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State Dept. Issues Statement on Israeli Attack on Freedom Flotilla

May 31, 2010

Today, most of the world condemned the actions of the Israelis with respect to the night-time raid of the Freedom Flotilla by Israeli special operations commandos. Only one nation did not join in that condemnation.

This statement has just been released by the State Dept. It is disappointing (in my opinion) but not surprising, given the U.S. statements at the U.N. earlier today:

STATEMENT BY PHILIP J. CROWLEY,
ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF STATE FOR PUBLIC AFFAIRS

Free Gaza Flotilla

The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident today aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We are working to ascertain the facts, and expect that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation.

The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza. We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, along with international NGOs and the UN, to provide adequate access for humanitarian goods, including reconstruction materials, through the border crossings, while bearing in mind the Government of Israel’s legitimate security concerns. However, Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and work of nongovernmental organizations, and its use and endorsement of violence, complicates efforts in Gaza. Mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by governments and groups that wish to do so. These mechanisms should be used for the benefit of all those in Gaza.

Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region.

Throughout the day, Israel has come out and linked the activists, which allegedly include a Nobel laureate, Americans, Holocaust survivors, a former American ambassador and doctors and nurses, to Al Queda and Hamas in an effort to paint the flotilla as a threat to national security. Despite this, the U.S is calling on Israel to investigate their own possibly illegal actions? That makes little sense.

Let me make something clear- I wasn’t there, I don’t know what happened. But I have been following this story for the last 24 hours and something just doesn’t seem right. I am having a hard time accepting the argument that Israel did not use excessive force under the circumstances. Again, I wasn’t there, but once again we have a situation where Israel is claiming it is the one that is the victim (not the activists) and yet only the other side has sustained heavy injuries and even casualties- and it’s not the Israelis (the number of dead is unknown but it is estimated to be between 9 and 16).

I’ve noticed that both the U.S. and Israel have been subtly trying to conflate the actions of the activists in the last 24 hours with the past actions of Hamas. I am quite sure this is a very conscious tactic, if a bit of a misleading one. Taken on it’s own, the events of the last 24 hours really have nothing to do with Hamas. What is at issue right at THIS moment (ie. not last week, not last month, not last year) is what happened aboard the ships that caused (ie. justified) Israel to order a military special operations strike in the middle of the night in international waters, against the civilian vessels.

Unless Israel can offer up clear evidence that the human rights activists were involved with Hamas in some way, to bring the terror group into these official U.S. statements seems nothing more than an attempt to confuse people, malign the activists and help Israel create the impression that their [Israel's] actions were somehow justified as self defense, which is unclear and a bit of a stretch. Keep in mind that while Hamas certainly is a poisonous influence on any peace prospects, the ongoing Gaza blockade is considered illegal under international law. Also, the UN has repeatedly found that Israel is not allowing enough food, medical supplies, construction equipment etc. into Gaza, which has resulted in an ongoing deterioration of the already deplorable humanitarian crisis there.

Make no mistake, if the humanitarian flotilla was filled with arms and if they are somehow found to be linked to terror groups or if they smuggled guns onto the ships for the purpose of attacking Israeli soldiers (something Israel has also claimed), then they should be held accountable for that. I have seen video of activists fighting back the IDF with what appear to be rods or furniture or I don’t know what- once the IDF boarded the ships it would have been advisable for all the people to stand down even if that meant they would all be arrested. But again, for commandos to board the ship by dropping in from the air in the dead of night with weapons drawn while in international waters (legally, this is key), is in itself an extremely provocative act. Much is made of Israel’s right to self defense and rightly so as Israel certainly is surrounded by hostile countries and has every right as a sovereign nation to defend itself. However, they are not the only ones with that legal right. The Palestinians also have the right to self defense, as did the men, women and children on board the flotillas. And yet, that simple fact has yet to be acknowledged in the American media.

