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Once again some members of the Israeli defence force have shown behaviour worthy of an Auschwitz guard. Once again the old conflicts in my own mind are stirred up.  It is a bit like the second great march against the Iraq war.  Time has proved how right the marchers were, but we found ourselves walking alongside Islamic fundamentalists with whom we felt very little in common.  All it proves is the undesirable behaviour that results from religion – any religion.  Whether it is islam, judaism or christianity, the outcome is mayhem and murder.  There is no human so irrational and dangerous as those who believe they have god on their side. 

It also shows, in my view, tha major mistake that was made after the second world war when the west tried to purge its collective remorse for the holocaust, but chose to do so at the expense of Palestinians. It was downright stupid to think that it was possible to put the clock back so far.

Two good sources for today’s news. 
Gaza flotilla activists were shot in head at close range

And the eyewitness account by Swedish crime writer Henning Mankel who was on one of the original flotilla boats: ‘I
think they went out to murder’

You can follow the progress of MV Rachel Corrie as she approaches Gaza at the WitnessGaza site

MV Rachel Corrie

The name of Rachel Corrie is imprinted on my mind. It was the news that this 23-year old American college student had been callously crushed to death by an Israeli army bulldozer (made in the USA). That was the incentive to start my politics blog. I stopped maintaining that when Blair left office, but may occasionally get political here.

Read about Corrie on her family’s memorial web site. It is excruciatingly sad.

In her memory, here is a reproduction of my first political post, from 2003.

A Great American.

On Sunday, 16th March 2003, a 23-year-old American peace activist, Rachel Corrie, was crushed to death by a bulldozer as she tried to prevent the Israeli army destroying homes in the Gaza Strip

You can read here some of the emails that she sent home before she died. And a reaction from Naomi Klein in the Globe and Mail (Toronto).

” Katharine Viner has edited her writings for a new play, on an ordinary woman with an extraordinary passion”. [Guardian]

John Sutherland documents some of the terrifyingly violent reactions of ‘patriotic’ Americans. [Guardian]

One ‘patriot’ wrote

“Anyone who would burn an American flag deserves to be bulldozed to death!!! Hopefully the US government will aim some bulldozers at the next group of war protesters, those anti-American motherfuckers.”

And now another: Tom Hurndall

A British peace activist shot in the head while observing the Israeli army in Gaza, in April 2003, has died in hospital.

Tom Hurndall, 22, was overcome by pneumonia at the Royal Hospital for Neurodisability, in south-west London.

Click here for the sad details.
The Thomas Hurndall Fund has the latest news.

Watch videos of the murder and of an interview with his mother.

A conviction at last!

Latest: after an indefatigable campaign by his parents to discover the truth, on 27 June 2005, a former Israeli soldier has been found guilty of the manslaughter of Tom Hurndall.

Ex-sergeant Taysir Hayb was convicted at a military court in Ashkelon for the shooting of Mr Hurndall in April 2003. Hayb will be sentenced at a later date.

In addition to the manslaughter verdict, Hayb was found guilty of obstruction of justice, incitement to false testimony, false testimony and improper conduct.

[Hurndall’s father said] “We’re concerned that there is a policy which seems to be prevalent in Gaza, amongst the Israeli soldiers and army, that they feel able to shoot civilians really without any accountability whatsoever.”

Civil liberties group Human Rights Watch last week accused Israel of investigating less than 5% of hundreds of cases of Palestinians killed since 2000.

On 11 August 2005 the BBC reported that Hayb was convicted to 8 years in jail, 7 years for manslaughter and 1 year for the other charges. Amnesty International’s Kate Allen said that while the person responsible for Mr Hurndall’s death had been brought to justice, it was

“striking that this was almost entirely due to tireless campaigning by his family”.

“The strong suspicion is that if Mr Hurndall’s family had not shown utter determination to uncover the truth of their son’s death, then no-one would ever have faced justice for what happened to Tom,”

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17 Responses to Rachel Corrie: piracy, murder and kidnap on the high seas

  • stephenemoss says:

    There is a depressing truth in everything you say. Religious belief is the saddest and most dangerous product of human imagination.

  • larrywasserman says:

    “worthy of Auschwitz guards”

    You mean, those Auschwirz guards who loaded
    6,000,000 people into ovens?

    And Rachel Corrie? How about listing the names of of every Isaeli killed by terrorism.
    Or the that matter, how about the listing th name of every Muslim killed by Muslim extremists.

    When Israel does one thing it is sensational news. Look at the big picture.

  • Dr Aust says:

    “Religious belief is the saddest and most dangerous product of human imagination.”

    Luckily, some of the British newspapers like to give a platform to religious people who happily exemplify what Stephen just said.

