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)"


  1. I agree entirely with all you wrote.. Excellent blog!! I have been trying to say the same thing from the start of this unfortunate incident, but you said it best!!

  2. I wouldn't be surprised if the humanitarian participants were excellent PR pawns -- human shields both figuratively & perhaps literally -- for some bad actors wanting to provoke a forseeable reaction from Israel.

    Imagine being a peaceful human rights activist wanting to help deliver aid on one of those ships when IDF rappelled down onto the deck and all hell broke loose.

  3. Hi, Ray

    Despite I understand your point, I have to disagree with you. I saw the youtube video of the assault: obviously soldiers respond to defend themselves, but what they did expect? I´m not justifying people on board, cause I really don´t now what they were thinking fronting armed soldiers, [what a crazy men dude] but they only respond for themselves, soldiers are the voice of millions of people, the people of Israel, and the voice of a democratic state... what a bad image for them and what a wrong move... there are around 20 people dead, from what I were reading...
    Well, that´s my humble opinion, the opinion from a spanish man, not jew, not even religious, who really don´t understand why in the hell this problem can´t not be solved after years and years of troubles...
    Anyway, I liked your NOT BLIND APPROVAL view...


  4. Yeah I think some of the people were set up by IHH. The way that gang of guys jumped on the first IDF man to hit the deck could not have been spontaneous. It was planned out. Those men were TRAINED to do what they did.

    It was a big setup.

  5. Good post, Ray. The situation has been confusing, the partisanship disturbing, and the violence tragic.

  6. Hello and thank you for this clearly put together viewpoint. However, the way things are in Gaza now something had to be done. I do not support IHH by any means, and I do question the judgement of the flotilla organisers for including them, but ultimately the Gaza situation is horrific and Israel is doing nothing to help, in fact everything to the contrary. I feel they asked for this to happen, by the way they've been operating in the occupied territories. They are not taking an eye for an eye, more like a person for a little finger. This must stop!

  7. Yes, Anonymous, as I said in my post I disagree with the Netanyahu administration's handling of Gaza.

  8. excellent post, very well communicated. ;-)

  9. While I totally agree that Jews should have their own country, I believe the Palestinians should have their own country also. Unfortunately, the methods and tactics used to create and defend Israel have created millions of victims (Palestinians) for the Arab countries to rally around and to justify their opposition to the existence of Israel. Also, unfortunately, the Israelis and Palestinians who work for peace and a two-state system seem to be outnumbered by the nut jobs on both sides who want to obliterate each other, and the politicians on both sides just encourage and fan the flames.
    As for the flotilla - yes, they refused Israel's offer of transporting the aid themselves, because that would have defeated the stated purpose of the flotilla to pierce the blockade. I could say more about this, but this comment is already so long. So, my conclusion at this time is that Israel's reaction to, and handling of, the flotilla only created more animosity.

  10. By going defcon 1 on this first "flotilla", what does Israel do with the next one?

  11. I think the IDF forces were not adequately trained for a sensitive operation of this nature, and also that Israel is presently engulfed in a jingoistic state of mind which is causing it to be too cavalier about the rights of others.

  12. Excellent. Clear, concise, cogent. I'm inclined to agree with you on almost every point, although I have more reading to do before settling on a firm view.

    It disturbs me that we don't know more about the 30 guys on the IHH boat; I've seen a short video that shows them beating the IDF, but I can't tell if the beatings were offensive or defensive.

    Scanning the rest of the material you linked to, I'd say a whole lot of activists allowed themselves to be used as pawns in an IHH-Hamas game.

    Of course, none of these "flotilla" issues validate or invalidate the situation in Gaza, which is that Netanyahu is pursuing a cruel and self-defeating path. But you already know that. Merely affirming you...

  13. You are points are interesting, although I would not say they are necessarily true.

    The alleged evidence of terrorist involvement is sketchy at best, and a blatant attempt to discredit the humanitarian nature of the flotilla at the worst. In addition, Press TV coverage, found on Huffington Post and several other sites, clearly shows that at least two civilians were shot by Israeli soldiers even before the soldiers landed on the ship. If soldiers are already killing civilians, it is completely understandable why the civilians on board acted violently, they were fearing for their lives.

