Reactions to Gaza Flotilla 2

Nine boats of siege-busting ‘Freedom Rider’ activists are now gathering in the Mediterranean, preparing to challenge the longrunning siege that is one of the main tools through which Israel continues to stifle the lives and livelihoods of all of Gaza’s 1.6 million people.
An act of collective punishment like this siege is quite illegal under international law. Under international law, Israel has status over Gaza, as over the West Bank, only as a foreign military occupier, a status it has enjoyed for a jaw-dropping 44 years now. (Hey, even the Allied occupation of post-war Germany only lasted 14 years.) It is only that standing as occupying power that “allows” Israel to exercise control over all of Gaza’s land and sea borders, over its airspace, and even over the vital population registry that determines which Palestinians are allowed to enter into or reside in the Palestinian land of Gaza.
It is that long-running military occupation that needs to end; and we should never forget that.
Right now, there is zero movement in the “international community” towards ending Israel’s prolonged occupation of Gaza and the West Bank. There is no prospect of peace and none even of that long-running time-waster, the peace “process.” In the absence of any prospect of peace, actions to end the illegal siege through which Israel seeks to break the will of the civilian population of Gaza are a very valuable way to break the deadlock while also bringing hope to Gaza’s long-besieged civilians that no, the rest of the world has not forgotten about their plight.
I have such admiration for Freedom Riders like the amazingly talented and gutsy African-American writer Alice Walker. The essay in which she explains her reasons for joining the flotilla should be required reading in every class on Middle East politics, all around the world.
… Or Joseph Dana, an American-Israeli journalist who has decided to travel with and document the work of the flotilla, despite numerous attacks against him. Dana is great Twitterer. Follow his realtime updates here.
And then, there are all the sick attacks that Israeli government spokespeople and their fellow travelers in the U.S. State Department (including Hillary Clinton) and in pro-Israel circles in the U.S. and elsewhere make upon these courageous Freedom Riders… Including accusations from the IDF that the Freedom Riders are intent on using violence, from government sources in Israel and the U.S. that “Rafah is now open” and there are no remaining restrictions on the movement of goods or people in and out of Gaza, etc etc.
As I witnessed in Rafah with my own eyes (and suffered a bit with my sun-battered body) two weeks ago, claims that “Rafah is now open” are simply false.
In light of the above, what are we to make of this statement from an organization called “Americans for Peace Now” today? It includes this bit of verbal bullying:

    Let there be no doubt: the organizers of the flotilla are seeking to provoke a confrontation with Israel. In doing so they are playing a dangerous game. None of us knows what the consequences of their actions will be…

Oh, come on. The flotilla organizers are not seeking to “confront” the whole of Israel. They are seeking to confront the specific Israeli policy that maintains a quite illegal siege on all of Gaza’s people. And this “confrontation” is of exactly the same kind used by the Freedom Riders or lunch-counter activists in the days of the civil rights struggle in the United States.
I suppose APN, which is a U.S.-based support branch for the once-magnificent and powerful Israeli organization Peace Now, was trying to establish its pro-Israeli “muscularity” there before they made their core argument which was that Israel should simply let the flotilla make it to Gaza.
Their statement argues that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is a “failed policy.” It does describe it as part of a campaign of collective punishment of the whole population of Gaza, though does not spell out the essential illegitimacy of any such collective punishment.
And nor, crucially, does the statement mention that Israel’s ongoing measures against Gaza are possible only because of Israel’s status as occupying power in Gaza: a status that is only ever intended under international law to be a temporary situation, and one that is always– and hopefully speedily–brought to end by the conclusion of a final-status peace between or among the belligerents.
APN’s statement makes it seem quite possible that Israel could continue to exercise its sway over Gaza for ever! It says:

    We recognize Israel’s right to stop and inspect ships it has genuine reason to believe are seeking to smuggle weapons into Gaza… More effective and defensible measures to prevent arms smuggling into Gaza – both via land and via the sea – must be implemented, in cooperation with Egypt, the United States, and the international community.

