Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Who the hell does Israel think she is?


Two days ago, Israeli forces attacked a humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters. The whole purpose of the activists on the raided Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, and several others around it, were to bring aid and supplies, including playgrounds for children, to Gaza. They paid the price by being the targets of Israeli machine guns.

At least 10 unarmed civilians, most of whom are Turks, were killed. Dozens of others were injured.

There is no need to mince words in the face of this atrocity: Israel has committed piracy, barbarism and state terrorism.

Beyond doing all these shamelessly, Israeli spokesmen have also lied shamelessly. One of them, Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon, was doing exactly that when he portrayed the ship, and the whole aid flotilla, as full of people “well-known for their ties with global Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Hamas.”

Damned lies
In fact, the 600 or so activists in the flotilla were a diverse group from 32 countries and many faiths. They included Christian priests and secular humanists. They included Mairead Corrigan-Maguire, the 85-year-old Nobel peace laureate from North Ireland, and Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor. They included children, including a 1-year-old.

Ayalon was also lying when he said, “we found weapons that were prepared in advance and used against our forces.” The Turkish authorities had checked the ships thoroughly before their departure, and there were simply no firearms on board. The only “weapons” that can be spoken of were the wooden or metal sticks that some of the activists had in their hands, apparently taken from the chairs or other ordinary materials on the vessels.

Yesterday, Israel released the photos of some other “weapons” on board, which were just knives taken from the ship’s kitchen.

The video footage we have seen on TV actually gives a sense of what happened: Israeli commandos raided the ships at dawn, sliding down from helicopters via ropes with machine guns in their hands. Some of the activists on board took this as an assault on their ship, which was, to repeat, in international, not Israeli, waters. (How could they take it otherwise?) Then they tried to resist the commandos with the sticks in their hands. The soldiers, in return, fired on the activists, killing at least 10 people and injuring dozens.

From the Israeli point of view, everything is perfectly fine here: They have a policy of blockading Gaza, and those who defy it have to face the consequences.

The question is why in the world do people have to obey Israel’s dictates and recognize its inhumane blockade on Gaza?

Who the hell is Israel, in other words, to force 1.5 million people to live in an open-air prison for years?

The answer from Israel is that “Hamas fires rockets from Gaza.” Well, the last time those rockets were flying in the air, Israel was also firing rockets (and phosphorus bombs) into Gaza, killing a hundred times more civilians than Hamas did. According to a United Nations report, the actions of both sides equally amounted to war crimes.

So, if the war crimes on the Palestinian side legitimize a collective punishment of the Palestinian people, should the war crimes on the Israeli side legitimize a collective punishment of the Israeli people?

In other words, should we put a blockade on Israel as well, so that it won’t be able to kill more children in Gaza? And should we attack the civilian ships that aim to violate that blockade?

Right or might?
There is even a more fundamental question here, relating to the elephant in the Middle Eastern room: Who the hell is Israel to occupy the West Bank and East Jerusalem since 1967, and to systematically steal these territories by building illegal settlements?

And how can she expect the Palestinians, and other nations like us, the Turks, to bow down to this unabashed theft of land?

When I asked that question to an Israeli hawk some years ago, I received a very revealing response: “Might,” he said, “makes right.”

Well, that might be a popular belief in Tel Aviv and Occupied Jerusalem, but not here in Istanbul. In fact our creed tells us that the exact opposite is true: Right, sooner or later, makes might.

The hundreds of heroes who sailed to Gaza last weekend had this faith in their hearts. Here in Turkey, 70 million more stand by them. We mourn for our fallen, but also know that they did not die in vain. Their sacrifice unveiled to the world not just the suffering of the innocents in the Gaza ghetto, but also the brutality of the rogue state that imposes it.

Read my lips: This spirit is really not going to die. We Turks will continue to stand for what is right, regardless of Israel’s might. None of her lobbying, bullying or killing is going to change that.


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