Israel vs. the "Freedom Flotilla"

I’m generally sympathetic to Israel. Despite its faults, it’s one of the most stable and liberal regimes in the region, and many of its critics fail to account for the corrosive effect on the national consciousness of being surrounded by peoples who want them exterminated and routinely take steps (however ineffective) to visit random violence upon them.

However, while it’s easy to understand their seige mentality, this doesn’t mean that this mentality does not at times cause them to go to far and put themselves in the wrong. In this regard, I think Megan McArdle has a pretty good and balanced response to the attack on the “Freedom Flotilla”:

I was all set to be sympathetic to the argument that the commandos who boarded the aid flotilla and killed a bunch of people were reacting to a threat; if you attack soldiers with pipes, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone gets shot. Very clearly, these guys were not the next incarnation of Gandhi; they were on that mission spoiling for a fight.

But then I realized that the ships were in international waters, and had every right to attack armed men attempting to board their ship. It was not precisely bright, mind you–unless you’re looking to die for a cause. But Israel had no right to be there. I think their establishment has gotten a little too caught up in the romance of illicit raids tacitly greenlighted by the US. Suddenly every operation is Entebbe.

I mean, in the case of the Black September folks, my basic sympathies are with the Israelis. And I’m fairly ok with bombing the incipient nuclear capacity of a near neighbor with a death with for your country. But there is just no way to argue that this rises to the level of tracking down the folks who senselessly slaughtered your athletes, or preventing a scary neighbor from getting a nuclear bomb. It’s stopping a ship carrying food and supplies to the hungry. It’s hard to argue that Israel needed to stage this raid in international waters to stop the looming threat of . . . um . . . men with pipes. Rather than, say, wait until the boats entered Israeli-controlled waters in the “exclusion zone” and board them (debatably) legally.

Looking at the statements of the flotilla organizers, it’s pretty clear that they were looking to provoke a fight, and are in fact very much in sympathy with militant organizations like Hamas. They were spoiling for a fight and they’re not nice people. But the Israeli government ended up playing to the narrative through their actions, doing everyone (and peace) a disservice in the process.

84 Responses to Israel vs. the "Freedom Flotilla"

  • The Israeli government has said that international law allows the boarding of a vessel which is attempting to circumvent a declared embargo even while the ship is still in international waters. Not being an expert in international law, I can’t say whether that is an accurate statement or not.

  • Is this not yet another effort to see actions by other countries through U.S. eyes? These matters are far more serious than can fit into term paper discussions. How many of those who feel called upon to comment can speak and read Hebrew? Arabic? How many know the day-to-day situation?
    It is one of the calamities of our education system – reflected in the “mainstream media” – that survey courses pretend to understand truly complex situations.

  • The Israelis had previously indicated that the flotilla could have docked at any Israeli port. The cargo would have been searched for weapons and other contraband and then sent on to Gaza. Considering that the Palestinian President Abbas recently accused Hamas of smuggling large amounts of arms and ammunition, I think the Israelis have a legitimate concern.

    http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100506/ap_on_re_mi_ea/ml_israel_palestinians

  • I agree the Israelis had a legit concern, and that the Flotilla organizers were clearly trying to create exactly the sort of incident that occurred by refusing to dock at another port or undergo inspection. Anyone portraying this is a “oh, poor Gazans” thing is clearly being a ‘useful idiot’ for a propaganda operation.

    However, the main weapon being carried by this flotilla was pretty clearly not arms and ammunition (let’s be honest, Israel can handle Hamas with no problem) but propaganda, and by allowing themselves to be maneuvered into the “attacking aid ship in international waters” situation, Israel seems to have needlessly pointed that weapon at themselves and pulled the trigger.

  • I’m usually suspicious of Israel. They have a history of disproportionate response. But I had the same reaction as McArdle. It was at least conceivably proportional but for the fact that they were hijacking a civilian ship in international waters.

  • The “declared embargo” alluded to by Blackadder is of course the core issue here, and is a gross violation of the moral law, and most likely a war crime. After all, the Vatican accused the Israelis of turning Gaza into a “big concentration camp”. One could argue that attempting to break this blockade is actually just.

  • One could argue that attempting to break this blockade is actually just.

    One could. But one would also be an morally obtuse useful idiot for Islamist terrorists for so declaring.

  • Israel was in a lose-lose situation and I think they made the right choice. Allow convoys free access to Gaza and who knows what interestng devices could turn up in the hands of Hamas, once Israel established the precedent that they would not stop such a convoy.

    As to Tony stating that the Vatican accused Israel of turning Gaza into a “big concentration camp”, whoever made that obscene comment, I doubt if it was made with the approval of Pope Benedict. His family lived in fear of real concentration camps for years, and he can distinguish between them and hysterical comments by individuals calling Israelis Nazis out of political bias and latent, and not so latent, anti-semitism.

  • MM,

    Would you say that there was a moral imperative for the flotilla to insist on going straight to Gaza rather than allowing itself to be searched for weapons? It would seem that there is a distinction between not allowing anything into a region, and trying to control all shipments in so as to avoid the import of arms.

    I think Israel probably did itself and the region more harm than good here — but to class the organizers of the convoy as virtuous in this exchange is pretty delusional. Their primary objective was pretty clearly to cause an incident, not to get aid to Gaza (which they could have done just fine without a fuss if they’d allowed themselves to be searched.)

