Israel and the Coming Flotilla War

Get ready for round two.

There is a paradox here: Israel is a country under siege—besieged by people who have wanted to destroy it, plain and simple, since its creation—which is imposing a partial siege on a neighboring territory, the Gaza Strip, in order to ease the siege under which it exists. The point actors in this siege of the Jewish state are the Islamist Hamas, which has ruled the Strip since 2007, the Hizbullah, which dominates Lebanon, and the repressive and minatory Iran of the ayatollahs, which pulls the strings from behind.

But this reality, and paradox, of the double siege is ignored, or misunderstood, by many do-gooders in the West, some of whom are currently preparing in Greek harbors to participate in the prospective international flotilla heading for Gaza. The six-ten-boat flotilla, with some 500 activists—most of them Turkish and Arab Islamists—aboard, is organized by the Islamist Turkish IHH, which last May, with the Islamist Turkish government's encouragement and help, dispatched a previous flotilla toward Gaza, which was intercepted by the Israeli Navy. In the clash between the Israeli commandos and the Turks, nine Turks died after they attacked the Israeli boarders with iron bars and bottles.

Israel has maintained a blockade of Gaza since 2007, when the Hamas took control of the territory, hoping both to undermine Hamas rule and to prevent weapons and munitions from reaching the militants, who have frequently barraged southern Israel with rockets. Israel maintains that the blockade is legal under international law, an assertion apparently endorsed in the draft of the forthcoming UN secretary-general's report on the interception of last year's flotilla (the draft was recently sent to the Israeli and Turkish authorities. It supports the Israeli contention that the flotilla was dispatched as a provocation and that the Israeli commandos were attacked by the Turkish passengers but criticizes Israel for using disproportionate force in overcoming the passengers).

Israel has announced that it will prevent the new flotilla, which is expected to set out this week, from reaching Gaza, using force if necessary. As it did last year, Israel has proposed that the food and medicine on board be landed in an Israeli port, where it will be inspected, and then conveyed into the strip. Israel fears that the flotilla might be attempting to smuggle arms or terrorists into the strip, or that, if allowed to set a blockade-running precedent, will pave the way for unimpeded arms shipments in the future. No one has starved to death in the Gaza Strip since the imposition of the blockade and, in the wake of last year's flotilla incident, Israel has eased the blockade to allow in more goods. Additionally Egypt, under its new rulers, has lifted its own blockade of the Strip. The Palestinians of Gaza, like Palestinians elsewhere, continue to live on international (meaning Western) charity, as they have done since 1948.

Last year's incident added a new chapter in the deterioration of Turkish-Israeli relations, with Ankara withdrawing its ambassador from Tel Aviv (but desisting from severing diplomatic relations). Israel has offered compensation to the families of those killed last year, but Israeli-Turkish negotiatons have stalled over Turkey's insistence that Israel apologize for its actions.

Among the do-gooders joining this year's flotilla is African American novelist and Pulitzer Prize-winner Alice Walker, who wrote last week in the London Guardian: "Our boat, the Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of". She then lauded Ghandi and Indian freedom strugglers and Jewish civil rights activists who helped blacks gain their rights in the American South. It is unclear how the 67-year-old Walker knows what is in the hold of the flotilla's ships. Nor does she seem to know that mail reaches Gaza regularly, without the intercession of American do-gooders. She appears completely unaware that Israel has good reason to fear arms smuggling to the Hamas (not to mention the Hamas's declared aim to annihilate Israel) and appears not to have heard of the ongoing, 100-year-old Israeli-Arab conflict, that has little in common with a minorities' struggle for equal rights. But Guardian readers will no doubt be moved by her moralizing affirmation "that the Arab child, the Muslim child, the Palestinian child, the African child, the Jewish child, the christian child, the American child, the Chinese child, the Israeli child, the Native American child, etc. is equal to all others on the planet." I liked the "etc."