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Thursday, 24th April 2014

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The end of impunity

İbrahim Bilgen, Ali Haydar Bengi, Ali Ekber Yaratılmış and Muharrem Koçak. The names of the others have not yet been released by the Israeli authorities; neither have we been told exactly how many they are. We know that their crime, for which they were put to death, was to express in a practical way their solidarity with the people of Palestine. Something else is also becoming clear: by killing them, the Israeli state- proceeding as if oblivious to the effects of the outrages which it commits- has taken another step which hastens the process of opening the eyes of the world to the nature of that state.

There is a destination at the end of this road. The Palestinian people themselves will never give up their struggle for their rights and their homeland, and global sympathy for them will intensify as it did with the black people of apartheid South Africa; the Israelis will perpetrate further and even worse atrocities, and their sponsors will find it more and more embarrassing to provide them high-tech weapons systems and diplomatic cover. The inevitable result, though it will not be achieved for several decades, will be the end of Israel as we know it.

If I had a hammer...

The Israeli explanation for these particular killings is, as always, self defence. They claim that they suspected the aid flotilla of carrying shipments of weapons for Hamas terrorists in Gaza- never mind that the contents of the boats had been meticulously inspected by the Turkish and other authorities. They claim that, had the solidarity activists abandoned their mission and handed over to the Israeli government the aid materials which they were carrying, these would have been transported to Gaza (minus, of course, anything which the Israelis regard as materials which could possibly be utilised by terrorists); that offer was treated by the activists on the aid flotilla with the credibility which it deserved, given that the Israeli state rules that the vast majority of potential supplies- a ludicrous list which ranges from concrete to chocolate- are banned from entering Gaza, in case the local people find a way to make 'terrorist' use of them. On this pretext, the Israelis have reduced imports to Gaza by the shocking figure of 75% since 2007.

On the continuing blockade of Gaza, which the aid flotilla had intended to relieve and highlight, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported on 31st May:

The amount and quality of food available to the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip has been severely restricted by more than 1,000 days of a near-complete blockade, states a UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report.

“Sixty-one percent of the Gaza population is food insecure,” said Sarah Leppert, FAO’s communications adviser for the West Bank and Gaza Strip. “There is a diverse range of foods available in Gaza; the problem is people do not have the means to purchase the food due to rising poverty and unemployment, now nearly 39 percent.”

Israel's import and access restrictions continue to suffocate the agriculture sector in Gaza, directly contributing to rising food insecurity, said acting Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian Territory (oPt), Philippe Lazzarini, in a joint statement with humanitarian aid agencies, and the Association of International Development Agencies (AIDA), representing more than 80 NGOs on 25 May from Gaza.

Protein-rich foods such as meat and poultry are especially difficult for Gazans to afford. Families have resorted to coping mechanisms including borrowing money and relying on aid from humanitarian agencies operating in Gaza, said Leppert.

The World Health Organization (WHO) is concerned by rising malnutrition indicators - increased cases of stunting, wasting and underweight children - and continuing high rates of anaemia among children and pregnant women.

A poverty survey conducted by the UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) shows that the number of Palestine refugees unable to access food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water, has tripled since the imposition of the blockade in June 2007.

Furthermore, the reduction in electricity supplies to Gaza as part of the Israeli blockade causes significant damage to vegetable crops due to the lack of refrigeration, as well as adding to production costs, says the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)...

Since January 2009, Israeli naval forces have restricted the access of Gaza fishing boats to only three nautical miles from shore, often reduced to as much as 2nm in practice. Between 2008 and 2009, the total fishing catch decreased by 47 percent, and is insufficient to meet the demands of Gaza’s growing population, according to FAO.
The Israelis claim that, on being winched down to the deck of the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship in the aid convoy, their commandos were physically resisted, in an unexpected way, by the passengers and / or crew members, and thus they had no option but to open fire. They have released video footage which indicates that some of the pro-Palestinian activists did not respond to the seizure of their boat by the Israeli special forces as Mohatma Ghandi might have advised. Instead, the activists initially attempted to repel the commando attack by whatever means were at hand, including chairs and a piece of railing; an activist managed to grab a stun grenade from an Israeli commando and hurl it at the invading soldiers; and one of the commandos was thrown from the top deck, landing in a lifeboat affixed a few feet below.

