Memorial Day reflections

May 31, 2010

Remembering the USS Liberty and Rachel Corrie on this Memorial Day, on which a flotilla of humanitarian aid ships bound for Gaza was attacked by Israel in international waters.

It is doubtful that I could say anything about this event that would shed much light upon the subject. Having seen the footage on the BBC this evening, supplied to it by the Israeli military using night photography, I can acknowledge that there was, indeed, a scuffle on board the largest ship, and that the people on board fought back. But, what do you expect when you send paratroopers with machine-guns against an unarmed, civilian vessel at night in international waters? At last count, there are nine to nineteen aid workers dead, and sixty injured. Turkey has the right to consider such an attack an act of war.

The blockade of Gaza has gone on too long, and Israel should lift it. For my own part, I am tired of hearing endlessly about the righteousness and suffering of one people while the sufferings of another people are ignored and dehumanized, and while all criticism of the actions of the one people towards the other puts one outside of polite society and is treated as evidence of moral blight. Judge Goldstone, who wrote a detailed report criticizing Israel for completely disproportionate overkill in its behavior towards the Gazans, is not an anti-semite. And the notion that any nation is above rational criticism is an idea destructive of democratic freedom.

If President Obama does not act to condemn, in explicit and forceful terms, this attack on peaceful vessels, he is a coward. So far, his silence speaks volumes.


8 Responses to “Memorial Day reflections”

  1. bekkos Says:

    This morning, news that a 21-year-old American girl, Emily Henochowicz, an art student at the Cooper Union in New York, has lost an eye after being fired on by Israeli border guards with tear gas canisters (two at her feet, one at her face) during a demonstration in the West Bank.

    The silence from the American government is deafening.

  2. William Ney Says:

    I agree Obama’s reaction is shocking and rather damns him.

    It makes me think that the White House did indeed greenlight an “aggressive” response by the Israelis to the approaching ships.

    The psychology going on between Netanyahu and Obama is … interesting, to say the least. The former went out of his way to embarrass while confronting the Americans last fall on the settlement expansion. Now Netanyahu comes back all the stronger. Obama has adopted the Submissive role/position.

    The grand strategy for the Israeli right since the Soviet Union fell has been to Radicalize the situation — and Radicalize the United States. The 9/11 attacks were the first great act (after nearly a decade of journal articles by the American Likud Lobby).

    This week we have seen another.

    With each act the United States gets drawn more tightly into the web, more surely and intractably into Israel’s foxhole. “The national security interests of the United States” … why, they hardly seem to matter.

    Or: Our owner class, our ruling classes, well down the road of Globalization, are not really American anymore. They need the banking system and the Pentagon, but little else. They don’t need American labor, having traded it for Asian post Nixon’s celebrated Opening.

    From this view, it’s not at all irrational or confused that our foreign policy no longer serves the Nation’s interest. The ruling classes don’t care much about the Nation.

  3. bekkos Says:

    A remarkable exchange occurred Tuesday at a White House press conference between veteran reporter Helen Thomas and Press Secretary Robert Gibbs:

    REPORTER: In light of what happened with the Gaza aid flotilla, is the President considering at least backing international calls to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli forces?

    ROBERT GIBBS: No. Well, look, obviously, as we have said before, we are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and continue to work with the Israelis and international partners in order to improve those conditions. And as the UN Security Council statement says, obviously it’s an untenable situation.

    HELEN THOMAS: Our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful. What do you mean you regret when something should be so strongly condemned? And if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms. What is this sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship, where a country that deliberately kills people—

    ROBERT GIBBS: Well, again, Helen, I—

    HELEN THOMAS: —and boycotts, and we aid and abet the boycott?

    ROBERT GIBBS: Well, look, I think the initial reaction, regretted the loss of life, as we tried and still continue to try to gather the relevant—

    HELEN THOMAS: Regret won’t bring them back.

    ROBERT GIBBS: Nothing can bring them back, Helen. We know that for sure, because I think if you could, that wouldn’t be up for debate. We are—we believe that a credible and transparent investigation has to look into the facts. And as I said earlier, we’re open to international participation in that investigation.

    HELEN THOMAS: Why did you think of it so late?

    ROBERT GIBBS: Why did we think of…?

    HELEN THOMAS: Why didn’t you initially condemn it?

