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No justice, fairness expected from Washington
By Musa Keilani June 04, 2010
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Disappointment was in store for all those who expected the US administration of President Barack Obama to get tough with Israel in the wake of last week’s Israeli raid on a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip.

Indeed, the expectation was based on an assumption that US-Israel relations were at a low ebb after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu refused to freeze settlement construction in the occupied territories in order to revive peace talks with the Palestinians.

Effectively, what Netanyahu did was to make Obama realise and accept that there is little that any US government could do to pressure Israel into doing something it does not want to do. Netanyahu also showed Obama how Israel could apply pressure on the US president through using the influential pro-Israeli lobby and members of the US Congress.

Although Obama did sort of snub Netanyahu by giving him what was said to be a dressing down and denying him the usual trappings of a White House meeting, the Israeli prime minister won the round when the US president had to invite him to the presidential residence last week. That meeting had to be called off because of the deadly Israeli commando raid on the aid flotilla.

Given the tension in US-Israel relations posed by the high-handed Israeli attitude, the world had expected Obama to seize on the Israeli raid and act as any other head of government would in response to the gross violation of international laws.

Instead of condemning the raid and calling for international action against Israel, we found the Obama administration pressuring the UN Security Council not to adopt a resolution criticising Israel and into diluting the language of a non-binding presidential statement that even failed to mention Israel by name.

Of course, the statement called for an “impartial” investigation into the Israeli raid, but Washington deliberately left it vague in order to let Israel itself conduct the inquiry.  It is highly unlikely that the called-for investigation will be conducted under the guidance of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon as some governments had expected.

At the end of the day, we find that the US remains as entrenched with Israel as it ever was and is continuing to protect its “strategic ally” from international censure.

That is the message that we have to take from the comment by US Vice President Joe Biden, who praised Israel for raiding the flotilla and declared that the Jewish state “had a right to know” what might be on board.

As far as the US is concerned, Israel acted in self-defence and Hamas is to be blamed for everything.

The Israeli version of the raid says that its naval forces ordered the flotilla to change course and dock at the Israeli port of Ashdod.

When its order was not obeyed, Israel launched a commando raid against a Turkish ship that killed at least nine passengers and wounded scores of others, including  seven Israeli soldiers.

Israel insists that the pro-Palestinian activists aboard the ship attacked its soldiers with metal rods, knives, slingshots and two guns seized from the raiders themselves. Israeli soldiers had no option to open fire on the aggressive activists, it says.

The Israeli version conflicts with that of the activists and media representatives aboard. According to an Al Jazeera reporter, the Israelis opened fire before boarding.

In any event, the fact remains that Israel violated international law when its ordered the raid against the flotilla. The ships carrying aid for the blockaded Gaza Strip were unarmed and they were in international waters beyond the 12-mile limit of Israeli territorial waters. As such, Israel had no right to intercept the flotilla. On the other hand, the activists aboard had every right to defend themselves against anyone who came aboard their ship.

Well, the very purpose of the flotilla was to bring international attention to Israel’s inhuman blockade of the Gaza Strip. That has definitely been served although at the cost of human lives.

Although US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did not call for an end to the three-year-old blockade, she described situation in Gaza as  “unsustainable and unacceptable.”

The European Union and many other governments called for an immediate end to the blockade.

While those sympathetic to the cause of the Palestinians could not expect the US and other Israeli allies to help lift the siege of the Gaza Strip, they could indeed raise the case of the Israeli raid against the flotilla at every international forum and use every opportunity to highlight the suffering of the Palestinians living in the Mediterranean coastal enclave. The idea is to make it “politically unsustainable” for Israel to maintain the blockade.

In the meantime, the bitter taste generated by the insensitive behaviour of the Obama administration would not go away. It has reaffirmed the reality that Washington could not be expected — or would not be able even if it wants — to uphold justice and fairness as the basis for a solution to the Palestinian problem.

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