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Israel’s Kent State « Realistic Peace in Israel-Palestine

Israel’s Kent State

By Moshe Yaroni

Having worked on the issue of Israel and its myriad conflicts for many years, one gets used to tragedy and even to stunningly abhorrent behavior. And indeed, I have seen more than enough of both from all sides in this conflict.

But every once in a while, things take a turn, and that turn is punctuated by a singular, stunning event. The murderous raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this day was one such event.

The Mavi Marmara, one of the ships that was stormed

I waited to start writing this until there was some official statement from Israel. I did that because I want to start off with Israel’s explanation for this horror. Here’s what the IDF spokesperson said, in part:

During the intercept of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants onboard the ships were planning to lynch the forces.

I am sure, as is always the case, there will be those who believe this version of events. But frankly, I can’t see how anyone can do so unless they are so desperate to justify Israel’s action here that they’ll believe anything. Let’s examine the IDF’s version of events.

We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”

Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.

No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.

When I first heard confirmed reports of this massacre, I thought of the Kent State shootings in 1970. That horrific tragedy, like this one, was the result of a government using ridiculously disproportionate force against civil disobedience.

But at Kent State, the shootings resulted from high tensions and one person losing control, causing others to follow his lead. Was that the case here? I suppose one must allow the possibility, but the quick response of the government certainly gives the appearance that it was not that simple.

Friends and colleagues can tell you, I have been very critical of the Free Gaza Movement’s politics. Before this incident, I had criticized them for refusing to carry a letter and package from Noam Shalit to his son, Gilad. I’m familiar with many of the core activists and know some of them personally. I know their agenda is more than humanitarian; it is more than breaking the siege on Gaza, and it is more radical than I am comfortable with.

But I also know they are non-violent, and quite serious about that. They’re also not stupid, which any group of civilians would have to be to intentionally get into a violent clash with a significant military force. And while I may not be on the same page with them politically, they are entitled to their political views. And the action itself of breaking the blockade, carrying goods to the besieged Strip and showing some support for the million and a half innocent people of Gaza who bear the burden of this policy that has only strengthened Hamas is brave and positive.

The bottom line is that Israel raided these ships with commandoes, and the end result was a great deal of needless bloodshed. And apparently, according to the IDF spokesperson, as reported by journalist Gregg Carlstrom, they couldn’t even wait to do it until the ships had passed out of international waters, which makes it, if no explanation is forthcoming, an act of piracy as well.

Israel crossed a line today, in a way not dissimilar (though certainly of a much smaller scope, thankfully) to the line they crossed in their massive attack on Gaza in 2008-09. Whatever Israel’s detractors have said over the years, this incident, like Operation Cast Lead, was far beyond anything Israel has done in the past.

This was a shocking massacre, and there’s no way to pretty that up. These were people engaged in direct action of civil disobedience. True, the siege on Gaza should simply be lifted, but being that it’s there, yes, Israel can be expected to take action to stop the flotilla. But this doesn’t just go above and beyond and justification, it zooms light years past it.

The IDF talks of gunfire, but apparently the guns in question were taken from soldiers during the confrontation, not precipitating it, according to the IDF spokesperson’s statement: “According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. The violent activists took these pistols from IDF forces and apparently opened fire on the soldiers as evident by the empty pistol magazines. ” All of this begins with the Israeli tactics used to raid the ships.

Israel’s excuses are weak. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Ynet, “It was obvious to all that this was a media provocation, aimed at reaching a confrontation with Israel…We are not Shiite suicide attackers, and it is the soldiers’ duty to defend themselves.” If it wasn’t such a tragedy, I’d be rolling my eyes.

It is now up to the international community, and especially the United States, to take action. If the Obama Administration is to have any credibility left on this issue at all, it must forcefully denounce this action and call for an end to the siege of Gaza. The latter is not likely to happen, but the former is an absolute must. Without it, Obama will begin to be seen throughout not only the Arab and Muslim world, but also by Europe as little different from his predecessors on the Middle East issue.

No doubt as well the leaders of AIPAC, the ADL, AJC and similar groups will be quick to support the IDF’s absurd story here. The Jewish telegraphic Agency offers portent by simply parroting the IDF line and framing the incidents as “Protesters on ship bound for Gaza killed in rioting.”

