I was a fairly decent writer getting ready for bed yesterday when newswires started to inform that the Freedom Flotilla ships were approaching Gaza, next the southwest border of Israel. 6 ships allegedly full of humanitarian aid like supplies, food and daily items accompanied by human rights activists, European Parliament members and journalists.
Live broadcasts from on board the main ship carrying mostly humans and tweets of journalists on board reflected the public opinion at large: Solidarity and willfulness against the inhumane blockade by Israel on Gaza, preventing the civilians in this area from the necessities of survival.
But behold, on the last broadcast live from the flotilla, Israeli Defense Forces started by attacking the ship by armed commandoes from boats and helicopters and started shooting at activists who refused to be taken in without a fight. As seen on the videos broadcasted by Turkish TV’s Israelis answered sticks and knives with live ammunitions and killed at least 9 activists on the spot. Among which there are Turkish and Greek citizens alike. (Still unclear. As reported by June 1st 2010, 3:00 am GMT)
Independent media outlets around the world today, are calling Gaza as the Vietnam of Israel.
However, this author sees these event from the viewpoint of two separate more important issues than politics or global world balance: 1. Human Rights and 2. Importance of social media in world events.
This event is first and foremost a twofold abuse against human rights by the state of Israel. Going even further I fully acknowledge Israeli claims that Hamas is a source for terrorism on Israeli soil. However Israel herself is playing to the Hamas hand by letting them hide behind the women and children of the strip by heightening the blockade of Gaza. There is one force and only one force that is legitimizing Hamas and that is the no-nonsense politics of a weak and incompetent government in Israel. Israeli media is questioning their competency with solid grounds as written by Reuven Pedatzur of Haaretz: “the inefficiency and the panic that overwhelmed the commandos [attacking the ships], leading to the deaths of so many, raises worrying questions about their skillfulness and operational capability”. It shall be the purpose of International community to bring the issue of human rights violations by Israel against Palestinians and human rights activists in and outside of Israel to the attention of masses everywhere. This is not a simple case of attacking civilians (as it became the habit of many governments supposedly fighting against terrorist), but another attempt to move beyond its own territory to perpetrate military action assaulting basic human rights. Israel also violated freedom of speech rights by confiscating all belongings of journalists on the ships including all personal belongings with the only exception of clothing that they were wearing.
The second issue worth mentioning is the rising power of social media in forming public opinion. As soon as the IDF hit the main flotilla ship tweeters all around the world started sharing news and opinions. However @Twitter was sleeping due to time difference and later on public holiday. And their automated filters started to ignore #flotilla trending which in turn turned into wide protests against Twitter. Upon realizing the incident, @Twitter updated its filters and immediately the phrase flotilla was available for trending.
Here we have to stress the significance of freedom of speech. And punctuate the fact that no matter it promotes hate speech and extreme opinion, it is of utmost importance to keep it alive! Yesterday, people on Twitter, all around the world, following news through twits had access to information that no other media can provide: 1. Accessed opinions of people actually living the tragedy live; 2. Informed immediately of the opinions of people who did not simply think like they did.
This is no longer social media, this is modern activism: as a result of the informational surge on Twitter, many Turkish TV’s were following the events by newly formed Twitter desks at their news centers, voicing many views that could never be heard before. On the other hand many people creating new twitter accounts, “broadcasted” their opinion through this revolutionary media.
Provocation and retaliation has different meanings since yesterday. Were the attacking IDF forces provocating the activists? Or were they when they stroked the commandoes with clubs and sticks? Was is retaliation to human rights violations at Gaza when activist ships provoked IDF to find a way to stop them? We shall never decide yet. On political repercussions we need to wait until “the big boys” take action if they ever will. But locally, the actions of self-indulgent states are becoming well known thanks to the new weapons held by human rights activists. Tomorrow will bring new perspectives whether it be when Turkey acting towards Kurds or Israel against Palestinians.