June 1, 2010

The Freedom Flotilla and the Neoliberal Assault (1 of 2)


Israeli pirates physically stopped the Freedom Flotilla, but the spirit and idea of the Flotilla continue on their voyage to Gaza and to everyone besieged by the neoliberal/corporate onslaught.
As more information comes out, the Israeli “side” sure doesn’t look any better. The IDF’s own media presentation can’t obscure the fact that they launched an attack on the high seas. They’re reduced to whining that their commandos were resisted with improvised implements. The pirates’ own video seems to show the overmatched activists heroically resisting a professional assault any way they could.
Nothing Israel or their US lapdogs say can elide the basic, dispositive fact: The Israelis attacked civilian ships in international waters. All else is peripheral to this. (Although as I just described, their own video shows they’re lying when they claim they were “ambushed” by the activists.)
So the pro-Israel flunkey position boils down to:
1. The High Seas belong to Israel.
2. Therefore they have the right to commit piracy. (Technically, it may in fact be an act of war rather than piracy. But it has to be one or the other. Morally, and from the point of view of man’s law, it’s a crime. It’s first degree murder. War, piracy, do the legalities matter anymore? All law has been hijacked by the power elites and will be infinitely twisted to their ends. So human beings are left with only moral and political categories.)
Meanwhile, as the world comes together to condemn this crime, Bailout America stands alone in its lame attempts to exonerate Israel. As predicted, Obama’s response is to oppose placing blame on the killers, but instead wanting a bland, impersonal statement against abstract “violence”.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel canceled plans to come to Washington on Tuesday to meet with Mr. Obama. The two men spoke by phone within hours of the raid, and the White House later released an account of the conversation, saying Mr. Obama had expressed “deep regret” at the loss of life and recognized “the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances” as soon as possible.

Yes, we need the pertinent facts. In this case, we already have the overwhelmingly pertinent fact: Aggression on the high seas. International waters. Piracy. That renders all else insignificant.
(It’s no surprise that Obama agrees with the Israelis’ claim to “sovereignty” over the high seas. Obama has already tacitly surrendered US sovereignty in its own waters. He has alienated sovereignty in the Gulf of Mexico to the stateless non-legitimate entity BP. When a government does that, it abdicates any legitimacy it had in itself. Clearly Obama believes in no principle of sovereignty or law whatsoever. Clearly he believes in nothing but corporate prerogatives and might-makes-right.) 
Decent people of course recognize this, thus the unanimous condemnation among all who aren’t part of the Western globalization power structure.
As for the video showing the victims fighting back, good for them! Although this was no “ambush” the way the Israelis’ lie would have it, even if it had been that would make no difference. Whether you look at it  morally or in the most legalistic terms, either way on the high seas they have every right to resist pirates attacking the ship. It’s exactly as if a robber were breaking into your home. (It’s funny the way the IDF calls the activists “rioters” on their own ship. That’s like the burglar calling the homeowner who pounces on him a rioter in his own home.)
This is really naked state terrorism. The proximate motivation here is Israel’s will to enforce its regional totalitarian dominance. From that point of view, for nonviolent activists to challenge the blockade, that is to challenge Israeli “authority”, is an offense punishable by death. That was the proximate occasion for the dispatch of this death squad, to carry out a mass execution.
At the next level, we see how as always the Global War on Terror is a pretext for the aggressive deployment of power. Hamas has of course been a threat to Israelis, although not to Israel itself. But just as with “terrorism” worldwide, which poses no existential threat to any western entity but is everywhere used as the pretext to justify police states and imperialism, so here Hamas is really the pretext for Israeli neoliberalism to aggressively extend its power and robbery and tyranny.
What is Israel? As I wrote in February, it’s not just any country, but serves as the spiritual and organizational core for the totalitarian security-industrial and disaster-capitalist complex. The global aspects of these have radiated out from that core, for example through China to the West.
Two excerpts from Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine describe it well:

What makes Israel interesting as a guns-and-caviar model is not only that its economy is resilient in the face of major political shocks such as the 2006 war with Lebanon or Hamas’s 2007 takeover of Gaza, but also that Israel has crafted an economy that expands markedly in direct response to escalating violence. The reasons for Israeli industry’s comfort level with disaster are not mysterious. Years before US and European companies grasped the potential of the global security boom, Israeli technology firms were busily pioneering the homeland security industry, and they continue to dominate the sector today…From a corporate perspective, this development has made Israel a model to be emulated in the post-9/11 market. From a social and political perspective, however, Israel should serve as something else – a stark warning. The fact that Israel continues to enjoy booming prosperity, even as it wages war against its neighbors and escalates its brutality in the conquered territories, demonstrates just how perilous it is to build an economy based on the premise of continual war and deepening disasters.

