Israel’s attack on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla on America’s Memorial Day was all too predictable, although the form it took surprised even me. And it confirms the old proverb that “Those whom the gods would destroy, they first make mad,” for the attack was the kind of madness only unbridled arrogance can assume.
It wasn’t just that foreigners as well as Palestinians, flying flags other than that of Palestine, were attacked. Israel has a long history of doing such things, especially to the UN. But except for the USS Liberty incident in 1967, it has generally done that on inland sites — Gaza, the West Bank, Lebanon — where it can largely block news and visual evidence, and control the spin it puts on events, counting on its friends in the US and other mainstream media to say little or nothing to contradict them.
The Attack Reprised
Not this time. An attack on the open seas, in acknowledged international waters, against unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid with passengers and crews from many countries — especially a direct attack against a Turkish ship — is a different matter, and potentially an explosive one. The number of shipboard casualties indicates that once fighting started, the Israeli commandos simply sprayed automatic weapons fire into the people around them — another of their long-standing habits.
And technology is their enemy here, just as it became in an earlier day the enemy of communist regimes in the former Soviet Union and other Eastern European countries. Too many images and videos were taken, and some sent, and too many witnesses reported what was happening, before the Israelis were able to suppress communications from their victims.
Bad for their victims, but also potentially very bad for Israel, and the initial Israeli public-relations damage control efforts show that they are at least dimly aware of that fact. Trying to cast the attack in international waters as an exercise in self-defense would be ludicrous in the best or worst of circumstances — has anyone ever seen wheelchairs used as offensive weaponry?
And for the Israeli spokeswoman to try to spin an assault by warships and armed commandos as defense against a “lynch” (I guess she was trying to push an American “hot button” for Obama — someone should tell her it is “lynching” or “lynch mob”) would have embarrassed even her public relations soulmate, Dr. Josef Goebbels. But desperate do what desperation dictates, I suppose, although this time they may well have gone way too far.
A Judging, Long Overdue
And that is what the initial responses appear to affirm. All of the major US and many other media outlets are carrying this story, and even with the slant from many Jewish correspondents based in Jerusalem or Ashdod, the bloody particulars are slowly coming through to at least a general American audience for the first time:
1. The unarmed ships with unarmed passengers were trying to ferry humanitarian and reconstruction aid to ravaged and embattled Gaza.
2. Israel has imposed a blockade on Gaza, probably if not certainly in violation of international law, supported largely by US vetoes in the UN Security Council.
3. Israeli warships and commandos intercepted and attacked the aid flotilla in international waters — which is an act of war, piracy or state terrorism, depending on one’s view of the details.
4. Under attack, some of the passengers tried to defend themselves, scores were killed or wounded, and some Israeli commandos were also wounded — doubtless a surprise to them, but then their usual run of victims may have made them a bit too cocky.
5. Many governments and publics around the world — not only in Arab capitals — are openly outraged, and the discussion forums on US news web sites carrying the story suggest that much the same is happening at a public level in this country.
6. But for Israel, this is just another “we are the misunderstood victim” incident in a long, sordid and utterly unbelievable litany of such things — except that this time, they may not get away with it.
Seizing the Moment
This is a time for those interested in justice for Palestine to seize the moment and act, building on the promise engendered but not fulfilled after the submission of the Goldstone Report to the HRC.
I would like to think that President Obama would take a stand, and perhaps he will, but if he does it will be with words and not with deeds. Neither the Congress nor Rahm Emanuel would let him do much more, whatever his predisposition — and who knows, he may believe the “lynch” metaphor, or pretend to do so.
Americans shouldn’t bother with letters or emails to US Senators or Representatives, or Obama; AIPAC will be there ahead of you with more letters and money than you can generate. Go instead directly to the local offices of US Senators and Representatives, stay until you speak personally to the senior person there, and make your case as forcefully as you can. Make sure as many people hear you as possible — but be polite, and leave your signs at home.
For the world community, now is the time and this is the incident to drive home the UN “Uniting for Peace” Resolution, in both the Security Council and the General Assembly as needed. The nationalities of the victims will at least neutralize many European countries that might have opposed it before. Sanctions, embargoes, even the suspension or expulsion of Israel from the UN itself, do as much as quickly and as forcefully as possible. Press the BDS campaign everywhere hard.
And for the US armed forces, on this Memorial Day, it would be well to reflect on the meaning of duty and service to country and people. Oaths of allegiance, obedience and loyalty are important to professionals in the armed forces, in or out of uniform. They were to me when I was in the Marines, and later as a civilian at West Point and the Army War College. I’m sure serving professionals today are no different.
But the elected and appointed civilians overseeing the armed services have also taken their own oaths, and many have violated them by serving the interests of Israel rather than the US, itself, and especially by spending American lives and treasure furthering Israeli interests rather than safeguarding American ones. This, to me, is clearly treason, and utterly negates any loyalty anyone else owes to them.
Remember that the cornerstone of our oaths is not to obedience, but to “support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic.” Think about it on this Memorial Day.