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Israel Attacks the Gaza Flotilla

Slaughter at Sea

by STEPHEN LENDMAN

Even America’s major media can’t duck a crime this grave – attacking and slaughtering up to 20 Gaza Freedom Flotilla activists and injuring dozens more.

New York Times writer Isabel Kershner headlined "At Least 10 Killed as Israel Intercepts Aid Flotilla, saying:

"The Israeli Navy raided a flotilla carrying thousands of tons of supplies for Gaza in international waters on Monday morning….The incident drew widespread international condemnation, with Israeli envoys summoned to explain their country’s actions in several European countries….The killings also coincided with preparations for a planned visit to Washington on Tuesday (June 1) by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu."

Late word is it’s postponed.

The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, and Los Angeles Times carried similar reports, trying, but hardly able to downplay a major crime.

The UK-based Stop the War Coalition called it "Yet another act of Israeli barbarism" in announcing an "emergency demonstration" at 2:00PM near the prime minister’s Downing Street residence, saying spread the word and come.

In Gaza, thousands protested, expressing anger, outrage and sympathy, carrying banners condemning willful crimes, and calling for Arab solidarity. Similar demonstrations turned out in Amman, Cairo, Damascus, Tehran, Ankara, Istanbul, Beirut and other regional cities.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak blamed the Flotilla organizers for inciting the attack, while his deputy, Danny Alalon said they were connected to international terrorist organizations and were trying to smuggle in arms. Weapons were found on board, he claimed.

At a hastily called news conference, sparsely attended, he referred to "the armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terror organization," accusing peaceful activists of a "premeditated and outrageous provocation," saying "The organizers are well known for their ties with global Jihad, Al Qaeda and Hamas. (Their) intent was violent, their method was violent, and the results were unfortunately violent."

Shameless lies from a criminal caught red-handed, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy saying:

"The Israeli propaganda machine has reached new highs (distributing) false information. It embarrassed itself by entering a futile public relations battle….There is nothing to explain, certainly not to a world that will never buy (its) web of explanations, lies and tactics."

In Washington, of course, they’re echoed along with toned down pious indignation publicly, but privately, assurances of solid US-Israeli relations are affirmed.

On May 31, White House spokesman William Burton said:

"The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy," stopping short of condemning crimes too grave to ignore and demanding harsh measures in response to premeditated slaughter.

Much the same from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (a reliable Israeli ally) stating:

"It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation," stopping short of demanding it and full accountability.

Saying he "deplored in the strongest terms the killing of civilians," Italian Foreign Minister, Franco Frattini, like his EU counterparts, said it was "indispensable that there be an inquest to ascertain the facts, which are still not clear."

They’re very clear. Israeli forces planned and executed a premeditated attack against peaceful humanitarian activists, trying to deliver essential to life aid to Gazans under siege – to break Israel’s attempt to suffocate and starve them.

The Wall Street Journal online headlined "More than 10 Dead After Israel Intercepts Gaza Aid Convoy," saying (like most US media reports) that "An Israeli military spokesman said later in the day that some activists ‘appeared’ to be armed with guns, and fired at the Israeli soldiers, though it wasn’t clear who fired first."

The activists, in fact, were unarmed civilians, delivering vitally needed humanitarian aid to 1.5 million Gazans, trapped under siege for three years this month. Without provocation, they were maliciously and willfully attacked in international waters by armed Israeli commandos with orders to open fire if the convoy failed to abort its mission.

The best Journal writer Joshua Mitnick could say was "whether the military action was warranted or not (it) threatens to further sully Israel’s international reputation, after a series of recent diplomatic setbacks."

No mention of the Gaza war, daily West Bank and East Jerusalem incursions, the three-year siege, a 43-year occupation, daily killings, targeted assassinations, homes bulldozed, mass arrests, torture, and Palestinian communities throughout the Territories and in Israel threatened by daily terror.

