Gaza flotilla: multiple tragedies at sea

Truly disturbing news from the Mediterranean: 10 dead are reported after Israeli commandos boarded six ships assembled by the Free Gaza Movement to break the Gaza seige. (Read Noam Sheizaf for background and liveblogging.)

In addition to the international condemnation for boarding a boat in international waters, guarded statements from the US, and another dramatic recalling of Turkey’s ambassador to Israel, the consequences for the peace process are dire: Prime Minister Netanyahu has canceled his Tuesday meeting with President Obama.

The narratives diverge: Bloggers within Israel are reporting that Israeli news is portraying the IDF commandos as victims of a lynch mob-in-waiting. Yedioth called the flotilla’s response “a brutal ambush at sea.” The IDF released this video (below), showing soldiers outnumbered and beaten with pipes. The Free Gaza Movement official statement claims the IDF began shooting live fire “the instant their feet hit the deck.” The group’s livestream (now offline) claims to have proof.

All of this remains to be seen, and despite some bloggers’ rush to make judgments before the facts are sorted, I await more clarity. And I’m not rushing to absolve any side of total innocence.

While excellently-intentioned, the Freedom Flotilla lost its tenuous innocence for me when they rejected an amazing opportunity to unite two sides: Gilad Shalit’s father offered to advocate on their behalf if the flotilla would bear a message to his son. What a gesture to the Israeli public that would have been, that human rights are not the purview of Palestinian suffering alone, but Israelis too. That the conflict is not between Israelis and Palestinians but between purveyors of violence and innocent civilians. It would mean calling out Hamas as well as the IDF for blame. Despite the vastness between Palestinian losses and Israeli, there are yet Israeli losses the Jewish public deserves acknowledged. And a father misses his son. But the Freedom Flotilla rejected mutual culpability.

Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza makes my skin crawl and my stomach sick. Collective punishment is a fate the Jewish people suffered throughout history, for crimes only imagined. It is an added layer of difficulty that Israel’s collective punishment is for crimes real: the rocketing of Israeli civilians and the kidnapping of Israelis. But these acts by a few do not justify punishment of all. The bottom dropped from my stomach when I read this news this morning. Ten people died, for this?

I hope the Flotilla planners and Netanyhu are happy with their results. The Netanyahu government no doubt appreciates the pause in making concessions to peace. Again, Hamas sits on the sidelines and escapes paying for its part in this dark comedy. The deterioration of Israel’s standing was a goal of the Freedom Flotilla from the outset. And instead of mitigating it, Netanyahu, you have worsened it. A victory on all sides.

My heart goes out to the families of the dead and for the speedy recovery of all those injured, including the soldiers.

What a shonde, what a waste.

9 Responses to “Gaza flotilla: multiple tragedies at sea”

  1. KJ, you fell for it.

    Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit’s father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit’s family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and to attempt to deliver it to Shalit or, if that request was denied, deliver it to officials in the Hamas government. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.[6]

    palsolidarity.org/2010/05/12531/

    One takeaway: Far from bring a brave person seeking compromise to free his son, Shalit’s father is part of the Israeli hasbarah effort to demonize ships full of powdered milk and rice.


    Jew Geuvara · May 31st, 2010 at 2:15 pm
  2. The very fact that most of those involved in the violence were Turkish (according to the AP report) is especially fishy… considering that the Turkish PM was all too ready to withdraw relations outright. False flag/sabotage, anyone?


    B.BarNavi · May 31st, 2010 at 2:53 pm
  3. I’m sorry, the more appropriate term here is “infiltration”.


    B.BarNavi · May 31st, 2010 at 2:54 pm
  4. Guevara, duly noted, although I trust the Freedom Flotilla’s PR just as little as I trust the Israeli government’s. What a coup for them if they had suggested it in the first place. Point is, I don’t believe the Freedom Flotilla people care for distributing blame anywhere except fully on Israel’s shoulders. Mutual culpability, as I said, was dead on arrival on the flotilla.


    Kung Fu Jew · May 31st, 2010 at 3:41 pm
  5. As a nonviolent activist who has conducted trainings in NVDA, I think we can all agree: more work is needed with our Turkish language materials….


    Jew Geuvara · May 31st, 2010 at 4:06 pm
  6. Well I agree that the whole situation is disturbing and unwelcome news. I also think that the passengers, or at least the leadership, onboard the ‘Mavi Marmara’ basically got what they were looking for: an aggressive, photogenic confrontation with Israeli sailors.

    The Marmara was the only one of the ships that aggressively resisted redirection to Ashdod port, and it was apparently also (coincidentally no doubt…) the one ship occupied by Islamist activists from Turkey. Martyrdom in a battle against infidels is a noble pursuit in that theology. But I’m sure that’s just a coincidence…

    Let’s also remember why this whole flotilla decided to challenge the Israeli blockade and not the Egyptian one. The Egyptians wouldn’t have even bothered exposing their soldiers to the danger of being assaulted by the smugglers.

    There are much simpler ways to terminate a rogue vessel’s travels and the Egyptian navy wouldn’t have hesitated to use them.


    Eric · May 31st, 2010 at 4:14 pm
  7. KFJ – This entire operation could not have been a bigger disaster for Israel. I don’t know how you can possible say that Netanyahu would be happy with the results…Israel could not have been made to look worse around the world, and if you insist that Bibi’s number 1 prerogative is to hold off peace talks/action, then I fear this will do just the opposite: Force him to make some sort of concession fast, and without true forethought, in an attempt to silence the critics of the Western World. Dismantling one illegal outpost or halting construction in one neighborhood doesn’t get us anywhere constructive in the peace process, and we needed that meeting with Obama today to talk about a REAL plan.

    And Guevara – Milk and Rice were the only contents of those ships? Then this is some unique packaging: www.flix.co.il/tapuz/channel.asp?c=27


    Beershevaboheme6 · June 1st, 2010 at 10:06 am
  8. Israel fucked up.
    But if they were looking for violence then the other 5 ships would also have been a battleground. This is a disaster for Israel and a tragedy for the families of the dead.

    But the term “peace activists” and “humanitarians” regarding those of the ships? Maybe some. But does anyone believe the boat where the deaths occurred was full of Mahatma Gandhis?


    Meir Eynaim · June 1st, 2010 at 10:14 am
  9. Beer, sending people to an IDF video from 2009 is just a transparent attempt to smear the humanitarian activists trying to bring food to Gaza.

    Why do you hate the truth?

    It’s not like anyone is out there claiming that Hamas is not arming itself. But activists against the siege aren’t the ones doing it.


    Jew Geuvara · June 1st, 2010 at 10:20 am

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