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October 12, 2009

High-Seas Piracy: Them And Us

The Usual Double Standard

A few months ago, THE story that sent the media into mind-numbing paroxysms of orgasmic gushings for days on end was the minute-by-minute coverage of the Somali pirating affair, culminating in the dramatic rescue operation by U.S. Navy SEALs and delivery of due come-uppances to the perpetrators.

It was only a matter of weeks later that another flagrant act of piracy took place, this time in the eastern Mediterranean, carried out not by bands of lawless brigands but as an official operation ordered by a state government. But this time there was no frenzy of publicity. In fact, few of the people that I talked to and corresponded with in the following months had heard of the event, so I thought I'd contribute something to making it more widely known by saying a few words here.

On June 30, the Israeli Navy, in international waters, intercepted and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat Spirit of Humanity, bound from Cyprus to beleaguered Gaza with a cargo of medical supplies, olive trees, children's toys, and supplies for reconstruction after the havoc wrought by the Israeli onslaught at the beginning of the year. The boat was towed to Israel, the cargo impounded, and the 21-person crew from 11 countries forcibly taken off and placed under detention. These included former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney and Irish Nobel Laureate Mairead MaGuire. Former U.S. Assistant Secretary of the Treasury Paul Craig Roberts provides a more detailed account here, and tells of Cypriot government's evident forewarning and reluctance to grant the boat permission to sail. Click here for a youtube clip of the Israeli assault.

The action came a day after a release by the International Red Cross reporting that the situation of the people of Gaza was desperate, with seriously ill patients not getting the treatment they need, and thousands whose homes and belongings were destroyed still without adequate shelter. It stated that the almost 4.5 billion dollars pledged for relief by donor countries would be of little use while Israel continued to prevent building materials and other essentials from being imported into the Gaza Strip. Water and sanitation services were insufficient, and hospitals were struggling because of complex and lengthy Israeli-imposed import procedures that impeded the delivery of basic medical necessities. Since it doesn't seem to be a topic that gets what one might call balanced treatment by the mainstream, here's a site that provides information and statistics on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Against the present background of incessant war drumming to demonize Iran, it's perhaps illuminating to try and imagine the circus of outrage and demands for "justice" that would have been enacted if the Spirit of Humanity had been hijacked by some other Middle Eastern group such as Hamas or Hezbollah, or in an official act by, say, Syria or Iran. In that case we'd have seen day-long tirades on every news channel denouncing the action for what it was--an act of piracy against a ship on a humanitarian mission, and of multinational kidnapping--and the bombs would long ago have begun falling, very possibly with another invasion and occupation under way. Hell, they're already moving up around Iran, openly threatening it with obliteration on a daily basis, and it hasn't done anything at all.

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