Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla Issue: Logic, Truth, and Videotape

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By Barry Rubin

[Be sure to see the video I link to at the end of this article BUT read the article first :)]

A friend who is a blogger remarked that I am arguing with logic and facts about this issue but that the situation has gone far beyond the point where that is useful.

One problem is with conception--the inability of much of the world to comprehend the new form of propaganda as well as terrorism warfare, the nature of revolutionary Islamism, and the nature of a moderate and democratic Israel, among other things. If you can't tell the heroes from the villains or the cynical exploitation of human shields in this case (and in the Gaza war of 2008-2009) than it is rather hard to explain things.

Here is one of my favorites from the profoundly bizarre and inaccurate view of the world I've seen in correspondence:

"If any Arab country would have behaved in the same aggressive manner as Israel, they would be sanctioned, scolded, and possibly invaded."

How many cases should we list to the contrary from recent history? True, these countries usually murder their own people (Syria killed between 10,000 and 25,000 civilians in Hama in 1982, for example), but except for a few especially extreme occasions there has been no such response. Arab states have been supporting terrorist attacks in neighboring Arab countries for decades. Pakistan suffers nothing for doing so against India. No one even yawns when Egyptian border guards shoot down Africans trying to cross the border in search of work or refuge.

Indeed, massive human rights' violations are usually not even reported, or if so only in one paragraph. And, of course, there are no protests in the West either. When the Iranian regime stole elections last year, killed peaceful demonstrators (who weren't attacking and beating outnumbered security forces and grabbing their guns at the time, as happened in the Gaza flotilla case), and arrested thousands of people (some of whom have since been executed), only Iranian emigres marched. When Western "humanitarians" went to Iraq in 1991 and 2003, to try to forestall wars against the repressive Saddam Hussein regime, they were there in support of the dictatorship!

Here is the bias against Israel, which only comes as a surprise to those who are carriers of the contagion. It is based on the assumption that Israel must be evil, and it has a wide variety from Medieval blood libels to pseudo-sophisticated illogic. In the former case, in Portugal on hearing that the Israeli soldiers used mob-dispersal paint-ball type guns, the response was that perhaps these contained deadly chemicals.

At the other end of the spectrum is the New York Times, one of whose writers dismisses the video footage of the soldiers being attacked with these words:

"Those images of commandos being attacked with clubs and chairs are lacking context. Were they shot before or after the boarding party started using force?"

My friends, either we are being capable of rational thought or not. The video clearly shows the deck of the ship with no Israeli soldiers on it. There is no fighting at all. One soldier comes down the rope, the first to arrive. He is holding onto the rope with both hands. He is attacked. Then a second, he is attacked. And so on. So how could the boarding party be using force when it had not yet boarded? How's that for context? [And again, see the video linked at the end of this article for more of the "context."]

And so logic and the sight of one's own eyes are abandoned when the Jews (oops, I meant Israel) is concerned.

Let's take another simple example. A Brazilian on the flotilla said something to the effect that we always expect the worst of the Israelis and they exceed that. But in fact if the flotilla militants believed that Israel was as evil as they claim, they would have expected that violent resistance would have led to the massacre of everyone on board.

It was because they knew Israel had to be provoked, tricked in a sense, into violence that they acted the way they did. And they knew that they would get just enough violence to make their propaganda case without all getting killed.

And they also knew that if all the boats were captured without incident they would have "lost" since there wouldn't be a huge international outcry against Israel. And equally they knew that if the supplies were delivered through Egypt or Israel they would have "lost" because they don't care about getting the supplies to "poor, suffering" people but their goal is rather to end the blockade.

If the blockade is ended, Hamas can and will entrench itself as a repressive state able to carry out terrorism against Israel, import the weapons it wants, and to provoke wars at will. The Iran-Syria-led bloc will increase in power. It will be a terrible defeat for the West and lead to others, including Gaza as a base of subversion against Egypt, the weakening of the West Bank as the next target, and the impossibility of Israel-Palestinian peace.

