are the missiles and artillery shells that fall in Sderot and other Israeli cities. That is also black and white.

Moreover, I'll tell you what else is black and white: That there are all too many innocent people on both sides, who want to only live their lives, work at their jobs, and enjoy time with their children, but are suffering at the hands of idiots, opportunists, and thugs on both sides.

Dubai Jazz said...

Hi Brn,

Regarding the legalities of the raid, there's an opinion piece by an Aussie law professor which calls the capturing of the activists "arbitrary, unlawful detention".


As for the rest of your comment, fair enough. But I don't subscribe to the 'two sides' argument. As far as I'm concerned (and at the fear of sounding arrogant, I'm assuming I know more about the conflict than you), there's only one aggressor side and the other is the victim. It's the Palestinians who were ethnically cleansed, displaced, and brutally occupied. Israel, while many of its citizens are normal people like you and me, practices the ugliest policies of apartheid and racial segregation even amongst its own Arab citizens inside the red line.

thanks for the exchange. and apologies to Keefie for hijacking his comments' section.

Keefieboy said...

DJ: keep it going, it's all traffic! Nice to see a reasonable argument without name-calling.

Brn said...

Hi DJ,

First, thanks for the link to the article. He makes a lot of sense.

I've got two more you might find interesting, one from Craig Murray, former British ambassador, who is agreement with your side, and another by Kevin Jon Heller, an American law professor, who has some interesting points on both sides.

Re your other point: You probably do know more about many parts of the horrible and bloody history of this conflict. I respect your opinion and I'm not going to try to prove you wrong, because it is probably pointless and because I'm not sure that you are more right than wrong.

However, I've been learning more in the last few years, from all perspectives, about what has happened and everything I've learned has taught me that the history that you relate is a rather extreme oversimplification.

My academic training is in history. During that it was always true that the more I learned about any conflict, the more I found that they all were more nuanced and complicated that they seem at first glance. (e.g. Even WWII isn't a complete example of black and white. The Germans and the Japanese had true grievances. The French and especially the English practically forced the Italians into siding with the Germans before the war.) The Allies committed many acts that would horrify us today.)

I suppose that it is possible that this conflict is unique in human history, and that the more you learn about it the less complex it is. But I doubt it.

I think that I've said about all that I need to, so if you want the last word, you are welcome to it.

I want to thank you, and Graeme, and our gracious host for such an interesting and civil conversation.

Brn said...

Doh! The last clause of the third paragraph should be "I'm not sure that you are not more right than wrong."

Tim Newman said...

Whatever it was, Israel has once more enthusiastically leapt over the line that divides civilized nations from rogue states.

Actually, I don't think they behaved any differently from how any other country would if a ship without a cargo or passenger manifest tried to enter a port without the permission from the port authorities and which refused to listen to the port authority's instructions. You think the Turks would let a flotilla of Greek boats dock in a northern Cyprus port on a politically charged mission?

Tim Newman said...

Incidentally, I honestly think anyone else who matters in the rest of the world knows that, hence they're not bothered.

Keefieboy said...

@Tim, I wasn't aware these manifests weren't available. As far as how other countries would react, there's only a very few in the world that would even contemplate boarding a ship in the way they did and pumping bullets into the passengers. Even without manifests, you can be assured the Israelis knew precisely who and what was on that ship. As for it trying to enter a port without permission:
1) They weren't - they were 70km out at sea,
2) Surely the port belongs to Gaza, not Israel (a naive supposition, but you get the point).

Tim Newman said...

As far as how other countries would react, there's only a very few in the world that would even contemplate boarding a ship in the way they did and pumping bullets into the passengers.

I honestly disagree. If a ship tried to forcibly enter any port in the world without a cargo or passenger manifest and ignored all directions of the port authority, it would do well to avoid being sunk. A military boarding party would be a certainty, and if that party was attacked they would probably be met with brutal if not deadly force. Perhaps somebody ought to try it in Shanghai or Vladivostok harbour?

