Amid the continuing fallout over the deadly confrontation on the Gaza aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, there is a critical historical lesson: There is only one real victim, and that is Israel. Sure, the “small, isolated” (WSJ, 6/1/10) nation may appear to have been the aggressor, having surrounded a humanitarian convoy in international waters with naval assault boats and helicopters before storming in with heavily armed elite forces killing and wounding dozens of civilians, but it was the one acting in self-defense.
Appearances are deceiving because understanding Israel’s eternal victimhood requires the proper mindset. First, The New Republic lets us know, the incident involved “a ship of terrorists” attempting “to open an arms importation route to Gaza” (6/9/10). With that fact established, the Atlantic Monthly’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been hanging “around a lot of Israeli generals lately,” kindly advises us that there should be “no particular pain felt for the dead on the boat.”
On the other hand, “There’s real pain in Israel … pain at the humiliation of the flotilla raid, pain on behalf of the injured soldiers, and pain that the geniuses who run this country could not figure out a way to outsmart a bunch of Turkish Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers” (6/1/10). The White House sees no point in condemning Israel’s killing of civilians in the flotilla because “nothing can bring them back” (briefing by U.S. Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, 6/1/10). Hillary Clinton (Village Voice, 6/12/05) provides further insight, explaining how benighted Arabs who “are not sure what democracy means” should look to Israel — “a beacon of democracy” — as an example. Clearly, Israelis are the only true humans worthy of our sympathy, a point the Washington Post understands, stating, “We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla” (6/1/10).
Why should one try to ease suffering in Gaza? Israel is a “peaceloving society” (Educational Review Journal, forthcoming) that offered to escort the flotilla of “naïveté and malice” (slate.com, 6/4/10) to the “Ashdod Port and arrange for the delivery of their supplies to Gaza after security checks, over land” (Jerusalem Post, 6/1/10). It was just trying to prevent “the flow of seaborne military supplies to Hamas,” the Israeli ambassador wrote in The New York Times (6/2/10). After all, Israel was only asking to search the flotilla’s cargo for banned “war materiel” (NYT, 6/6/10) such as coriander, ginger, nutmeg, dried fruit, fabric for clothing, nuts, musical instruments, chickens, donkeys, horses, fishing rods and newspapers (Economist, 6/1/10).
Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer comprehends that “the point understood by the blockade-busting flotilla of useful idiots and terror sympathizers … is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense” (6/4/10). Krauthammer deduces brilliantly, “The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million — that number again — hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists — Iranian in particular — openly prepare a more final solution.” As night follows day, if Israel let the aid flotilla reach Gaza, a second Holocaust would result.
Only Israel has “legitimate security needs,” as Hillary Clinton explains (Reuters, 6/1/10), whereas Palestinians’ “legitimate needs” are limited to “sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access to reconstruction materials.” Because Palestinians “are not sure what democracy means,” their needs do not include an end to the siege, basic human rights or a viable state.
Reports about Israel’s yearslong siege of Gaza — where “more than 60 percent of families do not have enough food to eat, there are daily electricity cuts, and the water network is operating far below capacity” (Oxfam press release, 5/31/10) — are irrelevant. Sure, Israeli policy may be to “put the Palestinians on a diet” (Guardian, 5/16/06), fulfilling Army chief Gen. Rafeal Eitan’s longing to turn Arabs into “drugged cockroaches in a bottle” (Washington Report on Middle East Affairs, 2/05), but in actuality the “humanitarian situation in Gaza is good and stable” (AFP, 5/26/10), and people there dine out on “beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup.” In any case, “concern for Gaza and Israel’s blockade is so out of balance,” counsels Thomas Friedman (NYT, 6/1/10). He suggests we focus instead on the bombings of mosques of an Islamic sect in Pakistan, the killings of activists in Iran and the trashing of a children’s summer camp in Gaza.
But noble-minded Israel still shows concern. Just as it is always seeking peace with hostile Arab neighbors bent on annihilating it, Israel was willing to deliver supplies that are in abundance in Gaza (JPost, 6/1/10) despite the “Gazan terrorists [in charge] who proclaim their goal is to destroy Israel” (thedailybeast.com, 5/31/10). So “if anyone goes without food, shelter or medicine, that is by the choice of the Hamas government” (NYT, 6/2/10). But the flotilla sabotaged Israel’s goodwill.
