DRAMA AT HIGH SEA

Hamas, Israel, and the Gaza flotilla: seven facts you need to know

  

note the knife out- after the downed IDF marine 

Peace activists want Hamas to have a free hand

 

 

The Christian Science Monitor criticised the Ruckus Turkey had been racking up in its editorial –
Even considering the shock and sorrow over the tragic deaths of eight Turks and a Turkish-American aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla of Turkish vessels, the rhetorical response from Turkish officials has been over the top. The response fails to take into account the confusion on board the main aid ship Marmara and violence from both sides. It overlooks advance diplomatic attempts by Israel to head off the blockade-running flotilla. It forgets the existential threat to Israel by Hamas, and Turkey’s own struggle with Kurdish terrorists. It makes light of the word “massacre,” which is the polite way in Turkey to describe the killing of Armenians at the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. 

This issue of Aronite thinking looks into both. 

The Monitor published the very pertinent facts regarding the brouhaha by Nadav Tamir-  

Amid a barrage of criticism of Israel, fair-minded observers should consider these seven facts before judging the flotilla raid. 

By Nadav Tamir / June 3, 2010 

Boston 

In the torrent of rage and confusion generated by the loss of life when the Israeli Navy enforced the embargo on the Gaza Strip this week, there has been a regrettable overlooking of certain fundamental facts. As is so frequently the case, these facts have gotten buried in the rubble of political rhetoric. In order to prevent this incident from having a deleterious effect on the peace process going forward, the following must be understood: 

 Mourners pray by the coffins of victims of the Israeli raid of the Gaza flotilla, as they are carried at the end of the religious funeral service at the Fatih Mosque in Istanbul, Turkey, Thursday. 

Ibrahim Usta/AP 

Fact 1: The Gaza Strip is an armed camp, ruled with an iron fist by a repressive Hamas regime that has not only repeatedly pledged itself to the annihilation of Israel and the torpedoing of any prospects for Middle East peace, but has made good on its pledges by firing approximately 10,000 missiles, rockets, and mortar bombs at Israeli civilians over the past several years for the express purpose of killing or wounding those civilians or, at a minimum, terrifying them. 

Fact 2: The United States, the European Union, and the international community have recognized that Hamas is a terrorist enterprise, which surely is beyond dispute. 

Fact 3: When faced with an armed enemy committed to its destruction, which has done its very best to make war against Israeli civilians, Israel has two choices: to try to protect its civilians from those attacks, or to simply shrug its shoulders and hope that the attacks stop. There is, quite simply, no nation on earth that would choose the latter course, and no reasonable and fair-minded person who would expect it to. 

Fact 4: In an effort to stop the missiles from being manufactured and used against it, and only for that reason, Israel has been forced to try to keep the materials used for that purpose out of the Gaza Strip. This is an obvious step needed to prevent the kind of war that caused so much destruction in 2008, when the increase in attacks by Hamas and its allies against Israeli civilians eventually triggered an Israeli response to stop them. There can be no real doubt that Israel is entitled to keep weapons of war from being used against it. 

Fact 5: Israel repeatedly, and expressly, made clear to those who organized the effort to break the embargo that it would willingly take all of the humanitarian aid that was on their boats and transfer it to Gaza, without delay. All that Israel wanted was to be able to ensure that materials were, in fact, humanitarian aid, rather than the sorts of materials used for launching attacks that are supplied to Hamas by the Iranians and others. The organizers of the flotilla refused – because, of course, getting humanitarian aid to Gaza was not what their gambit was really about 

  

Fact 6: Israel regularly provides humanitarian aid to Gaza, and volunteering to get the humanitarian aid from the ships to Gaza was consistent with Israeli policy all along. 

And Fact 7, which is now coming to light several days after the initial and predictable barrage of criticism of Israel: Those on at least one of the ships planned all along to attack Israelis when they sought to enforce the embargo, and indeed, their attack on the Israelis was brutal. 

This fact has been starkly captured in video widely circulating around the Internet, showing the vicious beatings initiated by those on board one of the ships against Israelis, who for their part had been instructed to refrain from using any force if at all possible. Indeed, in Israel the military is being criticized for failing to adequately prepare its naval personnel to anticipate the attacks on them from the boats, and for being too passive, and too trusting, in its approach to the flotilla. 

