By Ernest A. Canning on 6/7/2010, 1:34pm PT  

Guest editorial by Ernest A. Canning

"The problem with making excuses for and giving explanations for a child's misbehavior(s) is that it doesn't 'help' the child. It doesn't HELP anybody. In fact, it does nothing but cloud one's judgment preventing any form of objective observation from being made thereby eliminating any real assistance being implemented."
- Randa Williamson-McCoy, "Making Excuses for Your Child's Actions and Behavior," 05/19/2010

Beginning with Israel's unprovoked attack on the U.S.S. Liberty during the 1967 Six Day War, continuing throughout the next 43 year illegal occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, right up to the June 2, 2010 Obama administration decision to block a U.N. Human Rights Council proposal to establish an independent international inquiry into Israel's heavily armed assault and capture of the six vessel, unarmed civilian humanitarian aid convoy in international waters, the relationship between the U.S. and Israel has resembled that of a parent whose love, devotion and inability to say "no" to their incorrigible teenager in the face of increasing levels of anti-social behavior only serves to harm parent, child and society...

An unusual assortment of "violent supporters of terrorism"

Seeking to defend what amounted to an act of state piracy, Israel's Prime Minister Benjamen Netanyahu described activists aboard the six vessel humanitarian aid flotilla as "violent supporters of terrorism."

If so, then this was an extremely odd assortment of "terrorist supporters."

The activists seeking to bring humanitarian aid to the besieged civilian population of Gaza included Retired U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, who is also a former U.S. Diplomat, former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck, Hanan Zoabi, a member of the Israeli Knesset, Joe Meadors, a survivor of the 1967 attack by Israel on the USS Liberty during which 34 American sailors were killed and 170 were wounded, two members of the German Bundestag and the exiled archbishop of the Eastern Catholic Church of Jerusalem.

Activists aboard a seventh humanitarian aid vessel which was "forcibly seized" by Israeli forces on June 5, The Rachel Corrie, named after the American peace activist who was crushed to death by an Israeli military bulldozer in 2003 when she was trying to protect the home of a Palestinian family from demolition, included Hedy Epstein, an 85-year-old Holocaust survivor, Irish Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, "Dennis Halliday, a former United Nations assistant secretary general from Ireland; and Mohd Nizar bin Zakaria, a member of Malaysia's Parliament."

What happens when a parent is deliberately beaten by her child and then accepts the child's claim that he didn't mean it?

Meadors' June 4 interview on Democracy Now! (see video below) is unique since he provides a first-hand account of both the 2010 Israeli attack on the unarmed, humanitarian aid flotilla and the 1967 Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, which accounts are diametrically at odds with the Israeli claims in both cases.

Where Israel claimed that, in 1967, its aircraft targeted the U.S.S. Liberty by mistake, Meadors said: "Throughout the whole morning, we had been flown over about a dozen times by Israeli aircraft, who were clearly identifying us. We had overheard their pilots radioing back to their bases."

Meadors account is supported by fellow crew members, George Golden, who said the Israeli reconnaissance flights had overflown the U.S.S. Liberty for six to seven hours before the all-out aerial assault, and Master Chief Stan White, who said one of the recon overflights was so close that he "looked right in the cockpit." The pilot waved. White waved back.

As recounted by James Scott in The Attack on the Liberty: The Untold Story of Israel's Deadly 1967 Assault on a U.S. Spy Ship, many State Department officials readily understood that Israel deliberately bombed and strafed the U.S.S. Liberty.

Scott quotes, for example, the State Department's William Wolle, who said:

The feeling of those of us at the working level in NEA [State Department Bureau of Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs] was that the Israelis had deliberately done this so that we couldn't read all of their communications...We are their ally but they are not going to trust us when it comes to a wartime situation in terms of what information might get out, what we might pass along to someone. We all felt it was no accident...

Then Secretary of State Dean Rusk said that he "never...accepted the Israeli purported explanation...The ship was flying an American flag."

