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.