  • @larrywasserman

    I guess I knew it was a mistake to mention Auschwitz. Nevertheless it was surely obvious that that I was not drawing a parallel between current events and the holocaust. Rather I was drawing a parallel between the mindless brutality that was shown by individual prison camp guards and the mentality that causes individual IDF people to shoot unarmed protesters through the head, and to taser unarmed civilians whom they deem to be moving “too slowly”. Or, seven years ago, the mentality of the person who deliberately crushed to death a 23 year-old US student with their bulldozer.

    It should also be obvious from what I wrote that I have no sympathy whatsoever for muslim fundamentalists.

    The message that I was trying to convey was that that fundamentalist religious beliefs seem to drive people to behave with a barbarity that boggles the imagination. That is true of islam. Sadly it is also true of Israel. I am not taking anyone’s side. I am deploring religions. All of them.

  • Dudeistan says:

    There is always a danger in associating Auschwitz with Israeli foreign and domestic policy. Economies of scale and all that.

    Jewish fundamentalism is as integrated into the Israeli government as fundamentalist Islam is in the Iranian government and fundamentalist Christianity in the pre-Obama American administration.

    Yitzhak Rabin tried very hard to make Israel a secular state and Benjamin Netanyahu seems to be doing his best to do the opposite. Rabin’s approach probably succeeded in improving Israeli security more than the current incumbent will ever achieve. Of course who gets assassinated?

    These fundamentalist nutheads (of all major faiths) seem hellbent on bringing Armageddon on, with the tacit support of course of Bush, Blair, Netanyahu and ‘I’m A Dinner Jacket’.

    It’s a pity science gave them them weapons to play with, but then that’s a different argument.

  • Jürgen says:

    @David Colquhoun

    Let us grant for a moment that the use of Auschwitz here is just used to draw a parallel between personal mind sets (though I do not really believe it):

    It is absurd still. Hurriyet had some pictures (http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/g.php?g=55&p=1). There is some discussion if they are Photoshopped, but I assume they are not plainly a lie.

    Soldiers attacked that way do what they have been trained: They defend themselves under an armed attack.

    Possibly, the decision to send a commando was a severe mistake. But comparing these soldiers to Auschwitz guards is just bizarre.

  • @Jürgen
    As I already said, I arther regret the Auschwitz analogy, if only because it has distracted attention from the main point. Problem is that if I change it now, I’d have to delete most of the comments.

    It is clear that some of the people on the ship did attack the soldiers, though not with firearms. It isn’t clear how serious that was, but a some reaction to having soldiers boarding in that way is hardly surprising.

    To my mind, the details of this particular incident are beside the point. Please let me know your opinion of the man who deliberately crushed to death a 23 year-old US student with his bulldozer. Or the sniper who murdered Tom Hurndall. Or, for that many, the locling up of Mordechai Vanunu for reporting what, in most other countries, would not be secret anyway.

    The flotilla incident is just one of a long series of events that have ignored international law, ignored the UN and ignored publc opinion in the Western world.

    The idea that the ends justify the means, however brutal the latter, was, I thought, thoroughly discredited. For most countries anyway.

  • Jürgen says:

    @David Colquhoun

    The argument in my posting was against putting the blame at the doorstep of the soldiers. That is, how I understood your statement “…mentality that causes individual IDF people to shoot unarmed…” My link to the Hurriyet pictures was about the “unarmed” in that sentence.

    Your reply raises some more interesting questions. An example: I do not know if we agree on that point, but the Guantánamo procedures of the Bush administration was simply putting aside rule of law. The construct of “illegal combatants” denied the protections of a criminal framework by calling them combatants and it denied the protections for combatants by calling them illegal. Nice trick!

    There has been much criticism about that. But really imagine an international flotilla by some activists, trying to deliver humanitarian aid for Guantánamo inmates. Try to imagine the political reaction of the US government and try to imagine the reaction of its military. Often, the argument of double standards has been stretched beyond meaning, but this example might illustrate, that you are falling into that trap.

    A naval blockade may serve several purposes, but keeping out weapons is one. And that one seems quite understandable and legitimate to me. Trying to stop people from breaking the blockade under these conditions is not that absurd either. (If I remember correctly, both Egypt and Israel offered to forward the load of the ships. Breaking the blockade was the point.) The idea that the Israeli administration deliberately caused that international uproar that happens now lacks any plausibility. Things got out of control. Using special forces for a policing job was one reason. Playing heroes on the side of some people on the Mavi Marmara was another. “Piracy, murder and kidnap on the high seas” is just not not adequate towards a people that feels threatened.

  • Dudeistan says:

    You acknowledge that using (Israeli) special forces for a policing job was one reason why things got out of control. Same with the bulldozer driver that killed Rachel. Excessive force.

    When will the Israeli government learn that reckless, disproportionate security polices damage Israel and, more importantly, undermine its future security?

