Israel’s spin won’t work this time

Israel/Palestine
on 57 Comments

As international outrage spreads at the Israeli elite commando attack on an unarmed humanitarian convey in the middle of the night on international waters, Israel is desperately trying to rebrand the incident as one of self-defence. It is nothing new for Israel, and other aggressing powers, to smear their victims as perpetrators. Afterall, unjustifiable murder is too jarring to stomach.

Yet, Amnesty International released a statement about Israel’s excessive use of force, further stating that Israel’s version of events begs credibility. Former Archbishop Desmond Tutu proclaimed the actions of Israel as “completely inexcusable”. According to Craig Murray, specialist on maritime law, “To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal.”

Deported activists tell a horrifying story of the use of electric shock, live ammunition, smoke bombs, gas canisters, beatings, and seizure of all evidence on cameras. Greek activist Michalis Grigoropoulos said, "They took us hostage, pointing guns at our heads…There was absolutely nothing we could do." A Turkish woman, with her 1 year old baby, recalls “The ship turned into a lake of blood.”

Israeli-Arab Knesset member Hanin Zoabi, who was on board, demanded an international inquiry: “It was clear from size of force that boarded ship that purpose was not to stop sail, but to cause largest number of fatalities to prevent future initiatives.” In contradiction of the carefully managed public relations campaign, a top Israeli Navy commander brags to the Jerusalem Post that “We boarded the ship and were attacked as if it was a war.” The names of the 10-19 dead, 60-80 injured, and hundreds detained have yet to be released.

Zoabi further stated that the passengers made clear they were non-confrontational, substantiated by live footage of a white flag raised shortly after the armed commandos descended from helicopters. Upon release from Israeli custody, two German parliamentarians also denied that the activists provoked the violence, though some had tried to stop the armed onslaught by using two wooden sticks. If that were not enough, custom officials in Greece confirmed that the boats were screened prior to departure and no weapons were aboard.

Even before the events of May 31, the Israeli government had publically warned that the Flotilla would be intercepted, even though the convoy would be entering from international waters in the Mediterranean and not from Israeli territory. An extensive May 25 article in the Jerusalem Post describes a campaign between the media, military, and government officials to “coordinate efforts to stop the flotilla and manage the potential media fallout.”

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla convoy was comprised of nine ships and 700 activists, politicians, journalists, Nobel laureates, and aid workers from 40 countries. An initiative that took almost two years of grassroots organization, they were bringing 10,000 tons of medical and humanitarian aid including toys, wheelchairs, construction supplies, paper, food, and medicines for Gaza’s 1.5 million besieged residents.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed a tight blockade on Gaza: maintaining control of airspace, waters, and land crossings; disallowing residents to leave without permits; and prohibition on imports and exports including food, fuel, and medical supplies. The result has been catastrophic: 70% of Gazans live on under $1 a day, 60% have no daily access to water, only 23 of 3,900 industrial enterprises are operational. This constitutes collective punishment of an entire civilian population and condemns them to an open-air prison, leading the UN to call the siege ‘medieval’.

One of the justifications for the siege is the violence inflicted by Palestinian fighters. Palestinians live under occupation and lack any effective military capabilities. According to UN statistics, from 2000-2008, the Israeli military killed 2677 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. In the same period, 11 Israelis were killed by Palestinian home-made rockets. During the bombings of Gaza in 2008-2009, over 1400 Palestinians and five Israelis were killed. While these numbers are clearly asymmetrical, a focus on violence alone obscures the reality of the occupation of Palestine since 1948. UN Special Rapporteur John Dugard has stated that acts committed against a military occupation may not be justifiable but must be understood not as mindless acts of terror but as “a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation."

Though Stephen Harper shamelessly rolled out the red carpet for Benjamin Netanyahu; UN Special Rapporteur Richard Falk has called on the world to act: “It is essential that those Israelis responsible for this lawless and murderous behavior, including political leaders who issued the orders, be held criminally accountable for their wrongful acts. It is time to insist on the end of the blockade of Gaza. The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political imperative.”

Standing up to one of the worlds most powerful state’s – who possesses nuclear capabilities, one of the largest militaries, has repeatedly rebuked international law, and continues an immoral occupation – hundreds of thousands of people have spilled onto the streets in every continent. Spain, Sweden, Greece, Jordan, Egypt, and Turkey have recalled their ambassadors to Israel. Perhaps most poignantly, human rights activists in South Africa called the deadly raid ‘Israel’s Sharpeville’ with a bold reminder that “the desperation of the oppressor is an indication of the beginning of freedom for the oppressed.”

Harsha Walia is a South Asian activist and writer, formally trained in the law, who is based in Vancouver, Canada. This article originally appeared as an op-ed in the major daily Vancouver Sun.
 