Getting accurate information will be very difficult at this stage however, given Israel has detained the activists, instituted a media black-out and refused to allow other humanitarian/watch-dog groups to have access to the activists. As a result, we can only speculate on some of what happened but more concerning, is that Israel is now telling its side of the story without having to be rebutted by those actually involved- because those involved are either in the hospital or in prison. Or dead.

I totally understand the difficult position that the Obama administration (including of course, Secretary Clinton) is currently in. Given that when the administration has criticized Israel, it has faced a furious and totally unfair backlash from members of the Presidents own party, it is hardly surprising that the WH and State Dept. are being so cautious. That said, ask yourself this: if ships filled with Israeli human rights activists were attacked by Arab commandos in international waters, killing and wounding some of them, what do you think the U.S. reaction would be?

Just for comparison, here is the British response:

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he ‘deplored’ the loss of life, and said the British embassy was in ‘urgent contact’ with the Israeli government, asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved.

He added: ‘We have consistently advised against attempting to access Gaza in this way because of the risks involved. But at the same time, there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations. It would be important to establish the facts about this incident and especially whether enough was done to prevent death and injuries.

‘This news underlines the need to lift the restrictions on access to Gaza in line with UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1860.’[emphasis added]

Big difference, huh? I think Hague’s statement is appropriate in that it calls for more information, it denounces dangerous attempts [by activists] to get through the blockade but also makes clear that they don’t believe Israel showed restraint. Most importantly, they acknowledge Israel’s ongoing violation of UNSCR 1860.

There is much more information about what transpired with the flotilla and the international response in the post below- I have been blogging and tweeting about this all day and thanks to everyone who has been chiming in, your comments and opinions are much appreciated.

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22 Comments leave one →
  1. jillforhill permalink
    May 31, 2010 8:48 pm

    Not happy with Hillary or the whitehouse. Both sides are wrong,there was another way to get supplies thru and the other side went overboaed in their reaction. If this is the stance they are taking they will have to deal with the backlash from those who think Israel is wrong. Hillary knew this job was not easy. Half of her supporters like those at Hillaryis44,uppity women,and hillbuzz will be happy. The other half not so much.

    As much as I would love for her to not agree with the whitehouse on this,she is and will have to explain because obama sure as hell will not. No politican will do everything you want or think is right.

  2. Tovah permalink
    May 31, 2010 8:49 pm

    Thanks for all the updates!

    I’ve been watching CNN and they are clearly trying to make this the fault of the activists. As you pointed out in your post below Stacy, everyone is ignoring the fact that Israel had no right to attack a civilian ship in international waters. Instead, the pundits and media are saying the activists were trying to provoke Israel. What doesn’t provoke them, honestly? Even if they were, did Israel have to launch a full scale military assault?

    I got in an argument with my brother about this tonight- my family is split down the middle on this. My brother thinks the activists were carrying weapons to Hamas and my sister and I have pointed out that there is not one single shred of evidence to support that. When I bring up the fact that Israel lost not one single soldier, he just mumbles that the activists were committing the equivalent of death by cop. Whatever.

  3. Steve permalink
    May 31, 2010 8:57 pm

    Obama should have to be one to explain why the US is going to stand against the entire international community on this. Hillary should not have to be the only one out their dealing with the condemnation which will issue forth. Hillary has worked her ass off to build relations with countries like Turkey and now it’s all going to go to hell (possibly).

    As for Hillbuzz and those guys- they’re all far right conservatives in my mind. I used to go there waaaaaay back when in the very beginning of the primaries before they went nuts for Palin. Now I never go there b/c they are just whacked!

    Stacy has made a good point repeatedly in her last couple of posts- if instead of Israel, it was some Arab state that had attacked Israeli activists in international waters we’d probably be denouncing it as an act of war. If people think that it would be wrong for Israelis to be attacked like this then they should also believe its wrong for the pro-palestinian activists to be attacked but very few people seem to see it that way.