  • Perhaps MM has a link to the “Concentration Camp” statement.

  • Actually, I’m inclined to agree with MM on this one. The blockaid has always struck me as being morally dubious at best, and things like the flotilla incident make me think that it’s not even a good idea from a practical standpoint.

  • Considering that the Hamas government has continually carried out acts of war against Israel, I think Israel had every right, legally and morally, to impose a blockade. The attitude of the Hamas government is amusing on this score. They continually make the most bloodthirsty pronouncements against Israel, allow terrorist acts to continually be launched from Gaza, and then they are shocked, shocked, when the Israelis act as if they are in a state of war with the government of Gaza.

  • I guess the good news is Egypt is opening its border with Gaza for humanitarian aid to flow. Now why has Egypt had a closed border with Gaza? I thought this was just an Israeli problem.

  • Considering that the Hamas government has continually carried out acts of war against Israel, I think Israel had every right, legally and morally, to impose a blockade.

    I disagree. Blockaids are problematic because they attack the people instead of the government.

    I also don’t agree that Israel is acting like it’s at war with Gaza. If they were, it would be a simple matter for the IDF to just invade and take the place over again. That they have not done so suggests that, in the mind of the Israeli government at least, allowing themselves to be attacked is preferable to the political and tactical consequences that would come from an outright invasion. It seems to be that a similar calculus would apply to the existence of the blockaid.

  • Watch the border be closed again just as quickly Phillip. Hamas has strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and other revolutionary groups in Egypt, and the Egyptian government hates Hamas almost as much as the Israelis do.

    “I disagree. Blockaids are problematic because they attack the people instead of the government.”

    Not in this case since the Israelis are only intent on seizing arms and ammunition.

    “If they were, it would be a simple matter for the IDF to just invade and take the place over again.”

    Been there, done that. The Israelis do not want to run Gaza and neither do the Egyptians whose territory it originally was in 48. Gaza is a hellhole with no natural resources except angry Palestinians. Israel would leave Gaza strictly alone if Gaza had a government that would leave Israel alone. That seems to be beyond the capabilities of the Gazans, so Israel will continue to do what it believes is necessary for its safety whether the rest of the world approves or not.

  • Not in this case since the Israelis are only intent on seizing arms and ammunition.

    The blockaid isn’t limited to arms and ammunition.

    The Israelis do not want to run Gaza and neither do the Egyptians whose territory it originally was in 48.

    Israel doesn’t want to run Gaza because it believes the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits. I believe the same calculus applies to the blockaid itself.

    Put it this way: whatever you think about the flotilla incident, it has clearly been a major propaganda victory for the pro-Palestinian forces. Given that, it would be naive to think that they won’t respond by launching more “freedom flotillas” and to force the IDF to either attack them again or let them through. At some point, I suspect that the Israeli government will conclude that the costs of maintaining the blockaid just aren’t worth the benefit (just as they concluded that staying in Lebanon wasn’t worth it, that staying in Gaza wasn’t worth it, etc.) The question is how long it will be before they reach this conclusion.

  • Enough with the conseqentialism, Paul – the imposition of an economic blockade that reduces a civilian population to conditions of great deprivation is an intrinsically evil act. I may be an “idiot” by your ideology, and that’s fine, because it is the correct “moral” position.

    Read what the Church in Gaza and the rest of the occupied territories are saying. I gave the same advice during the Iraq war – listen to bishop Warduni and other Iraqi clerics who will have a perspective that -surprise, surprise – deviated substantially from the kind of Fox News American triumphalism that was so dominant at the time. In other words, side with the ‘least among us’.

    And in fact, there are clear similarities between the leadership of Hamas and Israel – both come with a militarist mindset, both wallow in victimhood, both have engaged in extreme forms of rhetorical violence about cleansing their territory of the other. Both have attacked civilians and defended it. Oh, but one has nuclear weapons and the other has firecrackers.

  • “At some point, I suspect that the Israeli government will conclude that the costs of maintaining the blockaid just aren’t worth the benefit (just as they concluded that staying in Lebanon wasn’t worth it, that staying in Gaza wasn’t worth it, etc.) The question is how long it will be before they reach this conclusion.”

    Different situations BA. Unlike Lebanon, the Israelis aren’t in Gaza. The Israelis have no place to withdraw from. Additionally, the Israelis have evidence that the blockade has worked as terrorist attacks on Israel from Gaza have plummeted since the blockade was initiated. Between taking over Gaza militarily again, and maintaining the blockade, I know which I would choose if I were an Israeli. Of course if Egypt keeps open their land border with Gaza, which they will not, the entire issue would be rendered moot.

  • So I guess MM doesn’t have an official Vatican statement that Gaza has been turned into a “Concentration Camp.”

  • Phillip,

    See here.

  • Actually I was looking for an official statement of the Vatican. We know Cardinals are capable of using the Nazi analogy quite easily from recent immigration discussions.

  • At the time, Cardinal Martino was president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace i.e. he was the Vatican official speaking directly in his area of responsibility.

  • I suspect you realize that not everything a Vatican offical says is an official statement of the Holy See.

    But perhaps given that, maybe California can start lobbing missles at Arizona given Cardinal Mahoney’s recent assessments of events there.

