Justice for All? A Tale of Two Victims: Leon Klinghoffer and Furkan Dogan.

In October 1985, four Palestinian gunmen from the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) stormed an Italian cruise ship on the Mediterranean, holding its approximately 700 vacationers hostage while demanding the release of their comrades-in-arms from Israeli prison.

The hijacking of the Achille Lauro, during which the hijackers killed an elderly, wheelchair-bound Jewish-American man—Leon Klinghoffer—and then threw his body into the sea, ranked as one of the most ignominious acts ever committed by Palestinians.

President Ronald Reagan vowed swift action, promising that “we’re going to do everything we can to see that they [PLF hijackers] are brought to justice.” Indeed, the “Old Gipper” was as good as his word. After Egypt mediated an end to the hostage crisis by freeing the passengers in exchange for the hijackers’ safe passage to Tunisia, the United States scrambled F-14 Tomcats from the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and forced the airplane carrying the hijackers to land at a NATO base in Sicily. After a brief diplomatic stand-off over jurisdiction between Italy and the United States, the hijackers were prosecuted and imprisoned in Italy.

To determine whether the Pledge of Allegiance’s promise of “justice for all” holds true in all circumstances, compare Reagan’s aggressive response to the killing of a U.S. citizen on the Mediterranean Sea to the tepid response of the Obama Administration in the same scenario.

On May 31, Israel interdicted, boarded, and assaulted the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, comprised of six ships carrying 700 international humanitarian activists and 10,000 tons of desperately needed humanitarian supplies to the 1.5 million blockaded Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip, in the international waters of the Mediterranean.

During this attack, Israel killed nine civilians, injured dozens more, and abducted hundreds against their will to Israel for detention and deportation. Of those killed, one was a U.S. citizen, Furkan Dogan, a 19 year-old student whose body was riddled with four gunshots to the head and one to the chest. At least two other U.S. citizens, Huwaida Arraf and Dr. Paul Larudee were beaten by Israeli forces, the latter of whom required hospitalization. Later that day, Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian West Bank shot a 21 year-old U.S. citizen, Emily Henochowicz, in the face with a tear gas canister during a nonviolent protest against the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. She is currently recuperating in a hospital after losing an eye and undergoing facial reconstruction surgery.

In the Obama Administration’s most comprehensive statement to date on the injuring and killing of these U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 3:

“Protecting the welfare of American citizens is a fundamental responsibility of our government and one that we take very seriously. We are in constant contact with the Israeli Government, attempting to obtain more information about our citizens. We have made no decisions at this point on any additional specific actions that our government should take with respect to our own citizens.”

It doesn’t sound as if the Obama Administration will be scrambling fighter jets anytime soon to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for ordering these attacks against U.S. civilians.

Since the Obama Administration is having trouble deciding how to punish Israel for injuring and killing U.S. citizens, here’s a suggested first step: launch an investigation into whether Israel violated the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

The AECA stipulates that weapons provided by the United States can only be used by foreign countries for “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.” Since Israel engaged in act of aggression in international waters, it is self-evident that Israel violated this law.

The United States has provided the Israeli navy and air force with weapons through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) budget allocations that were, or may have been, used in this attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israel Air Force used three Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to transport its commandos to the ships. The Israel Air Force is reported to have 49 of these combat helicopters.

In addition, the United States has transferred additional weapons to the Israeli Navy that may have been used in violation of the AECA during its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In July 2008, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Israel of four littoral combat ships (LCS-I variant), associated equipment, and services valued at up to $1.9 billion. The Israeli Navy is also reported to have three Sa’ar 5-class corvettes built in the United States.

Press reports also indicate that Israel may have used U.S. guns, ammunition, night vision goggles, and crowd dispersal weapons in its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The high-velocity tear-gas canister which injured Emily Henochowicz was likely of U.S. origin as well.

How much longer should the United States be expected to underwrite $30 billion in weapons for Israeli military occupation and apartheid toward Palestinians, when these weapons are being misused not only to perpetrate terrible human rights abuses against Palestinians, but against U.S. citizens as well?

A finding by the Obama Administration that Israel violated the AECA would be the first step towards accountability and sanctions, both of which are necessary to halt Israel’s intransigence in the face of ever-expanding global opposition to its policies.

Learn more about the devastating impact of U.S. military aid to Israel, how much money your community provides, what that money could be used for instead in your community, and how to take action to end military aid to Israel by clicking here.

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of more than 325 organizations working to change U.S. policy toward Israel/Palestine to support human rights, international law, and equality.
 

