Israel’s debacle on the high seas, the commando raid on the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara, has sent both anti-Zionists and staunch defenders of the Netanyahu government back to their old scripts. Those who really need no new reason to delegitimize Israel have seized on the carnage onboard the Turkish ferry ship as another Israeli atrocity. Their narrative portrays humanitarians on a mission to aid besieged Palestinians locked up in the Gaza Strip assaulted and murdered by Israeli commandos.
The Israeli government — and its public relations auxiliaries in the Diaspora — has laid blame for the botched raid on the Mavi Marmara to the IHH, a Turkish Islamist group that employed a gang of thugs to do battle with Israeli troops. Edited IDF videos show Israeli commandos rappelling down ropes and being set upon by a mob of men wielding pipes, chairs and knives.
Perhaps the board of inquiry convened by the Israeli government will shed light on what exactly happened May 31 aboard the Mavi Marmara. What seems more significant at this point is that the killings in the Mediterranean Sea have opened up an international dialogue about how to deal with the sore subject of 1.5 million Palestinians cooped up in the tiny coastal strip under the rule of Hamas.
In the torrent of news coverage last week, AJW readers may have missed an item in Haaretz about testimony by Meir Dagan, head of Mossad (Israel’s CIA), before the Knesset’s Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee. In the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara raid, Dagan told Israeli parliamentarians: “Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden.” Again, this was the head of Mossad speaking.
And Giora Eiland, a retired Israeli major general — writing on Ynetnews.com, the Web site of Yediot Achronot, Israel’s largest newspaper — suggested that the Jewish state missed an opportunity to engage with Hamas following the conclusion of last year’s military campaign in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead. Israel needs to start “recognizing reality,” according to Eiland, “De facto, Gaza is a state in every way and is regrettably ruled by bad people who reject any diplomatic agreement with Israel. Yet this does not mean we cannot regularize our neighborly relations with them.”
Likewise, the New York Times reported June 2 that there is a policy shift afoot in the “upper reaches” of the Obama administration, vis-Ã -vis dealing with the situation in Gaza. “There is no question that we need a new approach to Gaza,” an Obama administration official said, in an anonymous comment to the Times.
Most of those attacking Israel in the aftermath of the Gaza flotilla fiasco are not considering the shift that has occurred in Turkey, where an Islamist government has turned against Israel and the West. Nor do they seem especially cognizant of the geopolitical ambitions of Iran, which is the patron of both Hamas in Gaza and Hezbollah in Lebanon. At the same time, Israel has been abiding by international efforts to pressure Iran to stop its quest for nuclear weapons. Indeed, the Gaza flotilla carnage will seem like the proverbial Sunday school picnic, if push comes to shove over Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons.
In a June 3 address at the Sabes JCC annual meeting, Dr. Daniel Gordis, senior vice president of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem, told a crowd that apparently swelled in size after the May 31 Gaza flotilla events that Israel’s determination to stop Iran from getting nuclear weapons is a “nonnegotiable thing.” He described the Islamic Republic of Iran as a “menace… which will get us first, and you’re next.”
After briefly declaring that the day will come when Israel’s occupation of the Palestinian territories ends, Gordis explained that an Iranian bomb will negate the promise of Zionism, which is a promise to the Jews that they will have “one little place, in a horrible neighborhood,” where they can live, without the goyim determining if they live or die.
The security ensured by Zionism is over if there is an Iranian bomb, said Gordis; the purpose of a Jewish state no longer will exist.
“If the Jewish state does not survive,” said Gordis, in answer to a question, “then Jewish life in Minneapolis is over.”
Whether Gordis is right or wrong in his stark appraisal of the Middle East ferment, the challenges to Israel posed by its enemies in Gaza, the more amenable Palestinian regime in the West Bank, the Arab states and the mullahs in Iran are entwined and vexingly complicated. Somehow, Israel and those who want to see Israel survive have to negotiate a way out of the untenable 43-year occupation of the Palestinian communities. A strategy of escalating military force in every security barrier demonstration and flotilla protest will see Israel losing again and again.
Writing recently in the New York Times, Israeli novelist Amos Oz argued: “I do not discount the importance of force. Woe to the country that discounts the efficacy of force. Without it Israel would not be able to survive a single day. But we cannot allow ourselves to forget for even a moment that force is effective only as a preventative — to prevent the destruction and conquest of Israel, to protect our lives and freedom. Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters, just like the one we brought on ourselves in international waters, opposite Gaza’s shores.”
In the aftermath of the Mavi Marmara disaster, we hope that some fresh, clever thinking can craft a strategy that will lead to peace for Israel and her neighbors.
— Mordecai SpecktorÂ / firstname.lastname@example.org
(American Jewish World, 6.11.10)