  • There is no real way to spin this in Israel’s favor. Yeah, the flotilla is from a Turkish Islamist organization. Yes, it was seeking a confrontation, which the the Israelis gave them–in just about the worst way possible. The AKP government in Turkey is in full freakout mode, which adds to the debacle.

    “Own goal” is about the nicest way to put it.

  • It wasn’t “the Vatican”, but an extremely culturally tone-deaf and insensitive Cardinal Martino who invoked Godwin’s Law against the descendants of Holocaust victims:

    http://proecclesia.blogspot.com/2009/01/appalling-level-of-cultural-tone.html

  • Cardinal Martino was a long time victim of hoof in mouth disease.

    “But Vatican sources have said Pope Benedict wants his cardinals to keep a lower profile and that Martino had been told by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to keep the lid on and not be so controversial.”

    http://blogs.reuters.com/faithworld/2009/01/09/cardinal-martino-does-it-again/

  • Darwin,

    You claim that the aid-brigers were seeking to provoke. Perhaps so, but was this unjust? It sounds to me like a classic non-violent resistence strategy. After all, Gandhi’s tactics were designed to provoke a maximal response from the British (which is why I dispute McArdle’s contention that somehow Gandhi would not have approved). He was very shrewd.

    I also dispute the fact that the aid would have been let in had they agreed to a search. We will never know the answer to this, and the architects of the blockade saying so does not give me comfort.

  • This is the reality of the situation in Gaza. This is from someone intricately connected to the formation and development of Israel, as a friend of Israel. He is himself a Jew.

    The idea that “oh, the Cardinal just fell into Godwin’s Law” shows the stupidity of people who think Godwin’s Law means anything. It doesn’t. It is not a logical fallacy to use analogy. Indeed, those who deny analogy are showing a reductionistic, positivistic, anti-Catholic sensibility. Catholic thought is analogical.

  • The UN has been feeding and clothing the people of Palestine for about 60+ years. The Gaza strip (I thought) butts up on Egypt. The flotilla (eight little ships are going to feed 1,000,000 people!) could have sailed to Egypt. Or, Egypt won’t let them pass either?

    There is no humanitarian catastrophy that requires a flotilla of terrorists to run any (moral or immoral) blockade.

    I see and hear a lot of anti-semitism in all the unjust attacks against Israel.

    And, I know wherof I speak. Until 9/11, I was one of the worst anti-semites.

    These “nonviolent” terrorists are out to detroy Israel as are cathoblog anti-semites calumniously attacking the gallant State of Israel.

  • You claim that the aid-brigers were seeking to provoke. Perhaps so, but was this unjust? It sounds to me like a classic non-violent resistence strategy.

    Is beating soldiers with metal pipes also a classic non-violent resistance strategy?

  • Your Ghandi analogy would be more convincing if there was no resistance to the boarding (assuming the reports are accurate that there was – at this point, I find it hard to believe anyone in that region).

    That said, Dale put it quite accurately – “own goal” indeed. Shaw, really? You see criticism of Israel regarding this incident as unjust?

  • As one who abhors violence, I will not condone this reaction. But it certainly falls under the banner of what most Americans consider “legitimate defense”, no?

  • This guy went and looked up the relevant laws.

    The ships acted like gun-runners for the other side, so Israel was forced to respond like they might, possibly, be a threat. (Me, I’m shaking my head over having bloody paintball guns.)

    As one who abhors violence, I will not condone this reaction. But it certainly falls under the banner of what most Americans consider “legitimate defense”, no?

    Nope. You break into my house and the cops pull a gun on you, you don’t have a right to defend yourself, even though your life is in danger.

  • “(Me, I’m shaking my head over having bloody paintball guns.)”

    Indeed Foxfier. It appears that the Israelis have been infected with some of the unicorn and fairy spice rubbish in regard to the use of force that captivates so much of the West. If the Israelis had gone on heavily armed, I suspect the riot that confronted them may not have happened, and that a much lower body count would have been the result.

  • It seems impossible to make definitive statements about exactly what happened in this raid. The Israelis jammed media and communications on board the vessel, though a satellite feed was able to broadcast some of the event until it was halted by the IDF (at least according to the cameraman who has since been released). Other eyewitnesses claim to have had photographs and video of the events but everyone had their equipment seized. What we do know is that the Israelis boarded the vessel outside of their own exclusionary zone and in the cover of darkness. They have since released their own video and version of the events. However, short of all the available evidence we don’t really know what happened. Based on what we do know, I don’t see how anybody could justify this. Just from a prudential standpoint, it was an idiotic move on Israels part, and they are going to have to face the consequences. They are isolating themselves diplomatically and shifting the worlds attention away from where they need it (on, say, Iran). I happen to suspect that the Israeli actions were probably unjust and illegal, but even from the standpoint of their own self-interest, this action was stupid. Even if your sympathies lie entirely with the Israelis, I cannot see how someone could defend what happened here.

  • As one who abhors violence, I will not condone this reaction. But it certainly falls under the banner of what most Americans consider “legitimate defense”, no?

    Whatever one thinks of the actions of the men with clubs, they certainly can’t be considered “a classic non-violent resistence strategy.”

  • It strikes me that this whole series of events underscores the difficulties with the approach to “international law” and avoiding war which has been so prevalent since WW2.