About Josh Ruebner

Josh Ruebner is the National Advocacy Director of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation and a former Analyst in Middle East Affairs at Congressional Research Service. He is author of Shattered Hopes: Obama’s Failure to Broker Israeli-Palestinian Peace (Verso Books).
Posted in Gaza, US Policy in the Middle East

{ 14 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. Avi says:

    Three important points:

    1. Good article.

    2. The US government has already clarified that it does NOT intend to involve the FBI to investigate the murder of a US citizen by Israeli commandos. Instead, the US government has said that it plans to ‘look into’ the case. With such disregard for its own non-Zionist citizens, it’s no wonder the US and the Israeli governments are often called Partners in Crime (i.e. By yours truly).

    3.

    Press reports also indicate that Israel may have used U.S. guns, ammunition, night vision goggles, and crowd dispersal weapons in its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The high-velocity tear-gas canister which injured Emily Henochowicz was likely of U.S. origin as well.

    The problem is that the Israeli military removes NATO stock numbers from armaments and replaces them with its own stock numbers and Hebrew lettering. This category should not be confused with weapons that are US made, but assembled in Israel. And should not be confused with US weapons that have been reverse engineered in Israel to manufacture said weapons ‘in-house’. As for the night vision goggles, they are US made. The Israeli army uses the AN/PVS-7D goggles with old intensifier tubes that have US national stock numbers.

  2. sherbrsi says:

    Justin Raimondo has an excellent article on the inaction, or rather indifference, of the American government in regards to the killing of its citizen in the flotilla massacre.

    This Says It All
    Israelis kill American – Joe Biden says: “What’s the big deal?”
    link to original.antiwar.com

  3. Good article.

    Slightly odd watching a state that calls itself the worlds only superpower in the bondage of a relatively small nomadic desert tribe.

  4. I accept the fact that Josh Ruebner is upset by the killing of Furkan Dogan. But I consider the comparison with the killing of Leon Klinghoffer to be “street corner rhetoric”. Even if we accept the equation of piracy equals piracy Mister Klinghoffer who was in a wheelchair represented zero threat to the pirates, whereas Furkan Dogan from the available information did represent a threat to the pirates.

    • sherbrsi says:

      Even if we accept the equation of piracy equals piracy Mister Klinghoffer who was in a wheelchair represented zero threat to the pirates, whereas Furkan Dogan from the available information did represent a threat to the pirates.

      And so what if he represent a threat t0 what you acknowledge are “pirates”?

      Would you similarly express sympathy for a plane hijacker who came under threat from the passengers?

    • MRW says:

      The Mossad killed Klinghoffer. Victor Ostrovsky detailed this in either, or both, of his books, I can’t remember. It should be old news to those who’ve done their homework.

      Ostrovsky was working as a Mossad agent when it happened.

    • Avi says:

      “street corner rhetoric”.

      Is that the minimalist or the minimalist approach?

      We both know that Israel’s right to self-defense is broadly defined to encompass anything and everything that disagrees with its hardcore Zionist tenants. So, why do you continue to defend that failed reasoning, but somehow have a problem with the aforementioned reasoning and the gal, nay the chutzpah, to say that the two are different?

      How do you know that Leon Klinghoffer didn’t have a stick with which he attacked the pirates? How do you know that he didn’t use his wheelchair as a weapon against them?

    • Les says:

      The maritime law Israel broke was written as a result of what happened to Leon Klinghoffer.

      • Citizen says:

        The two Klingerhoffer daughters sued the PLO and get a settlement check regularly; their lawsuit spurred passage of the Antiterrorism Act of 1990 which made it easier for victims of terrorism to sue terrorists and collect civil damages for losses incurred. Maybe some lawsuits will result from the attack on the Gaza flotilla? Further, The hijacking was made into a television movie in 1990, Voyage of Terror: The Achille Lauro Affair starring Burt Lancaster and Eva Marie Saint. Any chance
        the Gaza Flotilla incident will be made into a movie starring Brad Pitt and his wife?

    • “whereas Furkan Dogan from the available information did represent a threat to the pirates.”

      Available information by whom? How do you know he resisted, protested or attacked? If I were you, WJ, I’d refrain from speculating as the truth has not unfolded yet despite the fact that many accounts tend to converge on an outright slaughter .But then again it’s too early.

  5. Cliff says:

    WJ would like all non-Zionists and anti-Zionists who stand up to Jewish supremacy and Zionist thugs in the IDF to get on their knees.

    Yes, quibble over those details you fraud. At least you agree that that coward-infested army is nothing but a bunch of pirates.