I know that by writing this blog, I will leave myself open to charges of anti-Semitism, and that I might offend a dear friend who is Jewish, as well as others close to me. It is an accepted fact of life in America that you criticize the State of Israel at your peril. Former President Jimmy Carter can attest to that. He is probably still smarting from the abuse he endured for questioning Israeli policy in his book, Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid.
Still, I feel obliged to protest against the high-handed way in which the Israeli government often behaves, and the lack of response from Americans. I am sorry, folks, but the Israelis have gone too far for me to remain silent.
Last Tuesday, while television news channels were awash in scenes from the violent suppression of protests in Iran, an equally unjustifiable act of Israeli oppression was taking place, and I heard not one word of protest against it. American politicians were falling over each other to step up to the microphone and condemn the Iranian mullahs and their puppet government. Yet they seemed oblivious to the fact that the Israeli Navy had seized a Greek ship carrying aid to the wretched victims of Israeli attacks in Gaza.
The 20 passengers were from several countries, including Britain, Ireland, Bahrain and Jamaica. They included former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney (photo at right); Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire; Ishmahil Blagrove, a Jamaican-born journalist based in the UK; Derek Graham, an Irish electrician; the ship’s captain Denis Healey from the UK; British journalist Fathi Jaouadi; Alex Harrison, a British woman; Theresa McDermott from Scotland; and Adnan Mormech from the UK.
Members of the group were quoted in the international media as saying their ship was carrying medical and reconstruction supplies as well as children’s toys, and could not possibly constitute any sort of threat to Israel. The vessel was searched and received security clearance from the Cypriot Port Authorities before departing and never approached Israeli waters, they said.
I won’t rehash the Israeli devastation of Gaza, the relentless bombings of civilians and the random massacre of civilians, many of them children. I am aware that Hamas insurgents provoked the attack by firing rockets into Israel (but I insist that the scale of the Israeli response was unjustified). But what concerns me today os the fact that no one in America has intervened on McKinney’s behalf. I realize she is no longer a member of Congress. I am well aware of her eccentric behavior and I know she can be a troublemaker. But you would think the Obama Administration or McKinney’s former colleagues in the House would come to her defense. So far that has not happened.
Other countries have come to the defense of their citizens. Bahrain sent a plane to rescue their detained nationals, and Ireand’s Foreign Affairs Minister called for the swift release of detainees from his country. But, as far as I know, the U.S. Government has remained silent.
Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories, said seizure of the vessel was part of Israel’s “cruel blockade of the entire Palestinian population of Gaza” in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” And McKinney charges that it was “an outrageous violation of international law against us.”
The latest word is that Americans aboard the seized vessel have been transferred to a detainment facility closer to the Ben Gurion airport, so perhaps the Israelis are planning to send them home. But the seizure of the aid vessel must not go unchallenged. Nor should Americans condone the heartless blockade of the people of Gaza who were left destitute by Israeli aggression.