Tag Archives: Mavi Marmara

Interview on the UN Palmer report on Mavi Marmara raid

New York-based writer (among other vocations) J.A. Myerson interviewed me yesterday about the just-released United Nations Palmer report on the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara.  Excerpts:

J.A. Myerson: The New York Times is reporting that it has obtained a copy of a United Nations review, which comes out tomorrow, regarding Israel’s raid on the Mavi Marmara, when Israel killed nine people, including an American. The primary findings of the review appear to be a) that Israel used excessive force when it boarded the flotilla but that some force was apparently justified, given the hostility that Israeli commandos encountered upon boarding, and b) That Israel’s blockade of Gaza, which the flotilla was trying to break, is justified and appropriate. Among opponents of the blockade of Gaza, of which you and I are two, it’s an accepted truism that one reason to oppose the blockade is its illegality. What is the argument that the blockade is illegal, if that is indeed what you believe, and what is your response to the UN review contesting that description?

Alex Kane: The full naval-land-air blockade that the Gaza Strip is under was instituted first following the 2006 elections in the Palestinian territories when Hamas won what were widely acknowledged to be democratic elections. One justification for the blockade that Israel cites is that Hamas is holding Gilad Shalit, the Israeli soldier, in captivity. Israel also contends that the blockade exists for security reasons.

But what’s clear under international law, under the Geneva Conventions, is that collective punishment is illegal, and the blockade of Gaza is illegal because it constitutes collective punishment. Israel is punishing every single person in the Gaza strip, roughly half of whom are under the age of 18, for having voted in democratic elections and for the political positions that Hamas espouses.

The blockade is also, as Yousef Munayyer of the Palestine Center pointed out last June, in violation of Part V Section II (102) of the San Remo Manual on International Law, which prohibits blockades a) that have the sole purpose of starving the civilian population or denying it other objects essential to its survival; or b) under which the damage to the civilian population is, or may be expected to be, excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated from the blockade.

Numerous UN reports and bodies have deemed the blockade illegal as collective punishment. The International Committee of the Red Cross has said so, Richard Goldstone in the Goldstone Report said so, the independent Human Rights Council report on the raid on the Mavi Marmara said so, and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, has said so. So we can play a numbers game, in that there are far more instances of respected international bodies as well as respected human rights organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that have deemed the blockade illegal, and now we have this one panel saying that it is legal.

The other thing is that you have to look at the makeup of the panel tasked with this investigation of the Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara and the five other ships that were part of the first Freedom Flotilla. The big red flag that people should focus on is the fact that Álvaro Uribe of Colombia was one of the two supposedly independent observers on this committee. Uribe cannot plausibly be thought of as impartial on issues of human rights. He has himself been implicated in numerous human rights abuses as president of Colombia and he is also an outspoken supporter of the state of Israel. So that also calls into question the impartiality of this panel, which was the one panel of inquiry that the UN set up that Israel agreed to cooperate with.

JAM: If this panel is reputed by its commissioning body to have been impartial and the makeup of the body indicts is as being impartial, that suggests that it was commissioned in order not to be impartial, in other words that it was commissioned in order to deliver these results. How do you account for that?

AK: Yes. That’s an accurate assessment.

You have to go back to right after the flotilla incident in 2010. After this happened, when nine people ended up dead and dozens injured, Israel came under a huge amount of pressure in a variety of ways, both from states and from global civil society in the form of the BDS Movement. My reading is that, in order to deflect this pressure, and after some prodding by the Obama Administration, Israel finally agreed to cooperate with this panel. This is a first for Israel. Israel does not often cooperate with the UN, so you have to wonder what was going on behind closed doors and what was said to Israel to make it suddenly cooperate with the UN, especially about an issue as politically charged as its raid on the flotilla.

Another important thing to note is that the mandate of the panel coming out with this report did not give the panel much power. It did not call witnesses, it did not collect documents. It was called a fact finding mission. And it seems like the panel has collected the Israeli side and the Turkish side and kind of plopped it in this report. That’s what I gather the report was. The point of it was not to be an independent investigation that was designed to get to the bottom of who was at fault, who was wrong, what should happen.

Read the full interview here.

UN report on ‘Freedom Flotilla I’ was questioned from the start

Media outlets are reporting that the results of a United Nations inquiry into last year’s raid on the first “Freedom Flotilla” is set to be released soon, though diplomatic wrangling between Turkey and Israel appear to have held up publication of the report for now.