  4. jillforhill permalink
    May 31, 2010 9:06 pm

    Steve

    Obama will not be held responsible for this,but you can bet hillary will. Bill is taking the blame for him,rahm takes blame for him,obama has and never will be held accountable for anything.

    I am just saying half of Hillary supporters will be happy and those on this blog will not. Hillary’s supporters range from regean democrats to liberals and in between.

  5. May 31, 2010 9:14 pm

    You are right, it is unfortunate (actually, painful is more like it) that it will likely be Secy Clinton who will be the public face of the lack of a meaningful response to this. But you don’t expect Obama to take any responsibility do you? He’s busy not managing the oil spill clean up!

    For those interested, check out Glenn Greenwald’s running commentary on the issue- particularly his most recent updates at the bottom of the post. He points out that the state dept. and the admin. (particularly in their statement at the U.N.) come very close to blaming this whole thing on the activists which strikes me as incredibly unnecessary. Even if the admin. didn’t want to come out and condemn Israel, do they really need to go out of their way to make it the fault of the people who were killed and injured? That seems pretty harsh.

    http://www.salon.com/news/israel/index.html?story=/opinion/greenwald/2010/05/31/israel

    If the U.S. really does blame the activists there is no way I can support that, irrespective of who the messenger is (ie. Hillary, Obama, Rice or whoever else). It’s simply inconsistent with any rational notion of human rights and it sets a dangerous precedent.

    I think Rachel said earlier (in the post below) that other nations like China and North Korea will be watching our response- I would also include Sudan on that list- think about it- what this could stand for is the proposition that humanitarian workers who try to bring aid to people in need can be attacked by governments under the rationale that they are really not humanitarians but instead, threats to security. If Israel (and by implication the US) can imply or state outright that the people on the flotilla were really just agent provacateurs, then why can’t countries like Sudan and Burma who are hostile to human rights workers and NGOs, do the same?

  6. Tovah permalink
    May 31, 2010 9:22 pm

    I am a strong supporter of Israel (I happen to be Jewish), I just don’t see how it does Israel any good to do things like this. I think Israel absolutely has the right to defend itself and that includes killing Hamas terrorists, but Israel did not need to kill these people. This could end up making Israel less safe in the long run and most in the Arab world will blame Israel and the U.S.

    BTW, I consider myself a moderate and I disagree with Stacy on some things (like Iran) but I respect her willingness to never censor people here so I wouldn’t be surprised if not everyone here is always a liberal. I know a lot are. But people who aren’t shouldn’t be afraid to speak up because I”ve never heard anyone here (except one or two commenters who come here very infrequently and clearly don’t like Hillary) attack someone else for their opinions.

  7. HillaryFan permalink
    May 31, 2010 9:28 pm

    Hi! I’ve been lurking around and trying to catch up.

    What I find interesting is how the UK and the U.S. feel like they always have to reassert Israel’s right to defend itself and we have to say how committed we are to Israel’s security but what the heck does that have to do with what happened? Israel attacked a civilian ship and killed and injured a bunch of civilians, how does condemning that mean we or anyone else don’t support Israel? That’s really pathetic.

    Why are we so afraid of what Israel thinks anyway?

    • Steve permalink
      May 31, 2010 9:33 pm

      The reason everyone has to say that Israel has the right to defend itself and that we are totally committed to their security is because if we don’t, then we get labeled Israel-hating anti-Semites and we don’t want THAT!

      It really is silly when you think about it- we give Israel billions a year, preferential treatment in defense contracts and just the other day authorized some 200 million dollar defense system for them but we have to run around bending and scraping and BEGGING them to believe that yes, we are committed to their security.

      Here’s a question- are they committed to ours?

      I’m supposed to go to Israel in August for my sister-in-law’s birthday. With each passing day the thought of going just seems less and less attractive. No offense to my sister-in-law.

  8. May 31, 2010 9:37 pm

    Wow, inner city press just tweeted that at the UNSC meeting today a Chinese diplomat told them that the whole world is outraged by the incident “except one country” and that the world should, in the words of the Chinese diplomat “watch that country in next days.”

