Monday, May 31, 2010

My views on Zionism, Gaza, the flotilla, & the #Iran threat

This is no more and no less than an expression of my personal beliefs on Zionism, Gaza, and the flotilla. I have no special knowledge of the facts, and am not an expert on middle east history. I have some knowledge of international law. I am an American and I am Jewish.

I am not looking for any arguments. I just wanted to make it clear what my views are.


Zionism is no more and no less than a belief that Israel is entitled to exist -- i.e. that the Jews are entitled to a national home in the area traditionally referred to by them as the Holy Land.

Zionism is NOT blind approval of any specific conduct by any specific administration in Israel, and it is certainly NOT approval of any war crimes, violations of the rules of war, or standards of decency and humanitarianism.

Gaza occupation

The Gaza occupation came about through an unfortunate series of events, and is not being handled properly by the Netanyahu administration. Under Netanyahu insufficient care has been taken to protect the lives and well being of noncombatants. The occupation of Gaza has been cruel. If Mr. Netanyahu thinks his handling of the situation has helped improve Israel's security, I beg to differ. But whether it does or not, it is violative of standards of human decency.

The flotilla

Most of the people traveling on the flotilla were nonviolent human rights activists. Some of them are anti-Israel and/or anti-semites, specifically trying to delegitimize Israel, but some of them were simply in good faith trying to make a legitimate point about the Netanyahu administration's callousness and inhumanity. However, the organizers of the flotilla included at least one terrorist organization.

Israel had refused the boats direct access to Gaza, but committed itself to escorting the boats to an Israeli harbor, and then -- after a security check -- transferring all humanitarian goods to Gaza. This offer was refused. (That is because this was not about getting humanitarian goods to Gaza; it was about getting a certain kind of publicity.)

Israel had a right under international law to board boats which were admittedly about to violate Israel's territorial sovereignty, especially in view of the fact that they were being led by a vessel operated by a terrorist organization.

Appropriate nonviolent activists would have, under such circumstances, submitted to boarding or redirection by the Israel defense forces. This occurred on five (5) of the six (6) boats in the "flotilla".

However, one of the six (6) boats, the Mavi Marmara, did not act in a "nonviolent" manner. That boat was operated by IHH, an organization which has been outlawed in Israel since 2008 as a sponsor of terrorism, and which is in fact a long time sponsor of terrorist operations. IHH was one of the organizers, and by some accounts the primary organizer, of the flotilla.

The IHH boat was boarded by Israeli Navy men, who had been ordered to shoot only paintballs if necessary. [There are conflicting reports as to whether the IDF had fired lethal shots prior to boarding. This report by "Raw Story" and this report by Common Dreams report that it did.] [Prior to the boarding, men in an IDF boarding craft were attacked with various objects, including a stun grenade which detonated upon landing in the craft.]

It appears that there were two (2) separate bodies of "passengers" on the Mavi Marmara: one group of fifty (50) men boarded separately from the other passengers, did not undergo the same security checks, were carrying no passports or ID's, and were each carrying envelopes containing approximately $10,000US in cash.

In what appears to me to have been a planned, concerted action, carried out by a group of about thirty (30) men waiting for them on the top deck, the IDF commandoes were set upon by this Arabic-speaking group when they rappelled onto the deck. Some of the soldiers were stripped of their helmets and equipment and thrown from the top deck to the lower deck, and some even jumped overboard to save themselves. At one point several of the Arabic-speaking "activists" seized several of the soldiers' handguns and opened fire. Israeli soldiers were attacked -- viciously -- with bats, pipes, metal rods, axes, knives, sling shots, and two (2) handguns. A supply of switchblades, slingshots, metal balls and metal bats was later confiscated from the boat.

The Israeli soldiers' response included killing nine (9) persons aboard the ship.

In my opinion, based on the sketchy facts available to me, the men who attacked the Israeli soldiers were not "activists", but trained provocateurs, and the Israel soldiers were (a) justified in exercising force, including deadly force, but (b) not justified in using the degree of force that was used.

Iran Revolutionary Guard

On June 6th Iran's Revolutionary Guard announced it would like to accompany additional ships breaking the blockade. Although these well known "human rights activists" specialize in torture and rape of the defenseless, and are therefore highly unlikely to cross swords with the Israel Defense Force, their announcement demonstrates what is really at play, which is the war of Islamic radicals against the 7.5 million Jewish people who live in Israel.

I certainly can't imagine anyone with weaker credentials as "human rights" activists.

This announcement should make people think about what it would be like to live in a world controlled by Iran's Revolutionary Guard and its allies, and about who's really running the show for the flotilla.

(I don't think this will ever come to pass, by the way. Clearly, were the "Revolutionary Guard" to carry through on their threat, their boats would be blown out of the water, and no one -- not even their own countrymen -- would shed a single tear.)

As more information becomes available to me, I will update this post if I think any of my above preliminary conclusions warrant revision.

For discussion of the legal issues, see "Q&A: Is Israel's naval blockade of Gaza legal? (Reuters)"