Flotilla: American citizen among fatalities

Reuters and others are now reporting that a U.S. citizen, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, was among those murdered by Israel during its piratical assault on the Mavi Marmara on Monday.
No wonder the Israeli authorities have been trying to keep the identities of the dead hidden for as long as they can.
Turkey’s state-run Anatolia News Agency says that Dogan “was hit by four bullets in the head and one in the chest.”
What will Pres. Obama do to assure American citizens that his administration will seek full justice for this act of murder, committed in international waters?
Update: Paul Woodward has a photo of the young man at his post on War in Context, here.

Flotilla: Great piece from M.J. Rosenberg

M.J. writes:

    The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli blockade. Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.
    In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to leave until they were served. Their goal was not really to get breakfast. It was to end segregation.
    That fact is so obvious that it is hard to believe that the “pro-Israel” lobby is using it as an indictment.
    Of course the goal of the flotilla was to break the blockade. Of course Martin Luther King provoked the civil authorities of the South to break segregation. Of course the Solidarity movement used workers’ rights as a pretext to break Soviet-imposed Communism.
    The bottom line is that the men and women of the flotilla had every right to attempt to destroy an illegal blockade that Israel had no legal standing to impose and which was designed to inflict collective punishment on the people of Gaza…

Go read the whole thing.

How to end the siege of Gaza, addendum

In my earlier post on this topic, I wrote this:

    Gaza needs to be open for normal commercial and human activity– not just for the trucking-in of international aid.

What I was writing about there was, of course, only the immediate, or very short-term goal. I wanted to stress that “lifting the blockade” should not consist solely of allowing more aid shipments in. Gaza’s 1.5 million, amazingly well educated and capable people need to have the normal economic activities and possibilities of any other of the world’s peoples, as they and their national leaders continue to work on getting the Palestinian-Israeli conflict finally resolved.
Indeed, the basic premise under the Fourth Geneva Convention is that, during the presumably short time that a territory comes under foreign military occupation– pending the speedy conclusion of a final peace agreement between the two warring parties– the occupying power is obligated to (a) interfere as little as possible in the ongoing civilian life and governance of the territory’s residents, and (b) to facilitate their access to those inputs necessary for continued economic wellbeing.
In the case of Gaza, the West Bank, and Golan, of course, the foreign military occupations of those territories have not been short. They have lasted almost 43 years! And conclusion of a final peace between Israel and Palestine still seems far away. Hence the need to pay attention to the continuing economic and development needs of those territories’ civilian populations. However, no-one should think for a minute that addressing those issues is on its own “enough”. The basic issues of sovereignty, self-determination, and the end of foreign military occupation also need– very urgently!– to be addressed.
In the case of Gaza’s 1.5 million residents, 75-80 percent of them are refugees from homes and farms within Israel: Their claims regarding those homes, both for restoration of their property rights over them and restoration of their right to return to them, need to be addressed. Gaza’s people also all have a deep and longstanding attachment to Jerusalem and other places inside the occupied West Bank, for religious reasons and because of the normal family and business ties that Gazans have with West Bankers (including the Palestinians of East Jerusalem.)
All those issues need to be satisfactorily addressed in the context of a final peace agreement. This peace agreement could be one that results in a two-state outcome, though that seems increasingly unlikely at this point. Or it could be one involving the establishment of a single, unitary, and binational state in which all Palestinians and all Israelis would enjoy equal citizenship and equal rights. But under one model of resolution or the other, the final peace has to be secured– and soon! Palestinians, Israelis, and the rest of the world have all waited for this final settlement for far too long.
The need for that occupation-ending final peace is urgent. It cannot be postponed another 43 years! But in the meantime, the siege of Gaza has to be lifted.

