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The Flotilla Massacre - The Flotilla Massacre

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The Flotilla Massacre
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Objectives of Both Sides

Flotilla planners' clear agenda included:

  • delivering essential to life aid to 1.5 million besieged Gazans, three years this month, but more importantly
  • symbolically breaking the siege to encourage world condemnation, highlighting an intolerable injustice, and taking another important step toward ending it.

On the pretext of blocking the entry of weapons, Israel carried out a premeditated, carefully planned and rehearsed military operation, designed to commit murder and mass casualties against unarmed civilians, even announcing it in Maariv, one of Israel's leading dailies, days in advance, the caption reading:

"On the way to violence, one of the boats is on its way," suggesting a kill-or-be-killed encounter with "terrorists."

Israel's plan had specific objectives:

  • to maintain its oppressive blockade;
  • keep 1.5 million Gazans trapped in the world's largest open-air prison;
  • cause enough harm to deter others from coming, and
  • assassinated designated activists on board.

On June 5, the UK Independent's Catrina Stewart reported an interview with Jamal Elshayyal, one of eight Al Jazeera on board reporters, seven on the Mavi Marmara, saying passengers found on Israeli commandos a list of names and photos, Alshayyal telling Stewart:

The "protesters rummaged through captured soldiers' belongings and claimed to unearth a document that they allege is a list of people Israel intended to assassinate. The booklet, written in Hebrew and in English, contained some photographs of passengers on the Marmara, including the leader of IHH, the Turkish charity that provided two of the ships, an 88-year-old priest and Ra'ad, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Mr. Elshayyal said."

Autopsy reports show Flotilla members were shot multiple times at close range, two or more in the head, indicating murder, not self-defense as Israel claims.

The Israeli Project produces pro-Israeli propaganda, claiming it's information is accurate, unbiased, and "not related to any government or government agency."

In its post-Flotilla attack conference call, Rep. Brad Sherman (D. CA) accused Flotilla activists of aiding Hamas in violation of US law, then called on US Attorney General Eric Holder to prosecute US participants on terrorist charges, saying:

"The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 makes it absolutely illegal for any American to give food, money, school supplies, paper clips, concrete or weapons to Hamas or any of its officials."

Sherman, a so-called "liberal" Democrat, supports the most extremist elements of Israel's government, Netanyahu and Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Avigdor Lieberman among them, notorious sponsors of state-terrorism.

The entire Senate and most House members also back Israel's belligerence and broader objective to destroy PA authority to subjugate all Palestine - by ruthless attacks against civilians, considered legitimate targets to weaken their will to resist through mass slaughter, other atrocities, and numerous other abuses.

Cast Lead did it horrifically, the Flotilla slaughter just the latest example of how far Israel will go - with Washington's full support through generous funding, the latest weapons and technology, and use of its Security Council pressure and veto.

Stratfor Global Intelligence on the Flotilla Massacre

Providing information and insights to world decision-makers, Stratfor's CEO George Friedman examined the effect of Israel's attack, calling it "unprecedented in size" for an assault of this kind, citing three factors differentiating it:

  • over 600 foreign nationals were involved, including politicians and journalists, "raising the stakes for all players;"
  • the incident drew unprecedented media attention and preparation; immediately, "pre-arranged interviews with various pro-Palestinian representatives were filling regional media such as Al Jazeera" and others (but not in America where they're banned); world protests erupted, calling for accountability and sanctions against Israel; and
  • "Most importantly, a non-Arab foreign state played a role in instigating this incident. Turkey has been feeling its way forward in the region," trying to increase its political stature through "new tools of influence." Its government "did everything it could to benefit from the public relations that a successful breaching of the blockade would generate."

In addition, because of Israel's "direct action, a web of international relationships will be affected," and Turkey can leverage the incident by "providing military escorts (for) future aid flotillas that could increase in size" and further heighten tensions if Israeli recklessness continues.

Already, Middle East instability has increased, "the last thing" America needs with more than enough on its plate. In addition, Washington-Tel Aviv relations are affected, at least overtly as well as Israel's Western and regional relationships. Fumbling a "military action against a civilian convoy....is something that works directly against American policies."

Given what's happened and world outrage, "the issue has....shifted from a military question to a political one." Key ahead is how Israel, Washington and Ankara will react, besides the potential effect on other world governments, given growing demands for accountability and mass public calls for action.

