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Stan K sm

Blockades and Blockheads

Deceit is the mother’s milk of the movement to disintegrate Israel.

This is the central point of the Gaza Flotilla incident. Purposely obfuscating the truth is the sine qua non of the movement to de-legitimize Israel. It is how they make their case. I am convinced they even know this. They simply make up a “truth” that serves their purpose, and are not actually interested in accurately portraying those facts and ideas that would refute or mitigate their message. And lying to the media is how they get to propagate their message. They follow the adage that a lie told big enough is believed. The problem this time for them is that Israel did a much better job of getting out their version of the story. For one, in the immediate aftermath of the incident, while the “peace activists” were claiming Israel attacked first, Israel had taken video that contradicted their story.

As most people know by now, a flotilla of six vessels staffed by anti-Israel activists that included some with known ties to terrorism, tried to run a naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Gaza strip. An Israeli force of commandos rappelling from a helicopter onto the deck of the largest ship were met directly by some 30 to 60 of these activists attempting to subdue the Israeli soldiers while wielding knives, metal poles and other instruments of deadly aggression. Either nine or ten of these attackers wound up dead in the end as the soldiers subdued the ship in self-defense.

The first idea we want to refute is that this was a peaceful group of ordinary people who just wanted to bring medical and food supplies and comforting hope to the starving, helpless and destitute people of Gaza who are suffering from a brutal and Nazi-like Israeli regime. None of this is correct, as it is described, but that is not exactly the point here.

This was not an ordinary group and they were not acting out of humanitarian concern for the welfare of the people of Gaza. You can quibble with my characterization of their humanitarianism, but you cannot quibble with this: their intention, by their own admission, was to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip. So all their propaganda about bringing food and supplies to a starving populace is disingenuous. They were invited by Israel to peacefully dock in Ashdod in Israel, allow an inspection of the cargo for weapons, and have Israel deliver the cargo to the Gaza through land ports. Egypt also offered the same kind of deal through their channels into Gaza. The flotilla refused the offer, and without any counter-offer tried to advance directly into Gaza.

Again, by their own admission, the purpose of their flotilla was to break the blockade of Gaza, not merely to bring to Gaza much needed medical and food supplies. That they could have done without any confrontation.

So the real question is: Why is the blockade important in the first place?

The reason is that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and Israel is perfectly willing, and has been willing, to allow cargo into Gaza through land routes to land-side ports for the last four years. Undermining the medical, food and consumer needs of the Gazans is not the concern of the Israelis. What is of concern to them, however, is the shipment of advanced weaponry into Gaza from countries such as Iran, which includes more sophisticated missiles with which the Hamas regime can reach more effectively into Israel.  Remember that rocket fire into Israel from Gaza is still going on even if the quantity of those firings is not as acute since the recent so-called cease-fire.

The Hamas regime is desperately trying to smuggle such advanced weaponry into the Strip and could really use a sea route for that purpose. Israel denies Hamas this route by declaring and enforcing a blockade.

The blockade is legal under International Law and so is stopping the flotilla ships in international waters. Using deadly force is also legal under International Law. Because Israel is in a state of armed conflict with Hamas, the governing body of Gaza, it has the right to declare a blockade of an enemy territory if it perceives its citizenry is in danger of attack. The Israelis have stated that Hamas getting advanced weapons through sea-lanes fits this condition and they have openly declared the intention of the blockade is to stop weapons smuggling.  The basis for this in International Law is cited by Israel in the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, Paragraph 67A. (“67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they: (a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;”).

If Israel is perfectly willing to allow anyone to move humanitarian cargo to Gaza in support of its beleaguered citizens, then why is there a need to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza since the blockade is necessary to protect its beleaguered citizens from advanced weaponry? Isn’t the humanitarian justification for breaking the blockade the same humanitarian justification for the Israelis to keep it — both to protect basic human rights of survival? Why are these so-called humanitarians so concerned with only the Gazans and not the Israelis, especially considering that the Gazans can get the proffered aid and Israel some safety from Hamas shelling into Israel without violent confrontation over the blockade of sea routes?

Unless the real purpose of ending the blockade is to allow Gaza to get those advanced weapons in the future by denying Israel the right to self-protection now.

About Stan Kreis

Stan Kreis
Stan Kreis has degrees in sociology, economics and accounting. Therefore he is wise, literate, financially sound and married to Kathryn Bernheimer (she would never marry anyone without such credentials). Grave marker: "the world was his oyster, unfortunately, he ate it and got stomach cramps."