57 Responses

  1. lysias
    June 2, 2010, 6:29 pm

    Richard Silverstein reports that Oren Persico reported on his blog: Senior IDF Officers Opposed Gaza Flotilla Attack:

    Thanks to Oren Persico of the extraordinary Israeli media watchdog NGO, 7th Eye, who reported that Yediot Achronot columnist Sever Plotzker revealed that senior IDF officers vocally opposed the Israeli Navy’s attack on the Gaza flotilla. Yet no one in the Israeli media could report this:

    “Yediot Achronot and other [Israeli] media outlets were prevented from reporting that senior echelons in the military establishment opposed a military operation to stop the ship flotilla headed for Gaza.

    “In quite a few newspapers in the State of Israel, we had preliminary information…that there figures in the defense establishment, very powerful and very significant figures, who objected to using the army to prevent the flotilla’s sailing into the State of Israel. This was not published in the newspapers.”

    In the 7th Eye report, Plotzker does not make clear whether this was due to self censorship or IDF censorship. I would guess that it was the latter. If it was the former then the Israeli media has done a deep disservice to the nation by not reporting fully and fairly on the diversity of opinion within the IDF about this operation. If only the IDF itself had listened to those senior officers instead of going with a harebrained scheme that ended with such disastrous results.

    In fact, if there is an inquiry into this tragedy this entire question should be aired. Who opposed the operation and on what grounds. Who supported it and on what grounds. Why were the opponents, whose power was quite strong according to Plotzker, overruled and by whom?

  2. potsherd
    June 2, 2010, 6:34 pm

    The Obama administration still clings to the notion that Israel can and will conduct an impartial investigation of itself. This is like charging a paranoid schizophrenic with conducting his own therapy. Israel is totally cut off from reality and truth, cannot grasp it, rejects it automatically.

    And Israel begins by confiscating all the records of the events, to destroy any evidence that might contradict its lies.

    • sherbrsi
      June 2, 2010, 6:52 pm

      The Obama administration still clings to the notion that Israel can and will conduct an impartial investigation of itself.

      Obama knows they won’t. This is why he specifically rejected the call of an international investigation in categorical terms.

      If there was any hope that Obama would stand up to Israel, this was it.

    • zamaaz
      June 2, 2010, 7:37 pm

      A. The flotilla was basically intended to breach the blockade or siege.

      Huwaida Arraf, one of the flotilla organizers, said the six-ship flotilla began the journey from international waters off the coast of Cyprus Sunday afternoon after two days of delays. According to organizers, the flotilla was expected to reach Gaza, about 250 miles (400 kilometers) away, on Monday afternoon, and two more ships would follow in a second wave.
      The flotilla was fully prepared for the different scenarios that might arise, and organizers were hopeful that Israeli authorities would do what’s right and not stop the convoy, one of the organizers said.
      “We fully intend to go to Gaza regardless of any intimidation or threats of violence against us,” Arraf said. “They are going to have to forcefully stop us.”
      (see By Anshel Pfeffer, Avi Issacharoff and The Associated Press. Report: Gaza aid flotilla changes course to avoid confrontation with Israeli warships. 31.05.10)

      This is the ninth time that the Free Gaza movement has tried to ship in humanitarian aid to Gaza since August 2008.
      (see Israel: Gaza aid convoy can unload cargo in Ashdod for inspection link to haaretz.com)

  3. potsherd
    June 2, 2010, 6:41 pm

    Joe Biden is doing his best to promote the Israeli spin: link to haaretz.com

    Disgusting

  4. sam
    June 2, 2010, 7:00 pm

    From a PDF of talking points sent to Israeli citizens:

    Dear Friend:

    Various Israeli official bodies,
    including the ministry for Hasbara
    [i.e. propaganda] have sent
    messages to Israeli citizens urging them
    to take an active part in
    the “propaganda war”. They are told not to
    ask questions but rather to spread the official messages in every
    possible way in the virtual world: talkbacks, forums, Facebook etc.. I
    have the material which
    is mostly in Hebrew. Although every citizen
    was asked to use the languages he knows. The attached file is in
    English. It
    would be nice if some of you can publish it on the net in
    order to
    unveil this coordinated campaign.

