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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

end the Gaza blockade « Previous | |Next »
June 1, 2010

Israeli armed commandos attack on the Mavi Marmara that was part of the Gaza Freedom flotilla. This attack, which resulted in the death of 9 Palestine solidarity activists, was a military action against civilian craft in international waters. Irrespective of what the US does beyond its standard spin when Israel crosses the line, Australia should call for the end of Israel's blockade of Gaza and not just its easing. So should the UN Security Council.

BellSIsraelraid.jpg Steve Bell

Israel's narrative of self-defensive is undercut by there being no evidence so far that the convoy's six vessels constituted a threat to Israel's security. The evidence indicates that the ships were carrying construction materials, electric wheelchairs, cancer medicine, milk powder and water purifiers for Gaza's people. Israel's Gaza blockade, which was imposed in June 2007, has stopped the Palestinians in Gaza from receiving such aid.

Israel says the blockade is designed to prevent weapons from being smuggled into the enclave so as to prevent Hamas from rearming. It is a part of a strategy to undermine and destroy Hamas, and to punish the Palestinian people for electing and supporting Hamas. Its publicity machine claims that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, that the occupation of Gaza has ended, and that the flotilla is a violent attack on Israeli sovereignty.

This spin will not prevent Israel's increasing isolation in the international community. George Friedman in Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion at Stratfor says:

The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project...the flotilla was designed to achieve two ends. The first is to divide Israel and Western governments by shifting public opinion against Israel. The second is to create a political crisis inside Israel between those who feel that Israel’s increasing isolation over the Gaza issue is dangerous versus those who think any weakening of resolve is dangerous.

This sort of warfare has nothing to do with fairness. It has to do with controlling public perception and using that public perception to shape foreign policy around the world. In this case, the issue will be whether the deaths were necessary. The Israeli argument of provocation will have limited traction. Israel is just not large enough to withstand extended isolation.

Stephen Walt asks a good question:

How are we supposed to think about a country that has nuclear weapons, a superb army, an increasingly prosperous economy, and great technological sophistication, yet keeps more than a million people under siege in Gaza, denies political rights to millions more on the West Bank, is committed to expanding settlements there, and whose leaders feel little compunction about using deadly force not merely against well-armed enemies, but also against innocent civilians and international peace activists, while at the same time portraying itself as a blameless victim? Something has gone terribly wrong with the Zionist dream.

Israel has become a regional hegemon and an occupying power--a theologically-motivated regional superpower with a nuclear arsenal.

The Netanyahu Likud Coalition Government has turned away from, and rejected, liberal democratic values (one person, one vote, human rights, equal citizenship) is deeply opposed to a Palestinian state; explicitly advocates a Jewish state; wants to revoke the citizenship of Israeli Arabs, strips Israeli Arabs of legal protection; and says that Israeli Arabs don’t deserve full citizenship and West Bank Palestinians don’t deserve human rights.

In spite of this the Australian Jewish lobby (eg., the AIJAC) persists in saying that Israel is a state in which all its leaders--including Avigdor Lieberman ---- cherish democracy and yearn for peace. It is an image increasingly at odds with political reality.

Israel's attack on an aid flotilla is an outcome of the failed policy in trying to isolate the Hamas government which controls the Gaza strip and thus turn the population against it. Whether the siege of Gaza is lifted or sustained is up to Washington. If, when Netanyahu finally meets Obama, the US president was to say the embargo must end, Israel would have no choice. The siege of Gaza can only continue with US support and thus far, Obama refuses to withdraw that support.

The United Nations Security Council has instructed Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, calling the siege “not sustainable.” Egypt has re-opened the Rafah crossing indefinitely. Steve Clemmons at The Washington Note says that it the event was more than things getting out of hand.

From a distance, what seems to be happening is that Israel is ratcheting up its test of what it can do in the confines of the US-Israel relationship. It is testing to see whether there exist any limits or conditionality on Israeli behavior at all. Israel believes that the Obama team is weak -- and is pushing aggressively to compel the US to tolerate anything the State of Israel does as a signal to the rest of the Middle East that is itself clamoring for any sign that the Obama administration is willing to put some muscle and substantive action behind the President's Cairo speech and other comments to the governments and people in the Arab world.

The pressure for change in the Middle East is building as Turkey, an emerging regional power, takes a more pro-active role in the region whilst settler violence and fanaticism continues to grow within Israel, pushing Israeli politics in an illiberal direction.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 10:08 AM | | Comments (13)


The 19 deaths as a result of Monday's botched raid on a Turkish ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade looks to have the hallmarks of a massive public-relations disaster for Israel.

Israeli spokesmen are circling the wagons as they try to defend the siege of Gaza. The Deputy Foreign Minister, Daniel Ayalon, said that the flotilla of ships on its way to Gaza:

was an armada of hate and violence. It was a premeditated and outrageous provocation and its organizers had ties to global Jihad, al Qaida and Hamas.Their intent was violent, their methods were violent and their results were unfortunately violent.

Israel is fast losing friends and allies in the world, and the actions by the Netanyahu government in Jerusalem is only accelerating this shift.

I often wonder what will the US do when "two states for two peoples" is no longer possible and everybody is forced to admit it?

If there is no two-state solution, then Israel will become an apartheid state and it will face growing international censure and an internal struggle for Palestinian political rights.

