International outrage over Israel's slaughter of Gaza aid workers

Sydney June 1 protest against Israel's attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Photo by Darrian Perry.
Thursday, June 3, 2010

UPDATED JUNE 4 - International outrage has been expressed through ongoing mass protests around the world, condemnation of Israel's actions by most governments (apart from the US), and calls for the immediate lifting of Israel's blockade of Gaza. Nicaragua has suspended diplomatic ties with Israel and Sweden, Spain, Turkey and South Africa have recalled their envoys. Cuba, Venezuela and Bolivia had already cut their diplomatic ties with Israel.

The Swedish Port Workers will blockade all Israeli ships and cargo to and from Israel from June 15-24 in protest against the the Israeli attack on the peaceful ship convoy to Gaza.

The Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU) called for support for the international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign against Israel and urged all South Africans to refuse to buy or handle any goods from Israel or have any dealings with Israeli businesses.

In Australia, the South Coast Labour Council and the NSW and ACT branches of the Australian Services Union (ASU) have joined the Construction, Forestry, Mining and Energy Union (CFMEU) in participating in the international Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign.

Many other trade unions and union federations have denounced the attack and taken some form of action. See here for latest trade union actions, from around the world, on this issue.

Mass rallies to be held this weekend around Australia (see here for details) will demand that the Australian government take a tougher stand against Israel's illegal and morally inexcusable actions.

Governmental responses

Australia: PM Kevin Rudd said he "condemns any use of violence under the sorts of circumstances that we have seen", called on Israel to hold an "independent" inquiry into the incident and reiterated his government's opposition to Israel's military blockade of Gaza.

However, Rudd also said that he understood the "unique security challenges facing Israel" and made his criticisms as a "friend of Israel".

"We are friends; at times, however, the role of friends is to speak plainly and that is what Australia has done in relation to this matter," he said.

Turkey - PM Erdoğan: “This action, totally contrary to the principles of international law, is inhumane state terrorism. No one should think we will keep quiet in face of this” - recalls ambassador - cancelled three military (NATO) drills involving Israel

Nicaragua: The Nicaraguan government suspended diplomatic ties with Israel in protest of the deadly raid on the Gaza-bound international aid flotilla.

Cuba: condemned the attack: Cuban UN Ambassador Rodolfo Reyes Rodríguez said Cuba "emphatically condemns the criminal attack" by the Israeli military. Cuba broke diplomatic relations with Israel many years ago.

Venezuela and Bolivia: President Hugo Chavez condemned the attack and said that the revolutionary government of Venezuela will "continue denouncing the terrorist and criminal nature of Israel, and it reaffirms, today more than ever, its unbreakable commitment with the fight of the Palestinian people for freedom, the sovereignty and dignity". Venezuela and Bolivia broke diplomatic with Israel in January 2009 after after the Israeli attack on south Lebanon.

Brazil: summoned the Israel ambassador and said "Brazil strongly condemns the Israeli operation since there is no justification for military intervention against humanitarian missions".

China - UN rep: "China is shocked by Israel's attack on a multinational convoy carrying international aid to Gaza ... we condemn Israel's actions targeting humanitarian workers and civilians ... we support a quick response by the Security Council and take necessary actions." Yang also expressed serious concern about the "grim" humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, especially the Gaza Strip.

India: condemned the Israeli attack saying there could not be any justification for "such indiscriminate use of force".

Russia: denounced Israel's naval attack against a humanitarian aid flotilla as a gross breach of international law and demanded an end to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. Russia's Foreign Ministry expressed “condemnation and profound concern” and called for a thorough investigation ... drawing attention to the fact that it happened in international waters.

France: ''nothing can justify'' the attack

Greece: withdrew from joint military exercises with Israel and summoned Israel's ambassador

Spain: currently in the EU presidency, condemned the Israeli action. Madrid called the operation “unacceptable”, and summoned Israel’s ambassador.

Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Austria and Greece summoned the heads of Israeli diplomatic missions in their capitals.

EU: foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, demanded Israel launch a full inquiry into the incident - "the European Union's position regarding Gaza - the continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive"

Lebanon: PM Saad Hariri calls the raid ''dangerous and crazy ... firmly denounces this attack and calls on the international community, notably major powers … to take action"

Syria: President Bashar Assad and visiting Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri slammed the "heinous crime" and the "flagrant violations for the most basic human rights."

Ireland: Foreign Minister Micheal Martin said the raid was a ''totally unacceptable response''

UN: SG Ban Ki-moon said he was "shocked by reports of killings and injuries" and called for a full investigation. UN Security Council on condemned the Israeli move, calling for "the immediate release" of the ships and personnel held by Israel.

USA: Obama "deeply regrets" the loss of life and is "working to understand the "circumstance surrounding this tragedy". The US government still does not oppose the blockade of Gaza and it is actively opposing mounting pressure for an independent international investigation of the attack on the aid flotilla.

