The flotilla tragedy in the International Waters of the Mediterranean Sea both on May 31 and June 5 created more risks than opportunities for Israel to keep on justifying its periodic use of force on the pretext of security and self-defense. It is not only the Arabs but almost the whole world has disagreed with Israel both on its argument and actions over the question of humanitarian aid concern. Despite the usual American support, Israel seems to stand alone as its disproportionate use of force and humiliating methods against 32 nationalities in the area beyond its jurisdiction violate the Law of Sea, Fourth Geneva Conventions, UN Security Council Resolution 1860 and even the San Remo Agreement. Justification of any kind cannot place Israel to stand above the framework of law and legitimacy.
Freedom Flotilla is a part of the global campaign–”Freedom Gaza, to reach out to the ‘open air-prison’ where 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza have been suffering from genocidal effects of Israeli blockade since 2007. Israel justifies blockade on the following allegations are getting exposed now. Hamas is Islamic militant group backed by Iran. It is committed to eliminate Israel and uses tunnels for weapons smugglings. On the contrary Hamas is elected by the majority of Palestinians. Its government has no army and Gaza’s air-space, coast and border are illegally controlled by Israel despite it vacated Gaza in 2005. Iran provides moral and diplomatic support to Palestinians as many others do. Hamas is not committed to destroy Israel but to eliminate Israeli colonial occupation. In fact Israel is against Hamas because the later has not recognised it as the former deprives the Palestinian nationality of statehood under the ‘land for peace’ deal and Oslo and Madrid Accords. This is to recall that Israel had adopted similar attitude towards the PLO till 1991 but compromises by the PLO further enslaved the Palestinians.
Implications for the region
There seems to have started change of discourse in the context of giving special space to Israel in international diplomacy mainly due to the role of Turkey as emerging regional power. Turkey has lost a lot due to fall of Iraq both monetarily and politically. Turkey is in partnership with EU’s foreign policy. It is still a trusted ally of the US and NATO with the commitment to peace –”keeping operations in volatile areas. Turkish opposition to Israel is intended tomaintain checks and balances in regional power system. Over-strengthening of Israel and its penetrations into northern Iraqi Kurds has created security threats to Turkey and Iran. Israel has already weakened the Palestinians to a large extent. This has resulted in regional security and stability which Turkey is not going to accept any more. Moreover, Israel has violated over 90 resolutions of the UN Security Council and the fresh resolution of the Human Rights Council for independent inquiry. It does complicate the dying peace process as Israel’s intolerance to certain basic international norms is unfolding.
The tragedy of Freedom Flotilla has major implication beyond the regional boundaries. Israel is on the verge of losing Turkey as its only friend and partner in the West Asian region as Turkish Parliament has passed a declaration condemning the action of Israel against the flotilla. At the same time, Turkey seeks to maintain good relations with Israel with the reservation of its disagreements with unlawful activities. It also seems to have united both the major parties AK and CHP on this issue despite the fact that they are bitterly opposed to each other. Turkey has started consultations with the heads of armed forces, intelligence and other ministries to review its relations with Israel.
As it is an open fact that Mahatma Gandhi was opposed to the partition of Palestine and the usurpation of the land by newly settled Jews, India seems to have taken its classic position over flotilla by “deploring the tragic loss of life and the reports of killings and injuries to people on the boats carrying supplies for Gaza. There can be no justification for such indiscriminate use of force, which we condemn. We extend our sympathies to the families of the dead and wounded. It is our firm conviction that lasting peace and security in the region can be achieved only through peaceful dialogue and not through use of force."
Losing the ground
Israel could not succeed in its argument to convince the world that the flotilla was posing a security threat to Israel and the Israeli commandos found weapons on the captured ships. Various testimonies of the victims returning homes deny such charges with the exception of maximum three activists used chairs to attack commandos opening fires upon them. Most of the detainees returned home after two days in which seven planes were sent by Turkey and Greece. Freedom Flotilla was an organized effort of humanist souls for raising the human rights concerns for Palestinians in Gaza Strip where 1.5 million have been under severe Israeli blockade since summer 2007 after Hamas formed an elected government. Later Israel launched 23 days-long bombings on Gaza during December 2008-January 2009. Amazingly Israel rejected any international regional effort for the reconstruction of Gaza. So the idea of Freedom Flotilla floated.
There have been varied kinds of international response to the incident but all of them unanimous on its illegitimacy. The emergency meeting of the UN Security Council took a serious note of it and condemned the ‘action’ resulting in deaths and injuries of peaceful civilians. It also spoke of international inquiry. Former US President Jimmy Carter condemned Israel and urged the Quatret to lift embargo against Gaza. American professor of Law at the Princeton University, Richard Falk called it ‘lawless and murderous behavior’. The US, the Vatican and the West expressed ‘concerns’ and ‘regrets’ over it while India, Turkey, Nicaragua, China, Cuba, Venezuela and Afro-Asian world condemned it.
The most disturbing aspect is that Turkey is not going to maintain the status-quo vis-Ã -vis Israel till the Palestinian issue get resolved. Turkey seems to have emerged as the most trusted regional force, in the eyes of both the East and the West, to both persuade and force Israel to stand by its commitment to two-States solution. It has suspended football matches, military joint exercises, water and energy projects with Israel. Turkey doesn’t seem to be interested in Israel which stands above International Law as it will disturb regional balance of power. However, the whole event has further exposed Israel that it maintains ‘zero-tolerance’ even for unarmed peace activists that too in a place where Israel has no sovereign claim. It raises the main question how Israel would tolerate an independent Palestinian State.