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Jun-02-2010 16:23printcomments

Beyond The Gaza Flotilla Attack: What Needs To Be Done, And How

A NATO multinational naval presence off the Gaza coast is just what is needed for openers...

Flotilla massacre by feda2
Artwork of Flotilla by feda2

(JACKSON, Miss.) - The opening moves in the reaction to the Israeli interception of the first wave of the Gaza flotilla have now been made. Israel visibly underestimated the international response to its attack and the casualties it inflicted. Widespread condemnation ensued almost everywhere, many Americans became aware for the first time that something was seriously amiss in that part of the world, and attempts were made to bring both the UN and NATO into play.

But Israel also understood clearly that no matter what it did to whom, or how the rest of the world reacted, its dominance of the mainstream media (MSM) in the US and its lock on the US Government (USG) assured that its view of the event would be the one most Americans received. More importantly, it could count on the USG to refrain from joining in the general condemnation, and to ensure that whatever formal responses emerged from the UN Security Council and NATO were little more than platitudes, lacking teeth and allowing it as the offender to investigate itself, if it chose to do so. "Such a deal," as the saying goes.

What Needs to be Done

And that is precisely what seems to be happening to date, although the appearance of the MV Rachel Corrie under Irish sponsorship can fuel the still-bubbling cauldron of global unhappiness — Israel and the US mostly excepted, of course. An Israeli interception of that ship, with or without casualties, would further enrage almost everyone concerned with this issue. It would also give Obama an opportunity to see just how much political damage is caused him by outraged Irish-Americans, the majority of them Democrats, if once again he does the "Yassuh, massa" routine with Netanyahu.

And Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman's remark that "… the Security Council resolution [on Israel's attack] is unacceptable and contributes nothing to the promotion of peace and stability in the Middle East" is on the mark, although not in the way he meant it. It is unacceptable because it lacks direct condemnation of Israel and sanctions, and defers to USG intransigence on Israel's behalf — I sometimes wonder that USG leaders, including President Obama and Secretary Clinton, dare use the bathrooms in their offices without first asking Netanyahu's permission. It is doubly unacceptable because anything that does not bring Israel to heel and hold it accountable for its actions cannot in any way further peace or stability in that region.

What is needed is not difficult to enumerate, and others have noted one or more in the past. First and foremost is a formal condemnation of Israel by name in both the UN and by NATO, one of whose members (Turkey) is an aggrieved party in this latest incident.

Second, Israel should be suspended from membership in the UN, pending the outcome of an independent investigation into the incident (or incidents, as the MV Rachel Corrie may well have been intercepted before anything can be done) and a complete lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

Third, a phased set of sanctions needs to be imposed on Israel, beginning with a complete banning of flights and ships to and from Israeli destinations, or the transshipment of passengers and goods to and from Israeli airports and seaports. Formal embargoes and the seizure of overseas Israeli assets would follow if needed.

Finally, a multinational naval force under both national and UN flags is needed to escort relief ships to and from Gaza, to prevent any future assaults like the one that just happened to the aid flotilla, and to keep the Gaza coastline free of Israeli naval forces. Egypt should be commended for opening its crossing with Gaza and encouraged to keep it open.

Making it Happen

I do not for a moment underestimate the practical difficulty of implementing these measures, or others like them. What makes it even worse is that many governments are overwhelmed by a sense of inertia: they are so accustomed to seeing good efforts fail on the wall of US vetoes and leverage protecting Israel, that they are reluctant to do anything except make a nominal effort and go away grumbling after losing.

That need not happen now. In the aftermath of the latest incident with the flotilla, more countries across the globe are coming together condemning Israel than even after the submission of the Goldstone Report. France and Britain have joined Russia and China in calling for a lifting of the Gaza siege. India and Brazil have condemned the attack. Turkey, a key regional state and a member of NATO, is enraged, and many European states that would once have supported Israel or at least abstained from votes against it, are now likely to support measures that end Israel's blockade of Gaza and protect the flow of aid to Gaza itself. Having their own citizens among Israel's victims has been enlightening for many.

