Mavi Marmara Incident Sabotages Peace Process
A few hours after Israeli commandos boarded a Turkish aid ship bound for Gaza and met resistance, the Israeli ambassador to Denmark claimed the flotilla had links to al-Qaeda. “Before the flotilla entered Israeli waters, rumor had it that the organizers (of the aid initiative) had links with the al-Qaeda terrorist network,” Arthur Avnon said from Copenhagen.
Israel has a history of creating and funding Islamic terror groups, including al-Qaeda cells. In 2002, Palestinian security forces arrested a group of Palestinians for collaborating with Israel and posing as operatives of Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda terrorist network, the Sydney Morning Herald reported (the original article has since found its way to the memory hole).
The fake al-Qaeda cell emerged at the same time the Israeli army attacked the Bureij refugee camp in the Gaza Strip and killed ten people. The arrests came two days after Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon charged al-Qaeda militants were operating in Gaza and in Lebanon.
Israel’s raid on the Gaza-bound ships arrived on the heels of Obama’s warning on May 11 that the U.S. would hold the Israelis and Palestinians accountable if either side were to take actions that undermined U.S.-mediated talks between the two.
Obama made an earlier pledge to pave the way for an independent Palestinian state if the peace process remains deadlocked in September. On May 2, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the U.S. had formulated a secret plan with European allies to convene an international peace conference by the end of the year.
The Israeli raid may in fact torpedo Obama’s peace campaign. “One of the casualties of Israel’s deadly commando raid on a Turkish vessel carrying aid to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip may be the Obama administration’s diplomatic strategy in the Mideast,” reports the. “Whatever the truth of the incident, the Obama administration finds itself caught between Israel and its critics at a time when the U.S. is trying to push a broad agenda aimed at bringing stability to the troubled region.”
On May 24, less than a week before the Mavi Marmara incident, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu trekked to Washington to hold talks with Obama behind closed doors. The BBC reported that the meeting was held in a “good atmosphere” despite Israeli plans to build 1,600 new residences in East Jerusalem. A fracas ensued over the issue after Israel announced its plans to build in the disputed area during a visit by vice president Joe Biden.
“The substance and timing of the announcement, particularly with the launching of proximity talks, is precisely the kind of step that undermines the trust we need right now,” Biden said in a statement. “We must build an atmosphere to support negotiations, not complicate them.”
Israel has continuously violated efforts to establish peace with the Palestinians and has seized Palestinian lands and built settlements since Menachem Begin made a commitment to Jimmy Carter at Camp David in 1978 not to do so.
Israeli writer Amos Oz has placed blame squarely on both sides. “I maintain that Oslo was not given even a day’s grace. Immediately, even before the ink was dry, the one side planned jihad and the brainwashing for jihad, while the other planned settlements. Therefore, I don’t think Oslo failed, because Oslo was never tried.” The Oslo Declaration of Principles toward resolving the crisis was signed on September 13, 1993.
“Extremist Jews and extremist Arabs will continue to sabotage the peace plan just as they undermined the Oslo Accords,” Ray Hanania wrote for the Jerusalem Post in April. “They don’t want peace because they each believe they can get it all if they can just keep the conflict going.”
In 2002 Richard Sale, writing for the UPI, revealed how beginning in the late 1970s Israel gave direct and indirect financial aid to its primary adversary, Hamas, over a period of years. Israel “aided Hamas directly — the Israelis wanted to use it as a counterbalance to the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organization),” Tony Cordesman, Middle East analyst for the Center for Strategic Studies, told Sale.
Although the Israeli government and the corporate media are in the process of spinning the Mavi Marmara story in Israel’s favor — underscoring a video of ship passengers attacking commandos, displaying photographs of alleged arms caches aboard the ship, and making ludicrous claims about al-Qaeda — the fact remains that Gaza suffers from an Israeli blockade and repeated Israeli attacks.
Israel conducted an airstrike on the Gaza town of Beit Lahiya today and killed three people. The IDF said the strike came after two Qassam rockets launched from Gaza reached the Ashkelon area of Israel.
Meanwhile, it looks like the Mavi Marmara incident will continue to dominate headlines and the confrontation between activists and Israel may escalate.
“A new high-seas confrontation between Israel and pro-Palestinian protesters is looming after the Free Gaza Movement yesterday announced another two boats will attempt to break Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip,” reports the Australian today. Greta Berlin of the Free Gaza Movement told the newspaper another cargo boat was off the coast of Italy en route to Gaza. “We think eventually Israel will get some kind of common sense. They’re going to have to stop the blockade of Gaza, and one of the ways to do this is for us to continue to send the boats,” she said.