We can do better, and we must. If there is to be any hope of stopping Israel from committing to this suicidal and murderous course it is on, and bringing its supporters around the world down with it, incidents like this must be denounced firmly, with calls for real accountability. This was a serious crime and it cannot be tolerated or excused away.

I think this is positive, any step toward a nuclear free world is a positive step.

The only problem is the language by the US/Obama administration in regards of Iran’s nuclear program.

If they had a smallest amount of decency in their blood, they would have cheered up all countries who want to create a nuclear free world and put pressure on the Apartheid regime of Israel to sign the NPT and accept IAEA to visit and investigate their nuclear facilities, the same way they are asking Iran to do so.

The world can not be free from nuclear weapons as long as the world leaders accept such double standards. Something that IRI dictatorship is using to justify their criminal behavior.

Israel key to conference on banning nuclear arms – Yahoo! News

Israel key to conference on banning nuclear arms

Under its action plan, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states — the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China — commit to speed up arms reductions, take other steps to diminish the importance of atomic weapons, and report back on progress by 2014. The plan also has 24 steps to promote nonproliferation including making the treaty universal to include Israel, Pakistan India and North Korea, to encourage tighter inspections and controls on nuclear trade to prevent development of secret weapons programs.

AP

James JonesAP – FILE – Retired Marine Corps Gen. James Jones testifies
on Capitol Hill in Washington in this Sept. 6, …

UNITED NATIONS – After 15 years, Arab nations finally won agreement from the United States and the other nuclear powers to take the first step toward banning nuclear weapons from the Middle East. Now, the next move is Israel’s.

Although the U.S. joined the 188 other member nations of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty on Friday in giving a green light to a conference in 2012 “on the establishment of a Middle East zone free of nuclear weapons and all other weapons of mass destruction,” senior U.S. officials appeared to backtrack afterward, setting several conditions for the talks to go ahead.

Taking the toughest line, U.S. National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones said in a statement Friday night that the United States has “serious reservations” about the 2012 conference and believes Mideast peace and full compliance by all countries in the region to their arms control and nonproliferation obligations “are essential precursors.” The compliance demand appeared to be aimed at Iran, which the U.S. believes is pursuing a nuclear weapons program despite Tehran’s claims its only goal is nuclear power.

Jones also strongly defended longtime U.S. ally Israel, which was singled out for not being a member of the NPT. He said the United States “deplores” the naming of Israel which puts prospects for the 2012 conference “in doubt.” As a cosponsor of the conference, Jones said the United States will ensure that it will only takes place “if and when all countries feel confident that they can attend.”

The Arab proposal for a WMD-free zone — to pressure Israel to give up its undeclared arsenal of perhaps 80 nuclear warheads — was endorsed by the 1995 NPT conference but never acted on. At this month’s NPT review, a conference to begin talks on a nuclear-free Mideast was considered by many delegates as “the make-or-break issue,” and agreement on the 2012 meeting was widely welcomed after the 28-page final declaration was approved by consensus.

But the U.S. reaction raised questions and doubts about whether Israel, Iran and other countries in the Mideast will even hold a meeting in two years.

Several delegates suggested that earlier comments by U.S. Undersecretary of State Ellen Tauscher and President Barack Obama‘s coordinator for weapons of mass destruction, Gary Samore, warning about the difficulties of holding a conference and persuading Israel to attend may have been sparked by the upcoming visit of Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to the White House on Tuesday.

Egypt’s U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz, speaking for the 118-nation Nonaligned Movement of mainly developing countries, said that during the negotiations there was “a little bit of disagreement” on mentioning Israel.

But he said NAM members thought that since the document issued at the end of the 2000 NPT review conference mentioned the need for Israel to join the treaty and subject its nuclear capabilities to International Atomic Energy Agency safeguards there was “no going back on that commitment” and Israel had to be mentioned in the 2010 document as well.

A Mideast conference on nuclear issues would put Israel and Iran, which has called for the destruction of the Jewish state, at the same table. But Abdelaziz told reporters the two countries already sat down at the same table at a meeting in Cairo last December.

