By Kenneth J. Theisen
On June 1st Alejandro Wolff, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations made the following statement to reporters in New York: "We support an Israeli investigation as I called for in my statement earlier, and have every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial and transparent, prompt investigation internally." Wolff, and the U.S. government he represents, wants people to accept the astonishing proposition that Israel will be able to investigate its own actions in the massacre of activists who were attempting to break the illegal blockade of Gaza. But this is an obvious attempt at whitewashing the massacre.
DeWolff’s charade follows a typical pattern of events involving the U.S. and its Mideast pitbull, Israel. First Israel commits horrific war crimes and crimes against humanity. Then the U.S. government either denies the facts or claims that Israel is best situated to investigate itself. This one-two combo occurred near the beginning of the Israeli assault on Gaza at the end of 2008, when Israel massacred over 1500 Palestinian residents of Gaza.
An investigation into the invasion headed by Richard Goldstone, a South African judge, detailed Israeli atrocities. But the report was attacked by president Obama and prominent Congresspeople of both parties, who brazenly defended Israel’s savage assault upon Palestinians. In the U.N. the U.S. has repeatedly used its veto power to similarly defend its partner in crime.
The actions of Israel in attacking the freedom flotilla were an act of piracy that resulted in a massacre. These actions must be condemned by all who retain a basic sense of justice, and an ability to distinguish right from wrong. All those responsible deserve to be punished. This includes U.S. government officials who failed to rein in the action of is murderous ally. Israeli intentions to use military force to halt the flotilla were well-known in advance.
More than a week ago, Deputy Director General at the Israeli Foreign Ministry Naor Gilon stated that the flotilla’s actions would be a "provocation and breach of Israeli law". The foreign ministry issued a statement that vowed Israel had "no intention of allowing the flotilla into Gaza." Defense Minister Ehud Barak had issued instructions to the Israeli Navy to intercept the convoy.
The Israeli military has not hesitated to kill those trying to bring in goods to Gaza previously. It has bombed the tunnels between Egypt and Gaza [These tunnels are used to bring in goods, including food and medicine.) so many times that these bombings receive minimal media coverage because they are no longer considered news. Prior to the attacks various Israeli officials issued “warnings” about the Israeli intentions to stop the flotilla. For the last week or so before the massacre, I looked repeatedly for any statement from any U.S. officials urging Israel to use restraint of even to possibly lift the siege of Gaza. But there were none forthcoming. But this is also consistent with U.S. policy toward the Israeli war against Gaza.
Since shortly before Obama came into office Israel has been waging open war against Gaza. Initially this war consisted of open and massive military attacks which killed over 1500 people. The war is now being waged by blockade and occasional military strikes. Other ships attempting to break the siege have been attacked by Israel. People trying to smuggle goods into Gaza to aid the population there have been killed by both the Israelis and Egyptians. Not surprisingly, both the Israeli and Egyptian governments are the recipients of billions in aid from the U.S. government, including billions in military aid.
U.S. officials have either remained silent about these crimes or actually defended Israel by condemning those who resisted Israel’s war crimes. I have already mentioned how Obama and Congress reacted to the Goldstone Report. In November 2009 the House voted 344 to 36 to condemn the report that the vast majority had not even bothered to read. The Obama administration did all in its power to prevent a discussion of the Goldstone investigation and report in the United Nations Security Council. No discussion took place.
Based on past actions we can expect the U.S. government to do what it can this time to protect Israel again. But it may not be as successful, as this massacre will not easily be covered up. This time it will be hard to accuse the victims of being “terrorists.” When killing Palestinians, Lebanese, or other Arabs this is the usual refrain from Israel.
Many of the activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla were European nationals. People of more than 50 different nationalities were aboard the flotilla. Some are famous in their countries or even internationally. One of those aboard was 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire of Northern Ireland. Also on board the ships were lawmakers from different nations. Two members of the German Bundestag were among five Germans on board the flotilla ships according to the German Foreign Ministry.