    Third, Israel does not have a legal right to invade the ship in international waters, as a.) it was entering Gaza territorial waters, which according to international law is illegally occupied by Israel, and b.) the ship was still in international waters.

    Also, saying the civilians had 2 handguns with them is dishonest, as these guns were taken from the soldiers that were attacking them.

  14. Thanks Aviva.

    I've seen 2 videos, 1 from the side, the other from above. The 1 from the side just shows the brutality of the attack by the vessel's crew. But the 1 from above shows it was clearly a planned, coordinated attack on the IDF guys as each hit the deck of the boat.

  15. Strange, I received a comment from a reader named "Andrew". I published it, but it seems to have disappeared.

    Andrew, did you delete it?

  16. Neither you nor I knows what the facts are, and we may never know.

    It is clear to me that under international law, Israel had a right to board the vessel since it had announced it was intending to run Israel's blockade.

    Your questioning the legality of the occupation of Gaza is not supported by any authority; I know of no basis for questioning its legality.

    I did not say that they "had the handguns with them", just that they attacked Israeli soldiers with the handguns. In future, please don't accuse me of dishonesty.

  17. Thanks for your well-informed assessment which helps shed some light on the political cross-currents underneath this tragic event.

    One question: Could Israel's offer to transport goods been refused not only to garner publicity, but also because the goods on the ship included construction materials--materials Israel has banned but that Gaza desperately needs to re-build destroyed infra-structure like water treatment plant for example.

    The activists had no confidence that these materials would pass Israel's security check, since arguably these materials could be used by Gaza terrorist orgs.

    Again, thanks for making our world a better place thru your truth-telling.

  18. Andrew, I just realized: my post had specifically mentioned where the handguns came from, so your accusation of 'dishonesty' on my part is quite unfair.

  19. I thank you for sharing the facts and your opinions, based on those facts. I have learned more about the situation by reading this post than by trying to decipher what little coverage I could find.

  20. thank you for trying to provide an objective view of the whole situation. However, I have to disagree with you on many points.

    1- the blockade IS illegal
    they had absolutely no right to intercept and raid a ship in international water, heading to Palestinian soil and without any proof it was a threat to Israel. They were the aggressors and the people on board of the ship can (rightfully, in my opinion) to have acted in self-defense

    2- although reports on what happened on the ship is conflicted, I will believe the devil before I believe the Israeli government; they've lied too many times in the past

    3- One of the many peculiarities: they said the soldiers were armed with paintball guns as to not to hurt the civilians. then they claimed the activists wrestled the weapons from them (one of the most highly trained soldiers in the world) and fired blindly... I didn't know paintball guns could be so deadly!

    4- If they wanted to smuggle weapons or 'attack' the Israeli army, would they bring axes, knives and slingshots? this is not the middle-ages, you know.
    And why would you believe the images released by the Israeli government anyway?

    5- anyway, initial reports from journalists on the flotilla claims that the attack was started by the commandos so you may have to reconsider who's word you wanna take on this

    lastly, as an Arab, I don't appreciate the use of 'arab-speaking' as way to prove that the people on board were not peace-loving activists; I know you're just quoting, so I'm just saying the IDF are despicable

  21. Dear Anonymous:

    1. You are wrong about the legality of the boarding; it was clearly authorized under international law. In any event, as I said at the outset of my blog post, I am not looking for any arguments. The purpose of the post was to make it clear what my personal views are.
    However if you were going to argue it is illegal, you should cite and explain authorities for your point of view, as any legal argument must do.

    2. You say you will "believe the devil before I believe the Israeli government", thus showing yourself to be biased (or a devil worshipper).

    3. They did not claim that all the soldiers were armed with paintballs, nor did they claim that paintballs were their only armament.

    4. No one thinks these weapons were intended to win a battle against the IDF. They were obviously intended to provoke the IDF forces into doing something that would be harmful to Israel's image. And they were clearly successful in doing that, weren't they?

    5. I'm not "taking anyone's word". I am now aware that there are reports that first warning shots were fired, and that when the vessel's crew refused to shop, shots were then fired by the IDF at the vessel. The reports are from members of the flotilla. If the reports are true, they cut 2 ways. On the one hand, it might be construed against the IDF that they fired first. On the other hand, if the IDF fired, the vessel raised a white flag, and then when IDF members boarded the ship they were attacked by the vessel crew, that would be construed against those controlling the vessel.