The reports indicate that the inquiry has found that Israel’s blockade of Gaza is legal under international law, but that the Israelis used “excessive force” during their naval raid on the Mavi Marmara, which resulted in the deaths of nine people.  It’s important to keep in mind, though, that many observers have cast doubt on the impartiality of the report given the panel’s make-up–a point boosted by the fact that the UN appears to be sanctioning an Israeli blockade that numerous UN-affiliated reports and individuals have concluded is an illegal act of collective punishment. 

This inquiry was separate from a UN Human Rights Council report released in September 2010, which found that Israeli forces violated international law in attacking the flotilla and used “unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate” force.  Israel, just as they did during the Goldstone mission, did not cooperate with that report.  On the other hand, Israel did cooperate with the panel set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and it appears that cooperation has, at least partially, paid off.

The New York Times reports:

Diplomats said Turkey and Israel were eager to find a compromise over the wording of the report by a United Nations committee that is led by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer of New Zealand and has Turkish and Israeli representatives. Diplomats said the committee’s findings — made following heated deliberations that lasted nearly a year — would be likely to leave both countries uncomfortable.

According to United Nations diplomats, the latest draft of the report asserts that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was legal, but that in some cases its commandos had used excessive force in seizing the ship. Turkey, the diplomats said, is taken to task for having made an insufficient effort to prevent the ship from sailing. In addition, the motives of the I.H.H., the charity that organized the flotilla, are called into question.

The report’s released has been delayed amid squabbling over its wording, although it could be made public as soon as Thursday.

For many, the panel was discredited from the start.  This report–written shortly after the announcement of the establishment of the UN inquiry–from Inter Press Service explains why:

Norman Solomon, executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy, told IPS: “How truly independent will this inquiry be?” That’s the key question, he said.

“My initial concern is that the panel membership appears to be tied in with politically powerful interests — not a good sign. Whether this will be a clarifying or whitewashing effort remains to be seen,” he added.

[Phyllis] Bennis of the Institute for Policy Studies told IPS that the irony, of course, is that the international and UN-backed team reflects Israel’s continuing US-backed influence at the United Nations.

In particular, the appointment of former Colombian president Alvaro Uribe Velez “guaranteed” the “failure” of the report, according to an analysis that appeared in the Electronic Intifada.  Uribe himself is implicated in massive human rights abuses and is a known supporter of the State of Israel.  An excerpt from the Electronic Intifada piece:

It is hard to believe that, in spite of Uribe’s appalling human rights record, he has been chosen to be part of a UN human rights commission. Going beyond Uribe himself, any representative of the Colombian state must be suspect when it comes to investigating human rights violations as official and “unofficial” state-sanctioned human rights abusers act with impunity; 98 percent of such cases remain unprosecuted (“Baseless Prosecutions of Human Rights Defenders in Colombia,” February 2009).

It also strains credibility to believe that Colombia, the biggest recipient of US military “aid” after Israel and Egypt, a country that has agreed to host seven new US military bases on its territory last year, can be impartial in relation to Israel. Both the Israeli and Colombian governments share an ideological approach to their opponents, based on a belief that respecting human rights is a non-issue when it comes to pursuing their military goals against rebel groups. Unsurprisingly, there is also large-scale military cooperation between the two rogue states.

In recent years, according to news reports, Israel has become Colombia’s number one weapon supplier, with arms worth tens of millions of dollars, “including Kfir aircraft, drones, weapons and intelligence systems” being used against opponents of the Colombian regime (“Report: Israelis fighting guerillas in Colombia,” Ynet, 10 August 2007). According to a senior Israeli defense official, “Israel’s methods of fighting terror have been duplicated in Colombia” (“Colombia’s FM: We share your resilience,” 30 April 2010)…

The admiration is mutual, and Uribe undertakes his role of impartial investigator weighed down with awards from various Zionist organizations. These include the American Jewish Committee’s “Light unto the Nations Award” and descending further into Orwellian doublespeak, the “Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism” from B’nai Brith.

While the Colombian government and Uribe are entitled to their choice of friends, this — to say the least — indicates that there will be no objectivity whatsoever with regard to Uribe’s role in the commission.

