The following article appears in the June 2010 edition of Socialist Action newspaper.
by the Editors
In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, Israeli commandos deliberately murdered at least 16 and perhaps as many as 29 members of the Free Gaza Flotilla who were bringing aid to the besieged people of Gaza. The bulk of the deaths and injuries occurred on the largest ship, the Turkish-registered Mavi Marmara. Firing (with bullets paid for by U.S. tax dollars) began even before the commandos boarded the ships, and continued once these new pirates of the Mediterranean rappelled down from helicopters.
The overwhelming majority of the activists offered no resistance, yet were the targets of indiscriminate fire. Fifty to 60 were wounded badly enough to be put in hospital. Survivors among the over 700 flotilla participants from over 40 countries were detained in Israeli prisons, and all access to them by family, lawyers, and the media was barred.
On board the Mavi Marmara were hundreds of Turks organized by the Turkish charity IHH. Their involvement—and verbal expressions of support before and after the attack from the Turkish government—has had all the more impact given that Turkey has been one of Washington’s staunchest allies in the Middle East, and has been on good diplomatic terms with Israel.
Every aspect of this operation was illegal under international law, starting from the fact that the blockade of Gaza itself is illegal. The 14 Zionist ships that carried the commandos attacked the flotilla in international waters more than 60 miles off the coast of Gaza.
Most importantly, the attack was part of a train of violent incidents since before Israel’s founding designed to steal and hold on to land, and to terrorize, and if need be kill, those who resist.
A small minority of the activists, especially from among the Turks, tried to defend themselves and their fellow passengers (who included a mother with a one-year-old baby, and an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor). The only tools of self-defense available to them were kitchen knives and wooden sticks. Numerous international legal experts have stated unequivocally that they were entirely within their rights to do so against a violent, illegal boarding operation. Their resistance, however hopeless given the relationship of forces, inspired millions around the world.
Regardless of how many activists exercised their right to self-defense, the raid as a whole was carefully planned, and its operational details approved by Israel’s political leadership, who knew that by beginning with gunfire rather than crowd dispersal techniques or negotiations, deaths were virtually inevitable.
The flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of badly needed food, medicine, medical equipment, toys, workbooks, chocolate, as well as cement for the reconstruction of the thousands of homes destroyed in the attacks of 2008-2009. Every international aid agency has documented the continued deaths, malnutrition, homelessness, unemployment, and dependence on charity affecting the overwhelming majority of Gazans; yet their steadfastness has not wavered for one second. Gazans have said repeatedly that they welcome eagerly efforts like the flotilla even more because of the political solidarity it shows than for the material aid.
The response of the Zionist government was typically brazen and callous. The lies it spun to justify the murders were reminiscent of those used by the U.S. whenever it kills civilians in their beds in Afghanistan. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon described the flotilla as “an armada of hate,” and said its organizers had connections with Hamas and al-Qaeda. He made these assertions despite common knowledge that the overwhelming majority of participants were members of organizations that as a matter of tactics or principle or both believe only in nonviolent activism.
Numerous governments, both imperialist and neocolonial, issued statements condemning the Israeli assault, a handful even recalling their ambassadors to Israel.
The U.S. Palestinian Community Network said the attack was “consistent with [Israel’s] long history of disregard for non-Jewish human life,” citing numerous massacres from 1948 until this year.
Al-Awda NY: the Palestine Right to Return Coalition noted that “some of the fallen had been resilient Palestinians, exiled by Zionist militias in 1948, withstanding Israeli massacres in Lebanon in 1982, attacked in 2006, and killed on the Aid Flotilla, determined to see Palestine again and be part of its liberation from Israeli Forces.” The attack, said Al-Awda, was “part of the ongoing Israeli Zionist agenda to effect the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, beginning in the 1900s and continuing, with international complicity, today.”
The attack also stands as more proof that the “peace process” is nothing more than a joint effort by the U.S., Israel, and the quisling Palestinian Authority to institutionalize Israeli apartheid in the entire land of historic Palestine and as an excuse to attack anyone resisting this project.
Mass protests broke out immediately around the world. There have been protests every day since the attack, and as we go to press on June 2 there are many more planned. The most common demands at these rallies have been the immediate lifting of the siege; unconditional release of all members of the targeted flotilla, and publication of the names of the dead, injured, and detained; a war crimes tribunal; and, in the U.S., an end to all aid to Israel.
Two of the seven boats that were part of the flotilla remained at sea because of engine problems. On June 1 it was announced that one of them, the Rachel Corrie, was sailing on to Gaza, and that a second flotilla would sail in coming weeks. While continuing to organize protests against the murders, supporters of Palestine should participate in and defend every boat on its way to Gaza until the siege is broken!
And for activists in the U.S., we have a unique opportunity to broaden and deepen support for these activities and the overall Palestine liberation struggle by attending the United National Antiwar Conference in Albany, N.Y., July 23-25.