Israeli Commandos raid Aid Ship (Photo @ yalibnan.com)
by Glenn Greenwald
Late last night, Israel attacked a flotilla of ships in international waters carrying food, medicine and other aid to Gaza, killing at least 10 civilians on board and injuring at least 30 more (many reports now put the numbers at 19 dead and 60 injured).
*The Israeli Defense Forces is claiming that its soldiers were attacked with clubs, knives and “handguns” when they boarded the ship without permission, but none of the Israeli soldiers were killed while two are reported injured.
*Those on the ships emphatically state that the IDF came on board shooting (though see this video and discussion here, as well as this). An IDF spokesman said: “Our initial findings show that at least 10 convoy participants were killed.”
*The six-ship flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid along with 600 people, all civilians, which
* In December, 2008, Israel, citing rocket attacks from Hamas, launched a 22-day, barbaric attack on Gaza, bombarding a trapped population, killing hundreds of innocent civilians (1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed), and devastating Gazan society.
*A U.N. report released earlier this month documented that, as a result of the blockade imposed on Gaza by Israel and Egypt (the two largest recipients of U.S. aid), “[m]ost of the property and infrastructure damaged . . . was still unrepaired 12 months later.”
* The flotilla attacked by Israel last night was carrying materials such as cement, water purifiers, and other building materials, much of which Israel refuses to let pass into Gaza.
* At the end of 2009, a U.N. report found that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory,” and also “blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.“
*It hardly seemed possible for Israel — after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade — to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes. But by attacking a flotilla in international waters carrying humanitarian aid, and slaughtering at least 10 people, Israel has managed to do exactly that. If Israel’s goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt for it as possible, it’s hard to imagine how it could be doing a better job.
The one silver lining from these incidents is that the real face of Israel becomes increasingly revealed and undeniable. Not even the most intense propaganda systems can prettify a lethal military attack on ships carrying civilians and humanitarian aid to people living in some of the most wretched and tragic conditions anywhere in the world. It is crystal clear to anyone who looks what Israel has become, and the only question left is how will the rest of the world — beginning with their American patrons — will react.
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)
* Just ponder what we’d be hearing if Iran had raided a humanitarian ship in international waters and killed 15 or so civilians aboard.
*So, to recap what seems thus far to be the central claim of Israel apologists: Israel is the official Owner of international waters (which is where the flotilla was when it was attacked). As such, they have the right to issue orders to ships in international waters, and everyone on board those ships is required to obey and submit. Anyone who fails to do so, or anyone in the vicinity of those who fail to do so, can be shot and killed and get what they deserve.
*Israel’s foreign minister is now actually claiming that attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza are “an attack on Israel’s sovereignty.” Is that supposed to be some kind of a joke? The only claim that I can recall that’s remotely comparable is when the U.S. General serving as Commander of Guantanamo condemned suicides by three detainees there as an “act of asymmetric warfare waged against us.”
*The formal statement submitted to the U.N. by the U.S. Ambassador today rather clearly seeks to blame everyone — from Hamas to those attempting to deliver the aid — for what happened: everyone, that is, except for the party which actually did the illegal seizing of the ship and the killing (Israel)
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