Friday, June 18, 2010
A Flotilla of Demonisation
Oceans of ink have been poured about the flotilla incident. By now, with the copious documentation and viewing of the video clips, the facts about the aims of those on board, their terrorist links and about what really happened on board, are gradually emerging. But the speed and intensity by which the world recklessly rushed to blame Israel, and only Israel, and the scale and venom of the reaction, has left me speechless. Until now.
I don't know how to depict a world that clamours to indict Israel while exonerating its enemies, that uses double standards in promoting false and baseless accusations, and that has forgotten history so as to use the language of the Holocaust to portray Israelis as the epitome of evil. I don't know what to make of a world that is silent when Israelis die in homicidal bombings or rocket attacks, or a Europe that tries to seek forgiveness for its colonial past by defaming Israel time and again and is silent when atrocities are committed against Israelis. I am still shocked by intellectual and cultural figures who ceaselessly denounce Israel, leading the charge for boycott and divestment, and seek Israel's isolation.
It's hard to understand why countries, journalists and commentators have turned a blind-eye to the obvious provocative nature of the flotilla, the role Hamas plays in the suffering of Gaza, or to its charter that calls for the destruction of Israel, or to the fact that when Egypt opened its borders with Gaza shortly after the incident, thousands of residents massed at the border, hankering to get out - only to be stopped by Hamas. It's hard to fathom why TV channels, radio stations and newspapers have sought to paint a one-sided picture that takes no account of Israel's account and defensive needs.
A clear-eyed examination of the facts would ask: if the Turkish convoy was only interested in delivering humanitarian supplies to Gaza, why did it not accept Israel's offer to peacefully off load the relief in the Israeli port of Haifa for transport into Gaza? After all, Israel ships into Gaza 15,000 tonnes of food and medical supplies every week.
The IHH, the Turkish group who organised the convoy, has been named in a US Federal court as having an "important role" in the attempt to blow up an LA airport. As organizer Greta Berlin confessed, the flotilla was not about humanitarian aid, but about breaking the blockade. Military experts have pointed to the links IHH has with Hamas and global jihad movements.
But beyond the actual incident, another aspect that is becoming disturbingly evident is the blistering demonisation, and delegitimisation of Israel. And the viciousness of such vilification by the media, and international governments who should know better, is mind-blowing. As philosopher Bernard-Henri Lévy wrote: "The flood of hypocrisy, bad faith and, ultimately, disinformation, that seems to have just been waiting for this pretext to flow into the breach and sweep across the media worldwide - as is the case every time the Jewish state slips up and commits an error - is by no means acceptable."
How many journalists have explained that both Israel and Egypt have imposed a naval blockade of Gaza, and that Israel did so to prevent the re-arming of the Iranian-backed Hamas? How many journalists have noted that no country allows ships to enter its waters without inspection for illicit goods of military weapons and ammunition? Elie Wiesel rightly points out: "We know that the six vessels of the flotilla were chartered by pro-Hamas groups, the initiative coming from the most militant wing of Hamas. How could Israel be sure that they did not carry weapons to kill and destroy?
How many journalists have written about Gaza being used as a base for the launching of thousands of rockets into Israeli towns in a murderous and relentless war of attrition? How many journalists have alerted readers to the brutal Hamas regime in Gaza that is stockpiling weapons for eventual targeting of Israeli cities, violently puts down any political opponents, and is slowly imposing fundamentalist Islamic law?
How many readers know that one of the passengers, rejecting an Israeli request to berth the ship for inspection, replied: "Shut up and go back to Auschwitz" while another blockade runner said: "We're helping Arabs going against the US. Don't forget 9/11, guys".
The virulent call for Jews to return to the extermination camp of Europe provides a glaring and bloodcurdling insight into the mindset of those on board.
And the hypocrisy is something to reflect on. The unrestrained assault on Israel is unprecedented. No other nation generates such language or focus.
Consider that no similar condemnation and media attention has been applied to North Korea's recent sinking of a South Korean boat and its monstrous regime, or to Iran's pursuit of nuclear weapons and oppression of its citizens, or to the genocide in Darfur and Congo, or to Zimbabwe's dictator, or to the Russian invasion of Georgia, or the human rights abuse in Syria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, or to the Chinese treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang and Tibet, or to India's military occupation of Muslim Kashmir. And the list goes on.
