Is there any country in the world that gets the same grossly inequitable treatment that Israel gets?
For instance, in a world that features such official miscreants as Kim Jong Il, who is starving and enslaving his people; or Omar al-Bashir, in whose Sudan not one but two genocides have occurred, one still in progress; or Radovan Karadjic, whose Bosnian Serbs slaughtered their Muslim countrymen under the very eyes of the UN blue helmets; or Robert Mugabe, who took beautiful Zimbabwe and turned it into a cesspool of hyperinflation, misery, and political thuggery; or the junta misruling Myanmar, which is still keeping the winner of an election twenty years ago under house arrest; etc, etc, etc – in such a world, why is it that little Israel is the subject of some 90% of the resolutions of condemnation issued by the UN Commission on Human Rights or its successor the UN Council on Human Rights? (If, by the way, there is clearer proof of the fecklessness of the idea of global government or the aggregate legitimacy to be conferred by the UN, I don’t know what it is.)
What, exactly, has Israel done to earn this condemnation? And not just from this body, but from just about every corner of the world over just about every incident? The interception of the Gaza blockade-running flotilla is just the most recent action, and within hours the outcry had stretched from Ankara to Brussels to Turtle Bay. Government terrorism! they cried. Murder! Martyrdom! War crimes!
Is it the “occupation” of the West Bank and Gaza? Surely a country the size of Israel has the right to territorial buffers when it is surrounded by hostile countries? That is a time-honored principle in international relations. If you capture territory in war, you get to keep it. Otherwise, Mexico could be demanding the return of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and parts north. Is it Israel’s treatment of Palestinians? Apartheid, people call it. And yet, Arabs in Israel itself have more civil rights than Arabs in any Arabic country. They have representation in the most powerful parliament in the region; Arabs fight in the Israeli Defense Forces. As to the Palestinians themselves, boil it down to this:
If the Palestinians laid down their arms, there would be peace. If the Israelis laid down their arms, there would be slaughter. Does anyone doubt this?
Turkey has emerged recently as one of the most vocal critics of Israel – and the Gaza flotilla set sail from Turkey – and yet, who bothers to discuss Turkey’s own treatment of Kurds and before that of Armenians in their midst? The hypocrisy is boundless, and it comes down to one thing: admit it or not, many countries around the world still have not acknowledged Israel’s right to exist. How else to explain the demands the world places on Israel?
They insisted that Israel vacate Gaza, so they did – they uprooted settlers who had carved out their own difficult lives there, pulled out all the troops and troop placements, left Gaza to the Palestinians. They let them have an election. Then, when the election went to Hamas, and I said at the time, we’ll see if the Palestinians end up happy about their choice. First, Hamas entered into open warfare against Fatah, Palestinian killing Palestinian, for control of the strip. Then, with Fatah banished to the West Bank, Hamas started to lob the first of thousands of rockets that were aimed (thankfully, badly aimed) at Israeli civilians. So Israel’s acquiescence to the demands of the world left it with no peace, but rather an embittered enemy preaching destruction in its schools and gearing up for jihad.
That wasn’t the only instance of one-sided concessions that bought Israel neither peace nor even a break from world opinion. They left Southern Lebanon in 2000 in accordance with UN resolutions, and were rewarded with a strengthening of Hezbollah, which continued to rain Katyushas on Israeli farms and ultimately led to a vicious and inconclusive war. At the conclusion of that war, Israel was again compelled to withdraw, and the ceasefire agreement promised the UN would keep Hezbollah from rearming. No prizes for guessing what became of that promise.
But let’s return to Gaza, because that’s where this most recent conflict is centered. In another tenet of international law that applies to everyone but Israel, a country has the right to blockade a hostile neighbor to keep it from arming. Think Cuban Missile Crisis – Kennedy blockaded Cuba to keep the Russians from establishing a nuclear missile base on our flank. Perfectly legal, and Kennedy is a hero for having the stones to do it. Israel imposes a similar blockade on Hamas and they get these flotillas of soft-headed leftists and anti-Israeli activists to try to break it. Never mind that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza – people are not starving, and if their lives are at risk it is more at the hands of their Hamas rulers than it is of the Israelis. Israel allows all manner of food, medicine, and other goods, building materials etc to go into Gaza, as long as Israel inspects it first to ensure that there are no weapons concealed in the shipments. Thousands of tons a week of such goods go to Gaza.
