Feelings have run particularly high in Turkey, where some of its nationals have been killed [AFP]

At least 15 killed Listen

In the early hours of Monday, May 31, the Israeli navy intercepted a flotilla of boats carrying thousands of tonnes of aid to Gaza. Nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara – the flotilla’s largest boat – were killed with over 50 injured.

Since Israel’s invasion and massacre of over 1,400 people in Gaza 18 months ago, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, global civil society movements have stepped up their campaigns for justice and solidarity with Palestinians.

Governments, by contrast, carried on with business as usual, maintaining a complicit silence.

Israel’s lethal attack on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza may change that, spurring governments to follow the lead of their people and take unprecedented action to check Israel’s growing lawlessness.

Lip Service

One of the bitterest images from Operation Cast Lead was that of smiling European Union heads of government visiting Jerusalem and patting Ehud Olmert, the then Israeli prime minister, on the back as white phosphorus still seared the flesh of Palestinian children a few miles away.

Western countries sometimes expressed mild dismay at Israel’s “excessive” use of force, but still justified the Gaza massacre as “self-defence” – even though Israel could easily have stopped rocket fire from Gaza, if that was its goal, by returning to the negotiated June 2008 ceasefire it egregiously violated the following November.

When the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report documented the extensive evidence of Israeli war crimes and crimes against humanity, including the willful killings of unarmed civilians, few governments paid more than lip service to seeing justice done.
Even worse, after Cast Lead, EU countries and the US sent their navies to help Israel enforce a blockade on Gaza which amounts to collective punishment of the entire population and thus violates the Fourth Geneva Convention governing Israel’s ongoing occupation.

Not one country sent a hospital ship to help treat or evacuate the thousands of wounded, many with horrific injuries that overwhelmed Gaza’s hospitals.

Growing gap

The US administration is standing behind Israel, even if public opinion is not [AFP]

Indeed, the global reaction demonstrates the growing gap between the US and Israel on one side and the rest of the world on the other.

While Israeli officials scrambled to offer justifications from the ludicrous (elite commandos armed with paint ball guns) to the benign (the attack was an “inspection”), the US has once again stood behind its ally unconditionally.

As the Obama administration forced a watered-down presidential statement in the UN Security Council, Israeli apologists in the mainstream US media repeatedly attempted to excuse Israel’s actions as lawful and legitimate.

Senior administration officials, including Joe Biden, the vice president, openly began to echo their Israeli counterparts that Israel’s attack was not only legitimate but justified by its security needs.
Despite the predictable and shameless US reaction, international condemnation has been unusually robust.

In his speech to the Turkish parliament following the attack, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish prime minister, denounced Israeli “state terrorism” and demanded that the international community exact a price.

Erdogan vowed that “Turkey will never turn its back on Gaza,” and that it would continue its campaign to lift the blockade and hold Israel accountable even if it had to do so alone.


There are hopeful signs it may not have to.

European and other countries summoned Israeli ambassadors and several recalled their envoys from Tel Aviv.

Franco Frattini, the Italian foreign minister and one of Israel’s staunchest apologists in Europe, said his country “absolutely deplored the slaying of civilians” and demanded that Israel “must give an explanation to the international community” of killings he deemed “absolutely unacceptable, whatever the flotilla’s aims”.
Small countries showed the greatest courage and clarity. Nicaragua suspended diplomatic ties completely, citing Israel’s “illegal attack”. Brian Cowen, Ireland’s prime minister, told parliament in Dublin that his government had “formally requested” of Israel that the vessel Rachel Corrie still heading toward Gaza, be allowed to proceed, and warned of the “most serious consequences” should Israel use violence against it.
The boat – named after the young American peace activist killed by Israeli occupation forces in Gaza in 2003 – is carrying Malaysian and Irish activists and politicians including Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead Maguire.


The Martyrs

Below are the 9 people that were martyred on the aid ship Mavi Marmara.




Ibrahim Bilgen

61, an electrical engineer from Siirt. Member of the Chamber of Electrical Engineers of Turkey. Married with 6 children.


Ali Haydar Bengi


39, from Diyarbakir. Graduate of Al-Azhar University, Cairo (Department of Arabic literature). Married with 4 children.


Cevdet Kiliçlar


38, from Kayseri. Originally a journalist, worked for the past year as webmaster for the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). Married with two children. See him participating in an IHH African relief project here.


Ãetin Topuoglu

54, from Adana. Former amateur soccer player and taekwondo champion, who coached Turkey’s national taekwondo team. Married with one son. 

His wife, Çigdem Topçuoglu, was also aboard the Mavi Marmara, but survived.





Necdet Yildirim

32, an IHH aid worker from Malatya. Married with a three-year-old daughter.


Fahri Yaldiz

43, a firefighter who worked for the Municipality of Adiyaman. Married with four children.




Cengiz Songr

47, from Izmir. Married with six daughters and one son.


Cengiz Akyuz

41, from Iskenderun. Married with children aged 14, 12 and nine.



Furkan Dogan

19, student at Kayseri High School; planned to become a doctor. Son of Dr. Ahmet Dogan, Assoc Prof at Erciyes University. A Turkish-American dual national, with two siblings.






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