The Madison-Rafah Sister City Project

Madison Area Peace Coalition: Flotilla attack shows need to end Gaza siege

Madison Area Peace Coalition, Cap Times, Jun 13, 2010

The Madison peace community condemns the Israeli murder of nine activists aboard the Mavi Marmara on May 31. Nineteen-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Dogan was among the slain. Other unarmed activists, including American and Israeli citizens, were illegally arrested in international waters. Though the activists’ ship flew the flag of NATO member and erstwhile Israeli friend Turkey, the Israeli soldiers were undeterred. These brutal crimes against a peaceful flotilla of humanitarian aid vessels were acts of state piracy on the high seas.

While pretending to end its occupation of the Gaza Strip in 2005, Israel has subjected the population of Gaza to an illegal blockade for the past three years because it does not approve of the democratically elected Palestinian government. In January 2009 Israel inflicted a brutal, punitive assault on Gaza, killing 1,400 civilians. Numerous Israeli war crimes during this attack, including the use of white phosphorus munitions in civilian areas, are carefully documented in the United Nations Goldstone Report.

The prolonged Israeli siege prevents Gaza’s civilians from getting enough food and medicine for their daily needs and the necessary supplies to rebuild their devastated economy. Biscuits, chocolate, fishing line, seeds, toys, musical instruments and dozens of other household items are prohibited under the blockade. Even Gaza’s sewage system cannot be rebuilt due to a shortage of cement.

Amnesty International reports that 90-95 percent of the drinking water in Gaza is contaminated and unfit for consumption. According to the U.N., 15 of Gaza’s 27 hospitals were damaged or destroyed during the war. Without building materials like cement and glass, the vast majority of the destroyed health infrastructure has not been rebuilt. The U.N. has also found that “over 60 percent of households are now food insecure, threatening the health and well-being of children, women and men.”

In an effort to provide nonmilitary supplies to the besieged Palestinian population, nine peace activists aboard the Mavi Marmara were brutally gunned down. The humanitarian supplies from all six vessels in the flotilla have been impounded by Israel. Just days later, a seventh ship, the Irish vessel Rachel Corrie, was similarly boarded, its passengers kidnapped and its humanitarian contents seized, although thankfully without further loss of life. Other planned relief voyages can expect the same treatment unless the U.S. demands a change in Israeli policy.

Israel often acts like a rogue state, completely untethered to the norms of humane behavior. Lands that had been farmed for a hundred generations by Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed in 1948-49 to make way for Israeli settlers. The 43-year occupation of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights, exacerbated by the relentless expansion of settlements and the daily humiliations suffered by Palestinians, is illegal under the Fourth Geneva Convention and U.N. Security Council Resolution 242. This same resolution “affirms the necessity for guaranteeing freedom of navigation through international waterways.”

Given the unprecedented scope and inhumanity of the suffering inflicted on European Jews only 70 years ago, it is not surprising that Israelis have said “Never again!” and resolved to react with vengeful wrath against any perceived threat to their safety. Ironically, this unyielding attitude has been used to inflict profound suffering on the Palestinian population and has increased the danger to the security of Israelis.

This column was submitted by the Madison Area Peace Coalition.