I woke up this morning to the news that at least 10, possibly 16, people had been shot to death by Israeli forces on the flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade.All morning, Mark Regev, the Israeli spokesman, has been on television speaking about the flotilla’s “political nature,” stressing that it was political action, not humanitarian. This is really talking point, since of course it’s a political act: both enacting a blockade and attempting to break it are both political acts. Regev keeps saying that Israel was happy to deliver aid, but he wants to confuse the issue, because the flotilla’s goal was obviously not just to deliver aid but also to break the blockade.
In 1948-1949, the Soviet Union enacted the Berlin blockade, cutting off all allied access to West Berlin in an attempt to fully control the German capital. Moscow informed the allies that Russia would, from now on, be delivering all food and fuel to West Berlin, so what did the Americans do? They broke the blockade with the Berlin Airlift, which is a proud moment in American aviation history.
But what are some more local precedents for naval blockades? How about the Egyptian blockade of the Straits of Tiran? When Nasser blocked Israeli traffic in the Red Sea through the Straits of Tiran, Israel considered that an act of war, and responded with the Six Day War.
Mark Regev, and others in the Israeli government, have been repeating that the flotilla members were “violent” towards the Israeli soldiers, even claiming that they had organized a “lynching.” This is almost too laughable to even address, but let’s just recall here that armed Israeli soldiers forcibly boarded unarmed civilian ships in order to take them over. If I recall, the US government didn’t take too kindly to that sort of behavior when the Maersk Alabama was taken over by Somalis. Likewise, every time a Chinese or Korean ship fights off armed Somalis, they are roundly applauded in the international media.
A few last notes before heading out to a demonstration:
1. It is important to remember that the Egyptian government is an accomplice in this whole situation. Mubarak should not be given a free pass.
2. There should be pressure on Ankara and Amman and Cairo to break off relations with Israel immediately.
3. There should also be strong calls for an international investigation into this travesty. What is not needed is some bullshit Israeli military investigation to whitewash this horrible event.
This is likely to go down as the Israeli Sharpville: a self-inflicted wound that will further isolate Israel as a pariah state. Unfortunately, the killing of thousands of Palestinians and Lebanese in 2009, 2006, 1996 and 1982 weren’t enough to show the world what’s happening in the Middle East. But the Israelis were stupid enough to attack unarmed internationals in international water, so perhaps this will show what recent massacres of Arabs wasn’t able to.