A flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip, a thin strip of land between Israel and the Mediterranean Sea was stormed by Israeli troops claiming that the Gaza blockade had been broken, and proceed to kill nine people on board.
An Israeli video shows that the activists on board the ship were armed and claim that the Israeli troops were ‘acting in self defence’.
This would all be fine if it was in Israeli waters, but here’s the thing… they were in international waters, which makes what they did, under international law, technically illegal.
Come forth the criticism of Israel and the treatment of the activists; when one fights in self defence or need be it, shoots in self defence, one does not aim to kill, only to defend. If they wanted to defend, here’s my question; why was one aid worker shot in close range in the head? Surely the arm I can understand, the leg, the foot… but the head? This is where the questions have started coming in.
A blockade of Gaza has meant that commodities such as food and building materials are unable to get through, leading to more criticism of Israel. Israel claims that in order to stop Hamas (the democratically elected party of Gaza and the West Bank, the only remaining parts of Palestine) building weapons.
A recent war from December 2008 to January 2009 between Gaza and Israel ignited when a ceasefire was broken, leaving most of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank devastated by bombs and warfare and where the use of phosphorous bombs were reported: the use of phosphorous on civilians in urban areas is illegal under international law.
When phosphorous hits the skin, it burns, and continues to burn across the skin leading to severe wounds and up to third degree burns, it can also prove fatal as phosphorous can be ingested by the body and lead to multiple organ failure.
This led to the Human Rights Watch charging Israel with human rights violations.
A Brief Background
It all stems from the fight for the holy land which some Jews believe is rightfully theirs. This is a concept known as Zionism. However, while some Jews support Zionism, a large proportion actually don’t, such as classical Reform Judaism.
This is mirrored in the struggles of The Bund, a huge secular Jewish socialist group of Eastern Europe who strongly opposed Zionism, branding it a ‘form of escape’.
After WWII it was deemed necessary that Palestine was split and a part of the land given to Israel. Many states opposed and organised an army to fight against this, in what became known as the 1948 Palestinian War. Many parts of Palestine were put under Zionist control.
May 15th 1948 saw the creation of Israel, known to Palestinians as ‘Yawm an Nabka’, meaning ‘Day of Catastrophe’ where in excess of seven hundred thousand Palestinians were displaced and forced to take asylum abroad. This is an international day of protest, where people rally all across the world for Palestinian land, which has been in Israeli hands since the 1940s, to be given back, and for the humanitarian crisis known as the West Bank and Gaza to be ended immediately.
Arabs make up to 18.5% of Israel yet they are hardly represented in the parliament. Many of the displaced fled to other Arab countries such as Syria (for more information on this check out the BBC documentary Syrian School where they discuss Palestine, its refugees and Syria in depth) and Jordan, but have scattered all over the world. At the founding of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, the father of the state, was sworn into government and as a part of speech stated “We must use terror, assassination, intimidation, land confiscation, and the cutting of all social services to rid the Galilee of its Arab population.”
Various wars such as the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War captured around 6% of Palestinian land to claim as Israeli land, with bits being gradually taken with each war that is waged. The Six Day War displaced a further two hundred and fifty thousand people. Israel gained control of the West Bank, The Gaza Strip, Mount Sinai and Golan Heights which has effected the geopolitics of the region ever since, albeit that Syrian and Egyptian land were returned.
In East Jerusalem Israel came under scrutiny for moving out Palestinian families, claiming that houses needed a permit to exist in Jerusalem, and as many of the houses in the Palestinian East Jerusalem were bought and built before the state of Israel was founded, they did not have permits. This leads authorities to say that you must both leave your house and settle in another Palestinian territory and the houses will later get given to Israeli families or you can stay in your house, but it will be bulldozed. Then you’ll have to move out anyway.