But despite this Israeli papers are full of accounts of the massacre portraying the actual murderers as the victims and those aboard as the aggressors. The Israeli pirates were only defending themselves in these accounts.
Here is one such description from the Israeli paper, Haaretz:
“The Israel Navy commandos who on Monday raided a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip with humanitarian aid had no choice but to defend themselves against the violent activists, a captain of the elite marines unit who carried out the operation said Tuesday."We knew there would be resistance, but not at such an enormous scale," said Captain R., who led one of the teams and was wounded in the mission. "Every [activist] that approached us wanted to kill us."…From the Rambam Hospital in Haifa, Captain R. said that every commando who entered the ship was met by a number of activists who charged at the soldiers and attacked them. At least 75 percent of the activists took part in what the soldiers later described as a "lynch."
Expect Israeli apologists in the U.S. government and in other quarters to put out similar propaganda to try to justify the massacre. But the usual Israeli justifications are not working so well this time.
United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco stated that bloodshed would have been avoided if repeated calls on Israel to end the "counterproductive and unacceptable" blockade of Gaza had been heeded.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini condemned the killing of civilians during Israel’s attack on the aid flotilla when he stated, "I deplore in the strongest terms the killing of civilians. This is certainly a grave act." He requested that the European Union initiate and investigation.
The Turkey Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu accurately described the event despite attempts to justify it. He referred to the attack as murder conducted by a state. He further demanded an immediate Israeli apology, an urgent inquiry, international legal action against the authorities and perpetrators responsible, and an end to the Gaza blockade.
Contrast this to the statement of the White House spokesman William Burton who said, “The United States deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.” What doesn’t the White House understand? Murder is murder even when committed by one of your allies in crime.
Some Israeli authorities are also trying another line of defense by trying to distance themselves from the decision to launch the attack. These senior Israeli ministers maintain that the decision was made after two meetings of the forum of seven senior ministers but without official deliberation by the inner cabinet. Allegedly the inner cabinet only has the authority to approve military actions such as this. According to these senior ministers, the inner cabinet did not discuss issues related to the flotilla, receive operational briefings or approve the operation.
But the Israeli authorities who were at the meetings which decided on the attack included Prime Minister Netanyahu, Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Intelligence and Atomic Affairs Minister Dan Meridor, Strategic Affairs Minister Moshe Ya’alon, Interior Minister Eli Yishai and Minster without Portfolio Benny Begin. These murderers constitute the top echelon of the Israeli government. Whether or not they acted under the Israeli laws, they need to be held responsible for their crimes.
The massacre is causing unforeseen consequences for the Israelis. The massacre forced Egypt to open its border with Gaza. Egypt has been enforcing the blockade against Gaza up to now. It also has killed those trying to bring in goods to Gaza. Like Israel, Egypt gets billions in aid from the U.S. for its collaboration with U.S. imperialism. But its actions have not been popular with the Egyptian people and this massacre has caused much popular resentment against the Egyptian government. To relieve the political pressure, Egypt announced the opening of the border on Tuesday June 1st.
In the last three years Egypt has opened the crossing only occasionally and with restrictions. An Egyptian security source told Reuters, "Egypt opened its border with the Gaza Strip on Tuesday to allow humanitarian and medical aid to enter the Strip. The border will remain open for an unlimited time.”
We must demand that all prisoners taken by Israel in this act of piracy be released. (There have been reports that prisoners have been abused.) The seized vessels must be released and the supplies the boats were carrying must be given to the Gazan people. And all those responsible for this massacre, and the aftermath such as prisoner abuse, must be held fully accountable for their crimes.
As someone who resides in the U.S., I further demand that those in the U.S. government who continue to further the crimes of Israel in the interests of U.S. imperialism also be held accountable. This includes not only Obama and those in his administration, but also hundreds of members of Congress who routinely vote billions in military and economic aid to Israel. It includes those who condemned the Goldstone report. As long as U.S. imperialism aids Israel in its crimes it is just as guilty of those crimes. That is why the blood shed in this latest Israeli massacre is also on the hands of the U.S. government.