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Lying About the Gaza Flotilla Disaster

by MJ Rosenberg
It's been one lie after another in the US media about the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound relief flotilla.  No matter that the Israeli media views the whole incident as a debacle for Israel, in this country the Israel-can-do-no-wrong crowd is on overdrive defending the operation.  As usual, facts don't matter to them.

Except they do.

The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli blockade.  Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.

In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to leave until they were served.  Their goal was not really to get breakfast.  It was to end segregation.

That fact is so obvious that it is hard to believe that the "pro-Israel" lobby is using it as an indictment.

Of course the goal of the flotilla was to break the blockade.  Of course Martin Luther King provoked the civil authorities of the South to break segregation.  Of course the Solidarity movement used workers' rights as a pretext to break Soviet-imposed Communism.

The bottom line is that the men and women of the flotilla had every right to attempt to destroy an illegal blockade that Israel had no legal standing to impose and which was designed to inflict collective punishment on the people of Gaza. (There is no truth to the story that Israel would have delivered the goods on the ships to Gaza if asked; the Israelis never made that offer and, judging by years of precedent, would have blocked any delivery.) 

As for the Israeli argument that its soldiers were attacked, that is ridiculous. Israeli commandos were ordered to board a civilian ship in international waters and the government that sent them claims that the resisting passengers attacked them without provocation.  This is like a carjacker complaining to the police that the driver bashed him with a crowbar that was under the seat.  Neither carjackers nor hijackers should expect their victims to acquiesce peacefully.

Here are the facts about life in Gaza today -- facts that only can be changed by breaking the blockade.  These data come from the American Near East Relief Association (ANERA), which provides relief to Gazans to the extent permitted by the Israeli (and American) authorities.  ANERA is neither "pro-Israel" nor "pro-Palestinian."  It has no political agenda at all.  It merely determines what human needs are and tries to respond to them.

8 out of 10 Gazans depend on foreign aid to survive.

The World Food Program says Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks a day to meet basic nutritional needs - yet an average of just 171 trucks worth of supplies enters Gaza every week,

Clothes that were held in the port of Ashdod for over a year were released into Gaza but arrived covered with mold and mildew, unusable.

95% of Gaza's water fails World Health Organization standards leaving thousands of newborns at risk of poisoning.

Anemia for children under the age of 5 is estimated at 48%.

75 million liters of untreated sewage are pumped into the Mediterranean Sea every day - because piping and spare parts are not permitted.

During the 2009 bombing:

More than 120,000 jobs were lost as Gaza's industrial zone was destroyed... 15,000 homes and apartments were damaged or destroyed... 1/3 of all schools were destroyed.

None of these can be rebuilt, because construction supplies are kept out by the Israeli authorities.

Also, check this out from The Economist.  It is a partial list of commodities allowed into Gaza and commodities banned. 

So what is the blockade about?

It is not about stopping terrorism.  Hamas has repeatedly offered Israel an indefinite cease-fire in exchange for lifting the blockade.  And, on a half dozen occasions, Israel accepted the deal but did not live up to its side of it.  In fact, the 2009 war began after Israel ignored its commitments under the Gaza cease-fire agreement, continued the blockade, and then provoked the resumption of attacks on Sderot through a series of targeted assassinations of Palestinians (Israel claims that no cease-fire agreement curtails its right to kill any Palestinian it deems to be a terrorist).

Israel asserts that it will not accept any long-term cease-fire agreement with Hamas because Hamas does not recognize its right to exist.

But Israel does not need the permission of anyone -- let alone Hamas -- to exist.  All it needs from Hamas is an end to violence and that is precisely what Hamas is offering, in exchange for lifting the blockade.

This is not to say that Hamas need never recognize Israel.  It should.  But it is ridiculous to insist on recognition as a precondition for anything.  Recognition would be the end result of negotiations, not a precondition for it.

But that is not what Israel wants.  It wants to destroy Hamas because it is a terrorist organization.  And that makes sense until one realizes that the African National Congress, Sinn Fein, the Israeli Irgun, the Algerian FLN and a host of other resistance movements were called terrorist organizations before negotiations brought them to power.  Former Israeli Prime Ministers Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir were both unabashed terrorists prior to their entrance into respectable politics.  And so what?  If dealing with terrorists -- as Israel has repeatedly done with Hezbollah -- will help achieve a worthy goal, why not do it?  After all, if negotiations fail, one can always walk away.

But Israel will not change its self-defeating policies until we change ours.  And there is no evidence that is happening (at least, not until after the November elections, for obvious reasons).

For now, our policies are joined at the hip with Israel's.  We support the blockade of Gaza.  We oppose any efforts at reconciliation between Fatah and Hamas.  We even back Israel's opposition to the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full peace and normalization of relations with every Arab country in exchange for the creation of a Palestinian state in the West Bank, Gaza, and East Jerusalem.

Enough is enough.  The Obama administration needs to join the rest of the world in demanding an end to the Gaza blockade as a first big step toward the resumption of negotiations.

The attack on the flotilla was one of the most disastrous blunders in Israel's history.  At last, the whole world sees Israel's policy of collective punishment for what it is -- a means to perpetuate the occupation forever. Only the United States government has chosen to close its eyes.

The occupation is killing Israel.  And we are on the sidelines letting it happen.  Some ally!

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