Cut Israel Some Slack? – No! By Miko Peled

There is still doubt in the minds of serious people about Israel’s attack on the Free Gaza flotilla and the events that lead to the death of 9 of the activists aboard.  There can be little surprise of course because the commander of the Israeli Navy,  Admiral Eliezer Marom, claims the mission was a success. According to him, thanks to the restraint shown by the Israeli soldiers no innocent activists were hurt,  the soldiers returned  safely to their base and “9 terrorists were killed.” So there are people, perhaps you event know them, who feel that we should “cut Israel some slack.”  Well, I say no!

The people aboard Free Gaza flotilla were brave peace activists and were it not for a work commitment I would have been on that flotilla with them. The claims that they were connected to terrorist organizations are bologna. They had three objectives: to bring much needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza, to provoke and embarrass Israel, and to get world attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.  Nine of these activists gave their lives to achieve this.

Armed Israeli commandos attacked the flotilla in international waters in an act of piracy. The people aboard the boat did what every navel officer would tell you was their duty: they heroically defended their ship and their cargo and, as we know, nine people gave their lives in this act of heroism.  The Israeli commandos in panic and cowardice fired into the unarmed crowd, killing nine, and thus turned a mishap into an unspeakable tragedy.

Had I been able to go on the Free Gaza flotilla this would have been my third attempt to enter the besieged Gaza where Israel has imprisoned and is slowly starving 1.4 million civilians, including 800,000 children. Palestinians have never had an army, a navy, a tank or a plane, yet they are being held under siege and are constantly attacked, suffering countless civilian casualties, horrific disease and inexcusable misery.

There are claims that the activists upon the Free Gaza flotilla wanted to provoke Israel and that they were not merely innocent peace activist.  Well, activism is meant to provoke. Activist is not sitting idly by and watching the world go around.  Contrary to the myth many white Americans like to believe, when Rosa Parks boarded a bus and took a seat designated for white people she was not just an African-American woman who was tired. She was an activist who was on a mission; she was there to provoke a system that was rooted in the crime of systemic racist segregation with which parts of this country was plagued.  When four African-American students staged the Greensboro sit in February 1960, they did not sit at the whites-only lunch counter just because they were hungry. If we recall MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela it is clear that activism is meant to provoke and expose evil, to call attention to it and then to get rid of it.  The siege on Gaza is one such evil.  The people aboard the flotilla were doing the right thing.

One has to wonder what is worse, to commit a crime or to justify it? Who are worse, those who committed the Jewish holocaust, the Armenian genocide and the enslavement and murder of Africans? Or those who profit, justify or deny these horrors took place? Being Jewish and an Israeli myself, having had a father who was a general in the Israeli  and having served in the Israeli army I say this: denying or justifying Israel’s actions is tantamount to denying or defending all crimes against humanity.

Sadly, all one hears from the US is that the situation in Gaza is “unsustainable.” One has to wonder how many opinion polls were taken and and how many brilliant communications experts it took to come up with this bland, overcooked, pussyfoot expression.  I am sure they had to get  the Department of State, the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC to OK it  before the President uttered this unbearably lifeless word.  The situation in Gaza is not unsustainable, the situation in Gaza and in all parts of Palestine is catastrophic.

Shocking But Not Surprising. By Miko Peled

Is it possible to be shocked and yet not be surprised? Israel’s stupidity and disregard for human life is nothing new. It is a recurring theme in the life of the Jewish state from its very inception. Surely as the destruction in Gaza remains untouched18 months after the murderous attacks that began on December 27, 2008 there can be no surprise at Israeli brutality. Yet as the news unfolded and the images of the Israeli assault on the flotilla to Gaza began to unravel a sense of shock was expressed everywhere.

Israel too is shock stricken. Not by the sheer brutality of its forces, or by the injustice of the siege on Gaza but by the PR blunder and fact that this “military mission” was a failure. Once again Israeli commandos are shown to be weak and helpless. How could the decision makers not see that this would damage Israel’s image in the eyes of world and even worse, in the eyes of Israel’s enemies?

Israeli foreign ministry officials claim that Europe and the rest of the world have increased their diplomatic assault on Israel. They claim the world is emboldened by the fact that the American stand in support of Israel has weakened. This they will say is the fault of President Obama, a President Israelis never cared for anyway. The notion that the world is coming to a point where it is unable to bear the racism and brutality of Israel as a state never enters the conversation. Israeli talking heads will not apologize, will not stray from the official line: We, Israelis are right and they, everyone else are wrong; We are good and they are evil; we are victims of age old anti Semitism and they are hateful, violent Muslims intending to kill innocent Jews.

Lives were lost due to a cowardly reaction of trained assassins who were sent to a mission for which they were clearly unprepared, so in a way one can claim that the killers themselves are not to blame, those who sent them are. In the murky relations between the military and the civilian government in Israel it is quite common to fault the lowest person on the totem poll and more often than not it is the military. In this case the mission was an act of piracy aimed at a very determined group of activists who had no intention of backing down. The fact that this particular group of activists took on this difficult and dangerous mission should have in itself been a warning to the Israeli officials that they would not back down and would put up a fight.

There can be no argument as to the courage displayed by the activists aboard the ships as armed pirates with an overwhelming military power attacked them. The pirates, trained Israeli commandos who are known for their brutality and total lack of regard for human life were armed to the teeth and had the support of the Israeli navy, air force and ground forces. Yet as they boarded the ships they were met with a justifiably angry and clearly determined crowd who were not willing to let go of their boats and cargo. Tragically some of them paid for this determination with their lives.

Will this tragedy bring any change? Clearly the only thing that can bring change is a strategic decision by President Obama to divorce the United States from the dysfunctional relationship with Israel. When the President decides that it is time to end the Israeli war on Palestinians he will engage in a head on collision with Israel and its American bully, AIPAC. It is no secret that advisers whose Zionist prejudice surround the President and naturally one is forced to wonder if a strategic shift of such magnitude is possible. Still, if one judges by the fear expressed in Israel perhaps there is some change, some outrage among the Presidents men.

One is reminded of a country long forgotten, by the name of South Vietnam, a country reduced to no more than a paragraph in the history books. Once it was a major American ally in the fight against communism, a country to whom the US promised never ending support. But one day in 1975 as North Vietnamese forces began to overrun the country, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu requested aid from U.S. President Gerald Ford. The U.S. Senate would not release extra money to provide aid to South Vietnam and in fact the Senate had already passed laws to prevent further involvement in Vietnam altogether.

It was only a few years earlier that my father, Matti Peled, then a retired Israeli Army General visited South Vietnam at the request of the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. He spent a month in South Vietnam and sent reports that Ma’ariv published. My father, who was an armament and logistics expert, reported that US support for South Vietnam was coming to an end. There was nothing in the rhetoric off US officials to support this, but in speaking to South Vietnamese generals he learned that the South Vietnamese army was running out of spare parts and that the US was no longer replacing them.

The moral of this story is that when Americans get tired of something they are not shy about it. It is not unlikely that when Americans get tired of paying $10 million per day of their hard earned money to the state of Israel that the President will act. The question is how many innocent Palestinian lives will be lost until that day arrives.