    BELOW IS THE PDF

    1
    World Zionist Organization
    IDF Interception of Gaza-bound Flotilla
    Responding to the Consequences of the Episode
    1. Information and Main Points
    Israel Ministry for Foreign Affairs
    Ongoing Updates link to mfa.gov.il
    Weapons cache link to mfa.gov.il
    Full account and additional information collected by Zionist Council of Victoria / Zionist Federation of Australia:
    link to zcv.org.au
    2. Legal Points [MFA]
    The Gaza Flotilla and the Maritime Blockade of Gaza
    Legal Background – 31 May 2010
    1. A maritime blockade is in effect off the coast of Gaza. Such blockade has been imposed, as Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with the Hamas regime that controls Gaza, which has repeatedly bombed civilian targets in Israel with weapons that have been smuggled into Gaza via the sea.
    2. Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea.
    3. A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral States.
    4. The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.
    5. In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.
    6. Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above.
    7. Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.
    8. A State may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.
    9. Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these
    2
    vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.
    10. Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade. It should be noted that prior to undertaking enforcement measures, explicit warnings were relayed directly to the captains of the vessels, expressing Israel’s intent to exercise its right to enforce the blockade.
    11. Israel had attempted to take control of the vessels participating in the flotilla by peaceful means and in an orderly fashion in order to enforce the blockade. Given the large number of vessels participating in the flotilla, an operational decision was made to undertake measures to enforce the blockade a certain distance from the area of the blockade.
    12. Israeli personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.
    3. Israel Ministry for Diaspora Affairs
    Talking Points
    1. The State of Israel expresses its sorrow for the casulaties, but places full responsibility on the organizers and the participants who initiated the violence.
    2. Prior to this, the State of Israel had offered the organizers the option of docking at Ashdod port and transfer the humanitarian aid to Gaza overland, but this offer was rejected.
    3. The activists on one of the six boats had intentionally planned a violent response to the IDF Navy interception, including a gunfire attack as well as other weapons, knives, etc., which placed them in a life-threatening situation.
    4. The Gaza Strip is not threatened by starvation or a humanitarian crisis. It is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization which is actively stockpiling arms and rockets for the purpose of targeting Israeli citizens, as in the past, and is holding an Israeli solider hostage in contravention of international covenants. Israel therefore reserves its natural right to check all cargo inbound for Gaza.
    5. The flotilla was a deliberate ploy and act of political provocation designed to attract media attention on the part of anti-Israeli elements and the IHH which is a violent and extremist organization that supports terror organizations under the cover of humanitarian activity.
    6. Israel reiterates its desire and readiness for peace with all who interested in making peace.
    4. With Intent – Articles and visual documentation
    IDF Spokesman: Article and video footage link to dover.idf.il
    Video by IDF Spokesman [N America Desk] link to youtube.com
    A brutal ambush at sea link to ynetnews.com
    Ron Ben Yishai: bloody clash aboard Gaza-bound vessel
    Weapons on board link to ynetnews.com
    Peace activist stabs IDF soldier link to youtube.com
    3
    Navy commandos:‘They came for war’ Yaakov Katz, 05/31/2010 20:14 link to jpost.com View footage, read soldiers’ description of the ‘Mavi Marmara’ raid.
    Flotilla Leaders Stated Sunday that Violence was Premeditated
    The organizers of the Gaza flotilla announced in advance their intention of using violence against Israeli forces if the latter tried to prevent the ships from reaching Gaza. This intention was expressed in interviews given by the head of the IHH, Bulent Yildirim, to Turkish television stations on the last night of the voyage, as the ships approached the coast. [More: link to tinyurl.com ]
    Facebook group: link to facebook.com
    Acknowledgements:
    Israel Ministry for Foreign Affairs
    Israel Government Press Office
    Israel Ministry for Diaspora Affairs
    IDF Spokesman’s Office
    ZCV/ZFA
    Ynet News
    Jerusalem Post
    Jewish Agency for Israel/World Zionist Organization Spokesman’s Office
    Compiled by Gila Ansell Brauner, 1st June 2010

    • Duscany
      June 2, 2010, 11:34 pm

      If Israel has the right to impose a blockade on its own discretion, does this mean that someone else has the right to break the blockade on his own discretion too?

    • Shmuel
      June 3, 2010, 2:03 am

      From Gaza Closure Defined: Collective Punishment:

      Israel’s closure in Gaza cannot be classified as a “blockade”.

      A blockade is similar to a siege, in that it is intended to deprive a military adversary of needed supplies in a time of conflict.23 “Supplies” in this case are narrowly defined to include only “supplies needed to conduct hostilities”.24 A blockade, like a siege, must also have the goal of compelling surrender, including by preventing the adversarial force from receiving weapons that will enhance its combat ability.25 Israel’s actions in Gaza cannot be considered a blockade. First, as described above, the goal is not for Gaza to surrender to the Israeli military. Second, Israel has restricted a variety of goods, not just weapons, and has even limited the quantity and kind of humanitarian goods it will permit to enter Gaza, arguing that it need not permit the passage of even humanitarian goods beyond an undefined “humanitarian minimum”.26 This is not a limited action blocking military supplies until a conflict ends. It is a deliberate decision to restrict the supply of a broad range of civilian goods, most of which have absolutely no military use or potential for military use.27

    • Shmuel
      June 3, 2010, 2:17 am

      From the Amnesty statement cited by Harsha Walia, above:

      For nearly three years, Israel, which is the occupying power in the Gaza Strip, has implemented a policy of banning all movement of goods and people, except for the most basic humanitarian necessities, which are imported by international aid agencies. Only a fraction of patients in need of treatment outside Gaza are allowed out, and dozens have died waiting for Israeli permission to travel.

      “The blockade does not target armed groups but rather punishes Gaza’s entire population by restricting the entry of food, medical supplies, educational equipment and building materials,” said Malcolm Smart.

      “Unsurprisingly, its impact falls most heavily on those most vulnerable among Gaza ’s 1.5 million people: children, the elderly and the sick. The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.”

      Israel has a duty under international law to ensure the welfare of Gaza ’s inhabitants, including their rights to health, education, food and adequate housing.

  5. Avi
    June 2, 2010, 7:04 pm

    A clip of Netanyahu’s press conference from earlier today was just shown on the BBC.

