If you have been following Facebook, Twitter, or the news, you have probably heard of the flotilla that was captured by the Israel military sometime our Sunday night. Six boats filled with humanitarian aid deporting from several European countries were headed to Gaza. Organized by the umbrella organization Free Gaza, the ships were trying to break a blockade and bring much needed supplies.
The flotilla aimed to deliver aid to Gaza, to break an Israeli and Egyptian blockade on the territory. According to the UN, Gaza receives about one quarter of the supplies it used to receive in the years before the blockade was tightened in 2007. The ships were carrying 10,000 tonnes of goods, including school supplies, building materials and two large electricity generators. The activists also say they wanted to make the point that, in their view, the blockade is illegal under international law. (BBC).
I found this video rather helpful to explain who and what the mission was trying to do. But the flotilla had to abort the mission when the Israeli Defense Force boarded the ships in international waters, killing 10 people and wounding 30. The boats were captured and taken to Israel. Though there are two sides to the debate, the attack was brutal – no side can deny that. Upon boarding the ship (armed and w/ body protection), the military began shooting the civilians. The soldiers said they were being attacked, (though technically since the soldiers jumped on the boat in international waters, the soldiers were the attackers). The aid workers carried no ammunition on the boats; the video evidence (from the Israeli side) shows slingshots and sticks (link). Video evidence from Al Jazeera shows gunshots going off even after the boat raised the white flags.
There has been an international outcry about the attack and the disappearance of the 700 people on the boat. Yesterday, within 24 hours of the attacks, protests were happening all around the world. This interactive map shows just how many people hit the streets as soon as this happened. Here in Los Angeles, people rallied in front of the Israeli Consulate – I went to go see what it was all about and gather some interviews while at it.
Only just this afternoon has the Israeli government released information on the the well-being of the passengers. Though most of the people on the passenger list were European, there were also some Desis on board the ships.
“Islamabad has strongly condemned the attack on the humanitarian mission and it is seriously concerned over the well-being and whereabouts of Pakistani citizens and media personnel on board,” he said. Interior Minister Rehman Malik called upon Interpol to help recover TV anchor Talat Hussain and the other Pakistanis aboard Gaza aid ships. (Daily Times link)
Also see this:
The US and Interpol have assured Pakistan that three of its nationals on board a peace flotilla carrying aid for the Gaza Strip were safe and detained in Israel after the Israeli Navy attack. Interior Minister Rehman Malik separately said that the Interpol was making ‘personal efforts’ for the release of the three Pakistanis – journalists Talat Hussain and Raza Mehmood Agha of the Aaj TV channel and aid worker Nadeem Ahmed Khan of the Khubaib Foundation – who are currently detained in Israel. (Sify)
But that’s Pakistan some of you will say. What about the so-called Israel-India alliance? Well it seems the government India also has expressed outrage:
India joined several other governments around the world in condemning Israel for its use of disproportionate force leading to the death of 20 passengers on a flotilla carrying relief supplies to Gaza.
“India deplores the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to the people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn. We extend our sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded. It is our firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force,” said a Ministry of External Affairs statement. (The Hindu)
The discrepencies between stories on either side have been large. There were reporters on the boats reporting live, but their transmission was cut as soon as the boat was captured. The only news that the international community has been able to attain since the attack were those being spun from the IDF desks. And I do mean spin. All other accounts have been censored and media has not been able to get into the area to talk to activists. Arguments have been made from Israeli supporters to me, that we can’t jump to conclusions and respond hastily to what actually happened on the humanitarian boats. But to me, the fact that 1) the boats were attacked by IDF in international water 2) the activists on boats were without firearms 3) IDF detained all 700 passengers without allowing them contact with the outside world and 4) the outright media censorship of not allowing journalists in nor allowing journalists on the boats the right to report out clearly implies who the protagonists are in this situation. If IDF had nothing to hide, they clearly wouldn’t be hiding it and spinning it the way they have been.
