A crass act

Posted: June 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

I am quite sure you have already heard, watched TV footage, or read news coverage of the crass act of the week.

After rappelling from helicopters, Israeli commandos board one of Gaza convoy vessels

I mean the Israeli attack on the aid flotilla to blockaded Gaza.  Blockaded because it is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization in Jerusalem’s estimation. Never mind that there are non-combatants in Gaza.  The aid flotilla must be intercepted lest it carries war materiel. It must likewise be intercepted even on international waters. Never mind if the flotilla is manned by self-avowed humanitarians, peace activists, and a Nobel prize winner to boot.  Who knows, there might be some terrorists tucked away under the decks?

Israeli commandos supposedly aiming guns on the deck of Turkish ship (part of Gaza flotilla)

It does not matter now how many were killed (nine or sixteen represents a great loss to the human race).  It does not matter if most of the dead were Turkish citizens and none were from the West.  Or perhaps it does since it suggests racial profiling on the part of the Israeli commandos who supposedly walked into a well-prepared “lynching” through sticks, batons and axes.

Automatic rifles versus sticks, batons and axes.  Commandos versus civilians. One does not have to be a rocket scientist to figure out which side enjoys the advantage.

Israeli commandos supposedly being hit with metal rods (pictures supplied by IDF)

The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) press office announced that the ‘terrorists’ managed to wrestle some of the hand-guns off the commandos and the deaths occurred after the ensuring firefight and hostilities.  And that some of their troops were also wounded though none were killed.

Did they expect that the other side will just keel over and accept all the harm and mayhem brought to bear on them?  Did they expect the other side not to fight tooth and nail if faced with a life-threatening situation?  Again, must we be rocket scientists to…?

A more appalling development is the cynicism on the Israeli side.  Analyze this item from the Jerusalem Post written by a certain Yaakov Katz:

Israel likely lost the battle over the flotilla of international aid ships on their way to the Gaza Strip even before the activists left their home countries and gathered in Cyprus late last week.

From a global media perspective, the story is pretty clear. Hundreds of international activists, some of them parliamentarians from Europe and Israel, are trying to bring thousands of tons of supplies to the Gaza Strip, and Israel is stopping them.

For the international media and its consumers, the reasons behind Israel’s decision do not make much of a difference, since what Israel is doing fits the way it is already widely perceived – as a violent aggressor abusing a weak and poor Palestinian people.

In its defense, Israel, this time, did not stand by idly as it was slammed throughout the world. It launched a diplomatic initiative aimed at explaining to the world why it planned to stop the ships.

First, it made the claim that the Gaza Strip was not suffering from a humanitarian crisis and that the thousands of tons in supplies that the ships were carrying were not really needed, since it was all already supplied to the Palestinians by Israel. The IDF went so far as to invite media down to the Kerem Shalom crossing to videotape the hundreds of trucks that transfer supplies daily from Israel to Gaza. At the same time, Israel offered to transfer the shipments on the boats to the Gaza Strip after they were unloaded at the Ashdod Port and inspected.

Next, it tackled the delegitimization effort. Stories were leaked by the government to the press about the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkish organization that is behind the flotilla, described as a “radical Islamic organization” that was outlawed by Israel in 2008 for allegedly serving as a major component in Hamas’s global fund-raising machine.

In addition to this effort, the long-standing claim was restated that if this flotilla were allowed to enter Gaza, it would open the door to unsupervised shipments that could contain not just flour, cement and medical supplies but also explosives, Kalashnikov rifles and Iranian-made, long-range Fajr-5 missiles.

In the end, though, none of this official Israeli counter-effort will really make a difference, since what will ultimately determine the impact of the flotilla saga will be the pictures and videotapes published and broadcast around the world.

All that is needed for the flotilla to “succeed” is a single picture of an Israeli soldier applying a headlock to an international activist. And no matter how hard Israel tries to block broadcasts from the ships, the pictures will get out. Facebook and Twitter are already full of snapshots, around-the-clock updates and even a live streaming video.

Israel had other options.  One was to stop the ships far out at sea, inspect them, maybe even arrest a terror suspect or two if there were such aboard, and then let the ships sail freely into Gaza.

Israeli naval vessel patrols besides one of 6 ships bound for Gaza

Another option was to simply let the ships through unchecked. In the absence of intelligence indicating that the ships were carrying arms, the risk might not have been that great. Yes, it could have paved the way for additional flotillas, but all of these could be inspected by the navy, which would be tasked with ruling out the possibility that arms were being smuggled in by sea.

Let’s not fool ourselves. Even if Israel allowed these ships and all such ships to dock in Gaza City’s harbor, it would still be accused of laying siege to the Palestinians in the Strip since, albeit along with Egypt, it controls the land crossings.

In the end, after all, the flotilla is just another chapter in an international campaign to chip away at Israel’s legitimate right to defend itself.


This we-against-the-world perspective is at the base of this week’s crass act.


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