Americans Urge IDF To Kill Americans On Flotilla — Plus Netanyahu's Ugly Scheme
This piece is an updated version of a post published yesterday by Foreign Policy Matters.
This week the second international Freedom Flotilla will embark to Gaza from several ports in Europe. The flotilla represents an act of non-violent civil disobedience aimed at ending Israel's four-year-long illegal blockade of the tiny strip of land populated by 1.6 million Palestinians.
(Read my thoughts on the original Freedom flotilla.)
At least ten ships carrying dignitaries, doctors, professors, artists, journalists, and activists as well as construction supplies and humanitarian aid are expected to sail. The New York Times and CNN are among several outlets sending journalists to cover the event.
Critics of the flotilla contend that it is an unnecessary provocation — more of a political statement than a relief mission — because Israel has lately been allowing more goods into Gaza and Egypt has, since the revolution, intermittently opened its side of the border.
Even if that is true — even if the need is somewhat less urgent — the blockading of Gaza should be protested as illegal, as are all forms of collective punishment.
Israel has the right to keep weapons that might be used against Israelis out of Gaza (assuming that, as is the case, Gaza remains under Israeli occupation). But it has no right to keep out consumer goods like certain foodstuffs or the construction material needed to rebuild homes and schools after the devastation Israel inflicted on Gaza during the 2008-09 onslaught. That one-sided war took 1400 Palestinians lives (including several hundred children).
Nonetheless, under pressure from the Israeli government and its lobby, the Obama administration is taking a strong stand against the flotilla, even suggesting that Americans on board cannot expect the U.S. to intervene on their behalf if Israel attacks (in 2009, the IDF killed 9 passengers on a Turkish relief ship).
The far right is already lining up in support of whatever action Israel takes against the unarmed civilian relief activists.
Take a look at these tweets from Joshua Treviño, who was formerly a speechwriter in the Bush administration, a staffer for the failed senatorial campaign of Tea Party candidate Chuck DeVore (R-CA) and an employee of the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Treviño condemned Palestinians as morally depraved and deserving of any evil that befalls them.
However, Treviño went much farther than that. He openly called for the Israelis to kill any of his fellow Americans who get in their way. "Dear IDF: If you end up shooting any Americans on the new Gaza flotilla -- well, most Americans are cool with that. Including me."
Treviño justified his twisted reasoning by likening the Americans bringing relief to the Gazans to Americans who served in the German army during World War II. After Kurt Schlichter, who writes for Andrew Breitbart's Big Government site, called for the sinking of the flotilla, Treviño wrote, "Not morally different from a Nazi convoy, is it?"
Treviño's words are even more offensive when you consider that a Holocaust survivor will be on the flotilla. If she or a New York Times reporter is shot, then Treviño's words would leave one to assume that it's just like the death of a member of the Wehrmacht or an al Qaeda terrorist.
Even worse, Treviño sees no difference between people bringing humanitarian relief and enemy combatants. In case you ever wondered about the kind of people who would justify opening fire on the Red Cross, take a look at Treviño's contemptible tweets. The most amazing thing of all: he thinks he is a good American while calling for the execution of other Americans by a foreign military force. Asked if he endorses killing Americans overseas, Treviño responded, "Sure, if they adhere to our enemies. Flotilla participants do." Another right-wing columnist, Ben Shapiro, who loves to tout his patriotism, also said he has "no problem" with Israel "taking out" any and all flotilla participants. One has to wonder what Israel would do with Israelis who openly endorsed the killing of their fellow Israelis by a foreign army.
And what does Treviño say to those who might be offended by characterizing Holocaust survivors and Noble laureates as Nazis? Why, they're just part of the "Israel-hating, pro-Hamas left," he explained.
But for Treviño, New York Times reporters or Holocaust survivors are probably of secondary importance. (His tweets, however, do indicate that he sees everyone on the flotilla as being equally guilty.) The man's real enemies are the Arabs and Muslims who dare defy Israel's blockade. The Americans on the boat, as he sees it, are useful idiots being used for propaganda purposes. The Arabs, Muslim and other "them"-looking people taking part in the flotilla are fair game. (Here he is last year showing displeasure at the news that one Muslim participant in the last flotilla was not killed. "Oh well. Next time," he chimed in.)
Meanwhile, the New York Times reported today that the Israeli government has been circulating a YouTube video featuring a gay rights activist whose participation in the flotilla was ostensibly rebuffed by the flotilla's organizers. The video uses the gay man's experience as a jumping-off point for a full-blown attack on the flotilla as a Hamas operation, riddled with bigotry and reactionary politics. However, the Times reports that the video, promoted by the prime minister's office and the foreign ministry, is a total hoax. The supposed American gay activist is actually an aspiring Israeli actor. This is from the Times.
Ali Abunimah, the Palestinian-American founder of the Electronic Intifada, suggested on Twitter that the video hoax was not a prank but part of a public relations campaign to support the Israeli government's naval blockade of Gaza by seeking to tarnish the Gaza flotilla activists as homophobic.
While there is no evidence of homophobia by the activists, and indeed some of the participants in the new flotilla are gay, the Israeli actor featured in the video has recently worked with a producer who appears to be opposed to the flotilla campaign. The actor, Omer Gershon — who is a minor celebrity in Tel Aviv — recently directed and appeared in this commercial for Puma, which was produced by Elad Magdasi. The commercial is currently featured on the home page of Mr. Magdasi's YouTube channel, which also features a link to videos made by "a nonprofit Israel advocacy organization" called Stand With Us.
At the very time that New York was passing its historic bill legalizing gay marriage, Israel's right-wing government was exploiting the gay community to advance its indefensible hysteria about the flotilla. Expect more hoaxes of this kind as the Netanyahu government sinks deeper into paranoia as September's U.N. vote on the establishment of a Palestinian state approaches.
It is important to remember that Binyamin Netanyahu is not Israel. However, the longer he stays in office, the harder it becomes for Israel's friends to make people understand that. To put it simply, he is endangering everything Israel's founders accomplished — not to mention the lives of Palestinians, Europeans, Americans and others who dare get in the way.