People's Democracy

(Weekly Organ of the Communist Party of India (Marxist)


No. 26

June 27, 2010


Flotilla Massacre: Israel Isolated


Yohannan Chemarapally


AFTER the attack on the “Freedom Flotilla” carrying relief materiel for Gaza by Israeli Navy commandos on May 30, Israel finds itself even more isolated in the international arena. Its traditional friends in Europe have now started openly criticising Israel. The French president Nicholas Sarkozy and the newly elected British prime minister, David Cameron, issued strong statements criticising Israel. In the third week of June, Poland arrested a Mossad agent who was on the wanted list for the assassination of a senior Hamas leader in Dubai. In Oakland, California, portworkers refused to unload cargo from an Israeli ship. The Obama administration is exerting behind the scenes pressure on Tel Aviv to get serious about negotiations with the Palestinians. President Barack Obama has said that the blockade on Gaza was “unsustainable”. His secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, one of Israel’s closest allies called the siege “unacceptable”.


The US has now committed $400 million in development aid to Gaza. The US however did not explicitly condemn the Israeli act of barbarism nor has it shown any inclination to stop subsidising the Israeli war machine. President Obama has said that he would implement his predecessor’s plan for doling out $30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next ten years.


Russia, China, India, France, Spain and Brazil were among the countries that issued strong statements criticising Israel. There was no “condemnation” which in diplomatic parlance carries more weight. South Africa, like Turkey, has recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv for consultations. There is a growing realisation in the international community that Israel’s policies are akin to those practiced in South Africa during the apartheid era. Latin American countries were particularly vehement in their protests after the May 30 incident. Ecuador, too withdrew its ambassador for consultations, after the killings. Venezuela had withdrawn its ambassador after the Israeli attack on Gaza early last year.


After the international outcry over the killings of the nine peace activists, the Israeli government has announced in the second week of June that it is partially relaxing the blockade on Gaza, which has been in force for the last three years. Israel has also instituted a three person enquiry commission to investigate the killings. The commission led by a retired Israeli Supreme Court judge, Jacob Turkel includes the Ulster Unionist leader, David Trimble and a former Canadian advocate general, Ken Watkin, both good friends of the Zionist state.


Trimble recently launched a “Friends of Israel” initiative with the former right wing Spanish prime minister Jose Maria Aznar. Aznar told the media in the third week of June, that the protection of Israel was vital for western interests in West Asia. Israel had taken the step of setting up an inquiry commission in consultation with the Obama administration. There has been criticism within Israel about the composition of the commission. The reputed newspaper Haaretz called the commission “a farce”. The paper said that the Israel does “not intend to probe the decision-making that preceded the takeover of the ship and the shortcomings that were uncovered”.




The Arab world and the international community are extremely sceptical about Israel’s motivations after the recent events. The Turkish government said that Israel does not have the right to institute a commission to investigate a crime committed on international waters. “An inquiry to be conducted by such a commission cannot be impartial, fair, transparent and credible”, said a statement from the Turkish foreign ministry. The demand is for a truly impartial UN mandated commission to be set up to look into the circumstances leading to the killing of the humanitarian activists. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon had called for a full fledged international enquiry. The UN Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) in Geneva is to set up its own enquiry commission to look into the killings and violations of international law of the sea by Israel.


The ship carrying the activists was boarded on international waters. Israel anyway controls the Gaza coastline and had absolutely no right under the laws of the sea to board or stop vessels on the high seas. Civil society groups are demanding that world wide arrest warrants should be issued against Israeli officials, involved in planning the operations. Michael Ratner, the president of the New York based Centre for Constitutional Rights told the news agency IPS, “those Israeli officials should be made to understand that though they enjoy impunity in their country, they leave Israel at their peril”. Ratner was of the view that at the minimum, the UN Security Council should refer the matter to International Criminal Court (ICC) at The Hague.


The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan had told the country’s parliament that “even despots, gangsters and pirates have specific sensitiveness” but the present Israeli government, he added “has made lying its state policy and does not blush about the crime it commits”. The killing of the nineTurkish citizens has enraged the entire nation. Turkey, which has the 13th largest economy in the world, was till recently one of Israel’s strongest regional allies. The trade and military ties between the two countries are worth more than $3 billion. Now the relationship is in tatters and there is very little hope that Israel can count on Turkey, a NATO member for any military or political assistance in the future. The Turkey-Israel rupture also has the potential of adversely impacting on Ankara’s relations with the West. Under Erdogan, Turkey has already taken momentous steps to improve relations with countries like Iran, China and Russia.   


President Basher al-Assad of Syria in a recent interview with the BBC said that he no longer views the Israeli government as “a partner for peace” in the region. He said that the attack on the peace flotilla proved to the international community that Israel is being run by “a pyromaniac government” which makes the achievement of peace impossible. He said that the attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla “destroyed any chance for peace in the near future” and instead “increased the risk of war” in the region.  




Israel’s “partial lifting” of the blockade on Gaza has not cut any ice with the international community. No specific product list, except that on jams, pasta and milk, was mentioned when the Israeli government announced its decision. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has only indicated that he would allow the entry of building material along with UN emergency aid into Gaza. Construction material is essential for Gaza. Its infrastructure was almost totally destroyed by the three week long Israeli attack last year.  The Israeli government has said that it will continue with the sea blockade. Gaza’s only airfield has been rendered inoperable by the Israeli army.


The Egyptian government, under tremendous public pressure, has opened the Rafah crossing into Gaza, allowing people in need of emergency heath care to leave the Strip. The World Health Organisation (WHO) has said that the mortality rates in Gaza are 30 per cent higher than on the West Bank and chronic malnutrition is now over 10 per cent. Two-thirds of Gazans live in poverty and about 40 per cent are unemployed. The Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has stated that 61 per cent of the people in Gaza are “food insecure”, the majority of them children. 95 per cent of Gaza’s factories have shut down after Israel imposed its blockade. Collective punishment was imposed on the people of Gaza by the occupying power - Israel. The sole aim was the ouster of the popularly elected Hamas government. Till the recent horrific events, Israel was supported by the US and EU as it tried to starve the Gazans into submission.


Saeb Erakat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, reiterated that there has not been any easing of the Gaza blockade, despite the recent announcements by Israel. “In reality, the siege of the Gaza Strip, illegally imposed on Palestinians, continues unabated”. The Palestinian Authority (PA) has called for the unconditional lifting of the blockade of Gaza. Many Palestinians feel that this is a belated attempt to conceal its tacit abetment of the blockade along with Egypt. In a June 10 speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington, the PA president, Mahmoud Abbas, again suggested that the Israeli siege continue until Hamas allows the US trained PA militia to return to Gaza.


The spokesman for the Hamas, which administers Gaza pointed out that only 130 out of the 4,000 basic items of basic supplies are allowed in. More peace flotillas carrying food and medical aid are heading towards Gaza to break Israel’s illegal sea blockade. Peace activists say that their aim is to prove that the sea blockade like the land blockade by Israel is unsustainable.


In mid-June, the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) called for the immediate lifting of the siege of Gaza. The ICRC reiterated that the blockade was in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949. Israel is a signatory to the Convention, which prohibits the collective punishment of civilian populations. “The whole of Gaza’s civilian population is being punished for acts which they bear no responsibility. The closure therefore constitutes a collective punishment imposed in clear violation of Israel’s obligation under international humanitarian law”, the ICRC said in its statement.