Activists are returning to their respective countries and funerals are underway for the nine slain activists in Turkey, one of whom was a 19-year-old dual U.S. citizen. However, the atmosphere of the international community continues to exhibit volatility.
More accounts of the events are pouring in as the activists return. Following the attack, Israel had created an information blackout, barring the captured activists from speaking to media in Israel, but as they return home their stories are emerging. Bulent Yildrim, the head of the Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), said: “I took off my shirt and waved it, as a white flag. We thought they would stop after seeing the white flag, but they continued killing people.” Norman Paech, a former German politician accounts: “The soldiers were all masked, carrying big guns and were extremely brutal.” Haneen Zoubi, an Arab-Israeli MP claims Israeli vessels fired on her ship a few minutes before soldiers descended from helicopters. You can also hear an account of the events from former ambassador and former CNI board member Edward Peck, here.
Israel continues to claim self-defense, and does not take responsibility for the deaths, but feels regretful for them. “Israel is told it has the right to defend itself, but when we do exercise that right we’re condemned for it… Israel should not be held to a double standard,” says PM Netanyahu. However, boarding ships in international waters and opening fire on some resistant activists does not seem like defense. There is a difference between defense and the display of excessive force; wooden batons do not justify the use of rifles. The activists were on a humanitarian mission, and if they have ties to Islamist organizations, why has Israel sent them back to their own countries instead of detaining them? How frequently is a nation allowed to commit flagrant violations of international law and oppress people in the name of defense? Why must the the 1.5 million citizens of Gaza be punished for Israel’s fear of Hamas and Iran? Denying Gazans their own right to life and security for the sake of Israeli security seems more like a double-standard to me.
Israel is continuing to hold a belligerent attitude towards the international community; ignoring calls to end the blockade in Gaza. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the blockade is “counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong,” and demands a probe from Israel about the raid. However, progress will never be made as long as the U.S. continues to condone Israel’s behavior. Special Envoy George Mitchell claims the raid must not undermine indirect peace talks, therefore eliminating any sense of accountability on the part of Israel. Also, the UN Human Rights Council voted to dispatch its own investigators and have an external inquiry. I bet you already know who voted against it.
Biden has said Israel has a right to inspect cargo, and “an absolute right to deal with its security interest.” Along with Obama, he advocates a “transparent and open” Israeli-led investigation. And although the U.S. realizes the situation in Gaza must be improved, it will not advocate a total end to the blockade in Gaza. The US remains hesitant in reexamining policy. A White House official claims there is “a general sense in the administration that it’s time to change our Gaza policy.” As the U.S. continues to drag its feet, perhaps pressure from the rest of the world will bring an end to U.S. passivity. Indeed, many protests that emerged against the actions of Israel have also been against the facilitator of those actions.