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Muslims, Churches Blast Israel for Deaths in Raid on Flotilla

posted by nsymmonds

JERUSALEM (RNS) Tens of thousands of Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa on Tuesday (June 1) continued demonstrations against Israel’s deadly interception of a flotilla of ships trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza.
Nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed on the passenger ferry Mavi Mamara when Israeli commandoes boarded the ship early Monday (May 31) morning. The Mavi Mamara was one of six Turkish ships trying to break Israel’s blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza.
Across the Arab world and in Israel — where Arabs comprise 20 percent of the population — angry protestors demanded an end to the blockade. Ishmael Haniyeh, the prime minister of Hamas, declared a day of mourning. Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said the attack “indicates Israel is not ready for peace.”
In Rome, Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi told Agence France-Presse that the Holy See feels “deep sadness and concern” over the flotilla incident, which also injured several activists and seven Israeli commandoes.
In Jerusalem, a group of Palestinian church and community leaders issued a joint statement condemning “the irresponsible actions perpetrated by the Israeli forces against civilian participants of the Freedom flotilla.”
American Jewish leaders tried to fend off criticism of Israel by emphasizing Israel’s repeated efforts to convince the flotilla’s organizers to deliver their cargo to an Israeli port from which it would be transferred to Gaza. They stressed that, according to video taken by the Israel Defense Forces and widely seen on YouTube, it was the activists who first attacked the Israeli commandoes with knives and metal poles.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations said the deaths “were the result of a deliberate and unnecessary provocation organized primarily by groups with ties to terrorist entities including Hamas.”
The group expressed “regret” at the loss of life and urged government leaders “to refrain from a rash judgment and to allow the facts to emerge.”
The Orthodox Union said that “as long as Gaza is ruled by Hamas, a terrorist organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, Israel is entitled to treat it as an enemy territory and enforce a blockade against it.”
Although both Israel and Egypt permit essential items to reach Gaza, aid agencies report shortages of food, medicine and building materials.
The U.S. government considers Hamas a terrorist organization.
By Michele Chabin
Copyright 2010 Religion News Service. All rights reserved. No part of this transmission may be distributed or reproduced without written permission.



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cknuck

posted June 1, 2010 at 7:35 pm


I know some Jews who were involved in the flotilla and denounce the actions of the commandos. Hamas may control the Gaza area but what about the innocent people who are simply trying to live there.



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nnmns

posted June 1, 2010 at 7:36 pm


As long as we are tied to Israel we will also be blamed for their war crimes and our troops will continue to be at risk because of the hatred Israel generates.



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pagansister

posted June 1, 2010 at 8:07 pm


Yep, Israel goofed up big time!



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted June 1, 2010 at 9:29 pm


I don’t know exactly how the violence started. Some videos are already being widely distributed purporting to show the people on the boat attacking the Israeli commandos as soon as they came aboard, but other reports say that the Israelis opened fire without provocation. I think the blame lies with:
1. Those who orchestrated the run against the blockade as an act of political theater–that is NOT Israel.
2. Those who opened fire first–unclear who is responsible.
3. Those who escalated the violence so drastically and disproportionately as to result in numerous deaths–that IS Israel.



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nnmns

posted June 1, 2010 at 10:59 pm


What about those who decided to stop the ships in the first place. That sure is Israel. What about those who wanted a free election in Gaza but, when their favorite candidates lost, blockaded it within an inch of its life, apparently to show the people there not to vote differently than Israel wants in their “free” elections? That’s Israel with help from the US and Egypt. I certainly hope Egypt stops their part of the blockade permanently. I’ve little hope for Israel or the US.
And I have great sympathy for the people of Gaza.



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nnmns

posted June 1, 2010 at 11:11 pm


We can’t control what Israel does but we desperately need to control what we do, and we need to disconnect ourselves from Israel; treat them like any other country. It would be very good for us and would even be good for Israel since it’s harder to be a bully without your big buddy to protect you.



