It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged.
How many civilians were killed in Israel’s dawn attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla of aid? We still don’t know. How many wounded? Your guess is as good as mine. Were the aid activists armed with guns? Yes, says Israel. Were they in cahoots with al-Qaeda and Hamas? Certainly, says Israel. Did the soldiers act reasonably? Of course, they faced a lynch, says Israel.
If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.
The passengers on the ships, meanwhile, have been kidnapped by Israel and are unable to provide an alternative version of events. We can guess they will remain in enforced silence until Israel is sure it has set the news agenda.
So before we get swamped by Israeli hasbara let’s reiterate a few simple facts:
- Israeli soldiers invaded these ships in international waters, breaking international law, and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime. The counter-claim by Israeli commanders that their soldiers responded to an imminent "lynch" by civilians should be dismissed with the loud contempt it deserves.
- The Israeli government approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandoes. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby and a Holocaust survivor.
- Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in belligerent occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants. Given that the blockade has put Palestinians there on a starvation diet for the past four years, Israel should long ago have been in the dock for committing a crime against humanity.
Today, Israel chose to direct its deadly assault not only at Palestinians under occupation but at the international community itself.
Will our leaders finally be moved to act?