If the Israeli government thought it could get away with an act of piracy on the high seas, then it was because it had a green light from Washington and other capitals around the world to act with impunity in defiance of international law.
When the Israelis sent out warnings that it would intercept the aid convoy which set out from Turkey in a bid to break the blockade, the rest of the world said nothing. Worse, Turkey and Greece continued with plans for joint military exercises with Israel which only after the killing of at least 10 activists, who resisted when the ships were attacked, have they called off.
Obama's support for the rogue state of Israel predictably led to a watering down of the Security Council statement issued today. It condemns only “those acts” that led to the assault, avoiding the mention of Israel directly, and asks for an “impartial investigation”. A call for the end of the blockade is noticeable by its absence. What a farce the United Nations has become, its resolutions demanding an end to Israel’s illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza gathering dust since they were passed decades ago.
With the help of the deeply reactionary Mubarak regime in Cairo, Israel has forced most of Gaza’s 1.5 million people into abject poverty and ill health through a blockade that resembles a medieval siege. Last year, a military assault killed more than 1,500 Palestinians and destroyed key plant and infrastructure. According to Amnesty International, the people of Gaza are victims of a systematic act of collective punishment by Israel’s government.
The blunt truth is that the present Israeli government has no intention of conceding an inch on the right of the Palestinians to self-determination. Knowing that Washington is a paper tiger on the matter, the Israelis continue apace with settlement building and the takeover of East Jerusalem.
Prime minister Netanyahu was on his way to Washington when the attack on the ships took place. He was due to agree to talks about talks with the Palestinians. Of course, he turned back en route to deal with the crisis that has resulted. How convenient the attack proved!
Netanyahu and company can't solve the problem of Gaza peacefully because that would call into question the whole basis for the state of Israel and the occupation, which is a key factor in the growth of the economy. Settlement building is big business – and it is done with cheap Palestinian labour.
But the gap between rich and poor in Israel itself is wider than ever. Palestinians inside the country are the poorest – and are now flexing their muscles. The authorities are currently prosecuting an Israeli Arab leader of the boycott movement, Ameer Makhoul. He was tortured into making a false confession, and is now on trial for his life.
In the end it is only action within Israel itself and a change of direction on the part of the Palestinians through the emergence of a new leadership that can change the situation. Ultimately, the “humanitarian” campaigns do not provide the answers. Palestinians need a fresh framework for the Intifada, which connects with the poor in Israel and exposes the relationship between Zionism and capitalism.
Hamas and Fatah between them have led the Palestinians into a dead end. A new, united way forward based on a single, secular state in the region for both Jew and Arab is not only necessary but is now patently the only realistic option.