The Free Gaza Flotilla is a shining example of nonviolent resistance, yet the Israeli government claims the group is connected to Hamas or attempting to smuggle weapons into Gaza as justification for boarding the ships in international waters and killing between 9 and 19 of those aboard. Looking at the list of passengers, which includes officials of the U.N. and various European governments, further disproves this ridiculous attempt at misinformation by the Israelis. The real reason for attacking ships full of people carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza was to keep Israel from looking weak in their blockade and continuing to deny there is a crisis, not because of any legitimate security threat. This was an attempt to address a catastrophic humanitarian crisis, activists refusing to back down because the people of Gaza are without sufficient food, water, power or medical supplies. Should we be outraged that several were shot and the rest detained? Of course. War Resisters’ International states it aptly that: “The international nonviolent activists killed in the attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla did not regard their lives as more important than those of Palestinians – not more important, but nevertheless more visible.” This effort was also to raise awareness of the kind of force that Palestinians face each day in Gaza.
Organizers and participants knew going in that an international passport means little to Israeli soldiers (a U.S. activist lost an eye on Monday after being shot in the face with a teargas canister during one of the protests in response to the Free Gaza shootings), which is why everyone on-board agreed to, and were trained how to respond nonviolently to any confrontation. There is a chance that video footage showing what actually happened when soldiers boarded the ship may still come out, and resolve the claim that soldiers were met with aggression before they started shooting.
Israel’s unilateral actions in the name of ‘security’ are increasingly dangerous to civilians – its own, Palestinian, Lebanese and others – by fueling further violence and extremism. The siege of Gaza must end and Israel’s blatant disregard for human rights and international law must no longer be ignored for the sake of keeping the Israelis at the table for peace talks when there is clearly no intention to negotiate honestly. In 2008 our government signed a $30 billion dollar aid agreement with Israel over the next 10 years, with seemingly no strings attached to uphold previous agreements or ensure human rights. Holding Israel accountable is not anti-Semitic, nor is it calling for the destruction of the state, it is demanding that violations of international law and human rights will not be ignored for the sake of security.
The Free Gaza Flotilla is not the only effort to bring attention to the situation that Palestinians face each day, and it is the 9th time activists have brought in aid by sea. In Israel the peace movement is growing everyday through groups like Gush-Shalom and every year more Shministim (the equivalent of U.S. 12th graders) refuse to do their required military service in the Occupied Territories, facing long and repeated jail sentences for their resistance. The International Solidarity Movement is composed of international activists doing nonviolent accompaniment in Palestinian communities along where the Wall was being built. This was the group that American Rachel Corrie was with in March, 2003, when she was run over and killed by a bulldozer tearing down Palestinian homes to make way for the Wall. She is one of many internationals killed or injured resisting Israeli violence. Former President Jimmy Carter has come out in recent years equating the treatment of Palestinians to that of Apartheid South Africa. The situation is so violent that Palestinians now view the very act of farming as resistance against the Occupation. What will you do to support their efforts?
It is at this point that you may become incredulous, shocked that something like this could happen in plain sight, and begin to believe that there is some mitigating factor that has been omitted because otherwise American mainstream media would not be so neutral in their reporting. If the siege of Gaza is so unreasonable then surely something would be done about it, more people would know it was happening and there would be public outcry. I say this, not in judgment, but as someone who struggles with these same questions whenever I read about events in Palestine or Israel. Well, it is happening, and there must be a huge and sustained outcry to stop it. The U.S. Campaign to End the Occupation has a list of things you can do. Jewish Voice for Peace, Witness Gaza and the Gaza Freedom March have updated information and videos that you must share with people you know and urge them to take action. You can also call your Congressional representatives via the Congressional Switchboard at 202-224-3121 (if you don’t know the name of your Representative or Senators you can look it up here or they can connect you to the right office with your zip code) and demand that they hold Israel accountable and make the billions in military aid sent to Israel each year contingent on respect of human rights and international law. You can also volunteer with any of the groups mentioned above.
Netanyahu said that public pressure will not stop the siege of Gaza, let’s prove him wrong.
Other articles by this author: