This morning I awoke to the worst possible headlines and yet another depressing chapter in Israel’s history of PR disasters. My belief that Israel had the ‘perfect answer’ was wrong.
They messed up badly.
We don’t yet know how many died or will die, but one thing is certain: Israel will be blamed and vilified and this will be another martyrdom to be added to litany of hate against Israel. All we know is that Israeli commandos intercepted and boarded the flotilla that was sailing from Turkey to break the maritime blockade and deliver aid to Gaza. On one of the boats, it appears, that an ‘activist’ grabbed a weapon from an Israeli commando and shot him in the stomach. Bearing in mind this is at night amid chaos it appears that other commandos opened fire and several were killed. It also appears that this was a planned attack and the activists who had previously claimed that they would not resort to violence did just that.
The Jerusalem Post got it right:
For the international media and its consumers, the reasons behind Israel’s decision do not make much of a difference, since what Israel is doing fits the way it is already widely perceived – as a violent aggressor abusing a weak and poor Palestinian people.
The article then goes on to state that the flotilla of aid was unnecessary because thousands of tons a week enter Gaza via the Keren Shalom crossing and in an attempt to improve its PR image the Israeli government invited journalists to witness this. What hasn’t been reported widely is that:
the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), the Turkish organization that is behind the flotilla, described as a “radical Islamic organization” that was outlawed by Israel in 2008 for allegedly serving as a major component in Hamas’s global fund-raising machine
In other words, under the cover of an aid convey, the real intention was to provoke Israel to some precipitate action.
And as far as the hostile world is concerned, this is exactly what happened. On BBC News this morning Mark Regev, the Israel spokesperson, was asked if there were any illegal arms on board, to which he, of course, answered that he had no such intelligence.
And so the waters are immediately muddied: why did the Israelis have to stop the flotilla? If they had let it through there would have been no deaths. In other words Israel is the provocateur, not the IHH. The deaths are Israel’s fault and caused by the blockade, not by an activist who recklessly grabbed a weapon and actually used it.
As I have said in previous posts, this was a win/win for Hamas and a lose/lose for Israel. If the flotilla were allowed through, as the JP also points out and as Danny Ayalon, Israel’s Deputy Foreign Minister described here and in his press conference this morning, the floodgates would be open and Iran would succeed in delivering missiles to Gaza that would be used against Israeli towns and cities.
This is why there is a maritime blockade and why all ships which wish to deliver anything to Gaza have to pass through an Israeli port for inspection .
The Israeli Foreign Ministry has now published this account.
1. Numerous warning were given to head for Ashdod where the aid would be delivered after inspection
2. This was refused
3. The Israeli commandos boarded the ships and on one ship they were, apparently, fired on by weapons already on board (2 pistols) which had been taken but one of which was then grabbed back.In addition the activists had knives and clubs. This is despite prior protestations that they would not use violence.
4. This seemed to be a planned ambush by a section of the activists. So it is clear.
The aid flotilla was a sham. Its intention was to provoke violence and it succeeded. If it was just and aid convoy it could have docked at Ashdod. The organisers are a Turkish NGO (IHH) which has connections with terrorist organisations including Hamas But none of this will matter. The forces of terror have had a clear victory. The Palestinian Authority has already declared 3 days of mourning and Hamas call it a ‘massacre’.
Could Israel have handled it better? I’m sorry to say the answer has to be ‘yes’.
Yesterday I wondered how Israel would react to the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ which purports to be bring ‘vital’ aid to Gaza.
This was a clear attempt at provocation and a wonderful publicity stunt: bring some aid, break the ‘blockade’ and hopefully prompt Israel to take some precipitous action that could be used to beat Israel with.
But according to Ha’aretz Israel has found a response which diffuses the situation and draws the teeth from any attempt to get Israel to respond inappropriately:
Israel will attempt to block the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ of pro-Palestinian demonstrators heading toward Gaza with humanitarian supplies, the forum of seven senior ministers decided on Wednesday. Humanitarian cargo, however, would be unloaded and inspected at Ashdod and sent to Gaza via the United Nations.
So the aid goes through but the propagandists don’t Ha!
The activists would be arrested and expelled from the country.
The ministers decided that foreign journalists would be allowed to be present on Israel Navy ships during the operation in a bid to produce more favorable coverage abroad.
I’d take a hefty bet that coverage will NOT be favourable.
Problem will be that the ships will not turn back voluntarily, so how Israel handles towing or forcing 9 boats to Ashdod with 800 people aboard, including nationals of friendly countries and its own nationals, will be an interesting spectacle.
Postscript: I couldn’t have been more wrong
Today marks the 70th anniversary of the retreat of British forces from the beaches of Dunkirk. A heroic flotilla of small ships left English ports to rescue as many troops as they could whilst under fire and bombardment by Nazi forces.
On this day 70 years later a smaller flotilla of just eight or is it nine boats is heading for Gaza with the expressed aim of breaking the blockade and bringing much needed relief to one and a half million starving Gazans. Unlike the bravehearts of Dunkirk, this flotilla will succeed whatever the outcome.
But it’s a big lie, a huge con trick whose underlying intent is not to help Gaza but to demonise Israel and provoke it to take action which will will further damage its reputation. To that extent, it’s little different than a missile fired at Sderot.
Yesterday IDF Colonel Moshe Levi declared “No Humanitarian Crisis in the Gaza Strip”
We do not know of a shortage in any field, and we enable the entrance of various different goods, and also the export of agricultural products from the Gaza Strip. Anything that would help Hamas to increase its military power is obviously not permitted to enter,” said Col. Levi. In addition to that he demonstrated the data collected by the Gaza DCO that shows that 6,000 Palestinians exited the Gaza Strip to receive medical treatment in Israel and Jordan..
Some blockade but it gets better: take a look at the IDF blog for 25th May 2010. I’m sorry, but it’s worth quoting in almost its entirety, it’s just too good to miss:
Food Products and Clothing:
- Most types of food are allowed into the Strip, and are transferred by the private sector or by international organizations.
- During 2009, 30,920 trucks containing 800,000 tons of supplies were transferred into Gaza. This included fruits and vegetables, meat products, poultry and fish, dairy products, sugar, rice and legumes, flour and yeast, oil, and more. Furthermore, 10,871 heads of cattle were transferred for the Muslim holidays of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha.
- In the first quarter of 2010 (January-March), 94,500 tons of supplies were transferred in 3,676 trucks to the Strip: 48,000 tons of food products; 40,000 tons of wheat; 2,760 tons of rice; 1,987 tons of clothes and footwear; 553 tons of milk powder and baby food.
- In 2009, 572 trucks containing approximately 5,000 tons of medical supplies entered the Strip.
- In the first quarter of 2010 (January-March) 1,068 tons of medicine and medical equipment were transferred in 152 trucks.
- In 2009 two elevators were transferred to hospitals in Gaza, as was a CT imaging system (to the Red Cross hospital), and equipment for a mammography machine (which checks for breast cancer).
- During the first quarter of 2010 four trucks with special supplies for a project of the “Al Quds” hospital were transferred to the Gaza Strip, and an additional 13 trucks are scheduled to cross.
- Due to fears of a swine flu outbreak, three Israeli hospitals were assigned to treat cases in the Gaza Strip and 44,500 immunizations were transferred to the Strip.
Equipment for Essential Civilian Infrastructure:
- In 2009 Israel transferred 41 trucks of equipment for the maintenance of the electricity grid, and the state continues to provide approximately 60% of Gaza’s electricity.
- In 2009 over 105 million liters of fuel were transferred to Gaza’s power plant and over 3.2 million liters of gas were transferred for UNWRA operations.
- In 2009 127 trucks containing more than 3,000 tons of hypochlorite entered the Gaza Strip for water purification purposes. Moreover, 48 trucks of equipment for improving the sanitation infrastructure led to a substantial reduction in the Beit Lahya facility’s waste levels.
- As part of the preparations made for winter, 3,607 tons of glass was transferred to the Gaza Strip. According to UN reports, windows in all education and health institutions were repaired.
- In the first quarter of 2010 Israel transferred:
- 250 trucks with equipment for the UNWRA summer camp, including: arts and crafts equipment, swimming pools, inflatable toys, ice cream machines, musical instruments, clothing, sports equipment, etc.
- Seven trucks with equipment for upgrading the sewage pumping station, which was carried out by UNWRA.
- 74 empty containers for UNWRA for use in classrooms and bathrooms
- Certain types of materials, such as cement and iron, are more restricted. These products are openly used by Hamas for developing its arsenal, building bunkers and launching sites, and making rockets and mortars.
- Despite the risk, the transfer of these items is also permitted under supervision, once it has been cleared that these materials are for civilian purposes only. Already in the first quarter of 2010, 23 tons of iron and 25 tons of cement were transferred to the Gaza Strip.
Movement of Residents in and out of the Gaza Strip
- Despite the inherent dangers involved, Israel permits Gazans and visitors to travel between Gaza and Israel, from Gaza to Judea and Samaria, and abroad for medical treatment, religious pilgrimages, and business trips. Whenever possible Israel allows for diplomatic activities as well as trade and commerce with the Gaza Strip.
- Here are a number of examples from 2009:
- Delegations from abroad: 21,200 activists from international organizations from over 400 diplomatic delegations were permitted entry into Gaza, and 2,200 Palestinians employed by international organizations were given exit permits from the Gaza Strip.
- Education, Vacations and Pilgrimages to Holy sites: 147 permits were given to Palestinian students for academic studies around the world. During the Christmas holiday approximately 400 permits were given to visit Bethlehem from Gaza as well 100 permits to travel abroad.
- Business: 257 permits were given to businessmen from Gaza to facilitate business operations.
- Sports: Special permission was given to Gazan footballers to train in Judea and Samaria and compete in international matches abroad.
Trade and Commerce
Israel has taken measures to support trade and commerce, the banking system, and the existing financial market in the Gaza Strip:
- In 2009 1.1 billion NIS was transferred to the Gaza Strip for the ongoing activity of international organizations and to pay the salaries of Palestinian Authority workers.
- 40 million damaged bank notes were traded for new bills, and at the request of the Palestinian Monetary Fund, 282.5 million shekels were transferred from Gazan to Israeli Banks.
In February 2010 an agreement was reached with the Palestinian Authority’s National Insurance Department to ensure that pensions reached those formerly employed in Israel. The funds were deposited in banks in Judea and Samaria, while the Palestinian Authority was given the responsibility of distributing the funds to the pensioners in Gaza.
So, you see, there is no blockade of real essentials. And add to this little lot the stuff still coming through the Rafah tunnels. If you want to see real poverty and starvation take a look at Sudan or Zimbabwe.
And if you want more proof then take a look at the Roots club website and the video therein. Someone is doing well in Gaza.
As I’ve said before, there is still hardship and suffering, I do not deny or belittle it, but it’s no worse than many other countries in the Middle East and elsewhere, and it would be a whole lot better if Hamas were not in charge. But they were democratically elected, of course, just like a certain Austrian who was responsible for Dunkirk.
But according to the Viva Palestina website:
[Israel] has turned Gaza into a prisoner [sic] camp and has been carrying out a genocide. This camp and genocidal acts very much resemble Hitler’s actions in history.
So there you go. You can have a slap up meal in a top-class restaurant in Gaza City just like the Jews of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Surely they can hardly believe their own blatantly anti-Semitic rhetoric. Israel is committing genocide just like the genocide the Palestinians deny ever happened. Sure takes some warped thinking and an egregious view of history to come to that conclusion. More like quadruple-think than double-think.
Hamas have killed more Gazans than Israel ever did and the only genocide in the region under contemplation is the one that Hamas and Hizbollah want to commit against the Jews of Israel and beyond, and the first step in this plan is to destroy Israel by all and any means military, propaganda and legal.
The flotilla knows it is in a win-win situation: if Israel blocks it they have their propaganda coup and if they get through they have a victory against Israel. No doubt this flotilla will be followed by several more. It’s lucky for the Palestinians that Israel isn’t North Korea or they might have their boats torpedoed; all Israel will do is impound them or let them through.
Am I being paranoid? This is what the Queen read out in the House of Lords on behalf of her new hybrid government:
“In the Middle East my government will continue to work for a two-state solution that sees a viable Palestinian state existing in peace and security alongside Israel.”
The peace and security of Israel appears to be secondary when it’s the peace and security of Israel that is at the heart of 100 years of conflict. This does not bode well for Israel. Bu then again, does the UK have any real clout any more in the Middle East, or anywhere else, for that matter.
No one should doubt the towering intellectual and oratorial skills and abilities of Sir Gerald Kaufman.
He has been both shadow Foreign and shadow Home Secretary.
But that was all some time ago.
At some point, Sir Gerald, never shy to proclaim he is a Jew, fell out of love with Israel and Zionism and espoused the Palestinian cause.
Well, nothing wrong there. He is quite entitled to believe that Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians is flawed, oppressive or however he preceives it.
As an MP and a prominent British Jew, and also as person of considerable intellectual talent (Queen’s Oxford), he also has a duty to be fair, reasonable and see the conflict in its proper historical context.
What he fails to grasp, it seems, (and he is by no means the only British public figure or even Jew to do so) is that he is fatally compromised by not condemning or declaring that Hamas is the root cause of the Gaza situation. By meeting prominent Hamas leaders in Gaza in 2009 he sanctions their actions against Israel and their own people in Gaza. He also ignores an essential point and it is this: Hamas want to destroy not just Israel, but all Jews; they are virulently anti-Semitic and Jews who support them are probably a source of great amusement and ridicule.
Yesterday, during the debate in Parliament on the Queen’s Speech he took advantage of parliamentary privilege to make a long (over long) speech in which he accused the (Muslim) Liberal Democratic candidate for Gorton of running an anti-Semitic campaign against him during the run-up to the General Election.
Sir Gerald accused his opponent of targetting Muslim voters and directing them not to vote for Kaufman simply because ‘he is a Jew’. He also accused his opponent of telling Muslim Labour supporters to remove posters from their windows because they should not vote for a Jew.
I have no idea if these accusations are true; only a full investigation by the Lib Dems (I nominate Baroness Tonge for the task) could find the truth.
Sir Gerald praised the vast majority of his Muslim constituents for not bowing to the bigotry of the Lib Dem candidate and on that point I can wholeheartedly agree – good on them.
However, the irony is lost on Sir Gerald. Here was, allegedly, a Muslim telling other Muslims not to vote for a Jew regardless of his track record on Gaza, Palestine and Israel. And this is exactly what all Islamists or fundamentalists or whatever you want to call them, believe: namely, all Jews must die. It’s quite simple; they want to eradicate Jews because that is what they believe their religion teaches them, because that is what radical Imams preach, because they have drunk from the same poisoned well as the Nazis. Israel must perish not just because Jews have ‘stolen’ Muslim land but quite simply because they are Jews.
I am content for Sir Gerald to fight for Palestinian rights, but I a not content for him to ignore the true intention of Hamas and support a regime who wish him dead as much as they wish to see any Jew dead, except in his case he is still useful to them.
Well, as they say, you couldn’t make it up. The BBC reports that Hamas have demolished at least seven, and maybe as many as forty, homes near Rafah in the Gaza strip.
So where are the demonstrators? Where the UN? Where Goldstone? Where the outrage in the blogosphere? Where the BBC news headlines? Where the anger of the Arab street or even the Palestinians on the West Bank? Where, indeed, Barack Obama and George Mitchell? Where Human Rights Watch who condemned house demolitions as ‘collective punishment’?
Hamas says the homes were built on ‘government land’ and without permits. Sound familiar? When Israel demolishes homes in Jerusalem because they are built illegally and without permits the entire world condemns Israel.
But it gets even more ironic:
Club-wielding Hamas policemen – and some female police officers wearing face-covering veils – forced people from their homes and then brought in bulldozers.
Bulldozers. That icon of Israel ‘brutality’ used against their own people by Palestinian Hamas.
It seems that Palestinians can do what they like to each other, it’s only when Israel exercises its legal rights that the Muslim world and the world at large is bothered.
Tells you something, doesn’t it?
Given their past battles, maybe making the largest bowl of hummus is a better way of settling differences in the future.
The Lebanese have just wrested the world record from Israel for making the largest vat of hummus.
Next on the agenda is the the felafel record held by Israel.
This is a brilliant political strategy by Israel; get the Lebanese to invest their resources into making very large quantities of food instead of importing very large quantities of missiles.
Rest assured – Israel still hold the kneidlach record. They can take a lot from the Israelis, but never their kneidls.