Israel’s history of attacks against overseas activists

1 Jun

Is it of any surprise that Israel’s military has conducted a commando-style attack against Gaza Freedom Flotilla activists?

Prior to the attack and according to a press release by the International Solidarity Movement issued on behalf of the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Israel has said it would ‘block the mission from delivering much-needed aid to the beleaguered coastal strip’. Furthermore, senior Israeli ministers ‘have decided that the Israeli Navy will enforce a twenty mile exclusion zone around Gaza and will arrest all 800 crew and passengers taking part in the Freedom Flotilla should they pursue their mission to break the ongoing siege of Gaza’. Another Al Jazeera report basically said the same thing. This Time article reiterated Israel’s stance but added that instead of being shunned, Israel would be accepted as a member of the OECD this week by Western governments.

This brings us back to the point where Western governments and implicitly, others states as well, have often allowed the Israeli government to not only blatant disregard international law, but also carry attacks against Palestinian peace activists. Military style campaigns coupled with PR offensive targeting humanitarian and UN agencies are supposedly fair game as the Israeli government defend their brutal and repressive tactics.

A recent history of attacks against peace activists (compiled by Al Jazeera) lists various courageous individuals such as Rachel Corrie who was bulldozed in 2003 as she was trying to stop home demolition. James Miller, a cameraman was shot dead by Israeli soldiers while making a documentary. Tristan Anderson suffered from brain injuries after being shot with tear gas cannisters. In the latest West Bank protest against the attacks on Gaza Freedom Flotilla, an American activist, Emily Henochowicz lost her eye after being shot with tear gas projectile. The Only Democracy (a project of Jewish Voice for Peace) has also documented other peaceful protests and forceful clampdowns from the military often ignored by mainstream media. Consider this demonstration where soldiers beat up unprovoked protesters. When it comes to Israel’s ‘security’, everyone, regardless of their nationalities, can be forcibly removed and injured. Even the UN can be brushed away. Recall the bombing of UN schools in Gaza last year during Operation Cast Lead. John Ging, director of operations in Gaza for UNRWA, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency had reiterated that the building was used to shield civilians and that its staff had vetted and ensured no militants were hiding out in their premises. The school was also clearly marked with a UN flag and that the Israeli authorities were informed of its location a prior to the shelling.

What about this latest attack on the fleet of aid ships? The Turkish government had conducted security checks to ensure that only humanitarian aid was being delivered on board. The organisers had also conducted non-violent trainings for these activists. It is therefore highly unlikely that these protestors would have started attacking anyone if the Israeli military had not gone in all gungho and guns-a- blazing. While a full scale independent inquiry would tell us more, it needs no repeating that what has happened was not and should not be treated as an isolated incident. This military act to stop humanitarian aid from reaching an impoverished population is criminal.

As Marwan Bishara, a senior political analyst for Al Jazeera wrote,

‘The Israeli military’s justification that its soldiers were lynched and hence were defending themselves adds insult to death… However, regardless of exactly what happened on those solidarity ships, Israeli use of force will prove self-defeating. Attacking other nations’ citizens in international waters because they resisted arrest is not only illegal, but serves to demean international legal norms’.

He concluded, ‘Israel’s motto has long been: ‘Israel does whatever it must, and the world (Goyim) can say all they want.’

At the risk of repeating myself, this latest attack against an aid ship is nothing new. Nothing that the Israeli authorities have never tried before. Its contempt for international law, including the UN is astounding.

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