by: Ray McGovern, Consortium News | Op-Ed
Israeli soldiers in the port of Ashdod stand next to a ship which was part of a flotilla heading to Gaza, Tuesday, June 1, 2010. The wheelchairs in the foreground were offloaded from one of the ships. (Photo: Rina Castelnuovo / The New York Times)
Despite opposition — and even warnings — from the U.S. government, a group of Americans will join a small flotilla of boats challenging Israel’s blockade of the 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Former CIA analyst Ray McGovern explains why he is joining this protest.
Stuffing my backpack before setting out to board “The Audacity of Hope,” the U.S. boat to Gaza, I got a familiar call from yet another puzzled friend, who said as gently as the words allow, “You know you can get killed, don’t you?”
I recognize this caution as an expression of genuine concern from friends. From some others — who don’t care about Gaza’s plight or who do not wish us well – the words are phrased somewhat differently: “Aren’t you just asking for it?”
That was the obligatory question/accusation at the end of a recent interview taped for a BBC-TV special scheduled to air this coming week as we put to sea to break — or at least draw attention to — Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and the suffering it inflicts on the people there.
I also have been cautioned by a source with access to very senior staffers at the National Security Council that not only does the White House plan to do absolutely nothing to protect our boat from Israeli attack or illegal boarding, but that White House officials “would be happy if something happened to us.”
They are, I am reliably told, “perfectly willing to have the cold corpses of activists shown on American TV.”
I mention this informal warning for the benefit of anyone who may have harbored hope that the U.S. government would do something to protect us American citizens from the kind of violence used by the Israelis against last year’s flotilla. Better to be up front and realistic about what to expect.
Little Known Facts
–Israel itself helped to create Hamas in 1987 as a Muslim fundamentalist, divide-and-conquer counterweight to the secular Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO).
–The bulk of Hamas’s popular appeal — like that enjoyed by Hezbollah in Lebanon — stems not from the crude rockets fired toward Israel, but rather from the tangible help they give to oppressed Palestinians.
And don’t take my word for it. Here’s what James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, included as a sort of afterthought at the end of his 34-page “Worldwide Threat Assessment” before the House Intelligence Committee on Feb. 10, completely missed, for some reason, by the FCM:
“We see a growing proliferation of state and non-state actors providing medical assistance to reduce foreign disease threats to their own populations, garner influence with affected local populations, and project power regionally. …
“In some cases, countries use health to overtly counter Western influence, presenting challenges to allies and our policy interests abroad over the long run.
“In last year’s threat assessment, the Intelligence Community noted that extremists may take advantage of a government’s inability to meet the health needs of its population, highlighting that HAMAS’s and Hizballah’s provision of health and social services in the Palestinian Territories and Lebanon helped to legitimize those organizations as a political force.
“This also has been the case with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.”
I hope readers were not shocked by the diabolically clever way these “terrorist” movements garner public support by providing people life-saving medical care.
--It was on that public-service record (and also because of wide awareness of flagrant corruption in the PLO), that Hamas won a key parliamentary election in January 2006, defeating the PLO-affiliated Fatah party. While the election results were not disputed, they were not what the U.S., Israel, and Europe wanted. So the U.S. and the EU cut off financial assistance to Gaza.
–Confidential documents, corroborated by former U.S. officials, show that thereupon the White House had the CIA try in 2007, with the help of Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, to defeat Hamas in a bloody civil war. That, too, did not go as expected. Hamas won handily, leaving it stronger than ever. (See “The Gaza Bombshell” by David Rose, in Vanity Fair, April 2008, for the entire sad story.)
–Israel and Egypt then imposed an economic blockade on Gaza eventually reducing virtually all Gazans to a bare subsistence level and 45 percent unemployment.
–From Dec. 27, 2008, to Jan. 18, 2009, while President George W. Bush was a lame duck, Israel launched an armed attack on Gaza, killing about 1,400 Gazans compared to an Israeli death toll of 13. Israel’s stated aim was to stop rocket fire into Israel and block any arms deliveries to Gaza. President-elect Barack Obama said nothing.