Israel serves as the frontier outpost and proving ground for all imperial assaults:

Israel’s case is extreme, but the kind of society it is creating may not be unique. The disaster capitalism complex thrives in conditions of low-intensity grinding conflict. That seems to be the end point in all the disaster zones, from New Orleans to Iraq. In April 2007, US soldiers began implementing a plan to turn several volatile Baghdad neighborhoods into “gated communities”, surrounded by checkpoints and concrete walls, where residents would be tracked using biometric technology. “We’ll be like the Palestinians”, predicted one resident, watching his neighborhood being sealed in by the barrier. After it becomes clear that Baghdad is never going to be Dubai, and New Orleans won’t be Disneyland, Plan B is to settle into another Colombia or Nigeria – never-ending war, fought in large measure by private soldiers and paramilitaries, damped down just enough to get the natural resources out of the ground, helped along by mercenaries guarding the pipelines, platforms, and water reserves.

Claude Salhani referred to the “spill over of trouble” from the Middle East. Nowhere is this more true than with the toxic mindset and practices of Israeli crypto-totalitarianism. That’s what corporate imperialism wants, to bring all its trouble home. Disaster is its business, as we’ve seen over and over in recent decades. Since 2008 disaster has been enshrined as the official basis of the US economy and polity themselves. Between the institution of the permanent Bailout, already in place under Bush but with full cooperation from candidate Obama, and then Obama’s enshrinement of Bush’s permanent war and war crimes regimes as official US policy (as opposed to a Bush/Cheney aberration), we now have the enshrinement of a new, toxic regime, Bailout America.
This brings us back to the Flotilla atrocity and its broader implications. Just as Israel’s version of the “war on terror” is one iteration of the Global War on Terror, so Israel’s will to enforce regional domination is a regional iteration of the neoliberal global will to total domination. The real terrorists, in deed and propaganda, are the neoliberal thugs themselves.
As the banksters and globalization elites contemplate the next stage of their economic assault, in particular as they attempt to fit the peoples of the countries onto the various torture devices of “austerity”, they face increasing protest. Possibly resistance. That’s why the Freedom Flotilla, which seeks to be exemplary in the eyes of freedom activists the world over, was the target of this brutal assault. The robbers want the example to be a demoralizing and terrorizing one. The real target audience for this exercise in terrorist propaganda is activists and anybody contemplating protest and resistance, all over the West. The real targets are Greek protestors and anybody else who might get uppity about being crucified on “austerity”.
What does US “diplomacy” say?

The United States, which habitually defends Israel in the council, said that the attempt to run the blockade by sea was ill advised. “Direct delivery by sea is neither appropriate nor responsible, and certainly not effective, under the circumstances,” said Alejandro Wolff, the deputy permanent representative of the United States.

Yes, when pirates attack the ship and slaughter the passengers and crew, delivery tends to be “not effective.” The veiled threat is clear: “To all you activists, do you think [whatever resistance you contemplate] will be effective? Not if we kill you instead.”
So now we’ve seen overt fascist terrorism before the eyes of the world.
The crime is the same as where Obama claims the right to put out a hit on anybody he chooses, anywhere, without trial, on his “authority”. The crime is to challenge corporate domination. To engage in assertive nonviolent activism against the global kleptocracy is a capital crime. This was a mass execution.
So as I said yesterday, this is a war of example against example, lesson against lesson, idea against idea. The killers want to efface the exemplary courage of the Flotilla crewmen by drowning our courage in the blood we’ve seen flow. As always with the tactic of terrorism, they want to use terrorism to force fear and resignation to overwhelm courage and exuberance and resolve in the minds of the people.
So far it doesn’t seem to be working, as the world has spoken with one voice its revulsion and rage. But the real test is the long grind. I hope Hamas learns a lesson from this and takes up the tactic of assertive nonviolence rather than playing into the hands of the killers by reciprocating with further violence against civilians. That’s just what the Israelis and the neoliberals at large want – the dialectical burning of the world in a gyre of terrorism and state terrorism. Their world is the burning world. They expect to lauch their arsonist sorties from secure fortresses while the rest of the world alternately slaves and tears itself to shreds.
But if instead we the people unite for the Ghandiesque counteroffensive on a global scale; if we can keep dictating the battlefield and the pace through assertive nonviolence; and if we don’t let the thugs quash our intelligence and resolve with the fog of fear and hate; if we do all this, we’d turn the flames around. The nightmare they’ve prepared for us would become their nightmare, while we’d emerge from the smoke into a new sunlight.
The Freedom Flotilla is holding that course and will do so for as long as we hold the course with them.


  1. You are so on top of this, and I keep looking for a way to counter your arguments, but find little to really disagree with. This scares me because you are so much further in your thinking than I was, and I find myself swayed by your argument.

    I hope you are right and Hamas sees the benefit of Ghandi style tactics on this one, because right now the whole world sees this as very bad.

    Comment by kcbill13 — June 1, 2010 @ 6:48 am

    • Thanks, kcbill.

      I hope Hamas can change its outlook that way as well. Certainly some of them do just want the destruction of Israel period, but that attitude’s not going to help the Palestinians. That doesn’t help anyone but the two kinds of terrorists themselves, the state kind and the NGO kind.

