Linda Heard
Arab News (Opinion)
September 6, 2011 - 12:00am

Ankara should be congratulated on standing up to its former ally Israel over Tel Aviv's refusal to apologize for the killing of nine Turkish activists on a Turkish aid ship attempting to break Israel's blockade of Gaza. Adding salt to the wound is a leaked report from the UN-authorized Palmer Commission into the incident that is heavily weighted in Israel's favor to the point of legalizing its siege of Gaza and confirming Israel's right to challenge ships in international waters to prevent weapons smuggling.

Turkey's reaction to the report — contradicting an earlier report by the UN Human Rights Council's fact-finding mission that stressed the blockade's illegality — was swift. Ankara has downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Tel Aviv, frozen all military ties, is considering cutting trade links and has announced plans to seek the judgment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague as to whether Israel's siege on the Gaza Strip is legal or illegal. Given that collective punishment of a civilian population contravenes the Fourth Geneva Convention, I don't see how credible legal minds could do anything else but pronounce its illegality.

Both the secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the secretary-general of the Arab League have expressed their support for Turkey's initiatives and have condemned the Palmer Commission's report as being a whitewash that wrongly condones Israel's attack on a humanitarian flotilla and its illegal blockade of Gaza.

One of Egypt's leading presidential hopefuls and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa says Cairo should take a leaf out of Ankara's book by recalling Egypt's ambassador from Tel Aviv over Israel's recent border incursion resulting in the murder of Egyptian security personnel.

According to an Egyptian daily, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyep Erdogan is scheduled to visit Cairo next week to meet with his Egyptian counterpart and the leadership of Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to discuss a new strategic alliance with the Arab world's largest country. Israelis fear that Turkey is extricating itself from the US/Israel camp and is about to switch sides.

I hope that Turkey will inspire Arab states to join with it in teaching Tel Aviv a long overdue lesson, one that the Western world has shirked. Israel's crimes against the Palestinian people since its founding in 1948 when entire villages were leveled and their unarmed inhabitants were murdered or driven out by the ruthless Irgun, Stern Gang and Haganah are too numerous to list. Israel is a state that was born from terrorism and until this day lives by the gun. Israeli politicians love to highlight “Arab terror” while feigning amnesia when it comes to their own terrorist acts.

They forget that their “pioneers” blew up Jerusalem's King David and Semiramis hotels, the massacre of Palestinians in Deir Yassin, Dawayma and Kibya, their attack on the USS Liberty for which Cairo was on the point of being nuked by the US in retaliation.

They've gotten away with their involvement in the 1982 slaughter of refugees in Lebanon's Sabra and Shatilla camps, the killing of 1,200 Lebanese civilians in 2006 and “Operation Cast Lead” that robbed 1,400 Gazans of their lives in 2008. And until now, they've succeeded in holding the 1.5 million residents of Gaza in a virtual prison for years without any meaningful comeback from the international community.

It's utterly shameful that Israel has been permitted to destroy Palestinian lives and livelihoods, incinerate orchards and olive groves, lock up young children for throwing stones and humiliate a proud people, true sons and daughters of the soil, for over 60 years to the sound of the West's cheers.

Britain has much to answer for beginning with the Balfour Declaration. Neither that fading imperialist power nor the League of Nations had any moral right to turn over Palestine to European immigrants who were allowed to arm themselves and engage in military training even as Palestinians were sentenced to life in prison for carrying a knife while those found with guns were given the death penalty.

Nothing has changed since then. When Israel uses Apache gunships and missiles to attack Gaza or instructs its commandos to hijack aid-bearing vessels in international waters, Western leaders invariably say Israel has the right to security. When Palestinian freedom fighters — for that is what they are — launch crude homemade rockets toward Israel that mostly fall on desert sands, they are labeled as “terrorists”. Think about it! It's beyond belief that an occupying nuclear power with the most powerful military in the region is consistently painted as the victim while the occupied population is written-off as being the aggressor.

Since Uncle Sam grabbed the Zionist torch from the no longer Great Britain, Israelis rightly believe they can commit heinous crimes against Palestinians and others with absolute impunity. Washington, whose lawmakers are under the spell of the pro-Israel lobby, not only gives Israel free rein to do its worst, it attempts to block Palestinians from using recognized legal channels using its power of veto in the UN Security Council.

President Barack Obama knows full well that the Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu has no intention of relinquishing occupied land for peace; yet he has announced that he will use America's veto to prevent the Security Council from recognizing the Palestinians' unilateral declaration of a Palestinian state later this month. And at the same time, there is a bill being passed in Congress that will cut US aid to the Palestinian National Authority should it dare to place its case on the world's stage.

With up to 140 UN member states supporting the endeavor, the US is trying to con the Palestinian leadership with spurious offers of peace negotiations to save itself from embarrassment. At the same time, UN Secretary-General Ban-Ki moon is pressurizing Turkey to mend fences with Israel for the sake of a peace process which hasn't existed outside of hot air since Bill Clinton was in office.

Prime Minister Erdogan and President Mahmoud Abbas must remain firm in their resolve to take Israel to task whatever the cost and if the Arab League and the OIC are ready to put their heads firmly above the parapet in unison, Israelis may get the message that in an increasingly hostile region, the bus marked “peace” is the only one worth boarding.


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