Archive for May, 2010
Immediate thoughts on last night’s killing of between nine and 19 (depending on who you believe) violent or nonviolent (ditto) pro-Palestinian peace activists by Israel IDF commandos in international waters:
So far the best coverage I’ve found has been this day-long (their time) live blog by the Guardian UK. It speaks volumes that British, other European, and various other international English-language outlets (including Al-Jazeera English) have had much, much better and more comprehensive coverage of this incident and its aftermath than the US media. The comparison with British media is particularly appropriate since it’s also a holiday in the UK today. But the relative lack of prominence here (despite, or because of, the US being Israel’s biggest international military, economic, and diplomatic enabler); the straight face with which US is reporting conflicting and preposterous IDF justifications for the deaths (the peace activists attacked them with clubs and knives – no, wait, it was live fire from weapons seized from the commandos – no, wait, the commandos were ambushed by peace activists who brought the weapons with them!); and US media’s failure, unlike most other countries’ mainstream media, to have contacts with or representatives on the ships themselves or even to get quotes from domestic pro-Palestinian groups – it’s all a depressing reminder of just how separate an information universe most Americans live in compared to the rest of the world.
* This was an act of piracy, and murder. Plain and simple. International waters. Soldiers vs. civilians. Civilians, moreover, with a track record of nonviolence, flying a white flag over a flotilla of ships loaded with humanitarian supplies. This will be a very, very big deal internationally, even if the US response is (you read it here) lame apologetics and mush-mouthed outrage.
*Three of the ships and many of the casualties are Turkish. The Turkish government – after rightfully calling the attack “state terrorism” – is now threatening to send more ships, accompanied by the Turkish Navy. Turkey is a member of NATO, and the US is obligated by treaty to defend their military if attacked. Hang on.
* There are spontaneous protests happening all over the world. Even in the US – so far I’ve read of protests being convened in DC and Boston. Haven’t seen anything on a protest in Seattle yet, though no doubt there are people in Westlake Park at this very moment…
* This is redolent of the Mississippi Freedom Summer tactics, wherein Northern liberals didn’t much care about the lynchings and horrors of Jim Crow until it was white student activists getting beaten and shot by the Klan. Palestinians continue to die on a mind-numbingly regular basis, but it takes the murder of a few international activists (many Europeans are also part of the flotilla) to get the world appropriately outraged. That’s depressing. But predictable. Call it the Rachel Corrie Syndrome.
Perhaps with this latest bumper crop of martyrs, the deification of Corrie (after whom one of the ships in the flotilla is named) can be given a rest. Her 2003 death was deplorable and tragic. It was also one of thousands. The fact that she was American, or from our neck of the woods, shouldn’t make her special. Same with today’s deaths. The Gaza seige, the illegal military occupation of Palestine, and Israel’s war crimes and lawlessness are the issues. These latest sad deaths are just more, completely unnecessary evidence of Israel’s barbarism. And for those who think this is “different” because the murders occurred in international waters, remember that the West Bank and Gaza aren’t part of Israeli territory, either.
UPDATE I 2:10 PM
A commenter at another site points out that legally speaking, this wasn’t piracy, because Israel is a nation-state. This was, instead, an act of war against the country whose flags the ships were flying. (That would be Turkey, Sweden, Ireland, and at least a couple of other European countries.)
The US is, of course, legally obligated to defend its NATO allies against acts of war. Aside from his ability to string together complete sentences, it’s time to see if Obama is any more capable of responding appropriately than Bush was.
UPDATE II 8:40 PM
At the UN Security Council today, the US moved to block a UN investigation of the massacre, calling instead on Israel to investigate. (This is sort of like asking Gary Ridgway to “investigate” the Green River Killings.) Meanwhile, the US State Department comes very close to blaming the activists for the attack, and the US is virtually alone among even its NATO allies today in not condemning Israel.
So much for all of Obama’s rhetoric about getting tough with Israel. And so much for any progress Obama might have made in convincing the Muslim world that US policy under George W. Bush was an aberration. So much for change.