I'm reminded of the response of a US military official after it was reported that three inmates in the Guantanamo concentration camp had committed suicide. (The three men were actually tortured to death.) He said: "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us." There are times when victim-blaming becomes an exercise in absurdity.
Meanwhile, as the survivors of the Flotilla attack are released and speak to the media, we are hearing very different stories. A 19-year-old shot five times, including four bullets to the head at point-blank range. Reports of wounded people being dumped overboard. From the Guardian:
The first British survivor of the assault on the Mavi Marmara Gaza aid ship to return to London has told of her terror as Israeli troops ignored SOS calls for medical aid and continued to fire live rounds at activists.
Sarah Colborne, director of campaigns and operations at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who was on board the Turkish ship when the Israeli navy mounted a raid early on Monday, gave a press conference in central London still wearing her grey prison fatigues from her spell in jail in Be'er Sheva, southern Israel. She described how she saw one man fatally wounded from a gun shot to the head and how passengers feared for their lives as Israeli troops trained laser sights on the activists through the ship's windows.
Colborne, 43, from London, insisted the activists on the boat were on a purely humanitarian mission and the passengers were aged between one and 89. She claimed:
• Unarmed activists were shot by Israelis using live ammunition;
• The death toll of nine is likely to rise, because some activists remain missing;
• The Israelis ignored calls over the Tannoy and on written signs calling for them stop firing and to evacuate the critically injured;
• The Israeli forces handcuffed members of the activists' medical team who were sent to help treat the injured.
This post from firedoglake pulls together many stories of witnesses and survivors of the attack. (Thanks to Nick, JoS/wmtc crossover friend.)
Peace activists and people of conscience around the globe are reeling from this attack. But please, let's not lose sight of the big picture. In my earlier post, I asked,
"What could be more shameful than slaughtering people trying to bring aid to a trapped and dispossessed people? The apartheid system that dispossesses those people in the first place.
When activists and volunteers are murdered, we often see more shock and horror expressed than we do for the people those activists were trying to help. The people of the US were shocked by the 1964 murders of three young civil rights activists - more so than by the thousands of lynchings and other acts of terrorism and degradation lived every day by African Americans in the Jim Crow South.
In other words, let's not forget why the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is needed in the first place.
As international resistance to Israel's apartheid policies grows, Israel's repression grows in response. And as that repression becomes more blatant, Israel sows the seeds of its own undoing. We saw it in the US civil rights movement, we saw it in apartheid South Africa, and we will see it here, too.
[Update. Tomorrow in Toronto, join the Gaza Freedom March for an emergency protest. Details here.]