WASHINGTON (FinalCall.com) – Even in the face of world condemnation of Israel over the killing of nine activists attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza May 31, President Barack Obama and his entire administration stood staunchly by the Jewish state, refusing to condemn to aggressive military tactics, and refused too join the international call for an independent investigation of the deadly incident in the open seas.
The widespread outrage also did nothing to keep Israel June 5 from seizing another aid ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, which attempted to sail into Gaza from Ireland.
Speaking on CNN’s “Larry King Live” June 3, Mr. Obama condemned “all the acts that led up to this violence,” without condemning the Israeli use of overwhelming force on the unarmed activists attempting to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The president went on to describe the loss of life as “unnecessary,” and said his administration is calling for “an effective investigation of everything that happened.”
“Here’s what we’ve got. You’ve got a situation in which Israel has legitimate security concerns when they’ve got missiles raining down on cities along the Israel/Gaza border. I’ve been to those towns and seen the holes that were made by missiles coming through people’s bedrooms.Israel has a legitimate concern there,” he said.
He concluded by noting that it was now important that “we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we can figure out how we can meet Israel’s security concerns but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians.” Vice President Joseph Biden, as well as prominent supporters of Israel also spoke with one voice concerning the 3,000 or so missiles fired by Palestinians during the 2009 Israeli siege in which 1,400 Palestinians were killed compared to 13 Israelis.
“This is a lot of hyperbole, and a lot of noise, having to do with perceived Israeli self interest,” researcher John Steinbach told The Final Call. “It’s the Israelis that are making the most noise, and I would suggest it is the Israeli tail that’s wagging the U.S. dog on this issue.”
Worldwide protests against the Israeli attack went on for days.Thousands took to the streets in Washington, New York, San Francisco, Turkey, Malaysia, Pakistan and several Middle Eastern cities to condemn the Israeli offensive.Even in the Indian capital New Delhi, hundreds marched to the Israeli Embassy June 3 to express their outrage.
Despite the international calls for a multinational investigation of Israel’s raid, world condemnation was swiftly rejected by the Israelis. One proposal was for former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer to head the inquiry, with representatives from Turkey—under whose flag many of the ships in the aid convoy sailed—Israel and the U.S., an official from Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office told reporters.
But Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, told Fox News June 6: “We are rejecting an international commission. We are discussing with the Obama administration a way in which our inquiry will take place.”
Congressional Black Caucus Chair Barbara Lee (D-Calif.)and Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.) sent a letter to the president, asking for an investigation into flotilla incident and calling for an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
“As Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, we are deeply troubled by the military action aboard the aid flotilla en route to Gaza earlier this week, resulting in the death of nine civilians, including one American,” their letter said. “We ask you to do two things: first, do everything in your power to support a thorough investigation into the incidents on the flotilla; second, call for a lifting of the blockade on Gaza.
“This tragedy did not need to happen. We are dismayed by the use of force, both by the Israeli Defense Force (IDF) members and the individuals on the Mavi Marmara ship that left both IDF soldiers and individuals from the flotilla injured. We denounce the use of unnecessary force and we believe that no good can come out of the harming of innocents. With that in mind, we strongly support the United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon’s call for a prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent investigation.
“The United States must also work with its allies to address the on-going humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Recent events are undoubtedly linked to the counterproductive blockade on Gaza, which punishes ordinary citizens, and strengthens Hamas’ control over commerce.
“The Israeli blockade on Gaza has left more than 80 percent of Gazans dependent on some form of food aid. Cement is still being prevented from entering and as a result, many of the schools and homes destroyed in the ongoing conflict have not been rebuilt. This situation is unsustainable, and undermines the efforts of peacemakers seeking to improve the lives and security of both Israelis and Palestinians.”
The National Black Church Initiative, a coalition of 34,000 African American churches, added its voice to those of governments andhuman rights organizations, “strongly condemn(ing)” the Israeli actions.“The Israeli government seems emboldened to take advantage of an administration that does not have a clear comprehensive policy toward the Middle East,” the Rev. Anthony Evans said in a statement.
“The Israeli raid constitutes evil in the modern world. How can they expect that the Black church, born out of the ashes of brutal slavery, discrimination, and prejudice, not to speak with a voice of condemnation towards human rights abuse? Does the Israeli government truly believe that they can act with impunity with their terrorist acts? Is it not terrorism that the Israeli government inflicts on the Israeli people every day of their lives to cut them off from their families, commerce, and worship?” the statement continued.
In addition, the chorus of Jewish opposition in this country is also gaining momentum. “We regret and deplore the killings which took place (with) Israeli troops, in defiance of international law,” Tikkun magazine, edited by San Francisco Rabbi Michael Lerner and the Network of Spiritual Progressives said in a statement May 31, which also condemned the blockade of Gaza as “a morally outrageous policy.”
“We ask all people of peace to dedicate at least 15 minutes to silent memorial for those peace activists who have been killed and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend. The network organized a protest to be held in Lafayette Park opposite the White House Sunday, June 13.
“Israel’s catastrophic misadventure on the high seas … has only deepened the chasm that splits (American Jews) into two camps,” those who support Israel’s policies without reservation, and those who consider the Israeli blockade as well as Palestinian efforts to block the so-called “two-state solution” to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict “counterproductive,” and “a calamity,” Harold Meyerson wrote in The Washington Post June 2, one day after dozens of Jewish members of Neturei Karta, which opposes the takeover of Palestinian lands, joined members of the International ANSWER Coalition, protesting in front of the White House.
World condemnation of the Israeli military action “is a nightmare for the Israelis,” said Mr. Steinbach, “I think it’s an even bigger nightmare for the Obama administration, because they’re trying to walk a diplomatic tightrope, and essentially all of Israel’s European allies have strenuously condemned this act of piracy in the Mediterranean. The real issue is that the U.S. is finding itself in an absolutely untenable situation.”
Five Irish citizens deported from Israel were back in their country June 5 after the seizure of a vessel named in honor of a young American woman killed by an Israeli Defense Force bulldozer as she protested the destruction of Palestinian homes in Gaza.
According to press reports, the former UN assistant secretary-general Denis Halliday and Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire were among the deportees.
Video: The Big Story: Israel’s deadly attack on aid convoy (PRESS TV, 06-09-2010)
Israel condemned for deadly attack on aid ships (FCN, 06-08-2010)
Turkey vows response to Israeli attack (PRESS TV, 05-31-2010)
Israel declares war on peace groups (FCN, 01-08-2010)
Palestine: If Americans Knew (FCN, Alison Wier Interview, 12-24-2007)