Yet, Scott observes, the Johnson White House, under pressure from domestic Israeli supporters and misreporting by the corporate-owned media, which persisted in referring to the attack as "accidental," "looked the other way" --- a decision which had greater impact on Israeli policies than those of the U.S., in the mind of then Undersecretary of State George W. Ball, who wrote:

Israel's leaders concluded that nothing they might do would offend Americans to the point of reprisal. If America's leaders did not have the courage to punish Israel for the blatant murder of American citizens, it seemed clear that their American friends would let them get away with anything.

State piracy in support of an illegal blockade

Setting aside numerous accounts, such as that provided by Huwaida Arraf, co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, and Colonel Wright, who were aboard the Challenger I, a U.S. flag ship in the six vessel flotilla, and the account provided by Kevin Ovenden, coordinator with Viva Palestina, and Canadian Kevin Neish of the Coalition Against Israeli Apartheid, who were aboard the Mavi Marmara that the Israelis opened fire with flash bang grenades and automatic weapons even before they boarded, setting aside my own preference for non-violent resistance, the plain and simple fact, forcefully made by Ambassador Peck, is that the passengers and crew of the humanitarian aid flotilla had the same lawful right to use even lethal force to resist this act of state piracy as any citizen of the U.S. would have if armed robbers invaded their homes.

Daniel Carmon, Israel's U.N. Ambassador, claimed Israel had a "right to enforce" its maritime blockade because there was "a possibility of a danger." He referred to the flotilla's cargo as "so-called real, genuine humanitarian aid to Gaza," and said that Israel had offered "an alternative for transferring the humanitarian aid to Gaza through the port of Ashdod."

Ambassador Peck described Carmon's claims as "what you find in a meadow somewhere where they keep large animals" and "as full of holes as a window screen." He noted that Israel had no right to enforce a blockade of a territory, Gaza, which it illegally occupies and that the unarmed passengers and crew had a right to physically fend off this assault by heavily armed commandos while they were in international waters.

In the Sept. 15, 2009, 575-page "Report of the United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict," [PDF], Judge Richard Goldstone demolished the claim that Israel's occupation of Gaza, which along with its continued occupation of the West Bank, violates the provisions of U.N. Security Council Resolution 242, somehow ended with Israel's 2007 "disengagement" in which it removed some Israeli settlers:

Israel controls the border crossings...and decides what and who gets in or out of the Gaza Strip. It also controls the territorial sea adjacent to the Gaza Strip and has declared a virtual blockade and limits to the fishing zone, thereby regulating economic activity in that zone. It also keeps complete control of the airspace of the Gaza Strip, inter alia, through continuous surveillance by aircraft and unmanned aviation vehicles (UAVs) or drones...

Israel regulates the local monetary market based on the Israeli currency...and controls taxes and custom duties...

While Israel has a valid concern in the safety of its citizens and while the targeting of civilians by either side is both illegal and unacceptable, the Goldstone report reflects a remarkable disparity. Where Israel killed between 1,387 and 1,417 people during its 22-day invasion of Gaza in Dec. 2008/Jan. 2009, a total of three (3) Israeli civilians were killed by Palestinian rockets inside Israel between June 18, 2008 and the issuance of the Sept. 15, 2009 Goldstone report. Israeli forces killed three times as many civilians (9) when its commandos assaulted the Mavi Marmara than the total number of Israeli civilians (3) killed by Palestinian rockets over a span of 15 months.

The Goldstone report reveals that Israeli forces did much more than simply kill Palestinians during their 22-day invasion. They destroyed "industrial infrastructure, food production, water installations, sewage treatment and housing." In an eerie replay of U.S. State Department observations pertaining to the U.S.S. Liberty strike, Goldstone reported that much of this destruction, which included a series of air strikes on the Al Bader flour mill...the only flour mill in the Gaza Strip still operating," the use of armored bulldozers to systematically flatten chicken coops, and the bombing of a waste treatment facility, was intentional.

Against this widespread destruction, in the printed version of its article, "Israel Intercepts Another Protest Vessel," the Los Angeles Times provided a list of items that are "restricted or banned" by the Israeli embargo of Gaza --- "Cement, plaster, wood for construction, irrigation pipes, vinegar, fresh meat, canned fruit, fruit juice, dried fruit, jam, chocolate, cookies, sewing machines, donkeys, goats, horses, pens, pencils, coriander, cilantro, sage, empty flower pots, notebooks, some sizes of papers, French fries, potato chips, fabric for clothing, plastic toys, empty cans, musical instruments, fishing rods and nets."