    While the idea of keeping weapons shipments out of Gaza, while not going to war with it, is in theory appealing, the fact of the matter is that the means of enforcing a ban on shipping weapons to Gaza have to be so draconian to be effective that people will frequently be outraged by it. And at the end of the day, if Israel isn’t willing to use act-of-war type means to keep away ships ignoring their blockade, then the blockade ceases to have any meaning.

    Nonsensical though such a strategy might seem, it would probably make the most sense to take a completely hands-off approach to Gaza, and then, when Hamas does something truly unacceptable, roll in with tanks, flatten things for a bit, and then leave again.

    Countries are able to make war pretty effectively, but their ability to enforce peace is tenuous at best.

  • Israel and Iraq are the only mideast/Arab countries not suffering under the yoke of Islamo-fascist dicatorship or monarchy/oligarchy/sharia misrule.

    Freedom flotilla my eye.

    Anti-semitic commmenters seem consistent. They apparently support both abortion (Obama) and Islamofascist tyranny.

  • Even though I take for the most part the narrative of Palestinians as primary victims in this whole Israel/Palestine debacle over the years- I do not justify acts of terrorism directed at civilians conducted by Palestinians- I comprehend the rage that is at the root of such actions, but I don’t try to justify them- to comprehend and wish to prevent root causes is not the same as justification or endorsement.

    Now, it seems that many of my Catholic friends who take the side that Israel is the principal victim of Palestinians et al- many seem to labor hard at justifying any and every violent action on the part of the Israel establishment ( not saying the author of this entry is doing so)- be it the actions during the First and Second Intifada, the most recent attacks on Lebanon soil, the blockade of Gaza, the attack on Gaza, and this assault on the activist’ boat. None of these actions seem to constitute a moral dilemma for many Israel supporters even though civilians are very often caught up right in the middle things with civilian centers bombed, and civilians, not soldiers, being on board the boats. No matter that the WHO has condemned the embargo of Gaza- to many Israel supporters, all international organizations are rejected to a degree that is to my ear decidedly un-Catholic- if one is taking their cue from the Hierarchy- a prudential judgment to be sure- but so is the fact that I love my wife even if 9 of 10 American Catholic writers express their doubts.

    I would only suggest that those Israel defenders who also like to leap at the notion that those who generally take the Palestinian “victims of the Victims” line, are anti-semites who just hate Israel and maybe hate America as well.. Well I would only suggest that those out there who are taking this line, please look long and hard in the mirror and ask yourself if you may hold some deep-seated anti-Arab, anti-Persian prejudices that cause you to get angry at the drop of a hat- and maybe the very idea of Muslims causes a thick hatred in your heart, and maybe the reality of some of these types of persons- civilian or not- getting wacked by Israeli high or low command- actually makes you feel pretty, pretty good. Maybe it is an unspoken aspect of anti-Semitism that now holds aloft the Victims of the Holocaust but also feels no sympathy for low rent Arabs, Palestinians, or any of the rest of those who don’t feel blessed by the advent of secular Zionism or Christian Zionist Fundamentalist prophesies.

    I’m just saying that in my prudential judgment and as the result of my own eye-ball tour of Israel-Palestine years ago- it seems pretty obvious that the Palestinians are the little guys with very few friends who have any real clout in the major power centers- or at least are willing to use that clout- the Israeli side of the fence seems to be a yard full of European living standards, American-style military hardware and Intelligence operatives, and even a couple of hundred of nukes hidden away- and to think that Hamas and a 4th world economy in Gaza with homemade rockets are really providing an existential threat to Jews akin to Hitler’s Germany?? I just don’t make those kind of difficult leaps in my thinking. And so it goes for those of us more connected to brother and sister Catholics actually living in the Holy Land, and who take in the Hierarchical view from the Latin Patriarch with lots of interest and respect. As a Catholic convert, I had thought that part of being Catholic was being very much formed in the conscience along the lines of the Hierarchical teachings and leadership views- allowing for prudential judgments but for one to really put on the Mind of Christ, one couldn’t really just circumvent the thinking of the official Church and her Hierarchs. But I have learned that many Catholics like to take matters into their own hands, to be bold liberals and conservatives standing up to the old fuddy-duddy out-of-touch bishops and prelates in the Vatican. Good luck with that:}

  • tim shipe-
    The tools don’t matter. What you’re willing to do with them, does. Doesn’t matter if I have an M-16, if I won’t use it; doesn’t matter if you have “only” a baseball bat to use against me, if I won’t use my gun.

    If Israel were willing to carpet-bomb Gaza, then their troubles would be over. (For the obvious impaired: wouldn’t be right, but it would be simple.)

    Were they willing to send their guys in with actual weapons drawn on those trying to break the blockade, this would be a more complicated story.

    Didn’t happen. They took the idiots at their word, more the fools they.

    The biggest testament to Israel’s good will? The long line of volunteers for America’s liberals to get cheap grace by “standing up” to them.

  • “Nope. You break into my house and the cops pull a gun on you, you don’t have a right to defend yourself, even though your life is in danger.”

    Funny that. Israel was the one who “broke into” someone else’s house.

  • “As a Catholic convert, I had thought that part of being Catholic was being very much formed in the conscience along the lines of the Hierarchical teachings and leadership views”

    On secular matters Tim that has never been the case. In regard to foreign policy matters for instance Catholic rulers and peoples have never simply followed the Pope. There is a very long history in this area of Catholics making up there own minds on these types of questions, for good and for ill. I might add that this type of independence includes some of the greatest saints of the Church, for instance Saint Louis the IX of France always respected the popes of his day, but never forgot that he was King of France with duties and responsibilities in the secular realm that might well clash with the wishes of the Pope.