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Gwyddion9

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:14 am


Personally, I think Israel could have made a wiser choice in how it dealt with this situation but in the end, it has to protect its sovereignty. Hamas has publicly and openly claimed that it seeks nothing less the destruction of Israel and its people.
Turkey has is becoming a radical Muslim country and with its history of killing Christian Armenians, it has no place to demand anything. It’s taken over 90 years just to get Turkey to admit to the atrocities.
Speaking for myself, alone and as a Pagan, I have no love for conservative Christianity nor Muslims. Between the two, I trust Muslims less. This is my opinion because of what I see and hear or most of the time, don’t hear much from either group other than when it’s appropriate to condemn something or someone.
Getting back to Israel, It has it’s right to protect itself. While i do not condone killing I also recognize that unfortunately there is no other choice that can be made.
Also, If we want to condemn Israel, where’s all the noise over the action taken by North Korea? cricket, cricket… and you know why, because North Korea doesn’t give a crap and the world has little it can do but that doesn’t change the issue or the seriousness of the situation in the Korea’s. Its probably more serious than the middle east at this time.



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Gwyddion9

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:15 am


Oh, and another thing, for those Christian Churches in Israel complaining. Israel is far more easier on you than Islam would be.
The problem with kissing a$$ is there’s no minty after taste!



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted June 2, 2010 at 1:29 am


From what I have read, the flotilla sent to challenge the blockade was financed by a wealthy Turkish group that was seeking confrontation. My understanding is that Israel has not stopped humanitarian shipments by land. As for this flotilla, if the Israelis let them pass, there is no blockade and future ships could bring in weapons that would be used to attack Israel; and if the Israelis stop the ships and violence breaks out, Israel is blamed. Same old story as has been played on the world’s political stage for decades.
I have also read that the Israelis boarded a few ships but the fire-fight took place on just one. Apparently, they were not met with violence on the other ships and there was no violence there; the violence occurred on the one ship where they were attacked. This tells me that the Israelis did NOT board the ships with the intent to mow down helpless crew-members. It may be that the violence returned by the Israelis was disproportionate to the violence with which they were met–that is arguable, because there was loss of life and that might have been avoided, but it is also true that when a mob is attacking with iron bars, gunfire does not seem all that inappropriate as a response.



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nnmns

posted June 2, 2010 at 8:04 am


I read that the shipments include building materials that, contrary to the claims of some here, Israel would not pass on. And who knows what else that Israel would not pass on but is needed by the Palestinians.
As for us treating Israel differently than North Korea, we sure do! We send billions of dollars in aid every year to Israel. We invaded Iraq, to our great cost, partly for Israel. We cover for Israel in the UN no matter what war crimes they commit. Israel is a heavy weight around our necks we can’t cast off because of the US Israeli lobby.
And, finally we let Israel attack one of our warships, also in international waters and ignored it even though, in repeated and blatant strafing and napalming runs they killed 34 American crewmen. (That’s probably when Israeli leaders learned they can do anything they want to us and we’ll do nothing about it.) Had North Korea done a tenth as much to us we’d probably have gone to war against them.



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nnmns

posted June 2, 2010 at 8:13 am


Gw I, too, would feel better living in a Christian majority country than in a Muslim majority country. But this isn’t about religions per-se, it’s about the people. The Palestinians whose land has been stolen decade after decade and who live on the crumbs Israel allows through their blockades, and the Israelis who live pretty good lives, much like ours I think. (I’m not so sure that holds so much for the non-Jews there, who seem to have trouble getting authorizations that Jews get easily.)
So anyway I’d love to be able to make decisions based on which religion people have; it would be so simple. But these are people suffering and the US is a party to causing that suffering and that makes me worry for my country.



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Georgia Dude

posted June 2, 2010 at 8:46 am


I have no cpomplains. From reading your article. The Israelis have every right to defend itself against these flotilla terrorists and Pale-stinian sympathizers.



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nnmns

posted June 2, 2010 at 11:53 am


“Flotilla terrorists” for bringing relief supplies?



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:33 pm


Separate issues:
Does Israel have a right to intercept weapons being shipped into Gaza? Yes.
Did Israel handle this flotilla intelligently? No.
The organizers of the flotilla clearly intended to provoke a confrontation, and they succeeded beyond their expectations. They bear some responsibility for the deaths that occurred. But Israel bears responsiblity for failing to have a coherent policy about intercepting weapons but letting humanitarian supplies through, about dealing with confrontational situations in general, and about dealing with this situation in particular (this flotilla was NOT sprung on Israel with no warning, so I think the Israeli government was either negligent in devising a workable response in advance or inept in devising a response that ended so wrongly).



