On the Israeli boarding

4 06 2010

Something fundamental is being buried in the fallout from Israel’s boarding of the protest vessel in the Mediterranean a few days ago.  So far, discussion of the event is being portrayed as either ‘pro-Israeli’ or ‘pro-Hamas’, which has seen two heaving propaganda machines grind into gear.

On the one hand, staunch supports of Israel declare Israel’s actions totally valid given the circumstances.  The state of Israel had every right to intervene based on the notions of sovereignty, right to exist and self defence.  In short, the flotilla was attempting to breach the blockade of Gaza and had failed to meet requests to comply.  The commando’s who board the ship were attack by a number of protesters who had attempted to cause them serious harm, and so were well within their rights.  The world is reacting unfairly; any other country would have behaved the same way.

Alternatively, another argument runs that Israel showed its hand and that hand is pure evil.  Innocents were gunned down on board a foreign ship by callous, unfeeling, faceless men in uniform intent on preserving the stranglehold on Gaza.  Israel should be condemned for their behaviour.

Neither approach is correct and the real message of the situation is being lost among the clamour of voices being put forward by Arab and Israeli nationalist.  According to both sides, history is on their sides.

So what do we know?

Facts:

A flagship of a protest group, manned by hundreds of activists, parliamentarians, legislators, former Nobel Prize laureates and other non-combatants were attempting to run an Israeli blockade.  The action was intended to have the same effect as environmentalists camping out in a tree or people chaining themselves to a door in order to prevent a building from being demolished.  Before leaving Cyprus, the flotilla had been certified as not carrying arms.  There was never any intention for the flotilla to obey the commands of Israeli naval units and head for Ashod — that was clear form the outset.  Of the 6 boats in the fleet, 5 were boarded without violent resistance.  Those boats sailed under flags from multiple nations and carried individuals from a variety of backgrounds.  They were carrying humanitarian aid intended for Palestinians in Gaza and the raid took place in international waters.

The boats themselves were raided, at night time, by elite Israeli commandos in full commando uniform who descended from helicopters.  They were carrying paintball guns.  They were attacked by a group of people aboard the flagship with makeshift weapons.  A commando fired his gun, as did others and as a result a number of demonstrators died, those involved in the melee and those who weren’t.  A white flag was raised and the firing continued.

It is certain that Israel was going to suffer bad PR no matter how they responded to the situation, unless they let the flotilla through, however that wasn’t an option as the flotilla threatened Israeli sovereignty.

What we can discern:

For a start, the environment the flotilla was being placed in was one of hostility.  The Israeli military used elite commandos in full commando gear descending from helicopters onto the boat’s deck.  Anyone on the deck at the time would have been scared.  A minority of protesters attacked the Israeli commandos and given the large numbers of people on board, that minority was small.

Looking at the larger picture, we begin to run into problems.  For those looking to defend the actions of Israeli soldiers and the state, yes, the commandos were attacked by people on deck.  Yes, logically, men armed with firearms, (even if they are pistols and the commandos were, supposedly, wearing asbestos gloves) are going to fire back if attacked, and they did.  Yet, self defence rests upon shaky ground; not all of those protesters killed by Israeli fire would have been involved in the melee, and exactly, why did the soldiers keep shooting?  If the claim is made that the Israeli commandos had a right to self-defence, then doesn’t that mean after the first bystander was shot that the protesters would have a right to self-defence also?  There is no easy answer to this question as the situation was chaotic, but it is worth considering for those leaping to support of the Israeli state, particularly as the Israeli military was involved in an act of aggression at the time.  Then there is the larger context of the blockade on Gaza and the history associated with the appropriation of land from Palestinians, settlements and settlers, use of white phosphorous (which I personally watched being used over Gaza on live webcam feeds), the demolitions of houses, infrastructure and entire neighbourhoods.  This is not anti-Israel, this is a reflection of the facts.

Likewise, there is no great win either for those who are using this opportunity to hate on Israel.  Those quick to collectively denounce every Israeli as part of the murdering war-machine forget one sobering point; the average Israeli is drafted into the armed forces at a young age.  Refusing to put on a uniform and pick up a gun for the state results in imprisonment and pariah status as someone who ‘hates their country’.  Military training, by design, reprograms people.  It breaks down basic family structures and replaces them with those relationships formed with fellow soldiers in order to foster an atmosphere of loyalty and obedience to the group and the authority that controls it; the paternal authority of military higher-ups and the political elite.  In short, it makes an individual identify with an abstract, non-existent entity that makes up the state.  It’s a process that embodies at it’s very core, the most absurd and dehumanising influences a person may find themselves exposed to.  So then, ask yourself, since this is mandatory for all Israeli’s, how much does this influence their attitudes and behaviours?  How much fear and indoctrination occurs, daily, to ensure that young Israeli’s behave a certain way — the right way?