    6. The term "Arabic-speaking" was referred to in the cited article, and was left in by myself to make it clear that these men were not Turkish.

    7. You say you think the IDF are despicable. I do not approve of many of the actions they have taken, including their handling of this operation, but I find them far less despicable than their enemies.

    Your comment was biased and unfair, and did not really meet my comment moderation standards. If you submit any further comments which do not rise above the standards of this one, they will likely be rejected and not published.

  22. Your comment on being biased and unfair has a sense of irony, when the bulk of your information is repeating IDF information.

    Anyhow I'd like to make a few points. I agree with you on many points, and am not trying to see who's right or wrong here, as I believe that argument was lost decades ago. I'm trying not to be biased and simply explain what needs be.

    1) I find it quite annoying that many people have tried to play down the deaths of those people. Your information is mainly IDF released information. But you are also mislead, in IDF images released (should be online somewhere), what was found where many knives (mainly kitchen knives and the like might I add), and some wooden sticks/bats. If guns/knives were used, and from the IDF videos with the close contact, I'm pretty sure there would have been IDF deaths. Also reports from those deported that IDF started shooting before boarding, which lead to the violence when they boarded. But again, this doesn't really matter, at the end of the day, many people were needlessly killed. Rest in peace to them.

    2) Don't be so quick to believe the terrorist claim, especially when the source is bogus. Here's the claims of the IHH being terrorist denounced:

    3) An important point, I thought most people would have known this by now. The point is Israel does not allow many goods to go in. These include concrete and paper, many of the items on board these ships which I personally donated for too. It's sad that they will not be going to the Gazans. Here's a small list of what's allowed/not Though by no means the full list. This is explained through official quotes, from 2006: 'Israel's policy was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier this year. 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,' he said. The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government.'

    4) A bunch of armed men jump down from a helicopter, do you welcome them with a cup of coffee? Although I admit attacking isn't the smartest thing to do, which can either be seen as 30 madmen who pre planned this (by somehow knowing they were going to come down via helicopter beforehand, as you claim), or there could have been some form of provocation. Or just madmen. Somehow I doubt death was pre planned. My point is the IDF killing shouldn't even be tried to be justified as the boarding shouldn't have happened.

    5) No mention of International Waters. No legality there. Also the Gaza Blockage, illegal. Even if we involve experts, just basic humanity tells us that killing civillians at sea isn't legal, nor is providing a quarter of what's needed to Gaza (stat from UN).

    Sorry If I came across harshly, I'm not looking to argue though I would welcome responses. I'm merely trying to show facts and also another side of matters. Don't take me too seriously, I am very much for the rights of Israel and had the pleasure of protesting with Jews in London yesterday. Thanks!

  23. Incredibly well articulated & as always genuinely & respectfuly insightful of the complex relationships we humans put ourselves in; as individuals & groups.

  24. Ray, really really liked all of your last comment to anonymous. We are learning more each day about what actually happened. Interesting discussion on Charlie Rose tonight. Video will be up tomorrow:

    TY, Myrna

  25. Thank's for sharing your thought's on this Ray.This needs to be investigated in a impartial and transparent way as there is to much conflicting news. I wonder if everybody on board was aware that radical Muslims with ties to Hamas were on board. If so, I do hope that there will be some consequences for the german parlamentarians on board.

  26. your response to my post was (as I see it) needlessly defensive. I didn't accuse you of anything; and I specifically said "I know you're just quoting", why you felt the need to defend yourself, I do not know.
    I'm sorry my comment didn't meet your 'standards'; you probably will consider this comment beneath your fair and righteous blog as well.
    However, I wanted to post this to 'you' and not the blog, as I hope you're genuinely trying to be fair and objective.
    If you visit the website of the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs, you will find a link to their flickr account, on which they uploaded pictures of 'weapons' they claim were on the Mavi Marmara. you can see in the tiff data that two of those pictures were taken in 2006 and three were taken in 2003.
    As you find my opinions biased, I'll leave it to you to draw your own conclusions.

    have a nice day

    Israeli MFA

    the flickr account

  27. Hi Mr. Beckerman,

    Your post caught my attention. I'm not here to argue or be a jerk, that's so silly. I'd rather use my MIND. What i would like to say is:

    Formulate your own opinions from the facts at hand. Delve deep into them and start thinking for yourself, not what others might have to say.

