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The Gaza Flotilla Fiasco
Mon, 05/31/2010 - 20:00

For those of us who care deeply about Israel — and feel revulsion at the way it is demonized in an uncaring, hopelessly biased world — the past few days have been disheartening.

A Gaza flotilla that claimed humanitarian motives but in reality sought a propaganda victory over the hated Israelis and possibly the violent confrontation that ensued has ignited a new frenzy of condemnation around the world. Many flotilla supporters profess grief at the loss of nine lives in the Israeli attack, but what comes across most clearly is an unseemly glee that Israel has once again been goaded into actions that will be exploited to harden its status as a pariah state.

That said, this weekend’s disaster on the Mediterranean raises important questions about how policy decisions are made in Jerusalem.

For days before the flotilla sailed, Israeli officials and their friends here argued — correctly, we believe — that it was a propaganda ploy, not a humanitarian mission, and that many participants were seeking a confrontation on the high seas. So why, exactly, did Israeli forces give flotilla radicals exactly what they wanted? Was the botched attack the result of faulty intelligence — or simply policy driven by anger, rather than strategic thinking?

There are also legitimate and important questions about whether the attack — like the Gaza blockade itself — has hurt or helped Hamas. Further, the botched attack may have undermined Israel’s most critical foreign policy priority: building international support for strong efforts to stop Iran from crossing the nuclear threshold. At best, the incident is a distraction that comes just as U.S.-led efforts seemed about to move the process forward; at worst, it will be used by Iran’s enablers, riding the tidal wave of anti-Israel rage, to keep the pressure off Tehran.

Israel has a right to feel indignant about a world that treats it with the crudest kind of double standard. But indignity does not make for sound policy. It is one thing to be right legally, as Israel was in protecting the Gaza blockade, and quite another to do what is best strategically.

As Editor Gary Rosenblatt notes in his column this week, there are two potential existential threats to Israel emerging now. One is a nuclear Iran, and as yet another reminder of the urgency at hand, there are reports just this week that Tehran now has fuel for two nuclear weapons. The other lethal threat is the global effort to delegitimize Israel, with Palestinian militants and a network of anti-Israel activists hoping Jerusalem will implode from internal pressures, as happened to the Soviet Union and South Africa.

On both scores, it behooves Israel to work closely with its allies, primarily the U.S., in preventing Iran from getting the bomb and in acting with wisdom and bold clarity to expose the delegitimizers as the anti-democratic forces they are. And it is critical for Israeli leaders to measure every potential response to the international challenges they face against the benchmark of how it will affect those core goals.

Such wisdom is not easy to achieve in a violent Middle East filled with Israel-hating extremists who care little about the human lives wasted in their efforts to prod Israel to violence. But wisdom, and the far-sighted, proactive policy it helps generate, are what the world’s only Jewish state will need to achieve peace and security in this most unforgiving of environments.


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Gary Rosenblatt, Gaza blockade, Gaza flotilla

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An excellent, well thought out article.
A simple problem becomes an International issue due to the Israeli use of Nazi methodology A muslim ally of Israel and the West is alienated, just as neutral Britain and Australia were over the criminal use of forged passports to murder freedom fighters. We have still to see the arrests over the murders of Gazan civilians during the "Cast Lead" carpet bombing. JUst how long before these people take us into a war in Iran?
To get the facts about the incident, see: Today, the ship from Ireland was diverted without incedent to Ashdod where the cargo is being off-loaded and sent to Gaza after an inspection. Last week's incident was a staged provocation lead by Turkey's islamist leadership in conjunction with Hamas.
"in a violent Middle East filled with Israel-hating extremists who care little about the human lives wasted in their efforts to prod Israel to violence" I'm an arab american who lived 10 years in Lebanon, and that is not true. You make it sound as if everyone there wants to kill israeli civilians. I went to one of the few schools that had large proportion of both muslims and christians. (You might be interested to know that we also had a jewish teacher) Ones of the few things we agreed upon back then when it came to discussing politics in the region was that targeting innocent civilians was outrageous. That applied to Palestinians blowing themselves up in restaurants, and israel implementing policies of mass punishment. I know it might seem obvious that my muslim classmates, should believe that, but that is not the way that people from the middle east seem to be portrayed in the American media. Other than that, I would argue that the current form of the blockade has strengthened Hamas, just like the 2006 war strengthened Hisbullah. It might stop rockets in the short run, but Israel should be more forward looking than that. One additional thing. You talk about the existential threat facing israel from Hisbullah and Iran. If you ever want to feel a bit better about it, compare yourselves to the Lebanese Christians. We're living in the same country with those monsters, and we don't have tanks let alone fighter jets and nuclear weapons to defend ourselves. Best Wishes, Jon
As a European who supports both an Israeli and Palestinian state it is very confusing to read articles such as yours. More than anything I would like to understand what the reasoning is here. It just seem like mantras are being repeated over and over. Everyone hates Israel, any critisism is just meant to hurt us and is aimed at our destruction etc etc. I think you fail to see that most of us feel a strong desire for Israel to succeed and thrive. We just don't understand the occupation, and what we see as the brutal treatment of the Palestinians. It gets even more confusing when comments from the Israeli government are always the same. Everyone is a terrorist and we were defending ourselves. 2 minutes of footage is released of what must be hours and hours of footage. It also appears from the autopsy that 5 of the victims in the shootings were shot from behind, three of the them in the back of their heads. I hope there is some self reflection, a change towards violence, and an end to the catastrophic blocade and occupation that is causing all of these problems. Please don't take all criticism as a call for the end of Israel. There are bad people and good people in every country. The difference is how much each group is supported. All the best for your site!
Regarding the hysteria whipped up by Turkey's Islamist government about the Gaza flotilla, what would be that government's reaction be if Israel instigated, encouraged and assisted the sending of an "aid flotilla" for the long persecuted Kurdish population of Turkey. On board the ships would be large numbers of persons favourably disposed to the aims of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK). The stated purpose would be to establish an unimpeded conduit for the Kurds of "aid material" — and certain "advisers". What would Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan say, and do, about that?