By Stanley Heller
The newest crime is “provocation.” The Israeli government uses it as a term to criminalize protest and the U.S. State Department is adopting it, too.
At the armistice line in the Golan Heights May 15 and June 5, unarmed Palestinians came from their refugee camps to try to cross from Syria into Israeli-occupied Syria and then to go to their homeland.This was labeled a provocation. Thirty or so were killed on the two days.
At the end of this month, a U.S. ship filled with Americans, including two longtime Connecticut residents, will join a dozen others to try to sail to the Gaza Strip to break the siege, to allow 1.5 million people a normal life.
Israel labels this a provocation, and in a statement made by a U.S. State Department official there is agreement.
What will our government do if the U.S. boat is attacked?
If past actions of the Obama administration are a sign, the outlook is grim. Last year, seven boats tried to get to the Gaza Strip in an effort called the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. For years, Palestinians in Gaza had no trade, and almost no ability to leave and return.
The United Nations was only allowed to bring in “humanitarian goods,” meaning the minimum that prevented outright starvation.
The Israelis deemed the flotilla a provocation, and met it on the high seas with deadly force. Eight Turkish citizens and one American citizen, 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, were killed.
A few months ago, I spoke to Dogan’s father, Ahmet Dogan. He described the killing as an execution. He said: “He was one of the first shot and he lay injured. Later on, while he was lying on the ground, he was shot above his eyebrows.” In all, Dogan was shot five times.
No protest was made of this killing of an American by the U.S. State Department. Nor did it object to the rough handling of other Americans in the flotilla and the seizure of all their property.
No Connecticut member of Congress raised his or her voice. In fact, all five members of the U.S. House joined in a letter to the president saying Israel’s actions were a matter of “self-defense.”
The prime minister of Israel is trying to get the flotilla stopped because, as the Jerusalem Post reports, he says it will be “organized by radical Islamists” bent on violence. The boats could be bringing Gaza an arsenal of weapons.
Yet if you look at the passenger list on the U.S. ship, this is hard to believe. It includes Alice Walker, one of America’s great novelists, who has said the flotilla is the “Freedom Ride of this era.”
It includes Col. Ann Wright, a retired soldier and former diplomat who served in Afghanistan and on a host of other State Department assignments. It includes Heddy Epstein, whose parents died in the Holocaust and who was on the Kindertransport of German Jewish children who survived the war in England. Also on the boat will be Ray McGovern, a former CIA analyst.
I know the two Connecticut passengers well, Gale Khoury Toensing and Libor Koznar. Toensing is a journalist who writes for Indian Country Today. Her grandfather was a Christian priest from Jerusalem. Koznar is a recent U.S. citizen, formerly of the Czech Republic, who has degrees in engineering and marketing, and whose passions are art and activism.
Fifty years ago, blacks in the South had their bare humanitarian needs taken care of, but the Freedom Riders went to the South to help win them full lives. Certainly, the whites down South saw the Freedom Rides as unnecessary provocations and outside agitation.
Today, it is the Freedom Riders who are universally honored.
Will U.S. politicians step up to the plate and defend the rights of American citizens to travel to Gaza? Will they support Palestinians human rights or ignore them for the sake of the “negotiations”? We shall see.
(www.newhavenregister.com / 15.06.2011)