Will American’s Death in Gaza Flotilla Change U.S. Stance on Israel?

By Seth Freed Wessler Jun 03, 2010

An American citizen is reported to be among the 9 people killed by Israeli solders aboard a flotilla of ships headed to Gaza on Monday. Turkish investigators have identified one of the bodies flown from Israel to Turkey yesterday as a U.S. citizen of Turkish descent. Thus far, the official U.S. response to the attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla has been muted. The Obama Administration has called for an investigation into the events but has refused to officially condemn the killings. Now that a U.S. citizen is known to be among the dead, one wonders if this will change. Already, the reports that a U.S. citizen was killed sparked a new story about the government’s efforts to convince Israel to act with restraint when stopping the flotilla. The Washington Post reports:

The Obama administration said Wednesday that it had warned Israel’s government repeatedly to use "caution and restraint" with the half-dozen aid boats bound for Gaza before Israeli commandos raided the flotilla this week in the operation that killed nine people. …White House officials said Wednesday that there is a growing consensus within the administration that U.S. and Israeli policy toward Gaza must change, even as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu flatly rejected calls for his country to lift its blockade of the Palestinian territory.

It still remains to be seen whether a shift in policy toward Israel will actually occur. Thus far, U.S. response to the killings has been fallen predictably within the standard American policy frame on Israeli violence. As I wrote yesterday in ColorLines, when Israeli violence is too egregious, the U.S. government hides behind "false moral equivalencies," wherein the actions of armed commandos are compared to those of unarmed civilians. It’s a calculated attempt, as a Haaretz editorial put it last week, to give “the impression that Israel, not Gaza, is under a brutal siege. This is not the first time that Israel has killed a U.S. citizen human rights worker. In 2003, an Israeli bulldozer operator on route to demolish a Palestinian home ran over and killed Rachel Corrie while she attempted to block the demolition. That horrific incident had no effect on US policy toward Israel, especially with regard to military aid, which has only continued increase. As another ship streams toward Gaza, this one named The Rachel Corrie, let’s hope the U.S. is indeed applying the pressure needed.