Israel does it again.
With one deadly commando raid of an aid flotilla bearing essential goods in violation of Israel’s (illegal) blockade of Gaza, the Israeli government has reasserted its expressed right to, essentially, defend its borders by any means necessary. Thus far, a good amount of the discussion of events has centered around whether Israel was prudent in ordering the military assault in light of the likely PR fallout, or if it should have been prepared for stiffer resistance. Yet focusing on proportionality, optics, or even the pristine character (or lack there of) of some passengers on board misses the point — or, rather, the context this incident occured within.
One can argue about whether or not IDF naval commandos were justified in using extreme force in reaction to violent provocation. But the entire event — the aid flotilla, the lethal IDF response — took place as the result of an immoral, oppressive policy structure designed to destabilize the already-strained foundations of Gazan civil society. No matter how restrained (or excessive) its actions, the reputation of Israel’s military will always be tainted by its dutiful service on behalf of a rogue mission.
Dan Drezner, no far-left anti-Zionist with a rep for laying down rhetorical IEDs he, makes the bold analogy of Israel as North Korea and the US, leery of stirring already unsettled diplomatic waters in the Middle East and provoking the political ire of domestic lobbyists, as China, a placid benefactor that enables an increasingly isolated state to continually act in brazen defiance of international law:
True, Israel’s economy is thriving and North Korea’s is not. That said, both countries are diplomatically isolated except for their ties to a great power benefactor. Both countries are pursuing autarkic policies that immiserate millions of people. The majority of the population in both countries seem blithely unaware of what the rest of the world thinks. Both countries face hostile regional environments. Both countries keep getting referred to the United Nations. And, in the past month, the great power benefactor is finding it more and more difficult to defend their behavior to the rest of the world.
As Peter Beinart (again, hardly a radical left-wing agitator) aptly notes, this US (and Canadian)-supported strategy (and resulting tactics) is entirely counterproductive if one’s aim is to convince an already besieged population that it should reconsider its support of a despicable but duly-elected government. No matter how horrible the Hamas leadership is, their government represents a plurality of (admittedly complex) Palestinian public opinion in Gaza (even as the West and Israel still refuse to recognize its legitimacy). Outside pressure directed towards the population inevitably pushes the masses towards the one element of what meager day-to-day security and certainty that still remains: Hamas.
But, again, all this should be moot. Until Israel lifts its illegal, immoral blockade of Gaza, many more people, Palestinian and Israeli, will continue to live in fear of escalating hostilities and almost guaranteed casualties. This is the frame in which we need to centre any discussion of the Freedom Flotilla raid or any other incident that occurs as a consequence of furthering Israel’s unacceptable policy of collective punishment.
We in the US & Canada who recognize the insustainability of this ongoing moral calamity must pressure our leaders to cease enabling the Israeli government as it makes a mockery of human rights and international law — and, in the process, offers a stark vision of the most clear and present danger to the purportedly democratic character of the Jewish state.
Related: Esther Kaplan evaluates the US media response to the Israeli flotilla assault, noting the overly “credulous” coverage of most mainstream news outlets, while over at TAP the inimitable Gershom Gorenberg patiently outlines the events that lead to yesterday’s disasterous raid, calling it “a link in a chain of premeditated folly”.
8 thoughts on “Israel & the Freedom Flotilla Assault: It’s All About the Gaza Blockade”
The idea that Israel was defending its borders is preposterous, of course–Gaza is NOT part of Israel (much as Israel would like it to be, there’s the matter of a couple million pesky Palestinians still to be starved or driven out.) The best analogy I can think of is not North Korea, but the US’s blockade against Cuba–which is only effective for people and products of the US. They can’t keep us Canadians out, and indeed we have normal relations with Cuba. But Israel has gone its US sponsors one further, by forbidding not only its own people and goods to enter Gaza, but everyone else’s too. Which makes this whole business smell not like a blockade or an embargo, but a siege.
In terms of the image war, I think the supporters of the Palestinians can do a better job by not focusing on the big geo-political issue of Palestinian vs. Israeli authority, but instead focus on the starving Palestinian children and why Israel is denying food for those children. It should not be up to Israel to decide if one type of food is not permitted while another is. Food is food!
One could make a mental image of Israelis living like pigs while Palestinian children scour like rats. Children with impoverished tummies and minds cannot hope to develop a nutritional democracy. One could state that Israel is starving the democratic growth of Palestinian society. The result is the reliance on the unhealthy candy of Hamas. Israel is feeding the Hamas candy to Palestinian children.
The bottom line is that Gaza is occupied, and the people there are having their rights significantly constrained by a foreign power, with no end in sight. This is a recipe for conflict, especially because it exists as a personal struggle, not some geopolitical argument. Any government which makes my life and that of my family harder is going to incur my wrath. If that government is a foreign power unaccountable to me, well, violence would clearly be an option. I don’t see how Israel expects anything good to come of this occupation
Very lucid piece, Matt.
I’ve been getting nothing but that whole he said/she said thing about this disaster.
Bottom line for me is that they stormed ships on international waters and the blockade is illegal.
Egypt has opened its’ border, but only to allow aid to go through; nothing more; nothing less, this afternoon, unless they changed their mind again. A good idea in more ways than one. If they’re true peace activists (probably were some agitators; but another story for another time) who only wanted to deliver aid, they would take that newly opened border in Egypt rather than trying yet again to pass Israel’s illegal blockade. I wonder if that’s what the Egyptians and others had in mind?
Something else that is truly mind boggling. Had it been an American or Israeli flotilla and the commandos storming them had been Muslim or the Tamil Tigers or something like that, that very same incident would be known as piracy and terrorism.
No, Hamas doesn’t have the best interests of the Palestinian people at heart, but they were democratically elected. Yes, they were terrorists. Guess what? So is Netanyahu. Netanyahu has proven to be as much as a terrorist thug as Hamas. Why do we stop short of calling him that? He isn’t exactly good for the Israeli people neither.
Most of all, I’m finding that simplistic Right wing Western mantra of Israel = good ; Palestinians = Bad extremely tedious.
Amazing how ill informed people are.
The flotilla was a staged event to embarrass Israel.
Israel under the San Remo Manual acted legally in set the blockade and intercepting the so called freedom Flotilla.
The facts are that Israel acted totally within International law.
The blockade is legal and so was the interception of the so called freedom flotilla.
When Hamas was elected that set the stage for a legal blockade.
Under the law of blockades (San Remo Manual) Israel has the right to inspect and use force if necessary in international waters to enforce the blockade.
ignorant, ha, nevertheless it succeeded in bringing attention to apartheid. jews are the only people allowed to live in jerusalem, hello, that’s not right
NO it did not succeed !
The legal blockade still exists and nothing has really changed regardless of your propaganda BS. There is a new flotilla forming and Israel will stop it
Any country has the right to blockade a territory that is hostile to it’s existence ! San Remo Manual 1994 is the current Humanitarian Law of blockades and naval conflict at sea.
Israel is 100% correct in its military defense of the blockade in Int waters.