    Remember what G. Carlin said? "I have this moronic problem, it's called *THINKING*."

    Give Palestine their country and give them AID. They are humans and deserve food, water, cars et cetera.

    Yes @RayBeckerman, you are right. You and i will never know the facts, EVER. Only the men behind the curtain will. They are there don't make any mistake about that...



  28. Dear Mahi:
    I'm taking info from wherever I can get it. My criteria is: info that sounds credible; trying to avoid hyperbole, histrionics, & bull. I don't play down any body's death. But I play down morons who try to paint an overly simplistic view of what caused the death, for political purposes.
    I wasn't "quick" to believe IHH sponsors terrorism, I carefully read a detailed report by a reputable organization.
    Yes if the IDF came for me I'd surrender; maybe I would 'offer them a cup of coffee'. No way I'd start beating them with pipes, or take their handguns from their holsters & start shooting at them, unless of course I was looking to be "martyred" or provoke an incident that would reflect badly on Israel.
    The fact that it was in international waters is irrelevant; they had announced they were headed for Israel's territorial waters, & that fact has not been disputed.

    Dear Reba, Myrna, Anonymous
    Thank you

    Dear Ahad
    I agree

  29. I just rejected a moronic comment for violating (a) and (c) above. Regretfully, because part of the comment had valid argumentation.
    Perhaps the sender will send a revised, more honest version.

  30. Honestly, i disengaged my "oh-let-me-learn-from-another-point-of-view" after your definition of Zionism.

    For those words are in sentiment verbatim the justification used during the Ethiopian Famine to justify refusing East African Jews entry into "The State of Israel."

    I did come to this conversation with long justified Ancestral hesitations for those of the THREE Major FIRST World Religions and the omnipotence with which they justify the evil in their midst mis-using their beliefs.

    So as I take my leave, it is with the hope that Conquistadors still plundering The Green Dessert, do not stumble across this page and realize with using the find & replace feature, they too can justify their 21st Century genocide of Amazon Peoples.

    -aka @BrokePimpStyles -

  31. Cindy, I don't really understand your comment.

    1. I have no idea what your problem is with my definition of Zionism. Because you haven't told me what your problem is.

    2. East African Jews have been welcomed into the state of Israel. There would be no justification for doing otherwise. If there might have been, and might be, racism in Israel, well I'm sure Israel is no different than anywhere else in that regard.

    3. As to religion, anyone who uses a "religion" to justify mistreating other people is in my view a pariah.

    4. The Conquistadors sought to justify their genocide of the indigenous people in the Americas by claiming that their religion authorized it; they were of course world class pariahs.

    If there's something in my article which you deem incorrect, tell me what it is, and tell me why it's incorrect. So far no one has pointed out anything incorrect, but I'm always willing to be educated.

    If you just want to disparage and delegitimize Israel by comparing it to 1492 Spain, then I guess we have nothing to say.

    If you want to criticize human rights abuses by the Netanyahu administration, this isn't the right forum in which to do it, since I do not defend those, but abhor them.

  32. My comments were and remain clear and honest.

    I could not get past the Zionists tool that is Zionism which you began by stating in a manner i have encountered before, not only in reference to justify mis-use of Hebrew Religious Theory but that of Other indigenous peoples as well.

    only thing new to (re) comment here, is as far as East Africans, particularly Ethiopian Jews and their treatment by the Zionists controlling the Land of Israel, this can be very easily googled.

    like this for example from 2009

  33. Cindy,

    1. Once again you fail to tell me what is wrong with my definition of Zionism.

    2. Once again you fail to show anybody justifying racism in Israel, must less showing that statements I've made have been used as justifications for racism.

  34. For people who are interested in the realities of Jews "of color" in Israel I would recommend the web site and following @mochajuden on Twitter.


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(c) anonymous comments are okay, but sign with a handle so we'll know which "Anonymous" you are.

Thanks for commenting.