As news came in of the mounting death toll from the Israeli storming a humanitarian flotilla heading for Gaza, the British actor and comedian David Schneider, wrote on Twitter. “As a Jew, Israel’s like a close family member who’s hooked on heroin and you just don’t know what to do with them any more.” But it is not just Jews who are beginning to despair at Israel’s actions.
Global condemnation and expressions of shock at Israel’s disproportionate and unlawful use of force against humanitarian aid volunteers under a white flag and in international waters have been augmented by statements of concern from some of Israel’s staunchest allies. Tony Blair, said he was shocked and urged a full international inquiry and, on the eve of scheduled talks between President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Washington described the loss of life as a “tragedy.” The talks have now been cancelled.
Attempts to justify their actions on the grounds that highly trained Israeli commandos were attacked with “with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs” are not convincing and footage released by the Israeli Defense Force of sling shots and men wielding sticks do not make the case for the use of such deadly force. There have also been accusations by the Israelis that the flotilla was carrying weapon supplies as well as humanitarian aid but Kieran Turner, director of Aid Convoy, who delivered aid with a team from Gloucester, dismisses these out of hand. “I helped stock one of those boats myself. This was a fleet of humanitarian aid boats. It was carrying materials for building homes for people who live in bomb craters, and wheelchairs, and crutches and even some paper for schools, which has been banned for three years.”
The nine ships from Turkey, Ireland, Britain, and Greece, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, was a multinational relief mission comprised of about 700 people from 50 nationalities including 86-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, German parliamentarians and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Corrigan Maguire. It had set sail from in Cyprus on Sunday in an attempt to break the three-year Israeli blockade of Gaza. Despite warnings from Israel that it would not allow the flotilla to reach the Gaza and buoyed by last week’s call on Israel from the European Union to immediately end the blockade and allow the flotilla to pass, organisers decided to go ahead with the mission.
Israeli forces have in all likelihood confiscated cameras and camera phones and footage of the assault may as result be in short supply. But with some witnesses present – including many international legislators and journalists – the truth will come out. As one activist on the Free Gaza Movement website says: “Israel cannot confiscate every bit of footage, every piece of tape. They cannot tape our mouths shut as we tell the story of their attack.” Over the coming days, as the dead are identified and their families informed, the demand for a full account of what happened in the early hours of Monday morning will grow louder. Israeli pleas of innocence are about as likely to convince as those of the junkie with his hand in the till.