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When Warriors Commandeer Freedom Flotillas

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I wasn't one of the Americans who watched a parade of military and civilian officers on Memorial Day one week ago just hours after Israeli commandoes attacked the Freedom Flotilla. I did not go to a march and celebrate the past histories of American wars and the soldiers who had fought in them, but let's suppose for one moment that I had.

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A good amount of Americans probably had this experience as they celebrated the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces and paid tribute to those who have fought for America. They probably celebrated the right they believe America has to use military force to protect itself (and maybe even the right to use force without having to be questioned by international bodies or coalitions like the United Nations, etc). And, so, let's suppose that I was part of a celebration of American warriors who had served in past wars one week ago, and that I had been presented with this story of Israeli warriors commandeering a ship, which was supposed to be a part of a peaceful humanitarian convoy delivering aid to Gaza.

Like American warriors of past wars, I might presumably think that this act may have been poor judgment but ultimately Israeli warriors did what they had to do. And like past American quagmires like Vietnam or past atrocious invasions like Grenada or past secret military operations like Operation Ajax in Iran, which involved a democratically elected government being overthrown in 1953, I might have found this to be a part of doing what must be done so Israel can maintain its place in the world.

I probably would not have had much frame of reference for the activists that were on board. Knowing that they came from the Free Gaza Movement would only have confused me because I would not have known what Gaza needed to be freed from. I would probably have thought, "If Israel is protecting Gaza from terrorism, wouldn't Gaza be safe?" So, this news of a blockade would be new to me because usually I had heard about Israel defending itself from Hamas or Hezbollah or other Islamists. (And that to me had always been justifiable.)

On a larger level, I might have applied my rationale for supporting the troops to the Israeli soldiers. I suppose it would depend on the struggles and threats that I believed Israel had faced and may continue to face. Since several countries that want to blow it off the face of the Earth surround it, supposedly, I would probably have thought Israel has a right to defend and protect its self like America does. I would have thought it even more important that they have the right because they are regularly being shot at with rockets that Hamas fires off because it does not want to recognize Israel's right to exist (supposedly). Plus, Israel is an American ally.

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I would probably not have understood exactly why a group of people so often operates in a manner supportive of rocket attacks. The atrocities against Israel would have taken place in a vacuum in much the same way that atrocities against America tend to take place in a vacuum. (And, how great is it that our media help us consume information on atrocities in a nutshell that excludes certain contexts that would blur lines between good and evil, right and wrong and reinforce this vacuum?)

Unless I knew where to go for an alternative viewpoint, I would have seen over and over again footage showing commandoes clearly facing premeditated assault as they dropped on to the ship. White circles that could have been drawn by John Madden singling out Israeli soldiers being brutalized and thrown off the ship would have jumped out in the one sole video that Israel was able to get media organizations all over the world to play. I would not have known there was a Turkish video of the incident showing a different side. And, why would I need that side if all I wanted to do is just know more information on how connected the activists had been to terrorism and how this never was really a peaceful humanitarian convoy seeking to deliver aid?

The activists trying to deliver the thousands of tons of goods to the Gaza Strip might have seemed respectable to me until they were found to possibly be connected to terrorists, which news channels I consumed consistently suggested or inferred. Of course, I would have wound up thinking Israel offered to let them go to port, take the aid and deliver the aid to the starving and hungry Palestinians who needed the aid. So, why, did the flotilla have to go through a blockade that was keeping Israel secure and deliver the aid them selves? Did they want credit? Maybe, Israel could have said this is from the Freedom Flotilla that wanted to break the blockade of Gaza.

It's here that logic breaks down. Reason becomes lacking. Thought requires one to doubt the actions of Israel at least a little bit. Role playing and imagining the thought processes of others becomes difficult to continue onward.

Of course, Israel would not allow humanitarian aid in; that would admit there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a situation where 80% are now depending on external aid to survive. Yet, you can see that the story and justification of warriors commandeering a ship from the perspective of a citizen of American empire is easy to support and go along with.

This mentality to understand other people's countries from a military perspective and not a humanitarian perspective is part of what allows the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians to continue. This country has trained its citizens to sympathize with warriors for the nation, warriors trained by military and political interests to go in and take action that may or may not be lawful or unlawful, humane or inhumane. Politicians and foreign policymakers promote support for these questionable actions with commitments to public relations or propaganda campaigns after the actions have taken place. Do first and ask questions later. (And, why not? This country is number one, so I'm told.)

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The country has trained Americans to believe in the justifications political leaders and foreign policymakers supply to us. Weaved into the narrative and mythology of this country, the impact of military action on civilians and soldiers abroad is of no significance, the legality of no significance, and the effect--the way in which actions radicalize a people to commit what this country regards now as "terrorism"--entirely disregarded.

Israel's warriors will tell this war story, the ambush of the Freedom Flotilla, to their children, who they will be proud of when they serve in the Israeli military, just like America's warriors have told stories of war to their children, who have now gone on to join the military for pure economic reasons. It will become part of Israel's military history channel and their history books and placed within the context of a history rife with Israeli hubris just like wars have become glorified, recounted, and immortalized through American history television specials and history books and place within the context of a history rife with American hubris.

Many would like to impress upon others the fact that a population is experiencing what they call collective punishment as a result of Israel's blockade and as a result of military actions that have intermittently taken place and killed Palestinians throughout the past few years. They are shocked when others do not grasp the reality that Israel is punishing a population and so they should be held accountable in addition to any terrorists from Hamas.

Those that don't understand why a number of people do not place the starving Palestinians ahead of the military or political security of a country, however, can be excused for being confused. When one is taught to celebrate the military so often, taught to treat it like the well from which freedom springs forth, the humanitarian becomes hard to understand; in fact, it becomes assumed that the military could have simply done the humanitarian and people ask, "Why did the concerned activists not choose to just ask the military to deliver the aid instead of going and getting killed and wounded like they did?"


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Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure." He was an editor for

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