Monday, May 31, 2010

Israel Defending the Indefensible

Israel defending the indefensible

By Marwan Bishara in Imperium on May 31st, 2010

Israel's use of force against the Gaza aid flotilla will prove self-defeating, says Marwan Bishara

The Israeli military attack on the 'break the siege of Gaza' flotilla in international waters, 65km off the shores of Gaza, has broken the barrier of silence over the Gaza siege.

The Israeli military's justification that its soldiers were lynched and hence were defending themselves adds insult to death.

Israeli spokespeople and officials have used the same military strategy in the battle for public opinion: offence is the best defence. Israel had no other option, say the Israeli officials, but to attack!

However, regardless of exactly what happened on those solidarity ships, Israeli use of force will prove self-defeating. Attacking other nations' citizens in international waters because they resisted arrest is not only illegal, but serves to demean international legal norms.

The UN Goldstone Commission report considered the siege of Gaza to be a possible "war crime". Defending such an illegal and inhumane siege through an attack on a civilian international solidarity group, will make defending Israel's actions ever more challenging for its allies.

Meanwhile, Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, may cut his overseas trip short. And you can be sure that Barack Obama, the US president, would be relieved not to have to stand shoulder to shoulder with the Israeli premier at this time.

Europeans are no less embarrassed. Only a few days ago, they rooted for Israel's membership of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

But will that lead to the lifting of the siege of Gaza or will it be more of the same empty indignation and paralysed condemnations?

What 'international community'? Where are the Arabs?

'International community' is a loaded term. And when it comes to Israel and Palestine it means a lot of talk and little or no action - hence 43 years of occupation.

The so-called 'international community' acts when Israel's allies - the US and its Western allies - agree. So resolutions concerning Iraq or Iran, for example, are passed while those regarding Israel are blocked.

The emergence of a civic 'international community' committed to taking action to break the siege of Gaza comes as a result of the incapacity of the official 'international community' to do more than issue UN resolutions and condemnations.

Israel's worst nightmare is becoming a reality. The civic 'international community' is organising much as it did against Apartheid South Africa.

Israel has referred to the international solidarity movement as Hamas' "Jihadi friends". But the diversity and plurality of the movement and the identity of the passengers on the attacked flotilla render any such claim transparently ridiculous.

Meanwhile, the weakest link in the 'international community' seems to be the official members of the Arab League who have reduced their role to that of mere spectators.

Security or arrogance?

The Israeli attack on and takeover of the solidarity flotilla - when Israel had been informed that the Turkish authorities had checked the ships in their ports - appears to be based less on security concerns than on a calculated effort to deter others from attempting more of the same.

A cold cost and benefit analysis of the Israeli operation shows no particular benefit - security or otherwise - but potential major losses.

Among other possible diplomatic fallouts, Turkish-Israeli relations - which have been deteriorating over the past couple of years - have been severely damaged by this attack and it is unclear now how Israel will be able to regain its strategic relationship with Turkey after killing Turkish civilians.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, has already accused Israel of "knowing how to kill". Turkey will now also be aware that Israel is capable of taking matters into its own hands, regardless of what anybody says.

Unlike most of the Arab states, Turkey is not under one man rule. Rather, Erdogan answers to a party and to vibrant public opinion that seems ever more irritated by Turkish-Israeli relations.

Israel's motto has long been: 'Israel does whatever it must, and the world (Goyim) can say all they want.'

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