It appears that Israel only agreed to cooperate with this particular UN inquiry as there is very little chance this commission will take an independent stance and deliver an unbiased verdict on the brutal Israeli attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Indeed, Israel has declined to cooperate with the other UN commission into the attack appointed by the UN Human Rights Council. It can be reasonably argued that Colombian and Israeli cooperation in this matter is a further step towards jointly “doing more in terms of the fight against terrorism” (to paraphrase Bermudez’ remarks in Israel).

American flotilla passengers set to challenge U.S. support for Gaza blockade

This article originally appeared in Mondoweiss:

The pressure is mounting on the second “Freedom Flotilla” to Gaza.  Anti-flotilla lawsuits in New York and Toronto have been filed, the Israeli government is ramping up its propaganda efforts and the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship is no longer sailing following U.S. pressure.

But the American passengers are still determined to sail on The Audacity of Hope later this month, and they are now on their way to Greece to complete the initial leg of their journey before setting off to the Mediterranean from an undisclosed port.

And if there was one important and unifying message the American flotilla passengers conveyed yesterday at a press conference where they took questions from reporters, it was this:  the U.S. Boat to Gaza effort is a direct challenge to American support for Israel and its crippling blockade of Gaza.

Gabriel Schivone, an Arizona resident and activist, said that he will be wearing a Star of David around his neck on his journey to Gaza to “symbolize the root meanings of Judaism that are not emphasized enough, namely welcoming a stranger as you were a stranger, helping free the slave as though you were once enslaved.  So rather than travel to contribute to more death and suffering, I choose to travel there to directly and nonviolently protest the support and participation of my own government in these crimes.”

Schivone is joining 36 other Americans who are off to Gaza.  Hundreds of people from some 20 countries are set to take part in the flotilla aiming to break Israel’s blockade.

“We have a special responsibility,” said Richard Levy, a labor and civil rights lawyer joining the boat.  “Our country is not supporting what [Bashar] Assad is doing.  It is not supporting what [Mahmoud] Ahmadinejad is doing…But the fact is, we are the main supporters of what Israel is doing in the Middle East.  And that support has been destructive not only to the Palestinian people but to this country in a very, very large way.”

Levy also reported details of a meeting U.S. flotilla activists had with the State Department in which they provided details about the mission and asked for protection.  The activists also wanted to “talk policy issues,” which the State Department declined to meet with them about.

A State Department spokesperson told reporters June 1 “that groups and individuals who seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that entail a risk to their safety.”

Shortly after the meeting, according to Levy, the State Department sent them a communique that “warned people not to go on the flotilla, that Israel could be expected to use force, and that Israel expected to enforce its blockade.”

“The State Department is on notice, the president is on notice,” said Levy. “Communications have been made with all levels of the State Department and the administration to let them know that this is a boat of U.S. citizens on a peaceful mission, and that we expect the United States government to speak to Israel or to do what it needs to do to protect its citizens.”

Another American Family Grieves Over Israeli Killings With Impunity

Ziad Jilani and his three American daughters

Emily Henochowicz, Tristan Anderson, Furkan Dogan, Brian Avnery, Rachel Corrie and more–all American citizens killed or severely injured by Israel with no justice served and barely a peep heard from U.S. authorities.  Now, add Ziad Jilani, who was a permanent resident of the U.S. and whose family holds U.S. citizenship,  to that list.

Last summer, Jilani was executed at close range by Israeli Border Police in East Jerusalem.  Amira Hass of Haaretz reported then that:

A motorist from East Jerusalem who ran over and wounded several Border Police officers Friday was shot twice in the face from close range while still lying on the ground, eyewitnesses said. Neighborhood witnesses said the fatal shots were fired once the officers no longer had reason to fear that their lives were in danger, and could have easily arrested the suspect.

Witnesses in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Wadi Joz told Haaretz that the motorist, Ziad Jilani, suddenly swerved his car and hit the group of officers walking further up the road. They said, however, that they believed the collision was an accident, and not committed intentionally as initially reported.

Hass and Yaniv Kubovich have the report on the Israeli Justice Ministry closing the case:

The widow of a motorist who was shot to death by police in East Jerusalem in June learned yesterday from her lawyer that the Justice Ministry closed its investigation into the case. In a conversation with Haaretz Moira Jilani, a U.S. citizen, expressed shock over the closure of the investigation.

