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In Gaza on March 22, 2004, nine days before the Blackwater incident, Israeli forces assassinated Sheikh Yassin, a founder of Hamas and its spiritual leader -- by then a withering old man, blind and confined to a wheelchair. That murder, plus sloppy navigation by the Blackwater travelers, set the stage for the next set of brutalities in Fallujah.
The Blackwater operatives were killed by a group that described itself as the "Sheikh Yassin Revenge Brigade." Pamphlets and posters were all over the scene of the attack; one of the trucks that pulled around body parts of the mercenaries had a poster of Yassin in its window, as did store fronts all over Fallujah.
But Blackwater contractors are American, you may be thinking. Why would the "bad guys" in Fallujah blame the Americans for Israel's assassination of Sheikh Yassin in Gaza? If you have read down this far and cannot figure that out, you may wish to go back to reading the New York Times.
Et Tu Petraeus?
Even the sainted Gen. David Petraeus, in a rare moment of candor in March 2010, admitted in written testimony to Congress that Israeli behavior endangers U.S. troops. His testimony included the following:
"The enduring hostilities between Israel and some of its neighbors present distinct challenges to our ability to advance our interests in the Middle East. Israeli-Palestinian tensions often flare into violence and large-scale armed confrontations. The conflict foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel....Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support."
Petraeus's statement is obviously true, but he quickly came to regret his truth-telling, desperate to retract it out of fear that he had offended America's influential neocons and the Likud Lobby -- and that he might end up like Ambassador Chas Freeman.
Many neocons regard any suggestion that Israeli intransigence on Palestine contributes to the dangers faced by American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan -- or by the U.S. public from acts of terrorism at home -- as a "blood libel" against Israel.
So, when Petraeus's testimony began getting traction on the Internet, the general quickly e-mailed Max Boot, a neocon writer based at the high-powered Council on Foreign Relations, and began backtracking on the testimony. The groveling was stomach turning but informative:
"As you know, I didn't say that," Petraeus said, in a March 18, 2010, e-mail to Boot. "It's in a written submission for the record." (No doubt the general, who is soon to take the helm at the CIA, will be more careful in the future not to let his underlings slip hard truths into his written testimony.)
The "horse's mouth" e-mail exchange was made public by James Morris, who runs a Web site called "Neocon Zionist Threat to America." He said he acquired them by chance, after he sent an e-mail congratulating Petraeus for his testimony. In responding, Petraeus forgot to delete the trail of e-mails with Boot in which they collaborated to find ways to knock down the story of the general's implicit criticism of Israel. [For details, see Consortiumnews.com's " Neocons, Likud Conquer DC, Again."]
Back to the Flotilla
As we embark on "The Audacity of Hope" and its humanitarian mission to Gaza, we can expect no help from the likes of Petraeus, senior NSC officials or, for that matter, President Barack Obama, who last year maintained a studied silence when Israeli forces killed nine passengers and wounded fifty in stopping a similar international flotilla.
One of those killed, 19-year old Furkan Dogan, was a U.S. citizen as well as a citizen of Turkey. Did he have time to tell the Israeli attackers, Civus Americanus Sum? Would it have done him any good?
In trying to piece together my own motivation in joining other Americans on "The Audacity of Hope," I was reminded of Daniel Berrigan's autobiography, To Dwell in Peace. Dan is reflecting on his own motives in joining eight others burning draft cards with homemade napalm on May 17, 1968, in Catonsville, Maryland:
"It was only after the Catonsville action that I came on a precious insight....Something like this: presupposing integrity and discipline, one is justified in entering a large risk; not indeed because the outcome is assured, but because the integrity and value of the act have spoken aloud.
"When such has occurred, matters of success or efficiency are placed where they belong: in the background. They are not irrelevant, but they are far from central.
"There was a history of such acts of ours. In such biblical acts, results, outcome, benefits are unknown, totally obscure. The acts are at variance with good manners and behavior.
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