Meretz USA is saddened and dismayed by the deaths of at least nine international activists taking part in the Gaza-bound “Freedom Flotilla”, following the Israel Defense Forces’ armed raid of the Mavi Marmara shipping vessel.
Due to the widely conflicting, and politically laden, versions of the event now being disseminated by all sides, Meretz USA calls for a credible, independent, transparent and fully empowered Israeli Commission of Inquiry to investigate the tragedy, including its background, as well as the planning, preparation and decision-making involved, so that a full public accounting of responsibility will be possible.
Should the United Nations also decide to initiate its own investigation, we implore the government of Israel – out of a deep and abiding concern for Israel and its proper place within the community of nations – to act in the spirit of full cooperation.
Regardless of the specific findings of such investigations, however, it is clear that the bigger question that needs to be tackled is not who attacked whom first and with what means, but why Israel felt the need to board the vessel in the first place.
While we unhesitatingly object to the one-dimensional and demonizing discourse employed by the organizers of the “Freedom Flotilla”, the flotilla was a political/humanitarian exercise, which – steeped in provocation and animosity, though it was – did not pose an imminent danger to Israeli citizens, or an existential danger to the State of Israel.
Significantly, despite the assortment of ‘cold weapons’ (such as knives and axes) on board that endangered the boarding party, Israeli officials have offered no indication that they had suspected the flotilla of gunrunning to Gaza.
Consequently, Israeli investigators will need to examine whether the use of the army by decision-makers was fully consistent with the IDF’s own mission statement.
Overall, these latest tragic events supply further evidence of the damage being done by Israel’s blockade of Gaza – not only the humanitarian harm to the Palestinian people living there, who are denied too many of the basics of normal life, but the strategic damage to Israel itself.
While the blockade has done little, if anything, to stop the flow of weapons to Hamas, which continues to receive them via a system of underground tunnels, it has strengthened Gaza’s de facto rulers by virtue of their control of the tunnel network and black market. And it has allowed Hamas to refocus international attention away from its unwillingness to legally recognize Israel, and onto the suffering being caused to Gaza’s civilians.
Hopefully, the ill-fated boarding operation can produce one important silver lining if it jumpstarts a long-overdue conversation among the Israeli public regarding the dubious value of the Gaza blockade and the complete unacceptability of the stagnant Israeli-Palestinian status quo, which each day leads Israel further from the peace, security and international acceptance that its people deserve.
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