They also move Israeli families onto occupied Palestinian land, this can be best described as a strategic move; if they carry on moving Palestinians out to move Israelis in and repeat steps to capture more land, gradually the West Bank and Gaza will cease to exist as Palestinian entities. This is already happening, with 336,000 Israelis settling in the West Bank or its connecting corridors. Israel has also invaded Lebanon in recent history, killing thirty times more people in Lebanon than were killed in Israel, devastating the coastal city of Beirut. This war in 1982 was recently retold in the form of an animated movie from the perspective of an Israeli Jewish soldier who retells the atrocities he saw in the film Waltz With Bashir.
Blockades of Gaza (incidentally one of the most densely populated areas on Earth) and the West Bank have been described as ‘inhumane’ with a lack of clean water and a lack of food and huge amounts of internally displaced people after recent conflicts, leaving many to dwell in tents. The Blockade is strong and medical care is almost non-existent. Getting in and out of the West Bank or Gaza Strip is a long and perilous process, mirrored in the recent film with Natalie Portman, Free Zone which aims to bring attention to the struggles of Palestine.
The failure of the 1967 War lead to a totally depleted confidence in Arab Nationalism that had been going strong for so many years and lead to the rise of political Islam, and even now, Palestine (or what’s left of it) is in an internal power struggle with itself: the two main parties, Hamas and Fatah can’t seem to get on.
Whatever you want to say about it, whether you believe Israel is right to lead the military occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, whether they should strategically capture territories with corridors to in turn capture more territories, whether or not their bombing of a children’s school in Gaza was justified… Israel has started the wars themselves and are hell bent on getting control of the Galilee.
Under international law, their occupations, their capturing of Egyptian land… I’m not anti-Semitic. Not at all, as Semite literally means ‘one from the Middle East’, Israel’s actions themselves can be construed as anti-Semetic as they attack Palestinians.
The UN has done nothing. Nobody has done anything. Palestinians are a nation without a country, being squeezed into grotesque poverty and being controlled like the Stasi.
I’m not anti-Jewish, if that’s what you mean. I’m anti-Israeli foreign policy. They should not be doing what they are doing. As a state itself I drastically oppose Ahmadinejad’s saying Israel should be ‘wiped off the map’.
Israel is a country and deserves recognition, but at the same time shouldn’t be trying to eliminate Palestine. Palestine is a humanitarian crisis which breaks all sort of international laws as Israel walks off scott-free killing aid workers for apparently ‘breaking a blockade’.
If it’s in international waters, it’s not your place to go onto their ship. They (the aid workers) have been criticised for being armed… if an army illegally storms your boat you will fear for the worst.
A blockade has meant people have died, medication hasn’t gotten through, kids have died from not getting to the hospital for life-saving treatment. It is the ultimate form of dehumanisation of a whole group of people who aren’t being protected under international law like they should and ought to be. They shot Palestinian divers because they thought ‘they might be terrorists’. Palestinians are treated like dogs to be shot in the street needlessly by an ideological, gun happy army who want them ‘exterminated’, like Ben Gurion said.
As much as I detest the state of Iran for its anti-Israel and anti-Jewish sentiment, as well as its quashing of human rights and freedom of speech in the wake of the demonstrations in the capital of Tehran, if a ship were taken by Iran, there is would be much more criticism than the criticism levied against Israel. Imagine that another country did what Israel was doing to the Palestinians. If Iran decided to attack a minority and invade land like Israel does, war would certainly and definitely be declared immediately.
Why different laws for Israel? A second set? Are they special and I just do not understand why they’re so special as to evade prosecution for their actions?
Why is it that they are a terrorist state, yet they are not prosecuted and are free to put the lives of millions at risk? Even break international laws and the laws of the UN? What’s the actual definition of terrorism?
“S: (n) terrorism, act of terrorism, terrorist act (the calculated use of violence (or the threat of violence) against civilians in order to attain goals that are political or religious or ideological in nature; this is done through intimidation or coercion or instilling fear)”
Israel’s like the abused kid who came home to abuse.
To read more from Yasmin then read her blog http://punkistani.tumblr.com/
Views expressed in articles are the author’s and do not represent Comment Middle East
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