    Get this….now he claims that Israel cannot allow the Mediterranean to become the staging ground for Iran’s weapons smuggling operations into Gaza.

    Mind you, if that’s what he said about a Turkish ship, with Turkey being an ally of Israel, what will he say about an enemy ship?

    What I’m trying to say is, when will the international community of governments wake up and realize that Israel is THE threat to regional – if not world – peace? WHEN?

    —————————————————

    Unrelated.

    Here’s a video clip of what took place today on the floor of the Knesset (Israeli parliament) as an Arab member of Parliament went up to the podium to speak. In the video, the member of parliament at the podium is MK Zo’abi who was aboard one of the aid ships.

    MK Zo’abi was being called “terrorist” and “traitor” by the Jewish Israeli MKs (Members of the Knesset).

    • VR
      June 2, 2010, 8:09 pm

      Avi, this looks strangely like conversations on media with these loud mouths.

    • Dan Kelly
      June 3, 2010, 1:16 am

      She was more than being called a “terrorist” and “traitor,” some people were attempting to physically confront her.

      Ah, but rest assured that Israel is a Democracy because it has an Arab member of Knesset! (Just don’t bother to look how she’s treated).

      As a commenter on the youtube video posted: “Israel has became a bizarrely homogenous mass of chauvinist fanatics.”

  6. kalithea
    June 2, 2010, 7:05 pm

    Not sure if this was posted before, but wherever you are join the Flotilla Emergency Protests:

    link to gazafreedommarch.org

    (I noticed list keeps getting updated with more cities and in some cases dates were modified.)

    Time for everyone to mobilize against this injustice. Action speaks louder than words.

  7. annie
    June 2, 2010, 7:19 pm

    custom officials in Greece confirmed that the boats were screened prior to departure and no weapons were aboard.

    your link mentions ‘Customs officials at the Port of Antalya’, that is in turkey.

  8. Avi
    June 2, 2010, 7:42 pm

    The desperation of the oppressor is an indication of the beginning of freedom for the oppressed.

    And not a moment too soon.

  9. Kathleen
    June 2, 2010, 8:44 pm

    Israel has to justify this unnecessary violence somehow. Keep repeating that they had paintball guns, innocent paintball guns.

    Taking everyone’s recording devices, shutting down satellite communications. If Israel believes what they were doing was legal record the incident from beginning to end.

    Israel has committed more war crimes.

    • Shmuel
      June 3, 2010, 2:14 am

      Taking everyone’s recording devices, shutting down satellite communications. If Israel believes what they were doing was legal record the incident from beginning to end.

      Italian videomaker Manuel Zani, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara, says that he filmed the attack from the bridge, but all of his film and equipment (€10,000’s worth) was confiscated.

  10. Kathleen
    June 2, 2010, 8:47 pm

    If Israel really believes that what they were doing was legal why did they shut down satellite connections within minutes after they hit the deck of that ship? Why collect all recording devices from the activist?

    If they war so sure that this was all legal. Show the world what they did..the whole raid. From beginning to end.

    Blocked journalist from the Gaza…Shutting out the world during this raid. For decades they have blocked the world’s view from what is really going on in the occupied territories. Enough

    Interesting that NPR’s Neil Conan did not get close to doing a show yesterday or today. No coverage out of Fresh Air’s Terri Gross either.

    Out of all the MSNBC talking heads last night Keith Olbermann was the only host to not mention the tragedy. Not a whisper. Now this is normal for the talking heads at MSNBC when it comes to the I/P conflict. Not one of them even whispered about the Goldstone Report. But last night (Tuesday) they all had something to say and cover about the Flotilla but not keith.

    Huff Po is really opening up, Firedoglake has been opening up a bit the last several years. Crooks and Liars still has their doors shut on anything criticizing Israel.

    MSNBC’s reporting on Israel’s commando raid of the ships
    Tuesday evening

    Filling in for Dylan Ratigan Elliot Spitzer shows the clip that the Israeli government released to our MSM numerous times. Spitzer references the Israeli soldiers who were injured but never talks about the 9 Turkish civilians who were killed
    Ruth Wedgwood an John Hopkins are his guest as well as Glenn Greenwald. Greenwald ripped it up. When Spitzer tried to cut him off. Glenn quickly said “let me finish” there was just “10 minutes of pro Israeli propaganda”

    Spitzer shut up. Then soon had George Birnbaum on saying there were “terrorist” on that ship.

    Spitzer responded “I’m sympathetic to that”
    Spitzer ended that segment by saying this was a “public relations disaster” for Israel. That is what Spitzer was concerned about a “public relations disaster” for Israel.

    ————————————————
    On Hardball they showed the same Israeli released clip 9 times in 7 minutes. 9 times. On that clip it said “Israeli soldiers attacked with metal rods”

    Chris Matthews ended his segment saying that this was an “unfair shot at Israel”
    —————————————————————————

    Ed was more balanced. He only showed that same Israeli released clip 3 times.

