Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Feeding apathy

The NY Times reported on the Israeli killing of activists on humanitarian aid ships trying to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Looking at the three videos linked to the article, two of which are IDF videos, it's quite clear that, unless the evidence is so cleverly doctored it made it past NYT fact checkers, the activists attacked the IDF troops even before their boots touched the deck of the ship. Several attackers rushed each IDF commando, beating them with metal rods and even throwing one of them over the rail onto a lower deck. The video provided by the activists, by contrast, just showed later victims and blood on the decks. Actual moment-of-shooting videos have not surfaced to my knowledge.
It seems quite clear this is not a case of nonviolent activists shot in cold blood by marauding Zionists. The IDF was acting either illegally or at least radically inadvisedly in boarding these ships in international waters. The activists were not innocents and may not have brought guns to the fray, but they certainly had weapons that would have killed any troops without good helmets.
What could these activists have been thinking? That stupid Israel would not have video of everything when they came with their high tech helicopter crews of commandos? That the Arab world would rise up to help the brave Turks who attacked the IDF members? That US and EU voters would now demand punishing the trigger-happy IDF? And why on Earth did this 'Freedom Flotilla' not require nonviolence training and a commitment to nonviolence for the duration of this campaign?
After all, the dynamics are more and more well understood by the day. Innocent nonviolent actionists are going to be defended much more easily in the court of public opinion than are those who choose violence. Israel has certainly proven they will act with impunity, since their military is so heavily subsidized by the US and there are zero strings attached, not even basic human rights. To affect the US voter, which is what must happen in order to change US policy, a very serious promotional campaign with squeaky clean nonviolence is required.
Is this fair? Of course not. If you believe in the Just War doctrine, and if you subscribe to the international law governing the high seas, the activists had a perfect right to violently repel the illegal IDF boarding commandos. What is stunning is that these activists cannot seem to tell the difference between a legal right in name only and effective action, either militarily (pictured is the Hamas navy roaring into action) or in eliciting worldwide support. This is a problem for many struggles and the Palestinian struggle is the most publicized of all of them.
Basically, US citizens will look at the video and say, well, I am afraid of everyone in that little scenario. Glad it's over there and not here. Those people have been feuding and killing each other for thousands of years and I can't do anything because both sides have a good case and both sides use violence.
As a justice activist, I cannot condemn the violence of the activists in one sense, but as a pacifist and as one who teaches and researches nonviolence, I can say they acted wrongly and ineffectively. As a human, I condemn the IDF as flat-out murderers again. At least the UN Security Council (pictured) has deplored the action and has called for an investigation.

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