Certain events produce images and results that are difficult if not impossible to counteract even if those images and results tell a false story. Such is the case in the truly unfortunate developments surrounding the flotilla affair.
The images fostered by the activists behind the flotilla and now being repeated over and over through the international media are that the people of Gaza are being deprived of basic human needs; that Israel was again intent on preventing humanitarian aid from reaching the Palestinians; that Israel used indiscriminate force against unarmed civilians; and that this incident highlights not only Israeli aggressiveness but Israel’s unwillingness to address the issue of Palestinian rights.
Exactly because of this impression, there is a mountain of so-called “evidence” against Israel. Therefore, it is even more vital to provide perspective on what happened, to set the record straight. We have no illusion that the facts will change the minds of the anti-Israel camp. Rather, we hope they have an impact on the thinking of people of good will who are overwhelmed by the media and diplomatic bombardment and the impact of words such as “humanitarian aid” and “civilian casualties.”
So why is there a blockade of Gaza in the first place? Because the terrorist organization Hamas has been continually seeking to bring in more sophisticated weapons in order to renew its attacks on Israeli civilians to foster its goal, stated clearly in its charter, of eliminating the Jewish state. Until the international community takes seriously the need to stop the weapons flow to Hamas (as it has also not done with regard to Hezbollah in Lebanon), Israel has no choice but to limit the flow through blockade.
Yes, it is said, it may be legitimate to block sending arms to enemies, but that does not justify creating a humanitarian crisis among the civilian population. In fact, there is no humanitarian crisis.
This flotilla was reportedly carrying 15,000 tons of goods to Gazan residents. But Israel on a weekly basis allows 18,000 tons to enter the Strip, providing the basic necessities and more to the residents. And it should be noted that throughout the flotilla affair, before it began and while it was going on, Israel offered to have the goods removed from the ships and brought to Gaza through normal channels, including with the involvement of the United Nations and the Red Cross.
Clearly, the motivation behind the flotilla and the critiques of Israel for allegedly creating a humanitarian crisis have far more to do with legitimizing Hamas and delegitimizing Israel than assisting the population.
Still, it is argued, why did Israel have to use live fire against civilians? Here, too, reality is very different – in two ways. The folks on at least one ship, the Marmara, were hardly innocents. Some of them belonged to the organization IHH, which has been accused at different times for having ties with Al Qaeda and Hamas, including by France, Israel, and the United States. It is therefore no accident that, among the six ships in the flotilla, only the one with the IHH activists acted violently when Israel forces boarded. Knives, axes, bats, and iron bars were all brutally used against the Israelis first, endangering their lives and ultimately forcing Israel’s naval operatives to turn to live fire to save their comrades’ lives. It was a classic case of individuals motivated by hatred of Israel having the wherewithal to jeopardize the safety of Israelis with the undoubted belief that if things went wrong, it would be Israel that would be blamed.
Perhaps Israel should have taken all this into account, but that is a very different analysis from blaming Israel for the loss of life.
It is said that this entire episode speaks volumes about Israeli intentions toward the Palestinians. It cannot be said often enough that, in fact, Israel has made repeated offers to the Palestinians that, if accepted, could have led to an independent Palestinian state and a dramatic change in the lives of the people. Using incidents like this to “prove” that Israel doesn’t want to grant Palestinians their rights may sell well around the world but has nothing to do with history or reality. It is just the latest in Palestinian efforts to isolate Israel, efforts that have hurt the Jewish state but that have caused even more damage to the Palestinians themselves.
Let’s not forget that the biased rush to judgment during the second intifada resulted in the false and damaging charge that Israel committed a massacre in Jenin. It turned out to be a complete distortion, an indicator that the “big lie” technique still worked. Big lies are being trotted out again.
Finally, the true context of this story is that it is part of the latest version of the 62-year assault against Israel’s very existence. The first took place during the 25 initial years of Israel’s existence and it was called war -1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. The second phase was terrorism, highlighted by the suicide attacks between 2002 and 2005.
Now we are in the third phase, the growing campaign to delegitimize the Jewish state, to make it a pariah among nations and ultimately end its existence. There are many ways this is happening – through the campaign of boycotts, divestment, and sanctions against Israel and, of course, the Goldstone Report. Now add the flotilla affair to that growing list, a tragedy that didn’t have to happen but is yet another example of how human life is expendable in the cause of attacking the state of Israel.