And that was the promise they made to the flotilla – put into port at Ashdod, where the goods could be inspected and then transshipped to Gaza. Not good enough for the pro-Palestinians, though. The point was not to provide aid – it was to break the blockade. And the dilemma for Israel is that once the blockade is broken, it is damned hard to reinstate it. So even if the first ships through are innocent of warmaking contraband, it is a sure thing that following ships would not be. So the blockade had to be preserved. And for the same reason, the activists were more bent on running the blockade than delivering aid. Theirs was neither an innocent nor humanitarian mission – even if some of the “useful idiots” (to use Lenin’s phrase) believed it so.
As the ships approached, the Israelis repeatedly warned the ships to divert to Ashdod. In response, Israeli Defense recordings show shouts of “Go back to Auschwitz!” and “Remember 9-11!” So one by one, the Israelis boarded the ships and commandeered them. (It is perfectly within the laws of war and national defense, by the way, to act against ships on the high seas in the furtherance of a blockade – again, JFK did that in 1962. People who point to that as an act of Israeli piracy are simply uninformed.) Five of the six ships were taken over without incident, which rather belies the accusations that the Israelis were trigger-happy commandoes looking for an excuse. On the sixth, however, videos taken moments before the boarding showed people preparing – hefting clubs and metal bars as they waited for the boarders. The Israeli commandoes rappelled down armed with non-lethal paint guns, and were met by these club-wielding thugs who immediately set upon them viciously – and if you have ever been hit by an aluminum baseball bat, you know that is no light touch. Again, videos taken at the time show at least one Israeli thrown over a rail to the deck below. At one point, a soldier’s handgun is wrested away, and then lives are in danger. So the gloves come off, and ultimately nine people are dead.
At what point, one wonders, should the Israeli soldiers have acted differently? It doesn’t look like there was much opportunity for negotiation. And if these people were on a humanitarian mission of peace, what are they doing beating up on the commandoes before their feet even touch the deck? Doubtful they felt a compelling threat, unless these commandoes were under different orders from the ones on all the other ships – and given the famous discipline and professionalism of the IDF, that seems unlikely. The clear explanation was that they fully intended a fight and if a few of them die in the process, well, martyrdom (preferably someone else’s) is good for the cause.
For Israel it has been a public relations disaster, not least because so few people are willing to look squarely at the facts, as is so often the case where Israel is concerned. But Jerusalem should also do some serious navel-gazing as well, for several reasons. First, where was their vaunted intelligence? It was no great secret that one of the main organizers of this flotilla was the al-Qaeda-linked Humanitarian Aid Foundation (IHH). They should have been better prepared for trouble. Second, there was a sense in the days before the confrontation that they were in a damned-if-you-damned-if-you-don’t situation, apparently almost despairing of finding a non-catastrophic outcome. But there may have been ways of turning the flotilla aside without violence – divers disabling the ship’s steering, perhaps. Or the commandoes could have been armed with better non-lethal tools, like tasers or mace. At any rate, the outcome that did occur has put Israel once again on the defensive in front of world opinion.
The “foreign minister” of the European Union (like the UN, an exercise in wishful thinking that wastes many talented people’s time and billions of taxpayer money – as if creating a powerless foreign ministry and the rest of the cabinetry would forge a nation out of a collection of states) called for an immediate lifting of the blockade – despite the fact that the “Road Map” to peace in the middle east, of which the EU is a member of the “Quartet” of countries trying to resolve this bottomless issue, calls for specific steps the first of which is not to lift the blockade.
And what of Israel’s stalwart ally, the United States? The Obama Administration has (thankful for small favors) not joined the knee jerk chorus of condemnation, but neither has it been robust in support of its main friend in the region. Part of Obama’s thus-far-fruitless campaign to remake America’s image in the world is to be more even handed between the rejectionists in the Middle East and the one true democracy. As a result, everyone else feels a little less compunction about indulging in their worst anti-Israeli instincts. Net, net, Israel feels more isolated and lonely than ever before.
And that’s a bad way for them to feel at a time when Iran is inching closer and closer to a weapon that could realize their hate-filled and apocalyptic rhetoric toward Israel. Jerusalem may end up deciding the US can’t be relied upon, and the rest of the world will hate them whatever they do, so what the hell.
After all, damned if you do, damned if you don’t, damned simply for being there.