Protesting Israel’s act of barbarism

June 1, 2010

An International Socialist Organization statement condemns the Israeli assault.

WE JOIN activists around the world in condemning Israel's unprovoked attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in the pre-dawn hours of May 31--and we support the call from Palestinian activists for worldwide emergency protests.

Even by Israel's ferocious standards, this military assault and massacre of civilians is an act of barbarism that merits international opposition on a grand scale. Israel has refused to supply the names and the numbers of the dead and injured, but the assault reportedly killed up to 20 civilians and injured 50 more.

The flotilla consisted of six vessels carrying 700 civilians from 50 countries and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid for Gaza's impoverished Palestinian population. Israel assaulted the flotilla in international waters 90 miles from the Gaza coast.

The Gaza Freedom Movement and other groups had been organizing the flotilla for months, gaining the support and participation of many human rights organizations and European parliamentarians. The organizers of the peaceful caravan clearly stated their intention to break Israel's blockade on Gaza, in place since 2007, by delivering desperately needed humanitarian supplies.

An injured activist is carried from a ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
An injured activist is carried from a ship in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Israel had been threatening to assault the vessels for days before Israeli troops stormed the lead ship, Mavi Marmara, which had 600 unarmed civilians on board. As Viva Palestina activist Kevin Ovenden blogged from the Mavi Marmara the evening before the assault:

Triage is set up and various strategies implemented to resist seizure.

The Israeli media is reporting that Israel will deploy a very large naval force. Far from minimising violence, this is an illegal aggressive move which will make it more likely. We are broadcasting live from the ship. Calm and organisation overcome the fear that Israel is trying to instill.

Viva Palestina and all aboard are prepared. We are calling on everyone to contact various political leaders to ask them to do everything in their power to ensure the safety of these brave people, and to stand up and add their voice in support of this humanitarian flotilla.

Hours later, the Mavi Marmara was surrounded by Navy ships, and Israeli commandos dropped from helicopters and began shooting civilians on board.

Shortly after the massacre began, the troops cut all satellite transmission from the ship and enforced a news blackout on the activists--while ludicrously spinning the assault as an act of "self-defense" on the part of Israel. The Associated Press and other media outlets soon began reporting Israel's preposterous claim as fact.

But as Electronic Intifada Web site co-founder Ali Abunimah remarked, "It is unclear how anyone could credibly adopt an Israeli narrative of 'self-defense' when Israel had carried out an unprovoked armed assault on civilian ships in international waters. Surely any right of self-defense would belong to the passengers on the ship. Nevertheless, the Freedom Flotilla organizers had clearly and loudly proclaimed their ships to be unarmed civilian vessels on a humanitarian mission."

The Obama administration has not joined the worldwide chorus of outrage over the Freedom Flotilla massacre, stating "the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events." This is not surprising, since the U.S. is complicit in all of Israel's atrocities--and is expected to appropriate $3.2 billion in taxpayer dollars to Israel this year alone.

U.S. activists have a responsibility not only to join in the global protests against Israel's latest massacre, but also to redouble our efforts in the "boycott, divestment and sanctions" movement, with the aim of ending the U.S. aid that bankrolls Israeli apartheid.

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