Assault on the Free Gaza flotilla boat Mavi Marmara

Matt Friedman, writing for the AP, has the most detailed description of the assault on the Free Gaza flotilla boat Mavi Marmara that I’ve seen so far. Some interesting points:

  • Israeli commandos boarded the boat from a low flying Black Hawk helicopter firing paintball guns. What? That’s right. They claim to have been using paintball guns with single side arms for backup. The other boats in the flotilla were easily taken over without incident.
  • Some activists, reasoning that they were in international waters and had the right to defend themselves, put up a fight with metal rods and small knives.
  • One soldier alone killed 6 people in response to seeing his men wounded.

I don’t know how to respond to this. I look at it as a cautionary tale for activists. If you’re on a nonviolent mission, get trained first and know that the rest of your team is trained in nonviolence. Did they have the right to defend themselves? That question leads to endless debate like this:

They were in international waters.

So what, these are freaking Israeli commandos! What did you think would happen.

They were afraid and acted rashly.

Yeah, so were the soldiers holding the paintball guns.

Their cause was just, why not assert themselves? Who wouldn’t get caught up in the heat of the moment?

These are the Israelis. They will freaking kill you and leave no one to tell the tale. And the US will let them investigate it themselves. You knew the drill when you signed up.

This back and forth solves nothing. The Rachel Corrie Free Gaza ship is on its way. Even after this they are heading forward. Not for Ashdod but for Gaza. What about it? I do not believe these activists are terrorists. The AP article points out that many other ships have either been seized without incident or have been allowed to get through. The point is to draw attention to the blockade. Israel claims that the blockade is necessary and humane. They claim enough aid gets through that things are tolerable in Gaza. I disagree strongly. Both the blockade and the occupation are illegal.


Does Military nation building really work?

Yesterday the US Army held a press conference  regarding its new field manual, The Stability Operations Field Manual, which essentially amplifies the new philosophy of military occupation as successful nation building. It's not simply the Army's job to forcefully enter a country and beat the bad guys, it is its job to create a new country in the shell of the old and see that it becomes a democracy. Well, James L. Payne, a political scientist and research fellow at the Independent Institute, says it's not that simple. 
"Pundits and presidents talk about nation building as if it were a settle technology, like building bridges or removing gall bladders. Huge amounts of government and foundation money have been poured into the topic of democracy building, and academics and bureaucrats have produced reams of verbose commentary. But still there is no concrete, usable body of knowledge."
In his article for the American Conservative, "Deconstructing Nation Building," he identifies 51 attempts at nation building by Britain and the USA and assesses whether they succeeded or failed. His research shines a light on what's really involved every time nations send in a military to make peace follow corruption. Does coercion make stability? Not so fast. Payne points out that a military has to actually leave the country for democracy to be deemed successful. So how does the military build the nation and leave at the same time? Not very easily. The US is eager to prove its work in Iraq a success, but at the same time can't quite say it's so successful that troops can leave. Is this nation building or military occupation?


Israeli settlements and occupation

Israeli settlements in the West Bank and Greater Jerusalem have long enabled a stranglehold on the Palestinian economy. Here's the way it works: build an illegal settlement, get the military to protect it, use coercive means to "control" the Arab population. This is no secret. It continues the long held narrative that only One people deserve the land. So long as this type of Military Occupation looks like it builds prosperity for democracy, the world can't see a problem. But there is a serious toll that's revealed when the public believes that the only way out is through more bloodshed on both sides.


tempting hope with headlines

The BBC has an article posted that is titled "Bush Urges Israeli occupation end." But then, just when we muster enough hope to read, the opening sentence reads,
"US President George W Bush has said Israel must end its occupation of some Arab land to enable the creation of a viable Palestinian state."
Talk about a headline that doesn't really mean what it says!

But on a lighter note, had I been in the room when Bush made the following remark:

“I’m on a timetable,” Mr. Bush said in Ramallah only moments after saying that a timetable could not be forced on the Israeli and Palestinian leaders. “I’ve got 12 months in office,” he said.

I would have erupted into hand clapping and cheers. Only one year left! Now there is something to look forward to!


Getting to work in the morning

You may think your commute time to work in the morning is a headache, but check out this article comparing what Israelis and Palestinians have to go through on their perspective commutes.


On "rights," the UDHR, and real life under military occupation

Today I've been looking at the Universal Declaration on Human Rights, contemplating that word "rights" which it employs throughout, and marveling at the fact that my country (the USA) can use it so freely and yet continue to employ military occupation as a means to a "democratic" end. Let me begin with this word "rights." I really don't like the word. It's so cold. It suggests entitlement. It suggests the bare minimum of "you get this. . . . I get that." I don't want to suggest for this reason that the document is not important, or useful. When nations really use it, and applied it in curbing their own destructive appetites, it is a wonderful thing. But when viewed through the lens of life under military occupation, the UDHR has severe limits and seems castrated of its power to accomplish what it desires. At best, for those under military occupation, the UDHR is a sign of the failed best wishes of the international community.

Let's look at some of the "rights" of all persons under the UDHR.

Article 1: "born free and equal in dignity and rights." Not for anyone born after 1967 in Gaza or the West Bank.

Article 2: "no distinction shall be made on the basis of the political, jurisdictional or international status of the country or territory to which a person belongs, whether it be independent, trust, non-self-governing or under any other limitation of sovereignty." Again, where has this been the case for Palestinians or Iraqis?

Article 6: "Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law." Okay, so does this rule out targeted killings by military gunships?"

Article 9: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile." Tell this to the thousands who've experienced this in Palestine since 1967.

Article 12: "No one shall be subjected to arbitrary interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to attacks upon his honour and reputation. Everyone has the right to the protection of the law against such interference or attacks." Wow, wouldn't this be nice?

Article 13: "(1) Everyone has the right to freedom of movement and residence within the borders of each state. (2) Everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country." Mmmm.... hmmm. Show me.

This document is a moral document. It assumes that human beings possess an innate sense of dignity and worth and desire this for all other humans. On paper this sounds wonderful, laudable, incredible! But since 1948, unless we're just not paying attention, we humans have hardly learned to live by this moral document. I would submit that Military Occupation is exhibit A as evidence to this fact. The UDHR needs an amendment, clearly spelling out for future generations that Military Occupation is immoral by its very nature and can never be employed to further human rights.