I was one of those who chose to defy Israeli forces when they attacked and took our Freedom Flotilla ships that were trying to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to civilian organizations in the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip. Most of us resisted, to varying degrees, for which we paid a price -- in my case multiple beatings in two days of captivity in Israel. At least nine paid with their lives. My multicolored skin and twisted joints are healing, even at age 64, but my colleagues are gone forever, and some of the dozens of wounded may never fully recover.
All of us were unarmed. I chose to resist by jumping overboard from the Sfendoni soon after we were captured, far out at sea. I took the calculated risk that Israel would find it hard to explain its failure to rescue me, and that the act might disrupt their operations to at least some extent. Later, I continued to protest by refusing to speak or walk, forcing my captors to carry me. Pain was used to force me to comply, and of course, when pain didn't work, they applied more pain, with the same result.
I practice nonviolence, so that is the way I resist, but it's not necessarily for everyone. A number of passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara, who were from thirty-two different nations, responded with their hands, feet, and whatever objects were at hand. I admire them for doing so; they knew that Israel has a reputation for disproportionate response. It also seems increasingly probable that the Israeli soldiers killed some of the victims at close range before any resistance had begun.
Let us please not try to justify Israeli actions by appealing to security arguments or "self defense." Self-defense is for those who are being attacked, not those who are attacking. Furthermore, there were no arms of any kind aboard our humanitarian aid ships. Most if not all of us would have refused to participate in the voyage otherwise. Let's not be duped into buying the snake oil that Israel is trying to peddle. If the attackers of our ships had been Iranian, would anyone be making the absurd excuses we are now hearing for Israeli actions?
Centcom Commander General David Petraeus has said that our unhealthy relationship with Israel is undermining U.S. interests in the region and the rest of the world. Our unreasonable defense of Israel's unreasonable and disproportionate actions is making us a target and destroying our credibility as a defender of democracy and human rights.
The wrath of other nations might be a reasonable price for us to bear if Israel were pursuing a policy of peace with justice. It is not. Israeli policy is and always has been to apply pain and suffering to get what it wants, whether by torturing and killing humanitarian aid volunteers, by maintaining its cruel blockade against 1.5 million Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, or by making millions of Palestinians homeless, confiscating their lands, and destroying lives.
Neither Americans nor Israelis would stand still for such treatment, so why should Turks, Greeks, Palestinians or anyone else? Why should Israeli thugs be allowed to push around and abuse ordinary citizens anywhere?
It is not wise for Americans to be accomplices to Israeli crimes through our veto in the UN or our massive foreign aid, for which we have greater need at home. It is time to take off the rose colored glasses and recognize Israel for what it is: a rogue nation that we need to stop coddling.
Paul Larudee is a human rights volunteer and a founder of the Free Gaza and Free Palestine Movements. He works as a piano technician in El Cerrito, California. For more information, go to www.freepalestinemovement.org.