As for the evidence that certain individuals of those responsible for orchestrating this tragedy are linked to Al Qaeda and other representatives of the worst forces on the planet, the next days will likely yield more information. 

But the larger issue is this: Has the desire to blame Israel in certain quarters reached such an irrational frenzy that the fundamental facts of any issue relating to the Middle East conflict will reliably be overlooked? Are those who are committed to a fair-minded and reasonable analysis of that conflict prepared to insist that others, who like nothing more than jumping to conclusions stop, pause, think, and consider the actual evidence? 

There will always be those who don’t let facts to get in the way of their biases. But fair-minded people examine the evidence before forming conclusions, especially when emotions run high. Israel – and the cause of peace in the Middle East – is counting on them to do just that. 

Nadav Tamir is the consul general at the consulate general of Israel to New England. 

(COURTESY-THE CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR) 

In its Editorial that was profoundly serene and timely, the Christian Science Monitor has this to say- 

  

Turkey’s government leaders have called the Israeli raid on the flotilla a “massacre,” likened it to 9/11, and branded it “state terrorism.” President Abdullah Gul said Israel committed “one of the biggest mistakes ever in its history” and said that relations between the two countries – once close allies – “will never be the same again.” 

The response fails to take into account the confusion on board the main aid ship Marmara and violence from both sides. It overlooks advance diplomatic attempts by Israel to head off the blockade-running flotilla. It forgets the existential threat to Israel by Hamas, and Turkey’s own struggle with Kurdish terrorists. It makes light of the word “massacre,” which is the polite way in Turkey to describe the killing of Armenians at the breakup of the Ottoman Empire. 

The rhetoric matters less in diplomatic circles, where back channels and ceremony have a way of repairing things. It matters much more on the street, where it can fuel public opinion and stir mindless emotionalism. And the street in Turkey this week saw angry mourners shouting “death to Israel” while the head of the Turkish Muslim charity that organized the flotilla gloated over the martyrdom of the victims. 

Indeed, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington said high emotions at home might force Turkey to break relations with Israel if it does not acquiesce to Turkey’s demands of an apology, an independent investigation, and an end to the Gaza blockade. 

The Middle East does not need another country of fist-shakers, and that’s why the tone in Turkey is of such concern. Not just this incident, but others have increased anti-Semitism in this mostly Muslim country of about 80 million people – a democracy anchored in NATO and working on membership in the European Union. 

The rhetoric, if unchecked, runs the risk of further undermining Turkey’s credibility and goal of being a regional problem solver, and of the West’s interest in Turkey as a bridge between the Muslim and Christian worlds. 

Since winning power in 2002, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Muslim party, the AKP, have pursued a policy of “zero problems” on Turkey’s extensive border. It’s an attempt to better balance East and West, to solve longstanding conflicts, and to build economic, energy, and political ties with neglected neighbours such as Iran and Syria. 

The balancing act is understandable, if ambitious, and much of it has been in a positive direction: fence building with Armenia and Greece, mediating between Israel and Syria and between Afghanistan and Pakistan, and reaching out to Iran – which even President Obama attempted. 

But Turkey is now starting to create problems for itself and the region because of overreach. It’s become too cozy with an Iranian government driving toward nuclear arms and gunning down peaceful demonstrators who contested last year’s election. 

Turkey’s recent nuclear agreement with Iran, worked out with Brazil, was ill-timed and ill-crafted. Ankara is now at odds with the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council who are finally on board for a new round of sanctions against Iran. 

Meanwhile, Turkey’s utter spurning of Israel may make for good television at home but it does nothing to solve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. 

Others are not blameless in Turkey’s overreach. The EU’s hesitancy over membership is pushing Turkey out of the Western nest. Israel is losing the public relations war with its excessiveness. But when behaviour needs to change, you start with yourself, not your neighbour. 

Turkey’s leaders can start by dialling down their provocative rhetoric. Or they may find it’s too late to put that genie back in the bottle.

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