(May 31, 2010, 1400 hours, Haifa) — The full extent of the murder on the Gaza-bound flotilla of boats by the Israeli Navy is not yet known. Israeli forces attacked the boats in the open seas this morning in an attempt to halt their efforts to break the blockade on the beleaguered population. The latest figures indicate that fifteen people have been murdered with more than thirty wounded, including Internationals, Palestinian Arabs and Jews.
It is quite clear that unarmed civilians, carrying food, medicine, and building supplies intended for civilian use, were attacked by Israeli forces without any provocation whatsoever. The boats were in the open seas sailing to Gaza to deliver these goods, a perfectly normal venture in normal times. The Israeli land and sea blockade of Gaza is illegal in international law and therefore, despite Israeli protests to the contrary – as always and as expected – any attribution of illegality or “provocation” to the flotilla belongs to the realm of agit-prop! The criminal actors guilty of illegality in this affair are the Israeli forces who have violated international public law and the humanitarian laws or laws of war. The PLO hijacking of the Achille Lauro p in 1986 in an attempt to free Palestinian political prisoners held illegally in Israeli prisons is held up as an act of terrorism. However, it can be argued, and correctly in my legal opinion, that the actual and continuing occupation and colonization of Palestine itself is the original and continuing crime. Resistance to conquest is not, and cannot be defined, as criminal. However, if the West considered that it was an act of terrorism, how should we now describe this latest Israeli attack? It can, and should, be defined as the very epitome of a double terrorism: the first act of terror is the use of military force on the high seas, while the second act of terror is the use of this illegitimate force against hors de combatunarmed civilians! Will this put the Israel Defence Forces on a list of illegal terrorist organizations?
The cold-blooded murder of unarmed civilians by government forces is the most damning of government actions. It is not only a crime, or an atrocity, or a massacre – which is bad enough in itself – but carries with it the irremovable mark of Cain, the mark of murder! Government murder, of necessity, contaminates a political system that practices it, and inextricably and inevitably causes political delegitimization of such a government. The reason for this is that it is the equivalent of an act of war against parties who, by definition, are not and cannot be parties to a war, and in many cases are members of the same body politic as the offending government! This is why when governments act this way they attempt do so covertly, although this is becoming increasingly difficult. Amongst the most glaring examples of such actions, are the massacres carried out by police during protests against the racist apartheid government of South Africa in Sharpeville in 1960 and Soweto in1976. Unarmed civilians were mowed down for protesting against the continuing actions of the white-only government intended to weaken and fracture the Black community. Both events were strongly condemned by the politically unrepresented Black majority and the local white opposition, as well as the international community, thus contributing to the increased tarnishing of the apartheid regime and its inherent illegitimacy. It was precisely just such government actions that ultimately led to the suspension by the United Nations of South Africa, and the worldwide boycott and sanctions against it. These actions might not have collapsed the regime in and of themselves, but they weakened that most precious yet amorphous, but vitally necessary component of any government: the assent of the governed and their uncoerced cooperation. The Black community of South Africa withdrew its cooperation with the government from that point forward. The response of the government was further and widening repression, which people knew was an expression of its growing weakness in the face of this non-cooperation and resistance. In the end, the South African racist regime could not hold out and lost the battles and the war!
In the present instance, it is obvious that the Israeli regime found itself between the Scylla of having the blockade broken and the Charybdis of negative world public opinion following an attack on the flotilla. They did not want to set an unacceptable precedent because of the ramifications concerning the unqualified rights of maritime traffic into and out of Gaza, the rights of Gazans to have and develop their fishing industry, and the rights of Palestine to all the natural gas and oil in its territorial waters, etc. I have no doubt that they did not want to kill anyone, if only because of the bad publicity such killing generates, and not necessarily out of any moral considerations, but the situation was such that there was no other way to offset the resistance of peoples’ bodies. Given what they have just done at this time of this writing, I have no doubt that the situation will worsen over the next few hours, days, and weeks. No amount of artificial Islamophobia and “security” propaganda will be able to erase the blame for bloodshed that now attaches to the Israeli government. Furthermore, what exacerbates the image problem for the Israeli government is that it is no longer Arab blood that has been spilt, but nice “white” or “European” blood that, in the West, is different from Arab or Muslim blood. The international reverberations and the trial against Israeli officials in the case of Rachel Corrie, who was deliberately murdered by an Israeli bulldozer driver for attempting to stop the demolition of a Palestinian home, should have provided sufficient warning to the Israeli regime of what is now about to unfold. Having chosen to confront the flotilla, it has now fallen into the proverbial biblical pit of its own making!
It is my assessment that this latest attack, with its future political reverberations, is the equivalent of Israel’s crossing the Rubicon. It is not “just” the use of force against hors de combatcivilians?something which it has been doing for decades?but the murder and use of force against non-Arab and non-Palestinian internationals, people who are completely external to the Jewish-Palestinian conflict. In addition, the attack took place on the high seas and not within Israeli territorial waters, thereby violating international norms in the international arena, beyond the boundaries of Occupied Palestine.
This event therefore marks not merely a quantitative increase in the number of non-Palestinians killed by Israel within the framework of the Palestinian struggle, but it also marks a qualitative change in the nature of the resistance, a change that I predict will and should become much more pronounced in the very near future. Since today, we have a growing list of foreign martyrs murdered by the Israelis in the non-violent struggle for the Palestinian cause. We are also witnessing an increased number of people from Israel taking part in this particular struggle. An Israeli member of Knesset, Hanin Zoobi, and the universally respected leader of the Northern Islamic movement, Sheikh Raad Salah, were on board. The latest news is that the Sheikh has been seriously wounded, and if this is the case, then I predict that this will lead to non-cooperation and resistance on the part of the Palestinian Arab community of Israel and their Jewish allies, paralleling the situation in the last stages of apartheid Africa.
This latest action carries within it the seeds of future joint International, Palestinian and Jewish cooperation in the Palestinian struggle. Future attempts to break the illegal blockade by the sailing of unarmed vessels will provide a unique opportunity to engage in non-violent resistance to tyranny. It is my hope that what is happening today is only the beginning of a groundswell of cooperative resistance in which we will find more and more Jewish Israelis who are prepared to confront their own government in such actions.
Lynda Brayer is a human rights lawyer living in Haifa, Palestine, who is an active participant in the One State in Palestine movement and supports the Return of Palestinian Refugees to Palestine. She can be reached at [email protected]