“So there is nothing that could prevent any two adversaries to sit at the table and negotiate, and we hope that this is the spirit that everybody is going to be doing,” he said.

Iran had loomed as a potential spoiler that would block consensus at this conference, and Iran and Syria dissented loudly on various points in the final hours, but no objections were raised in the concluding session.

Facing possible new U.N. sanctions because of its refusal to suspend uranium enrichment and enter negotiations on its nuclear program, the Iranians had sought to turn the spotlight instead on the big nuclear powers, demanding the final document call for speedier disarmament moves.

Iran’s chief delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh lamented that the deadline of 2025 sought by NAM for complete disarmament was not included in the final document. Nonetheless, Soltanieh called “the limited measures” in the agreement “a step forward.”

While Israel was named, the final document did not single Iran out as a member nation that has been found to be in noncompliance with U.N. nuclear safeguards agreements.

Jones, the U.S. National Security Adviser, said the failure of the resolution to mention Iran, “which poses the greatest threat of nuclear proliferation in the region and to the integrity of the NPT, is also deplorable.” Earlier, Tauscher had also criticized Iran for doing “nothing to enhance the international community’s confidence in it by its performance in this review conference.”

Iran’s Soltanieh said the Americans should “think twice” before making such statements. “This was not the right reaction to a positive response, positive measure by our delegation joining the consensus,” he said.

According to the final document, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the co-sponsors of the 1995 Mideast resolution — the U.S., Russia and Britain — will now appoint a “facilitator” to conduct consultations in preparation for the 2012 conference.

Jones said the United States “will insist that the conference operate only by consensus by the regional countries” and that any further discussions or actions also be decided on this basis.

Britain’s chief negotiator, Ambassador John Duncan, said Friday’s decision is the start of a process and dialogue on a WMD-free zone in the Mideast.

“So it would be surprising if Israel was able to agree today to come to the proposed conference before that dialogue has taken place,” he said. “But the clear goal of this decision is to have all the countries of the region involved.”

Under the 1970 nonproliferation treaty, nations without nuclear weapons committed not to acquire them; those with them committed to move toward their elimination; and all endorsed everyone’s right to develop peaceful nuclear energy.

The last NPT conference, in 2005, failed to adopt a consensus declaration. In sharp contrast, a final declaration was not only adopted this year but for the first time it laid out complex action plans for all three of the treaty’s “pillars” — nonproliferation, disarmament and peaceful nuclear energy.

AP Ignores Science, Invents Iran ‘Coverup’ in Latest Speculation — News from Antiwar.com

AP Ignores Science, Invents Iran ‘Coverup’ in Latest Speculation

Common Industrial Equipment ‘Adds to Suspicions’

By Jason Ditz,
May 28, 2010

Always long on suspicion and short on facts, the Associated Press’ George Jahn today leaked the story of “missing” chemical equipment in Iran, and quickly tried to link it to “nuclear warheads.”

Titled “Diplomats say Iran removed equipment” the article details the ostensibly missing pyroprocessing equipment as a “breaking” story, says Iranian officials are “not answering their cell phones” and speculating about “an attempted coverup.”

Jahn calls pyroprocessing “a procedure that can be used to purify uranium metal used in nuclear warheads.” In fact pyroprocessing, though used in a number of common industrial environments, would only be of interest to the IAEA as a form of reprocessing spent nuclear fuel.

Far from a proliferation threat or something that, to quote Jahn, “adds to suspicions that Tehran is interested in developing nuclear weapons,” pyroprocessing of spent nuclear fuel, as will be left over in Iran’s soon to be active power plant, is designed specifically to allow maximum use of fuel without producing possible weaponizable byproducts.

Indeed, the whole story appears to exist purely in Jahn’s mind, as the IAEA is said to have no interest in commenting on the situation and even the quoted diplomats say the equipment was probably just taken to another site for maintenance.

The whole furore could likely have been avoided with a cursory understanding of what pyroprocessing of uranium fuel is all about, or even just waiting for Iran to return a phone call. With the war party ever hungry for more sensational stories about Iran’s “threat” there was no time for either, as it seems there never is.

