Jewish Journal


June 3, 2010

Gaza and Political Posturing


This entire week the media has been preoccupied with reports of the Israeli navy’s interception of Turkish flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The past few days have offered one of those moments when it becomes clear who has clarity of thought and reason without ideological blinders and who doesn’t.

All too predictably, the governments of Europe and much of the world rushed to condemn Israel before the facts were even known. The United Nations issued the requisite condemnation of Israel, while also calling for an investigation to determine what in fact transpired. An odd, but not unpredictable, order of doing things—-condemn first, learn facts later.

In a wonderful op/ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, Daniel Henninger describes the ease with which the world’s governments condemn Israel while they have repeatedly failed

to do anything about more important and difficult problems such as Iran, North Korea or sovereign debt….In any of the places where men discuss truly monstrous and dangerous plans, in Kim Jong Il’s Pyongyang or Mahmound Ahmadinejad’s Tehran, watching the hyperventilated criticism of Israel for a shoot-out on a boat must strike them as laughable…with this unbalanced double standard, the world increases the odds that a truly irresponsible regime will miscalculate.

For every sober analysis by a Daniel Henninger, however, there are countless, all too predictable pundits who bemoan the Israeli use of force and view it, with seeming glee, as a precursor of isolation and ostracism for Israel. The Washington Post’s Harold Meyerson (formerly of the LA Weekly)  quotes J Street and Americans for Peace Now to support the proposition that Israel’s action divides American Jews into two camps (picking up on the Peter Beinart essay in The New York Review of Books) and condemns Israel for reducing “the democratic character of this once democratic socialist nation.” In his view, Israel’s enforcement of a legal blockade of a state sworn to destroy it and which has committed terror against it is to be judged by what he claims is its impact on American Jewish elites who might be displeased.  He concludes that American Jewish leaders like Justice Louis Brandeis would “no longer embrace” a country like Israel—it has wandered from Meyerson’s ideals, he feels “estranged”—-too bad Harold….the residents of Sderot take precedence.

Meyerson’s mushy views are echoed in an email I received today from the New Israel Fund’s Daniel Sokatch who just couldn’t restrain himself. He notes that the Fund does “not take a position on military operations” BUT “we are especially sensitive to the humanitarian and human rights issues that must attend any discussion of Gaza.” He opines that “we at NIF are shocked and dismayed by the tragic consequences of the attack on the flotilla…”

Sokatch’s views along with those of countless others betray no effort to offer Israel’s perspective that a legitimate and legal boycott can be enforced and that there are unfortunate consequences for those who seek to defy a nation state and its forces; especially, when the “boycott runners” are political extremists (along with naive fellow travelers) longing for a confrontation.

There are grounds for criticizing Israel, primarily for allowing the Hamas supporting forces to garner too much sympathetic media coverage by botching the diversion of one of the six ships—-but those are tactical complaints, not on the merits of what Israel did and had the right to do.

The good news is that there have been some wonderfully incisive analyses that point out the hypocrisy of so much of the punditry and of governmental pronouncements. These analysts have pierced through the facile assumptions that have dominated so much of the coverage and bloviating.

David Makovsky wrote in the Christian Science Monitor of the reality of who exactly Israel’s neighbor is,

Hamas does not recognize Israel at any size—-even the area of a telephone booth on a Tel Aviv beach. Just last week in Damascus, Syria PBS talk show host Charlie Rose kept asking Hamas leader Khaled Meshel if he would accept Israel if it withdrew to the pre-1967 borders; Mr. Meshel refused to answer….So who would ensure that a lifter blockade from Gaza would not permit more rockets to come into Gaza? No countries have volunteered to be peace enforcers on Gaza’s borders.

Makovsky cites a fascinating article that appeared last week, before the flotilla incident, in the Financial Times (not the Jerusalem Post, mind you)  that calls into question the widespread belief that Gaza is “grim” (The New York Times’ editorial) or has pervasive “unacceptable suffering” (Los Angeles Times’ editorial).

The author, Tobais Buck, describes the tunnel operations between Gaza and Egypt that have “allowed Hamas…to replenish its coffers and rebuild its military arsenal.” A tunnel operator quoted in the article bemoans the fact that Hamas “is taking an even greater cut of the operator’s profits.

Moreover, the prices of many smuggled goods have fallen in recent months, thanks to a supply glut that is on striking display across the Strip…..shops all over Gaza are bursting with goods

.” Buck quotes one shop owner, “

everything I demand, I can get, says Abu Amar al-Kalout, who sells household goods out of a warehouse big enough to accommodate a passenger jet


Why the nearly complete failure to offer a more balanced picture of the threat and dishonesty that the Hamas leaders embody? The best answer comes in a piece by Leslie Gelb a distinguished foreign policy maven who worked for The New York Times, served in the State Department and was the chair of the prestigious Council on Foreign Affairs (he’s no Mort Klein of the ZOA).

Ah, the international outrage. Turks, French, all leaders large and small condemned Israel and called for international commissions. Ban Ki-Moon, the United Nations Secretary-General, said he was “shocked” by the attack. He condemned the violence, and added: “It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation.”
Well, where was all that international outrage and demand for explanations and retribution when the North Koreans sunk a South Korean ship? Where was it when the Gazans attacked Israel? Where, when Afghan men flogged their women for not wearing veils? Where, when Saudi Arabia funds terrorists around the world? This international outrage is highly selective, isn’t it? The one consolation is that the international community, such as it has become, doesn’t get anything of value done

And as for the Meyersons and the New Israel Fund folks, Gelb has them pegged too,

Israel had every right under international law to stop and board ships bound for the Gaza war zone late Sunday. Only knee-jerk left-wingers and the usual legion of poseurs around the world would dispute this. And it is pretty clear that this “humanitarian” flotilla headed for Gaza aimed to provoke a confrontation with Israel. Various representatives of the Free Gaza Movement, one of the main organizers of this deadly extravaganza, have let it slip throughout Monday that their intention was every bit as much “to break” Israel’s blockade of Gaza as to deliver the relief goods.

The blockade is legal and its enforcement is legal. The “humanitarian disaster” in Gaza is, seemingly, as much Hamas’ doing as it is that of the Israeli blockade. If Hamas chooses to have weapons flow through the tunnels from Egypt instead of other supplies, that’s its decision, not the Israelis. The guilt ridden pundits who can only see Israeli “mishandling” of the incident view the events through a prism that distorts and misleads.

Vice President Biden observed yesterday that Israel has an “absolute right” to defend its security interests and squarely laid blame for such humanitarian concerns as exist where it belongs, “as we put pressure on Israel….to let material into Gaza to help those people who are suffering, the ordinary Palestinians there, what happened…Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse, sell it.” 

Mercifully, Israel’s most important friend gets it. Lets stop the political posturing and game playing and face the grim reality that Israel is in a very tough neighborhood and needs to be tough to survive.


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