The following statement was just released by the Australian Jewish Democratic Society:
The terrible and deplorable deaths and injuries that occurred on board the Turkish flagged ship, the Mavi Marmara, one of a convoy of ships attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, are not only heartbreaking for the immediate families of the nine people killed and the many injured, but a tragedy for all people who yearn for a resolution to the Israeli Palestinian conflict.
The Israeli government claims that the non-violent intent of the activists in the convoy was a lie, that the convoy organisers have links to terrorist organisations including Al-Qaeda and that weapons were prepared in advance for use against the Israeli navy when they boarded the ship.
We know that many of the activists on board the convoy are stridently anti-Israel and we disagree with many of the political views of the Free Gaza movement that organised the convoy, but we have no problem with the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, even with awareness of the additional political agenda behind the convoy.
Support for Israel does not mean support for the policies of its government and we have been vocal in opposing the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
From the news reports of the event, it appears that Israel felt entitled to drop armed soldiers onto the ships in international waters to prevent them from reaching Gaza, and the civilians on board, far from feeling either fear or anger, were supposed to understand the peaceful intent of the armed forces that confronted them. Perhaps the soldiers expected no resistance, but when armed soldiers are engaged in a military exercise against enraged civilians the outcome is predictable. It takes very few people to resist with nothing more than their bodies, metal bars or sling shots for the outcome to be lethal.
Even if some of the protesters were spoiling for a fight, for an act of disobedience to be met with such violence, injury and death completely cuts across our fundamental attitudes to political opposition.
If the price Israel had to pay for avoiding the tragic outcome of this confrontation was the loss of a propaganda skirmish, then it was a price we could all live with and emphasis needs to be on the word “live”.
How can we feel outrage against barbarous acts of terrorism that rob innocent people of their lives, travelling on Israeli buses or eating in restaurants, and not feel similar outrage at this event?
How can Israel detain foreign journalists (including Australians) and others who had no role in the confrontation and claim to be a democracy?
Unless the Israeli government can convincingly back up its claims that the Gaza aid convoy was not a project for delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza, but in reality a front for violent action, it invites the condemnation of everyone who supports negotiated conflict resolution and reinforces the view that Israel’s professed support for human rights is a sham.
If the anger we feel for what has occurred is clear from our words and the words of many other people, then that anger needs to be understood by Israel. What needs to occur now is for Israel to conduct a full, open and comprehensive enquiry into this fatal exercise.