It’s no surprise to people on what side I am on this. I’ve written about the Gaza protest in Los Angeles before and was one of the organizers of an Art for Peace event in L.A. in support of Gaza last year. What may surprise you is that I usually do hate going to protests, especially here in Los Angeles. I think they can be nonstrategic and ineffective, unless you are targeting your message at a location where the power holders will hear it (like D.C.). But I attended the protest yesterday for a few reasons. The first reason is because it was an immediate worldwide action. Within 24 hours of the attack, people around the world were coordinating protests stating their disapproval of the action. I really feel it was due to interactive web tools like twitter and google maps that this happened so quickly. The second was that we were protesting in front of the Israeli Consulate – an access ‘perk’ that people in the Muslim world do not have. In Dhaka, Bangladesh, for example, though there is a Palestinian Embassy they do not recognize Israel as a nation state and thus, they are not allowed to have a embassy in Dhaka.
The third reason is this. As I was talking to my mother yesterday about the situation, my mom said something that really struck me. She said, ” I do feel bad that they died. But they were taking boats into a dangerous area. They should have known what was going to happen.” It surprised me she would say something like that, given our family history.
Recently, I was traveling in South Asia. I was there initially to collect personal family stories on revolution, though as the trip continued it started to get bigger. There was the story that my grandfather told me of how he went to college in Calcutta, and whenever he crossed the Ganges river, Hindus would throw rocks at him because he was Muslim. But it was due to the generosity of a Bengali man that his family able to escape under the cover of celebration of Holi. There was the story of an uncle who was a police officer in Bangladesh in 1971. He left the force when the Pakistan army took over, but decided to go into the office seven months later when they called police officer back to the force. It was only when he went back to his office, that he realized it was a ruse. A non-Bengali saved him. There was the Sinhalese activist woman I met in Sri Lanka who dedicated her life to support the Tamil and Muslim people still stuck in the IDP camps. There was the Hindu cabbie that got out of the cab to give me salaams as I got out of the cab in Calcutta. Muslims had helped him escape out of Bangladesh in the 70s when he was a baby.
My point is – that as South Asians, our roots are deeply intertwined with struggle and revolution. And despite the many sides to the political arguments we always hear coming out od the Desh, buried underneath it all are stories of humanity, of people helping each other to survive. Caste, race, religion no-bar. Our history as being American is also deeply entwined w/ revolution intertwined with humanity. The situation with the flotilla’s to me personally was not about Hamas or IDF, it was about peace activists who were doing humanitarian good. They were bringing much needed supplies to blockaded people, people of a land who are being used as pawns in an international power game.
We have to take that personal risk to save other people. The power I find in the people that were on the boat is that they went to provide aid despite knowing they were going to put themselves in a risky situation. People have been doing that for me since before I was alive. I think I need to honor that by paying it forward, and supporting the people that put helping other people ahead of themselves.
No matter what side of the Gaza argument you are on, I hope that we can all at least agree on that.
for me, attention = raised awareness. I think of this as a street fight where one party has received 90% of the damage and should realize that survival hinges on knowing how to negotiate from an extremely weak position. This position has always been weak despite far more casualties and spectacular acts of violence, and the attendant media coverage, even in just the past 10 years. Everybody on those boats, whether malicious in intent or not, knew that the response was not guaranteed to be nonviolent. Everybody does not deserve to be unharmed at any time and in any situation–if it is by their choice. Choosing whether to honor them above other casualties, or not, is not actually an empirical question–if Gaza is no more free 20 years from now, will you still venerate the flotilla members?
What does it entails?
several scores of ahmediya muslims were killed by their muslim compatriots I pakistan last week and you deem the flotilla story more post worthy? no wonder some people claim that we muslims only protest when non-muslims kill muslims. p.s. I had written the same comment yesterday, which remained on the site for a few hours and then was deleted. please do not delete again.
