My Journey

In September, 2009, this Canadian boy started a masters program the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies, learning about ecology and health, middle-eastern politics and the environment, and how a dire problem may facilitate a region's coming together for the better. This Blog is a record of my head-first dive into this immense world.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Outrage: At least 10 Dead and dozens injured as the IDF attacks Gaza Aid Fleet

 [update 10:00 pm Israel time - The more the story comes out, the more I'm ashamed of both sides, especially the so-called humanitarian activists [updated update - it appears that the violence came only from one ship, populated by radicals, while the others were dealt with peacefully].  The activists, it seems, deceived the IDF with white flags and promises of non-violence, only to pull out metal pipes, knives, and bats and immediately begin to beat soldiers, who at first only used riot dispersal methods like paintball guns and tear gas, and finally the activists stole pistols and opened fire.  It seems that this act was what started the gunfire, though we can't be sure until the full story comes out.  Even so, the actions of the Israeli navy seem disproportionate, and the loss of life severe.  I don't know what fraction of the flotilla was aware of this plan, as it happened only on one boat, and only about 30 people were initially involved, but clearly this is not the way a peaceful, humanitarian mission behaves.  Shame on those who use violence.  I'm not going to change what I wrote before about standing up to the Occupation and taking back Israel, which I truly believe, but I have to admit I jumped to conclusions about the flotilla event]

         Some of you might have been aware in the last week or so of an international aid flotilla of nine ships that set sail for Gaza in order to "break the siege" that has been going on for nearly 4 years, since Hamas took power in the strip.  You can read about the Flotilla on their own site here.  The boats are loaded with thousands of tons of aid in the form of medicine, food, medical supplies, and importantly, no firearms of any kind, even in the possession of the people on board.  In the past few days the PR machines of both sides revved into high gear as the moment of confrontation approached, and the whole world watched to see what would happen.  IDF ships left Sunday evening in the hopes of having the confrontation at night where cameras would be useless, but the flotilla changed course to force the situation into the daylight.  According to news sources and accounts from people on board, the IDF intercepted the ships off the coast, many said in international waters.  Events following are somewhat unclear, but what is clear is that the IDF used tear gas and live ammunition on unarmed international civilians, potentially in international waters, wounding dozens and killing at least 10.  You can find the stories in the NYTimes, Guardian UK, and I'm sure any reputable news source around.
     I, for one, am outraged, and can't find the words to describe the confusion.  Yes, Gaza is a closed military zone, and I would have been quite disappointed (but not surprised) if the IDF stopped the ships, commandeered the cargo, and deported the people.  This would be the procedure of most countries given the situation.  But what happened is inexcusable and absurd.  In their defense, army radio reported that activists tried to grab guns from the soldiers' hands.  Are you kidding me?  Maybe I'm naive and stupid, but why do you even need to bring guns aboard these ships, full of unarmed civilians?  Speaking to my parents last night I heard about an Israel rally in Toronto, where Netanyahu spoke.  Those of you who've known me since high school know that I've always been ambivalent about these rallies and have not gone, and went through that high school leftist phase (or perhaps transition?  I feel like I'm still in it), but in light of this last event, I feel like urging everyone I know to stay home, or, better yet, go with with signs:  "This is not MY Israel", "Not in my name", "End the Occupation", and so on.  I urge you not to fall into the trap of "with us or against us", or the inane and polarizing idea that unflinching support of Israel is the only thing that will not "give hope to Israel's enemies" or ridiculous ideas like that.  North American Jews like to take solace in the idea that these sorts of incidents are "isolated."  The cases of outrageous racism and murder by IDF soldiers during the Gaza war, the incidents of humiliation and violence by soldiers at check points and in the West Bank, the settler violence, the cases of racism and prejudice in planning and decision making...all of these things are becoming more and more systemic, not isolated.  If you haven't had a chance to look through the accounts of soldiers at Breaking the Silence, I urge you to  You have to understand that if you don't take back Israel now from the direction it is heading (read the article from the NYReview of books from my last post), you will wake up one morning to find you are blindly supporting an Apartheid regime, violent and self-destructive, and you will have to answer to that.

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