Last night, Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish aid ship on its way to Gaza. It is reported that they killed ten to fifteen activists and injured thirty more.
The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast. Organizers said the flotilla was carrying 10,000 tones of humanitarian aid headed to Gaza challenging the Israeli blockade.
The Israeli Army Radio said soldiers opened fire "after confronting those on board carrying sharp objects". Israel says they offered to deliver the aid if the ships turned back.
The Free Gaza Movement, the organizers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the ships. They also said they were fully within international law delivering the aid directly to Gaza.
Turkey in a written statement condemned Israel over the deadly attacks: "This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations," it said.
Turkey is a member of NATO and one of the few majority Muslim countries that has diplomatic relations with Israel. Although Israel has been a major supplier of arms to Turkey, diplomatic relations have been tense following the 2008-2009 Israel attack on Gaza.
Prior to the attack on the aid ship, Israel ‘s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said, "The aid convoy is violent propaganda against Israel, and Israel will not allow its sovereignty to be threatened in any way, in any place – land, air, or sea. There is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza strip." The UN and numerous NGO’s have described the conditions in Gaza as a humanitarian disaster.
Lieberman has openly talked about ethnically cleansing Israeli citizens of Palestinian origin. In late May 2004, Lieberman proposed a plan in which the populations and territories of Israeli Jews and Arabs, including some Israeli Arabs, would be "separated." According to the plan, also known as the "Populated-Area Exchange Plan," Israeli Arab towns adjacent to Palestinian Authority areas would be transferred to Palestinian Authority, and only those Arab Israelis who migrated from the area to within Israel’s new borders and pledged loyalty to the Jewish State of Israel would be allowed to remain Israeli citizens.
I was in Israel in April of this year, my first visit since 1998. I interviewed Michel Warschawski, founder of the Alternative Information Centre, who spoke about the significance of Lieberman: "it’s not anymore a small lunatic right wing, like [Meir] Kahane gang 20 years ago. He’s minister of foreign affairs. He’s government. He’s part of the coalition, an important part of the coalition. So what we have is the blatantly racist language and measures that were on the margin of Israeli politics are now in the middle."
After Israel’s attack on Gaza in 2008, the UN appointed a Fact Finding Mission to investigate alleged war crimes. The mission, led by renowned South African jurist Richard Goldstone, produced a report that accused both Israel and Palestinian militias of war crimes.
The UN human rights council referred Goldstone’s report to the UN General Assembly in Washington for follow-up, but under US pressure, the report never reached the Security Council for possible referral to the International Criminal Court. The Canadian government joined the US in denouncing the report.
On Thursday Amnesty International accused the US and European states of obstructing justice by using their position on the UN Security Council to shield Israel from accountability for war crimes committed in Gaza.
As long as the American, Canadian and European governments continue to allow Israel to flout international law without consequence, defend and expand illegal settlements, maintain a "secret" stockpile of nuclear weapons, sustain the siege of Gaza . . . Israel will continue on this road with impunity.
The American and Canadian elites support such actions of Israel not because they love Jews or care about a Jewish state. A long history of North American and European anti-Semitism says otherwise. They do so for their own geo-political objectives. Like most issues in the Middle East, it’s mostly about oil and maintaining a system of regimes, Israeli and Arab, which make sure that fabulous oil revenues remain in very few hands.
I think most ordinary Americans and Canadians, including those of Jewish origin, do not agree with a policy of unconditional support for the increasingly fanatical direction of Israeli policy.
Paul Jay is the CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network. He is an award-winning filmmaker, founder of Hot Docs! International Film Festival and was for ten years the Executive Producer of the CBC Newsworld show counterSpin.