Iqbal, re post 98, for your information, this site did devote a post about the Ahmadiya massacre. The post was on May 28th. I can’t speak for the administrators but perhaps that is why your post was deleted (misinformation)?
ente – thanks, i should have checked first. nevertheless, fact remains that we muslims are reluctant to criticize our co-religionists, take to the streets as soon as we perceive a slight from non-muslims.
eh. true but so what. that’s how identity works. its tribal. foreign terrorists get more ink than domestic ones here in the usa. to the extent people complain about domestic terrorism its because they think the terrorist is one of their political enemies, ie not of their tribe. so dems will get their panties in twist about the irs bomber b/c they think he’s a rightwinger, get deflated when his lefty views emerge (and then the right gets excited) and pretty much ignore bill ayers, or scream mccarthyism if obama’s name is bought up, then proceed to associate rush Limbaugh with Tim McVeigh.
There are at least two questions I can read into what you ask- one is of emotional resonance on a personal level with the story that is constructed around the flotilla (subjective / political agreement) and the other is of the empirical results of the particular strategy that was adopted (what you are asking about). In both cases, acknowledging that we are only a few days in and all the facts that are and will be are far from clear, I think that you are not approaching this as I do.
On the emotional question – for an international solidarity activist who supports resistance of various kinds in support of the disposessed on a basic level, there is an intrinsic sympathy with others who engage in international solidarity activism. So the answer to your question on that front would be yes.
On the empirical question, given the relatively small scale of the action and the consequences that resulted, measuring it by the benchmark of whether Gaza is free is not appropriate – a more appropriate measure would be whether their actions increased or decreased the likelihood of Gaza being held in the same state or worse. In my opinion, given what has transpired in the last few days (e.g. the New York Times editorializing against Israel in a way that would have been more or less unthinkable five years ago, virtually every political entity in the world condemning this with some notable exceptions, and further introspection within pretty sane components of Israeli society like ha’aretz), I think that the action has increased the likelihood of the people who currently live in Gaza or their descendents not being trapped in an enormous prison with 25% of what they need, with rebuilding materials blocked to them, and at the whim of a hostile government. It has had specific effects int he short term already (those symbolic / political ones noted above + e.g. Egypt opening the Rafah border crossing, greater attention to the Gaza blockade from the rest of the world, etc.)
There is another question, which is of intent – did they understand that this is what they were going to do or inadvertently do something that had much larger ramifications. This is a question of how ‘smart’ or shrewd you think they were. This relates to another question – of basic facts regarding what happened on the boat- we still don’t really know exactly what happened, and there is an enormous propaganda war going on right now which may make it impossible to ever find out. An inquiry would help, but even that would likely be politicised. We may have to wait decades to find out for sure.
And finally there is the acknowledgement and reality that this flotilla is a small part of a much much bigger puzzle / set of circumstances. I don’t believe in heroes or idolization – but I do believe that this is the first ray of light I have felt (see above – emotional resonance) in a long long long time.
There are several/many desis among the UK solidarity activists who were on the flotilla judging from the names I saw in the newspapers here.
it’s important and I certainly don’t know enough about the specifics or the broader context of the persecution. However, just want to point out that there isn’t a total vacuum of attention being drawn to this by writers who (I believe) are or were Muslim:
http://www.chapatimystery.com/archives/homistan/we_are_all_ahmadis_vi_community.html (and five other posts) http://sanasaleem.com/2010/06/03/pakistan-ahmadi-attack-a-muted-response-to-minority-killings/ http://www.nybooks.com/blogs/nyrblog/2010/jun/03/terror-pakistans-punjab-heartland/ http://pakteahouse.wordpress.com/2010/05/30/is-this-jinnahs-pakistan/ http://globalcomment.com/2010/ahmadi-killings-we-are-all-guilty/
also rule of thumb – don’t put human rights issues in competition with each other. they’re all relevant, even though it is grossly unfair that most of them are completely and totally neglected.
Where were these peace activists when Hamas had a bloody battle with Fatah over Gaza?
Or when Hamas was shelling southern Israel from Gaza with thousands of rockets?
Neither Egypt nor Jordan want an radical Islamist state – Hamas controlled Gaza – near them. Hamas is a Muslim Brotherhood organization. Egypt has its own radical Muslim Brotherhood groups. Egypt is supporting the other Arab Palestian group Fatah. This is the reason for their blockade of Gaza.
