Revolution #203, June 13, 2010
Israel's Killing of Humanitarian Activists:
An Outrageous Massacre to Enforce Horrific Crimes
In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, 2010, Israeli military forces stormed the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships carrying humanitarian relief to Gaza. The Israelis killed at least nine activists and injured dozens of others. In response to an international outcry, Israel was forced to release hundreds of captured people from around the world who had been part of the flotilla. Now the Israeli and U.S. governments and the mainstream U.S. media have unleashed a massive disinformation barrage, aimed to confuse and demobilize people who have been shocked and outraged by this crime. But the basic facts are NOT in dispute.
After Israeli commandos murdered nine people on a ship carrying aid to Gaza, this is what you heard—from CNN commentators, radio talk shows, and the guy sitting next to you at the restaurant: Didn't those people on the ships know that if they tried to break the blockade of Gaza that Israel would not tolerate this? What did they expect? They must have known that Israel would attack. The Israeli commandos who fired their guns were just responding to the people on the ship who attacked them with poles and chairs... In other words: the people on the ship who were killed and wounded...brought it on themselves.
Think about this.
A man comes home and is hungry, he's had a "bad day," he wants his supper NOW. But his wife doesn't have it ready, so he yells at her. She yells back. And so he slaps her. She tries to defend herself. So he beats her down. He tells her: "You know when you don't have my dinner ready it makes me mad.... You shouldn't yell at me. And you know when you hit me that I can't control myself.... You brought this down on yourself."
While the New York Times and others continue to frame the massacre in terms of the activists "attacking" the elite Israeli military forces who stormed the ships, the ships were in international waters and the Israeli assault was itself a crime against international law.
The relief effort was carrying 10,000 tons of concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies to Gaza, items that Israel bans from Gaza.
The internationals on board had no guns. They were attacked by elite, armed Israeli commandos rappelling down from helicopters onto the ship. Among the dead: a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back; Fulkan Dogan a 19-year-old who has dual Turkish-U.S. citizenship, shot five times from less than 45 centimeters (18 inches), in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Turkish autopsies revealed that five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back ("Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range," UK Guardian, June 4, 2010).
Those onboard the Mavi Marmara ranged in age from 88 to 1, and included not just Muslims, as the media has implied, but people of all kinds of backgrounds, religions (or none), philosophies, and politics. Some 700 activists from 40 countries were participating in the entire flotilla, including elected officials, former diplomats, aid workers and activists, a Nobel laureate, news correspondents, and independent journalists.
Like the murder of Rachel Corrie (a 23-year-old from the U.S. who was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003 during a non-violent protest against the occupation of Gaza) and other brazen and outrageous attacks on those standing with the Palestinian people, the massacre on the Mavi Marmara was a bloody statement from Israel to the people of the world that Israel's terrible crimes, particularly the brutal, inhumane mass-imprisonment of the people of Gaza, cannot be challenged.
Enforcing a Massive Crime
The 1.5 million people in Gaza—part of Palestine—live in the world's largest outdoor prison. At the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009, Israel launched a one-sided massacre of Gaza, delivering weeks of collective punishment to the people of Gaza, destroying schools and shelling hospitals, killing some 1,400 people. Efforts to break the siege of Gaza, including the Gaza Freedom March a year after the massacre, have been blocked by Israel and Egypt, with the full backing of the U.S. government.
The blockade constitutes collective starvation, humiliation, and brutalization of all Gazans, collective punishment of an entire population that is "a flagrant violation of international law." (Amnesty International Report 2010—Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories).
Amnesty International's current Annual Human Rights Report states that Israel's siege on Gaza has "deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid." According to a recent World Health Organization (WHO) report, there has been an increase in malnourishment, now at over 10 percent of children in Gaza, because of a chronic lack of protein, iron, and essential vitamins.
Israel's 2008-2009 invasion damaged 15 of 27 hospitals in Gaza, including shelling the Al Wafa hospital that treats paraplegics and amputees. Israel damaged or destroyed 43 of Gaza's 110 primary health care facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban. Some 15 to 20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock.* And Israel's sadistic lockdown means that the people in Gaza are not allowed to leave and are totally cut off from family and friends outside. In the face of this, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak declared that "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza."
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The Israeli massacre on the Mavi Marmara took place amidst a tense international crisis in the Middle East, where the U.S. is waging a widespread war to impose regimes and power relations that strengthen its position as the world's sole superpower. Within this, Israel plays a critical role as an attack dog in the region and beyond.
Even as the context is complex, the basic question of right and wrong is clear, and cries out for a powerful, determined, sustained political response that demands justice, and can contribute to creating conditions for a genuinely liberatory force to emerge in that part of the world.
* See “OPT: West Bank health and economy up a bit, Gaza down,” IRIN (irinnews.org/Report.aspx?ReportId=89169), May 18, 2010. [back]
Don't tell me "It was a public relations disaster"
Don't tell me "It was a tragedy"
Don't tell me that they should have known that Israel has no rules.
Don't tell me the Holocaust justifies this...
The story of Israel... a truth untold:
Do you hear the excuses from the halls of power?
Do you hear the celebrations of sanctimonious thugs?
And Nina Simone sang Mississippi Goddam.
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