But how about calling for a speedy end to the occupation that Israel maintains over Gaza, which would be done in the context of a peace treaty between Israel and the PLO– like the one that the Oslo Accords stipulated should have been completed back in May 1999, but that very tragically, because of intense and often intentional Israeli and U.S. foot-dragging, is nowhere on the horizon even today.
In the context of a peace treaty, arms limitation agreements might (and should) be agreed to by both parties to the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel as such would have no continuing right to inspect or control the movement of goods and people into or out of Gaza or the rest of the Palestinian state, though the Palestinian negotiators would likely agree to some form of trusted third-party monitoring.
But the idea– as seems encapsulated in the APN statement– that Israel has any unending “right to stop and inspect ships it has genuine reason to believe are seeking to smuggle weapons into Gaza”? Where did that come from? I thought APN was dedicated to achieving a fair and sustainable final-status peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Surely, they should have mentioned that?

5 thoughts on “Reactions to Gaza Flotilla 2”

    The blockade of Gaza is illegal according to the United Nations. If anyone is still unsure, please read the Geneva Conventions on Human Rights to appreciate the difference between a legal blockade against an enemy with whom you are at war in order to secure your borders and population, and the collective punishment of a civilian population of 1.6 million unarmed people as an act of deliberate oppression by a heavily armed expansionist regime who will kill at will.
    ENDING ISRAEL’S FREE ACCESS to EU markets will end the illegal blockade of Gaza
    Israeli law does not, and cannot, extend either to Gaza or to international waters. The blockade is a ‘collective punishment’ that is according to the UN illegal under the Geneva Conventions and international law.
    This Israeli siege, now in its 5th year of punishing over a half a million Muslim families, is only able to be implemented as a result of the extraordinary economic benefits of having being afforded the privilege, as a non European state, of being given access to the combined markets of the 27 member states of the EU. This privilege should be immediately withdrawn by the EU, whereupon Israel will once again revert to being just a somewhat small and insignificant Mediterranean state of just 8m – unable to mount any illegal blockade against an innocent indigenous people.
    On December 27, 2008, the IDF killed 1400 in Gaza in three bloody weeks. The majority were civilian non-combatants including 326 children under the age of 16 and 112 of their mothers, as substantiated by the UN fact finding mission, the report of which has been accepted. It was the worst kind of collective punishment – innocent children and women, plus the destruction of schools, hospitals and power installations, by the use of banned white phosphorus, missiles, cluster bombs, rockets, tank shells and machine guns.
    All this horrendous killing by a heavily armed militia against a mainly unarmed civilian population – unless you count the stone-throwing youths intent on demonstrating against their oppressors who humiliate them daily at every crossing point and deny them essential supplies including medicines. An army who used civilians as human shields and to cover this war crime alleged the opposite. The UN report obtained the evidence which the Israeli government then tried, unsuccessfully, to discredit. These are facts, not propaganda. All of the above is public domain information available at the click of a mouse.
    It is also public domain information that a Palestinian splinter group has for years fired home-made missiles at the nearest point in Israel, Sderot, in order to vent their anger at the illegal settlements and their treatment at the hands of the Israeli state. The vast majority of such missiles land harmlessly, but some cause injuries and in one or two instances, death. That has to be put into context of an extremist, expansionist state giving financial inducements to tens of thousands of its citizens to leave their homes in Israel and to settle on Palestinian land in Jerusalem and the West Bank. The killings in Gaza were a war crime and to date no one has yet been apprehended and brought before the ICC.

  2. I still wonder why Israel needs so many, constantly-used WMD for “self-defense”, but the victims of their illegal occupation are to be completely disarmed for all time, and cannot react at all against their oppressors.Words like terrorists, smuggling, foreign interference by Iran are bandied about, as if poor innocent Israel fights alone against a raging army supported by everyone outside their valiant little nation.

  3. Reality is much more complex than that – The first thing Israel would like to do is give freedom to the Gaza strip, only there’s no one to trust there, as it is being dominated by terrorist groups, who have demonstarted their will to preform terrorist acts dozens of times.

  4. I’ve tried to think about international action to roll back the occupation (or the settlements project). See this essay.
    Today I am very pessimistic. The USA presses nations not to act. Lethargy presses nations not to act. Trade and security relations press nations not to act.
    So — long live the BDS, the Flotillas, and the decent citizens of all those nations who may, at long last, force their nations to find some shred of decency.

  5. Michal, go back and read Helena Cobban’s articles on Hamas. You’re right, reality is much more complex … even with political organizations you may disagree with.

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