A selection of postings on the Flotilla that we missed earlier
Israel’s Indefensible Behavior, Peter Beinart, 1st June 2010
A Blunder No PR Can Fix, Reza Aslan, 1st June 2010
A Brief History of the Gaza Folly, Gershom Gorenberg, 1st June 2010
An attack on the international movement, Mike Marqusee
(on the House of Commons debate on 2nd June)
Free Gaza, editorial in the Nation, 3rd June 2010
Pirates in the Mediterranean, Neve Gordon, the Nation 1st June 2010
Peter Beinart, 1st June 2010
Peter Beinart is author of The Icarus Syndrome: A History of American Hubris.
Don’t blame the commandos for the flotilla disaster. Blame Israel’s leaders, who enforce the cruel and corrupt Gaza embargo, and their supporters in America.
“If the soul is left in darkness, sins will be committed. The guilty one is not he who commits the sin but he who causes the darkness.” In the late 1960s, when America’s cities burned, Martin Luther King often quoted that line, which he borrowed from Victor Hugo. But it applies equally well to the catastrophe that occurred yesterday in international waters off the Gaza Strip.
It is not the Israeli naval commandos who should be judged guilty. Upon dismounting their helicopter onto the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, they found themselves, unexpectedly, in the belly of an armed mob. Anyone who thinks American troops would have acted with greater restraint should cast their mind back to October 1993, when U.S. Special Forces rappelled down from their Black Hawk helicopters into a sea of Somali militiamen, and killed or wounded perhaps a thousand of them as they shot their way to safety.
In the name of solidarity, we have practiced denial. In the name of anti-terrorism, we have justified the brutalization of innocents.
No, the guilt lies with the Israeli leaders who oversee the Gaza embargo, and with Israel’s American supporters, who have averted their eyes. Yesterday’s events are the most dramatic example yet of why the epidemic of not watching must end.
The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations greeted news of the flotilla disaster by repeating a common “pro-Israel” talking point: that Israel only blockades Gaza to prevent Hamas from building rockets that might kill Israeli citizens. If only that were true. In reality, the embargo has a broader and more sinister purpose: to impoverish the people of Gaza, and thus turn them against Hamas. As the Israeli newspaper Haaretz has reported, the Israeli officials in charge of the embargo adhere to what they call a policy of “no prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.” In other words, the embargo must be tight enough to keep the people of Gaza miserable, but not so tight that they starve.
This explains why Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It’s why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip’s agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It’s why Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch. And it’s why Israel prevents Gazan students from studying in the West Bank, a policy recently denounced by 10 winners of the prestigious Israel Prize. There’s a name for all this: collective punishment.
Israel does not deserve all the blame for Gaza’s impoverishment. Gaza’s other neighbor, Egypt, imposes an embargo of its own, though less effectively. And Hamas has been known to confiscate goods meant for Gaza’s poor. But none of that excuses Israel’s role in keeping Gaza destitute. Far from a well-crafted policy, the Gaza embargo has become something you might find in a University of Chicago seminar about the perversions inherent in interfering with free trade. As Haaretz detailed in a remarkable investigative report last summer, the embargo is not merely arbitrary (Gazans can import cinnamon, but not chocolate), it is corrupt. When Israeli farmers have surplus supply, they seek loopholes for the goods they wish to sell. Israeli officials allow Gazans to import Israeli products, but not the materials necessary to make those products themselves, since that would threaten Israel’s hold on the Gazan market. As the Israeli human-rights group Gisha has noted, Gazans can buy Israeli-made tomato paste, but cannot buy the empty cans necessary to preserve and market their own, which would compete with Israeli suppliers.
If all this were actually turning the people of Gaza against Hamas, perhaps—perhaps—it might have a cold-blooded justification. But if there is anything that the U.S. has learned from its half-century long embargo of Cuba, it is that policies of collective punishment don’t turn people against their regimes. To the contrary, they usually offer those regimes an excuse for their inability to govern.
Reza Aslan, 1 June 2010
Reza Aslan is author of the international bestseller No god but God and How to Win a Cosmic War (published in paperback as Beyond Fundamentalism: Confronting Religious Extremism in a Globalized World).
“The armada of hate and violence in support of Hamas, a terror organization, was a premeditated and outrageous provocation. The organizers are well known for their ties to global jihad, al Qaeda, and Hamas. They have a history of arms smuggling and deadly terror.”
By stubbornly and repeatedly contradicting every international aid and human-rights organization in the world on the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Israeli government’s PR machine has overreached.
