By PATRICIA DeGENNARO
NEW YORK - This time Israel's government has gone too far. The storming of a civilian flotilla carrying 700 humanitarian activists and 10,000 tons of aid, in international waters, at night and in the dark, is reprehensible. It was no secret to anyone that this effort was underway. The organizers made it abundantly clear what the mission would be. It has been in the news for weeks.
This attack signals just how truly paranoid a state can become despite its immense wealth and strength without healing its own peoples past. Instead of acting like the economic and military power it is (Israel ranks 50th when it comes to the world's top per capita income states and has the third most powerful military in the world), Israeli soldiers boarded and killed nineteen unarmed civilians and wounded scores of others. Then claimed they were "attacked." The boat was bringing much needed medicines and supplies to the besieged Gaza. I'm sure the passengers and crew looked very scary coming at the Israeli military with Band-Aids.
Since its inception, Israel has done little to mature into a nation. It can no more interact with its neighbors, than frightening peace activists. The paranoia of the State has reached a level above and beyond. If it were an advanced and secure nation, the military would not have been ordered to exercise such brutality on helpless individuals outside its own borders of authority.
The state remains attached to its victim-hood too blind to see that it has willingly become the victimizer. Since its inception, hundreds of thousands of indigenous Palestinians have been displaced. Many remain in impoverished and overcrowded refugee camps in Lebanon, Jordan and the West Bank. Land that is not considered "Israel proper" within the context of 1967 international agreements, namely Gaza and the West Bank, have been and remain occupied by the Jewish State for more than 50 years. Within that time frame, "settlements" better known as illegal land confiscation has left no hope for those who may dream of an independent Palestinian state.
Further, Israel continues to hold the Shebba Farms in Lebanon, not willing to even negotiate the water rich land with its rightful Lebanese owners. The water is used for the houses build for solely Jewish residents who remain on Syrian contested land and those who continue to annex Palestinian land to build State funded homes and swimming pools. The occupied remain without the same opportunity for the water's coveted use.
Under the occupation Palestinian Arabs are relentlessly mistreated. Movements are controlled, checkpoints abound and resources allocated, if at all, by the Israel. Gaza is a cordoned off prison lacking food, water and shelter. The strip continues to be bombarded by unmanned drone plans despite the fact that it is already destroyed.
The Gaza war of 2009 left 75 percent of the people dependent on humanitarian assistance. More than 45 percent of its people are unemployed. During the war, more than 1,400 people lost their lives, and more than 5,500 are still suffering from injuries. Over 20,000 houses were demolished. According to the World Health Organization most children (50 percent of the population of Gaza are children) suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome and not one is getting the help they need to live a more normal life.
Youngsters, many under the age of 15, in the West Bank are often sentenced to jail for months because they threw rocks at soldiers in tanks. They are humiliatingly housed in Israeli prisons built by Israelis on Palestinian land. Many are psychologically and sexually abused.
The international community has become increasingly critical of this ongoing occupation, the land confiscation, and ever desperate situation in Gaza. The behavior Israel exhibited toward these humanitarian ships has infuriated them as well and with good reason.
Passengers aboard were from the U.S., Britain, Australia, Greece, Canada, Malaysia, Algeria, Serbia, Belgium, Ireland, Norway, Sweden and Kuwait.
Further, there were over 400 Turkish citizens causing a further rift between two allies. As Anita McNaught, an Al Jazeera correspondent pointed out. "Since the Gaza war [Turkish-Israeli] relations have nose-dived and it would be absolutely fair to say that this is the lowest point." In fact, Turkey has now recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv.
There should have been no resistance to these lifeboats. Especially since they were only equipped with supplies for those in Gaza who are suffering. In fact, Israel could have offered to meet them ready for inspection instead of forcefully boarding in waters they do not legally control. Then it could have escorted the boat to Gaza ensuring that those they will be living with forever begin to see the seriousness of their intention to improve the future.
That is what a mature nation that was serious about peace would do. Unfortunately what happened was quite the opposite.
These types of actions are committed by weak nations, which Israel is not. Therefore, it is time for Israel to start acting like a grown up and it is high time the international community, including the U.S., started treating it like one.
Israel must begin by owning its successes and recognizing its failures. It is time to take the high road. To work with the international community and its largest benefactor, the U.S., to find a way to live where it has chosen making peaceful deals with its neighbors that are fair and aligned. The excuses, the confiscations and the intimidation must stop.
Israel should not only be required, it should volunteer, to sign the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty joining all other nations that possess nuclear weapons. Thereby setting a precedent for other nations being pressured to do so. Asking Iran to do this while ignoring Israel's own status is hypocritical and should not be tolerated.
Israel must stop bombing Gaza. These random attacks are only making matters worse. If they do not, America should stop all weapons sales without delay. Nations like Israel who refuse to be accountable for their own actions should not be allowed to purchase any U.S. weapons period.
Finally, Israel must either acknowledge that it must spread true democracy by bringing in and assimilating all Palestinians including refugees in both the West Bank and Gaza. If this is not acceptable, the occupation of the West Bank and the cordoning of Gaza should cease immediately. Palestinians too deserve to build their own state and be free. To date, there is not a single sign that Israel is willing to allow this to happen.
These few steps are a beginning. As Israel reaches its prime, it, of all nations, should strive to become a country that never allows the degradation of others and is committed to using its wealth and power, like an adult, responsibly.
Patricia DeGennaro is an assistant professor at New York University’s Center for Global Affairs and a senior fellow at the World Policy Institute in New York.