How to end the siege of Gaza

I’ve been thinking through some of the challenges any Israeli government would face as it considers ending its four-year-long siege of Gaza. (And that, it is becoming increasingly clear, is what the entire world community needs to see happening.)
Think of it for a moment from the Israeli government’s viewpoint. They have been telling their own people, the world– and themselves!– for more than four years now that they need to maintain the siege “in order to ensure that Hamas and the other militant groups don’t smuggle weapons into Gaza.” One condition they’ve always insisted on, therefore, is that for the siege to be lifted, there has to be some form “credible” inspection regime at all of Gaza’s borders to ensure such smuggling doesn’t occur.
(In truth, the siege has barely prevented the smuggling-in of weapons. Gaza has hundreds of tunnels connecting it with Egypt. A much bigger role in preventing the arrival of weapons to the tunnel-heads has been played by the Egyptian security forces, acting often deep inside Sinai and not only near the country’s short border with Gaza… Under a “no-siege” regime for Gaza, Egypt could be expected to continue to play an equally strict monitoring role.)
Okay, but bear with me as I continue to think this through. In such “negotiations” as have occurred over the possibility of lifting the siege of Gaza, Israel and its U.S. lackeys have always insisted that the body that monitors the crossing-points on the Gaza side of the border not be constituted by the Hamas regime which was democratically elected– in Gaza and indeed also in the West Bank– back in 2006, and which has been ruling Gaza with some significant effectiveness in recent years, and more especially since it repulsed a U.S.-backed coup attempt in June 2007. Israel and the U.S. have always insisted that there should be a role for the (heavily U.S.-backed) Ramallah regime in controlling the Gaza side of the border. However, given Hamas’s undoubted de-facto– as well as in many eyes, de-jure– control of Gaza, shoe-horning in a role for the Ramallah PA has always necessarily involved seeking form of reconciliation or at least modus vivendi between Hamas and the Ramallah-based Fateh faction. (Or, and here is an interesting possibility, the modus vivendi could be between Hamas and the politically “independent”, though also strongly U.S.-backed Ramallah PM, Salam Fayyad.)
We should all be clear that the challenge regarding Gaza is to open its borders to the normal passage of goods and persons, and also to facilitate free passage of goods and persons between Gaza and the West Bank. It is not simply a matter of allowing/ensuring the passage of aid shipments into Gaza. It is a matter of re-opening Gaza to normal commerce with the whole of the rest of the outside world. Gazans hate the aid-dependency into which they’ve been forced. Previously, they had many factories and agro enterprises that engaged in flourishing commerce with the outside world. One of the worst aspects of the Israeli siege is that it has killed all that economic activity. Gaza needs to be open for normal commercial and human activity– not just for the trucking-in of international aid.
Anyway, for the reasons outlined earlier, for Israeli and American officials, the question of opening the Gaza borders to normal traffic of goods and persons has always been directly tied to securing a reconciliation between Hamas and Fateh on terms that they– the Israelis and Americans– approve of. But guess what. That reconciliation hasn’t happened at any point since the Fateh faction headed by Mohamed Dahlan made his (U.S.-instigated) coup attempt in Gaza in June ’07, and was repulsed. But it’s important to remember that immediately prior to that, Fateh, Hamas, and Salam Fayyad had all been participants in the National Unity Government whose terms were brokered by the Saudis in Mecca in February 2007. So reconciliation is not an impossible dream. The grassroots activists on both sides– including that very important constituency, the thousands of political prisoners from all Palestinian factions who are held in Israeli jails– are all in favor of it. And so is the Hamas leadership (though on its own terms, not those of the U.S. or Fateh.)
So what happens if this Likud-dominated Israeli government decides that it needs to, from its perspective, “back down” on the project of keeping Gaza tightly besieged. How might it do that, and wouldn’t it feel it would be somehow “letting Fateh down”?
Actually, no. Likud people have nothing of the sentimental soft spot for Fateh that so many of Israel’s Labour leaders (and even the people in Meretz) have had. And in particular, Likud does not want to have to tie itself down to negotiating the kind of firm international border in the West Bank, between Israel and the future Palestine, that the Fateh diplomats are now so firmly committed to.
There is actually a lot that Likud has in common with Hamas, as I noted in this 2008 article in Boston Review. Key among the things they have in common are that neither movement is terribly strongly committed to the two-state solution– and more importantly, neither currently wants to see a firm international boundary established in the West Bank, between Israel and “Palestine”. The two movements/parties obviously have many goals that clash against each other. But they have both shown on several occasions in the past that they’re capable of using quiet negotiations, or negotiations mediated through third parties, to reach agreements on partial (not permanent-status) issues that have proved relatively successful.
(Another thing the two of them have in common: A strong distaste for the kind of touchy-feely-huggy “getting-to-know-you” gabfests and photo ops that both Labour and Fateh have traditionally adored.)
So it could happen. Fateh might well get tossed out of the door in this. And of course, it goes without saying that the moment the government of Israel says, “Look, we’ve concluded that we need to do some kind of a quiet deal with Hamas to make this border-opening thing work,” the U.S. administration and the serried ranks of bought-and-paid-for members of the U.S. Congress will come slavering like a lap-dog right behind it and say, “Yes, yes! Of course you must!” Like what happened with the PLO back in 1993.
Well, I’m not saying this is what will happen. But I do think it’s a distinct possibility. And we do need to be able to understand just how Netanyahu and his advisers– assuming they are not all testosterone-addicted, rampant fools, as Ehud Barak appears to be– might be trying to think their way out of their current quandary…