Even without manifests, you can be assured the Israelis knew precisely who and what was on that ship.

I don't think they would have had a clue. How would they? Mossad doesn't operate in northern Cyprus as a matter of course.

As for it trying to enter a port without permission:
1) They weren't - they were 70km out at sea,

But they had made clear their intention they were going to attempt to dock without permission in Gaza. When it comes to legal wrangling, stuff like intentions matter.

There is enough of a precedent that a ship intending to do something illegal can be intercepted before it reaches domestic waters. The Royal Navy has boarded a ship in international waters which was headed towards a UK port carrying drugs; I believe the boarding took place in international waters for operational reasons. The Israelis could and probably will mount a strong case that the ships were intending to dock illegally in a port under Israeli control and having ignored the requests of the port authority were boarded in international waters for operational reasons.

It might come as surprise to those who were on board, but being on a ship in international waters does not mean you can do what the hell you like without consequence.

2) Surely the port belongs to Gaza, not Israel (a naive supposition, but you get the point).

As the de facto authority running the Gaza ports, Israel must shoulder certain responsibilities, one of which is controlling what and who enters the port in a manner consistent with IMO regulations, amongst other things. That the rule itself is not de jure does not render the Israeli laws invalid in a manner that they can be ignored with impunity. Precedents abound for this sort of thing: the Chinese in Tibet, the Russians in Abkhazia, the Turkish in Northern Cyprus. Regardless of whether the world recognises the Turkish rule of Northern Cyrprus, it's laws still apply. The two issues are separate.

Keefieboy said...

@Tim: you're approaching this from a military perspective, while ignoring the human tragedy. Which, I know, is what you normally do. It doesn't make the Israeli action right by any measure that I would use. I'm not a big fan of the Palestinians and the hapless way they've conducted themselves in their opposition to occupation. But I was never a fan of Zionism either, and I think this cack-handed reaction to a flotilla of foreigners who genuinely wanted to help the prisoners of Gaza marks the beginning of the end of Netanyahu's regime, if not of Israel itself.

Tim Newman said...

@Tim: you're approaching this from a military perspective, while ignoring the human tragedy.

True, I am, and you're right, I usually do. But this goes a long way to explaining why the rest of the world isn't bothered, the people you would rely on to act in the face of human tragedy have got blood dripping off their elbows themselves.

I also think you are too charitable towards the people who manned the flotilla, to me this was a politicial stunt. If their only aim was to get aid into Gaza there were other methods (e.g. via the Egyptian crossing, and incidenally, where is the condemnation when that is closed?) and they would not have objected to the Israelis allowing the ships to go to another port. It looked to me like their chief motivation was to provoke a response from Israel under the guise of helping the Gazans.

One of the things that dawned on me when I was in the ME was that nobody gives a stuff about the Palestinians, the whole movement is an excuse to bash Jews and/or bash Israel and/or bash the USA. That nobody says a peep when Palestinians get killed by somebody other than Israelis is proof enough of that, coupled with the fact that the day Palestinians got independence in 1948 their fellow Arabs annexed their land and have delighted in keeping three generations of them in refugee camps since the Six Day War. Personally I think the Israelis are the least worst of the Palestinians' enemies: at least the Israelis don't pretend they give a stuff.

Dubai Jazz said...

^ Typical Israel apologia.

Yes, the activists didn't only want to deliver aid, they wanted to break the siege. Berthing at Ashdod wouldn't have been enough. And you've got to admit, the Flotilla incident did bring attention to the crisis in Gaza; even the US state department acknowledged the blockade is untenable.

Btw, blaming Arab countries for the plight of the Palestinian refugees is like blaming the death of the victim on the incompetence of the ER staff rather than on the real criminal. This peddling of "Nobody gives a shit about the Palestinians" BS is a pathetic red-herring to deflect attention from the real and the first collective crime Israel had committed upon its inception: the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. Israel is an apartheid state par excellence; Mandela called it so, and Desmond Tutu called it so. And unless the world collectively treat Israel like the pariah that SA was, there's not going to be any progress or peace.

