[A-List] Specterzine: Why did Israel attack civilians in the Mediterranean?
james.irldaly at ntlworld.com
Wed Jun 9 06:17:46 MDT 2010
Why did Israel attack civilians in the Mediterranean?
June 9, 2010
Israel weighed in advance the consequences of its attack against a
humanitarian convoy of ships carrying aid to the Gaza Strip. What were its
objectives in triggering a world diplomatic crisis, and why did it defy its
Turkish ally as well as its U.S. protector?
The attack launched by three Israeli Saar missile patrol boats on 31 May
2010 against the "Freedom" flotilla in international Mediterranean waters
denotes a headlong rush on the part of Tel Aviv.
The "Freedom" flotilla stems from an initiative by human rights activists
 , supported by the Turkish government. Its aim was to take
humanitarian aid to Gaza and, in so doing, to break the blockade illegally
enforced by the Israeli army against more than 1.5 million Gazans.
Under international law, the decision to accost a civilian vessel in
international waters is an "act of war". Legally speaking, Israel's acts
constitute the appropriation of the vessels and their cargo, the kidnapping
of the passengers, murder or possibly even assassination, if one accepts the
reports relayed by Turkish television according to which the commandos were
in possession of a list of people that had to be eliminated.
This act of war against vessels flying Greek and Turkish flags was carried
out to reinforce the blockade, which is itself a violation of international
By choosing the argument of "self defense", the Israeli authorities have
explicitly claimed sovereignty over international waters up to 69 nautical
miles off the coast of Palestine, on the pretext that this annexation -
whether temporary or permanent - is essential for the continuation of the
blockade, which in turn is necesarry for the security of the State of
By boarding a Turkish ship and killing passengers, Tel Aviv opted for a
military response to the diplomatic crisis that has pitted it against Ankara
since January 2009. Israel expects this decision will provoke a crisis
within the Turkish Army command as well as between the latter and the
Turkish government. However, it could also lead to a complete break in
military ties between the two countries, even though Turkey has been Israel's
closest regional ally for over half a century. Turkish-Israeli joint
exercises have already been canceled indefinitely. Moreover, this crisis
could also affect trade relations between the two countries, despite the
fact that Turkey is a vital partner for the Israeli economy.
However, it was imperative for Tel Aviv to undermine Turkey's credibility at
a time when Ankara has been moving closer to Syria and Iran with a view to
constituting a new tripartite regional authority . As a first step,
Israel had to sanction Ankara for its role in the Tehran protocol
negotiations on Iran's nuclear industry.
As for Turkey, which had anticipated a forceful Israeli intervention but not
a lethal one, the time is ripe to fill the role of advocate for the
Palestinian people, in accordance with the neo-Ottoman doctrine predicated
by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Professor Ahmet Davutoglu. Without
waiting for Prime Minister Recep Erdogan's return from his current trip to
Latin America, the Turkish ambassador in Tel Aviv was recalled to Ankara and
a crisis unit was set up around the Deputy Prime Minister, Bülent Arinç.
Immediate contact was established with the governments of the 32 countries
whose nationals were on the convoy. All Turkish diplomatic staff was
mobilized to brief a maximum number of states and international
organizations on the situation. During a press conference, Mr. Arinç
requested the immediate return of the three Turkish vessels and their stolen
cargo, and in particular the release of the hundreds of kidnapped and
sequestered Turkish citizens. He chose to describe the attack as an act
"piracy" (not war) offering the Netanyahu government the opportunity to
portray the events as a "mistake" rather than a policy decision. In keeping
with this logic, President Abdullah Gul demanded that the Israeli courts
should try those responsible for this massacre.
>From Chile, Mr Erdogan stated: "These acts are totally contrary to the
principles of international law; they are terrorist acts perpetrated by an
inhuman state. I am speaking to those who endorsed this operation: you
support bloodshed; we support peace and humanitarian law".
In the afternoon, as a member of NATO, Turkey seized the Atlantic Council.
If Ankara fails to receive an appropriate response from the Israeli
government, it could decide to qualify the attack as an act of war and seek
military aid from member states of the Alliance under Article 5 of the North
The Netanyahu government has urged its citizens to leave Turkey, while
spontaneous demonstrations before Israeli consulates have been multiplying
and crowds are calling for revenge.
As for the U.S., this case is reminiscent of the USS Liberty (June 8, 1967).
During the Six Day War, the Israelis attacked a U.S. Navy electronic
surveillance ship, leaving 34 dead and 171 wounded. Tel Aviv presented an
apology for the mistake made in a battle situation; while accepting it
officially, Washington regarded it as a deliberate breach. At that time, the
Israeli intention was to sanction the U.S. for its criticisms of Israel.
This time, the attack on the freedom convoy could represent a retaliation in
light of Washington's vote in favour of a resolution by States signatory of
the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty enjoining Israel to declare its nuclear
arsenal and to accept inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
The Israeli decision to attack civilian vessels in international waters came
after the assassination in the Emirates a Palestinian leader by a Mossad
cell, the discovery of a vast network of falsified copies of passports to
the embarrassment of Western states; and after Israel's refusal to attend
the international follow-up conference on the Nuclear Non-Proliferation
Treaty. This set of facts can either be interpreted as a succession of
exploits on the part of a state which is confident of its impunity - in this
case, it could amount to just one more exploit or one too many -, or as an
escalation following a brief public friction with the U.S. administration -
signifying that Israel is asserting itself as the leader of the Zionist
movement by showing that Tel Aviv decides and Washington complies.
Travelling in North America, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu decided to
end his Canadian visit and cancel his visit to the White House. He had a
telephone contact with President Obama who asked for an explanation.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, stated
that the Israeli operation had absolutely no legal justification. The U.N.
Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied Palestinian Territories,
Richard Falk, made it a point to emphasize that beyond the violation of the
freedom of movement at sea, the blockade remains the fundamental issue.
"Unless prompt and decisive actions are taken to challenge Israel's attitude
vis-à-vis Gaza, we will all be complicit in a criminal policy that threatens
the survival of a beleaguered community," he said. The Security Council was
urgently convened the same day at 6 p.m.. The Turkish Minister of Foreign
Affairs departed for New York .
Thierry Meyssan is a French political analyst, founder and chairman of the
Voltaire Network and Axis for Peace. He publishes columns dealing with
international relations in daily newspapers and weekly magazines in Arabic,
Spanish and Russian. His latest books published in English are 9/11:the Big
Lie and Pentagate.
 « Dr. Arafat Shoukri : Conditions are ripe to make this flotilla the
'tipping point' », interview by Silvia Cattori, silviacattori.net, 23 April
 The principal organisers of the freedom flotilla are: Mouvement Free
Gaza, Campagne Européenne pour Arrêter le Siège de Gaza (ECESG),
Turkey-based Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH), the Perdana Foundation of
Malaysia and the International Committee to Lift the Siege on Gaza.
 Strategy shift in the Middle East, by Thierry Meyssan, Voltaire Network,
16 May 2010.
 « Speech by Ahmet Davutoglu at the UN Security Council », Voltaire
Network, June 1, 2010.
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