Germany Reacts to Monday's Raid 'Israel Has Fallen into the Radicals' Trap'
Some of the Germans on board the aid ships attacked by Israel on Monday morning have now returned, but many others have yet to be released. One of those released, a Left Party parliamentarian, has called Israel "barbaric." The German press is none-too-complimentary either.
Political leaders around Europe have blasted Israel this week for its military's deadly attacks on a flotilla of pro-Palestinian activists trying to break an Israeli blockade against the Gaza Strip early Monday morning. At least nine people died in the raid. Politicians and celebrities -- including Swedish bestselling mystery author Henning Mankell -- from a number of European countries were participants in the "Free Gaza" flotilla.
On Tuesday, the first Germans who were aboard the boats -- including one former and two current parliamentarians with the far-left Left Party -- returned safely home. Germany's Foreign Ministry said that 11 Germans were on board the several ships involved in the incident, but it is uncertain of the fate of six German citizens. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle has said he is relieved that five activists have returned to Germany. He also demanded that the German Embassy in Israel be granted access to the six others still in the country.
Officials in other European countries said that nationals involved in the flotilla had also returned home. However, many still remain detained in Israel, including author Mankell. According to news reports, hundreds of activists are still being detained by Israeli authorities in the city of Ashdod in southern Israel. Forty-five activists injured on Monday are being treated in Israeli hospitals -- mostly Turkish nationals.
The United Nations Human Rights Council is expected to convene a crisis meeting over the Israeli attack in Geneva, called jointly by the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference.
On Monday, the UN Security Council condemned Israel's actions after a 10-hour meeting. "The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza." It also called for a "prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards."
But the sharpest criticism at the session came from Turkey. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Israel "has lost all legitimancy" and that its "actions constitute a grave breach of international law. In its simplest terms, this is tantamount to banditry and piracy. It is murder conducted by a state." Meanwhile, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of "state terrorism."
Inge Höger, one of the German Left Party parliamentarians who returned home on Tuesday, said "we felt like we were in a war, like we had been kidnapped." Her colleague Annette Groth spoke of a "barbaric act."
On German editorial pages on Tuesday, criticism of the deadly action by the Israeli armed forces is universal. Even the country's most pro-Israeli daily, Die Welt, argues that the government should have known that the outcome of the attack would be deeply damaging to its international image.
The conservative Die Welt writes:
"As always, the situation is more complex than it is being portrayed. It is telling that the fighting only broke out on one boat in the flotilla: the Mavi Marmara, the only passenger ship, which was commanded by the radical Islamic Insani Yardim Yakfi (IHH). It is a group that has, since the 1990s, been accused by the American and French secret services of maintaining ties to jihadist organizations under the guise of humanitarian aid. In recent years, they successfully collected donations for the terrorist Hamas organization, which they then smuggled into the Gaza Strip. It appears that there were radical Islamist elements aboard the IHH ship who didn't want to limit their actions to peaceful resistance."
"Israel claims that its soldiers were attacked on the Mavi Marmara with knives, metal rods and firearms. The first images of the events seem to at least confirm the attacks with knives and bludgeoning weapons. But just how serious the activists' attacks really were -- and whether the deployment of firearms (by Israeli troops) in self-defense was really justifiable, or whether Israeli soldiers snapped and began to shoot in panic, must be investigated."
"Still, the expected international storm of anger against Israel has already begun. The Israeli government and army will have to answer uncomfortable questions -- from their own citizens, too. Everyone knew that Israel could only look bad if it followed a course of confrontation with these haters of Israel disguised as peace activists. That's why it is even less understandable that no effective precautions were made to prevent such a catastrophe."
The conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:
"The current Israeli government appears to have lost any sense of proportion in the implementation of its Gaza blockade. And it has already shown that it doesn't care one iota about public opinion. Nevertheless, the boarding and seizure of the ships in an international flotilla -- in which many people died -- represents a new level of escalation. Israel's international standing will be further diminished. And it could cause irreparable diplomatic damage -- at least in terms of relations with Turkey, even if ties with this old friend of the Jewish state have already deteriorated in recent months."
"It is true that the 'Free Gaza' Flotilla, which set course for Israel from Turkish and Greek ports, to deliver aid to Gaza, was a pro-Palestinian propaganda operation. But there weren't just militant activists on board -- against whom the escalation might have been fair -- but also 'good guys' who truly do care about human rights and were there to alleviate the hardship suffered by Palestinians."
The center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:
"Israel views itself as a nation at war. Even in absence of current fighting, the threat is omnipresent.... In the 62 years of its existence, Israel has never been at peace and continues to be surrounded by enemies even today. This leads to a situation in which every point of view is viewed as a threat, and the country is prepared to fight anywhere and at any time.... Dealing with this political explosive political axiom requires an enormous sense of responsibility ... a high degree of sophistication and a steady hand. But Israeli politicians have failed entirely in this regard."
"As six ships carrying aid set course for the Gaza Strip, the navy was dispatched as if they were to fight off an enemy armada. Israel's aim of defending the Gaza blockade by all means necessary -- nothing more than a punitive action against 1.5 million Palestinians -- has been elevated to a central part of its survival strategy. Israel believes it cannot afford to suffer any defeats in this regard -- no matter what the expense. But with this tunnel vision, Israeli forces have now caused the worst possible damage to its standing in the world."
- Part 1: 'Israel Has Fallen into the Radicals' Trap'
- Part 2: 'The Term for that Is State Terrorism'