Saudi Arabia: "considers today’s carnage an outrage against the whole world, reflecting Israel’s inhuman methods in challenging international laws. This also betrays Israel’s insistence on starving the Palestinian people by blockading any means of taking humanitarian aid to Palestine with the intention to kill innocent people”

Egypt: President Hosni Mubarak slammed the use of "excessive and unjustified force" in the raid - Foreign Ministry summons the Israeli ambassador to express its condemnation. Rafah Crossing to Gaza Strip opened for an "unlimited time".

Jordan: handed the Israeli charge d'affaires a protest note against what Information Minister Nabil Sharif described as a "heinous crime."

Arab League: called on the UN Security Council to demand an end to Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

Widespread condemnation

Numerous statements have been issued around the world in condemnation of Israel's assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal is compiling a series of statements from progressive political parties and organisations from around the world. You can view them here.

The comments below were compiled by Palestinian Chronicle:

The following are selected statements made in response to the Israeli attack on the civilian ships:

Greta Berlin, Free Gaza Movement Spokesperson: "It's disgusting that they have come on board and attacked civilians. We are civilians. How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this? Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?" (BBC)

Navi Pillay, The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights: "I am shocked by reports that humanitarian aid was met with violence early this morning, reportedly causing death and injury as the boat convoy approached the Gaza coast .. the [Gaza] blockade keeps undermining human rights on a daily basis .. The current situation falls far short of what is necessary for the population to lead normal and dignified lives." (Press TV)

Amr Moussa, Arab League Secretary-General: "The Arab League strongly condemns this terrorist act." (BBC)

Ismail Haniyeh, democratically-elected Prime Minister of Palestine: "The Palestinian government honors the convoy's effort to break the siege. We consider all of the killed as Palestinian martyrs, martyrs of the siege on Gaza." (Press TV)

Ayman Mohyeldin, Al Jazeera's reporter in Jerusalem: "All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation." (Aljazeera)

Turkish Foreign Ministry: "(The interception on the convoy) is unacceptable ... Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behavior." (Agencies and Aljazeera)

Mark Regev, Israeli Prime Minister's Spokesperson: "Though our naval servicemen were instructed to exercise maximum restraint, they were attacked. They were attacked with knives, with iron clubs, and also with live fire. We have unfortunately 10 servicemen injured, one of them very, very seriously. The violence was initiated unfortunately by these activists, and this is regrettable." (BBC)

Senior UN Officials Report Serry and Filippo Grandi: "We are shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on board boats carrying supplies for Gaza, apparently in international waters. We condemn the violence and call for it to stop. The situation is still ongoing and we are awaiting confirmation of what has happened. We wish to make clear that such tragedies are entirely avoidable if Israel heeds the repeated calls of the international community to end its counterproductive and unacceptable blockade of Gaza." (BBC)

Ramzy Baroud, Palestinian-US journalist and author of My Father was a Freedom Fighter, Gaza's Untold Story: "What Israel has done tonight is most barbaric. It's an unmitigated crime against humanity and no one with a living conscious and a shred of humanity can stand idle as a sophisticated army attacks and slaughters international peace activists carrying medicine and toys while on their way to supporting a besieged nation. However, the murder of those activists, and the wounding and the arrest of hundreds will forever cement the ties between Palestine and international peace and justice forces the world over. Starting tonight, this conflict is no longer Israel vs. Palestine, but a criminal state vs. humanity." (PalestineChronicle.com)

Uri Avnery, Israeli journalist: "This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do." (Gush Shalom)

Mahmoud Abbas, acting Palestinian President: "What Israel has committed on board the Freedom Flotilla was a massacre." (Wafa news agency)

A spokesperson for Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy chief: the official "expresses her deep regret at the news of loss of life and violence and extends her sympathies to families of the dead and wounded. On behalf of the European Union she demands a full inquiry about the circumstances in which this happened. ... She calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza." (Associated Press)

Daniel Ayalon, Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister: "The armada of hate and violence in support of [the] Hamas terror organisation was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organisers are well known for their ties with global jihad, al-Qaeda and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror." (BBC)

Sami Abu Zuhri, Hamas's Spokesman: "We in Hamas consider the Israeli attack on the freedom flotilla as a great crime and a huge violation of international law. In spite of the great harm suffered by the people who joined this flotilla, we consider that their message has been delivered. Thanks to these heroes from other countries who showed their solidarity with Gaza, the Israeli siege is now an international issue and we consider that the occupiers, through this crime, are the ones under siege now." (BBC)

Bernard Kouchner, French Foreign Minister: "I am profoundly shocked by the tragic consequences of the Israeli military operation against the peace flotilla for Gaza. Nothing can justify the use of violence such as this, which we condemn. The circumstances of this drama must be fully brought to light and we wish for a thorough inquiry to be put in place without delay." (BBC)