On Monday May 31, Israel added another shameful chapter to its long history of blatant disregard of international law and the Geneva Conventions when its navy and air force attacked the Gaza-bound Freedom Flotilla in international waters, killing 19 international activists and wounding dozens of others.
In a wanton act of state-sponsored terrorism, Israeli warships encircled the aid ships, 150 kilometers outside of its territorial waters, and Israeli gunship helicopters dropped commandos onto the ships, who then began shooting the people on board without giving any prior warning.
The Free Gaza Movement website reported that the Israeli commandos were dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck.
Live footage taken from the Turkish passenger ship, which was posted all over the Internet, showed black-clad Israeli commandos rappelling down from helicopters and clashing with activists, as well as several wounded people lying on the deck of the ship.
The flotilla of six small and medium-sized boats was on its way to deliver and distribute food items, medicines, electric generators, building materials, and children’s toys to the Gaza Strip, which has been under a relentless Israeli blockade since the Islamic resistance movement Hamas took control of the coastal territory in June 2007.
In that freest and fairest election ever held in the Arab world, the people of Palestine delivered Hamas a phenomenal mandate of 74 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Legislative Council against Al-Fatah's 46.
Out of 1.3 million eligible voters, 77.7 percent thronged the polling stations in Hebron, Nablus, North Gaza, Tulkarm, Jenin, Gaza City, Bethlehem, and throughout the occupied territories to express their opinion.
However, instead of appreciating such a spectacle of democracy, in which the Palestinians showed a superb sense of political consciousness in bringing Hamas to power, the hypocritical Western powers, led by the United States, denounced the Islamic resistance movement and launched a dehumanization campaign against high-ranking Hamas officials, which provided an opportunity for the Zionist regime to impose a crippling siege over the ever-suffering people of Gaza.
However, Israel’s latest atrocity even shocked and outraged its closet allies like the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Austria, Germany, Belgium, and the European Union, which all condemned Israel’s assault on civilians in the Mediterranean Sea.
The United Nations, the Arab League, Iran, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Pakistan also condemned Israel’s crime against a humanitarian mission.
However, all this did not shame the Zionist regime.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon blamed the victim -- in typical Zionist fashion -- saying the activists themselves were responsible for the massacre and branding them allies of international terrorist organizations.
Had they got through, Ayalon said, they would have opened an arms smuggling route to Gaza.
Adding insult to injury, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak insisted that there is no hunger and no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The whole flotilla operation, he said, was “a political and media provocation by anti-Israeli organizations.”
Since 2008, the Free Gaza Movement and a coalition of human rights activists and pro-Palestinian groups have been sending boats and landing or attempting to land supplies to break the blockade of Gaza, including medical equipment and drugs and building materials.
This time the flotilla, the largest to date, carrying over 600 passengers -- believed to include the Swedish author Henning Mankell and the Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan-Maguire -- was organized by pro-Gaza groups in Greece and Sweden, the Malaysian-based Perdana Global Peace Organization, and the Turkish-based foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), all coordinated by the Free Gaza Movement.
After this incident, the world should realize it should stop kowtowing to Israel and should inform Tel Aviv that it can no longer flout international law.
All countries should send Israeli ambassadors packing and should call on the International Criminal Court to try the Israeli officials responsible for ordering the murder of unarmed civilians in an act of unprovoked aggression on the open sea.
And the international community should organize an enormous flotilla of aid ships from all over world and send it to break the siege of Gaza.
The Zionist regime understood the importance of this grand mission, and thus tried to instill fear in the hearts of the people of the Middle East with the massacre of unarmed civilians. But Israel’s bloody interception of the Gaza aid flotilla will highlight the continuing blockade of the Gaza Strip in the most dramatic way possible and will certainly increase the pressure to lift the siege.
So the blood of the men and women who sacrificed their lives on Monday for the cause of Palestine will not have been spilt in vain and will usher in a new era of hope for the oppressed people of Palestine.
Gul Jammas Hussain