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Israel’s Insane Attack on the Freedom Flotilla

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My heart sank when I heard the news of the IDF’s insane attack on the unarmed boats carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in which ten international volunteers were killed and many more were wounded. It was with great patriotic pride that I served in the IDF in 1964-1966. In those days the IDF was true to its name: the Israel Defence Force. Sadly, over the last four decades, my army has been subverted into the brutal police force of a savage colonial power.

The Israeli army receives its orders from the democratically-elected government. The present government, however, is the most irresponsible, right-wing and racist in Israel’s history. It seems to think that Israel is above the law and its behaviour is increasingly paranoid and irrational. Last night this government crossed yet another red line by ordering a totally unprovoked attack on innocent civilians carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid to the beleaguered people of Gaza. On the legality or morality of this attack there is no room for argument. Killing civilians is wrong. Period.

The brutality of the Israeli navy was fully matched by the mendacity of Israel’s official spokesmen. The plain facts are as follows. The Freedom Flotilla sailed from Cyprus to Gaza in six ships with over 700 activists and politicians from 40 countries, carrying 10,000 tons of building materials, food, medical supplies, and stationary for schools. Most of the people on the boats were asleep and there were no firearms on any of them. Israeli commandos descending from helicopters stormed the boats in the early hours of Monday morning while it was in international waters, about 90 miles (150km) from Gaza, where Israel has no jurisdiction. Meeting mild resistance, the commandos responded with live ammunition, and ended up perpetrating a cold-blooded massacre of peace activists. Israel’s official spokesmen claim that their soldiers acted in self-defence against terrorists wielding knives and clubs. Anyone who believes this will believe anything. The official version of this incident, as of most incidents involving the use of force, is a pile of garbage.

The backdrop to this act of piracy on the high is an unbroken record of Israeli brutality towards the 1.5 million inhabitants of Gaza going back to 1967. Although Israel withdrew unilaterally its settlers and soldiers from Gaza in August 2005, it continued to control access to the tiny territory by land, air and sea. Consequently, it is still the occupying power under international law, with responsibility for the welfare of the civilian population. In January 2006, Hamas won a fair and free all-Palestinian elections but Israel refused to recognize the Hamas-led government and did everything in its power to undermine it. In June 2007, Hamas seized power in Gaza to pre-empt a coup by its secular rival, Fatah. Following the seizure of power by Hamas, Israel imposed a blockade, severely restricting the flow of food, fuel and medical supplies to the Gaza Strip. The blockade is a form of collective punishment which is strictly forbidden by international law.

The Freedom Flotilla was a brave attempt by numerous human rights organizations not only to bring material relief to the long-suffering people of Gaza but to appeal to the conscience of mankind. For far too long the international community has watched passively the martyrdom of Gaza. The United States and European Union have compounded the problem by refusing to recognize Hamas and by joining the lawbreaker in applying economic sanctions to Gaza. As signatories to the Geneva Convention, all these countries have a duty to put pressure on Israel to lift the blockade. By failing to act, they have let down the people of Gaza. This lamentable inaction by the international community has enabled Israel to get away, literally, with murder.

The outgoing Labour government was both pusillanimous and feeble in its approach to the conflict. It was, indeed, complicit in Israel’s continuing crimes against the Palestinian people. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are both honorary patrons of the Jewish National Fund UK, an Israeli organization which caters only for Jews and not for Arabs. So is David Cameron. Cameron has an opportunity now to free British foreign policy from the shameful legacy of his predecessors. He can begin by revoking his membership of an organisation which discriminates against Israel’s Arab citizens. And he can follow up by imposing an embargo on the sale of British arms to Israel and by proposing EU trade sanctions to force Israel to end its occupation of the Palestinian territories – the most prolonged and brutal military occupation of modern times.

Avi Shlaim is a professor of international relations at the University of Oxford and the author of Israel and Palestine: Reappraisals, Revisions, Refutations (Verso, 2009).


Published on The Daily Mirror on 1st June 2010

8 commentaires - “Israel’s Insane Attack on the Freedom Flotilla”

  1. Excellent article!

    World peace demands immediate and proportionate action by the international community to eradicate the terrorist policy adopted by the Israeli government.

    The crazy elephant has been wielding its gun in the room for far too long!

  2. There is nothing shocking nor the act itself is something new. What else we can expect from the Zionist state?
    The problem is not with Israel but it is with the Arabs in particular and the Muslims all over the world in general.

    We are convinced that the issue of Palestine is not going to be resolved in this century as, we the Ummah trust those who created the Jewish state, we the Ummah accepted these forces as impartial negotiators, we the Ummah never ask to the world community and thre UN on the action of very many commissions findings against Israel, we the Ummah believe that, a person like Tony Blair can resolve the issue and accept his appointment, we the Ummah, see the issue as an Arab issue, we the Ummah, still trust the the blackships within palestine as the to be liberators of Al Quds, we the Ummah, tolerate our own perverted leadership.

    Why blame Israel or for that matter the UN or any other organisation. We are to be blemmed for this mess. So the show will go on and our generation will keep on suffering.

    It may sound cynical but unfortunately, none of the above raised statements will have a negative response.


    1. We the ummah, have Arabs insulting their Berber brothers over a stupid football match. We the ummah, have muslims calling other muslims a lesser muslim because their beard isn’t long enough. We the umma have sunnis and shiis killing eactch other. We the ummah, fail to stop fighting each other so we can unite to confront our common challenges together.

