First as Tragedy, Then as Farce
Freedom Flotilla 2, as it was so generously styled, as been an abject failure. The Canadian vessel got as far as Crete before being boarded by the Greek coastguard and turned about by strength to the port of Agios Nikolaos. They were four miles short of international waters. The American ship - helmed in part by the second-rate wordsmith Alice Walker - did not even make it out of port. Due to the moral and political authority of the Greek government, the Western Friends of Hamas were stopped before they could make their last stand by the shores of Gaza.
First they sailed at sea — now they try by air. For, this Friday, Haaretz reports that between 600 and 1,200 protestors are due to arrive en masse at Ben-Gurion International Airport near Tel Aviv. The aim - as they term it - is to travel from said airport to Bethlehem in the West Bank, as part of a demonstration against travel restrictions in the Palestinian Territories. “Confrontation with Israel isn’t the goal in this case”, one of the organizers, Lubna Masarwa, told the paper. I fail to see how such an act can be construed as anything other.
This protest will fail, as others have before it, because the State of Israel will not tolerate such flagrant disregard for their legitimacy as a sovereign body. This is, as Netanyahu as said, a direct act of provocation at Israel’s borders at its one and only international airport. Israel has the right to do what is reasonable and necessary to prevent choas and disorder at its gates. Government agencies are said to be preparing for extreme scenarios, such as an activist trying to set himself on fire.
The lingering questions are two in number: who are these people? and what do they hope to achieve? To the first, that they are targetting the West Bank would indicate that, on the one hand, they are not as trenchant and militant in their allegiance with radical elements as the boat people. However, that this demonstration is being staged in concord with the flotilla makes them ipso facto allied with the aims and intents of the former and thus complicit with the Friends of Hamas.
In terms of what it might achieve, on this we can be fairly certain, for they must know their demonstration will not succeed in its ostensible aim of reaching Bethlehem. With this in mind, their clear and explicit intent must be to force the Israeli state into acts which weaken their standing in the international community and undermine their existence. This aerial bombardment is the same as last year’s flotilla and this season’s Naqba and Naqsa Day protests in the Golan Heights: they are built to fail as to shame and embarrass the Jewish state. No more; no less.
Freedom Flotilla II, testing Israel’s legitimacy
The hour is imminent when Israel’s right to exist will be tested once more. Some time this week or perhaps into the next, the second self-anointed “Freedom Flotilla” – consisting of ten boats from across Europe and North America – will set sail in convoy from the failing state of Greece to the Gaza Strip. Their aim is clear: it is to break the blockade which surrounds the Hamas-controlled territory as to force the hand of the Israeli government into preventing them from doing so by any means necessary.
What is clear from this method of protest (if you can call it that) is that their desire to see the establishment of some kind of Palestinian state has been superseded by a want to undermine the legitimacy of the one and only Jewish state. After all, if their aim was genuinely to relieve the people of Gaza, then there are various legal avenues solidarity campaigners might use.
Since June 2010, the State of Israel has liberalised the laws surrounding the import of goods into Gaza, allowing for the passage of civilian goods whilst preventing certain weapons and dual-use items from entering the enclave. Not only this, but in the wake of the revolution in Egypt, the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and the Sinai has been reopened, with a much larger number of Palestinians crossing back and forth between the two territories on a daily basis.
The flotilla, by contrast, is choosing to set sail directly for the port of Gaza with the sole aim of violating the sovereignty of the State of Israel. Moreover, they aim to provoke a forceful response from the Israel Defense Forces as a means to delegitimising them as an institution and the Israeli government as an authority. This rabble would appear to be another case of a group or organisation speaking for the Palestinians as a cover for promoting their own unhelpful, damaging causes.
Freedom Flotilla II, as with the original failed endeavour, is being sponsored by a coalition of shady figures who amount to nothing more than the Western arm of the Friends of Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. The umbrella group heading the whole thing is again IHH, a charity with links to international terrorism that masquerades as a humanitarian organisation. IHH boasts a history of involvement in Islamic extremism, having been connected with a failed plot to bomb Los Angeles International Airport.
Also involved are the Free Gaza Movement, who count amongst their patrons Lauren Booth, who far from being a journalist is a mouth-piece and propagandist for Ayatollah Khamenei and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as a face of Press TV. Iran’s Western media outlet, this network plays host to such bums and lowlifes as Yvonne Ridley and George Galloway, dear friend of, amongst others, Bashar al-Assad and the late Saddam Hussein.
Israel does not have to tolerate such tests of legitimacy from these sorts of thugs and slugs. If their aim truly is some kind of glorious martyrdom, then the IDF can be as sure as hell that those at sea will do whatever is possible to bring on such a fiery end. On the part of the Israeli authorities, three things ought to be requested. The first is obvious: any use of force must occur as a measure of last resort, applied proportionally only after it is certain that the convoy will not halt and have defied repeated warnings of what might occur should they continue onto Gaza. Moreover, the aim of such force must be to navigate the boats towards an Israeli port and detain the so-called activists there.
Second, the Israelis need to adopt a more lenient attitude towards journalists than they are at present. CNN, CBS and the New York Times are all dispatching hacks to board the flotilla, and the government needs to respect that their role is to report with neutrality and accuracy on the events at hand. Talk of barring journalists from Israel for up to ten years merely for being on the boats is not helpful to the State’s image.
Third, after the progress of the first flotilla was halted, the IDF released audio evidence which demonstrated that the Mavi Marmara was indeed warned several times of the risk of breaking the blockade. Even with the presence of journalists aboard this time around, such steps will need to be taken again. The responsibility of the Israelis, then, is to be as fair, open and transparent as possible with regard to whatever action they take after the Freedom Flotilla passes the point of no return.