The Entire World Waits for Washington’s Response to the Unprovoked Israeli Attack on the Human Rights Flotilla *updated*
**see ongoing updates throughout the day below**
Unfortunately, I think that President Obama, Secretary Clinton, Ambassador Rice and Secretary Gates’ Memorial Day plans have just been cut short. Thank You Israel!
By now, everyone is aware of the events that took place in the wee hours of Monday. The Free Gaza Flotilla, which contained thousands of pounds of food, medical supplies, school books, wheelchairs and VIPs such as Irish Nobel Laureates, elderly Holocaust survivors, anti-occupation activists and European politicians, was attacked by heavily armed Israeli commandos and at least 10 activists have been killed and up to 40 wounded. Some reports say as many as 19 activists were killed. The Israeli military is reporting that four commandos were injured, zero were killed.
This video is from early in the attack:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
I watched the events unfold all last night into the morning on Al Jazeera and Turkish websites. Turkey provided two of the ships in the flotilla and is apparently so outraged that they are considering cutting all ties with Israel- Turkey is one of Israel’s few allies in the region so this could have a devastating effect, both economically and in terms of security.
I’ll tell you right up front where I stand- Israel has crossed a line- Israel admitted it had been preparing its commandos to intercept the flotilla for the past few days. By choosing to attack the flotilla at night and in international waters, they cannot claim to be the victims here, which is of course exactly what they are doing. Sadly, the US media is following the IDF talking points. The IDF is now claiming that the flotilla is an “Armada of Hate” whose sole purpose was to delegitimize Israel and thus, Israel’s heavy-handed tactics were justified. They are also claiming that the activists on board the ship attacked the commandos, who were dropped in by helicopter, and thus the commandos were merely engaging in self defense. While I have no idea what actually happened because I was not there, that explanation makes little sense. Everything about the Israeli military operation looks bad- it looks like Israel was looking for a violent engagement. To send a highly trained commando unit onto a civilian humanitarian ship in the dead of night cannot be written off as “self defense.”
The entire world, save the US, has reacted with outrage. The EU, the UN, Turkey, the Arab League, Mahmoud Abbas, Scotland and on and on have summoned Israeli ambassadors to explain why the flotilla was attacked with such a show of military force in international waters. The UN Security Council is holding an emergency meeting this afternoon.
The U.S. has issued a statement saying it “regrets the loss of life” and that they are waiting to determine what happened. While it is certainly well-advised to not make a full statement without ascertaining the facts, if the Obama administration thinks that they can sweep this under the rug or play defense for Israel, I think they are sorely mistaken. The entire world is waiting for Obama’s response and the implications of what happened last night go far beyond a simple naval interception of humanitarian goods.
One of the big problems for the U.S. will be getting accurate information. The IDF is in full spin mode and to say they are unapologetic is an understatement. The U.S. priority of getting to the truth of the matter is in direct conflict with the Israeli priority of ensuring that no evidence of human rights violations or criminal wrongdoing surface.
Rahm Emanuel, who has been in Israel for his sons Bar Mitzvah, was kind enough to invite President Netanyahu to the White House to meet with the POTUS tomorrow. Netanyahu has just cancelled. Smart move on his part.
Turkey is not taking this lightly, nor apparently is Israel’s other ally, Jordan:
Turkey has threatened Israel with unprecedented action after Israeli forces attacked an aid vessel, killing 10 peace activists headed to Gaza.
A shocked world has responded with outrage. Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel and warned of unprecedented and incalculable reprisals.
Two Turkish activists were reported to be among those killed in the flotilla. Ankara warned that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy, a development with unpredictable consequences.
Israel has sounded an alert throughout the country fearing rocket attacks by Hezbollah in Lebanon.
The Arab League has called an urgent meeting on Tuesday to decide on a common response. Egypt is under pressure to end the blockade of Gaza while Greece has cancelled a military exercise with Isreal.
