The United States has to stop letting Israel get away with murder.
Israel believes, and so far correctly, that it can violate the most basic protections of law with impunity. Each time Israel has done so, the United States has stood ready to ensure that Israel will not be brought to account, thereby encouraging even more egregious violations of fundamental rights.
The deadly attack on the Gaza flotilla is only the latest instance.
The flotilla of six ships carrying people from more than 50 countries was trying to make its way to Gaza to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian supplies for the beleaguered people of Gaza who have lived under an Israeli-imposed blockade for nearly three years.
The ships were attacked on the high seas where the law of the sea guarantees freedom of navigation. The fact that the boats were heading to Gaza does not legitimize the attack. These were not boats armed with missiles intending to attack Israel.
The Israelis then compounded their crimes by kidnapping 600 or so activists and forcibly taking them to Israel.
The reaction of much of the world to these blatant violations of law by Israel has been outrage. Turkey, Ecuador and South Africa recalled their ambassadors to Israel. Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared: “This action, totally contrary to the principles of international law, is inhumane state terrorism.” Even Britain’s new Conservative prime minister, David Cameron, called the attack “completely unacceptable” and called for an end to the blockade.
But the United States was virtually silent, this despite the murder of one 19-year-old U.S. citizen, apparently shot four times in the head and once in the chest, and the kidnapping of at least 12 other Americans and the seizure of an American-flagged ship, the Challenger I.
The State Department issued a statement that made the United States look woefully out of touch with the rest of the world: “The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident today aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We are working to ascertain the facts, and expect that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation.”
Apparently after realizing the diplomatic cost of its position, the United States said it was “open to different ways of ensuring a credible investigation including international participation” and called Israel’s blockade of Gaza “unsustainable and unacceptable.”
However, on the very same day, the United States voted against the U.N. Human Rights Council resolution to dispatch an independent, international probe into violations of international law resulting from the attack on the flotilla.
Responsibility for the recent attack and murders on the flotilla lies not just with Israel. As long as Israel knows that the United States will shield it from accountability for its crimes, it will continue to commit crimes. The United States must cease granting Israel impunity.
Michael Ratner is president of the Center for Constitutional Rights. He wrote this for Progressive Media Project.