It’s been two weeks since 9 activists were killed by IDF commandos while trying to break the criminal blockade on Gaza. The events have had an important effect worldwide, with Swedish and Norwegian port workers launching a union boycott of Israeli goods, and 15,000 Israelis marching in Tel Aviv against the massacre and the blockade. Israeli imperialism has moved to quell the protests, by launching an “investigation” that is clearly intended to whitewash the events and continue the fraud the IDF has perpetrated with faked pictures and doctored audio.

Massacre? Or Counter-terrorism?

As we reported previously, the Israeli government claimed the soldiers on the ship acted in self-defense. Over the last 14 days, an aggressive propaganda campaign has unfolded, carefully stage-managed by the Israeli Foreign Ministry and the Israeli “Defense” Forces, attempting to bolster this alibi. Pictures were uploaded to the official Twitter and Flickr accounts of the two agencies, purporting to show weapons found on board. Heavily edited footage was posted to Youtube, showing select moments where activists can be seen fighting with the soldiers. Finally, and most effectively, the IDF attempted to paint the activists as being linked to Hamas and even Al-Qaida, and posted purported audio of an exchange with the ship over the airwaves before the boarding.

In the clip, someone is heard saying “shut up, go back to Auschwitz”, and later on: “we’re helping Arabs going against the US, don’t forget 9/11, guys”. This would be damaging to the cause of the activists, if one were to ignore the odd feeling of listening to a cheesy hoax when hearing the audio. But there’s no need for instincts, because the IDF has already admitted the audio was edited (Clarification/Correction Regarding Audio Transmission Between Israeli Navy and Flotilla, Israeli Defence Force Spokesperson, June 5th, 2010). Having admitted to doctoring the audio once, the IDF now expects to be believed that the new “full exchange” it has posted is not doctored.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs had even worse luck on Flickr, as commenters on its official account quickly flooded the page with the simple word “liars”. Every picture taken on a digital camera includes an EXIF file that includes a timestamp, and Flickr makes these public by default, where anyone can check the date by clicking “more properties”. Some of these pictures had dates of 2006 and 2003 on them, including the “hizbullah” slingshots supposedly found on the ship. Those pictures were taken on January 7th 2006. (Hizbullah slingshots, Israel-MFA on flickr, June 3rd, 2010). As for claims of Al-Qaida connections, the original press release making the claim has been edited, and now only says that activists were found without any identifying documents. Considering all the activists have been deported without charge, except for Israeli citizens, it seems clear that there is no evidence of any links to terrorist organizations.

This campaign is a sign of desperation on the part of the Israeli ruling class, who are attempting to head off a backlash that has developed worldwide, and in Israel itself.

Zionism Under Siege

The Monday of the massacre, 3000 protesters were in the streets of Tel Aviv. On the Saturday of the same week, the Israeli Communist Party’s Member of the Knesset stood at the head of a protest of 15,000. (Smoke grenade at leftist rally, Ynet News, June 5th, 2010). In Israel, this is an important number. It is only a beginning, but this shows the threat that Netanyahu’s clique could face, if they do not regain control of the situation.

It is particularly interesting that the group of Zionist youth that followed and harrassed the marchers was only 100 strong, but that it had somehow managed to acquire a smoke grenade, a restricted military weapon, which they threw at the protesters.

The Zionists are now lashing out, whipping up a mood of McCarthyism. Last week, the Knesset erupted in chaos and physical confrontation, as members grilled Hanin Zoabi, an Israeli-Arab parliamentarian who was on the Mavi Marmara. The exchange led to MKs opposed to the witch-hunt being expelled from the room, and a committee has now voted to strip her of immunity.

According to Ynet News:

“At the start of the discussion, Committee Chairman Yariv Levin (Likud) ordered MK Ilan Ghilon (Meretz) to leave the room after he expressed his anger for not being allowed to ask a question.

“MK Dov Khenin (Hadash) shouted at MK Michael Ben Ari (National Union), ‘This is a field trial. You are a Kahane man. You should be ashamed of yourself.’ Khenin was ordered to leave the room as well.

“The committee chairman presented ‘evidence’ against MK Zoabi, including documents from the Balad website.

“He read quotes from the website in which Zoabi identifies as a Palestinian. ‘I represent the Palestinian people in the Knesset,’ he quoted her as saying. He noted that the website included a picture of former Balad Chairman Azmi Bishara.

” ‘What is going on here?’ asked MK Khenin. ‘Are you both a prosecutor and a committee chairman? I have never heard of such a procedure.’ “(Knesset committee: Revoke Zoabi’s rights, Ynet News, June 7th, 2010)

And to be clear, the “Kahane men” flaming Zoabi for daring to identify herself as a representative of the Palestinians are not on the sidelines. The deceased Rabbi Meir Kahane, whose proto-Fascist Kach party is now banned, can take comfort in the ideas of Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman. He stands for the mass deportation of the Israeli-Arabs except those deemed loyal to Zionism. (Kahane won, Ha’aretz, February 8th, 2009)

Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has the same instincts of the White House administration under George W. Bush. This brazen attitude may have been effective to a certain extent in the past, but it is now creating serious problems, particularly for Israeli imperialism’s allies. Workers across the world have joined protests against the blockade in the past two weeks.

Under mass pressure, these governments have been pressuring Netanyahu to submit to an investigation of the events.