Friedman discounts the idea that the commandos used "paintballs" in the attack, calling them "training rounds" not likely to be used during a mission of this sort, especially on a ship with over 600 activists. Claiming it flies in the face of up to 20 killed and many more wounded, Friedman added:

"We find this hard to believe, given Israel's extensive experience (against) hostile civilian crowds," perhaps ready to offer resistance.

Israel's Shayetet 13 force is an elite Naval Special Forces unit, specializing in sea-to-land incursions, assassinations, counterterrorism, sabotage, and other belligerent acts - not crowd control, "so a civilian opposition would not necessarily be their area of expertise," a mission Israeli police could have handled.

Friedman omitted what Today's Zaman reported (an English language Turkish daily) on June 7, stating:

"Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek (said) Turkish citizens who were injured or killed were subjected to serious torture, and this much is evident from traces left on their bodies as well as from bullet shots, most of which were fired at close range."

The paper's photographer, Kursat Bayhan, was on the Mavi Marmara and related his "30 hours in cell number 5202" in Beer-Sheva Prison. All their belongings were taken. They were body-searched, handcuffed, photographed, forced to sign a document saying they weren't harmed, those requesting return of their luggage and passports then beaten, how Israel treats virtually all detainees.

Fallout from the Flotilla Massacre

Joshua Landis is Director of the Center for Middle East Studies and Professor of Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma. On his June 1 web site posting, Syria Comment, he headlined, "Israel Pays High Price for Attack on Turkish Flotilla with Aid for Gaza," saying the damage is mounting:

  • Greece "decided to discontinue the joint military exercise currently under way and to postpone" the Athens visit of Israel's air force general staff head, scheduled for June 1;
  • Turkey recalled its ambassador, and its foreign minister says "relations are irreparable;"
  • Netanyahu had to cancel his important Washington visit;
  • an emergency UN Security Council session was called, no surprise afterward that Washington prevented any meaningful resolution;
  • "Obama will try to distance the US from Israel in due course. What choice does he have? Israel is increasingly a millstone around America's neck;"
  • China got Washington to agree to exempt its companies from US measures for doing business with Iran for whatever new sanctions it agreed to;
  • "Negotiations will now become harder and more costly for the US as the world largely sees (its) effort to punish Iran to be driven by Israeli concerns. Iran hardly threatens the US," Israel or any other nation.

On May 31 in Foreign Policy, Professor Stephen Walt headlined "Israel's latest brutal blunder," saying:

"What could Israel's leaders have been thinking? How could they possibly believe that a deadly assault against a humanitarian mission in international waters would play to their advantage?" Actions like this galvanize efforts to "delegitimize the country....This latest escapade is as bone-headed as the 2006 war in Lebanon" and Cast Lead. They provide "more evidence of the steady deterioration in Israel's strategic thinking that we have witnessed since 1967."

Importantly, the Flotilla attack "poses a broader threat to US national interests" because the world associates Israel's actions with Washington, given the  "unbreakable bonds" between them. It's clear that "the special relationship with Israel has become a net liability." Tel Aviv portraying itself as a blameless victim is wearing thin, a shameless canard, increasingly likely ahead to fall on deaf ears.

On January 19, 2009, after Cast Lead, Walt addressed "The Myth of Israel's strategic genius," saying:

The record shows otherwise. Israel's military victories are often strategic failures, showing it's expert only at shooting itself in the foot, so far at least without consequences, but for how long.

According to noted Israeli supporter Leon Wieseltier, its settlements project was another "moral and strategic blunder of historic proportions," one, in fact, "never openly debated within the Israeli body politic," but taken behind closed doors.

For decades, Israel has stumbled from one strategic blunder to another, showing there's "no reason to think (it) possesses uniquely gifted strategists or a national security establishment that consistently makes smart and far-sighted choices."

Yet remarkably, some of its most incompetent leaders, including Ehud Barak, Ehud Olmert, Ariel Sharon, and Netanyahu are rewarded with new chances to repeat mistakes, perhaps because of Washington's unflagging support, but for how long, given the price America pays for damaged goods, compounding its own appalling record abroad and at home with a shelf life of definite limits and an ability to preserve it running out of cash.

Perhaps also its willingness to stick with a dubious partner, the same problem Washington faces with  allies, sooner or later to get fed up and walk away, cutting their losses to advantage their own futures. The same ones Americans should consider for their own welfare, and assess how far they'll go to defend it.


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