Wednesday, June 9, 2010

piracy on the high seas

Lemme paint you a picture: a flotilla of ships carrying first aid equipment, building supplies, food and other humanitarian cargo -- to be delivered to a civilian population under siege -- is sailing in international waters when the lead ship is attacked and boarded by gun-wielding pirates. A struggle ensues between the pirates and those on board the ship, resulting in 9 dead passengers, the kidnapping of everyone else on board, and the theft of the cargo and all video and audio recordings of the attack.

If this happened anywhere else in the world, US reaction and condemnation would be swift. And for much of the world, reaction and condemnation HAS been swift.

But in the world of Middle East politics, it's more problematic, more fuzzy, because the pirates were Israeli Defense Force commandos, the hostages were activists seeking to end the inhumane blockade of Gaza, and of course, the civilian population under siege are Palestinians.

Never mind that one of those killed by the IDF commandos was an American (like the others killed, he too was shot multiple times in the head -- summarily executed by the IDF), and the best the Dems can come up with is that the victims of Israel's piracy brought it on themselves.

The GOP's position is not surprising -- this humanitarian mission gave aid and comfort to Hamas, the elected government of Gaza, and as such, those on board are terrorists, and Israel had every right to blow their heads off -- even the American shot and killed.

More disturbing than the massive kidnapping that occurred on the high seas was the theft of video of the attack by the IDF, allowing them to control the message, allowing them to paint the activists as something other than they way. If the attack was legal and above board, why steal all the video? What's to hide?

Never mind the international condemnation of the inhumane blockade that serves as a collective punishment. Never mind the calibre of people aboard the flotilla -- ranging from human rights activists to Nobel peace laureates to former ambassadors and European parliamentarians -- now being accused of supporting terrorism. The rest of the world condemns the actions undertaken by Israel against a Turkish vessel -- Israel's closest Muslim ally -- and our government's knee-jerk reaction is to come to the defense of the indefensible, giving Israel another free pass, a myopic display of foreign policy in the region.

And this is where we get into sticky areas of discourse -- the rightwing fascist teabagger types scream and bellyache about being called "racist" every time they say something racist. They scream and bellyache about being called "sexist" every time they say something sexist. They say pointing out issues of race and sex is just part of honest discourse, and they shouldn't be painted with the broad brush of "racist" or "sexist" if their views offend liberals.

Fair enough. But say one thing about Israel's brutal policies and you are instantly tagged as "anti-Semitic". And that is usually where the discussion ends. Everything else is drowned out, everything else is ignored. Once the charge is leveled, the discussion is over.

That is unfortunate for Israel, and unfortunate for Palestine, and unfortunate for honest discourse in the United States.

In a society where being "politically correct" is a sign of weakness and sure sign of being liberal, it is quite odd to see conservatives and rightwing fascist types embrace the PC notion of shutting down honest discourse by charging "anti-Semitism".

I won't get into the whole Christian Zionist/Apocalypse Movement angle of why Israel receives so much support from Christian fundamentalists. I won't even bring up the fact that a broad segment of Israeli citizens and a broad segment of the Israeli military disagrees with official Israeli policy in Palestine. All that is readily found online -- don't just take my word for it.

And that's just it -- we are being asked to forget what we saw -- a flotilla of human rights activists being attacked by the Israeli military in international waters -- and take the word of the Israeli government that what they did was protect their citizens from a rowdy band of terrorists. The evidence suggests otherwise.

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