The world is waiting for the response from Washington, how will President Obama react to the provocation from America’s closest ally.
UPDATE: Read-out of Obama’s 15 minute call with Bibi:
4:21pm: From the White House press office, a “readout” (summary) of Obama’s call with Netanyahu:
This morning between 10:00 and 10:15 AM CDT, the President spoke by phone with Prime Minister Netanyahu. He said he understood the Prime Minister’s decision to return immediately to Israel to deal with today’s events. They agreed to reschedule their meeting at the first opportunity. The President expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded, many of whom are being treated in Israeli hospitals. The President also expressed the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning’s tragic events as soon as possible.
Israel now saying the activists were really pro-Hamas terror supporters. But it doesn’t really sound like it. More here:
…According to the British Press Association, those on board the boats included Northern Irish Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire and a Holocaust survivor. Politicians from Germany, Turkey and Jordan, as well as doctors and nurses were also known to be on board.
The Free Gaza organization also said Henning Mankell, best— selliing Swedish author of the Wallender series, had been on board the Turkish Marmara when the Israeli military stormed it.
UPDATE II: MJ Rosenberg, writing over at HuffPo, points out the politically incorrect truth:
The usual suspects — AIPAC, the American Jewish this and the American Jewish that, Netanyahu, and the neocon gang — will offer their usual double talk about this massacre. Bottom line: the Israelis are the victims! But the massacre happened in international waters and the attack was launched by military commandos against civilians trying to relieve civilians suffering under an illegal blockade.
There is only one spot in this country where Israel will be able to sell the story that the humanitarian flotilla was the aggressor and that Israel is the victim here. That is the United States Congress.
By Wednesday, your favorite liberal Democrat (let alone Republican) will be mouthing the talking points AIPAC distributed this morning. Don’t let them get away with it.
For America’s sake, for the sake of the people of Gaza, and for the sake of the good Israelis who hearts are broken by the latest crime done in their name, we need to make Congress understand that America and justice — and, yes, the survival of the State of Israel — needs to come before the demands of AIPAC. Enough is enough.
UPDATE III: Bibi’s response:
Vodpod videos no longer available.
UPDATE IV:US response at the UN today. It seems to imply that the activists were largely at fault and it goes out of its way to not single out Israel for having any role whatsoever in the violence despite the fact that Israel did not have to use a special ops commando unit to stop the flotilla in international waters:
Thank you, Mr. President and thank you, Assistant Secretary-General Fernandez-Taranco.
The United States is deeply disturbed by the recent violence and regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident last night aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We are working to ascertain the facts. We expect a credible and transparent investigation and strongly urge the Israeli government to investigate the incident fully.
As I stated in the Chamber in December 2008, when we were confronted by a similar situation, mechanisms exist for the transfer of humanitarian assistance to Gaza by member states and groups that want to do so. These non-provocative and non-confrontational mechanisms should be the ones used for the benefit of all those in Gaza. Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances.
The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza, and the deterioration of the situation there, including the humanitarian and human rights situation. We continue to believe the situation is unsustainable and is not in the interests of any of those concerned. 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. Hamas’ interference with international assistance shipments and the work of nongovernmental organizations complicates efforts in Gaza. Its continued arms smuggling and commitment to terrorism undermines security and prosperity for Palestinians and Israelis alike.
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.
Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region. The only viable solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an agreement, negotiated between the parties, that ends the occupation that began in 1967 and fulfills the aspirations of both parties for independent homelands through two states for two peoples, Israel and an independent, contiguous, and viable state of Palestine, living side by side in peace and security. We call again on our international partners – both inside and outside this Council – to promote an atmosphere of cooperation between the parties and throughout the entire region.
Thank you, Mr. President.
Ask yourself this, if an Israeli civilian ship in international waters was attacked by a group of Muslim special ops at night by helicopter and killed and injured scores of people, would the US have issued the statement above?
I think not.