Further, the Israelis have exhibited to the world, as if they were displaying proof of Weapons of Mass Destruction, an arms cache which they discovered on the flotilla. This consists of a hammer, two plastic catapults, and some marbles. Had David, on his encounter with Goliath so many centuries ago, been equipped with such a comprehensive armoury, his victory over the Philistines would no doubt have been even more emphatic.

Having ascertained that the first of their commandos to board the Mavi Marmara were not met with merely passive resistance, the Israeli authorities then, by their own account, issued the orders to shoot to kill; and what followed was a killing spree. For obvious reasons, the Israelis have not released any videos showing their soldiers hunting down and shooting people on board the ship.

The teflon state

Commenting on the first, unconfirmed, reports of the killing of activists on the aid flotilla to Gaza, an astonished contributor to an internet discussion site remarked with incredulity, "They couldn't be this stupid... could they?" However, as another blogger replied, " 'Stupid' is what you do not get away with, and the Israelis have a very impressive list of actions that would appear stupid but which thanks to the 'special relationship' with the US they have gotten away with. This though, may be an atrocity too far. But I would not bet on it."

The world has come to expect- and accept- almost anything from the Israeli government: among recent examples, the invasion and bombing of Lebanon in the summer of 2006, which killed over 1,500 people; the assault on Gaza in 2008/09, in which approximately 1,400 were massacred.

Having 'gotten away with' those recent measures, the Israelis proceeded with further actions which had the appearance of humiliating their closest Western sponsors: in February, using the cloned passports of British and other European citizens in their assassination of Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh; in March, announcing the building of more illegal Jewish settlements in occupied East Jerusalem during the visit to Israel by US Vice-President Joe Biden.

Meanwhile, the supply of billions of dollars worth of free high-tech weaponry to Israel has continued unabated- mainly from the USA, but significantly also from Germany, which donates to the zionist state an expanding fleet of nuclear-capable submarines. Further, the Western powers maintained their sponsorship of Israel's application to join the OECD, the global club of rich developed nations, culminating on 27th May this year with the zionist state's formal accession to the organisation. As Seth Freedman has pointed out in a Guardian article:

For Israel's part, accession to the OECD is of great advantage, both in terms of global prestige and practical economic benefits. Israel's credit rating will be upgraded as a result, and Israeli firms will find it much easier to raise capital on the back of the vote of confidence issued by the OECD's leadership...

The approval of Israel's membership to the OECD weakens the position of the EU over such key matters [as construction of illegal settlements]. Likewise, it encourages Israel's leaders to believe that they can get away with continuing to flout international law with impunity, safe in the knowledge that as one door closes another is flung open for them to walk through.

The Israeli military has previously killed and injured solidarity activists from Western countries, notably Rachel Corrie and Tom Hearnden. These casualties occurred in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian Territories, and one at a time; the US and British governments, and their mass media, made no effective response.

But here we have at least nine killings at once of foreigners; and the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship of the aid flotilla and on which the shootings in this incident took place, was in undisputed international waters when it was attacked by the Israeli forces.

The deadly attack was against a ship belonging to Turkey, and the Turkish citizens who were killed by the Israelis were on the aid convoy with the approval of their government. Turkey is a NATO member, until recently a close ally of Israel, and which had a joint military exercise planned together with the Israeli army. This, of course, has now been cancelled.

With justification, people in Turkey can regard the boarding and killings as an act of war; the Turkish government has unequivocally condemned the Israeli actions as piracy, state terrorism and murder, and announced that Israel must face punishment.

Is it conceivable that Israel- the Western-sponsored colonial state which has been able to perpetrate almost anything and, as if coated by teflon, get away with it- be punished? Yes.

Irrespective of the continued economic and military support for the zionists by Western governments, every massacre by the Israelis has a cumulative effect, each time eroding the residual sympathy for the 'Jewish state' which it had won on two bases. One, that the Jews- on whose behalf Israel claims to commit its ghastly actions- were victims of the Nazi Holocaust; the other, that Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East. But the clock of credibility and experience is running out on both of those justifications. Previous victimhood, and present political pluralism, are regarded less and less as reasonable excuses for colonisation, oppression, and killings.

The Israeli state survives, and commits its atrocities, in a Western-sponsored bubble of impunity. But each bullet that the Israeli army fires into the bodies of the Palestinians, or those of their supporters, pricks and deflates that bubble. The end of Israel, as we know it, is not near. But it is certain.