In the aftermath of Jilani’s death, Richard Silverstein wrote on the U.S. Consulate offering little help to the Jilani family:

Jilani’s widow is an American citizen.  As such, she is entitled to the services of the U.S. consulate in East Jerusalem.  Alas, the consulate’s response has been lackadaisical and sullen at best.  After an inquiry from Jilani’s sister, a U.S. citizen living in California, Congressman Brian Bilbray wrote to the consulate.  The response by Consul Debra Towry was typical CYA bulls(&t.  She claimed falsely that a list of attorneys was offered to the family.  The truth is that the family was forced to hire its own attorney with no help whatsoever, and certainly no list proffered, from the consulate.  The consul noted in her letter to Bilbray that a consular representative attended the first legal hearing into Jilani’s death.  This is true.  But they only did so after the widow begged them to do so.

This is a pattern with Israel, and the U.S. doesn’t do nearly enough to push for justice for its own people.  Henochowicz’s case has been closed.  The Obama administration didn’t touch the case of Dogan, the Turkish-American who was murdered on the Mavi Marmara.  The Corrie family is still bravely seeking justice.  And Israel is the U.S.’ bedrock “ally.”


The U.N. Flotilla Report Goes Down the Media’s Black Hole

The return of the Turkish Mavi Marmara to Istanbul and efforts to end the Israeli-Turkish diplomatic chill has produced a number of media reports that mention the May 31 Gaza-bound aid flotilla.  But news outlets are continuing to frame the events aboard the flotilla ambivalently, and there is a media blackout of mentioning the one independent report on the Israeli raid that has been released.

The Associated Press:

The ship was part of an international flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza in a campaign to breach the blockade on Gaza when Israeli troops intercepted the convoy. Eight Turks and an American-Turkish teenager were killed in the violence that erupted on board the Mavi Marmara…

Israel insists commandos opened fire in self-defense after meeting what they called unexpected resistance when they boarded the Mavi Marmara

The New York Times:

Israel has refused to apologize, saying that the ship was warned to stay away and that Israeli commandos fired in self-defense after the activists aboard the ship fired first.

In both of these accounts, media outlets–reflecting their slavish devotion to “objectivity”–have avoided explicitly blaming either Israel or the activists for the 9 people that were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara.  But by quoting what Israel says and omitting what the activists and the United Nations report on the raid state, mainstream media has de facto created the impression that Israel bears little blame.

The U.N. report, which has gotten little media attention, was written by three human rights experts who found that the raid was “disproportionate” and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.”  It debunked Israel’s claims of “firing in self-defense,” finding that “live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers” onto the ship.  Some more excerpts from the U.N. report that you won’t find in corporate media:

Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges (beanbags) and plastic bullets. Forensic analysis demonstrates that two of the passengers killed on the top deck received wounds compatible with being shot at close range while lying on the ground: Furkan Doğan received a bullet in the face and İbrahim Bilgen received a fatal wound from a soft baton round (beanbag) fired at such close proximity to his head that parts such as wadding penetrated his skull and entered his brain. Furthermore, some of the wounded were subjected to further violence, including being hit with the butt of a weapon, being kicked in the head, chest and back and being verbally abused. A number of the wounded passengers were handcuffed and then left unattended for some time before being dragged to the front of the deck by their arms or legs…

In boarding the Mavi Marmara, both from the sea and from the air, the Israeli forces met a level of resistance from some of the passengers on board that was significant and, it appears, unexpected. However, there is no available evidence to support the claim that any of the passengers had or used firearms at any stage. In the initial phases of fighting with the Israeli soldiers on the top deck, three Israeli soldiers were disarmed and taken inside the
ship. At this point, there may have been a justifiable belief of an immediate threat to life or serious injury of certain soldiers which would have justified the use of firearms against specific passengers..

The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuoğlu were shot on the bridge deck
while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Extra legal and summary executions, combined with the fact that the U.N. team found that the Israelis fired first, belie the claim that Israel acted in self-defense and with justification.  Israel’s willing media partners should, at the very least, include the conclusions of the U.N. report in their articles on the Mavi Marmara.



Meet Eric Cantor: On Israel/Palestine, Contempt for International Law and Justice

With the Republican Party set to take the House of Representatives tomorrow, it’s worth taking a look at the new potential majority leader, Representative Eric Cantor of Virginia and the only Jewish Republican in the House, and his positions on Israel/Palestine, an area that he is “particularly active on.” As Josh Rogin of Foreign Policy writes, “GOP lawmakers stand to play a huge role” in a variety of foreign policy areas, and their impact will be even greater if they are the majority party in the House.