    It’s failure to compromise may seem understandable given the hostility of some of its neighbours, but I think racist attitudes towards Arabs/Muslims underlie much that some, and I stress, some Israeli tactics.

  • Dudeistan says:

    Sorry if the last sentence didn’t make sense, but my wife was having a go at me for not unloading the dishwasher as I wrote it.

    .. underlie some, and I stress some, of the tactics of senior Israeli politicians.

  • Channel 4 News has an article, Israel’s changing mood after flotilla cuntroversies.

    It is particularly interesting because it is written by Sarah Miller, online editor of the Israeli newspaper Haaretz.com

    Despite the impression one gets if one tries to comment on these matters, far from all Israelis support the hardline polices of Netanyahu. Quite a lot seem to think that such extreme views will not, in the long run, be good for Israel (or anybody else).

  • sheldon101 says:

    If you repeat a story often enough, then people will believe it.

    Does the Israeli blockade of Gaza go too far when it comes to controlling what gets in and out? Yes.

    Was the naval blockade of Gaza ‘legal’?

    Yes, because…
    No, because.

    From what I’ve seen, the experts say it was legal. In one sense it has to be, because international law isn’t a matter of detailed legality as much as it represents reasonable practice — customary international law. And that’s particularly the case when it comes a situation when, if there wasn’t controlled access to Gaza, Hamas would bring in tanks, missiles etc.

    The humanitarian issue is separate. If they wanted to put pressure on Israel, then just bringing ship after ship to the blockade line and Israel would take it to Ashdod and eventually it would work.

    But let’s say you believe that the sea blockade is illegal. OK.

    But the point is that there is a difference of opinion. I don’t have a problem with each side yelling its position.

    But ignoring Israel’s position by a large number of people as opposed to small ships meant that violence was going to happen. Israel misjudged.

    As long as Hamas is in control, the sea blockade will continue. But it need not have a huge impact on Gaza. Those wanting to ship goods to Gaza by sea will have their cargoes approved by Israel or a third party or whatever.

    As to Israel’s actions, if the blockade is legal? They were 100% in compliance with the San Remo manual, a document about blockades that goes beyond what is settled about blockade law and more towards a humanitarian approach.

  • sheldon101 says:

    Read it again. Needs a bit more balance.

    I’ve also read the reasons given by those who argue that the blockade is illegal. The reasons have to do with the status of Gaza and Israel and it not being an international conflict.

    Let us say that the land blockade is illegal. Does that mean Israel has to allow weapons to reach Gaza via Israel? No. Why not? You don’t give weapons to your enemies, whether you’re in a state of international war or not.

    So it doesn’t make sense for Israel not to do the same on the sea.

    Finally, the Oslo accords, signed by Israel and the Palestine Authority, give Israel the same control over access to Gaza by sea as does the blockade. The palestinians have limited access to the sea for tourism and fishery and policing with the weapons and boats limited. Access to Gaza for cargo has to be decided by agreement.

    BTW, Israel did not use the Oslo accords as part of the argument that the sea blockade is legal.

  • Avoided Cranium says:

    Here is a list of things which Israel stops being imported into the Gaza Strip:
    Coriander, ginger, nutmeg
    Fruit juice
    Canned fruit
    Dried fruit
    Seeds and nuts
    Fishing rods, fishing lines
    Textiles or any fabric for clothing
    Chicken hatcheries, chickens
    Donkeys, horses, goats, cattle
    Musical instruments
    Wood for construction/furniture
    Plastic toys

    What has Yahweh got against musical instruments and coriander I wonder?

    Even “permitted” items like flour, cooking gas, and cooking oil and medicine are not reaching the people in sufficient quantities and with reliable frequency.
    It’s all part of the collective punishment of the people for daring to vote “the wrong way” in an open democratic election.

    When the Russians put a blockade on Berlin after WWII, the Allies had the courage to defy them and broke the blockade with the Berlin air-lift. They didn’t supply weapons to the starving Germans, just humanitarian aid.
    It’s now time the European Union stepped up to the mark and did the same for the Palestinian territories. Not in God’s name, but in the name of compassion for suffering human beings who cannot escape.

  • Dudeistan says:

    Do you have a reference for this list? Is it an edited version?

    If it is the definitive list, then choosing coriander over fennel does seem bizarre.

    The Israeli government’s campaign against Hamas seems too simplistic. They are not exactly on great terms with Fatah either (give the Dubai Debacle).

    I wonder how much Israeli, US, EU intelligence is kept out of the media?

  • Avoided Cranium says:

    Click to access full_report.pdf

    There are lots of similar lists via Google. It is not possible to verify any list with the Israeli authorities because they refuse to disclose information regarding the restrictions on transferring goods into Gaza.

  • Dudeistan says:


    A particularly unpleasant evidence of Israeli racism of.

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