Firedoglake Live Blogs a Major Turning Point in Middle East Conflict
Beginning May 16th, I wrote a series of diaries here that sought to heighten awareness of the renewed and refreshed strident militance being shown by the Israeli government toward critics, and sought to bring more attention to the flotilla of boats and ships determined to lift the illegal siege of Gaza.
Saturday evening, as the flotilla was leaving the vicinity of Cyprus, I began a live blog post here. Sunday afternoon, as the flotilla neared the Levantine coast, Siun took over. Her firedoglake post ended up collecting information almost in real time, as the most serious attack by a foreign power in history on a collection of boats flagged by NATO members unfolded.
On May 16th, I noted that the freighter, MV Rachel Corrie, was leaving Irish waters, to join vessels already in the Mediterranean.
On May 20th, in light of Elvis Costello’s cancellation of an Israel concert tour, I speculated that it might be time to consider gathering artists together to create a 2010 version of the pivotal protest album from 1985, Sun City. That album helped galvanize resistance to the South African government policy of Apartheid.
On May 22, I noted the absence of mainstream media, especially in the USA, toward the gathering of vessels for the flotilla, and wondered how the approach of the the small fleet to the Gaza coast might be covered.
On May 25, I wrote about the assembly of boats, their problems, and the mounting evidence that the IDF would forcefully attempt to commandeer the vessels. I was concerned.
On Saturday May 29, I began the live blog, which was passed on to Siun yesterday, during her regular Sunday afternoon slot.
Others have also contributed diaries at firedoglake on this.
I’ve learned a lot from the process of writing about this. Foremost, perhaps, is that in spite of the stated IDF intention of isolating the vessels from being able to emit real time information during the attack, they were unsuccessful. As in the demonstrations in Iran in the wake of their farcical election last year, people managed to bypass jamming and blackouts, through workarounds or through discovery that government jamming had holes in it.
Twitter, through hundreds of cell phones on board the vessels, described the attacks in terse tweets from bloodstained decks. These tweets were passed back and forth between twitter sites throughout last night, as they aggregated incoming news from many early sources.
The Turkish video feed from the large cruise ship, where most casualties occurred will become iconic, even as the IDF releases their night vision videos that seek to purport the IDF was responding to a "lynch mob" as it opened fire on dozens of unarmed civilians, attempting to defend themselves from a brazen, illegal act in international waters.
Norman Finkelstein’s 2009 book about the 2008-2009 Gaza invasion is titled This Time We Went Too Far. It is an apt title. Many of us have experienced how friends or relatives finally stopped straddling the fence over how Israel conducts itself, as we and they witnessed the barbarity of the IDF assault on schools, hospitals, clinics, fire departments, bakeries, dairies and houses in the besieged Gaza enclave.
This time, the IDF went too far in ways that may be pivotal. Juan Cole, writing this morning, observes:
It is worth noting on Memorial Day that the Israeli attack deeply complicates the task of the US military in the region. It is a propaganda boon for Sunni extremists and Shiite activists such as Muqtada al-Sadr in Iraq, and for the Taliban in Afghanistan. It undermines the authority of the Egyptian and Jordanian governments, which have US-brokered peace treaties with Israel, treaties that are deeply unpopular with ordinary people in both countries. That some demonstrations are being held in front of US consulates and not just Israeli ones tells us who will get the blame for Netanyahu’s machismo.
Turkish-Israeli relations, already in an abysmal state, might never recover. Turkey has recalled its ambassador to Israel. The attack on several NATO-related vessels, in international waters, and without provocation, as noted above, is unprecedented. Turkey will be right to bring this before the NATO North Atlantic Council, which meets about once per week. The United Nations Security Council is meeting right now about the attack, with the Secretary General having already made a harsh statement.
As I noted in Siun’s live blog diary last night:
If the flotilla was actually moving away from the coast when boarded, after having responded to IDF enquiries regarding intent and course, this is a lost cause for the Israelis to defend. They have no claim that their response was appropriate.
Some, if not all, of the vessels were giving out position reports up to the boarding. The record of these is indelible. The Turks will surely bring this fact up to the North Atlantic Council this week, and it may have been brought up today at the UN Security Council.
A Daily Kos Diary, analyzing NATO responsibilities regarding Turkey in this matter, has hundreds of comments, Here is the key part of NATO doctrine that might pertain directly to actions after this attack:
Israel’s attack on the MV Blue Mamara, a Turkish vessel, means they just attacked a member of NATO. According to the NATO Charter, Article 5
The Parties agree that an armed attack against one or more of them in Europe or North America shall be considered an attack against them all and consequently they agree that, if such an armed attack occurs, each of them, in exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognised by Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, will assist the Party or Parties so attacked by taking forthwith, individually and in concert with the other Parties, such action as it deems necessary, including the use of armed force, to restore and maintain the security of the North Atlantic area.
If you think there is wiggle room in that definition, you would be mistaken. Article 6 is explicit about where attacks will trigger responses. Vessels in the Mediterranean Sea are mentioned explicitly.
The Israeli Prime Minister has cut short a North American trip that was to conclude with a White House meeting Tuesday. He’s had to return home to prepare for the Third Intifada, and to attempt to salvage diplomatic relations with a number of counties besides just Turkey.
Within the American progressive community Israel has always had and still has staunch supporters of every action by the IDF or Israeli government. But those numbers were severely diminished by this highly criminal attack. But, as a commenter at Mondoweiss observed this morning:
There are now 4 diaries on the rec list at Daily Kos condemning the Israeli piracy. Even during Cast Lead, this didn’t happen.
Other lefty blogs that generally avoid discussing Israel/Palestine issues at all will, should they continue to blind themselves in this matter, lose readers and influence.
A very important article recently appeared in the New York Review of Books. In The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment, by Peter Beinart, the author explains in detail how the large family size and emigration into Israel of ultra Orthodox inhabitants and their growing influence on internal Israeli politics will inevitably force young American Jews who are liberal to forsake support for the Zionist state and its brutal expansionist goals. The article has caused quite a stir, to say the least.
Israel has succeeded, in last night’s attack, in further isolating itself as an increasingly rogue nation. Some are even predicting an implosion there, similar to those of Apartheid South Africa, or of the Warsaw Pact communist governments.
Two things are certain though. Twitter, as a driver of non-MSM instant information has come of age.
And firedoglake, thanks to Siun and our commenting community, has once again led the way in live blogging a pivotal moment.