  • Even though I take for the most part the narrative of Palestinians as primary victims in this whole Israel/Palestine debacle over the years-

    Error #1.

  • This post by British MEP Daniel Hannan does a good job of expressing my views on the subject.

  • No, Karlson, the people who are “stupid” are the ones who compare (or defend those who compare) the admittedly deplorable conditions in Gaza to the systematic rounding up and murdering of 6 million people by roasting them in ovens.

    Can you really not recognize the cultural insensitivity of making an inapt Nazi comparison in accusing Jews of turning Gaza into a “concentration camp”?

    I won’t defend Israel over what is taking place in Gaza. My problem with Cardinal Martino’s statement isn’t in his bringing attention to the conditions in Gaza, it’s in the symbolically loaded words that Cardinal Martino used in doing so. Given what they went through in the Shoah, for Jews to be accused of acting like Nazis (especially when they are, in fact, NOT acting like Nazis) is despicable.

    Apart from the specific cultural insensitivity involved in accusing Jews of being like Nazis, let’s address the use of Nazi comparisons, in general. Analogical thinking is useful so long as the things being analogized are alike and the comparison is at least somewhat apt. Comparing people (or their actions) to Nazis is certainly an EASY rhetorical device because it invokes such strong imagery and paints the person being accused in the worst possible light. But it is the last refuge of the intellectually lazy and unthinking.

  • Give Karlson a break Jay. I suspect he thinks Israelis, at least those who run the military and the government, are Nazis, analogy be hanged.

  • Calling Gaza a big concentration camp does seem historically insensitive. I would have said “giant prison.”

  • I think a more accurate phrase is “a giant lunatic asylum”.

  • Some interesting information on some of the flotilla participants.

    http://www.memri.org/report/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/4265.htm

  • Funny that the “peaceful flotilla” was going to break into Israel’s backyard.

  • Here’s an interesting quote right up front on Don’s link:

    “Al-Baltaji, who is deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in Egypt, said at a March 2010 conference, “A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.” He also said that his movement “will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance,” and that “resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.[1]”

    One may look at Palestinians as being “alone” against Westernized Israel with “Big America’s” help. But there are tens of millions of Arabs who think like this.

    Is Israel innocent? No. Can Arabs like this prove an existential threat to Israel? I don’t know if they can now but they certainly did in the past. Can Arabs and Palestinians who think like this kill many Israelis? Yes. Should Israel protect itself against their like? Yes. How should they do that? I don’t know.

  • I might also add that if Gaza is a “giant prison” then its not Israel alone that is the prison guard. Egypt also seems to have problems with Palestinians by keeping their border with Gaza closed. I’ve never seen Egypt as a Western style, “Big America” type of country. But maybe that’s my anti-Muslim prejudice.

  • We need to get beyond the notion that the Shoah was somehow unique in history, and that the Jewish people have been wronged in a particularly unique manner, which justifies a “soft glove” treatment concerning the actions of Israel. This has been the consistent tactic of the secular state of Israel – to daub itself in the blood of the Jewish dead and dare us to criticize them. This must stop. Of course, the holocaust was a monstrous evil, but no worse than other great genocides of the 20th century, from Armenia through Stalin through Mao through Saloth Sar through Rwanda.

    The descendents of those who suffered in the Warsaw ghetto are now the ones patroling the ghetto in Gaza. They are the perpetators of injustice, and should be called out for it. And the foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman has used rhetoric that does indeed sound like the nazis. That they get away with consistent war crimes and human rights violations is a disgrace.

  • MM,

    I think the reason why people have difficulty seeing that approach as something other than simply anti-Jewish is that very often the same people insisting that the Isreali’s need to just toughen up and get over their hurt feelings about the Shoah are at the same time insisting on reparations to Palestinians for territory and property lost in ’48 or ’67.

    In a region afflicted with long memories, insisting that one side forget the past, while holding that the grudges of the other side are valid, doesn’t work well.

  • It’s not clear to me that people are excusing Israeli actions because of the Holocaust. I think most are saying that equating Gaza to a “concentration camp” is flawed and certainly not a Vatican pronouncement. As noted, there are other countries that are contributing to the problem including countries such as Jordan that have in the past rejected Palestinians efforts to live there. (What ever happened to the right to immigrate?!)

    Comparisons with Nazi Germany are unfortunate polemics. They do nothing to address the complex problems that both sides contribute to.

  • Minion, whether Israel is treated with a soft glove or an iron fist, the structural defect which prevents a stable equilibrium between the contending parties remains and is unaddressed.

    It has been remarked that material conditions in Gaza are rather less agreeable than those in Singapore or Hong Kong. Could have something to do with who lives there.

