As a passenger of the Mavi Marmara, the flagship vessel of the humanitarian convoy that Israel attacked in international waters, I am cautiously optimistic about Israel's announced plan of "easing" the Gaza blockade.
Easing, after all, is not the same as "complete lifting," and it is yet to be determined what the nature of this easing process will be. Still, I am encouraged by the fact that this small step resulted in the first place from the Freedom Flotilla's nonviolent act of civil disobedience.
However we must never forget that nine civilian peace activists -- including one American citizen -- were unjustly killed in the process, and that the challenge still remains of bringing Israel to account for its actions on May 31st.
In their defense of the indefensible, the Israeli government has attempted to slander the character of the victims and other flotilla participants by drawing false links to terrorism, and portraying us as a lynch mob of anti-Semitic Muslim fanatics.
Fortunately, we were able to smuggle some footage of the Israeli assault off the ship and safely back to the US, and which I was able to screen at the United Nations. It paints a picture in stark contrast to Israeli claims of a violent mob looking for a fight. I encourage everyone to view this footage. You will see people from all walks of life, secular and religious, Muslim, Christian, atheistic, male and female, young and old. Prior to the raid they are talking, sleeping, praying or working on their computers. After commandos invade the ship you see men scrambling, the dead and wounded being hurried to the lower decks, away from Israeli gunfire, and groups of men huddled together with whatever makeshift items they can find, including broom handles, pipes, and sticks -- not exactly a well-prepared or well-trained armed force.
Furthermore, after a meticulous examination of our footage, journalist Ali Abunimah has discerned some very troubling details about Israeli conduct aboard the Mavi Marmara. This includes evidence of Israeli commandos indiscriminately firing with live ammunition on groups of passengers who pose no threat, as well as the possible use of American and European-made weapons in hijacking the ship -- an infraction of both US and European arms agreements.
What happened on the Mavi Marmara is not an anomaly for Israeli forces, nor is it a "botched" raid as many like to refer to it. Since the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, where Israeli forces dropped cluster bombs on civilian targets, through the devastation of "Operation Cast Lead" in 2008-09, where Israeli forces were found to have used white phosphorous on civilians in Gaza, we see a pattern of escalating brutality in which Israel continues to act with total impunity in violation of international law.
We must use the momentum and outrage generated by Israeli actions aboard the flotilla to bring this pattern to an end.
Given the context provided by our footage, and those details therein which fly directly in the face of Israeli claims, Prime Minister Netanyahu should be pressured to move beyond the sham "Turkel Committee" he has assembled to investigate the raid, and which both Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have criticized as inadequate.
We need an inquiry that is truly impartial, transparent, and which satisfies international standards. Despite the fact that the youngest of Israel's victims on the flotilla -- 19-year old Furkan Dogan -- was an American citizen, we cannot rely on our American leaders in this pursuit of justice. And so it is our moral obligation to speak out even as our government remains silent.
The same courage, creativity, and determination which was applied to exposing the illegality and cruelty of the Gaza blockade must also be applied to ensuring that Israel, as well as every other nation in the world, can no longer brutalize civilian populations with impunity, and will act in accordance with international law.