As events unfolded during the attack on the Freedom Flotilla in international waters, what was amazing was how credible news agencies like CNN opened the airwaves to Israeli government spokespeople to speak unchallenged. This while those who knew the other side of the story—the activists--were being detained, and after their personal belongings, including pictures and video footage, were seized by the Israeli Defense Forces.
Had this event happened off the shores of Iran, for instance, the news coverage would have been mainly on how Iran censors freedom of press and free speech. But time and time again, when Israel attacks, and creates a news blackout - we find that in America, Israel speaks unchallenged.
Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) released a media advisory that can be read here.
"Much of the U.S. press coverage takes Israeli government claims at face value, and is based largely on footage made available by Israeli authorities--while Israel keeps the detained activists away from the media (not to mention from lawyers and worried family members)."
There were also no international law experts who appeared on maintstream news stations to debunk the Israeli claim that their actions were legal within international law.
As mentioned in FAIR advisory
"According to Craig Murray (5/31/10), former British ambassador and specialist on maritime law, the legal position 'is very plain': 'To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of illegal warfare.'"
What happened in the aftermath of Freedom Flotilla attack is no different than what has happened before.
We are hearing the same old 'they started it' and 'Israel is acting in self-defense' argument. Noam Chomsky, professor of linguistics at MIT, responded to this classic argument best: "You can't defend yourself when you are militarily occupying someone else's land. Call it what you like, it is not self-defense."
In this situation, the ships were on International waters, around 50-70 miles from Gaza. Israel invaded the ships, so the self-defense argument does not stand here as well. Israel was not defending itself because Israel's self was not being invaded or attacked.
The context of this crisis is an occupation that is illegal within international law. It is a humanitarian struggle like the struggle for civil rights here and over apartheid in South Africa. The world leaders have had their turn to resolve this situation and for decades they failed. Mainstream American media outlets have failed throughout these decades to ask the necessary critical questions before the American public square. So, as with South Africa, ordinary people decided to take action.
People of many faiths, including Jews, and of many ethnicities and many walks of life--from holocaust survivors to intellectuals--have joined an international movement to dismantle Israel’s apartheid regime.
Unlike the media outlets, these ordinary citizens asked many questions of themselves and others. They went on painstaking trips to see the situation on the ground. They respected themselves enough to verify, to investigate and to dig for the truth.
Please read below some of these voices:
Desmond Tutu, South Africa
"It is not with rancor that we criticize the Israeli government, but with hope, a hope that a better future can be made for both Israelis and Palestinians, a future in which both the violence of the occupier and the resulting violent resistance of the occupied come to an end, and where one people need not rule over another, engendering suffering, humiliation, and retaliation. True peace must be anchored in justice "
Judith Butler, Jewish faculty member at Berkeley.
"But if you struggle against voicelessness to speak out for what is right, then you are in the middle of that struggle against oppression and for freedom, a struggle that knows that there is no freedom for one until there is freedom for all. There are those who will surely accuse you of hatred, but perhaps those accusations are the enactment of hatred."
Hajo Meyer is the author of The End of Judaism: An Ethical Tradition Betrayed.
"I am pained by the parallels I observe between my experiences in Germany prior to 1939 and those suffered by Palestinians today. I cannot help but hear echoes of the Nazi mythos of 'blood and soil' in the rhetoric of settler fundamentalism which claims a sacred right to all the lands of biblical Judea and Samaria. The various forms of collective punishment visited upon the Palestinian people -- coerced ghettoization behind a 'security wall'; the bulldozing of homes and destruction of fields; the bombing of schools, mosques, and government buildings; an economic blockade that deprives people of the water, food, medicine, education and the basic necessities for dignified survival -- force me to recall the deprivations and humiliations that I experienced in my youth. This century-long process of oppression means unimaginable suffering for Palestinians."
And the sad part is, as Norman Finkelstein points out in this footage here. Unless, Israel is stopped - this is a very serious situation. We need to get beyond the morality contest discussions, and childish who started it tag games, and get to the hard work of seeking truth, critical thinking, independent investigations and holding people responsible accountable before a court of law.
If you are interested in a campaign to investigate the raid and bringing a peaceful end to the blockade, then please sign the petition here.
The petition simply reads:
"We call for an immediate, independent investigation into the flotilla assault, full accountability for those responsible, and the lifting of the Gaza blockade."
And Jewish Voices for Peace also has a petition that sends directly to your U.S. congresspeople.
I further invite you this coming Friday to an event on the Al-Nakba Commemoration. Please bring your critical questions regarding the event to the speakers.
Friday, June 4, 2010
Speakers George Galloway, British parliamentarian and founder of Viva Palestina
Dr. Hatem Bazian, UC Berkeley professor
Refreshments will be served
$10.00 admission fee
Crowne Plaza Minneapolis North
2200 Freeway Boulevard, Brooklyn Center, MN 55430