  • It is interesting that many seem to think that the American Left is effectively anti-Israel- the fact is that the mainstream liberal forces that dominate the Dems and media like the NY Times is hardly friendly to the progressives like Chomsky et al on the Israel/Palestine issue. The Dem party has been even more pro-Israel on the whole than the Repubs- in the book – They Dare to Speak Out- the majority of voices are Republican conservatives who have faced the charges of anti-Semitism due to their criticism of Israeli policies. Today you do see some strange bedfellows with progressives and “American conservative” types sharing disdain for such things as the Federal Reserve Board, American Empire “blowback” foreign policies, and the broad and excessive official support for the State of Israel- no matter what. So- I would say that it is a mistake to label the criticism of Israel as Leftist or anti-Semitic- even if you can find some Leftists and anti-Semites who criticize Israel with unusual intensity.

    My own passion is somewhat unique in that I didn’t visit the Holy Land/Middle East as a soldier or as a spiritual tourist focused on the Bible places and ignoring the humanity and politics around me. I won’t back away from an argument on Israel/Palestine because it is personal, it is Christian Holy Land, it is a situation of bigtime American involvement to support only one side in the Israel v. Palestine question, and I have lived and accepted the hospitality of both Palestinians and Israeli civilians when I stayed in the area for 3 months. I’m not interested in scoring points for the Left or the Right- I’m a Catholic not some liberal or conservative ideologue with a chip on his shoulder trying to dumb down the universe into a corrupt stream of human political sentiment- and I don’t have some racist or patriotic darkness that makes claim on my soul. I found Christ and His Church by following a simple prayer- “Lead me to the Truth”.

    Now let’s get serious- all the “Israel is the good guy- the victim in all this” crowd- stop whining about a few progressive online stories- you have been winning every battle for the sake of the support Israel movement for decades now- America doesn’t send billions of dollars of “aid” every year to Palestinians to use pretty much as they please, America doesn’t transfer the latest military technology and weaponry to Palestinians, America doesn’t lead the interference on behalf of Palestinians in the U.N. or any other international body- no my friends you pro-Israel types are the clear winners here in America- congrats on one of the most one-sided fights ever conducted- but I am lined up in opposition to you because you are wrong. That is my prudential judgment after long years of paying close attention to this issue. To view the Palestinians as the primary victims in the Israeli conflict is to be myself in a small minority status here in the U.S.- if I was running for Congress or the Presidency it would probably kill my campaign chances- so the world here in America is so obviously stacked in Israel’s favor- ok- you pro-Israel types are powerfully successful- that’s all you have though.

    I consider the Israelis and Palestinians to be equal in their human worth and I judge the political conditions they are in accordingly- I think it is clear that the Vatican and most Catholics with authority have determined that the best way forward is to see to it that all parties adhere to the natural law, the international laws, the international consensus as documented in the U.N. resolutions- and this is where I feel the confidence of my position since it is the same one I have arrived at after my own research, my own time spent in directly observing things in the region, and my own common sense. I think there has been a massively successful propaganda campaign in this country in both major establishments in the Left and Right Dems/Repubs, to portray things upside down in the Middle East- to ignore the facts on the ground like how beholden most of the Middle Eastern leaders are to outside the country forces- which explains why the polls of the people and the policies of their leaders are in such a state of disconnect. The result is that the Palestinians as a whole are left to rot, left to be occupied/embargoed/invaded/settled over and there is almost nothing to be done about it- except to pray and speak up, and wait for God’s judgment on all of us. It is very, very, important to me to have a clean conscience on this matter relating to the people of the Holy Land- if we can’t get that deal straight then where is the hope for any part of this planet? And we can’t hide from responsibility as the world’s superpower -especially since we have collectively laid down a fortune in time and treasure defending the Israeli position of absolute superiority and command of the air, sea, and land.

  • It has been remarked that material conditions in Gaza are rather less agreeable than those in Singapore or Hong Kong. Could have something to do with who lives there.

    It might also have something to do with the fact that the blockaid prevents any industry or commerce from taking place there. If Singapore of Hong Kong were subject to the same restrictions on the Gaza strip, material conditions would be pretty horrid there as well (and I dare say you’d say a fair amount of political extremism among the population).

  • Tim,

    They Dare to Speak Out was a polemic published twenty years ago by Paul Findlay. Not to current and not necessarily a thorough survey of that particular perspective. Quite likely biased in favor of political circles Mr. Findlay found otherwise aggreeable.

    You might suggest to your Arab hosts the next time you visit that they concoct a somewhat more elevated ultimate objective than running an ethnic cleansing extravaganza. Don’t imagine they’ll take that to heart, but you can make the attempt.

  • Blackadder, the blockade, whatever its effects, is comparatively recent. The place has been a hellhole for decades.

  • I might also note the list of folk inclined to run a blockade of Singapore or Hong Kong is short. There is a reason for that.

  • Blackadder, the blockade, whatever its effects, is comparatively recent. The place has been a hellhole for decades.

    I believe the amount of stuff allowed in and out under the blockaid is between 1/4th and 1/40th of what was occurring before the blockaid began (that includes food).

  • “They Dare to Speak Out”

    Written by Paul Findlay, the pro-abort, PLO loving former Republican Congressman from Springfield. The only time I have personally helped out Democrats to defeat a Republican. We finally took him out in ’82. He was defeated by Dick Durbin who ran as a pro-lifer. He then went to Congress and flip-flopped on abortion I think around 88 or 89 when he became ambitious and realized that a strong pro-life Democrat had no future in the Democrat leadership in Congress. The district is currently represented by a pro-life Republican. Mr. Findlay has spent his retirement railing against Israel. Hey Paul! Don’t forget us pro-lifers! We helped retire you also!