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Gwyddion9

posted June 2, 2010 at 12:41 pm


Nnmns,
I do understand what you’re saying. I honestly do feel terrible for the Palestinians who are suffering. As with most things in our world, it’s the people who suffer and those in the government, for the most part, imo, don’t care. The last time there was a conflict between Hamas and Israel, military personal for Hamas got treatment a the hospitals while Hamas showed all the suffering that was happening to the average citizen. They said that the people didn’t have adequate hospital facilities. They did but these people were not allowed to use it. Hamas is in charge in Palestine. I really do not believe that they really care for their people. They have a political agenda and unfortunately it’s the people who suffer. That occurs all over the world. I’m not trying to excuse anything or anyone but it simply sucks.



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nnmns

posted June 2, 2010 at 3:15 pm


I would really not care to live under Hamas but they won a presumably fair election (contrary to what you can read in some articles by inept US mainstream media outlets). I think the PA’s inability to protect its citizens from rocket and artillery attacks or deliver a decent life was a big factor, and of course Israel was a big part of that. I imagine if the people of Gaza had decent lives unthreatened by their bullying and land-grabbing neighbor, Hamas would not be so tempting, but anyone living the life of the Palestinians can be excused for choosing a government that will make at least a pretense of protecting them.
Revenge? Maybe. Israel has been such a rotten neighbor and killed and wounded so many innocent civilians I think they will be living with the results for decades. I know if those things happened to me and mine I’d be mad. What Israel needs to do is work very actively to help the Palestinians recover and share in Israel’s lifestyle: jobs, adequate food and medicine and power and water and so forth. Security. That would, over a rather short time, earn them a lot of friends. But it’s apparently not their way. Terrible things happened to their ancestors and they reacted by overreacting and doing very bad things to their neighbors. Things widely recognized as war crimes.



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted June 2, 2010 at 3:38 pm


Charges of “war crimes” should be interpreted with caution. The world community that saw fit to applaud Yassir Arafat as a champion of peace is not what I would consider an impartial arbiter of war crimes. In contrast, launching missile attacks from residential neighborhoods–as has been done against Israel, from Palestinian territories–is a black-letter violation of the Geneva Conventions. Didn’t see much condemnation from the world community over that war crime.
However, playing “Who Did Worse Things First To Whom?” can lead only to endlessly exchanged acts of vengeance. To bring about peace in that region will require great vision and great courage on all sides. So far, I don’t see that. But I remain convinced that the single most important step is for the Palestinian authorities to announce and demonstrate a genuine commitment to peace in place of Hamas’ current stance of being in a state of war against Israel.



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nnmns

posted June 2, 2010 at 8:33 pm


I agree with you that vision is in short supply regarding, and especially in the Middle East. But as the claimed enlightened democracy in the area it seems reasonable to me Israel should start by showing it can go more than a week or two without attacking some part of Palestine and without stealing still more land.
I believe it’s been pretty peaceful on the Palestinian side, though I don’t follow that area closely.



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nnmns

posted June 2, 2010 at 9:32 pm


I’m sure there are many informative articles on Gaza. Here’s one. It’s short and I’m sure it’s informative because it agrees with a lot I’ve been saying. And it’s by someone who’s been there.



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted June 3, 2010 at 9:04 am


Certainly, a look at the day-to-day life of the Palestinians is sad. But there are many reasons for their plight, and it is unrealistic to blame Israel for the military security measures it employs without also blaming those whose ceaseless attacks against Israel made such measures necessary.
If there could be universal agreement on this simple point–that Israel has the right to exist–everything else could be worked out. There would be no need for any blockade if there were no threat that weapons were being shipped in to terrorists. There would be no need for a wall. AND the Palestinians would have a much stronger case to demand their own rights if the world saw that they were no longer launching terrorist attacks against Israel.
Until then, Israel has no choice but to employ strict security measures to protect itself. The question then becomes what measures are fair and effective? I am absolutely prepared to consider arguments that the blockade and other measures employed by Israel are not the answer; I am not prepared to consider arguments that Israel has no right to exist and that the Palestinians therefore do have the right to attack Israel whenever and however they can.



