Monday, June 14, 2010

Great Juan Cole Post Decoding Hasbara About Hamas, Gaza, and the So-Called Withdrawal

"Gazans have no state. What the Israelis deign to call the ‘Hamas regime’ is no such thing because it lacks sovereignty, over its borders, air, sea, imports and exports. (The idea that Israel is ‘at war’ with its own occupied territory is laughable.) The Israeli ‘withdrawal’ of 2005 simply removed a few thousand colonists and withdrew troops, usually, to the borders. But it did not allow the creation of a sovereign state. Gazans are excluded from a third of their own farmland by Israeli restrictions on where people can live. That so many Gazans are unemployed, that their industries have collapsed, that they are food insecure, and that malnutrition is causing stunting in 10% of children– all these outrages derive from their lack of a sovereign state to look out for their interests."

The rest of the post is here.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Israel's Attack on the Aid Flotilla Bound for Gaza

[I'll probably be posting updates to this---as things go on. For a much more comprehensive article from a much better and much more qualified writer, see Glenn Greenwald's here.]

What happened on May 31, 2010 was absolutely terrible. While this event was far from the first atrocity committed by the Israeli government against the Palestinians and their supporters, it is perhaps the most significant since the egregious "Gaza War" [read: massacre/stranglehold] in 2008. My condolences to all who lost love ones yesterday. Hopefully they will not have died in vain.

The accounts given by the IDF, AIPAC, etc. generally indicate that the Israeli soldiers used live fire only after being fired upon by what it calls "terrorists" (note that the IHH is on neither US nor European lists of terrorist organizations---they are a humanitarian group). Based on the videos they themselves posted, this order of events doesn't seem possible. First, if the passengers really fired first, isn't it odd that not even the IDF video (loading slow, but accessible from the link) released was able to document it? Isn't it also strange that AIPAC claims that only metal rods and pipes were used against the elite Israeli forces? Of course, they also claimed that the use of metal rods and knives left them with no choice but to retaliate with lethal force. All of the passengers claim that the Israeli soldiers began firing shortly after boarding.

Although reports do show that passengers eventually fired upon the soldiers using guns they took away from the soldiers, such action definitely doesn't constitute "firing first", and the fact that no Israeli soldier died further indicates that the passengers had no interest in anything other than self-defense and preservation of their humanitarian cause.

Is it a good thing that humanitarian activists are arming themselves with pipes and knives because of fear that Israel will attack and attempt to kill them? Absolutely not. Is it understandable? Yes. Is there any reason to think it will change? Absolutely not. Israel has vowed to use more force in the future--they're basically telling the activists to arm themselves more heavily if they have any hopes that the food and supplies they plan to transport will ever reach the people who need them.

There are those out there who argue that "the situation is complex" or that "there are too many competing narratives for us to have any idea what really happened". Those people would have the rest of us feel sad for "everyone involved"---even the poor, heavily armed, elite Israeli commando unit whose illegal actions deliberately provoked a non-lethal response so they could make an example out of the crew by massacring them. The worst part is that Israel vows to use more force next time a ship traveling in international waters violating no international laws tries to bring food and humanitarian and building supplies to Gaza.

In light of the aforementioned hasbara that's floating all over the place, three legal points:

1. Israeli soldiers invaded the flotilla in international waters, breaking international law (UN Convention on Law of the Seas, Art. 3), and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime (the only countries who disagree about this are the United States and Israel, but the UN Conv. is clear). The counter-claim that the soldiers responded to some sort of imminent threat should be dismissed immediately---such disproportionate force is not justified when dealing with civilians using non-lethal force--especially when the soldiers illegally boarded their ship.

2. Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law (Geneva Convention IV, arts. 55, 59-60), Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants, and should thus be ensuring that they are adequately supplied with food, water, energy, supplies, etc. Of course, their blockade would also violate those same international laws--a nation cannot blockade a nation under its occupation.

3. Israel approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandos. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held legally responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby.

The only positive things to come out of this incident are Egypt's removal of its blockade on Gaza and Turkey's (a NATO member) strong condemnation of Israel's actions as a violation of international law, pulling of its ambassador from Israel, and its cancellation of further cooperative military exercises with Israel.

However, these slightly positive results came at far too high a price.