  • Foxfier,

    If aid to Gaza really did go up 900% in 2009 that would be a rather strong indictment of Israeli policy there, no?

  • Blackadder-
    Since they’ve been talking about how the Gaza strip needs more aid for as far back as I can remember, no, not really.

  • Mildly amused… just dawned on me: Israel stopping aid to Gaza: they’re big meanies. More aid than ever going into Gaza: they’re big meanies. Can’t win for losing.

  • Mildly amused… just dawned on me: Israel stopping aid to Gaza: they’re big meanies. More aid than ever going into Gaza: they’re big meanies.

    The fact that you find this a paradoxical combination suggests a touch of innumeracy. You seem to think that aid to Gaza increasing 900% means there must be lots of aid, whereas if anything it suggests the opposite. Imagine trying to increase the amount of food you consume by 900%. Heck, imagine trying to increase it 100%. If I tell you that a guy has increased his food intake by 900% and you had to guess whether he was obese or underweight, which option would you pick?

  • One difficulty you have had in the Near East is the dole from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency which has been continuous for 60 years. That has tended to insulate a section of the Arab refugee population from a consideration of the real costs and consequences of various courses of action.

    The population is subject to a blockade because they misbehave; they are heavily dependent on aid because they are comparatively unproductive. One might even speculate that the lack of human capital and the lack of salutary and constructive political goals have a common source.

  • To solve this, one must know how much aid was going in before and how much is now. Using the analogy of how much food one eats doesn’t really help. We need real numbers.

  • I think that was Blackadder’s point – 900% doesn’t really tell us much in absolute terms.

  • - 80 percent of Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.

    – Massive spike in poverty and unemployment. UN: 60 per cent of households are “food insecure”.

    – Over 90 per cent of Gaza’s factories shut or operate at less than 10 per cent of capacity.

    – Exports reduced to almost zero.

    – Severe restrictions on fishing activity.

    – Only half the weekly fuel needed for Gaza’s only power plant let in, and less than half of needed monthly gas supply. Widespread electricity shortages.

    – Humanitarian aid at whim of Israelis. WHO trucks repeatedly turned away.

    – Almost no movement of people. Familes ripped apart. West Bank students and seminarians trapped.

    – Medical emergencies that cannot be dealt with in Gaza require a permit to leave, which is often delayed or denied. Some deaths resulted.

    – Banned list includes basic goods, including food.

    – Banned list designed in part to protect the profit margins of Israeli producers.

    – Widespread shortages, including of basic goods like soap, school materials and clean drinking water. Rampant black market (benefits Hamas).

    And there are still Catholics and those who claim to be pro-life that support this???

  • I would not stipulate that all of the conditions you enumerate are in force, but the description does not surprise me.

    I do not ‘support’ that state of the world. I do not ‘support’ people drinking themselves to death either, but they do. No, I do not think it is wise to unconditionally subsidize hopeless alcoholics.

    Why are they dependent on ‘humanitarian aid’? Because they are not producing for export. They neither migrated to locales where they would be useful nor developed local industries. (Labor migration in the Arab world in the 1970s was immense, by the way). Neither (after a certain date) did they conduct themselves in a manner congruent with maintaining orderly international commerce. Well, there they are. There is a great deal of pathos in their situation, particularly in so far that there are undoubtedly many who are quite innocent in any corrupted population, but it is not a destiny they collectively sought to avoid.

    It is generally not that difficult to live with your neighbors. It is difficult to live against your neighbors, if that’s what you want to do.

  • The fundamental problem is 1). Hamas and the many other radical Islamist groups in the area 2). the very large percentages of the population that support these groups.

    There are very deeply sick cultures the Iraelis, and any decent person in the region, has to deal with on a daily basis.

    Responsibility for the unfortunate fact that Gaza and other areas have been one giant welfare black hole for decades rests with the population, and with their death-worship ideologies.

    Odd and sadly predictable that so many continously bash the only humane liberal democracy anywhere in sight – the only place where can be openly gay or an athiest and not worry about keeping their life, for example – with little condemnation Hamas and Egypt (and why do they treat their fellow ethnics so badly?), among others (such as the Iran and Syria that smuggle weapons and support young “martyr” cannon fodder to the more than eager residents of Gaza).

    BTW, Not a surprise:
    http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/06/02/israel.palestinians.aid/

    And let’s not be pretend that this latest stunt by “peace activists” (what a joke) was not (it now seems pretty clear) anything else than one more effort by Turkey to seek regional prestige – probably against Iran.

  • Blackadder-
    “aid coming in” is quite a bit different from “amount of food being eaten.”

    A more fair comparison may be “taxable income”– which it is entirely possible to have go up by 900%; should someone’s taxable income go up by 900%, it means they are not going without pay…but it does’t needfully mean their taxable and untaxed income put together was lower.

    You still haven’t explained how Israel is letting only between a quarter and 1/40th of (you imply) the food it was before and admitting more (official) aid than before. Now, if it’s 1/4th the total weight of EVERYTHING it was before, and they were shipping in lots of bunker building supplies, that would make sense…and kinda prove Israel’s point.

    Phillip, c matt– the numbers are linked from the link I posted. If Blackadder objected to relative amounts being used, he probably wouldn’t have used them himself.