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nnmns

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:29 am


How much Israel do you think has a right to exist? That’s a big part of the debate. Israel has expanded a lot from when it began, all at the expense of the Palestinians.
And whenever there’s been a danger of peace breaking out Israel has done something – attacked someone in a crowd with a rocket or seized more land for a new settlement or killed some people in international waters or …
It’s a moot point, of course, but the Palestinians had nothing to do with the Holocaust yet they’ve suffered because of it all these years, while Germany thrives.
But the more immediate issue for the US is, how long do we expend our resources and whatever good will we have around the world giving money and cover to an Israel that’s just dragging us down. When do we get the courage (and it will take a lot of political courage!) to treat Israel as any other country, not as a country we treat with more deference than any other country no matter what they do to us?



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cknuck

posted June 3, 2010 at 9:19 pm


The Palestinians have good cause, they are much like our Native Americans in how they are being treated, losing their land. And much like our Native Americans they are a brave lot. The rebels kill 6 and then Israel kills 600, the rebels bomb a building, Israel bombs a whole town. I pray it is not a trend that they will follow that wipes out hundreds of innocents to get one terrorist.



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nnmns

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:16 pm


It’s the “one hundred eyes for an eye” principle, which I think is not the biblical version.



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nnmns

posted June 3, 2010 at 10:35 pm


So the Israelis killed an American citizen in international waters, reportedly with four shots to the head and one to the chest at close range. But Israel doesn’t want any objective investigation. Not surprising.
What would it take for America to say we’ve had enough?



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cknuck

posted June 3, 2010 at 11:09 pm


overkill is their brand



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kenneth

posted June 4, 2010 at 1:12 am


Israel mishandled the thing badly, but guess what? Running blockades has always meant risking your life and your ship. It’s an act of war. For most of the history of naval warfare, getting caught meant having your ship seized and sold off, with the privateer or capturing ship getting a share of the proceeds. Everyone aboard then went to rot as prisoners of war for the duration of the conflict. Yes, there were “peace activists” aboard those ships, but there was also a large contingent of radicalized young men spoiling for a fight. They know that provoking Israel into killing or wounding less powerful opponents plays very badly on the international stage, and the radicals know that they can strike a far more effective blow that way then they can in military terms. Israel is usually stupid enough to fall for the bait.
They could have avoided gunplay if they had used much larger boarding parties trained and equipped for riot-control and non-lethal fighting. Tear gas and tasers and water canons would have sufficed. Do the Palestinians have legitimate gripes? Sure they do. And the Israelis usually overplay their security interests to do hinky things with land and water grabs. But the Gazans freely decided to cast their lot with a regime that has declared an existential no-quarter war on Israel. Yet somehow, they would have us believe that hitting back is somehow “unfair.” The name of the game of existential war is not “proportionate response”, it is to break the enemy’s will and means to fight, to defeat them or force them to a peace on your terms. It’s as simple as it is ugly.
Blockade is part of that. It is an act of war like any other. It is intended not simply to keep weapons materiel out of the enemy’s hands, but to make life untenable and to make their country ungovernable. In WW II, that included medicines, fuel, foodstuff, you name it. The Germans and Japanese didn’t make allowances to keep our civilian population fat and happy, and neither did we. You found alternatives, or invented them, or did without. We don’t allow aid ships to make deliveries to Wazirastan. Hamas has declared war on a vastly superior enemy. They either need to figure out how to win an unwinnable fight, stop fighting and seek some civilized political solution, or suck it up and make peace with the fact that life as a defeated aggressor is no fun.



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Heretic_for_Christ

posted June 4, 2010 at 6:00 am


Kenneth,
While I generally sympathize with your comments, I think Israel–as a matter of enlightened self-interest–should have been prepared to handle this flotilla with less lethal means. It was known in advance that a confrontation at sea was coming, and Israel surely should have realized that the use of deadly force would serve the terrorists interests by inspiring yet more Islamic and worldwide anti-Israel hostility.



