Imagine if Iran had hijacked a ship delivering humanitarian aid in international waters and kidnapped its passengers, including a Nobel laureate and a former U.S. Congresswoman. Do you think just maybe you might have heard about it?
But when Israel does precisely that, there is near total silence. Where it is being reported, the mainstream media is employing couched language that is apologetic towards Israel.
A New York Times story, for instance, reported under the headline “Activists Held by Israel for Trying to Break Gaza Blockade” that “Nineteen foreign activists of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement were being held in Israel awaiting deportation on Thursday, two days after the Israeli Navy seized control of their boat off Gaza.”
Notice the use of the neutral term “seized”, which could just as easily refer to a lawful action as an illegal one in violation of international law and treaties pertaining to conduct on the high seas.
The Israeli navy “commandeered” the boat carrying humanitarian supplies, and whose passengers included former Representative Cynthia McKinney and Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, says the Times.
If the same thing had happened off the coast of Somalia, the word “hijacked” would have undoubtedly been the preferred nomenclature.
The Times did note that “Richard Falk, the United Nations special rapporteur for human rights in the Palestinian territories, said in a statement from Geneva on Thursday that the seizure of the boat was unlawful”, the only hint in the article that Israel had violated international law.
Elsewhere, the news of McKinney’s kidnapping by Israel has been met with sentiment ranging from near indifference to outright hostility–not towards Israel, but McKinney.
The Fox News blog Liveshots makes note of it under a dismissive headline, “Cynthia Mckinney Does it Again“, featuring a poor-quality image of McKinney not in her professional attire with her hair pulled back, but sporting her Afro. Why this image, as though no higher quality or more flattering picture were available?
“This was the second incident involving Mckinney, [sic] and the Israeli navy. In December 2008 she was aboard another relief boat seized for violating the Israeli blockade.”
So, you see, it wasn’t Israel, but McKinney, that had done the “violating”. Nothing to see here. Move along.
Mary Ann Akers of The Sleuth blog at the Washington Post is outright hostile towards McKinney, with a headline mocking, “Cynthia McKinney Strikes Again” and opening with the line, “Somehow we didn’t think we had seen the last of Cynthia McKinney.” After explaining how McKinney has “resurfaced” by being “arrested” by Israeli forces, Akers launches into a mockery of her political career; she was defeated n 2006 “not long after she was accused of punching a Capitol Police officer”, and had previously “made a brief comeback” after a 2002 defeat “at which time her father said he blamed the “J-E-W-S” for his daughter’s defeat.”
So, you see, McKinney is a wreckless hothead from a family of anti-Semites. And so we may dismiss her being “arrested”–a word implying that Israel’s action was somehow lawful–for “waging a ‘reckless political stunt’” (Akers quoting the Israeli Consulate General of Israel in Atlanta).
On Thursday, McKinney issued a statement on the Green Party website: “We were in international waters on a boat delivering humanitarian aid to people in Gaza when the Israeli Navy ships surrounded us and illegally threatened us, dismantled our navigation equipment, boarded and confiscated the ship. All of us on board were taken off the ship and into custody, and brought into Israel and imprisoned.”
The website notes additionally that “Ms. McKinney and other Free Gaza 21 members have refused to sign a self-incriminating ‘deportation form’ stating that the Spirit of Humanity was violating the Israeli blockade and trespassing Israeli territorial waters by attempting to deliver supplies to Gaza. In fact, the Spirit of Humanity was in international waters when it was illegally seized by the Israeli navy in an act of piracy.”
McKinney called WBAIX radio while imprisoned in Israel in a statement that has been posted on YouTube. She called upon President Barack Obama reinforce his rhetoric calling for Israel to ease the siege of Gaza with action, something he has so far chosen not to do.
Without action on the part of his administration, and given the fact of U.S. financial, military, and diplomatic support for Israel, his words, Obama’s rhetoric is empty and devoid of any significance beyond lulling the public into a false sense that he is willing to take a strong stand against Israel and its violations of international law.
Irish peace activist and Nobel Prize winner Mairead Maguire also made a call from her Israeli jail cell, speaking with Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! “We are being charged with entering illegally into Israeli–near Israeli shores”, she explained.
Their boat was 25 miles off the shore of Gaza–well in international waters–when their vessel was hijacked after Israeli navy vessels had threatened to open fire upon their defenseless boat, and its passengers kidnapped.
Notice also Israel’s implicit assumption that the the beaches of Gaza are “Israeli shores”, and that it therefore has a right to seize vessels entering, or on course to enter, Gaza’s territorial waters.
After being kidnapped by Israeli forces, the boats passengers were “under gunpoint, forcibly taken to Ashdod”, explained Maguire.
Turning to the purpose of their voyage, the plight of the Palestinian people of Gaza under a siege by Israel and “subjected to collective punishment by the Israeli government” in violation of international law, Maguire said, “the tragedy is that the American government, the U.N. and Europe, they remain silent in the face of the abuse of Palestinian human rights”.
She might just as well added the complicit American mainstream media to that legitimate criticism.
Jeremy R. Hammond is the editor and principle writer for Foreign Policy Journal, an online publication dedicated to providing news, critical analysis, and commentary on U.S. foreign policy, particularly with regard to the “war on terrorism” and events in the Middle East, from outside of the standard framework offered by government officials and the mainstream corporate media. He has also written for numerous other online publications. You can contact him here.