Staff Note: Please comment with any additional informational links or action items we can do. Jazakum Allahu khayran!
On May 31, Israel attacked – in international waters – the Freedom Flotilla, a six ship fleet carrying aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. The Flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of aid and about 700 peaceful activists from all over the world. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) raided the biggest ship, the Mavi Marmara, killing at least 9 people and injuring scores of other civilians, and seized the rest of the ships, bringing them in to an Israeli port. They then proceeded to arrest and/or deport the activists. This wasn’t the end of the assault—the Rachel Corrie, an Irish ship named after the activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer as she protested over house demolitions in Gaza in 2003, also attempted to sail to Gaza with aid days later, and was also intercepted by Israel. On June 7, the Israeli Navy killed four Palestinians off the Gaza coast.
Updates from the Flotilla Raid
Since the beginning of the raid, depending on where you get the news from, the facts have been unclear. Israel made a number of claims relating to the actions and intentions of those on board the ship. Israel first claimed that the ship was carrying “terrorists.” It then went on to release audio tapes which allegedly showed, during a radio exchange with the Gaza flotilla, some of the passengers telling the Israeli Navy to “go back to Aushwitz.” Finally, Israel stated that its raid of the Flotilla was within its legal rights as it was at war with Hamas and acting in self-defense.
However, emerging evidence refutes every single Israeli claim. As for the “terrorist” claim, Democracy Now reported that the IDF quickly retracted its statement because there was no evidence for that accusation. But the biggest scandal was the audio tapes, which the IDF admitted it had doctored. In a statement on June 5th, the IDF issued a “clarification” regarding the audio recordings of the transmission between the Israeli Navy and the Flotilla, stating that they had been edited down and the source of the statements were unclear.
As for Israel’s claim that it was acting in self-defense, interviews with the passengers on board showed that this was clearly not the case. According to eye-witness accounts, the IDF shot an unarmed passenger first. The Guardian reported, on June 4th, that according to an autopsy nine men were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head. When the goods on board the ship were inspected, no weapons were found. The activists on the ships defended themselves with, as an Israeli spokesperson admitted, “sharp objects” and sticks. Israel’s argument that it intercepted the ships because they were attempting to break its ‘legal’ blockade has been proven by many lawyers as well as human rights organizations and UN bodies to be false because its blockade of Gaza is illegal.
The blockade, as of June 7, has been ongoing for 1090 days. The UN Human Rights Council issued a report showing that Israel’s restrictions of both imports to and exports from Gaza were inconsistent, which left the civilian population with inadequate nutrition. The Israeli human rights organization Gisha reported that examples of items that were barred include cumin, cardamom, ginger, dried fruit, fresh meat, fishing rods, and fabric for clothing among other items. No reconstruction material, such as wood, plaster or cement was allowed in, meaning all those whose homes were destroyed in the 2009 war are effectively homeless. In March 2009 (the most recent time statistics are currently available) 65 percent of the population was living below the poverty line, with 37 percent living in extreme poverty. As the occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention, Israel is mandated to provide adequate food and medical supplies and a failure to do so may be considered a war crime.
This attack by the Israelis has sparked worldwide condemnation. South Africa, Turkey, and Ecuador recalled their ambassadors to Israel. Brazil, Egypt, and Spain summoned Israel’s ambassador while Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria, and Greece summoned the heads of the Israeli diplomatic missions in their capitals. At the UN, China, Russia, Venezuela, Argentina, India, and Cuba strongly condemned the action. Syria, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, and other Arab countries denounced the Israeli carnage. Despite this widespread condemnation, the US simply “deeply regret[ed]” the loss of life.
What can people do?
Unfortunately, the exact number of people killed is still unknown as Israel has yet to release a complete list. Many of the video recordings by the passengers were confiscated. VirtualMosque.com has published a list of action items, which everyone should pledge to take up.
Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, Muslims should make a concerted effort to contact media outlets to cover these events fairly. Robert Fisk was asked during a talk in the UK, “Do you think there is a Zionist media lobby in the UK?” and his response was, “There doesn’t need to be.” He went on to explain the number of letters and emails that journalists would receive any time they published anything that was perceived to be even slightly anti-Israel. The case isn’t so different in the US and Muslims need to act as a bloc to change media perception.
Finally, du`a’ (prayer) is key. As the issue slowly fades away from the mainstream media, we have a duty, at the very least, to pray for them.