No mention by European nations either, the EU merely calling for a full inquiry, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner (a staunch Israeli supporter) saying he was "deeply shocked by the ‘tragic’ consequences of Israel’s military operation (against) a humanitarian initiative," but little else. The same hypocrisy echoed from most European capitals, much like already from Washington.

Turkey’s Communist Party’s press statement, in contrast, said:

"The pirate commandos trained by Israel Naval Forces mounted an operation this morning to capture the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza and slaughtered unarmed civilians in the course of this outrageous operation."

Calling the attack "barbarous," it "demanded" immediate deportation of Israel’s diplomatic mission, cancellation of Turkish-Israeli military and other agreements, and Israel held fully accountable for its crime against humanity – its specialty against civilians and nonviolent activists.

Al Jazeera reported that "Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news (shouting) ‘Damn Israel’ as police blocked them."

It also said Israeli radio confirmed at least 19 were killed and dozens injured, quoting IDF spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, saying, "This happened in waters outside Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves," – the usual response from scoundrels caught red-handed.

Video footage on board the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara showed Israeli commandos opened fire during the assault, activists saying it began immediately after storming on board.

Al Zazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on the ship, said "a white surrender flag was raised (and) there was no live fire coming from the passengers."

The Free Gaza Movement reported that "Under darkness of night, Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck." No action on board provoked it. It was premeditated, willful slaughter.

The Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement expressed sorrow in denouncing the attack, citing it as further "proof that despite claims to the contrary, Israel never ‘disengaged’ from the Gaza Strip but rather continues to control its borders – land, air and sea….hermetically (cutting off) 1.5 million human beings (from) access to the outside world" and vitally needed humanitarian aid.

Netanyahu’s spokesman, Mark Regev, claimed "They initiated the violence," and the IDF insisted it responded when its forces "were attacked with knives, clubs, and even live fire." Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said soldiers were forced by violent acts to respond with live fire.

They lied.

Viewing the video footage, Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported that:

"All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical (and other humanitarian) supplies on board."

Other footage showed black-clad commandos descending from helicopters, then immediately opening fire on deck against peaceful activists.

Israeli forces seized the ship and a smaller one, took them to Israel’s port of Ashdod, and censored all information on the assault.

The Flotilla, with 700 activists, left Cyprus at 3:00PM (1200 GMT) Sunday, on the last leg of their journey, heading for Gaza, hoping to arrive by daylight. Six hours after departure, three Israeli missile boats left Haifa to interdict it, according to reporters on board before being ordered to turn off their cell phones.

The convoy hoped to break the siege and deliver over 10,000 tons of vitally needed aid, including food, medicines, educational, construction, and other materials. Israel warned it would intercept and abort the mission, giving no details except to say ships would be seized, then taken to Ashdod.

A May 31 Gaza Freedom March.org press release called for a "global response to killings on the Freedom Flotilla," saying:

"We, Gaza based Palestinian Civil Society Organizations and international activists, call on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings….against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla….and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza."

"We, from Gaza, call on you to demonstrate and support the courageous men and women on the Flotilla and join the many now murdered on a humanitarian aid mission. We insist on severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes and the international protection of the civilians of Gaza. We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again" to be an international outlaw.

"Join a growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinian are entitled to the same rights as (all) other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice."

Stand in solidarity for their freedom in peace, and demand nothing less, including full accountability for Israeli officials responsible for high crimes of war and against humanity.

On board the Flottilla are over 700 activists from 40 countries, including 35 politicians and a Nobel Peace laureate, Mairead McGuire, who protesting with Bil’in village activists against Israel’s Separation Wall, in April 2007, was shot and injured with a rubber bullet, then tear-gassed, overcome, and had to be taken by stretcher to an ambulance.

Again, she and 700 others risked their lives to deliver vitally needed aid. In solidarity, people of conscience everywhere must support them and demand full accountability for the latest Israeli crimes too grave to ignore.

STEPHEN LENDMAN lives in Chicago and can be reached at lendmanstephen@sbcglobal.net.

 

 

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