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1 Jun, 2010 20:20

Americans rally against attack on flotilla

Although Americans are not known for their interest in world affairs, Washington residents turned out on a holiday weekend to protest Israel's attack on a humanitarian flotilla headed to Gaza.

 Five hundred people gathered outside the Israeli Embassy in northwest Washington, clad in Palestinian flags and signs remarking on the perceived treachery of Israel. Many hoped the events hours before would be a “turning point” in American sentiment towards Israel. The crowds demanded that the embassy be closed, the recall of the US ambassador from Israel and a stop to US aid to the country.

The actions hours before in the Mediterranean Sea – extraordinary in its own right – was just one instance of a larger human rights problem in the Gaza Strip, according to the crowd. They demanded the blockade be lifted on a group many claim are apolitical and suffering unnecessarily from the cruel injustice of Israel's blockade, which keeps out food, water and building supplies.

The truth of the story is there’s still no clear answer as to what started the melee on the flotilla. Self-described humanitarians aboard – mostly from Turkey, but from other countries as well – say the Israeli commandos used excessive force, pulling out guns and firing on a defenseless group of people. Israeli commandos say they encountered an angry mob able to steal their guns and use the weapons against them while they only fired paintball guns on the unruly crowd. Israel’s defense is that it had warned the flotilla not to try and break the blockade days in advance. But questions remain, including why the raid took place in international waters.

The questions will continue… and the answers will continue to be sought over what touched off an already tense relationship between Israel and Palestine. But in the minds of the people in northwest Washington, DC on Memorial Day Monday, where the fault lies is clear. And they’re certainly not apathetic about it.