    2. With friends like these we -the Berbers- don’t need enemies.

      The most (Moroccan) Berbers I know are just as much (or little) muslim as Arabs. The frustration among Berbers is that we are often addressed like we are flawed Arabs by non-muslims (‘Berber, is that an Arab dialect?’) and Arabs alike (I have met people from Tunisia or Egypt that just don’t understand that as a Moroccan you don’t speak Arabic.) It’s a pity that some turn this into a hostile attitude, but I don’t think that’s the majority and I don’t think that has to do with islam.

  3. There are grave missacureise in this article.
    The Blocked started not after the ,very violent coup, but a year later when the Rocket attaks on the Isreali cities reached Ashdod and Ashkelon,its was desgined to try and stop the Rocket launchers.It failed.
    As you mentioned this flottila was comprised of 6 boats,but you failed to mention that only one was raided from the sky .the other three stopped when hailed,were boarded by the “Insanely Brutal” IDF ,toad to the Ashdod port,questioned and let violance,no blood shed,a peacefull demnstration.
    Only one ship refused to stop when hailed,and subsiquently had to be borded by helicopter.The notion that the same soldiers who peacefully stopped five other ships would decend on the sixth and just start shooting sleeping citvilians in their sleep is unreasnable to any normal humen beeing.not to mention that the 10,000 tons of Aid where dilivered ,after screening to the Gaza strip.
    This whole thing was not about feeding the hungry people of Gaza,had it been the issue the Flottila orgenisers would have agreed to send the aid via land as suggested by the Israeli government .
    This was a political action of protest,and whether or not you belive the siege on Gaza is leagal,the act of violating another country’s borders will be met with an action by said country. It is very leagal and plossible for the Israeli Navy to stop vessiles that where no outheriesed to breach Israel’s marital space,and it stands to rison that if a vessile proclaims it will do so from international waters and refuses to stop a navy has a right to iforce the its law in international waters….whether you belive the last scentance to be true or not,the fact is ,the situation was not at all as you described it to be.
    Israe3li Comando’s did not jump peacefull sleeping civilians in the middle of the nught and masscered them for sheer pleasure . There was a very long process of negotiations that proceded this action bouth on the diplomatic front and on the water. the ships where hailed reptedly,they where made awere of the situation and alternatives where explained to them. only one ship chose to ignore all that and proceed with violance .What happened on that ship WAS SELF DIFENCE!

    1. The ship was in INTERNATIONAL WATERS which Israel had no jurisdiction. THAT SAYS IT ALL. Israel acts as a bully.
      The world opinion has started to shift against Israel thanks to global citizens who are standing up just like they did during South Africa Apartheid Regime.

      Edmonton, Alberta, Canada

    2. Israel acted in complete self defense when the Flotilla entered its territorial waters.

      The Mavi Marmara ship was purchased in 2010 by the IHH, a Turkish Islamist organization called Insani Yardim Vakfi, which caries out charitable works, but is closely allies to Hamas. The IHH is also a close supporter of Jihadist movement in Bosnia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya. It has been accused of holding links to al-Qaeda and its leader is allegedly active in recruiting and arming would-be jihadis.

      Some of its members assaulted the Israeli commandos that boarded the MV Mavi Marmara and this boat was the only boat to suffer from consequences of physical agression.

      It is the right of every country on earth to defend itself upon agression especially when affiliated with terrorist organisations.

      Israeli warned the ships that were approaching a blockade, some voices responded “Go back to Auschwitz!” and “Don’t forget 9/11”.

      One of the first soldiers to descend was attacked by at least six activists. He was severely beaten and stabbed in the chest, and lost consciousness, then shot in the knee.

      Calling this boat the “Freedom Flotilla” is exactly as bias as giving to Arafat the nobel Prize: it’s completly GROTESQUE.

      There is nothing humanitarian about this boat and no other democracy in the world would have accepted such an aggression. And the non-violent Fortillas were left alone.

      Avi Shlaim dares to speak about “Murder”…when Israel defense itself. I would like to hear what Avi Shlaim writes about what is going on in the Arab world today? Is it murder too? Is he as critical about the massacres he witnesses daily lately as he is towards Israel? I know it is much easier to criticize Israel and much more scary to criticize Islam, because when you critize Israel you dont get a fatwa on your head.

      Israelis would NEVER on earth shoot at its own protestors because it is a democracy. Being against Israel is fashion nowadays, even when based on lies and distortion of facts.

      It is the ONLY democracy of the Middle East. Did Mr Shlaim write an article about the massacre in Itamar? I doubt he feels half as bad for this barbaric crime (killing of a family of 5 including a baby of 3 months old last month ) as he did for the Flotilla.

      Does Avi write about the 21 christian copts killed in Egypt? The MURDERS of anti-governmental protestors in Lybia, Syria, Algeria, Marocco, Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, not to mention Darfur(After all several hundred thousand non-muslims were killed by islamists…)Should I go on?

      Avi Shlaim suffers from a known disease called self-hatered. Many German jews suffered from that same mental pathology in the 30’s. Some jews even enrolled in the Weimah to kill other jews under Nazi Germani.

      Stop blaming Israel for everything.

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