The Arab Palestinian state of Jordan too fears being destabilized by Hamas: “Jordan is playing hardball with the Palestinian militant movement Hamas, arresting its members and accusing it of plotting attacks inside the country.
Behind the crackdown is the fear in the kingdom, a close U.S. ally with a peace treaty with Israel, that it is threatened by a rising tide of radical Islam it sees originating from Iran and encompassing its Arab neighbors.” http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2006-05-19-jordan-hamas_x.htm
The actual NON-Islamist activists on this blockade run have a very narrow focus, ignoring the very serious threat that several Middle Eastern countries face of radical Islam, Hamas. They very well may be helping to further destabilize the region, though the non-Islamist activists mean well.
Any of those actual peace activists have any ideas how to end the blockade AND keep Hamas from weaponizing again?
Hamas is not shy in killing either Israelis, other Palestinians who get in their way, or Egyptians. Keeping weapons out of Hama’s hands helps keep safe Palestinian Fatah/PLO, Egypt, Jordan and Israel, and that is why there is a blockade and why goods are inspected before being sent through to Gaza.
@93 AJ “Neo-Ottomanism” Cengiz Candar, a prominent political commentator who is credited with coining the term “neo-Ottomanism.”The term refers to Turkish aspirations for influence in the Arab countries that were once part of the Ottoman Empire.
January 2009 “The four-nation tour included key Arab actors with a stake in the Gaza crisis as well as a side meeting between a trusted Erdogan aide and exiled Hamas spiritual leader Khaled Meshal in Damascus.
Mr. Erdogan has cultivated ties with Hamas since 2006 when a high-ranking Hamas delegation’s visit to Istanbul angered Turkey’s allies in Washington and Tel Aviv.
Since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began Dec. 27, Mr. Erdogan has spoken on the phone with Hamas’ political leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh, and has kept in touch with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad….
“They’re flexing their muscles a bit because they have some muscles to flex, and people in the region will sit up and listen to what the Turks have to say,” said Norman Stone, a professor of international relations at Bilkent University and the director of the Russian-Turkish Center. “They’re seriously involved in what’s going on to their east and their south.”
Mr. Erdogan has scored points in Arab popular opinion by condemning Israeli actions in Gaza as “a crime against humanity.” He also broke ranks with the generally pro-Israel Turkish General Staff to express his sympathy for the Palestinians.”
This Turkish ship with Islamists seeking mortal combat with Israeli soldiers to become martyrs, may have been planned more in advance and by much higher up than we know. Islamist Turkey is a different country than secular Ataturk Turkey that was one of the first countries to recognize Israel in the 1940s.
This Egypt, Jordan, Fatah/PLO vs Turkey, Iran, Hamas has a lot of implications for the region. It is not only Israel at stake.
The flotilla has more than achieved its goals. It will be interesting to see what Israel does with the Rachel Corrie, which has massive backing from Ireland and Turkey. (it is being fitted with video cameras and will be off next week)
I had a dream yesterday. In the dream, all the nations of the world got together and each sent a few ships over to Gaza. It looked something like this http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film2/DVDReviews32/a%20troy%20dc%20blu-ray/16_Troy_BD_ships.jpg All the ships gathered in international waters and waited, and at dawn, they all rushed to the Gaza shores, like D-day at Normandy.
I know its far-fetched, but I’d love for this to happen, just to see Netanyahu shit his pants.
Nitin, I will take your comments at face value.