    ROBERT GIBBS: Again, I think the statements that we released speak directly to that.

    (From the transcript issued at Democracy Now of a broadcast aired Wednesday, June 2, 2010.)

    Thank God for Helen Thomas.

  4. bekkos Says:

    This morning, a report from Democracy Now concerning Helen Thomas:

    Veteran White House reporter, Helen Thomas, is under fire for comments on the Israel-Palestine conflict. In a brief video interview with the website, Thomas said her message to Israelis is “to get the hell out of Palestine.” Thomas also suggested Jews should return to Poland, Germany, or the United States. In a statement, Thomas said she deeply regrets her remarks; adding “they do not reflect my heartfelt belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when all parties recognize the need for mutual respect and tolerance.”

    Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who served under President George W. Bush, is calling on Thomas’s employer, Hearst newspapers, to fire her. And, former White House special counsel Lani Davis who served under President Bill Clinton says the White House should revoke her press credentials. The 89-year-old Thomas has covered every U.S. President dating back to John F. Kennedy.

    Helen Thomas’s statements on perhaps give evidence of senility, or perhaps of something worse. But, notwithstanding, her willingness to question bluntly last Tuesday the adequacy of the White House’s response to the deaths of nine people aboard the aid vessel Mavi Marmara (including, as it turned out, one American citizen, the 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, shot four times in the head and once in the chest) was admirable, and I respect her for the courage she displayed on that occasion.

    In other news, it appears that the U.S. Embassy is demanding an investigation into the case of Emily Henochowicz, who lost an eye last week after being hit by a tear-gas cannister during a demonstration in the West Bank. Another American, it appears, Tristan Anderson, suffered exactly the same kind of injury on March 13, 2009 during a protest in the West Bank village of Ni’lin. According to the website, which shows a picture of him, Anderson

    was hit in his forehead by a new type of high velocity, extended range teargas projectile…. Israeli troops have been using the new teargas canister since December 2008, coinciding with the beginning of Israel’s ruthless assault on Gaza. The black canister, labelled “40mm bullet, special/extended range” in Hebrew, has a range of over 400 meters, emits a very faint sound when fired and leaves hardly any smoke tail at all – making it extremely difficult to avoid. Furthermore, and against the army’s own regulations, soldiers routinely shoot it directly towards demonstrators, as opposed to in an arched trajectory. The combination of all these factors has led to numerous severe injuries from the projectiles, including a fractured skull and a broken leg suffered by Palestinians earlier this year.

  5. bekkos Says:

    Helen Thomas, I learned today, is a Lebanese American, and an Orthodox Christian. She resigned yesterday from her longstanding job as a White House reporter.

  6. Veritas Says:


    I assume you heard why she resigned. Her comments were quite telling. But I suppose her fierce critique of Israel over the years have not been exactly hidden.


  7. bekkos Says:


    Yes, I heard why she resigned; as mentioned in an earlier comment, I don’t approve of what she said, and I have to credit it, partly to senility, partly to wounded Arab pride, perhaps partly to intoxication (her remarks were made at the end of an outdoor, White House function, where I would presume alcohol had been served). Whatever the causes, the comment that Israeli Jews should go back to Germany or Poland, or to America, was reprehensible. But probably the point she was trying to make, if she had been more lucid, was that the “right of return” has to be balanced against the human rights of the persons who are already living in this area, whose families have lived there for generations, and who are largely treated, in the American press, as being of no consequence. If the “right of return” means that these persons’ homes and futures are taken away from them, then one wrong (European anti-Semitism) is being rectified by causing another (Arab dispossession). That, I would take it, is her substantive point, and it is perfectly consistent with what Ms. Thomas said in her statement of resignation: she deeply regrets her remarks, and they do not reflect her belief that peace will come to the Middle East only when both sides respect the humanity of the other.


  8. Veritas Says:


    I agree that her statement of apology, and her opinions in that statement, are consistent with the view of any Christian who seeks the respect and dignity of all human life. I’m sure she regrets her statements; the thing with politics is, you really can’t take back the things you say — that’s just how it works; especially in a thorny situation like this one. She had a long and prosperous career, and I’m sure she didn’t want to end that fruitful career in this manner. To be honest, in a way I really feel sorry for her.


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