But the longer it takes for the international community to begin doing something and not just talking about the incident, the more likely it is that the essential element of outrage will wane, thereby undercutting any punitive initiatives and the momentum needed to carry them though. And it is absolutely certain that Israel and its supporters in the USG are counting on precisely that happening.

To forestall this, there are two visible mechanisms for putting principles into action, neither of which is hostage to a US veto. One — often discussed but not yet done on this issue — is to invoke the "Uniting for Peace" Resolution in the UN General Assembly, which gives the UNGA the enforcement mechanisms available in other circumstances to the Security Council. My reading of the reaction to this incident is that at this time, there are more than enough votes in the UNGA to do this.

Remember that a resolution designed by the US to circumvent Soviet intransigence and vetoes in the Security Council of its day, can and should with equal justice be directed against the US for the same reasons today on this issue. All countries would not take all of the actions enumerated above, but enough would take some of them to make life very interesting for Israel and its minions in the USG.

Second, there is NATO itself. Turkey has said it would provide escort to future efforts at sending aid to Gaza, presumably on Turkish-flagged ships. It is a key regional player and has been a good ally for decades, and it should not be required to act alone on something that ought to have activated the collective defense provisions of the NATO treaty: between 9/11, used as a pretext for NATO to become engaged in Afghanistan, and the attack on the Turkish part of the Gaza aid flotilla, is a difference only of degree and not of kind.

A NATO multinational naval presence off the Gaza coast is just what is needed for openers, and if it is supplemented by another under UN auspices, so much the better. Indeed, even a single warship from any other country joining even one from Turkey to escort the next ship through Israel's illegal blockade would send a much-needed and long overdue signal neither Israel nor the USG could ignore. Israeli arrogance has given the world an opportunity to change things, if it dares — and perhaps it will.

Alan Sabrosky (Ph.D., University of Michigan) is a writer and consultant specializing in national and international security affairs. In December 1988, he received the Superior Civilian Service Award after more than five years of service at the U.S. Army War College as Director of Studies, Strategic Studies Institute, and holder of the General of the Army Douglas MacArthur Chair of Research. He is listed in WHO'S WHO IN THE EAST (23rd ed.). A Marine Corps Vietnam veteran and a 1986 graduate of the U.S. Army War College, Dr. Sabrosky's teaching and research appointments have included the United States Military Academy, the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), Middlebury College and Catholic University; while in government service, he held concurrent adjunct professorships at Georgetown University and the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Dr. Sabrosky has lectured widely on defense and foreign affairs in the United States and abroad. You can email Dr. Alan Sabrosky at:

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Anne O'Nimmus June 4, 2010 11:53 am (Pacific time)

Craig Murray has a post implying that there is considerable disquiet among NATO ranks at the inaction of the Americans on this issue. Piece titled "Israeli murders,NATO and Afghanistan". And Dr Cohen - you just sound like a little boy wailing that nobody told off the other naughty boys, so why should he be told off! "Palestinians have never been peacemakers"? Meshal of Hamas the other day: "Israeli occupation was the action, and Palestinian resistance was the reaction, and when occupation comes to an end, resistance will stop." Further adding that if Israel withdrew to the '67 border, all violence would end. Isn't that pretty much the 2002 Arab League proposal? Doesn't it simply return land that the whole world says Israel holds illegally?

LanceThruster June 4, 2010 9:17 am (Pacific time)

Where I would come across an article in Salem-News once in awhile prior, I now rely on them regularly as they are a valued example of clarity and journalistic integrity. The authors and editors actually take part in meaningful exchange as fitting to the discussion. Dr. Sabrosky's observations and recommendations go a long way towards making me feel a little less helpless in the face of my own government's inaction.

Editor (Tim King) Lance, thanks for taking the time to say that!

Brad June 3, 2010 7:18 am (Pacific time)

Chomsky and his relationship with the military juanta in Cambodia that killed millions completely negates this marxist's credibility. You would have to be in that part of the world in the 70's when that genocide happened to see how it dwarfs anything currently going on. My prayers are that Chomsky goes to Gaza, and gets what he so richly deserves. He is a propagandist, a true force of evil, a sociopath. I agree Israel is a horrible country, and after the war crime on the USS Liberty I have worked with others to see them held accountable, but those they are engaged with in hostilities are also horrible, not the people, but their leaders. If they do not rise up and remove those leaders, then they surely will be destroyed.

