How Did You Not See This Coming?

Roy Antoun
Jun 1, 2010 at 10:07 AM

In lieu of the latest news coming from Israel, Foreign Policy Magazine's Daniel Drezner used colloquial profanity to describe Israel's behavior on board a vessel just outside the Gaza Strip. Mr. Drezner wrote, 

Sure, you can argue that the people on the ships weren't exactly Christ-like in their embrace of nonviolence.  That said, it should be possible to gain control of an unruly ship without, you know, killing more than ten people...

However, what Drezner and many other pundits failed to recognize this following clip:

According to the New York Times,

Israel, which says it allows basic supplies into Gaza through points along the land border, denounced the flotilla as a political provocation and has vowed not to let the boats reach Gaza. It has invited the flotilla to land at an Israeli port, Ashdod, instead.

For Israel, Gaza and Hamas pose a legitimate threat to Israeli way of life and security, considering that these two states border one another and have, historically and repetitively, attack one another in a series of provocative engagements coming from both sides. But for a nation like Israel to just allow anything to enter Gaza without Israeli supervision would be like inviting al Qaeda for dinner in New York City. And although this analogy is simplified, this is the way Israelis perceive the scenario.

For pundits like Drezner to admit that those on board the vessel attacked first in not-so Christ-like ways and then condemn the Israeli commandos for killing those attacking them is quite naive. In a situation where you are dangling off a helicopter rope and being shot at, it's hard to imagine how any human being would react. Furthermore, when the video explicitly shows how the commandos were repetitively beaten upon entering the vessel, I'm almost certain that anyone in a commando's shoes would want to react violently back to whoever was beating him with a metal object; it's natural human instinct and under those circumstances, you're not thinking of the "political repercussions" that may ensue.

For a Palestinian or Turk on board the vessel, you may feel threatened by the presence of an Israeli helicopter coming on board for inspection. However, the Israeli blockade has been stationed there for years and vessel inspection has been standard operating procedure. For a vessel to attempt passing it without anticipating some kind of Israeli inspection is naive as well. It takes a well thought out modus operandi to execute the first blow and that is precisely what the Palestinians and Turks did. 

The United Nations is scrambling, the media is blowing things out of proportion, and Turkey feels insulted. Whatever Turkey is doing interfering in Israel's affairs is beyond Realist understanding; however, given the events, Turkey should have minded its own business, aid or not. The naive understanding that international institutions have on Middle East politics only creates more trouble and entices more to reactionary violence. The United Nations needs to understand that feeling sorry for a people or state truly gets everyone nowhere. Simply condemning does nothing and intervening does too much.

And although foreign affairs academics such as Hans Morganthau admit that states have always and will always intervene in the affairs of others, that gives no excuse (either to Turkey, the U.N., or the U.S.) to intervene in Israel's affairs, especially when intervention within itself almost always leads to a high casualty rate or loss of money. While I never like to take sides in an issue like Israel and Palestine, I have to ask the world, "How did you not see this coming?"

I agree that we should stop intervening in Israel's affairs (stealing wealth from out population and sending to fund their military).  From my perspective, however, not matter what the standard procedures of the state are, they never have a right to invade the private property of others.  I'm not an expert on the history of Israel but it looks like they are in a bad situation created by the heavy intervention of many nations.  However, all this military actions is probably causing more blowback than anything else.  

For me, this video was like watching a rape and pointing out that the victim slapped the aggressor a few time before the rape commenced.  

George Edwards's picture

Well, yes I agree. But Palestine has also been known to smuggle arms and munitions via the coast. And again, states never act naively enough to say, "Oh let's respect everyone's property rights at the expense of our security." Gaza and Israel border one another and to even think that Israel wouldn't do something is really naive. Palestinians and Israelis have both provoked one another and Western intervnetion has repetitively kept one side yearning for vengeance each time.

But to stand by and think that Israel would just let the boats pass without inspection is like letting al Qaeda into Mexico while we have them in our sights. In the international arena, things work vehemnetly differently than individual property rights do, as protected by the Constituion in the United States. Our Constitution does not apply to the rest of the world or to Palestine or Israel.

Yes, it's terrible that humans had to die in the process but as a commando on the boat, your instinctive reaction is not to care for the other individual's life, but rather, to get that weapon away from you by all means necessary. Humans die all the time from really terrible and awful reasons. The world should have seen this coming and minded its own business.

I'm not taking anyone's side here. If the scenario was turned around and the actors were swapped I would have written the same thing. I'm just pointing out that Turkey and the UN shouldn't be so "shocked" that Israel reacted this way. And if the Middle East refuses to adapt and instead cries wolf to the world, it's guaranteed nothing will ever get accomplished.

Roy Antoun's picture

Again the question of who fired first is not as settled as Roy states. In a raw video released by an Al-Jezzera reporter aboard the ship you can hear gun shots before any Israeli soldier boarded the ship. Again I know an Al-Jezzera report is probably baised but you can clearly hear the shots.

Also as well three german citizens aboard the ship have stated that no one was armed on these floatillas.

This wouldn't be anything new for Israel, remember when they rammed Cynthia McKinney's ship and incarcerated her and her crew members for attempting to bring medical supplies to Gaza.

Sadly this situtation, for whatever it is, will almost undoubtly involve the US getting involved in the policies of Israel again.

Shaun Bowen's picture