Gaza aid flotilla: Why Israel expects to lose the PR war – CSMonitor.com

Gaza aid flotilla: Why Israel expects to lose the PR war

As a Gaza humanitarian flotilla carrying some 800 demonstrators and 10,000 tons of goods approaches its destination, Israeli officials are applying lessons learned from the previous eight Palestinian aid flotillas. But officials don’t expect the Israeli message to win the media campaign.

By Joshua Mitnick, Correspondent / May 28, 2010

Tel AvivWhen a few dozen pro-Palestinian activists first tested Israel’s naval blockade of the Gaza Strip – with a shipment of hearing aids and balloons in 2008 – Israel ducked the confrontation.

Now, with an estimated 800 demonstrators and 10,000 tons of goods expected to reach Gaza’s waters Saturday – the ninth and by far the largest such attempt – Israel has long since changed its approach.

Israeli commandos plant to intercept the Gaza aid flotilla, albeit with orders to avoid unnecessary conflict with civilian passengers, which include some Israeli Arab parliamentarians and foreign lawmakers. A VIP room will be prepared for those distinguished protesters in the southern Israeli port of Ashdod, where the navy plans to send the diverted ships.

IN PICTURES: Palestinian smugglers on the Egypt Gaza border

Israeli spokesmen, meanwhile, are being deployed in a defensive publicity war. They argue that Gazans have ample food and supplies despite the blockade, and that complaints should be directed at Hamas, the Palestinian faction that rules the territory and is considered by the US, Israel, and Europe to be a terrorist group.

But Israeli officials admit that they’re in a losing battle because they expect attention to focus on the humanitarian fallout of Israel’s three-year blockade on the coastal territory rather than on Hamas.

“We know one thing for sure, in the media we are going to lose the war anyhow,” says Shlomo Dror, a spokesman for Israel’s Defense Ministry. “It doesn’t matter what we do, if we let them into Gaza, they will speak against Israel. If we stop them it will also be a bad picture.”

‘We learned our lesson’ – Israeli spokesman

Two vessels, Liberty and Free Gaza, docked in Gaza in August 2008, when Israel’s military was convinced they were not ferrying and weapons. It also assessed that intercepting the ships would be more trouble than it was worth.

In October and November that year, two other ships were given the same treatment in the hope that the attempts would eventually stop.

But when the blockade-busting attempts didn’t let up, Israel ended its policy of benign neglect and began casting the protesters as allies of Hamas.

“We learned our lesson,” says Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor, characterizing the activists’ chief goal as being political more than humanitarian. “It was coordinated by Hamas.”

If the protesters really want to deliver humanitarian aid, they should do it through Israeli-controlled crossings, say officials.

Flotilla organizers say they have no connections to Hamas, and that there is no evidence that weapons have been delivered by humanitarian aid convoys in the past few years

Fears of weapons smuggling

Israel’s three-week offensive against Hamas in early 2009, designed to stop Gaza rocket attacks on southern Israel, both strengthened Israel’s perception of the strip as a “hostile entity” and placed the Jewish state under growing international scrutiny for its treatment of the civilian population of about 1.5 million.

The violence drew accusations of Israeli war crimes and stirred up criticism that the blockade of Gaza was a form of collective punishment and risked a humanitarian crisis. At the beginning of the war, one protest boat was turned away, and one shortly after was commandeered by the Israeli navy and forced to dock in Ashdod.

Mr. Dror says that the military concluded that if it continued to allow boats into Gaza, the aid shipments would eventually be used for weapons smuggling.

Israel hopes to deport activists by plane

The current blockade bust attempt by the Free Gaza Movement has further strained Israeli ties with Turkey, because the main passenger ship set sail from Istanbul.

Over the weekend, Israel is hoping for a swift interrogation of the flotilla participants at the port city of Ashdod and eventual deportation by air. The protesters could keep the story prominent in the international media if they fight deportation.

“It really does put the Israelis in a difficult position,” says Marcus Sheff, the local director of the Israel Project, a pro-Israel advocacy group. “This is the last thing that the IDF needs to spend time doing, chasing after Hamas-organized boats sailing under a humanitarian flags. It focuses attention on the wrong thing, this word, ‘blockade.’ ”