Brn said...


If Tim isn't right in his basic point, why is it that the only time I ever hear Arabs complain about Muslims or Arabs being killed is when Israelis do it?

If that isn't so, then what was up with all the praising of Saddam, who was responsible for the deaths of more Muslims than any other person in the 20th century, after his admittedly imperfect trial?

Why isn't anyone demanding that something be done about China killing 140 Muslims last month?

For that matter, has anyone ever posted anything about the Hamas-Fatah conflict on the Community blog? I can't remember it if so. According to Wikipedia, 98 civilians have been killed.

Let me preemptively say I'm not saying that any of these things are equivalent to the other. Also, I'm not saying that I agree with everything that he said.

But when I was in the Emirates, the only times I ever heard other Arabs say then they would talk about the Palestinians would be considered horribly racist coming from an American. Was I just missing everything?

Dubai Jazz said...


I'm glad that you've stated upfront that none of the things you'd mentioned make any of the things that Israel does any less ugly.

I'm sure as a mature human being with your own moral code, you can look at what Israel or the Palestinians are doing and assess it on your own. You don't need me or Abdulla or the Arab Masses to tell you what to think.

Btw, most of the arguments you're using have been used for the apartheid in South Africa (I'm not suggesting that you do it intentionally, but they're rife in US MSM these days): that black people are backward and can't be given equal political rights; that Africa is otherwise teeming with wars and armed-conflicts. Heck, till this date I keep hearing racist anti-black arguments in the US citing stats on crime, prisoners' ratio and education all indicate that black people are lazy and shouldn't be given opportunity (affirmative action).

Bottom line is; human rights are universal. All people are entitled for opportunity, everyone deserve a break. And it's unconditional. Suppose other Arabs are the most racist, backward and barbaric people on earth: why is that the Palestinians' problem? why is it their problem that Saddam is popular? (btw, he is NOT popular because of what he did to his people, he's popular because he bombed Israel at a certain point) Why should Palestinians pay the price for the intellectual, political and cultural uncertainties and challenges the Arabs are facing these days? Why are the Palestinians, after 60 years of occupation and diaspora, expected to have thriving political life? why are the non-violent Palestinian figures, like Mustapha Al Barguthi or Ali Abunimah, aren't supported by the white house and the rest of the western powers like they supported Dalai Lama or Nelson Mandela?

At the end of the day, I assure you that beyond the hypocrisy of some Arab regimes, Arab *people* do genuinely care for the Palestinians. As for why there were not anger or protests against China's oppression of the Uyghurs: this is one of those "damned if you do, damned if you don't situations": Do you think it's right for Muslims world wide to speak against the cartoons in Denmark or the ban of Niqab in France? I don't. I'm secular and I don't believe in Muslim solidarity shit. I speak against all kind of discrimination equally. I have equal concerns for the Uughurs as I have for the tens of the thousands of women who get raped in Congo every year and nobody does shit about it. Or about the plight of Tamil in Sri Lanka. And this is how I view the Palestinian cause: as far as I'm concerned it's not a religious conflict (and btw, it serves Israel's narrative to frame it as such); it's a human rights issue first and foremost. And the only reason I'm passionate about it is because I'm more familiar with it through reading and listening to first hand accounts of expulsion and disposition of my Palestinian friends and their families.

(again, apologies for the long comments and thanks for the hospitality, Keefie :D )

Anthony Newman said...

Dubai Jazz,

You are proving my point for me.

I mention the treatment of the Palestinians at the hands of Arab governments who keep them in refugee camps, and you dismiss it as a "pathetic red-herring" to deflect attention away from Israel's alleged crimes, of which their formation seems to be considered one.

The issue has always been about Israel, the cause of the Palestinians is just an excuse.