    ———————————————————————–

    Keith Olbermann did not even touch the issue. But did have some more bullshit about Sarah Palin. I think he has a crush on her
    —————————————————————

    Have to admit Rachel Maddow was the most balanced. She had clips from both perspectives. She even brought up that there were two ships still on there way. And that this was the 9th time in 8 years that peace groups were trying to break the blockade.

    • Dan Kelly
      June 3, 2010, 1:37 am

      The Spitzer piece with Greenwald is worth watching. I included a link below.

      Greenwald, who writes so eloquently on this and all matters concerning human rights, civil liberties, and all things affecting everyday people – well, Glenn is mad, and it’s refreshing to see.

      Spitzer is sleaze. I remember thinking that maybe he was “one of the good guys” when he went after the financial industry. Then I saw him on DemocracyNow sometime within the last year and, based on how he spoke and his mannerisms, it was clear as day to me that Eliot Spitzer is only interested in what’s good for Elito Spitzer. He’s a pure politician.

  11. Kathleen
    June 2, 2010, 8:49 pm

    67 border, stop building illegal settlements, right to return, sign the Non proliferation treaty. Follow the rules that they want their neighbors to abide by

  12. Oscar
    June 2, 2010, 8:52 pm

    Paintball guns . . . and the activists didn’t manage to grab the “paintball guns,” they grabbed the pistols that were to be used as a last resort? And the IDF guys in the hospital beds faking their wounds, the elite of the elite of the Israeli military, sitting up and talking about how 30 activists jumped them and smacked them with bags of marbles in international waters? Or the pantywaists who “jumped into the sea” to avoid the heavily armed aid workers?

    Sickening, man. Once again, the IDF hasbara machine thinks the rest of the world is stupid and intellectually inferior, or that the AIPAC-controlled government of the USA will provide the needed cover to make this thing go away (cue: Joe Biden on Charlie Rose).

    But since America has lost its standing as the sole superpower in the world in recent years, the EU, Asia, Russia and the Middle Eastern countries have risen up.

    This is the gamechanger that Phil Weiss always predicted would happen, and it vindicates the vision he had for Mondoweiss. Check out this WSJ article:
    link to online.wsj.com

  13. RoHa
    June 2, 2010, 8:52 pm

    Not quite central to this thread, but I want to post this somehwere.

    link to craigmurray.org.uk

    Craig Murray is saying that NATO is really in a bind. If mutual defence means anything, then an attack on a staunch founder member – and second largest contributor – has to be taken seriously.

    The alternative would be to show all the member states that NATO won’t help when they need it.

  14. chet
    June 2, 2010, 9:32 pm

    For Ms. Walia –

    Hopefully you read comments in respect of your article…

    I’ve noted in your bio that you are involved in “Palestinian solidarity” – would you kindly advise if there is a formal organization in the Vancouver area with that as its aim.

    thx in advance

  15. Kathleen
    June 2, 2010, 9:32 pm

    Juan Cole’s site Informed Comment has important articles and links
    link to juancole.com

  16. rachel
    June 2, 2010, 9:49 pm

    “Would NATO forces permit convoys of unchecked ‘humanitarian aid’ to be transferred to Taliban strongholds? ”
    Isi Leibler, in the Jerusalem post.
    Good spin or bad spin? Discuss.

    • Donald
      June 2, 2010, 9:58 pm

      I didn’t read the JPost piece, but a similar issue came up in late 2001–there was fear on the part of humanitarian groups that American bombing would prevent aid from reaching remote areas of Afghanistan and there would be a famine. There were aerial food drops which got a lot of attention in the US press, but were little more than a stupid PR stunt, as the amounts were only about 1 percent of what was needed.

      The Taliban lines crumbled before winter set in and the truck supplies of food resumed. A writer in the Guardian said that even as it was, maybe 10-20 thousand died of starvation from the cutoff that did occur. The issue got little attention in the US, except for the feel-good stories about our wonderful aerial food drops.

      Would the US government cut off aid to starving Afghans? Yeah, I think they would, unless the bad publicity got to be too great.

      • Donald
        June 2, 2010, 9:59 pm

        In fact, we did the same thing to Iraq in 1991 that Israel did to Gaza. We bombed civilian infrastructure and the sanctions were meant to prevent repair.

      • Donald
        June 2, 2010, 10:02 pm

        Here’s the link to a Washington Post article about what we did to the Iraqis. It’s very similar (though on a larger scale) to what Israel did to Gaza. “Civilized” imperialists seem to think along similar lines.

        Iraqi air campaign

      • rachel
        June 2, 2010, 10:12 pm

        Except there was no outrage. America is a super power and Israel is pipesqueak really. American gets away with murder without so much as a whimper from anyone. Hey, it has imposed an embargo on Cuba for 40 years or more, no?

      • Chaos4700
        June 2, 2010, 10:18 pm

        Canada’s on that bandwagon too, sweetheart. Last time I checked your toadying conservative jumps whenever our government tells you to.

