Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
Massacring Peace Activists in International Waters
By Zeenia Satti
Al-Jazeerah, ccun.org, June 7, 2010
Israeli naval massacre at the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is an act of
“Overkill,” a calculated strategic maneuver in a volatile environment. The
act has sparked an outrage in the Muslim world. This in turn will produce
two distinct results. The US, and regional incumbents who are allied with
the US in its battles, will find themselves at the receiving end of this
renewed political rage. Israel considers the military show down between the
US and the Islamic world as a strategic win for itself. The more America
depletes the military potential of the regional Islamic states, the better
off Israel considers itself to be in the long run.
At five o clock
in the morning of May 31, Israel launched a co ordinated naval and air
attack by its military forces on a peace flotilla headed for the Gaza strip
with 10.000 tons of relief supplies. The Flotilla had raised its white flag
as the Israeli troops landed on board. Despite that, the Israeli commandos
opened fire, killing at least nine peace activists on board, and wounding as
many as sixty others. There was a coordinated naval and air attack on the
lead ship carrying 600 passengers. Amongst the critically wounded is Sheikh
Rayed Salah, a leading peace activist and an important Arab Muslim citizen
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is an international aid
project, aimed at defying the three years old blockade of Gaza that has led
to a vast humanitarian crisis in the war ravaged Palestinian territory. The
project is made of 750 high profile civil society activists from 40
countries. It consisted of seven ships, all of which were carrying relief
supplies when they were attacked by the Israeli commandos. As Israel opened
fire, killing indiscriminately, many of the media personnel were allowed to
film the mayhem and release it to the world.
Israel’s scripted move
of May 31 must be analyzed against the larger political developments in the
Middle East. In Afghanistan, the Karzai government is all set to hold a
peace jirga on the second of June, 2010. The Jirga is to comprise of 1600
leaders from across Afghanistan, who will try to reach a consensus on ending
the nine year long conflict and discuss the shape of post war Afghanistan.
President Obama does not want to enter in to a peace deal with the “Taliban”
just yet. Hamid Karzai on the other hand, considers it essential. The
upcoming Peace Jirga on Wednesday is largely a result of Karzai’s efforts.
The meeting is to be guarded by twelve thousand security forces, which
speaks volumes for the fragility of the process.
Pakistan is engaged in its own bloody offensive in Orakzai agency in which
the Pakistan army clearly has an upper hand. Pakistan plans to launch an
offensive in North Waziristan as well, which will have to be soon enough,
given America’s pressure. Needless to mention, the success of Pak army’s
military offensive entirely depends on public support within Khyber
Pakhtunkhwa in particular and the larger Pakistani society in general.
Within Israel and Palestine, the US envoy George Mitchell had succeeded in
getting the Palestinian President Mahmaoud Abbas to agree to US mediated
proximity peace talks with Israel. For the talks to succeed, Israel would
have to halt the construction of settlements in Jerusalem. Mahmoud Abbas is
scheduled to travel to Washington on June 9 for continuation of the peace
talks. Although he has said on May 31 that there is no need to cancel the
peace talks, the outrage in Gaza will likely deprive him of the public
support he would have carried to the peace table had the naval massacre not
taken place. The event not only complicates his political situation, it
imperils the entire US effort in this direction.
In the Arabian
Peninsula, Yemeni civil war, which created a humanitarian crisis of its own,
entered a peace phase on May 24 when Sana, while commemorating the merger of
north and south on May 22, 1990, declared an amnesty for all imprisoned
southern separatists and northern Houthi rebels. In a televised speech,
President Ali Abdullah Saleh expressed the hope that the freed rebels will
go on to being good citizens, helping set Yemen on the road to peace and
progress. While all sides in Yemen hailed the amnesty as the final step in
ending the civil war that has rocked the country since 2004, the fragility
of the Yemeni political landscape renders it highly susceptible to regional
events. The renewed rage caused by the Israeli naval massacre on the Peace
Flotilla, and the predictable Luke warm US response to the same, could rock
the Yemeni peace boat once again and may even capsize it altogether. Given
the massive US military build up in the Arabian Peninsula, the fires stoked
by the May 31 naval massacre could very well envelope the area and draw the
US troops further deep into the heated landscape.
While the public
outrage caused by the act has no doubt isolated Israel, the latter is quite
accustomed to periodic isolation of this nature. The international support
that matters the most to Israel is that of the US. The May 31 naval massacre
is not likely to swerve Israel’s pivotal support in the opposite direction.
In the long run, it is the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and
Palestine that are going to be adversely affected by Israel’s act of
overkill. The region wide public outrage will complicate the political
situation of each one of the governments in the above mentioned countries.
As peace processes and incumbents’ power both begin to crumble under the
weight of popular fury, the US military will move in as the final arbiter of
all matters political. Israel hopes to gain a long term strategic benefit
from such a development.