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Monday, May 31, 2010

Pirates of the Middle East, Gaza Edition

It finally happened: Israel found an offense greater than forging European passports. And if I might add, kudos to the brains...
It finally happened: Israel found an offense greater than forging European passports. And if I might add, kudos to the brains of the operation, you've outdone yourselves on this one.
For those out there that don't know what I'm talking about yet, at dawn today, the Israeli army raided an international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid headed towards Gaza, a Palestinian territory on which Israel has been imposing a blockade for the last three years. So far this doesn't seem like anything out of the ordinary, at least not for Israel, so hold on for the rest of the story: On board of the six ships were convoys from Turkey, France, Greece, Sweden, and about forty other countries, all of which were made up of writers (some of which are jewish), reporters, politicians, a holocaust survivor, etc... basically: civilians. The goal of this merry little bunch: breaking the blockade imposed on Gaza by attempting to deliver the aid to the Palestinians without going through the Israelis.

This being not the first attempt of the kind by humanitarian associations, the expectations of these attempts usually goes as follows: The ships get rerouted by the Israeli army to an Israeli port, where the shipment goes through customs, and then is delivered to Gaza. In itself, that is not a bad result, once you think about it, except of course, if you care about the minor detail that is the sovereignty of the Palestinians.

So did everything go according to "plan" this time ? No.
Instead, the Israeli army raided the Flotilla while it was still in International waters, and a few tens of bullets later, ended up killing about ten civilians, and injuring a handful. Naturally, conflicting reports start surfacing, amid a complete media blackout enforced by the Israeli army on all ships, and the name of the game is simple: "They started it".

Now I'm going to go ahead and give in to the assumption that the six hundred civilians on board of the main vessel where much of the brawling took place, were in fact dangerous people, who pretended to be unarmed, and whose hidden agenda was to engage the Israeli army in a battle for the sake of attracting more hatred to Israel from the international community. One way to put it would be, that these people walked up to a policeman with a knife, and are now complaining they got beat up. I'm usually not a big fan of technicalities, but in this case there's a big fat topless technicality that's staring us straight in the eyes: The flotilla was attacked in international waters, and that, changes the story slightly. At best, these people walked up with a knife on a Canadian policeman in Spain, where he has no business practicing law enforcement in the first place.

Then if you consider the fact that the Israeli army raided the ship (in international water, where they have no jurisdiction), the image becomes more an issue of self-defense. It's like someone broke into your house, then sued you for punching them in the nose (it has happened, I know, still doesn't make it right). My bottom line is simple: The Israeli army had no business on that ship. Had they waited for the ships to be in Israeli waters, we might be having an entirely different discussion right now, unless of course you care about the minor technicality that is the fact that innocent civilian lives were lost. But the fact remains, that Israel did not wait till it had the right to hold these ships, and instead hijacked them while they were still in international waters.

You know what they call people who hijack ships in international waters ? Pirates. And no, the Israelis are not half as charming as Jack Sparrow.

Today is not a day to take this issue lightly. I might sound like I'm tackling the issue with a big of sarcasm, but that's the best way I can think of hiding my shock and outrage, and my disappointment at what will inevitably happen next: Israel will, as usual, get away with it. I hope I'm wrong, after all, turkey recalled it's ambassador to Israel today, and warned of irreparable repercussions on the ties between the two countries, but sadly, if not matched by similar calls in the international community, this will only make things more difficult for the Palestinians, whose only hope for a peaceful end to their Israeli-flavored nightmare is the indirect peace negotiations that Turkey is mediating. With Turkey at odds with Israel, and no European pressure to up the ante, this just might be another tragedy where both people and hope have died.

Again, I hope I'm wrong, and that someone decides to finally break Israel's overgrown ego. So far, and to my deepest shame, the Arab community has fallen far below short of its responsibility towards this issue. On the other hand, Lebanon has called for an emergency session of the UN security council after the events of this morning, and the response in Europe seems to be quite critical of the Israeli maneuver. Let's hope this time, we go beyond symbolic gestures, and actually take the appropriate measures that we would have taken had it been any other country than Israel.

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