  • “We need to get beyond the notion that the Shoah was somehow unique in history,”

    What an appalling statement Tony. I will defer to the Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim on this point:

    “The “Final Solution” was designed to exterminate every single Jewish man, woman and child. The only Jews who would have conceivably survived had Hitler been victorious were those who somehow escaped discovery by the Nazis.

    Jewish birth (actually mere evidence of “Jewish blood”) was sufficient to warrant the punishment of death. Fackenheim notes that this feature distinguished Jews from Poles and Russians who were killed because there were too many of them, and from “Aryans” who were not singled out unless they chose to single themselves out. With the possible exception of Gypsies, he adds, Jews were the only people killed for the “crime” of existing.

    The extermination of the Jews had no political or economic justification. It was not a means to any end; it was an end in itself. The killing of Jews was not considered just a part of the war effort, but equal to it; thus, resources that could have been used in the war were diverted instead to the program of extermination.

    The people who carried out the “Final Solution” were primarily average citizens. Fackenheim calls them “ordinary job holders with an extraordinary job.” They were not perverts or sadists. “The tone-setters,” he says, “were ordinary idealists, except that their ideals were torture and murder.” Someone else once wrote that Germany was the model of civilized society. What was perverse, then, was that the Germans could work all day in the concentration camps and then go home and read Schiller and Goethe while listening to Beethoven.”

    Other examples of mass murder exist in human history, such as the atrocities committed by Pol Pot in Cambodia and the Turkish annihilation of the Armenians. But none of those other catastrophes, Fackenheim argues, contain more than one of the characteristics described above.

    I might add Tony that while the Holocaust was going on more than a few Palestinians, including the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, were cheering Hitler on. The Holocaust does not absolve Jews from moral responsibility for their actions, but it should make any thinking individual understand why the Israelis are concerned for their security, especially when a staple of Palestinian propaganda are calls for a second Holocaust.

  • “aid coming in” is quite a bit different from “amount of food being eaten.”

    So your view would be what, that the vast majority of food shipped into Gaza just sits there rotting after the Palestinians have all eaten their fill?

    You still haven’t explained how Israel is letting only between a quarter and 1/40th of (you imply) the food it was before and admitting more (official) aid than before.

    The blockaid has been in place since 2007. The statistic you cited was that aid in 2009 was 900% higher than aid in 2008. Is it really so hard for you to understand how both these things can be true?

    Suppose that, prior to the blockaid, 40 million tons of food is brought into Gaza a year. After the blockaid, only food aid is allowed into Gaza. One million tons of food aid is brought in in 2008; ten million tons is brought in in 2009. Result: aid went up 900% in 2009, yet the total amount of food brought in is still 1/4th of what it was before.

  • Why are they dependent on ‘humanitarian aid’? Because they are not producing for export.

    Export is all but prohibited by the blockaid, so the fact that Gaza isn’t producing for export is hardly shocking. And given the nature of the land in the Gaza strip, the only way for people to be able to feed themselves by selling exports. And since that’s not allowed, dependency on food aid is inevitable. If you were under the restrictions placed on Gaza you would have to depend on food aid too.

  • The blockade was imposed in June 2007. Gaza was not a prosperous little city-state prior to that. Again, the UNRWA dole has been in place for sixty years. It is the most durable example of collective mendicancy in the world today.

    Likewise, political revanchism is not a product of any blockades imposed in the last three years. Revanchist candidates won the municipal elections Israel held in the West Bank and Gaza in 1972 and 1976. An authentically liberal-democratic strain of political thought is inconsequential on the West Bank and in the Gaza strip and that is just the deal.

  • Blackadder-
    You pretty clearly aren’t even bothering to try to find out what’s up.

    First you say there’s only a tiny fraction going in, then you say that because there’s a lot going in things are dire, then you think all the aid is food– even though GLANCING at the list of items on any of these stories would let you know that “aid” is all sorts of things (fuel not being counted in the weight) and now you’re not even aware that, hey, Gaza actually does export. It is a bit restricted, since they have a habit of being used to smuggle the primary export of “kill the Jews,” but every other outrage about Gaza is how Israel is horrible for messing up their exports.

    Me, I’m startled that thousands of flowers (last St. V’s day’s outrage) thousands of tons of strawberries and tomatoes is both “prohibited” and not worth mentioning.

    Shoot, maybe if they had greenhouses they could grow more food….

    Meh, screw it; I’m done with banging against this wall. You’ll just decide to insult me, again. It’s like arguing against contraception with a child of the ’60s.

  • The flotilla organizers drew attention to the illegal blockade. I’m not convinced, based on what I’ve read, that resistance preceded violence on the part of the commandos. There are reports that suppressive fire resulted in activist deaths prior to the commandos boarding. It also sounds like the Israeli team lacked the means to engender crowd dispersal (such as tear gas). An American was shot 4 times in the head and once in the chest but I suppose he had it coming, despite being unarmed, because he was “spoiling for a fight” and at least associated with people who aren’t “nice.”

  • “despite being unarmed, because he was “spoiling for a fight” and at least associated with people who aren’t “nice.””

    I guess Mr. Furkan Dogan, who had dual Turkish and American citizenship and who was living in Turkey, wasn’t clear on the concept that “running a blockade” might not be the safest of pastimes. As to people who aren’t “nice” I think that is a rather mild description of the terrorist affiliations of the individuals on board the Turkish ship.

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