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5 comments

  1. This is completely one sided. It ignores the fact that the Israelis are blockheads for attacking a flagged ship of one of their few friends in the Middle East. They are blockheads for playing into the activists' hands. In fact, thinking they could win the PR battle by rappelling down from helicopters with machine guns, killing 9 people and then whining that they were attacked by heavily armed terrorists doesn't even pass the smirk test. Israel continues to be its own worst enemy. If it hopes to survive, and I hope it does survive, Israel is going to have to find some intelligent politicians! The Israeli government looks more and more everyday like the North Korean government – less than pathetic!

  2. Look, I think the overwhelming majority of human beings on this earth agree that Israel not only has the right to defend itself but also to prevent arms from reaching its rabid opponents. This has generally been the feeling here in Turkey. Where we sharply differ is in the scale of its response.

    I think there may be three issues here. The first is that Israel apparently has a policy of disproportionate reaction, probably to deter future aggression. Throughout 1940-1980 this likely made sense. Ever since, it is making Israel look like a bully. Israel is definitely not the scrawny kid of the Middle East. And it is certainly doing nothing to deter confrontation. Indeed, as the reaction to the over-reaction spreads, it is probably self-defeating.

    Second, everything is ultimately linked either to anti-Semitism or, as the Israeli PM managed to incorporate in some recent remarks, to Nazism. I am not anti-semitic (except insofar as I am not a big fan of the Arabs) and am neither German nor have I ever had friends or family who were Nazi sympathisers; nonetheless, if I criticse Israel too sharply, I shall not doubt be branded an anti-Semite. If every criticism of Israel is reduced to antisemitism, then the word and the evil committed in the past, present and probably in the future by those that are truly antisemite is lessened.

    Third, the article of the San Remo convention you quote is simply not applicable. It applies to states in war. That is to say, if Gaza/Hamas were a state, then Israel has the right to board the ships. (Peaceably.) However, neither Israel not anyone else (and certainly not the UN) recognise Gaza/Hamas as a state. If they did, it would open a much bigger can of worms. For example, captured Hamas militants would expect to be treated as prisoners of war! Therefore, the applicable law is the normal maritime one, which expressly permits humanitarian convoys and brands the Israeli action as either piracy (if committed by a private group) or an act of war (if committed by a state). That the people there were not peaceful, I willingly grant. But if the best that the IDF can show as weaponry is galley cutlery, I can very comfortably reject the notion that they were armed and ready. If armed men swarn your ship on the high seas, they should not expect to be met with cookies and milk.

    The Mavi Marmara-led expedition was obviously a provocation. Moreover, its organisers stated that it had the objective of drawing attention to the blockade of Gaza. During the civil righst movement in the US, Asfrican-Americans sat in the "wrong" parts of buses not to get from A to B but to prove a point. Therefore, the aim of the flotilla was of course not just to bring cement or whatnot to Gaza, but to show up Israel. That it did, in spades. Which brings us back to the nub: the killings. Killing in self-defence is one thing, but killing someone else because they may sympathise with your enemies is another. In Colorado, there is a death penalty for murderers, but not for those who sympathise for them. Not even for those who provide them with guns. And this is where the uproar in Turkey stems from. I don't like Hamas, not the IHH. I think they're bad. But that does not give me the right to shoot them. Only in self-defence. Or just maybe to prevent future violence. But Israel cannot believe that every action designed to annoy it is an existential threat. What next? If I give the Israeli flag the finger the next time I walk by their consulate or something, should I be shot? Maybe for denying Israel's right to exist? Really, this is jejune.

    And finally, "there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza"? Really? According to unibiased Israeli reports, Amnesty, the UN or indeed the US?

  3. Greetings and Shalom Mr. Yigat

    It is a pleasure to hear from someone in Turkey.

    You write of a policy of disproportionate reaction on the part of Israel. Perhaps the most disproportunate element in this conflict is one Jewish state, with seven million Jewish and Muslim citizens confronted by more than twenty Muslim Arab states with a combined population of over three hundred million.

    While I would not want to live in Gaza I think you might be interested in a report by a Danish reporter, Steffen Jensen, who visited Gaza to see how bad things are,

    http://israelseen.com/2010/06/02/dutch-report-no-

    Yoram Getzler

    Moshav Aminadav, Jerusalem Israel

  4. Stan's Editorial and the subsequent reply are so far, a reasonable

    "call and response" debate, the best I've seen yet.

    I never know what to do about Israel. They do seem to overreact sometimes.

    Reading this editorial, and the coverage of a couple days ago that said

    that the activist groups were armed and ready for confrontation, is the

    most reasoned response I've seen yet. Most of the coverage on NPR and in

    the newspapers has been much more one sided. Thank you!

  5. I concur with Stan Kreis that the real focus ought to be on the purpose of the blockade. For another view on that subject, see Peter Beinart's Daily Beast essay in full; Beinart states, in part, that: "In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose [than preventing Hamas from building rockets]: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported, the Israeli officials in charge of the embargo adhere to what they call a policy of “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.” In other words, the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve."