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Michael Kieschnick

Michael Kieschnick

Posted: June 1, 2010 01:36 AM

The U.S. Should Break the Gaza Blockade

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Brutal violence is all too commonplace. But usually it is not public, as was the Israeli Navy's attack on the flotilla bringing aid to Gaza. The flotilla was designed to bring public attention to the plight of civilians of Gaza, and it has done so.

Israel's action, indisputably in international waters, was an ill conceived act of piracy condemned by essentially every nation other than the United States. The seizure of the flotilla of civilian ships is the consequence of a government committed to defending the siege of Gaza at all costs rather than defending Israel itself.

The United States is Israel's primary friend. But when our friend does something so clearly wrong, it is our obligation to come to the aid of the victim and demonstrate that another path is not only possible but the right approach. To do otherwise serves neither the United States nor Israel.

There is no set of facts which justifies the deaths of the flotilla civilians. Instead, faced with near universal revulsion and condemnation, Israel is trying very hard to change the subject away from the humanitarian consequences of the siege, or away from its clearly illegal boarding of a ship far out in international waters, to instead focus on the resistance of a small number of people on the attacked ship. To illustrate even the inadequacy of this defense, just imagine if the ships had been American ships delivering aid to victims of a Pakistani earthquake which were attacked by Al Qaeda.

I recognize that it is early in the news cycle, and that much more will be unveiled. But the unavoidable truth is that the flotilla was in international waters. Israel has no jurisdiction in those waters.

Today, the civilians of Gaza need support. Withholding food, medicine and building supplies from the million and a half civilians of Gaza because of the indefensible thuggery of Hamas is collective punishment that is appropriately illegal under the Geneva Conventions. It is not only unethical but does not work.

Israel's unprovoked attack on the flotilla has brought unprecedented international attention to the blockade and its humanitarian consequences. The United States stands alone on this issue.

There is only one international voice that has influence in Israel and that is the United States. The same ships that brought relief to Haiti can bring food and medical supplies to Gaza. The United States should set a very short deadline for ending the blockage. If the siege is not ended, then American ships should set sail. Rep. Brian Baird of Washington has called for a modern Berlin airlift for Gaza. Much of the naval might of the United States is in the Middle East.

What better symbol of American honor and integrity than to divert a handful of those ships to delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza.

Would Israel dare stop and board American relief ships?