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nnmns

posted June 4, 2010 at 6:01 am


“The name of the game of existential war is not “proportionate response”, it is to break the enemy’s will and means to fight, to defeat them or force them to a peace on your terms. It’s as simple as it is ugly.

Kenneth you are saying Israel is justified in doing whatever it chooses to do and is not to be punished in any way for its total failure to find or almost ever even seek a better way.
As usual Glen Greenwald has valuable, if discouraging, things to say on this topic.
Regarding the fact Israel killed a US citizen with, apparently, four bullets to the head and one to the chest:

Will the fact that one of the dead at Israel’s hands was an American teenager with four bullet wounds to his head alter the Obama administration’s full-scale defense of Israel? Does that question even need to be asked? Not even American interests can undermine reflexive U.S. support for anything Israel does; even the Chief of the Mossad acknowledged this week that “Israel is progressively becoming a burden on the United States.” One dead 19-year-old American with 4 bullet holes in his head (especially one of Turkish origin with a Turkish-sounding name) surely won’t have any impact.

Regarding our complicity:

One can express all sorts of outrage over the Obama administration’s depressingly predictable defense of the Israelis, even at the cost of isolating ourselves from the rest of the world, but ultimately, on some level, wouldn’t it have been even more indefensible — or at least oozingly hypocritical — if the U.S. had condemned Israel? After all, what did Israel do in this case that the U.S. hasn’t routinely done and continues to do? As even our own military officials acknowledge, we’re slaughtering an “amazing number” of innocent people at checkpoints in Afghanistan. We’re routinely killing civilians in all sorts of imaginative ways in countless countries, including with drone strikes which a U.N. official just concluded are illegal. We’re even targeting our own citizens for due-process-free assassination. We’ve been arming Israel and feeding them billions of dollars in aid and protecting them diplomatically as they (and we) have been doing things like this for decades. What’s the Obama administration supposed to say about what Israel did: we condemn the killing of unarmed civilians? We decry these violations of international law? Even by typical standards of government hypocrisy, who in the U.S. Government could possibly say any of that with a straight face?

Regarding why Israel and its supporters see only the dangers to Israel and not the great harm Israel does to its neighbors, and to us:

A prime cause of this inversion is the distortion in perception brought about by rank tribalism. Those whose worldview is shaped by their identification as members of a particular religious, nationalistic, or ethnic group invariably over-value the wrongs done to them and greatly under-value the wrongs their group perpetrates. Those whose world view is shaped by tribalism are typically plagued by an extreme persecution complex (the whole world is against us!!!; everyone who criticizes us is hateful and biased!!!). Haaretz today reports that “Jewish Republicans and Democrats in the U.S. gave a rare demonstration of unity on Wednesday when they backed Israel’s raid of a Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla.”

and further, in words that surely describe the lives of many (most?) US Jews

I had it continuously drummed into my head from the time I was a small child, from every direction, that Israel was special and was to be cherished, that it’s fundamentally good but persecuted and victimized by Evil Arab forces surrounding it, that I am a part of that group and should see the world accordingly. Is this tribal identity which was pummeled into me from childhood — rather than some independent, dispassionate analysis — the reason I find myself perpetually sympathizing with and defending Israel?

I would only ask such people which country they value more, Israel or the US. And is it patriotic to use their money and power to get the US to act, so consistently and for such a long time, against its own self interests? I don’t think so.



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cknuck

posted June 4, 2010 at 11:40 am


Israel takes advantage of every incident to further it’s desire to eradicate Palestinians it borders on genocide. Take your land and kill you if you resist.



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nnmns

posted June 4, 2010 at 5:32 pm


Here’s an eye-witness report of the massacre. Anyone who thinks there was any hint of restraint should read it and listen to the video.



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nnmns

posted June 4, 2010 at 5:42 pm


And then there’s this penetrating critique of Israeli policy by Prof. Juan Cole, a Middle East expert.



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nnmns

posted June 5, 2010 at 8:13 am


Well cknuck it’s been fun agreeing with you for a little while. No doubt it will happen again some month.
Cheers.



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