Sunday, June 06, 2010

On the Flotilla Incident

You know that an incident involving Israel is bound to bring out the fringe unhinged types. Nick Cohen is certainly right on this point:
“Israel has become the main source of mystification for modern liberals. It twists them into ever-uglier contortions. It allows them to ignore secular tyranny and radical religious reaction and to revive with more relish than is seemly Europe's oldest anti-Semitic tropes while they are about it...

Where to begin? Perhaps with the inability of a large section of leftwing opinion and, indeed, isolationist conservative opinion to consider any foreign policy question without reverting within minutes to denunciations of a tiny country on the eastern edge of the Mediterranean. So prevalent are the evasive manoeuvres that we need an update of Godwin's Law to describe them...From the far left to the Liberal Democrats, alleged progressives have Jews on the brain.”
I attended the first part of the protest against Israel here in Edinburgh yesterday, but left before the march began. It was exactly what I expected to find: a hodgepodge of socialist parties, Islamist groups, with a smattering of well intentioned liberals. Marchers called for a new Intifada, referred to Israel as an apartheid state, and a rogue nation. Having been around these things long enough, I recognize that this is all par for the course. What has become increasingly sad (or has been sad for a long time, and has been progressively more frustrating), is the simpleminded responses given to any Israeli action from colleagues and associates. Without considering exactly how international law works, or how global ethics are applied, my conversations inadvertently return to the same basic claims parroted by simpletons and do-gooders alike. I have to occasionally remind myself that the individuals I am debating have proved themselves to capable academics and intellectuals in their respective fields, and yet fail to apply the same reasoning to a minuscule nation’s policies in the Middle East.

Take the debate over the blockade of Gaza and its legality. Reuters recently published a piece demonstrating that the blockade is legal when one considers international norms, and that the interception of the boat in international waters to also be justified.
“On the basis that Hamas is the ruling entity of Gaza and Israel is in the midst of an armed struggle against that ruling entity, the blockade is legal," said Philip Roche, partner in the shipping disputes and risk management team with law firm Norton Rose.

Under the law of a blockade, intercepting a vessel could apply globally so long as a ship is bound for a "belligerent" territory, legal experts say.”
In the hours immediately following the death of nine “activists,” the web was a flurry with folks claiming Israel had attacked an unarmed group of aid activists who simply wanted to bring starving individuals in Gaza needed aid. The subsequent videos, showing exactly what kind of “activists” these folks were aboard the flotilla, tempered some of the indignation. The martyr videos, the slew of weapons aboard the ship, the calls for the Jews to “go back to Auschwitz,” this all put a damper on the argument made by useful idiots around the world that these “activists” were just humanitarians with the best intentions at heart. A little research demonstrates that the starving Gaza assertion is demonstrably wrong, and that a massive amount of aid is delivered to Gaza through Israel routinely.

But like all things regarding Israel, respective commentators and groups already have their narrative ready for press before these incidents even occur. Why let the truth get in the way?

Bob and the New Centrist have more to say on this subject, and have a slew of links worth checking out.


jams o donnell said...

The people behind the aid flotilla wee certainly looking to engineer a confrontation. Still the IDF's stupid response gave them a propaganda coup beyond their wildest dreams

Gibson Block said...

Surprisingly Nick concludes that Israel only has to end the blockade, allow Hamas to bring in weapons and attack.

Then their supporters will see that they are warlike and will desert them.

What's up with that?

Roland Dodds said...

Peter Beinart came to a similar conclusion. I am not necessarily opposed to the recommendation (I think that the current stalemate over Gaza and the Palestinian territories in general) is not something that can be maintained for long. Something will have to be done, but it seems that Israel is no longer interested in making any more un-reciprocal concessions. Something I completely understand.

As for the propaganda from this incident, I don’t know how long its legs are. The folks making condemnations were doing so before. But if folks like Beinart are any parameter, Israel is losing its liberal Jewish support, which may be a problem, for whatever that’s worth.

Mitchell said...

Now I assume I am one of the colleagues whose simpleminded responses you are critiquing.

Roland Dodds said...

Every one of my colleagues gives responses I criticize. That's the problem with being as intelligent as I am. :)

Gordon said...

I think it's a bit unfair to dismiss the protest as merely a combination of socialists and 'Islamists' (by which I presume you mean Muslims). Not that I would complain if the various socialist groups could bring out 3-5,000 activists for a Saturday afternoon, but for now such an idea unfortunately remains relegated to my dreams.