As one commentator observed, these dictators must be sitting back and laughing at the world's reaction to the flotilla episode given their crimes. Or as Tom Gross notes about the recent killing of an al-Qaeda leader, "plus his wife, three of his daughters, his granddaughter, and other men, women, and children" by an American missile strike: "No one seems to be getting hysterical about this anywhere in the world. Now imagine if Israel had been involved . . ."
The EU representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, demanded an opening of the Gaza blockade. Yet, the EU, since 2002, has insisted that no one deal with Hamas until it recognised Israel's right to exist and renounce violence. Hamas has not done so. The President of Bosnia compared the Gaza blockade to the siege of Sarajevo of the 1990s where about 10,000 people died.
News agency Reuters has just admitted that it cropped images so as to show Israel in a negative light. In the uncut photo, you can see the hand of an unidentified commander holding a knife over an Israeli soldier lying on the deck of the ship. In the Reuters photo, the knife is missing.
And what was Fairfax Media's journalist Paul McCeough thinking when he described Israeli soldiers as hyenas. Did he not feel that such a description was loaded with inflammatory bias? Could he not think of another turn of phrase? Such language is extravagantly prejudicial and hurtful, drawn from vocabulary and a time we thought had been relegated to the dustbin of history.
Veteran White House correspondent Helen Thomas told Rabbi David Nesenoff that Israeli Jews should "get the hell out of Palestine" and "go home" to ''Germany, Poland" - where 6 million people were murdered. Her on-camera comments embodied in many ways the disproportionate hostility exhibited towards the Jewish state by intelligent and educated people. Whether Thomas really meant that Israel should disappear, or that a mass expulsion of Jews should take place is unknown. But her words echo a worrying trend in which people are openly talking about a world without Israel. And I just don't mean the Iranian President who wants Israel wiped off the map.
Such incitement only fuels anti-Jewish sentiment.
Over the last week, a Jewish student wearing a yarmulke was assaulted at Sydney University. Unsurprisingly, The Northwest Intelligence Network reports: "A palpable animosity against Israel and the Jews, most recently exacerbated by media bias with regard to the nature of the aid flotillas to Gaza, are generating a new and vicious level of anti-Semitism worldwide."
Across the Arab world, hateful and anti-Semitic newspaper cartoons have fanned the flames of intolerance. In Al-Watan, Qatar, a hook nosed, black-hatted Jew with tentacles holds a bloody knife and a gun; in Al Iqtisadiyya, Saudi Arabia, a flag with the Swastika is shown over a Star of David, with an image of a skull and crossbones.
The Turkish government has labelled the Israeli raid a massacre, and likened it to 9/11. Its ambassador to the US said last Friday that Hamas is a key and necessary part of the "Final solution" to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Such comments, inadvertent as they may be, would horrify those who know history. Turkey, part of NATO, who wants to become a member of the EU, should do well to avoid its self-righteous outbursts and look back at its past - specifically the Armenian Genocide and the way it has treated the Kurdish Independence movement that by some estimates has so far led to the death of 40,000 lives.
Thankfully, the history books are slowly being corrected. Here is what Tony Blair, Special envoy of the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, said yesterday about the flotilla incident: "There's no question that there are rockets fired from Gaza and that there are people in Gaza who want to kill innocent Israelis. When it comes to security, I'm 100 per cent on Israel's side. Israel has the right to inspect what goes into Gaza." Kuwaiti journalist Abdallah Al-Hadlaq agrees, writing that the outcome of the Israeli navy's operation was "in direct proportion to the violence" of the flotilla activists.
He further notes that the flotilla organisers are known to have ties with global and regional terror organisations.
Robert Fulford tries to explain the enmity towards Israel by quoting from The Israel Test, a book by George Gilder. Gilder writes: "Without oil, beset by passionate enemies, Israel has nevertheless achieved astonishing, unprecedented success. It now stands second only to the United States in microchips, telecom, software, biotech, medical devices and renewable energy. Per capita, it's easily the most innovative country on the planet." Fulford ends his article with this question: "Gilder's "Israel test" asks how others respond to this achievement. Do we study, admire and emulate it? Or do we consider it a devilish trick and hope to see it destroyed?
I think we all know the answer.