And one more thought on the whole issue; one of the most common lines of argument provided by Israeli’s on the subject has been, ‘no other state would have done differently.’  This is a truth in its purest form.  No other state around the world would have hesitated to do the same; they perform these actions as a matter of course and for this they all deserve equal condemnation.

The issue isn’t pro-Isreal or pro-Hamas; it’s whether you give a fuck about people rather than the lust of a political elite for power, be they established or aspiring.

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9 responses

4 06 2010
burstmode

Excellent analysis.

4 06 2010
Royce Christian

Thanks burstmode. It comes after days of being the meat in the sandwich between Israeli nationalists and aggressive Arab, Greek and Turkish propagandists condemning all Israelis as evil.

6 06 2010
On The Israeli Boarding | Independence Forever

[…] On The Israeli Boarding On The Israeli Boarding […]

6 06 2010
Timothy Michel

I totally disagree. The flotilla was placed in an area of hostility. One of their own making. They were attempting to “run a blockade”. So they were attacking a sovereign nation in it’s attempts to protect itself. It’s that simple. Whether you are pro Israel or pro Hamas, the facts are, Hamas sends rockets into Israel every day to kill citizens and WON”T stop. No matter what concessions are offered. You can make statements about how it’s mean, unfair and even evil about what Israel is doing to stop these attacks, but in the end, if it was your hometown, you would want your kids to be protected too. These animals won’t stop attacking, all in the name of a hateful religion, and that’s a fact. Find me a “moderate” muslim who is against the attacks on Israel and I’ll show you a unicorn. They don’t exist. It’s time the activists wake up and see the world as it is, not as they wish it could be.

6 06 2010
rom

@Timothy Michel

“Whether you are pro Israel or pro Hamas, the facts are, Hamas sends rockets into Israel every day to kill citizens and WON”T stop.”

This is untrue, Israel presents itself as a victim, where the cycle of violence starts with poor little Israel under attack and surrounded by hostile ‘terrorists’ and Israel only defends itself. The truth is Israel is one of the most powerful military (top 2) machines in the world. And if Hamas was really sending all these deadly rockets into Israel there would be so many deaths, yet no one seems to die from them, which is very mysterious given the deadly power to kill of explosive rockets.

8 06 2010
Royce Christian

@Timothy Michel

“…they were attacking a sovereign nation in it’s attempts to protect itself.”

Legally?

1)the Gaza blockade isn’t an attempt to protect itself and has been declared illegal by the UN. Confining a population to an open air prison is not going to ‘protect’ the nation doing the confining, it will only make the confinees more angry and marginalised than they already are.

2) the flotilla weren’t ‘attacking’ no one; the whole operation was an act of civil disobedience, the same way people chain themselves to old buildings to stop them being demolished.

From my ethical, moral, and political standpoint the ‘state’ of Isreal has no more right to exist than the ‘state’ of Palestine; and any party who wants to create or maintain a state is really just asserting their right to indoctrinate, rob and control a particular population. It’s gotten to the point that the Isreali state and Hamas need each other to exist so they can continue to spread the politics of fear by appealing to the existence of that ‘Other’, which justifies anything. Not to mention, as Rom has already mentioned, the ‘deadly’ rockets of Hamas are not nearly as deadly as the machine guns and missiles fired by Israeli soldiers and aircraft. Response has hardly been proportional to the threat.

The Palestinians do not attack in the name of religion; they attack because they have been displaced like other indigenous peoples around the planet. The fact that the Palestinians are marginalised on what used to be their land and new settlements are being expanded while old homes are demolished, after a while that is going to push people towards religious extremism and make a whole lot more reasonable angry.

9 06 2010
David Gendron

Superb!

“former Nobel Prize laureates”

Hummmm….this is not an argument. Barrack Osama the terrorist is a Peace Nobel Prize Winner

9 06 2010
Royce Christian

Thank you! And thank you for the link on your blog, it’s much appreciated.

Regarding Obama and the Peace Prize, yes, you are right, but my aim is more to counter what Israeli officials have said by labelling everyone on board, “pro-Hamas terrorists” and calling the boat a “boat of hate”. They’re attacking the credentials of the activists on board, attempting to smear them so they loose credibility, as it’s definitely not good PR when the world knows your military could have killed Peace Prize Laureates. If everyone on board is a Islamic terrorist associated with Hamas, suddenly it becomes “okay”.

16 06 2010
David Gendron

I agree

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