Last week marked five years since the Israeli military raided a flotilla of civilian ships on international waters en route to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza and challenge the Israeli blockade. Ten activists, including Furkan Doğan, an American teenager, were killed in the attack. Dozens more were injured.
Over 700 human rights activists were aboard the Freedom Flotilla that day, carrying food, medicine, and other basic necessities arbitrarily banned by the Israeli government as part of its unlawful blockade and closure of Gaza’s borders since 2007. Evidence of the brutal and criminal nature of the raid is substantial: a United Nations report found that Furkan was shot five times, including one shot to the face “at point blank range,” and the International Criminal Court found that war crimes were committed. Despite extensive international outrage and condemnation following the attack, to this day there has been next to no accountability for these killings.
Through Freedom of Information Act litigation, the Center for Constitutional Rights has compelled the U.S. government to release documents demonstrating that despite the killing of a U.S. citizen and the forceful boarding of U.S.-flagged ships by a foreign military, it not only failed to conduct an independent investigation into Furkan’s death, but moreover, it actively blocked efforts for international accountability. When a new international flotilla was organized to mark the one-year anniversary of the Freedom Flotilla—set once again to bring humanitarian support to Gaza and challenge the siege—the U.S. focused on pressuring other countries to block their citizens from participating in the action, rather than calling on the Israeli government to respect international law and the rights of Palestinians.
Today, having suffered a brutal attack resulting in over 2,200 deaths in the summer of 2014, including 1,639 civilians, Gaza remains cut off from the rest of the world, with its people living under occupation and deprived of their most basic human rights. Meanwhile, the U.S. government continues its abysmal record of supporting impunity for Israeli officials, whether for the killing of U.S. citizens like Furkan and 23-year-old Rachel Corrie, or for the crimes committed against Palestinian civilians on a daily basis. A step towards justice in the flotilla case would mark a much-needed change in U.S. policy. After half a decade, the time is long overdue for the U.S. government to see these crimes for what they are and step onto the right side of history.
This blog was written by Zachery Morris, Bertha Fellow at the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and was originally published on the CCR blog.
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