Cantor’s positions on Israel are no different than most Democratic and Republican officials, but his actions and words could play a large role if he becomes the next majority leader.

I’ve done some research–by no means exhaustive–over the past day or so on Cantor’s positions and statements on Israel.  Here’s some of what I found:

-Cantor “supported Israel’s handling of the eviction of two Arab families from a house in east Jerusalem.”  The area in question here is the neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, which has become a flash point in East Jerusalem and the site of weekly protests by Israeli leftists and Palestinians against the evictions.  The evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah is but one manifestation of the ongoing attempts to kick Palestinians out of their homes to make way for Jewish settlers in East Jerusalem.  Read more about the situation in Sheikh Jarrah here and here.

-In regards to Jerusalem as a whole, Cantor expressed anger when the White House condemned the announcement of the building of 1,600 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem last March.  He wrote, “Could the White House truly be this offended by an Israeli decision to build 1,600 homes years from now in a part of its capital city that everyone understands will remain a part of Israel in any future peace agreement with the Palestinians?”  Further underscoring his contempt for international law, Cantor said, in July 2009, that the “insistence that Israel return lands it has occupied since the 1967 Six-Day war and accept a ‘right of return’ of Palestinians who fled their homes in what is now Israel ‘is just like saying you don’t accept the historical right of Israel to exist.'”  International law is clear on the status of East Jerusalem, the occupied territories as a whole and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

-After the flotilla massacre on May 31, 2010, in which Israeli naval commandos rappelled onto the Turkish Mavi Marmara ship that was part of an effort to break the blockade of Gaza and killed nine people (including an American citizen), Cantor “pressured President Barack Obama to veto any ‘biased’ U.N. resolutions in response to an Israeli military attack on a flotilla.”  The naval raid was characterized by a U.N. fact-finding mission as resulting in a  “series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law.”  Out of the 9 victims, 6 were found to be killed in what “can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.”

-Cantor regularly paints Palestinian “culture” as being defined solely by violence.  In conservative publications like the National Review, Cantor opines that “Itamar Marcus, director of Palestinian Media Watch, last year best summed up the prevailing Palestinian culture by quoting from Hitler’s Mein Kampf: ‘If you want adults to be killers, teach the youth hate.'”

-Cantor and his House colleague Steny Hoyer (D-Maryland) took to the pages of the Washington Times in January 2009 to defend the Israeli assault on Gaza, an attack that Amnesty International called “22 days of death and destruction.” The definitive United Nations report on the 2008-09 Gaza war, authored by respected South African jurist Richard Goldstone, found the assault to be “a deliberately disproportionate attack designed to punish, humiliate and terrorize a civilian population.”


Caught Between a Wall and a Shipwreck

The following article originally appeared in the latest issue of the Indypendent:

Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict
Edited by Moustafa Bayoumi
OR Books, 2010

A Wall in Palestine
By René Backmann, Translated by A. Kaiser
Picador, 2010

The Israel/Palestine conflict has become so all-consuming that even objects are central to the struggle. Two recent books illustrate this fact.

René Backmann’s A Wall in Palestine looks at the planned 490-mile-long, 25-foot-high wall, complete with fencing, trenches, thermal imaging and sniper towers, that Israel is building in parts of the West Bank. The second work, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, is a collection of essays examining the deadly Israeli attack on an international seaborne convoy. The “Freedom Flotilla” was attempting to break the crippling blockade of Gaza, which began in 2007 when Hamas took power after winning democratic elections and defeating a U.S.-backed effort to install Fatah, the party that lost the elections, into power.

Both works reveal how inanimate objects — the wall and the flotilla of six ships — have become so imbued with conflicting meanings and ideas that they can be seen as actors that create new actions in their wake, such as the plans by international activists to launch new ships to Gaza or the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions movement that takes aim at Israeli colonization, particularly what many have labeled the “apartheid wall.”

While French journalist Backmann’s work is a useful contribution to understanding the separation barrier, the author all too easily adopts the language of the Israeli occupation and spends little time on crucial context and history relating to the Israel/ Palestine conflict. Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, on the other hand, gives readers a much more comprehensive look into the current situation as well as vital history and context, like explaining why the ongoing “peace process” is bankrupt.

The International Court of Justice, in an advisory opinion, ruled the separation barrier to be illegal under international law in 2004. The vast majority of it snakes through occupied Palestinian territory, slicing up Palestinian villages and cutting off access to urban areas.