      • Donald
        June 2, 2010, 10:19 pm

        Not exactly, Rachel–the Iraqi sanctions received quite a lot of condemnation, except in the very same mainstream American circles which are so easygoing with Israel. Probably most of the people here (the ones who are old enough) were protesting the Iraqi sanctions back then. (In my stodgy case, mostly by writing letters to newspapers and politicians.)

      • Donald
        June 2, 2010, 10:23 pm

        “American gets away with murder without so much as a whimper from anyone.”

        Actually, both America and Israel get away with murder with only some whimpering in our own MSM. Outside those circles there’s a lot of complaint, but so far Israel and the US have ignored it.

      • rachel
        June 2, 2010, 10:37 pm

        “the Iraqi sanctions received quite a lot of condemnation, except in the very same mainstream American circles which are so easygoing with Israel”

        What year what that? Wasn’t America busy with Linda Tripp and Lewinski? In those pre internet years, there was no sense of an organized, globalized community of activists coalescing around a single issue like now.

      • Donald
        June 2, 2010, 10:41 pm

        This was in the 90’s and there were articles in various lefty magazines about the Iraqi sanctions. Madelaine Albright made her famous gaffe on American television, claiming that the deaths of 500,000 children (one of the guestimates for the death toll) was “worth it”. That comment, I’ve read, was well known all over the Mideast, though in the US if you weren’t watching that particular show and didn’t follow leftwing causes that much you probably wouldn’t have heard of it. Monica Lewinsky got vastly more attention.

      • rachel
        June 2, 2010, 10:50 pm

        Thanks for the info! You must be some kind of news freak.

        “lefty magazines” Yikes. Like the international Socialist?

        I thought Utne was a “lefty” magazine which I subscribed too for a while cause it came free with other magazines. I have to confess that my favorite magazine in those days was Vanity Fair.
        Very lightweight, I know.

      • rachel
        June 2, 2010, 10:54 pm

        “deaths of 500,000 children”

        Yes I remember now. And I remember thinking that it was a preposterous figure. Pure propaganda.

      • syvanen
        June 3, 2010, 12:17 am

        Rachel the 500,000 figure does sound preposterous. But it is based on a reasonable calculation. Infants are the most vulnerable people in any population and their mortality rates are a reasonably good indicator general public health. Infant mortality figures are easily kept . That estimate you question is based on infant mortality rates before and after the sanctions in Iraq. When Albright was interviewed the sanctions had been in place for nearly a decade. Ten times the increase in infant mortality was clearly in the hundreds of thousands.

      • Donald
        June 3, 2010, 6:21 am

        “Yes I remember now. And I remember thinking that it was a preposterous figure. Pure propaganda.”

        Your opinion here isn’t worth very much. The 500,000 figure isn’t necessarily correct (my guess is that the true figure is lower for reasons I won’t go into), but it’s not preposterous. The Iraqi health system was wrecked and we targeted their water treatment facilities as well. Some studies put the death toll lower, in the low hundreds of thousands. Immediately after the Gulf War there was a Harvard study that said tens of thousands would die, and that was in the first year. Iraq is a country of around 25 million people, so wrecking the health care system, targeting the water treatment plants and destroying the economy with sanctions ought to have enough of an effect on mortality rates so that hundreds of thousands of deaths over a decade seems possible.

  17. Kathleen
    June 2, 2010, 9:55 pm

    Glenn Greenwald was able to pack in more truthfulness about the I/P conflict than almost anyone else has packed in when they have had the few opportunities to speak truth to power in regard to that conflict. Jimmy Carter has pulled this off before. But Glenn wiped up the deck with Elliot Spitzer sputtering and tripping over his lies and bias.

    Glenn to Spitzer “you just had 10 minutes of uninterrupted pro Israeli propaganda filled with falsehoods”

    Go Glenn! And thank goodness Barney Frank is allowing his conscience to take hold of his tongue in this case. Go Barney
    Talking about Israel with Eliot Spitzer on MSNBC
    link to salon.com

    • lareineblanche
      June 2, 2010, 10:39 pm

      Watching Glenn speak to an American “journalist” is always like watching someone trying to swat off mosquitoes – as soon as one lie/misconception is rebutted there are two that take its place, but he keeps going, to his credit.

      This dud (Spitzer) repeated two of the main talking points on the MSM – 1. that Hamas is a terrorist organization (and so the flotillists are somehow guilty by association)
      – 2. That Egypt is also blockading Gaza (therefore it is OK, and Israel is not responsible for assassinating 9 or more civilians on the high seas).

      If Obama ends up not condemning this act, and if the US blocks an impartial investigation into it at the UN, it will be partly the responsibility of those writing editorials in the US newspapers and those presenting the news on TV, and I’m weighing my words.

      • Avi
        June 3, 2010, 12:52 am

        The Egyptian president, Mubarak, won in democratically held elections, a 96% majority of the vote numerous times since his ascendancy to power more than 20 years ago.

        If Spitzer thinks that a 96% majority vote is a clear indicator of Egypt’s credible electoral process, then it’s no wonder he went from being a governor to hosting a TV show.

        Bluntly put, Egypt is run by a dictator, a good friend of the US.