    Wow. He’s got a point though, I’ll give him that!

    Its a bad friggin’ day when China points out OUR lax attitude on human rights LOL!

    That’s a DAMN shame!

  9. jillforhill permalink
    May 31, 2010 9:44 pm

    I forgot obama and bp are doing a great job,what day are we on for the oil diaster(it is not a leak). We are the only country whose leaders on both sides would do more for Israel then the USA.

  10. HillaryFan permalink
    June 1, 2010 5:24 am

    I hope Obama doesn’t make Hillary go out publicly and blame the people on the boats but that sounds like what may be happening.

    I was reading on a website, I think BBC, that the whole world is wondering why only the US has not denounced use of excessive force by the Israelis.

    It’s all so depressing.

  11. PissedOffAmerican permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:03 am

    Yesterday yet one more American citizen, peacefully protesting against the ILLEGAL actions of Israel, was shot point blank in the face with a tear gas cannister by the IDF fascists.

    http://palsolidarity.org/2010/05/12604/

    This is the second American citizen recently GUNNED DOWN by the IDF while engaged in peaceful protest against Israeli policies that are recognized internationaly as being CRIMINAL, against international law. In addition, a third American, Tristan Anderson, having suffered the same fate early last year, lies comatose in a Tel Aviv hospital bed, ABANDONED by his COUNTRY, his PRESIDENT, and his SECRETARY OF STATE.

    How many Americans must be shot down by the fascists in Israel before our Secretary Of State demonstrates any respect for her Oath of Office? If our President has told her to ignore her Oath Of Office, does that make her dereliction of duty somehow excusable??? “I was only following orders”??? If she has been ordered to ignore her sworn duties, she should resign. American citizens are being shot in the West Bank while engaged in PEACEFUL PROTEST, and American citizens are being assaulted, kidnapped on the high seas, and illegally detained by Israel. If not Clinton’s job to strongly condemn such actions, to protect the interests of those American citizens, and to seek accountability for the crimes committed against them, then whose job is it? Does our State Department ignore the rights and safety of American citizens being victimized by a foreign nation, merely because we are sympathetic to the policies and politics of that foreign nation?

    Hillary Clinton, do your job, or step aside.

  12. PissedOffAmerican permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:16 am

    “Both sides are wrong,there was another way to get supplies thru……”

    Where are you getting your news??? Fox??? MSNBC????

    The TRUTHY is that there IS NOT “another way to get supplies through”. Israel DOES NOT allow reconstruction materials through. And the list of “banned” items fluctuates surreally on a weekly basis., If you follow the ever changing lists, it is easy to see that the blockade IS NOT designed to stop the flow of so called “implements of terrorism”, but is designed to dehumanize, oppress, depress, and collectively punish the population of Gaza. Toilet paper has at times been on the list of forbidden items. Does that make sense to you? Is banning toilet paper an act of “self defense”. Components used to repair and maintain Gaza’s sewage system are regularly banned, resulting in some neighborhoods being inundated with raw sewage. An act of “defense”?

    Making statements like “there was another way to get supplies thru” is disingenous or naive, or both. In so doing, you are only acting as a tool of the Israeli hasbara machine. One hopes you will take the time to inform yourself.

  13. jillforhill permalink
    June 1, 2010 11:51 am

    I will repeat myself one more time,where is your outrage for obama,he makes the decisions all by himself. Let’s say Hillary steps aside because she does not agree with Iarael,obama will replace her with someone who does agree with Israel. Obama is the one in charge,Hillary gives her opinion and it is obama’s choice to do what HE WANTS.

  14. veronica permalink
    June 1, 2010 1:02 pm

    It’s obvious why the US govt supports even the most evil act of Israel. The Jewish tycoon’s dollars run the US economy… The US govt is just “a dog” serving its Jewish master.