Indeed, Hamas has now announced that it will refuse to accept any of the supplies delivered through Israel or Egypt. They sense victory and this makes them more extreme and aggressive, a fact of life regarding international affairs that people in the Western governments should understand.

To pick one among a hundred media atrocities, many newspapers are giving prominence to the denials of people on the flotilla that they had no weapons and engaged in no violence when there are videos available at the touch of a keyboard where you can clearly see the weapons being lifted and smashed down in the attacks. (Some of these "witnesses" were on boats where there was no confrontation so their statements are irrelevant.)

Yes, this whole incident, like previous ones, is treated as so upside-down in terms of logic, fairness, and even strategic interests of Western states that only by having the right conceptual framework (the one historically called "common sense") can one comprehend the combination of tragedy and farce in operation here.

It's the same story with the "ever moderate" Palestinian Authority (PA) whose "man of peace" leader Mahmoud Abbas stated that Israel had planned the violence which was "premeditated and with determination to kill" on its part. If you can watch a handful of soldiers come down ropes to be battered to the ground on one of six ships and call that a plan to commit a massacre you can say anything.

But what is the political implication of this stance? As I've been saying all along, that Abbas and the PA are not interested and are incapable of making a compromise peace. Just as Hamas wants to paint Israel as so evil that the West will deal with Hamas and abandon Israel, the PA has the same strategy to try to get support for a unilateral declaration of independence with worldwide support and no concessions by the Palestinians.

Where will the PA strategy lead? Years more of deadlock and no Palestinian state.

Then there's Turkey, about which more on another occasion. But again, the Islamist regime there is more and more revealing its irresponsible and extremist nature, as an ally of Iran and Syria. This doesn't make that regime exactly EU candidate material. The outcome is going to be finally, if all too slowly, a realization in the West that this government is--let's not mince words--an enemy of the free world and a friend to the revolutionary Islamist bloc.

So I'm less pessimistic than much of the above might sound. The radicals are just too obviously radical to hide their true nature. After all, Hamas supporters have just violently attacked the BBC offices in Manchester, England, to protest their claim that the BBC--one of the most anti-Israel biased media outlets in the West--was too pro-Israel.

A larger portion of the Western media than one might have expected does understand, at least in part. Government statements, even those critical of Israel, are carefully worded. The debate in the British Parliament on the issue was more equal than you probably expect. And a lot of the positions being taken are purely opportunistic, cowardly but not intended to form the basis of actually doing anything.

In the Netherlands, one of the flotilla organizers, Amin Abou Rashed (alias Amin Abou Ibrahim) is the Muslim Brotherhood leader there, a pro-Hamas activist, and an open advocate of transforming Holland into an Islamist state. The Dutch government froze all his al-Aqsa group's funds in 2003 stating that the money it raised would benefit terrorist activities.This indicates the kind of people one is dealing with in this pseudo-humanitarian operation.

So despite the outcry, I don't think this incident will have a lasting effect and believe that the blockade and the general boycott of Hamas will continue. Hamas is too extreme and dangerous for responsible adults in power (even if that doesn't apply to all the leaders nowadays) to ignore the real situation.

One day the Western governments will wake up more even if only because the revolutionary Islamists push so hard and far that they will have no choice. Or there will be new governments that understand the world better.

Ok, now watch this--the militants preparing to attack the soldiers--and that should answer any remaining questions. Sorry, I'm assuming logic and facts still matter.

And here's a good cartoon that says it all.

Barry Rubin is director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center and editor of the Middle East Review of International Affairs (MERIA) Journal. His latest books are The Israel-Arab Reader (seventh edition), The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East (Wiley), and The Truth About Syria (Palgrave-Macmillan). His new edited books include Lebanon: Liberation, Conflict and Crisis; Guide to Islamist Movements; Conflict and Insurgency in the Middle East; The West and the Middle East (four volumes); and The Muslim Brotherhood. To read and subscribe to MERIA, GLORIA articles, or to order books. To see or subscribe to his blog, Rubin Reports.

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