Flotilla passenger Huwaida Arraf added that the Israelis "never asked to board;" that the Israelis "knew" that the cargo they were carrying consisted of "basic supplies that are desperately needed in Gaza, such as a water filtration systems, books for universities, paper for schools, reconstruction supplies, prefabricated homes." Arraf argued the offer to re-route through Arshod was a sham because it would leave to Israel the sole discretion as to whether the supplies would ever be delivered to Gaza.

Collective Punishment and Mainstream Media Failure

It is a mistake to single out every successive U.S. administration from Lyndon Johnson to Barack Obama or Israel's apologists inside the pro-Israel lobby for the inability to criticize Israel's obnoxious behavior. After all, as revealed by The BRAD BLOG's series of articles pertaining to Sibel Edmonds' allegations of a relationship between the Turkish lobby (which is closely allied with the Israel lobby) and high placed U.S. officials amounting to espionage, the White House is by no means the only division of the U.S. government to "look the other way" and Israel is by no means the only U.S. ally whose conduct prompts the "look the other way" behavior.

One should not overlook the failure, once again, of the U.S. mainstream media.

In the case of the U.S.S. Liberty in the late 1960s, it was the U.S. corporate media which persisted, sans adequate evidence, to describe the event as an "accidental attack." In the case of the recent Israeli commando assault on the Mavi Marmara, U.S. "news" outlets gave widespread coverage of the selective, one-sided video furnished by the Israelis but scant coverage of the countervailing narrative provided by the eye-witness accounts from the civilian survivors of the assault which were recorded at length during interviews by alternative media sites, such as Democracy Now!

Of course, if the video had depicted the same passengers fighting off an assault by Somali pirates instead of Israeli commandos, the corporate media pundits would have tripped over their own tongues, as they competed to interview the returning "heroes".

One of the reasons for a one-sided video narrative, aside from the Israeli seizures of all cameras and recording devices, was tragically explained by Kevin Ovenden, a passenger on the Mavi Marmara:

A colleague of mine, a New Zealander with Viva Palestina called Nicci Enchmarch, she was on the top deck. She was next to a man, a Turkish man, who was holding a camera. He was shot directly through the forehead. The bullet, the exit wound, blew away the back third of his skull, and she cradled him as he died.

In the broader context, we find our friends at The New York Times getting it wrong even when offering up an editorial that was modestly critical of the assault on the Mavi Marmara, stating:

After Hamas seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007, Israel --- with Egypt's help --imposed a blockade on many goods and most people going into and out of the territory.

The word "seized" is an odd word to apply to an organization which came to power as the result of winning a parliamentary election in 2006 --- an election encouraged by the U.S. Adminstration at the time. Indeed, even Wikipedia acknowledges that immediately after the election returns came in, "Israel, the United States, the European Union, several Western states, and the Arab states imposed sanctions suspending all foreign aid, upon which Palestinians depend."

To their credit, on June 4, when pressed by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR), The New York Times printed a correction in which it acknowledged the Hamas electoral victory, but the "correction" provided only a half-truth by mentioning subsequent tensions between Hamas and Fatah and the fact that Hamas "routed Fatah from Gaza in June 2007" --- a fact which ignores the covert effort made by the U.S., Israel and Egypt to use Fatah to negate the democratic choice of the citizens of Gaza.

As observed by Ali Abunimah of Electronic Infitada, after the Hamas electoral victory, the Bush/Cheney regime armed Palestinian militias, including one controlled by Gazan warlord, Mohammed Declan, whom Abunimah referred to as the "Palestinian contras."

It was only after these subversive efforts ended in failure in 2007 that the Israeli blockade took full effect --- a blockade that the unthinking stenographers of the corporate media readily accept since no legitimacy can be afforded a group like Hamas once they have received the "terrorist" label.

