Of Israel And The Flotilla

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on June 1, 2010

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There is, quite undoubtedly, a tendency on the part of a great many to assume that whenever Israel is accused of having done something bad, the accusations are well-founded, and entirely truthful. Ben Smith’s story makes clear that in such situations, the United States is just about the only country willing to entertain the possibility that Israel may not be in the wrong–an indication that others are willing to prejudge Israel as being wrong in any particular controversy. Of course, Israel is not perfect, but those dedicated to prejudging it should not be considered impartial analysts; they have an agenda that is resolutely anti-Israel, and in many case, ant-Semitic, and they are resolved to pursue that agenda regardless of the facts.

So it goes with the story about Israel’s confrontation with the flotilla ostensibly out to provide relief supplies to Gaza in defiance of an Israeli blockade that seeks to ensure that weapons are not smuggled from the outside to terrorist groups like Hamas. As noted in this post, Israeli concerns that terrorist groups might indeed receive contraband weapons are entirely reasonable, but the vast majority of observers are simply not interested in acknowledging such subtleties, let alone grappling with them.

They are also not interested in acknowledging that in this particular case, the Israeli commandos who boarded the Turkish boat, sustained unprovoked violent attacks on their persons, were in danger of being lynched, and generally faced dangers that simply did not exist on other boats that they boarded in order to check for contraband weapons–boats that were allowed to proceed without any harm being done to them or their crew after they peacefully cooperated with the Israeli check for weapons. What does one say when confronted with this brand of intellectual obstinacy?

I have no problem signing onto Jeffrey Goldberg’s belief that Israel needs more seichel and less brute force–if at all possible–in dealing with the threats that gather against it. But that does not diminish the fact that there are serious and significant threats against Israel, and that they must be dealt with in one form or another, lest Israel face eventual extinction. And let there be no misunderstanding; the flotilla in question may well have posed such a threat. As Jonathan Schanzer points out, the flotilla was owned by the Islan Haklary Ve Hurriyetleri Vakfi, a Turkish nonprofit that was banned by Israel for terrorist ties. As Schanzer’s report notes, the Islan Haklary Ve Hurriyetleri Vakfi is part of a Saudi umbrella organization called “who is known best for his religious ruling that encourages suicide attacks against Israeli civilians. According to one report, Qardawi personally transferred millions of dollars to the Union in an effort to provide financial support to Hamas.”

The Union is designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization, and the Treasury Department has stated that the Union was created in order to help transfer funds to Hamas. The Union has “compensated Hamas terrorists by providing payments to the families of suicide bombers. One of [the charities], the Al-Salah Society, previously identified as a key support node for Hamas, was designated in August 2007… The Society employed a number of members of the Hamas military wing and supported Hamas-affiliated combatants during the first Intifada.” And its leadership contains individuals designated as terrorists by the United States government.

All of this information is found in Schanzer’s report, and is available to anyone willing to prejudge Israel as being in the wrong. Are those people going to take the time to read the report, and potentially have their preconceptions challenged? Or will they be content to attack Israel in Pavlovian fashion, irrespective of what the facts may be? One thing is for certain; any other country who took the actions Israel took against a flotilla of ships owned and managed by groups dedicated to that country’s destruction would have enjoyed significantly greater backing for engaging in the kind of self-defense Israel engaged in–self-defense that would not have precipitated a violent confrontation were it not for the potentially deadly provocative acts of those who made up the “peace flotilla.”

Will those content to attack Israel in Pavlovian fashion take note of Mona Charen’s piece, which points out that relief supplies could have been transmitted to Gaza so long as they first passed through an Israeli port, where a check for weapons could have taken place? Will they note that Israel itself sends humanitarian relief to Gaza? Will they note that the Israeli navy sought to warn the flotilla not to challenge the Gaza blockade, and that the flotilla simply ignored these warnings?

They should, if they are genuinely interested in getting to the bottom of this story. But of course, even as I write this piece, the international consensus is being formed, and the Israelis are being found in the wrong. Quelle surprise, but those willing to play the role of hanging judge–and given that there were attempts to lynch the Israeli commandos, the epithet is apt–do the cause of truth no favors.

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