It’s another example of how Israel is victimized, just as when it selflessly disengaged from Gaza in 2005. But Israel’s generosity, including firing more than 7,700 artillery shells into northern Gaza in less than a year after its withdrawal (Human Rights Watch, 6/19/06), was met with Hamas rockets (Democracy Now!, 1/5/09), which is why one senior Israeli official threatened Palestinians with a “bigger shoah” (Haaretz, 2/29/08). Then there are “Hamas sympathizers” (WSJ, 6/7/10) who ask why, if Israel disengaged from Gaza, does it still control its coast, airspace, borders, commerce, fuel, water and electricity (PLO Negotiations Affairs Department website); why have Israel and the United States rejected Palestinian and Arab offers of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders for some 40 years (DN!, 11/27/07); and why has Israel sabotaged virtually every cease fire (Haaretz, 12/3/06) Fatah and Hamas have agreed to in recent years, even unilateral ones.
These misperceptions persist because those who hold them fail to comprehend that Israel only “responds” (tomdispatch.com, 2/26/08) to attacks from the subhuman Arabs. Now we can correctly perceive the confrontation between Israel and the Gaza aid flotilla. The United States and United Kingdom understand the issue as Israel’s right to defend itself. The question we should be asking is how naïve, little Israel was outsmarted by “Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers,” who were responsible for and welcomed the bloodshed. The flotilla “aimed to provoke a confrontation” and was intended “‘to break’ Israel’s blockade of Gaza,” noted Leslie Gelb (thedailybeast.com, 5/31/10), the dean of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, echoing the line from Fox News (Newsbusters, 5/31/10) to The Washington Post (6/1/10). The paper of record (NYT, 6/1/10) indicated that organizers wanted to provoke a “violent response from Israel,” agreeing with the Jerusalem Post (6/1/10), which stated the “‘peace militants’ … attacked the soldiers who boarded the ship with guns, iron bars and knives and led to the dire results they were looking for.” This fact did not escape the Obama White House, with one “senior” official saying, “the organizers of the flotilla were clearly seeking a confrontation — and tragically they got one” (Reuters, 6/1/10).
Ever restrained, the Jerusalem Post (6/1/10) connects the dots. Because the “peace militants’ … hatred towards Israel knows no bounds,” and they “wanted to cause some damage, no matter the cost for them,” they are like suicide bombers because “the aim justifies the means.” If the lesson is still unclear, Max Boot, Leslie Gelb’s colleague on the Council of Foreign Relations, spells it out in the Wall Street Journal (6/1/10). The “blood was on the hand of the pro-Hamas activists” because “Israel, like the United States and other democratic nations, is at a severe disadvantage trying to combat a ruthless foe willing to sacrifice its own people to score propaganda points.” Boot may be too generous in calling the activists “pro-Hamas,” however. The Israeli ambassador reveals they are actually Hamas’ “sponsors [who] cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid” (NYT, 6/2/10).
Although the passengers included European legislators, U.S. diplomats, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Israelis, doctors, clergy and journalists from around the world, Israel was not battling civilians on a “mission of mercy,” writes the great humanitarian Marty Peretz (TNR, 6/1/10). In fact, the Turkish sponsor, the Humanitarian Relief Fund, “is said to have ties to Al Qaeda. Which would be logical since Al Qaeda is an ally of Hamas.” Furthermore, Peretz illuminates, Hamas is the “Gazan outpost of the global jihad” and “second cousin once-removed of Hezbollah.” Thus, in stopping the aid flotilla, Israel was really combating a branch of the devious global jihad that hates the West without reason. (Hamas is also “an Iranian pawn” (NYT, 1/12/09), which may seem confusing because Iran and Al Qaeda are fierce enemies, as are Hamas and Al Qaeda (The Guardian 8/15/09), but such are the complexities of the Middle East that only experts like Peretz can divine.)
