While Nicaragua has suspended all ties with Israeln and South Africa is recalling its ambassador from occupied Palestine, Juan Cole over at Informed Comment sums up the situation rather comprehensively: ‘The sloppy Israeli propaganda effort against the Free Gaza humanitarian flotilla has been so bad that the pictures released by the Israeli army have been tagged by alert bloggers as forgeries, some of them having been on the Web for years. This site alleges that many of the pictures put out by Israel purporting to show arms on the aid ship still contained internal tags allowing them to be identified as old photos from years ago. Even if the charges of forgery are false, the photos show chains, sticks, an axe– things that would be on any ship.
The defiant speech on Wednesday of Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu defending the Israeli boarding of an aid flotilla headed for Gaza, and his insisting that the blockade of Gaza would continue displayed all the problems with hyper-nationalist Israeli discourse, of inappropriate analogies, factual errors, propaganda, and magical thinking. These fallacies have dominated the narrative presented by members of the Netanyahu government and those who support it.
The first fallacy is to identify all the people of Gaza with the Hamas party-militia, dismissing them all as “terrorists.” But over half of the 1.5 million people of Gaza is children, who can hardly be terrorists. And if Palestine Authority elections had been held in both the West Bank and Gaza this spring, likely Fatah (which recognizes Israel and has agreed to peace talks) would win, not Hamas, according to a recent Angus Reid poll. (The news is even worse for Hamas: nearly a third of Palestinians want to throw in the towel and seek Israeli citizenship. Oh, yeah, Palestinian nationalism is such a threat to Israel; geez, this is like a third of Americans in the 1950s announcing that what they really wanted was Soviet citizenship).
So collectively punishing all the people of Gaza, as Israel does, is just wrong. It necessitates half-starving little children, since they are so much of the population. And the Israeli perpetrators of the blockade assume that they are punishing Gaza supporters of Hamas when it is clear that a majority of Palestinians would not vote for Hamas at this point.
The Israeli hyper-nationalists argue from contiguity, from things being next to each other, demonizing entire groups and peoples rather than considering their actions in the real world. Thus, IHH, the fundamentalist Turkish charity that sponsored the lead ship in the aid convoy, sympathizes with the Muslim Brotherhood and Hamas. The ship was then branded a “Hamas” vessel. But none of the passengers is known ever to have actually engaged in anything like terrorism and the Turkish government would not allow it to operate if it were actually considered radical (look at the way Turkish security tracks down the Turkish Hizbullah).
And, since Iran sympathizes with Hamas, as well, and since IHH is a known sympathizer with the plight of the Palestinians in Gaza, actually the ship is not just a Hamas ship but is an Iranian one. Even though Iran had nothing to do with it and even though it had no weapons aboard. All of Gaza is transformed by this way of thinking (if you are sympathetic with a group, you are identical to that group and they are identical to you) into an “Iranian port on the Mediterranean.” In fact, of course, the Israelis do not allow the Gazans to have a port at all, much less an Iranian one. And, if that were the danger, then surely Tyre (in Lebanese Hizbullah territory) is already an ‘Iranian port on the Mediterranean,’ since Iran is a patron of Hizbullah. But wait, that situation already exists. And no one in Europe has been menaced by Tyre, of which most of them have not heard. Imaginary dangers in the future can always be dressed up as more menacing that mundane existing situations.’ Read the whole thing here.
Naharnet talks about a number of activists still missing: ‘A key Turkish organizer of the ill-fated Gaza aid flotilla charged on Thursday that more than a dozen injured activists were still unaccounted for following the bloody Israeli assault on the convoy. Bulent Yildirim, head of the Islamist charity IHH, said the toll from Monday’s raid may be higher than the nine dead announced by Israel, after he was deported home with hundreds of activists. “We were given the bodies of nine martyrs, but we have a longer list. There are missing people,” he told reporters. “Our doctors handed over 38 injured, on our return they (the Israelis) said there were only 21 injured.” Yildirim, who heads the Islamist Foundation of Humanitarian Relief (IHH), accused Israeli forces of indiscriminate killing, highlighting the death of one journalist on the Mavi Marmara ship, named Cevdet. “He was just taking pictures. He was shot at from no more than a meter and his brain exploded … one of our friends was shot even after he had surrendered,” Yildirim said. “They killed whoever they laid hands on. They even threw some of our friends into the sea.” Yildirim said the activists attacked Israeli forces with iron bars “in self defense”, adding that they also seized the soldiers’ weapons but threw them in the sea rather than using them.’
Al Sharq al-Awsat has the full account of Israeli MP Zoabi who was on board the flotilla – and who was yesterday removed from Israel’s so-called democratic parliament and censored for speaking the truths the Israelis do not want to hear: ‘Haneen Zoabi, who is a Palestinian Arab citizen of Israel and an MP for the National Democratic Assembly or Balad party, was on board the Mavi Marmara when it was stormed by Israeli commandos in international waters. She told Asharq Al-Awsat that … “the operation began at around 11.30 pm on Sunday…we saw the lights of vessels far away. At around 1.30 am, these ships approached our ship, and at around 4 am there were around 13 ships and dinghies surrounding our ship…and as they approached they began to fire machine guns [at the ship], and then suddenly there were helicopters with commandos disembarking [onto our ship] whilst firing weapons, and firing a water cannon onto the deck of our ship.” (…) Speaking about what happened on the ship, Israeli MP Haneen Zoabi said “there were deaths within minutes, and the aim was to create an atmosphere of terror. [I remember] somebody raising a white flag … there were sufficient indications that we did not desire any confrontation.” She added “There was no provocation … the Israeli story talks about provocation, but there were people who were afraid for the safety of the passengers, and the organizers gave the passengers instructions to move to the lower levels [of the ship] and stay in their rooms for their own safety.” Zoabi revealed that Israel gained control of the Mavi Marmara’s control room around an hour and a half after the military operation began, and that the passengers were all interred in a number of large cabins where – except for women and the aged – they were all shackled, and sniffer dogs were brought in to search for weapons, but the Israeli forces failed to find any. She said that the ship then set sail for the port of Ashdod, making land at around 6 pm, where the Mavi Marmara remains under the control of the Israeli army. MP Zoabi said “we only knew about 5 dead and dozens of wounded … there were also 7 who were wounded and in critical condition, we asked them [the Israelis] for the wounded to be provided with priority first aid, but they did not cooperate with us, and this resulted in two of the wounded dying because they were not provided with medical assistance.”‘