Tuesday, December 30, 2008


The SS Dignity arrived in the port city of Tyre yesterday under Lebanese naval escort after being attacked and badly damaged in international waters by Israeli warships. The incident occurred as the Dignity was attempting to bring journalists, peace activists, aid workers, human rights observers, and three tons of desperately needed medical supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip where relentless air strikes have inundated strained local hospitals with thousands of casualties. On board where the nationals of eleven countries including citizens of the U.S, the U.K, Greece, Australia, Germany, Ireland, and a member of the Cypriot of Parliament. According to former U.S congresswoman and Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney, who was on the ship at the time of the attack, around half a dozen warships surrounded the Dignity and declared it was participating in terrorist activities before opening fire with machine guns and ramming the vessel three times.

Although no one was injured in the attack and the crew evaded attempts to force their return to Cyprus the Dignity was badly damaged. The encounter left a gaping hole in the side of the ship that began drawing water. Under these circumstances the crew decided they would be unable to reach Gaza and sailed for Gaza. In Beirut President Michel Suleiman dispatched an escort of Lebanese warships to accompany the crippled vessel to port where it was greeted by cheering crowds. However, the three doctors and tons of medical supplies that could have saved dozens of lives are from Gaza's overwhelmed hospitals where the wounded are stacked in the streets and doctors are forced to make the difficult choices of which patients to let die.

Already Lebanon has promised a forensic investigation and the Cypriot embassy has lodged an official complaint over the incident, but there must be more accountability. The eleven nations whose citizens' lives were recklessly and deliberately endangered are entitled to an official explanation. The U.N has an obligation to investigate and if necessary condemn the behavior of the Israeli navy. A willful attack on a private vessel carrying out a humanitarian mission in international waters is a clear violation of international law which states that the sea can only be used for peaceful purposes. The most bereaved party though is not nations or international bodies, but humanity. This cowardly assault is a reminder that many still cling to a tribalistic ideology that subordinates human suffering to national pride. The belief system showcased by the attack on the Dignity is a threat to people everywhere and it must be resisted by people everywhere.

During apartheid South Africa the international community resisted this ideology with a campaign of boycotts, sanctions, and divestment. A similar campaign needs to be launched in response to the deplorable situation in Palestine. The attack yesterday and the bombing of Gaza are only two high profile incidents in a brutal pattern of racism and human rights violations. A nation that has so horrifically and systematically abused basic human rights, a nation that has institutionalized and militarized racism, a nation that not only kills scores of civilians in a bombing campaign, but then also prevents medical aid from reaching the survivors- those in that nation who enable those policies, either through their actions or their silent inaction, must be deprived of the pleasure of any contact with the civilized world.

This is not a campaign of revenge and it is not a campaign against Israel, like in South Africa many of the heroes of the anti-apartheid movement are Israeli. The sole objective of a campaign of boycott, sanction, and divestment is to undermine the deplorable policies and to isolate the regime that implements them. When the situation in Palestine is normalised relations will also be normalised. However, until then westerners cannot forget the millions of suffering human beings who are, in Palestine, suffering with the support of their governments and the complicity of their silence. From western China to the Western Sahara, from East Jerusalem to East Timor human suffering anywhere is a threat to humanity everywhere.

1 comment:

Chet said...

The last time Israel did this sort of thing was in 1967 with the USS Liberty. It is sad and the world keeps ignoring the Palestinian suffering.

Yet the US keeps vetoing against anything done to stop the genocide that is happening right now. The UN vote was 14 to 1 with the lone vote being the US vetoing it.