        See. The US does have some really nice friends. I won’t even get into its bestest friend forever that keeps killing innocent people left and right.

        Trivia question: Who gave Saddam Hussein the chemical weapons with which he slaughtered the Kurdish minority in his country and exterminated about 1 million Persians during the Iran-Iraq war?

  18. Kathleen
    June 2, 2010, 10:00 pm

    Phillip did you hear the Diane Rehm show today? Micheal Oren tried to fit in every right wing Israeli and Israeli lobby talking point that he could squeeze in. The host was not well prepared kept referring to the Turkish flotilla. Did not challenge Oren at all. The screeners seemed to only let in pro Israel callers this time. Interesting show
    Israel and Aid Ships to Gaza
    link to thedianerehmshow.org

    Interesting that out of the MSNBC crew last night (Tuesday) the only talking head that did not touch the issue (was surprising that any of them even mentioned it) Keith Olbermann did not touch it. NPR’s Neil Conan has not touched it, Fresh Air’s Terri Gross…silence

    all of the above mentioned were silent on the Goldstone report. Nothing.

    • Chaos4700
      June 2, 2010, 10:17 pm

      According to Citizen, Olbermann at least makes good on that by interviewing Edward Peck in his most recent show, if that’s any consolation. Peck was aboard the flotilla when it was assaulted by the IDF.

  19. Oscar
    June 2, 2010, 10:57 pm

    Jon Stewart had a great segment tonight on the screwup of the flotilla massacre on the opening of The Daily Show, “Clusterf#%k to War.” Go to Comedy Central to check it out.

    • Frances
      June 3, 2010, 8:15 am

      Did you think it was great? He seemed really casual and dismissive of the Turkish deaths, they barely warranted a mention. This is the guy who had Anna Baltzer and Mustafa Barghouthi on last year, he can do better.

  20. thankgodimatheist
    June 2, 2010, 11:23 pm

    Watch out for intensive Israeli propaganda to come. They’re desperate:

    “Foreign Ministry to use front groups for PR efforts in Europe
    Last Thursday dozens of Israeli embassies in Europe received an urgent telegram from Jerusalem, entitled, “Mapping of European personalities with influence – by Monday, May 31.” The correspondence was signed by a number of senior ministry officials, including Alon Ushpiz, the coordination chief in the director general’s office.

    The document asked all embassies and consulates to submit a list of people who are considered to be influential in their countries. The diplomats were surprised at the request for the individuals’ telephone numbers, mailing addresses and e-mail addresses.

    “Please fill in the list of the names of the most influential people in the following fields,” the document read. “State leaders – president and/or prime minister and staff, parliament speaker, 10-15 prominent members of parliament, up to five heads of important nongovernment organizations, and up to 10 key journalists.”
    link to haaretz.com

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 2, 2010, 11:27 pm

      “Please fill in the list of the names of the most influential people in the following fields,” the document read. “State leaders – president and/or prime minister and staff, parliament speaker, 10-15 prominent members of parliament, up to five heads of important nongovernment organizations, and up to 10 key journalists.”

      That’s the way it’s done, mon bébé!

  21. Duscany
    June 2, 2010, 11:37 pm

    In regard to the notion that “Israel’s spin won’t work this time,” Israel’s spin always works–because the US government and the mainstream media invariably support it.

  22. thankgodimatheist
    June 2, 2010, 11:55 pm

    Australian journalists, take some tips from the British how to speak to Israel

    The Australian media treats Israeli spokespeople with almost fawning respect, oddly enough, without actually asking them serious questions about the Jewish state’s actions. Israel kills people and then their hacks are allowed to explain why “terrorists” were on the high seas.

    Here’s how it should be done, via Jon Snow in Britain:
    link to antonyloewenstein.com

    • Chaos4700
      June 3, 2010, 12:03 am

      Not hard to fathom why. White European colonists kicking a local population out of their homes and treating them like animals? No sympathy with Israel on that account, huh.

  23. thankgodimatheist
    June 3, 2010, 12:06 am

    I don’t write poems but,

    This is going around today, by Lebanese-Australian writer and academic Ghassan Hage:

    I don’t write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems
    Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine;
    I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians;
    They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.
    And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance…
    And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance, oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.
    I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp. But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and concentrations camps and I have to take their word for it: this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentrations camp.
    Over the years they’ve taught me so many things: invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation, colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid…
    They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths that my poor brain could not on its own compute like: ‘having nuclear weapons’ was not ‘having nuclear weapons’, ‘not having weapons of mass destruction’ was ‘having weapons of mass destruction’. And, democracy (in the Gaza strip) was not democracy. Having second class citizens (in Israel) was democracy.
    So you’ll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today that there were more things that I thought we evident that are not: peace activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy, the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.
    I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited. And they’re so fucking intelligent. Really.
    (Borrowed from Antony Loewenstein’s blog)
    link to antonyloewenstein.com

    • eljay
      June 3, 2010, 9:18 am

      >> They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.
      And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance…
      . . .
      I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited. And they’re so fucking intelligent. Really. <<

      "They" sound an awful lot like RW. ;-)

