Posted by Joshua on Tuesday, June 1st, 2010
Israel has, in effect, arrested all of the flotilla members. This means that Israel is free to spin to the news media with little correction from the other side. All the same the damage for Israel is mounting.
- The Greek government has decided to discontinue the joint military exercise currently under way and to postpone the visit to Athens of the Head of the Israeli Air Force General Staff, which was to take place tomorrow.
- The Turks have withdrawn their ambassador and their Foreign Minister says that relations are irreparable.
- Netanyahu had to cancel his Washington visit that was to be a photo opportunity and “kiss and make up” session.
- Israel’s actions were the subject of an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting. It is incumbent on Washington to thwart Israel’s international isolation and to veto anti-Israel resolutions.
- Obama will try to distance the US from Israel in due course. What choice does he have? Israel is increasingly a millstone around America’s neck.
- Toni Karon in Time magazine points out that the Chinese exacted a high price for joining the US in sanctioning Iran. “The Chinese government won undertakings from Washington to exempt Chinese companies from any U.S. unilateral sanctions that punish third-country business partners with the Islamic Republic.” Negotiations will now become harder and more costly for the US as the world largely sees the US effort to punish Iran to be driven by Israeli concerns. Iran hardly threatens the US.
See Jonathan Cook: 3 Facts You Need to Know About the Israeli Attack on Peace Activists on the Gaza Flotilla and analysis by Issandr El Amrani, How Israel sets the TV agenda
El Amrana writes:
“For a couple of hours this morning AJE was going from one Israeli official or commentator for another, the IDF has scheduled several press conferences, as did the Prime Minister’s office and the Foreign Ministry. They controlled the news cycle by having their message dominate the airwaves in those early hours, the TV stations — starved for content since there was a communications blackout from the flotilla ships and Israel’s military censor was no doubt squashing other aspects of the story — were running the Israeli viewpoint non-stop.”
Israel’s latest brutal blunder By Stephen M. Walt
This latest act of misguided belligerence poses a broader threat to U.S. national interests. Because the United States provides Israel with so much material aid and diplomatic protection, and because American politicians from the president on down repeatedly refer to the “unbreakable bonds” between the United States and Israel, people all over the world naturally associate us with most, if not all, of Israel’s actions. Thus, Israel doesn’t just tarnish its own image when it does something outlandish like this; it makes the United States look bad, too. This incident will harm our relations with other Middle Eastern countries, lend additional credence to jihadi narratives about the “Zionist-Crusader alliance,” and complicate efforts to deal with Iran. It will also cost us some moral standing with other friends around the world, especially if we downplay it. This is just more evidence, as if we needed any, that the special relationship with Israel has become a net liability.
In short, unless the Obama administration demonstrates just how angry and appalled it is by this foolish act, and unless the U.S. reaction has some real teeth in it, other states will rightly see Washington as irretrievably weak and hypocritical. And Obama’s Cairo speech – which was entitled “A New Beginning” — will be guaranteed a prominent place in the Hall of Fame of Empty Rhetoric.
How might the United States respond?………
DEPUTY FM AYALON: Good morning, everyone. I want to report this morning that the armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terror organization was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organizers are well-known for their ties to Global Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror. On board the ship we found weapons that were prepared in advance and used against our forces. The organizers’ intent was violent, their method was violent,…… The maritime blockade on Gaza is very legal and justified by the terror that Hamas is applying in Gaza. …… Thank you very much.
Issandr El Amrani has done some digging on the charge that Israel began to spread around several days before its bloody attack on the flotilla that IHH is linked to al-Qaida. Apparently most of the allegations about the IHH stem from an article written by a certain Evan Kohlmann, a self-proclaimed terrorism expert, back in the 1990s. Issandr notes that the IHH is legally recognized in many countries, works with other NGOs, and has consultative status with the UN.
UN: “Members of the United Nations Security Council on Monday urged Israel to lift its economic blockade of the Gaza Strip, in an emergency session to discuss the deadly Israel Navy raid on a convoy of international activists sailing to the coastal territory.
Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco said in his briefing to the UN’s most powerful body that Monday’s bloodshed would have been avoided if repeated calls on Israel to end the “counterproductive and unacceptable” blockade of Gaza had been heeded…
Adam Shapiro, cofondateur du Mouvement de solidarité internationale, qui a participé à l’opération navale, revient sur l’assaut israélien.
Q – Comment s’est déroulé l’assaut israélien contre la flottille ?
R – Selon nos informations, Israël a lancé l’assaut autour de trois heures du matin, heure locale. Un millier de soldats ont été déployés, ainsi que des navires de guerre, des hélicoptères et des avions. L’assaut a d’abord été lancé contre le bateau turc de passagers (Mavi Marmara, NDLR) qui comptait quelque 600 personnes à son bord. Les soldats y ont été lâchés à partir d’un hélicoptère. Selon nos informations, les soldats ont commencé à ouvrir le feu dès qu’il ont touché le pont.
Ya-t-il eu des avertissements ?
Le seul avertissement lancé par les autorités israéliennes était de faire demi-tour.
Le général Ashkenazi a déclaré que des activistes étaient armés.
Les bateaux ont été méticuleusement inspectés avant de quitter leur port de départ. Ils ont obtenu le feu vert pour partir, donc aucune arme n’avait été trouvée à bord. D’après nos informations, certains passagers, après que les Israéliens ont ouvert le feu, ont tenté de se défendre avec des bâtons et des barres de fer. Maintenant, je n’étais pas personnellement sur le bateau, je ne peux rien confirmer à 100 %. Mais les vidéos ne montrent aucun militant armé. Et Israël n’a avancé aucune preuve que les militants étaient armés. Et c’est à Israël d’apporter une telle preuve si elle existe.
Vous attendiez-vous à une réaction israélienne d’une telle violence ?
Nous sommes des activistes expérimentés, nous n’en sommes pas à notre première mission sur mer ou sur terre. Nous savions que les Israéliens allaient tout faire pour nous arrêter. Nous savions que des armes mortelles pourraient être utilisées par les Israéliens. Mais cela nous semblait peu probable. Les autorités israéliennes avaient déclaré que les commandos d’élite seraient envoyés sur cette opération. Si les soldats qui ont participé à l’assaut sont effectivement des commandos d’élite, alors on ne peut que conclure que l’ordre de tirer leur a été donné, car ce type de soldat ne cafouille pas.
Avant l’assaut, Israël avait dénoncé la mission comme étant un acte de provocation et mis en doute son caractère légal.
La flottille a été arrêtée dans les eaux internationales. Nous étions encore loin des eaux israéliennes ou de Gaza. Et nous avions eu l’autorisation de naviguer de la part des ports de départ. Quand les Israéliens nous ont arrêtés, nous étions dans la légalité. Par ailleurs, Israël part de l’hypothèse que son blocus de Gaza est légal pour dire que notre mission ne l’est pas. Or les Nations unies, la Croix-Rouge et beaucoup d’autres organisations ont dit que le blocus de Gaza est illégal car ce blocus est une punition collective, ce qui est illégal selon le droit international.
De nombreuses voix se sont élevées, au sein de la communauté internationale, pour fermement condamner l’assaut israélien. Que pensez-vous de ces réactions ?
De cette tragédie, nous espérons que naîtra un début de prise de conscience de la part de la communauté internationale sur la réalité du Moyen-Orient, en ce sens qu’Israël se présente toujours comme la victime alors qu’il est l’agresseur. Aujourd’hui, le potentiel existe pour une intifada globale visant à soutenir les droits des Palestiniens et à condamner l’occupation brutale israélienne.
State Dept Statement by Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Public Affairs
Washington, DC – May 31, 2010
The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident today aboard the Gaza-bound ships. We are working to ascertain the facts, and expect that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation.
The United States remains deeply concerned by the suffering of civilians in Gaza. We will continue to engage the Israelis on a daily basis to expand the scope and type of goods allowed into Gaza to address the full range of the population’s humanitarian and recovery needs. We will continue to work closely with the Government of Israel and the Palestinian Authority,….
Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion
By George Friedman for Stratfor
On Sunday, Israeli naval forces intercepted the ships of a Turkish nongovernmental organization (NGO) delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Israel had demanded that the vessels not go directly to Gaza but instead dock in Israeli ports, where the supplies would be offloaded and delivered to Gaza. The Turkish NGO refused, insisting on going directly to Gaza. Gunfire ensued when Israeli naval personnel boarded one of the vessels, and a significant number of the passengers and crew on the ship were killed or wounded.
Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon charged that the mission was simply an attempt to provoke the Israelis. That was certainly the case. The mission was designed to demonstrate that the Israelis were unreasonable and brutal. The hope was that Israel would be provoked to extreme action, further alienating Israel from the global community and possibly driving a wedge between Israel and the United States. The operation’s planners also hoped this would trigger a political crisis in Israel.
A logical Israeli response would have been avoiding falling into the provocation trap and suffering the political repercussions the Turkish NGO was trying to trigger. Instead, the Israelis decided to make a show of force. The Israelis appear to have reasoned that backing down would demonstrate weakness and encourage further flotillas to Gaza, unraveling the Israeli position vis-à-vis Hamas. In this thinking, a violent interception was a superior strategy to accommodation regardless of political consequences. Thus, the Israelis accepted the bait and were provoked.
The ‘Exodus’ Scenario
In the 1950s, an author named Leon Uris published a book called “Exodus.” Later made into a major motion picture, Exodus told the story of a Zionist provocation against the British. In the wake of World War II, the British — who controlled Palestine, as it was then known — maintained limits on Jewish immigration there. Would-be immigrants captured trying to run the blockade were detained in camps in Cyprus. In the book and movie, Zionists planned a propaganda exercise involving a breakout of Jews — mostly children — from the camp, who would then board a ship renamed the Exodus. When the Royal Navy intercepted the ship, the passengers would mount a hunger strike. The goal was to portray the British as brutes finishing the work of the Nazis. The image of children potentially dying of hunger would force the British to permit the ship to go to Palestine, to reconsider British policy on immigration, and ultimately to decide to abandon Palestine and turn the matter over to the United Nations.
There was in fact a ship called Exodus, but the affair did not play out precisely as portrayed by Uris, who used an amalgam of incidents to display the propaganda war waged by the Jews. Those carrying out this war had two goals. The first was to create sympathy in Britain and throughout the world for Jews who, just a couple of years after German concentration camps, were now being held in British camps. Second, they sought to portray their struggle as being against the British. The British were portrayed as continuing Nazi policies toward the Jews in order to maintain their empire. The Jews were portrayed as anti-imperialists, fighting the British much as the Americans had.
It was a brilliant strategy. By focusing on Jewish victimhood and on the British, the Zionists defined the battle as being against the British, with the Arabs playing the role of people trying to create the second phase of the Holocaust. The British were portrayed as pro-Arab for economic and imperial reasons, indifferent at best to the survivors of the Holocaust. Rather than restraining the Arabs, the British were arming them. The goal was not to vilify the Arabs but to villify the British, and to position the Jews with other nationalist groups whether in India or Egypt rising against the British.
The precise truth or falsehood of this portrayal didn’t particularly matter. For most of the world, the Palestine issue was poorly understood and not a matter of immediate concern. The Zionists intended to shape the perceptions of a global public with limited interest in or understanding of the issues, filling in the blanks with their own narrative. And they succeeded.
The success was rooted in a political reality. Where knowledge is limited, and the desire to learn the complex reality doesn’t exist, public opinion can be shaped by whoever generates the most powerful symbols. And on a matter of only tangential interest, governments tend to follow their publics’ wishes, however they originate. There is little to be gained for governments in resisting public opinion and much to be gained by giving in. By shaping the battlefield of public perception, it is thus possible to get governments to change positions.
The precise truth or falsehood of this portrayal didn’t particularly matter. For most of the world, the Palestine issue was poorly understood and not a matter of immediate concern. The Zionists intended to shape the perceptions of a global public with limited interest in or understanding of the issues, filling in the blanks with their own narrative. And they succeeded…..
