Where is so much arrogance and impunity leading?

Elsa Claro

TEL Aviv states that Israel is the only democracy in the whole of the Middle East. If that was the case, there would more than enough reasons not to propose duplicating a system which has turned (almost) the entire world against it, as President Shimon Peres states; whether playing the misunderstood victim card or using a sterile alibi for despicable acts in any language, religion or philosophy, I do not know.

The United States and Europe share much blame. If the Israeli authorities ever imagined that those two centers of world power would seriously and harshly reproach them, they would not have committed the multiple assassination of the humanitarian group transporting aid to the blockaded inhabitants of Gaza.

The conduct of the Israeli assault commandos was disgraceful. They fired on a group that included a young Turkish-American, an elderly man of over 90 and the archbishop of Jerusalem, and crushed the skulls of various flotilla members, as autopsies reveal. Their sudden incursion left behind badly injured unarmed pacifists and an unconfirmed number of people were thrown overboard (it is not known whether they were already dead or still alive). All of that confirms the adoption of a mentality and procedure typical of those accustomed to outrages.

That is confirmed by the perspective of Sicham Leventallos, a young member of the Israeli NGO Breaking the Silence. Passing judgment on the abovementioned event, he commented, “The most serious part is that it isn’t an isolated case. What is serious is the ‘normality’ of those acts of force. A normality in which Palestinians have no rights. I have a home; I know that nobody is going to enter it. The Palestinians do not. Sometimes a commander orders troops to enter a house at night because he feels like it. So that nobody forgets who’s in charge. And we don’t go in knocking at the door with a smile, but with weapons, with blows, with searches, shouting and kickings. So that they learn.”

The NGO to which Sicham belongs is made up of ex-recruits who, after completing their military service, decided to expose the unrestrained and abusive actions of the Israeli government that take place on a daily basis against the Palestinians. “Depriving them of their rights and dignity doesn’t make us any better,” says the activist, for whom “the occupation has a price,” and provoking fear in others generates in its turn fear and baseness in those who practice it without questioning its morality.

For years, Israel has been seizing ships in international waters between Cyprus and the Lebanon, killing or kidnapping passengers; sometimes transferring them afterward to Israeli jails, including secret prisons/torture chambers, and holding them as hostages for many years, according to Noam Chomsky, the eminent linguist resident in the United States (a country that he accuses of permitting what Israel does). Chomsky is also a political scientist of Jewish origin and, in spite of that and the international recognition that he enjoys as a respected academic, his entry into the West Bank, where he was scheduled to give various lectures, was vetoed by the Israeli authorities.

One of the pretexts wielded by Netanyahu’s government to justify its assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is that it was transporting materials it suspected were to be used to build bunkers for rockets. Leaving to one side that absurd argument, Chomsky emphasized that if Israel was really interested in stopping the homemade rockets of the Palestinian organization Hamas, it knows exactly what to do: to accept the offers of a ceasefire. In that context, the professor recalls that, in June 2008, Israel and Hamas agreed a truce of that kind. “The Israeli government formally acknowledges that even when Israel broke that agreement on November 4 by invading Gaza and killing half a dozen Hamas members, these did not fire a single rocket.”

Hamas offered a similar armistice after that – Chomsky states – and the Israeli government rejected the offer, “preferring to launch its murderous and destructive Operation Cast Lead on December 27 (2008). It had imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2006, a move also intended to punish the “boldness” of the maltreated people in electing Hamas members as their legitimate representatives. It is not only a penitence, it is part of the plan for separating Gaza from the West Bank, other specialists note.

After visiting that slice of territory blockaded by land and sea, various South African politicians affirmed that what has been imposed on the inhabitants of Gaza could be considered worse than apartheid itself. That is a qualified opinion and gives a measure of the punishment imposed, and what moves “right-wing, left-wing, liberals, conservatives, atheists, Islamists, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Buddhists from all parts of the world to send medicine, foodstuffs and building materials,” according to Bülent Yildirim, president of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), organizer of the flotilla. It is an NGO with a wide-ranging brief: it went to the aid of the Katrina victims in the United States, those left homeless by the earthquakes in Italy, Greece and Haiti and has taken aid to Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and a number of African states.

AGAINST THE MARMARA?

The lukewarm attitude of the Obama administration, faithful to the U.S. postulate of covering Israel’s back in every eventuality, has reached the extreme of not even demanding a reliable investigation into the action perpetrated outside of its territorial waters and, thus in violation international law to the same extreme.

According to information available to date, the idea is to create a commission made up of Israelis or Israelis with a U.S. guarantor, in spite of the UN proposal of a commission of experts from various countries in search of a neutral objectivity in terms of investigating the Israeli action.

Given that, from the outset, the Benjamin Netanyahu government has attempted to distort the character of the flotilla members, accusing them of having links with Al Qaeda or even of being terrorists, and now has their boats in its power, thus allowing for further manipulations, it is evidently impossible to accept any kind of serious Israeli self-investigation, shaped from the beginning by criteria in part directed to its own Jewish population, to whom the government has to justify its acts of aggression by affirming that it was defending itself from an “external threat.” The official political decisions concerning the disastrous assault would remain buried in the most fainthearted explanation.

And above all, concealing factors like those exposed by certain sources with a chilling piece of information: the elite troops who stormed the flotilla of unarmed volunteers took with them a list of 16 previously sentenced people, all of them outstanding activists in defending the rights of the Palestinian people.

If that is confirmed, it would provide another basis for Israel being brought to trial, as proposed by some brigade members who, initially, are to bring charges of piracy and the murder of at least 10 civilians against Israel. The success of that can be doubted in advance, given the almost total silence on the part of the maximum leaders – seasoned or new – of the most powerful nations. The protesting has been passionately taken up by different populations. Voices of stature acting in the same way are lacking.

If there is something that is in no doubt whatsoever, it is the rejection being accumulated by Israel and the slim margin left to its protectors, excessively tolerant toward this aggressive partner that they are continuing to shield, maybe to conceal their own guilt, similar to that of such a seasoned pupil.

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