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Americans and Israelis Are Generally Good People, But Our Governments’ Actions Are Counter-Productive

There was an attack Monday by the Israeli military on a 6-ship flotilla, a part of the Free Gaza Movement, which was bringing much needed humanitarian supplies to the people of Gaza. The humanitarian activists of the flotilla were warned by Israel to not attempt to get through the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Israel had said that it would allow the transportation by land of the humanitarian aid, following inspection for security reasons. Israel had allowed some shipments of humanitarian aid to get to Gaza between 2007 and the Gaza War of 2009-09, but not since the war. On the one hand, we have an economically collapsed and impoverished Gaza and their desperate supporters who want to help the people there, and who perhaps should have listened to the Israelis’ warnings, and now over 15 of them are killed. On the other hand, we have an overly-militaristic and somewhat paranoid Israeli government that goes overboard in its attempt to protect Israelis from possible terrorist attacks, a result of government-monopolization of territorial security.

It is extremely difficult to know what to believe when both sides give differing accounts of specific events. And the videos I’ve seen are not helpful. Of course, Israel’s radio jamming and censorship regarding this fiasco doesn’t help matters. When the Israeli government has to do radio jamming and censoring, immediately that makes me suspicious. Why do they have to do that, except to engage in covering up information, covering up the truth, and helping their own propagandizing? And it makes me more skeptical of the legitimacy of reports that the Israeli government found a weapons cache on board the ships. While some have accused the flotilla of smuggling weapons to Hamas, the Turkish PM stated that the flotilla was inspected for weapons before being allowed to take off.

The flotilla contained 600 people, mostly activists.  However, there is reason to believe that, while most of the intent was to bring tons of humanitarian aid to the Gazans, some of the intent may have been to “bring attention to the Israeli siege of Gaza.” Which does deserve attention, in my opinion, as such a siege and blockage (one might describe more accurately as “sanctions”) have received condemnation from many major international human rights organizations. The Israeli government’s treatment of the people of Gaza has been described as a “collective prison.”

Meanwhile, Turkey accuses Israel of “state terrorism,” as reported by the left-leaning Haaretz newspaper, and Israeli PM Netanyahu claims the military acted in “self-defense,” according to the pro-Israeli government Jerusalem Post. The U.K. Guardian compares the Israeli action to Somali pirates. And Salon‘s Glenn Greenwald notes,

….The flotilla attacked by Israel last night was carrying materials such as cement, water purifiers, and other building materials, much of which Israel refuses to let pass into Gaza.  At the end of 2009, a U.N. report found that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory,” and also “blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.”

It hardly seemed possible for Israel — after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade — to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes.  But by attacking a flotilla in international waters carrying humanitarian aid, and slaughtering at least 10 people, Israel has managed to do exactly that.  If Israel’s goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt for it as possible, it’s hard to imagine how it could be doing a better job….

Mondoweiss‘s Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz had this early report, and Moshe Yaroni calls the action “Israel’s Kent State”, an example of government’s overreaction to civil disobedience:

….We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”

Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.

No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.

When I first heard confirmed reports of this massacre, I thought of the Kent State shootings in 1970….

But at Kent State, the shootings resulted from high tensions and one person losing control, causing others to follow his lead. Was that the case here? I suppose one must allow the possibility, but the quick response of the government certainly gives the appearance that it was not that simple….

While the aid flotilla is of the Free Gaza Movement, which is an international human rights organization to shine the spotlight on the Israeli blockade of Gaza that prevents humanitarian aid from getting to Gaza, Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick nevertheless refers to it as a “Hamas flotilla” and the killed civilian activists as “Hamas supporters.” That is pure propaganda, given that the purpose of the flotilla primarily is to get the tons of humanitarian supplies to the Palestinians in Gaza, and, in fact, the Free Gaza website doesn’t even mention Hamas, except in some posted news items. And some of the more conservative opinion-oriented websites I’ve seen have the words activist and humanitarian aid in quotation marks, to show their blind trust in the Israeli government’s and mainstream media’s reporting on this fiasco.

The situation in Gaza is that the Israeli military caused much of Gaza’s destruction during the  ’08-’09 war, and with the blockade they have been preventing the rebuilding of the area as well as preventing basic medical supplies and foods to get into Gaza. It is very similar to the U.S. government’s bombing of Iraqi infrastructures including water treatment and sewage facilities, followed by U.S. and U.N.- imposed sanctions that prevented the rebuilding of Iraq’s infrastructures and deliberately promoting disease including cancer and increased child mortality rates throughout the 1990s.

To some people, unfortunately, any criticism of the Israeli government just sticks in their craw, and is seen as literally blasphemous, as anti-Semitic, as “pro-terrorist.” They just cannot fathom the possibility that the Israeli government and military themselves are capable of committing terrorist acts, and of persecuting a segment of a population. Well, let me tell you something. The Jews do not own “being persecuted.” The Jews do not own “prison camps.” It actually can happen to people among other religions, other races and cultures, and it actually can be committed by Jews.

There is a problem among many people, however, and that is the inability to distinguish between people of a particular territory and their government. Neoconservatives such as Glick mentioned above do not seem to distinguish between the Gaza Palestinians in general and the Gaza territory’s governing agency Hamas. It is a tiny minority of extremist groups such as Hamas who have been committing the terrorist acts, and it is Hamas whose charter includes specific references to the destruction of Israel. Likewise, it is necessary to distinguish between the people of Israel and the Israeli government, just as it is necessary to distinguish between Americans and their government. It is not Americans who have been intruding and destroying Middle-Eastern countries such as Iraq and Afghanistan, but the U.S. government.

And it seems that so many war supporters in the U.S. do not want to recognize that a major motivation for the terrorism or terrorist attempts against the U.S. has been the terrorists’ reaction to the intrusive and violent actions of the U.S. government in the Middle-East. This analysis is not one of “Blame America.” Rather it is “Blame the U.S. Government,” a group of professional career politicians and parasitic bureaucrats who have no sense of long range planning, no sense of national sovereignty and no sense of morality. The same can be said of the Israeli government. The terrorist acts against the U.S. are examples of blowback for invasive and destructive U.S. policies, and terrorist acts against Israel have been blowback for the Israeli government’s destructive and immoral policies, particularly with Gaza. And we are already seeing the blowback of the Israeli government’s actions this week in Turkey.

A lot of people will feel offended by my description of the Israeli government’s apartheid of treating Palestinians or Arabs as second class citizens. They either do not know about it, or they do know but don’t care or feel it is justified. There is a double standard by those who say, “Never Forget” about the way Nazi Germany persecuted the Jews and others, but who look the other way when it is the Jews doing the persecuting. The problems we face are caused by State’s governments. It is the agents of the State who are doing the persecuting.

This situation this week is a typical example of the State vs. the people. The one big difference between governments and other institutions is that governments (or “States”) have the power of compulsion over others, and have government- and police-protected monopolies of various endeavors, especially territorial protection. That’s where we go wrong. First of all, no institution should have the power of compulsion over others, because that’s simply immoral, no matter how it is rationalized. And second, anyone who understands economics and basic human action knows that any monopoly which is protected by the State, by aggression, will be automatically corrupted by power, and thus its effectiveness diminished and its ability to provide actual quality of service smooshed. The bigger and more powerful the State, the more totalitarian will be its treatment of the people over whom the State rules. That is an inherent part of compulsory, monopolistic States. Israel is no different.

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