The Turkish Flotilla to Gaza
The Palestinians have long argued that they are the victims of Israel, an invention of British and American imperialism. Since 1967, they have focused not so much on the existence of the state of Israel (at least in messages geared toward the West) as on the oppression of Palestinians in the occupied territories. Since the split between Hamas and Fatah and the Gaza War, the focus has been on the plight of the citizens of Gaza, who have been portrayed as the dispossessed victims of Israeli violence.
The bid to shape global perceptions by portraying the Palestinians as victims of Israel was the first prong of a longtime two-part campaign. The second part of this campaign involved armed resistance against the Israelis. The way this resistance was carried out, from airplane hijackings to stone-throwing children to suicide bombers, interfered with the first part of the campaign, however. The Israelis could point to suicide bombings or the use of children against soldiers as symbols of Palestinian inhumanity. This in turn was used to justify conditions in Gaza. While the Palestinians had made significant inroads in placing Israel on the defensive in global public opinion, they thus consistently gave the Israelis the opportunity to turn the tables. And this is where the flotilla comes in.
The Turkish flotilla aimed to replicate the Exodus story or, more precisely, to define the global image of Israel in the same way the Zionists defined the image that they wanted to project….
The Geopolitical Fallout for Israel
It is vital that the Israelis succeed in portraying the flotilla as an extremist plot. Whether extremist or not, the plot has generated an image of Israel quite damaging to Israeli political interests. Israel is increasingly isolated internationally, with heavy pressure on its relationship with Europe and the United States.
In all of these countries, politicians are extremely sensitive to public opinion. It is difficult to imagine circumstances under which public opinion will see Israel as the victim. The general response in the Western public is likely to be that the Israelis probably should have allowed the ships to go to Gaza and offload rather than to precipitate bloodshed. Israel’s enemies will fan these flames by arguing that the Israelis prefer bloodshed to reasonable accommodation. And as Western public opinion shifts against Israel, Western political leaders will track with this shift.
The incident also wrecks Israeli relations with Turkey, historically an Israeli ally in the Muslim world with longstanding military cooperation with Israel. The Turkish government undoubtedly has wanted to move away from this relationship, but it faced resistance within the Turkish military and among secularists. The new Israeli action makes a break with Israel easy, and indeed almost necessary for Ankara.
With roughly the population of Houston, Texas, Israel is just not large enough to withstand extended isolation, meaning this event has profound geopolitical implications.
Public opinion matters where issues are not of fundamental interest to a nation. Israel is not a fundamental interest to other nations. The ability to generate public antipathy to Israel can therefore reshape Israeli relations with countries critical to Israel. For example, a redefinition of U.S.-Israeli relations will have much less effect on the United States than on Israel. The Obama administration, already irritated by the Israelis, might now see a shift in U.S. public opinion that will open the way to a new U.S.-Israeli relationship disadvantageous to Israel…..
Opinion in Europe will likely harden. And public opinion in the United States — by far the most important in the equation — might shift to a “plague-on-both-your-houses” position.
While the international reaction is predictable, the interesting question is whether this evolution will cause a political crisis in Israel. Those in Israel who feel that international isolation is preferable to accommodation with the Palestinians are in control now. Many in the opposition see Israel’s isolation as a strategic threat. Economically and militarily, they argue, Israel cannot survive in isolation. The current regime will respond that there will be no isolation. The flotilla aimed to generate what the government has said would not happen. …
Israel is now in uncharted waters. It does not know how to respond. It is not clear that the Palestinians know how to take full advantage of the situation, either. But even so, this places the battle on a new field, far more fluid and uncontrollable than what went before. The next steps will involve calls for sanctions against Israel. The Israeli threats against Iran will be seen in a different context, and Israeli portrayal of Iran will hold less sway over the world.
And this will cause a political crisis in Israel. If this government survives, then Israel is locked into a course that gives it freedom of action but international isolation. If the government falls, then Israel enters a period of domestic uncertainty. In either case, the flotilla achieved its strategic mission. It got Israel to take violent action against it. In doing so, Israel ran into its own fist.