Turkey shows the way

The Turkish government has successfully persuaded Israel to immediately release all Turkish nationals illegally captured by Israel on the high seas on Monday, and has sent civilian planes and military hospital planes to collect them. Turkey has also, obviously, insisted that Israel return the mortal remains of all Turkish citizens killed during the flotilla murders.
In addition, Turkey, which withdrew its ambassador from Israel following the murders, has now said it will restore normal ties with Israel only if Israel ends the blockade of Gaza.
Other governments of the world should reinforce this completely legitimate demand– made, as it happens, by a longtime member of NATO that is NATO’s only majority-Muslim member state.

Flotilla: U.S. supports a U.N. enquiry (oops, no?)

I just read the report of the consultations the UNSC held yesterday and in the wee hours of this morning into the flotilla massacre.
The presidential statement and most of the recorded comments from SC members noted correctly that the flotilla would never have been necessary if Israel had responded to earlier SC resolutions that called on it to ease the siege against Gaza considerably– and called on it once again, with more urgency, to do so.
I think that was excellent.
The presidential statement also committed the the UNSC to undertaking its own enquiry into what happened, noting that Israel’s confiscation of the documentary materials held by flotilla participants meant that no-one could currently be clear as to what actually occurred.
The U.S. rep there, Alejandro Wolff, went on the record expressing support for the UNSC enquiry.* That was excellent.
Of course, we should also remember the extremely hostile and ill-informed campaign the U.S. delegation mounted against the last investigatory report the UNSC produced into affairs related to Gaza: the Goldstone Report.

* Update Tuesday 1:45 pm:
In the UN’s record of the discussion, the rapporteur said this of Wolff statement during the UNSC session:

    He expected a credible and transparent investigation and urged the Council to conduct one fully.

However, I just looked at CNN’s video clip, available here, that includes a record of a statement Wolff made after the UNSC session. He was explicit there that he thought Israel could conduct a thorough and credible investigation on its own.

Arabist and others on the flotilla massacre

Issandr el-Amrani of the Arabist has been doing some of the best blogging on today’s IDF flotilla massacre.
Among his great posts have been these: How Israel sets the TV agenda and The flotilla crisis seen from Cairo.
In the latter post he writes:

    this is the biggest protest about Palestine since the Gaza war, in an atmosphere in which such protests have not been tolerated. We might see more in the next few days, including on Friday after prayers. This may revive local activism on Gaza as well as linkages made between the situation there and the situation in Egypt — notably the Mubarak regime’s collaboration with Israel on the blockade. Expect a fierce fight in the media over this in the next few days, and more opportunities to express all sorts of grievances. But when Turkey expels its ambassador and Egypt is seen to be doing nothing, it looks very, very bad for Cairo.

Egypt is of course a central ally for the U.S. military in the Arab world. Plus, its leadership is now in the throes of a long-drawn-out succession crisis. (Has anyone actually seen the elderly Pres. Mubarak in public any times recently?)
I watched ABC News here in the U.S. this evening. They had Jim Sciutto reporting from London on the international fallout from Israel’s thuggish act of piracy today. He and the other reporters made these two centrally important points:

    1. Israel’s assault on the ship took place in international waters and is thus considered by many to be an outright act of piracy, and
    2. The anti-Israeli feeling engendered by the Israeli assault is also spilling over in many places into anti-U.S. sentiment– and this has direct consequences for the many U.S. service members now serving in vulnerable places in Muslim countries.

Good for ABC News! Let’s hear those very salient facts from a few more members of the U.S. political elite.

Live-feed from the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

I’ve just been watching the live-stream from the Turkish boat provided here. Participants in the humanitarian-aid venture get the chance to stand up to the camera from time to time.
Right now, it’s early Monday morning there and they say three Israeli navy patrol boats are circling them… But they’re still sailing on.
10,892 people are currently watching the livestream.
This is something new, sophisticated, and fascinating in nonviolent social action. The Turkish-Islamist organization IHH is to be heartily congratulated for the lead role it has taken in organizing the aid flotilla.