Probably pointing out that both the election that had led to Hamas’s victory, the undermining of a national unity government and eventually the subsequent war among Palestinian factions was instigated by the Bush Administration. http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2008/04/gaza200804. Notably, this short-sighted divide and conquer tactic is not new to anyone who follows U.S. policy or British policy in British India before that. Nor to people who minimally follow the development of Hamas , including that it / predecessor groups received funding/support from Israel in the late 1970s to undermine the PLO under Arafat. http://www.upi.com/Business_News/Security-Industry/2002/06/18/Analysis_Hamas_history_tied_to_Israel/UPI-82721024445587/print/
Same as before – for the rightwing Israeli government and its allies, which is in a position of greater power, to acknowledge what the current situation is – that it has turned Gaza into a massive prison and undermined the lives of over a million people in an act of collective punishment. It could then recognize that, on the basis of the last election results and that it behaves in the situation as one of being at war, Hamas was among its legitimate negotiating partners, whatever Israel might think of Hamas’s charter or its actions or any number of other things and accept an equitable solution. This would then force Hamas into a position of behaving less provocatively as have many other political forces that have in the past been anti-Israel but which have reached accomodations.
However, all this is premised on the far right in Israel actually being thrown out of power, both politically and socially, for the settlements to stop and preferably retract, and for either a plausible Palestinian state to be constructed alongside Israel or for Israel to become a binational state that treats all of its members effectively. Which entails recognizing that Palestinians are human beings, and that Israel is the greater power in this situation, and is serving deeply destrutive ends right now.
Human rights and other humanistic claims should apply to ALL parties involved, who have conspired to create a situation that undermines the ability of Palestinians and Israeli Arabs (among others) to live dignified and decent lives. Hamas should be called out for any and all violations of human rights that it engages in and be expected to behave in a way that demonstrates a respect for human beings – both Palestinian, Israeli, and other, of all genders, sexualities, ethnicities, religions, beliefs, etc. I don’t believe that Hamas is a model for how to organize yourself politically to construct a decent society, and neither do a lot of other people who supoprt Palestinian rights.
But I can walk and chew gum and understand that there is a vast power imbalance in this situation and a sense of proportionality should be borne in mind. Did the ‘terrorism’ of African Naional Congress create the same magnitutde of damage as that of the Apartheid regime or that of Jewish and other resisters during the Holocaust the same as the British empire or Nazi Germany or that of the Indian natioanlists in 1905-1912 as much as the British Raj?
The bulk of the structural responsibility – because they have more power and in recent years have committed acts that are far more outrageous in their effects and at points intentions – lies with Israel and the United States. You’re talking about things like bombing Gaza to hell and then denying construction materials from entering the area. How would one expect people – whether there or as observers from outside – to react to such a show of callousness and inhumanity?
Therefore, Israel and the United States should have more attention focused on them for their own disrespect for peace processes with fairness and their denial of legitimate claims to human rights and their subversion of international human rights law and their total lack of commitment to fairness – including using real and alleged human rights abuses by Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Turkey, or anyone else they don’t like as propaganda weapons – because this undermines not just Palestinian rights, but the human rights agenda as a whole.
One day, Donald Rumsfeld is shaking hands with Saddam Hussein – a few years later, Donald Rumsfeld and/or his friends are accusing Saddam Hussein of engaging in human rights violations, just as he had done when Donald Rumsfeld was shaking hands with him.
We see where all that leads and what it means….I’d rather rely on Amnesty or Human Rights Watch for liberal human rights critiques.
Right they have no solution on how to end the blockade without Hamas weaponizing and continuing its mission to destroy Israel like it openly says and acted on, or from it radicalizing other Arab Middle Eastern neighboring countries, concerns of Egypt and Jordan. There are 3 Palestinian areas controlled by Arab Palestinians – Jordan, West Bank, Gaza. And both Jordan and PLO/Fatah controlled West Bank supported the Egypt–Israel blockade against Hamas controlled Gaza.
Now implications for Turkey: “But for us here in Turkey, the implications run far deeper. In many ways, the botched raid by Israeli commandos on the high seas symbolizes our moment of return to the old neighborhood we left almost a century agoâ€”back to the heart of the Middle East.