There were trade unions, at least one Jewish organisation, peace campaigners, and plenty of liberals -- which shouldn't be surprising since a majority in the UK oppose the bloackade:

In terms of the incident itself: let's face it, those with previous politicised interest in the issue weren't likely to change their minds over this. You don't support Israel because you think they did the right thing here, and I don't oppose the blockade because I think they did the wrong thing here. Similarly there was never much doubt that you were going to agree with Israel's version of events, while I was going to be a little sceptical.

Given this you may have a point in your last paragraph; but it surely must apply equally to you. You could, of course, come back and say that you do have truth on your side; but then, I would say the same thing.

To finish I will throw you this question: why has Israel refused to release the full unedited recordings of events (theirs and the activists')? What better way could there possibly be to prove their claims and destroy the critics?

Gordon said...

On the filthy liberal front, I should add that the Green Party and the SNP were present too. Possibly others, but I wasn't paying close attention.

Roland Dodds said...

The Muslims groups marching around the square calling for a new Intifada and a war against Israel, I think it is fair to put them in the Islamist camp. There were surely Muslim individuals not affiliated with that dominate group there, but were as indistinguishable as Christians, Jews, or whoever. The rallying parties, in my estimation, were as described. I didn’t catch any significant labour union, but I am willing to include them in my litany of organizations at the event.

I apply the term “well intentioned liberals” sparingly. I know plenty of folks who think Israel has done wrong and are not Islamists, Stalinists, or Trots. But when it comes to these organized events, I always see the same political organizations coordinating things, with their narratives at the forefront. If moderate minded folks organized the events, I would assume we wouldn’t see folks chanting “Intifada!” and overtly praising Hamas.

Which is my larger point about these protests, and a problem with the left that I won’t get into here. Rather than rhetoric of coexistence and cooperation, we get complete damnation of Israel and its very existence, providing tacit support to theocrats and terrorists in Palestine which in turn reinforces the right wing parties in Israel. Protesting the blockade is understandable, and perhaps even justified, but you must surely recognize that the rhetoric at these protests is beyond those concerns.

You are right; I do have a general towards Israel based on their form of government and the overwhelming bias against the state. But unlike a lot of the protesters who come out to protest Israel, I am perfectly willing to speak out against them if they do something stupid or criminal. Much like I have publically opposed the building of settlements on Palestinian territory. In the hours following the flotilla incident I took what the news was reporting, that Israel had killed 10 aid activists, and it angered me. If the subsequent facts of the case had not been revealed, that anger would have persisted. But I don’t see the same willingness to approach Israel in the same manner by the crowd that generally gathers to protest Israel or slag them off online, which would be nice to see for a change.

The Contentious Centrist put up a post yesterday with two stories, both of which would have produced huge demonstrations if done by Israel, but didn’t raise a peep since they were carried out by the Turks and the Chinese.

Obviously, I don’t expect every outrage to produce a protest, but it does demonstrate the myopic scorn applied to all Israeli actions.

As for the tapes, I hope Israel releases whatever tape they have of the incident. I would also like to have any footage prior to the event recorded by the activists to be released.

Roland Dodds said...

That should say "You are right; I do have a general bias towards Israel based on their form of government..."

DH said...

Found your blog via "Politically Homeless". Agree with you. It's the same here in Australia. I'd write about it but it's outside the scope of my blog, so I confine myself to commenting elsewhere. Socialist Alliance, Greens, well-meaning Anglican ladies, and a few Jews who bear the same relationship to the wider Jewish community as the handful of contrarian scientists who deny climate change do to Science. Of crse, they cd be right, but the Greens oddly enough don't seem to lionise them the way they lionise the Jewish contrarians.

marvin said...

Which is my larger point about these protests, and a problem with the left that I won’t get into here. Rather than rhetoric of coexistence and cooperation, we get complete damnation of Israel and its very existence, providing tacit support to theocrats and terrorists in Palestine which in turn reinforces the right wing parties in Israel. Protesting the blockade is understandable, and perhaps even justified, but you must surely recognize that the rhetoric at these protests is beyond those concerns.

Indeed, but for those people it's emotional and therefore logic really doesn't come in to it.


Plus they need pithy slogans to chant, and being balanced and coherent is too much of a creative straitjacket!