The idea of separating the Palestinian population from the Israeli population has deep roots within Zionist ideology and has been proposed by Israeli officials for decades.

But it wasn’t until the aftermath of the second Palestinian Intifada that began in 2000, and Ariel Sharon’s rise to power, that the idea of constructing a physical barrier was seriously considered. Ironically, the rightwing Likud Party, of which Sharon was a long-time member, was originally wary of the concept. The idea of a barrier built on Israel’s borders as established in the aftermath of the 1947-49 war — as some Israeli politicians on the left suggested — might create the boundaries for a future Palestinian state and leave Israel’s colonization project of the West Bank in jeopardy, something that right-wing Zionists had no interest in.

In 2002, after a wave of Palestinian suicide bombings inside Israel, the Israeli government under Sharon decided to begin building the barrier.

Although security for Israeli civilians was the stated justification for the wall, its route made clear that it was primarily an annexation project. As the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem explains, “a major aim in setting the route was de facto annexation of land: when the Barrier is completed, some nine percent of the West Bank, containing 60 settlements, will be situated on the western — the ‘Israeli’ — side.” Other benefits of the route of the barrier from the Israeli perspective include, as Backmann notes, the taking of fertile land and precluding the possibility of a Palestinian state.

When describing the Sharon government’s siege of the Occupied Territories in 2001, Backmann refers to civilian casualties as “collateral damage.” On a number of occasions, he refers to the West Bank uncritically and without quotes as Judea-Samaria, which is the biblical term used by Israeli settlers. Backmann fails to discuss the events of 1947-49 that led to the creation of Israel, including the ethnic cleansing of 750,000 Palestinians by 1949. An exploration of the colonial nature of Zionism would help explain why Israel sees no problem with building a separation barrier that tramples on the human rights of Palestinians.

Also missing is an in-depth discussion of the rise of popular resistance movements across the West Bank, which developed in response to the building of the barrier.

Resistance to the Israeli occupation isn’t just confined to Palestinian villages, though, as the events of the May 31 Freedom Flotilla, explored magnificently in Midnight on the Mavi Marmara, show. The flotilla was an international effort that included 600 passengers from a multitude of nations, and attempted to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip by sea.

The book is a comprehensive antidote to Israel’s attempt to spin the events as a group of savage Islamist terrorists “lynching” defenseless Israeli soldiers. The reports from eyewitnesses who were aboard the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara are clear: As the flotilla was in international waters, Israeli commandos rappelled onto the Marmara, opened fire and killed nine people. A recently released U.N. report authored by three human rights experts found the Israeli raid to be illegal, “disproportionate” and brutal. Beyond the lucid eyewitness accounts, the book includes exceptional analyses of what the attack means and where the international solidarity movement goes from here. Philip Weiss and Adam Horowitz, editors of the blog Mondoweiss (for which I am a contributor), aptly call the attack on the flotilla a moment that has caused “many to consider what Zionism has built in the Middle East.”

Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Washington, D.C.-based Palestine Center, reminds readers that Israel massacring civilians is not a new phenomenon, nor is the world’s apparent unwillingness to hold Israel accountable for war crimes.

While it is a one-stop shop for all things “Freedom Flotilla,” Midnight on the Mavi Marmara has a dearth of original content, with most contributions being reprints. It’s an understandable shortcoming given the lightning- quick turnaround. But it reads more as an immediate reaction to the flotilla killings than a reflection on how and why the flotilla marks a “turning point” in the Israel/Palestine conflict. There are a couple of duds as well. For instance, Stephen Walt, the co-author of The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy, writes an uncharacteristically boring “how to” guide on “defend[ing] the indefensible.”

By and large, though, if one wants to understand the attack on the flotilla and the utter necessity of building an international solidarity movement that will finally bring Israeli apartheid down, this is the book to read. It couldn’t have come out at a better time; while the world’s media incessantly focus on recently re-launched “peace talks,” the real work of bringing about liberation for the Palestinian people can be found in efforts like the Freedom Flotilla.

Adam Shapiro, a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement, succinctly closes out the book with his piece on the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement and the effort to break the blockade of Gaza through ever-escalating direct action: “The days of the oppression of Palestinians — whether in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, in refugee camps, or in the diaspora — are numbered. It is now in all our power to expedite that day of liberation.”