      Comment by Russ — June 1, 2010 @ 10:02 am

  2. Excellent post.

    A point if I may. As a preface; I subscribe to the non violent protest you advocate. I call it NObey. Its why I have long boycotted scamerican elections (proactively with strong letters to my supervisor of elections) and feel that is the best way to draw attention to, and express ‘no confidence’ in, the gross corruption in our scamerican government. And I have been involved in many street protests centered around Free Speech issues and privatization of the commons.

    When you say this; “As for the video showing the victims fighting back, good for them!”

    I agree with the sentiment emotionally but tactically, from a non violence viewpoint, the fighting back — which could never be effective anyway –is/was a PR disaster, and negates much of the effort as it provides the gangsters with video/film footage that they can then use to portray themselves as victims. For an example of this, see the Jerusalem Post article “Next time we will use more force.” …


    You can see the picture of the poor Jewish soldier ‘victim’, defending only his “right to resist”, being thrown into the water by these evil ‘rioters’.

    Celebrating the resistance in this fashion also inspires others to do the same, only to get themselves fucked up by the man. This is why in many peaceful demonstrations the gangsters plant thug agitators to foment violence for the same use, counter PR.

    Keep up the great work!

    Deception is the strongest political force on the planet.

    Comment by i on the ball patriot — June 1, 2010 @ 8:08 am

    • I see what you mean, and that occurred to me too.

      I guess my view is that it would be best if everyone could maintain that level of discipline. But if nevertheless some individuals who are participating in an operation which was slated to be non-violent and expected to go a certain way instead responded with spontaneous physical resistance when an unexpected sort of assault came, I’d still consider that morally defensible and at any rate needs to be politically argued as such.

      But I see your point, and I’ll think about it some more.

      I guess in the future they’ll be prepared for this as well.

      BTW, this part of the video seems to show some sort of animal on deck. Is that a horse or camel or something?


      Edit 10:45AM

      Here’s some more info on how the Israelis are alleged to have opened fire and killed two people even before the pirates started landing on deck. The video’s at the bottom:


      “Raw video posted to Youtube from the initial phase of the Israeli boarding of the Turkish vessel, Mavi Marmara demonstrates that as the Israeli commandos approached the ship, they were laying down suppressive fire and at that point killed two individuals aboard the ship. Even after the ship ran up a white flag, the Israelis continued to use live ammunition along with stun grenades and tear gas.

      See Stephen C. Webster’s analysis of this video of the boarding:

      If the crew and passengers of the Mavi Marmara were coming under fire and had taken casualties in the initial phase of the Israeli approach, that horror would help explain why some actively resisted the boarding and that in turn would explain the contextless snippet of video released by the Israeli army of Israeli commandos being fought as they commandeered the vessel. If the passengers thought the Israeli military had murderous intentions toward them, some would obviously attempt to forestall the boarding. It is also possible that there were no deaths on the other ships because they were boarded later and after the Israeli helicopter gunship crews had learned that suppressive fire during the initial approach was unnecessary and counterproductive, and so they ceased that tactic.

      It is unclear why the commandos behaved in this way with regard to the Mavi Marmara in the first place, but it is possible that they believed their own propaganda. The Turkish aid ships were supported by a Muslim fundamentalist charity in Turkey, IHH, that has been accused of being sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and to Hamas, and in Israeli eyes that orientation would make them terrorists. So perhaps the commandos assumed they were boarding a ship full of Hamas operatives. In reality, it was just idealistic humanitarians. But even they could be provoked to active resistance if they thought they were about to be shot down.”

      Comment by Russ — June 1, 2010 @ 9:59 am

  3. Time for some propaganda!


    The ongoing interrogation of passengers who were aboard the Marmara – the Gaza aid flotilla’s flagship – revealed that the majority of those who attacked the Israeli Naval Commandos boarding the ship have direct and indirect Global Jihad ties.

    Gotta love that phrase: “those who attacked the Israeli Naval Commandos boarding the ship.”

    “Those who defended themselves from an illegal and heavily armed boarding party…”

    Israel’s investigation has revealed some 100 people infiltrated the peace and humanitarian aid activists making their way to Gaza, with the explicit design to attack Israeli soldiers using cold arms.

    “And we won’t name one single name.”

    A senior IDF official said Tuesday night that “everything should be done in order to gather all the factual data and prove that the humanitarian sail had a semi-military body with a completely different goal.”

    “That clause 1 may be in direct conflict with clause 2 shall not be remarked upon in this article.”

    Comment by jimmy james — June 2, 2010 @ 12:45 am

    • Throughout this I keep thinking of the way Susan Atkins said she stabbed Sharon Tate in “self defense” when Tate had the gall to try to fight back. The nerve of some people…

      That’s the level of argument of the IDF and all its flunkeys. At least Atkins had the excuse of being crazy. This is something far worse.

      As for “infiltrators”, I’d bet that’s a lie, but guess what. Even if someone really were eager to “attack” pirates (but by definition the targets of piracy can’t attack pirates, only act in self defense), he couldn’t do it if the pirates simply refrained from piracy.

      Comment by Russ — June 2, 2010 @ 1:10 am

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