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جمعرات, جون 10, 2010

For a different Israel

Charles Ferndale

On May 31, an armed Israeli naval force boarded a Turkish vessel in the Mediterranean carrying civilians from over 30 countries. They were carrying aid to the stricken people of Gaza, who the very basic necessities of life and who are effectively imprisoned in that territory by the Israeli blockade. During the struggle that ensued, eight Turks and one American were killed by Israeli gunfire. One estimate puts the number of injured passengers at 26.

The Israeli spin machine has since gone into overdrive trying to persuade the world that Israel was the real victim in the incident. Only this time no one is buying their story.

There are good reasons for the world's scepticism.

What the multinational aid workers were doing was perfectly legal. Israel, on the other hand, was already in breach of international law and the Geneva Conventions in trying to starve a population into submission.

The aid ship was in international waters, 77 miles off the coast of Israel, so the boarding was illegal under international law. For any naval force to board another vessel in international waters, the country must first get permission from the government of the country where the vessel to be boarded is registered and whose flag the ship is flying. In this case Turkey.

Under international law, all vessels in international waters are a territory of the country whose flag they fly. Thus, Israel effectively invaded an unarmed section of Turkish territory with armed military force. This was an unprovoked act of war, since Israel broke international law on several counts: technically invading Turkish territory, seizing a vessel in international waters, kidnapping all its occupants, forcing the to a destination not of the choosing of its owners, holding it without the owners' permission, and expropriating some of its cargo.

Since the United Nations had been established to prevent and punish such unwarranted and illegal aggression actions, it is now its duty to punish Israel.

One appropriate punishment might be the permanent presence of an international naval force off the coast of Gaza, whose function would be to escort aid ships to the people of the territory.

The Israeli action is not only an act of war but, arguably, also of piracy. There is a multinational force in the Gulf of Aden--for the prevention of piracy from Somalia. Unlike the Israeli raiders, however, the Somali pirates have killed no one. In addition, they usually operate within their own country's territorial waters: there the international forces do not have the right to kill the pirates, yet often do.

Another form of punishment would be for the world community to force Israel, by whatever means necessary, to lift its illegal blockade of Gaza.

Let us assume that there is at least some truth in Israel's claim that, on boarding the Turkish vessel, its commandoes met with some resistance. Let us even accept the Israeli claim that the commandoes were fired upon by some passengers on the Turkish vessel even before the raiders boarded it. In the unlikely event that these things actually happened, the passengers aboard the Turkish vessel would have been well within their rights in doing what they are accused of having done, to defend themselves against attack by a rogue force.

The very foundation of the State of Israel, which would never have survived without American support since its creation in 1948, was predicated on the necessity of terrorism and deception. Israel's ultimate justification was that Yahweh had promised the land to the Prophet Moses and his followers. This story has now been shown to be entirely without foundation. Among those who exploded the convenient myth created to justify the conquest and occupation of Palestine is Israeli writer Shlomo Sand, professor of history at Tel Aviv University and author of The Invention of the Jewish People. (Another useful book on the subject is The Evolution of Religion by American writer Robert Wright.)

Many Jews of the world think that Israel was, and is, essential for their future safety. Their anxieties are firmly based in their tragic history, especially that since the mid-1930s in Europe. But what most of them seem not to recognise is that Israel could never have been a safe haven for them--it was doomed from the start. From the Balfour Declaration of 1917 onwards, it was clear that the only way a homeland for the Jews could be established in Palestine would be by violent expropriation of about 75 per cent of the land from its inhabitants.

Since the founding principles of the State of Israel are the very reasons why it cannot work, there are many Jews, inside and outside of Israel, who now recognise the urgent necessity for that state to change its very nature.

There is a minimal condition for Israel's transformation from an unjust state to a semi-just state, but perhaps one that is peaceful. The condition is an American government with the courage to force the Zionists to give back to Palestine's rightful owners just a little of the land that Israel took by force, and continues to hold and expand by force. That will at least enable the Palestinians to live with some degree of dignity, rather than as a permanently persecuted and constantly brutalised people.

By supporting the worst Israelis, the Americans and the Europeans are betraying the best Israelis: Jews with conscience who seek this radical change in Israel, but are ignored by the majority of the population and by Israel's foreign backers.

It was only when Irish Americans ceased to finance the IRA that peace was given a chance in Northern Ireland. Likewise, the only way to defeat Jewish extremists in Israel is to cease financing them.

That support should be switched to those "other" Israeli Jews, such as the enlightened and brave members of the Peace Now movement. For fear of being branded "anti-Semitic"--a convenient label designed to silence the truth about Israel--people in the world are afraid of supporting these true moral heroes who fighting for the interests of the Palestinians, against their own apparent interests.

Did the Israeli settlers think the dispossessed would then simply disappear? Ever since 1948, Israeli Zionists are intent upon trying to make the displaced Palestinians disappear (this is known as genocide), but without success. The only result is that Israel has become a despised nation worldwide. Zionist Israel has been a disaster for the Jews of the world, as well as for the Palestinians and for the rest of us. Something must be done to put a stop to this seemingly endless tragedy in Palestine. The changes should come from within Israel and from without, starting with a change in US foreign policy.

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The writer has degrees from the Royal College of Art, Oxford University, and the Institute of Psychiatry, University of London. Email: charlesferndale@yahoo.co.uk
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