  15. June 1, 2010 1:24 pm

    I cannot find the words to express what I think of Israel’s actions, except to say that in the long run this makes Israel more endangered, not less. And by extension, it harms the US as their sole protector. CNN, the US media, Obama’s White House, and the Congressional leadership can say, or not say, whatever they want.

    The US no longer dictates to the world. That is pretty clear and growing clearer by the day. Obama’s presidency so far has been beyond disappointing.

  16. pondskipper permalink
    June 1, 2010 5:19 pm

    ‘”The US no longer dictates to the world”. Wow I hope that comment was meant ironically SA. If it was intended seriously then it is an amazingly arrogant statement, straight out of the neo-con playbook. Bush 43′s arrogance caused the loss of respect for the USA that the Obama admin and the SOS in particular has worked so hard for nearly two years to repair. Its tragic that Israel may have blown all that hard work out of the water.

  17. PissedOffAmerican permalink
    June 2, 2010 12:14 am

    “….that the Obama admin and the SOS in particular has worked so hard for nearly two years to repair”

    By backing down on the settlement issue? By standing mute during Operation Cast Lead??? By standing before the world community and proclaiming that “the Goldstone Report is seriously flawed”? By ignoring American citizens that are being gunned down while engaged in peaceful protest in the West Bank?

    I don’t know what planet you live on, but here on Earth, Obama’s consistent cowardice and inability to stand firm, coupled with Clinton’s hypocricy and dereliction of duty is hardly an effort to restore our credibility. And I haven’t even got into Obama’s refusal to prosecute the KNOWN crimes committed by the Bush Administration. Obama isn’t “working hard” to restore respect, he is “working hard” to continue the erosion of respect that you so correctly attribute to Bush. WORSE, Obama’s policies don’t match his words, which is actually more damaging to our credibility than Bush was. At least Bush PROPOSED asinine policy before he actually instituted it. Obama proposes smart policy, then does the opposite. You don’t think the rest of the world notices this?

  18. PissedOffAmerican permalink
    June 2, 2010 12:19 am

    “Let’s say Hillary steps aside because she does not agree with Iarael,obama will replace her with someone who does agree with Israel”

    Yeah, I guess you’re right. Conviction isn’t something we should expect of Clinton. I mean hey, if she doesn’t ignore her sworn duties as Secretary Of State, someone else will be willing to, so what the heck, what does she need scruples for???

    Well golly, I guess I’ll go rob a bank before someone else beats me to it.

  19. jillforhill permalink
    June 2, 2010 7:30 am

    What is exactly would you have her do?
    Would you like her to personally bomb Israel? Hillary dirlection of duty? LOL!!!!!
    Have you heard of Bush or your personal Messiah Obama. Answer my question, what about Obama?

  20. PissedOffAmerican permalink
    June 2, 2010 9:25 am

    You musta missed the five hundred words or so, above, that express some of the severe dissatisfaction I have with Barack Obama. There is no way you could know it, except my post above, but my criticism of Barack Obama has been far more voracious and began far earlier than my criticism of Clinton. You obviously seem a bit star struck to the point that you can’t see the appropriateness of condemning the President for failing in his Presidential duties, and condemning the Secretary of State for failing in her duties. Their roles in our government are different, and designed to encourage a healthy separation of powers. Are you too ignorant to realize that, or too infatuated with Hillary to abide any criticism of her performance?? I will continue to criticize the Secretary of State for a performance that is not only lackluster in its dearth of constructive returns, but is actually dangerous to both our Security, AND our credibility. As I will also criticize our President for his cowardice of conviction, and his refusal to hold his AG and his SOS to adhering to their foundational duties.

  21. dennis cook permalink
    June 3, 2010 7:38 pm

    The Hamma Charter at Par 8 calls for the destruction of Israel
    aTnd for the annhilation of every Jew in this world ( I’m Jewish so s that includes me )

    I am critical of Israel ….because of the lenient treatment it extended to those on the Flotialla, all of whom support these hate filled and genocidal objectives.

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