Under the regime of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Israel is becoming as much of a rogue nation as Iran or North Korea. The rabid right wingers who control the Israeli government are leading the country toward a confrontation with its neighbors that not only makes a mockery of the so-called “peace process,” but also threatens to engulf the world in an apocalyptical struggle.
When Israeli naval commandos stormed ships carrying aid to Gaza on Sunday night, killing 15 activists and injuring about 30 others, Israel’s hawks served notice on the world that they hold accepted standards of decency in contempt, and have no regard for the approval of the international community.
By carrying out the attack in international waters, they further emphasized their disregard for common law, and their resolve to smite those they regard as enemies whatever the consequences.
As they must have expected, the attack precipitated an international diplomatic crisis and angry demonstrations around the world. (Photo above shows Turkish demonstrators burning the Israeli flag.)
Obviously, the Israeli regime is prepared to accept the censure of the civilized world. Obviously, the commonly known fact that Israel possesses nuclear weapons is contributing to the regime’s arrogance. Just as obviously, Israel’s use of a nuclear weapon would inevitably trigger a nuclear response, plunging the world into unimaginable horror.
Many Israelis are aware of the frightening future that their current leaders seem to be inviting. There are protests in Israel, as there are in the rest of the world. And the Israeli rights group Gisha is contesting the draconian conduct of the Gaza blockade.
In America, the Jewish Voice for Peace is organizing demonstrations from New York to San Francisco to protest against the flotilla attack.
The Israeli government is countering with a massive PR offensive. Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, claims that the activists are allies of Hamas and al-Qaida. He insists they would have opened an arms smuggling route to Gaza if they had been permitted to land there.
But all available information suggests there is no justification for Ayalon’s claims.
The Freedom Flotilla set out from the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus carrying 10,000 tons of donated aid. The intent was to test Israel’s embargo on certain types of materials. The ships’ cargo included goods not allowed into Gaza, such as cement, prefab homes, lumber, window frames, paper for printing school books, children’s toys, electric wheelchairs, and medical and dental equipment.
On board the ships were more than 750 volunteers of various cultural and religious backgrounds from around the world, among them nearly two dozen European parliamentarians, former U.S. congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, 1976 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, and Hedy Epstein, an elderly Holocaust survivor.
The atrocity should be especially unacceptable to Americans. Their tax dollars help to fund Israel’s harsh repression of the people of Gaza and the excessive responses to nonviolent protests against the occupation.
Yet the Obama administration has reacted tepidly, issuing a statement that expressed “deep regret” over the loss of life and calling for “all the facts.”
Worldwide, the response has been more forthright.
The European Union demanded an independent inquiry. And the United Nations Security Council held an emergency meeting in which members condemned the attack and urged Israel to end its blockade of the Gaza Strip. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu told the Council that Israel had broken the law by attacking a foreign ship in international waters.
“It is murder conducted by a state,” he said
Turkey yanked its ambassador from Israel and called home its youth national football team following a match with Israel.
And this is just the beginning.
Today, pro-Palestinian activists sent another boat to challenge Israel’s blockade. And Egypt temporarily opened a crossing into the Palestinian territory.
Amid increasing tensions, the Israeli military carried out an air strike in Gaza, and an Islamic militant group said three of its members were killed after firing rockets into southern Israel. Israeli authorities say the rockets landed in open areas and caused no injuries.
And two militants infiltrating Israel from Gaza were killed in a separate incident.
The question remains: How long will Americans continue to stand by Israel in the face of impending escalation of hostilities between the Israelis and the Palestinians- and the universal condemnation of Israel that seems likely to follow?