Posted by: sean | May 31, 2010

Murder on the Mediterranean

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.



  1. The Dutch government has asked for an international investigation… tiny step, but not bad if you consider the pro-Israelism of our minister of foreign affairs.

  2. […] The Human Province, ‘Murder on the Mediterranean’ Israel for a long time has treated Gazans as animals that ought to be kept alive because Israelis […]

  3. קשקשן

  4. Truly sickening. And the Obama Administrations response? They’re “saddened” by the loss of life, not sad enough to DO anything that might help the 1.2 million suffering in Gaza currently whom these activists were trying to help, but they want people to know they “care.” Ugh.

  5. Have you a seen a breakdown anywhere of who was actually on the boats? Nationality, etc …

  6. I haven’t gotten a hold of lists, although I have heard confirmation that there were Americans, Greeks, Germans, Turks, Lebanese, Palestinians, Israelis, Brits and Frenchmen. It would be nice to have some actual breakdowns though…

  7. […] blogger community has produced several good reflections in face of the attack. Sean over at the human province wrote a response in terms of history and sovereignty, which made […]

  8. there were some australians as well.. and i think i heard fo swedes..

  9. There are passenger lists on the freegaza website ( but they are clearly incomplete.

    Very interesting that the Egyptians just opened Rafah.

    Its nigh time the so called international community broke this blockade by creating a safe zone entry for ships into Gaza. Until they do that, the rest is all bullshit.

  10. Australia 3; Azerbaijan 2; Italy 6; Indonesia 12; Ireland 9; Algeria 28; United States 11; Bulgaria 2; Bosnia 1; Bahrain 4; Belgium 5; Germany 11; South Africa 1; Holland 2; United Kingdom 31; Greece 38; Jordan 30; Kuwait 15; Lebanon 3; Mauritania 3; Malaysia 11; Egypt 3; Macedonia 3; Morocco 7; Norway 3; New Zealand 1; Syria 3; Serbia 1; Oman 1; Pakistan 3; Czech Republic 4; France 9; Kosovo 1; Canada 1; Sweden 11; Turkey 380; Yemen 4.

    looks like theres going to be a round 2..

  11. 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?
    –The image of Israel as an overmighty illiberal power is probably a bit flattering for some, but the Israeli blockade of Gaza isn’t nearly as “absolute” or grim as the Soviet blockade of West Berlin (the emergence of smuggling networks in both instances shows just how imaginitive blockaded people can be). Tens of people aren’t starving or freezing to death every night in Gaza due to Israeli heartlessness – the same can’t be said of West Berlin during the winter of ’48.

    As the Wikipedia (sic) article clarifies, the Soviet authorities in East Berlin didn’t permit any surface traffic into the West until it became clear that the airlift could actually supply the city indefinitely. After all, a mass aerial coal drop hadn’t been attempted before; who thought that USAAF and RAF could feed and heat half a continental city? Not the Soviets, at any rate.

    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.
    –Footage from the incident apparently indicates that some people on those vessels weren’t unarmed and weren’t particularly peaceful, though that in and of itself isn’t necessarily justification for a naval raid in international waters. If there were reasonable grounds to suspect contraband, or attempt to run a blockade, or an attempt to supply a belligerent, however, Israel would be within rights – even in international waters, per s67 of the San Remo Manual re: Armed Conflicts at Sea – to board and seach the vessels. I don’t think this is a new idea; the Royal Navy did the same thing on a variety of occasions to vessels heading to Palestine from Cyprus during the first Arab-Israeli war – as militants from both/various sides of the fighting attempted to bring in weapons and personnel to resupply their allies.

    Though I’m less interested in the “strict” legality of this action than the fallout. For example, it seems that many if not most Turks (unfortunately) think this was a heavy handed action by the Israeli Navy and underscores general Israeli policy towards Gaza. This is unfortunate given Turkey’s own difficulties combating underhanded belligerent organizations while justifying their actions to the international community and local allies, including Israel. It is also unseemly in light of Turkey’s old (and new) history of repressive actions against national minorities and unarmed, unprotected protestors in its Eastern territories.

    By the way, I hope no one here was part of this foolishness:

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