Prior to the deadly attack, there were eight previous attempts (CSM 5/28/10) to deliver aid by sea, including ships that Israel chose not to confront and which delivered goods to Gaza without incident (Palestine Free Voice Aug. 2008). The Israeli navy spent “many weeks … preparing to meet the flotilla” (Haaretz, 6/1/10), the military admitted three days before the raid that it planned to use violence (maxblumenthal.com, 6/4/10), and the Israelis warned the captains of each ship while in international waters that “lethal force would be used if they persisted” (DN!, 6/9/10). Despite this, we learn from the Wall Street Journal, Israel “walked into a trap set by a flotilla of Hamas sympathizers” (6/7/10); from The New York Times, it “blundered” (6/2/10) into a trap; from the L.A. Times, it “fell into a trap” (6/2/10); from the Financial Times, it “sail[ed] into a Turkish trap (6/6/10); and from the Guardian, it was “lure[d] … into a trap” (6/1/10).
If it seems curious that prominent media all conclude that golden-hearted Israel was duped, such is the “blatant double standard” (NYT, 6/1/10; Mail & Guardian, 6/9/10; WSJ, 6/3/10) applied to the Jewish state that “is destined and compelled, like a puppet on a string, to react the way it did” (The Guardian, 6/1/10).
The task at this point would appear to be disentangling what happened during the actual raid. For instance, why were the “outnumbered, under-equipped and incorrectly prepared commandos” (Jerusalem Post, 6/1/10) — who also happen to be “the best trained and most effective in the world” (Haaretz, 6/1/10) — “taken off guard by a group of Arabic-speaking men” (AP, 5/31/10) when the soldiers rappelled onto the deck? Or why has one journalist, Max Blumenthal, been able to force Israeli officials to admit they doctored photos and audio clips released after the raid or show they falsely claimed that five passengers on the Mavi Marmara were “active terror operatives”?
Why have eyewitnesses on the Mavi Marmara said “live ammunition was fired before any Israeli soldier was on deck,” and “The Israeli navy fired on the ships five minutes before commandos descended from ropes that dangled from helicopters” (freegaza.org, 6/7/10)? There are also the 81 questions that Israeli peace activist Uri Avnery has compiled, such as why is Israel claiming Gaza’s territorial waters are part of Israel’s territorial waters when it has “separated” from it; why were five people on the Mavi Marmara shot in the back; “what is the source of the lie that the Turks called out ‘Go back to Auschwitz’”; and “who invented the story that the activists had brought with them deadly weapons” (Ma’an News Agency, 6/12/10)?
All these questions miss the point. Israel is still the victim, even if it’s a “self-inflicted wound,” so say The New York Times (6/1/10) and Los Angeles Times (6/2/10). You see, Israel made the mistake of trying to justify its actions with evidence. It forgot that reality has a well-known terrorist bias. When the facts sympathize with Hamas, terrorists and drugged cockroaches, Israel needs to dispense with the facts. Because we know Israel is the eternal victim, that is all we need to know. All that matters is how Israel says it perceives the situation.
Arie Lova, Eliav, one of the “granddaddies of the Israeli Left” and a founder of Labor Party, who died literally hours before the raid on the flotilla, put it best in an interview six years ago, saying, “We acted as they would have done to us” (Jerusalem Post, 6/1/10). While he was speaking about Israel’s founding war of aggression, the statement justifies every Israeli atrocity since 1947 and any future one. Since Israel is confronting “ruthless, indiscriminate animals” (CNN, 7/20/06), its response is only limited by the imagination. After all, according to the Obama administration, “the president has always said it will be much easier for Israel to make peace if Israel feels secure” (abc.com, 6/1/10). And how does Israel feel? “Israel has long seen itself as the Alamo, a fortress under the siege,” a former U.S. ambassador to Israel explains (WP, 6/6/10).
We come to one of the most important principles of the Middle East conflict: While we should treat Israeli perceptions as reality, Palestinians’ reality is just perception that is up for debate. For example, “Palestinians say the restrictions on food imports and construction materials have created a humanitarian crisis” (BusinessWeek, 6/7/10).
So the next time there is news about Israel killing activists, massacring children, bombing a refugee camp or perhaps obliterating an entire country, there is no need to pay attention to the “facts.” The only reality you should consider is that Israel, the eternal victim that will never feel secure, is just responding to some terrorist’s outrage. And once the last “ruthless, indiscriminate animal” is exterminated, there will be “peace.”
This article was adapted from a longer version published by alternet.org. Research assistance provided by Susie Rivo.