Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Israel and the Flotilla incident

Many of us have been following the unfolding developments in Israel. Israeli’s navy moved to intercept a flotilla of ships which were on their way to deliver aid to Gaza. Violence broke out on one of the ships, and 10 of the people aboard that ship were killed by Israeli commandos. The international community moved swiftly to denounce Israel, and some (such as the Turkish Prime Minister) have gone so far as to declare this to be murder.

Whenever these types of horrific incidents occur, I seem to have a predictable pattern of thoughts and feelings. My first is simply sadness – it saddens me to no end that this country which I love so much is constantly involved in these terrible incidents. Whomever you blame for them, any Zionist (a supporter of Israel) would give anything for this kind of violence to end.

On the heels of that sadness, very quickly I often become worried that Israel might have, in this case, done something truly horrific and wrong. The early reports said that the Israelis had opened fire, completely unprovoked, on the unarmed civilians who were simply joining together in solidarity with the people suffering in Gaza. There have certainly been cases of wrongdoing on the part of the Israeli forces in the past, and I worry that this might be another terrible example, which will haunt our people, and Israel, for years to come.

Quickly, then, I start to remember to take everything with a grain of salt. It seems that whenever Israel is involved in violence, the international community condemns Israel for it, and accuses it of horrific violations of morality and International Law. And, in the course of time, it’s almost always revealed that the facts didn’t exactly match the initial reports, and that Israel wasn’t, in fact, killing indiscriminately, or whatever terrible crime they’re being accused of this time. Despite the outcry from the United Nations and the Hypocritical Country of the Day (Turkey, which is occupying Cyprus in clear violation of International Law, seems very concerned with the legal status of the blockade – a blockade which Israel imposed because Hamas has been importing weapons, which they can do because Israel pulled out of Gaza and ended its own occupation of it. Turkey – home of  hypocritical irony, I guess), Israel is usually justified in the actions in took.

As the facts have started to emerge, the picture of Israel as evil aggressor has, once again, become less clear. If you accept the account of, say the Turkish Ambassador, then things remain very clear – Israeli soldiers opened fire on unarmed civilians, for no good reason. They are evil. If, however, you listen to other accounts, then some uncomfortable facts emerge. To name just a few:

  • The flotilla had been ordered by the Israeli Navy to dock in Ashdod (in Israel) so that the cargo could be inspected, and then delivered by Israel to Gaza. Israeli wanted to make sure that weapons and other military supplies weren’t being delivered under the cover of humanitarian aid (as has happened before). The response to the order to divert was, as caught in a live broadcast, “F$%K off.”
  • Before you say, “we can’t trust Israel to do deliver aid,” remember that Israel currently delivers 15,000 tons of aid to Gaza every week. The flotilla was carrying 10,000 tons of cargo.
  • The Israelis boarded 5 ships without incident. On the 6th, the Israelis claim (and video supports the claim) that they were attacked as soon as they got on the boat. They were attacked with knives, metal rods and chairs. Several of the passengers on the boat try to take guns from soldiers (one of the soldiers suffered a gunshot wound). The Israelis opened fire only after they were attacked, and felt that their lives were in danger (they didn’t even open fire immediately once the beatings began).

You can get more such details here, or you can read a good summary and commentary by Rabbi Daniel Gordis.

As I try to always do, let me make clear that none of these deaths are a good thing. I don’t want violence, and I don’t want Israeli soldiers to be killing people. Some of those people, undoubtedly, truly thought that they were doing the right thing and helping people who desperately need help. But, let’s never confuse a tragedy with a crime, or make the mistake of blaming the wrong side.

Israel was presented with a terrible situation, and horrible things happened as a result. But, the organizers of the flotilla could have prevented it all, and still accomplished their stated goal of getting aid to Gaza. Of course, if their true goal was to once again put Israel in a no-win situation, and to gain a p.r. victory, even if it cost lives, then they did exactly what they set out to do.

I pray that Israel’s version of events is closer to the truth than the one being presented by Israel’s enemies. If history is a guide, then I’ll have my prayer answered. But, I’m sad to say that I don’t even hope anymore that the world will see through the lies. The world seems all to eager to blame Israel whenever possible. One more reason that those of us who love Israel had to stand by her.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem.

No comments: