Tuesday, June 01, 2010

How to understand Israel's Response to the Gaza Flotilla

The developing diplomatic and media reaction to Israel's interdiction Monday of a pro-Palestinian flotilla steaming toward the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip speaks volumes: about Israel's deepening isolation in the world and the perverted moral priorities of the international community.

Even before Defense Minister Ehud Barak presented Israel's preliminary report at a 1 p.m. Tel Aviv news conference the censorious deluge had begun. The European Union called for an end to the quarantine of Gaza; Greece cancelled a scheduled visit by the commander of the Israeli Air Force; France unleashed a stinging denunciation; Switzerland called in the Israeli ambassador.

A morning anchor on Britain's Sky News demanded an Israeli spokesman tell him why Israel had no respect for international law. Not one satellite news channel in the region carried Barak's English-language briefing. Only a few bothered to broadcast an earlier statement by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.

As soon as operational conditions permitted, Jerusalem wasted no time in presenting its case, but what it said was promptly ignored, denigrated or dismissed.
These basic facts were known early on:

• Organizers: The flotilla was instigated by the IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation, an extremist Islamist organization based in Turkey in collaboration with the violence-prone International Solidarity Movement. Their moves were coordinated with Turkey and Hamas.

• Aid was a pretext: Organizers were offered the opportunity to ship any humanitarian supplies to Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashdod; a million tons of humanitarian supplies have entered Gaza from Israel over the last 18 months. They refused.

• Propaganda was the aim: IHH was repeatedly warned that under no circumstances would its convoy be permitted to sail into Gaza. Only when last-minute sea-to-sea warnings to desist were ignored were the vessels boarded by Israeli navy commandos. There was minimal resistance on five of the six boats as the troops, equipped with anti-riot gear, came aboard.

• Violence was premeditated: Instead of encountering "peace activists" the commandos rappelling down from helicopters onto the largest boat – the multi- story ocean liner Mavi Marmara with hundreds of militants aboard -- were set upon by crowds armed with knives, metal bars, and Molotov cocktails. At least two commandos are in hospital with gunshot wounds; another has a fractured skull. The commandos radioed that they feared being overwhelmed and lynched (video) and were given permission to use live fire.

These are the circumstances – self-defense – in which 9 pro-Palestinian activists, mostly Turkish nationals, were killed.

Nevertheless, Israel confronts a media intifada in which rage replaces rationality. From the outset, Arab news outlets and their enablers, stoked anti-Israel sentiment with bogus claims disseminated by new media technologies that 20 "activists" had been wantonly slaughtered, and that the Islamic Movement's northern branch chief Raed Salah (an Islamist agitator who carries an Israeli passport and was on board the Mavi Marmara) had been "assassinated." He is alive and well.

Arab leaders in Israel have called for raucous a general strike; Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has urged Hamas to put aside its differences with Fatah in the common struggle against Israel. Radicalized Turkey, now allied with Iran and Hamas, may have found a pretext for a formal break in diplomatic ties with Israel.

Liberal Europe has trotted out the usual litany of charges. Israel is accused of violating international law, notwithstanding that it is legally entitled to quarantine Hamas which has declared war on Israel. The Jewish state is excoriated for acting on the high-seas, though that's where the unlawful intent of the flotilla could best be preempted. It is criticized for disproportionate use of force, though its soldiers met with lethal opposition.

In practice, any steps Israel takes in self-defense are adjudged "disproportionate."

In many ways, Monday's dawn clash off the Israeli coast was an incident foretold. At the UN, U.S. diplomats blocked a completely one-sided formal Security Council resolution condemning Israel that had demanded a Goldstone-like commission of inquiry. Instead, they tiredly acquiesced to a less equivocal censure which calls for an "impartial investigation."

Yet this is an administration that prides itself on "never letting a serious crisis go to waste."

It is, therefore, not too late for President Barack Obama to lead the civilized word out of its moral stupor; to emphatically declare that the season for shameless scapegoating of the Jewish state is over; to assert that Israel is in the forefront of a struggle against Western civilization by insidious Islamist fanaticism.

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