Of course, the same corporate media conveniently forgets the PLO, whom we were arming to attack Hamas in 2007, was considered a "terrorist" organization during the 1970s. But, as we observed in "'Terrorism,' 'State Terrorism,' and Point of View," quoting Eqbal Ahmad:

The terrorist of yesterday becomes the hero of today, and the hero of yesterday becomes the terrorist of today.

We noted that, long before they morphed into Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda, President Reagan described the Afghan Mujahideen as the moral equivalent of our Founding Fathers. Menachem Begin, at one time officially listed as a "terrorist" by the British, emerged as the Prime Minister of Israel.

While those of us who are imbued by the concept of separation of church and state, and that includes the author, are repulsed by political control by any religion, be it Hindu, Muslim, Christianity or Judaeism, all need to appreciate that the right of self-determination is embodied in the U.N. Charter and that the people of Gaza had a right to chose the Muslim Hamas over what they saw as a corrupt but secular Fatah.

The New York Times' deceptive use of the word "seized" moves us away from the realization that both the 22-day brutal assault and the blockade, which America's "paper of record" elsewhere reported has caused childhood malnutrition so acute that 30% of the children in northern Gaza suffer from "stunted growth," is the product not of the valid need for Israel to defend its citizens but as a means of "collective punishment" for the electoral preference of the adult population of Gaza.

Would you permit a juvenile delinquent to investigate his own anti-social behavior?

As reported by Democracy Now!, Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe, the U.S. Ambassador to the U.N., not only voted against a U.N. "Human Rights Council proposal to establish an independent international inquiry" into the Israeli assault on the humanitarian aid flotilla, but had the temerity to suggest that it would be improper for any international body to investigate the matter until Israel conducts its own investigation as this "risks...politicizing a sensitive and volatile situation."

While the absurdity of having the potentially guilty party investigate itself should be readily apparent, at least it is consistent with former Ambassador Peck's observation that the U.S. "vetoed twenty-nine Security Council resolutions over the years that were directed at trying to get Israel to do various things or stop doing them."

Forty-three years after the child struck the parent, the parent continues to "look the other way."

UPDATE 06/07/10: The Independent of London has published an unconfirmed claim made by several of the passengers of the Mavi Marmara that two commandos had an "assassination list." While IDF Lt Col Avital Leibowitz insists that the commandos acted in self-defense, The Independent quoted claims by several passengers to the effect that there were targeted killings, some at point blank range. Al Jazeera journalist, Jamal Elshayyal, who was aboard the Mavi Marmara claimed "soldiers fired down on the protesters from the helicopters before an Israeli soldier had even set foot on the ship."

Where The Independent asserted the Israelis confiscated and destroyed passenger films of the attack, Max Blumenthal said the "IDF’s press operation was being run by someone with the journalistic integrity of James O’Keefe." The IDF initially released but later retracted a report that forty passengers were connected to al Qaeda; that this was a tale concocted by "Netanyahu’s inner circle." Blumenthal reported that the IDF doctored video and falsely claimed the passengers shouted "Go back to Auschwitz!" He said the IDF propaganda was repeated by the Israeli media, inflaming nationalistic passion by the Israeli right which is targeting the Israeli peace movement with threats of violence, and that the IDF BS was repeated by the Washington Post, which has apparently failed to retract its erroneous story that the passengers repeatedly shouted, "Go back to Auschwitz!"

Meanwhile, The Independent revealed a new development which threatens to escalate tensions over the blockade. "The Iranian Red Crescent is planning to send humanitarian aid by sea to Gaza."

UPDATE 06/08/10: This must see, 69-minute video, "Dead in the Water," documents the viciousness of the Israeli attack on the U.S.S. Liberty, how the Israelis hid their insignia on the attack aircraft, and how close we came to a nuclear strike on Egypt, which our forces mistakenly blamed for the attack. It also includes some disturbing but not fully established theories and evidence of a cover-up.

* * *

The 6/4/10 Democracy Now! interview of U.S.S. Liberty survivor Joe Meadors follows...

* * *

Ernest A. Canning has been an active member of the California state bar since 1977. Mr. Canning has received both undergraduate and graduate degrees in political science as well as a juris doctor. He is also a Vietnam vet (4th Infantry, Central Highlands 1968).