Tim King: Brad, I read this with interest and slight dismay; as you suggest that the professor had a 'relationship' with the military junta, by which I presume you mean Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  Chomsky was a critic of Vietnam, no doubt about that, and he made statements in the Nation article that led to accusations, but they were not facts, just accusations... I am keenly interested because I have been putting a lot of time into researching the story of Sean Flynn and I have had extensive contact with the searchers in Cambodia who recovered remains that could be those of Sean Flynn.  That is another story, but along the way came a great deal of information about the Khmer tragedy and it is still pretty bad in places, the Khmer Rouge utilized very young Cambodians, many are not very old.  

 Anyway,  I read a few things about Chomsky and Cambodia and I will include a quote from him.  He believes he was in context, he did not have a 'relationshio' as you stated, he researched the subject and wrote about it:

"I took the position that Pol Pot was a brutal monster, from the beginning was carrying out hideous atrocities, but the West, for propaganda purposes, was creating and inventing immense fabrications for its own political goals and not out of interest for the people of Cambodia. And my colleague and I with whom I wrote all this stuff simply ran through the list of fanatic lies that were being told and we took the most credible sources, which happened to be US intelligence, who knew more than anyone else. And we said US intelligence is probably accurate. In retrospect, that turns out to be correct, US intelligence was probably accurate. I think we were the only ones who quoted it. The fabrications were fabrications and should be eliminated. In fact, we also discussed, and I noticed nobody ever talks about this, we discussed fabrications against the US. For example a standard claim in the major works was that the US bombings had killed 600,000 people in 1973. We looked at the data and decided it was probably 200,000. So we said let's tell the truth about it. It's a crime, but it's not like anything you said. It's interesting that nobody ever objects to that."

- Noam Chomsky

Shimon Cohen June 3, 2010 12:44 am (Pacific time)

I just this article and I couldn't say anything more than hypocrisy.
For the last 8 years and in fact last week, Palestinans shoot missile at shoutern of Israel.Dear Dr. Saborsky, how long whould you endure this?
Plastinians have never been peace makers, neither Mr. Erdogan. Just to remind you Erdoggan bombing Kurds in 2009, and 2007, where were you? Why did you asked for sanction at that time.

However, I have much easier question to you. When Hamas took over Gaza strip they through Patach people off the roofs, where where you?
Let's go to another question, Gilad Shalit, has been abducted by Hamas four years and has not received even a single visit from Red cross, is it not a war criminal? Why is the double standradt?

Another simple question, just recently Russia invaded Geogrgia, where were you no snaction at that time? How come?

This is what happend in the holocaust excatly. By the way, do you remeber the Mufti (ARab Leader of Jerusalem), well he helped Hitler. So, Arabs kills and deiny the holocaust.

Let me remind in 1948 Israel wanted to share the country and what happened, Arabs wants to thorugh us into the sea.
SI blame you for being silnece for 8 years where our civilians are under attack from Hamas forces. They aim only at civilians.

But, Jews are just small nations why shouldn't we sacrify them?

Shame on you Dr. Saborsky!

Shimon Cohen

Editor: Dr. Cohen, "Shame on you" - perhaps Dr. Sabrosky would repeat those same words to an IDF bully taking part in the daily mistreatment of Palestinians in the land of milk and honey.  Even if there was an argument, there is no need any longer after the flotilla attack.  You also are so prejudice that you make the statement, "Palestinians have never been peacemakers", sir are you seriously unable to see what that kind of blanket statement causes you to look like?  You attempt to turn the tables but in justifying Israel's military, you show that you either ignore the facts or fail to seek them out at all, and you are a doctor?  Perhaps Dr. Sabrosky will comment, we also published a piece from Dr. Noam Chomsky tonight and he is not very happy, would you criticize him also?  I just wonder, anyway thanks for your comment.

slovakian June 2, 2010 6:53 pm (Pacific time)

i'm wondering - should the christians condemn the sinful deeds of Israel or should they just blindly accept anything unjust committed by Israelis (backed by what is written in Bible)? I appreciate the author's article.

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