Committee of Inquiry: A Bourgeois Parliamentary Trick

The bourgeoisie now needs the image that something is being done. To that end, an international committee was proposed, but rejected by the Israeli government as well as Barack Obama, who preferred an internal investigation. Benjamin Netanyahu announced that a commission of inquiry has been formed. It will include two international observers, will be led by retired Supreme Court justice Yaakov Tirkel, and is made up of two other Israelis. Its legitimacy has already been called into question, as this article from The Economist points out:

“His own suggested nominees, however, were two retired diplomats, one with outspoken right-wing views, and a professor of international law who is angling to be appointed—with Mr Netanyahu’s approval—as Israel’s ambassador to the UN. The Israeli prime minister also made it clear that serving soldiers and officers would not be allowed to give evidence before the commission. It would rely on the findings of the army’s inquiry board. “(Who will sit in judgment?, The Economist, June 10th, 2010)

Ha’aretz goes further:

“Committee chairman Jacob Turkel’s observation ahead of his appointment that certain people must not be found at fault raises a question mark over whether he was selected precisely because of that remark.”(Neither commission nor inquiry, Ha’aretz, June 15th, 2010)

Add to this the identities of the two “international observers”. One is Canadian Brig. Gen. Ken Watkin, who recently retired after four years as judge advocate general of Canada’s military. He knew about the torture of Afghan detainees by the Afghan allies of Canada’s armed forces, but refused to testify in parliament, citing “attorney-client privilege”. The other is Lord David Trimble, a Northern Ireland Unionist leader and Conservative member of the House of Lords in the UK. He also joined the “Friends of Israel” initiative launched in Paris two weeks ago.

The picture is clear, this is no investigation, it is an extension of the propaganda campaign. But Netanyahu has given Obama enough cover to be able to come out in favour. So much for change.

This is a time-honoured bourgeois trick. Whenever something needs to be covered up, distracted from or simply buried: investigate it. Every parliament plays this game, and every worker knows what it really means. The calls for an international inquiry by some activists are misguided. Obama is opposed to this for very practical reasons. An international inquiry, in practice, means an American inquiry, whose results would not be very different from this fraud. This inquiry has the advantage of leaving the Israeli bourgeois to do their own dirty work, without implicating the wonder boy President, who can back its conclusions while suitably covering his backside if things backfire, as they tend to do whenever Netanyahu is involved.

Then there’s Mr. Mideast Peace Envoy, Tony Blair. That criminal who co-led the Iraq war is in charge of pressing Netanyahu to end the blockade. Here is what the Financial Times had to say about his so-called successes:

“Mr Blair said Israel had made a commitment to switch from maintaining a list of items allowed into Gaza to a more limited list of items that would be prohibited. The effect, he said, would be to allow foodstuffs, building materials and other items into Gaza as a matter of course while keeping out weapons.

“ ‘There is now in principle a commitment by Israel to move to such a list,’ Mr Blair said, calling it ‘a significant change’.

“ ‘They will maintain the blockade with respect to arms and combat materials, but they are prepared to let in goods that are necessary [for civilian life],’ he added.

Mr Blair acknowledged that it would take time for Israel to draw up a list of prohibited items. (Blair says Gaza blockade to be eased in days, Financial Times, June 14th, 2010, our emphasis)

Tony Blair acknowledges that it will take time to draw up the list with the following word on it: weapons. Such is the nature of these things.

Once again, we cannot rely on the den of thieves in the “UN” to do a damned thing. Only our own class can act.

For a workers’ boycott

As we showed previously, the conditions the Palestinians in Gaza are living in are desperate. A report by B’tselem Monday has revealed a more complete picture of the catastrophic situation: 95% of factories are closed, 93% of water is polluted. The masses need the help of the workers of the world.

The workers in Sweden and Norway are leading the way, with a port workers’ union announcing that its 1500 workers will refuse to handle Israeli goods and ships from June 15th to the 24th. This follows on from the South African dockers’ boycott of Israeli goods last year after the bombing of Gaza. Other unions may follow, in a campaign reminiscent of the best traditions of workers’ international solidarity, such as the workers’ sanctions imposed against Indonesian imperialism in 1999 in defence of the East Timorese masses, and the workers’ boycott against South African apartheid. The Palestinian trade unions have issued a call to spread it. All the attempts of activists to impose consumer, cultural and academic boycotts will achieve nothing, whereas the working class can coordinate its actions and deal a real blow to the Israeli capitalists by simply refusing to load or unload their shipping containers. This is the way forward.

But such a campaign must be coupled with an appeal to the Israeli workers and youth to break with Zionism. Because that is the real danger the bourgeois face at the moment. This is why they have invested so much effort into whipping up nationalist hysteria, fabricating a threat from the flotilla activists and targeting Israelis who oppose the blockade.

Zionism, like any regime that feels the ground shaking beneath its feet, is lashing out not out of strength, but out of weakness. As the crisis of world capitalism is affecting all countries in one way or another, this is also being felt inside Israel and the Zionist ruling class understands that it could lose its grip over the workers and the youth in its own country, although this process is only in its infancy. Genuine socialist should seize on that weakness, and ensure that the bourgeoisie cannot continue to resort to nationalism to frighten the Israeli workers into its cold embrace. We must recognize that our efforts can only be auxiliary to the struggle against the Israeli capitalist class. It is the Israeli workers, both Arabs and Jews, who must settle the score with Zionism and overthrow the Israeli bosses. The Israeli revolution is the ultimate solution to the misery of the Palestinian masses. Every action we take must be taken with this perspective in mind, and aimed to bring the Israeli workers closer to a political break with their Zionist ruling class.

To that end, we must make clear to the Israeli masses, you are not our enemy, our enemy is your ruling class. The march of 15,000 in Tel Aviv is further proof that there is a growing section of the Israeli workers and youth who would be listening.