  24. thankgodimatheist
    June 3, 2010, 5:41 am

    On a different note:
    Hebrew University to Remove Judge Goldstone from its Board of Governors

    Hebrew University of Jerusalem will remove Judge Goldstone from its Board of Governors, for the “technical” reason that he has not attended Board meetings. So reports the Hebrew-language news site nrg.co.il.
    Substantial political pressure has been exerted by American and European donors on Hebrew University President Professor Menachem Ben Sasson and the university administration to remove Judge Goldstone following the report issued by the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict, a mission which Goldstone led.
    link to israeli-occupation.org

    • Shmuel
      June 3, 2010, 7:15 am

      Whatever you do, don’t boycott Israeli academic institutions, because they are the bastions of enlightenment in Israeli society whence salvation will come.

  25. seafoid
    June 3, 2010, 7:52 am

    look at this for spin

    link to haaretz.com

    Jewish Republicans and Democrats show rare sign of unity in support of Gaza flotilla raid
    Both Democrats and Republicans believe Israel had the right to defend itself and back blockade on Gaza.
    By Natasha Mozgovaya Tags: Gaza flotilla Israel news
    Jewish Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. gave a rare demonstration of unity on Wednesday when they backed Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla, despite the fatal clashes on a Turkish-flagged ship which left nine activists dead and several people wounded.
    “We know that Israel will investigate the matter fully and impartially, as it has done in the past”, said Ira Forman, CEO of the National Jewish Democratic Council (NJDC).
    “However, every nation has a right to self-defense and Israel is no exception. Israel has a responsibility to enforce its naval blockade as a means to protect its citizens from the ever-present threat of weapons entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip – weapons that historically have been trained on Israeli civilians and soldiers alike, “he said, adding that “those around the world who are so quick to judge Israel should pause and reflect upon how they would react if challenged under similar circumstances..”
    Forman commended U.S. President Barack Obama for his tempered response to the incident, and said that “the American Jewish community should also understand the role that our government has played.”
    “It appears that President Obama is the only world leader to give Israel the benefit of the doubt regarding this unfortunate incident. Through its actions, the Obama Administration has made it clear that a biased investigation into the matter will not be tolerated and that Israel’s enemies will not be able to use this incident as a tool to delegitimize the Jewish State.”
    Matthew Brooks, Executive Director of the Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) didn’t give Obama as much credit for his support and said that this was “no time to make demands of Israel.”

    “This violence would not have occurred if those aboard the vessels coming from Turkey were what they said they were – non-violent peace activists”, Brooks said, and added that “we urge the Obama administration to make it clear that it will veto any condemnation of Israel’s actions in this matter in the UN Security Council”. Meanwhile, Anti-Defamation League leaders Robert G Sugarman and Abraham H. Foxman called for “the leaders of every nation who seek peace” to condemn the flotilla organizers. “It is deeply disturbing that the leaders of the flotilla and their sponsors were willing to engage in an elaborate sham as a pretext for ambushing and violently attacking Israeli military personnel,” they said in a statement. “As the international community is engaged in a biased rush to judgment against Israel and a diplomatic lynching, now is the time for the United States to firmly stand with the Jewish state and its people,” said the statement.
    “The U.S. must show the world that it not only supports Israel’s right to defend its borders and citizens against terrorism, but that it supports Israel’s right to protect itself from people who pretend to be ‘peace activists,’ and parade under the guise of humanitarians while supporting Hamas and violently attacking Israeli military personnel.” Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) Chairman Conrad Giles and the organization’s President Rabbi Steve Gutow, stressed the missed opportunity to prevent the bloody incident. “What is most disconcerting to us is that the deadly raid could have been avoided if those upon the flotilla would have done as asked and docked at the Port of Ashod to allow Israeli officials to review the cargo onboard”, they said in a statement .
    “It is our hope that this weekend’s incident does not complicate the quest for peace, which is a necessary goal for Israel, the Palestinians and the broader Arab world. Unfortunately, this is a goal Hamas violently opposes,” the statement added. The World Jewish Congress Statement lambasted the international media for blaming Israel for the deaths of nine activists. “It is deplorable that much of the international media continues to portray such violent activists as humanitarians”, the WJCS stated. “This was a lynch mob, and it is incumbent upon responsible observers to be clear in saying so. “The flotilla was aimed at tightening Hamas control of Gaza under the pretext of providing humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza.” The statement added. Like many other organizations, the Christians United for Israel (CUFI), the largest pro-Israel organization in the United States, said they “regret” the loss of life, but state that Israeli soldiers were “viciously attacked.” “Israel has a clear record of permitting truly humanitarian aid to flow into Gaza in the past eighteen months,” the CUFI statement said.

    • potsherd
      June 3, 2010, 7:58 am

      But we can’t say these people, hired to be our representatives, have dual loyalties.

  26. seafoid
    June 3, 2010, 8:22 am

    Back in the Pale of settlement in the good old days of diaspora the response to any political news was the question “is this good for the Jews ? “. The Foxman line on the Gaza killings is not good for Jews.

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