As my colleague Roane Carey noted, far from establishing increased security, Israel’s unprovoked attack on the Freedom Flotilla has only fueled the world movement to end the Gaza blockade. The main purpose of the group that organized the flotilla was to draw attention to Israel’s four-year long siege of Gaza. Now, the world’s attention can hardly be more focused on Israeli aggression.
I agree with Yousef Munayyer, executive director of the Palestine Center in Washington, who argues that the "message from Israel was simple. We don’t care about your laws, rights, civilians, or what you think of us. We care only about maintaining our occupation regime through the use of force."
Prior to the flotilla attack, Israel was already reeling from multiple blows to its international reputation. The three-week war on Gaza during 2008-09, which left some 1,400 dead, mostly civilians, is just one of many recent examples. A far more modest but wholly embarrassing episode was last week’s refusal to allow Noam Chomsky to cross the Allenby Bridge from Jordan to speak at Birzeit University near Ramallah in the West Bank.
To avoid further international opposition and increasingly passionate calls for boycotts and sanctions, Israel needed to find a peaceful end to the standoff with the flotilla. Instead, it now finds itself on the same precipice which the Apartheid government of South Africa found itself after the Sharpeville massacre in 1960.
International condemnation of Israel’s attack is mounting swiftly and with increasing fervor from countless global leaders of all political stripes. The Elders – a contingent of past and present world leaders and Nobel laureates, including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nelson Mandela and Jimmy Carter – released a statement on Monday declaring Israel’s attack "completely inexcusable."
There were repeated calls today for a full international investigation into the fatal events. They were led by Turkey, whose nationals made up most of the dead. The country’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, bitterly denounced the storming of the flotilla as a "bloody massacre", telling his parliament: "It is no longer possible to cover up or ignore Israel’s lawlessness." (In sharp contrast, the Obama Administration blocked an attempt at the UN security council for an international inquiry, issuing a mild statement regretting the loss of life.)
So, what to do? BDS!
As Naomi Klein wrote in her Nation column in January of 2009, "It’s time. Long past time. The best strategy to end the increasingly bloody occupation is for Israel to become the target of the kind of global movement that put an end to apartheid in South Africa."
If it was time then, it’s way overdue now. Boycotts, divestment initiatives and economic sanctions could all be effective in forcing an end to the Israeli occupation. It worked in South Africa. Heed the international call and learn more about the global BDS movement.