â€œI donâ€™t understand how this happened so fast,â€ a friend lamented last night over cocktails at an upscale nightclub on the Bosporus in Istanbul. â€œWe were about to go into the European Union, and before you know it, there we are, everyone wrapped in Palestinian flags and sending toothpaste to Gaza.â€
Sheâ€™s right. The flotilla episode may boost Erdoganâ€™s popularity on the Arab street and increase Turkeyâ€™s self-confidence as the new patron of Palestinians and spokesman of the Muslim world. But, as a European official told me this week, â€œPeople might be happy for the current Israeli government to suffer a little. But in the long run, I doubt there is any room in Europe for a country that is on the forefront of the struggle against Israel….
…We are now officially caught up between the West and the Muslim world, between Islamic solidarity and our place in Europe, as our politicians lead the global jihad against Israel and we sip Cosmopolitans on the Bosporus.
But there is something in this neo-imperial, neo-Ottoman spirit that has taken over the country since the flotilla episode that is addictive, even for a secular Turk like me. Yesterday, I watched the footage of demonstrations against Israel all over the Middle East and Europe with mixed feelings. I hate the fact that Turkey has become the primary nemesis of Israelâ€”a country where I have many good friends who look and live like me. But then again, from Beirut to Sweden, I watch demonstrators holding Turkish flags and take guilty pride in those scenes.
Once the dust settles, there is too much we need to discuss back home. Can we really help the Palestinians and energize the peace process? Is Turkey strong enough to lift the embargo in Gaza? Or wait, waitâ€”are we just abandoning our place in the West, losing ourselves in a fleeting moment of grandeur?â€ http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-06-02/israel-flotilla-fight-pushes-turkey-away-from-west/?cid=hp:originalslist3
Interesting she asked is Turkey strong enough to lift the embargo? Hmmm wasn’t it a bunch of humanitarian activists acting without martyr seeking Islamists or for any country even Turkey? If Turkey wants to flex its neo-Ottoman muscles in the region it should do so without hiding behind the cover of actual activists. They actual NON-Islamist activists were the cover.
This act was Islamist Turkey blockade running the Egypt-Israel blockade against Islamist Hamas, a radical group that neither the Palestinian PLO/Fatah or the Arab Palestine country of Jordan support. This is Islamist Turkey supporting Islamist Hamas.
Is Islamist Turkey gearing for war with Israel?
“itâ€™s no surprise to people on what side I am on this. Iâ€™ve written about the Gaza protest in Los Angeles before and was one of the organizers of an Art for Peace event in L.A. in support of Gaza last year.”
So when are you going to write and protest about the cruel mistreatment of your fellow Muslim bangladeshis by the Arabs?
Last time I checked the Palestinians were far better fed, clothed, housed etc than the great majority of desis. It is kind of obscene to see desis crying rivers over their plight while turning a blind eye to the vastly greater suffering in the subcontinent.
Turkey was never going to be accepted into the European Union. It was foolish of them to think that they would. Now the EU does not look so attractive anymore anyway. The Turks are finally realizing that it is better to be leaders than followers….
I am starting to feel sorry for the Jews. God knows what the future holds for them. Goldman Sachs and Bernie Madoff and now this. Their hubris is punctured and they are now on the defensive.
I expect Turkey to go nuclear within the decade….
Nah, that’d still be Iran under Ahmedinejad. Turkey is simply speaking up (and possibly for local internal political reasons that I don’t know much about) And frankly, the EU has a lot of problems right now, and if I were Turkey, I’d wait it out before joining a group-economy spiraling towards disaster. You really don’t want Turks to be paying for the Greek’s swimming pools.
You talk like the Israeli Foreign Minister http://www.deccanherald.com/content/72963/israel-cries-foul-over-flotilla.html So, a million people die everyday, whats 9 more! There are illegal occupations all over the world(ahem, Iraq/Afghanistan), so why target this one! I tried that stunt with a cop, telling him that other drivers were speeding too. no dice.
And why must my tears be reserved first for “my kins-men” ?
“why must my tears be reserved first for “my kins-men” ?”
Because charity begins at home and your kinsmen are far more in need of it than the much better fed clothed and housed palestinians. What is so obscene is that your ilk gets so worked up about the sufferings of Palestinians but have no tears for the vastly greater suffering of a vastly larger number of desis. Why is that?