A Statement by Kathleen McQuillen at a Vigil for Gaza held in Des Moines on June, 2, 2010

Let me start by saying that we decry all violence. We mourn all loss of life. Today, however, we are focused on the attack perpetrated by Israel against civilians in a relief convoy in international waters, and on the siege of Gaza which led to this tragedy.

In the early morning hours of Monday, May 31, Israeli commandos rappelled their way onto a ship carrying civilians and delivering humanitarian supplies to the besieged people of Gaza. Since that time, Israel has imposed a blackout on news about the event and the people involved. Media accompanying the convoy have had their cameras and equipment seized. Human rights organizations are denied access to those injured or detained.

At this time we know at least nine people were killed and scores wounded.

The propaganda machine of Israel attempts to lay blame on the relief workers who were attacked. In the wake of military commandos rappelling onto the ship, with Israeli naval ships and helicopters surrounding it, somehow the world is asked to believe the international relief workers are the aggressors.

We will not be blinded by the lies. The aggression is the 43-year occupation of Palestinian land and the four-year siege on Gaza. The aggression is the imposed hunger and the denial of medical care, the denial of rebuilding materials for homes destroyed in Israel’s ‘08 – ‘09 war on the imprisoned Gazans. Finally and clearly, the aggression is the armed commandos landing on the ship loaded with humanitarian supplies headed to bring relief to the suffering people of Gaza.

Aggressors too are those who fund the violence, those who provide diplomatic cover every time the international community tries to hold Israel to account. Could this latest attack have been prevented had the US supported the call for accountability from the Goldstone Report?

Instead the US Congress and administration did everything they could to dismiss and bury that report. Could this latest attack have been prevented if the US had announced a withdrawal of military funding when Israel announced plans to continue building illegal settlements?

Instead of cutting off funds, the US House of Representatives in recent weeks voted for $205 million to Israel for a “defense shield.”  This is in addition to the $3 billion in aid to Israel annually provided. The Senate is yet to vote on it.

Now in response to this most recent attack on civilians on a ship in international waters, the US is again doing Israel’s bidding at the UN. While pressure was on from nations throughout the world to demand an international inquiry—possibly leading to an International Criminal Court referral—the US pressured member states to weaken its language, condemning only “those acts” resulting in deaths – without any acknowledgement of Israel’s responsibility.  Rather than call for an independent international investigation, Secretary of State Clinton has called for an Israeli investigation into this atrocity.

Senator Grassley, Senator Harkin, it is time to close the checkbook to Israel. It is time to play an honest broker in the peace efforts between Palestine and Israel, or it is time for the US to get out of the way and let the international community work for a just peace in that region.

We call on you today to support the calls from the international community for:

  1. An independent inquiry (not an Israeli government inquiry) of the Israeli commando attack on this convoy of humanitarian ships
  2. Opening Gaza’s borders without conditions
  3. Israeli compliance with international law as regards the 43-year illegal occupation of Palestine.

We call on you further to end all military aid to Israel until such time as the above demands are met.

To say all of the above does not deny or excuse acts of violence perpetrated against Israel, but it does lift up the roots of the violence and it does call for the people of the US to stay focused on what is the issue at hand today – the attack on civilians on a relief ship in international waters intending to deliver humanitarian supplies to the people under siege in Gaza.

Kathleen McQuillen, Program Coordinator

AFSC – Middle East Peace Education Project

515-274-4851, ext: 22