I watched Lateline last night. It's response to the Israeli raid by its military was to give Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesperson, full airplay. His spin was that the conflict on the aid ships destined for the Gaza Strip was started by terrorists on the ships.

Why was no else interviewed? Aren't there different sides to every story?

I wondered the same thing. 7.30 Report and Lateline both did it.

Perhaps Israel has come to the point in public opinion where a negative response is the default position, so there's no need to hear the other side. But they don't help themselves with the kind of hyperbole they use, accusing most of the known universe of being Israel-hating terrorist organisations. It sounds particularly silly when you're describing an 'enemy' armed with deck chairs and packets of aspirin, and your side is the Israeli armed forces.

The AIJAC in Australia, like the AIPAC in the US, continues to maintain its “Israel, right or wrong” stance amidst the rise of blatantly illiberal political forces in Israel and the continuation of the settlement project.

No doubt Israel is counting on the US, once again, to deflect the international furor over its actions and enshrine the principle that Israel can do whatever it wants, legal or not, to the Palestinians and those who try to help them.

The comments about the ABC ring a bell, have just come from the Age online and not ing that covrage of the incident has been dumbed down there, as well.
gutless, gutless, gutless, the lot of them.

What I still can't get over, as to this "activists attacked Israelis" stuff:
The Israelies resisted by people aboard one ship were people being attacked on the High seas, by God knows whom; in fear for their lives.
How dare the pro Israel lackeys use the excuse that it was Israelis "attacked by" activists, when it was the other way 'round; their arrogance surpasses all bounds.

As expected the US is defending Israel. The US has blocked demands at the UN security council for an international inquiry into Israel's assault on the Turkish ship carrying aid to Gaza that left nine pro-Palestinian activists dead.

A compromise statement instead calls for an impartial investigation which Washington indicated could be carried out by Israel.

The US also blocked criticism of Israel for violating international law by assaulting a ship in international waters in the security council statement proposed by Turkey, the Palestinians and Arab nations.

The US representative at the security council discussions told the security council that the organisers of the flotilla had been irresponsible in trying to deliver aid by sea in the face of the Israeli blockade. It's blame the victims.

So Israel can blow out of international waters any and all ships trying to deliver food, medicine and other humanitarian aid to Gaza. At least the US did not say that the pro-Palestinian activists presented themselves as humanitarians but had links to terrorist organizations and had come ready for a fight.However, the Democrats are not going to break with Israel and pick a fight with Republicans on foreign policy.

A defence of Israel by Seth Freedman a writer living in Jerusalem in the Guardian says Israel has no choice and makes the following points:

those supposedly bringing "aid" to the people of Gaza have form for using alleged acts of humanitarianism as cover for weapons smuggling – and Israel has every right to defend its own citizens from the consequences of such illicit transfer of arms.

The activists who launched the vicious assault on the boarding soldiers knew full well what they were doing. They had issued threat after threat against the IDF in the days building up to this morning's clash,
According to Seth Freedman the troops did not fire on those on board at first, instead simply trying to go about their business of inspecting the cargo. When they were attacked with venomous force by the activists, they were left with no choice but to respond in kind.

Israel's narrative of self-defence --when Israel seizes ships in international waters and kills anyone who resists (and others standing near them), that is an act of noble, plucky self-defense---depends on demonizing the activists. Any right of self-defence would belong to the passengers on the ship.

Bren Carlill, an analyst at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, continues to claim that Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.

"Seized control" is misleading. Hamas were democratically elected. They won 76 of the 132 seats in the Palestinian Parliament in the January 2006 Palestinian parliamentary elections.In May 2006 US and Israel imposed sanctions on the Palestinian territories for voting for Hamas.

In June 2007 renewed fighting broke out between Hamas and Fatah. Hamas, pre-empting a Fatah-US backed coup, violently took over the Gaza Strip in 2007 after a brief civil war. Hamas has maintained control of Gaza and the Fatah controlled the West Bank. The Gaza Strip has remained under siege by Israel and Egypt since 2007.

George, their list of fantasies to explain away all that bloodshed over the years is not so worrisome as the realisation that they've come actually to beleive their own narratives, a tendency they share with the USA.
A nutter, Netanyahu, running a government choc full of others of the ilk; secular and religious nationalism gone ga ga.
And they have the Bomb, in spades.
I agree with the point concerning Hamsas' popularity in Gaza having absolutly no claim to the status of an excuse, let alone a reason, in climbing aboard some one else's ship on the open seas and killing ten or twenty people as a salve to a consuming paranoia.

Greg Sheridan in The Australian says that:

By beating Israeli sailors nearly to death as soon as they landed, the protesters made a violent reaction inevitable. You cannot attempt to kill armed soldiers without suffering casualties.

"beating Israeli sailors nearly to death" is an exaggeration. The Israeli sailors were an elite Israel Defence Forces commando group--a naval commando unit that is one of Israel's most elite military forces and its exploits are renowned.

the Israeli state is always the victim no matter what it does. Even when it imposes a blockade on Gaza that systematically starves civilians, leaves them to die without medicine, destroys their sewage and power systems, leaves them utterly dependent on international aid delivery which it imposes the most grotesque restrictions on it is still the victim.

Israel, according to its own narrative, is always on the verge of being exterminated by a new wave of Arab Nazis. It has to do what it does because its existential survival depends upon it. It has no choice.