Just so we are all on the same page, this is how Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, described the flotilla of ships stormed by Israeli commandos in a pre-dawn raid Monday morning. Note that he is describing ships carrying humanitarian aid, human-rights workers, about a dozen doctors, some 30 journalists, two retired U.S. diplomats (Amb. Edward Peck and Ret. Col. Ann Wright), a Nobel Peace Prize winner (Mairead Maguire), a former U.N. assistant secretary-general (Denis Halliday), and several members of parliament from Ireland, Germany, Sweden, Turkey, and Malaysia.
This was how Mark Regev, the Israeli government’s spokesman, described the response of passengers aboard the Turkish passenger ship Mavi Marmara when they were raided at 4 a.m. by an elite corps of heavily armed Israeli commandos who jumped from military helicopters and naval warships and shot live rounds, used tear gas and stun grenades, and killed at least nine people: “Why did they have a problem with an inspection process?”
This is how Israel’s defense minister, Ehud Barak, who has repeatedly stated that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza, described the entire Free Gaza movement, whose aid ships have been trying to break through Israel’s blockade of Gaza for the past three years: “The entire flotilla is a political and media provocation by anti-Israeli activists. They have absolutely nothing to do with humanitarian aid.”
By now we are all familiar with the power and potency of the Israeli government’s propaganda machine—the hasbara, or “public relations operation,” which has been on overdrive over the last 24 hours. Israel’s No. 1 priority right now, as voiced by Likud member and former Israel Defense Forces spokeswoman Miri Regev, is to deal with the negative media reports quickly, “so they would go away.”
No other country can boast the speed and efficiency of the Israeli government in responding to the slightest criticism of its policies or actions, as the Jewish Chronicle outlined in an article about Israel’s new and improved PR strategy, put in place after the debacle of the Lebanon war in 2006. The Chronicle summed up the strategy as “Fewer military officers; more women; tightly controlled messages; and ministers kept on a short leash.”
This is the infamous state propaganda machine that managed to paint the internationally renowned and widely respected South African judge Richard Goldstone, a trustee of Israel’s Hebrew University and former president of the Jewish charity organization World ORT, as “a self-hating Jew” and an “anti-Semite” for suggesting that Israel investigate “all violations of international human-rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after”—the exact wording of the Goldstone report.
But it now seems that even governments can occasionally “jump the shark.” By suggesting that a group of aid workers, human-rights activists, EU parliamentarians, and U.S. diplomats are supporters of al Qaeda, by describing a pre-dawn military attack on a convoy ship as “an inspection,” and by stubbornly and repeatedly contradicting every single international aid and human-rights organization in the world regarding the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the Israeli government’s PR machine has overreached.
The flotilla attack is just the latest in a series of bad decisions Israel has made about Gaza over the past five years.
Gershom Gorenberg, 1st June 2010
Gershom Gorenberg is a senior correspondent for The Prospect. He is the author of The Accidental Empire: Israel and the Birth of the Settlements, 1967-1977 and The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount. He blogs at South Jerusalem.
At first, reports of the number of dead fluctuated by the hour. After Israeli naval commandos landed on a Turkish ferry heading for Gaza, rumors said that Sheikh Raed Salah, leader of the radical Islamic movement among Israeli Arabs, had been killed on board. The rumors turned into news items in the Arab media; the sheikh was then reported alive and well. Descriptions of what actually happened on the crowded deck of the Mavi Marmara have, predictably, been wildly at odds. Activists who were on board say the Israeli commandos fired before being attacked; the Israeli military says the soldiers were defending themselves from a mob. Both sides present film clips of the nighttime struggle to back up their case.
Out of this blurred picture, one thing seems agonizingly clear: The raid was a link in a chain of premeditated folly.
Let’s follow that chain, from the news reports backward. To deflect criticism, Israeli army sources have told the press that the commandos faced a “lynch” when they descended by ropes from helicopters onto the Mavi Marmara — the largest boat in the flotilla intended to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza. Inside Israel, the word “lynch” stirs a very loaded memory: the mob murder of two Israeli soldiers who strayed into the West Bank city of Ramallah at the start of the Second Intifada in 2000.
Yet the word emphasizes the stark difference between the two events. The commandos didn’t stray onto the ferry’s deck. They boarded it in a planned operation. If, as Israel Defense Forces footage seems to show, people on the boat’s deck greeted them with knives and clubs, it means that at least some of the activists decided in advance that nonviolence wasn’t their strategy. Nonetheless, they weren’t lynching anyone; they were attempting to stop a boarding party in international waters. The Israeli Foreign Ministry argues that interdicting a ship on the high seas to enforce a declared blockade is legal under international law. It should have been no surprise, however, that the boarding would meet resistance from the 679 people aboard the ship — a mix of pro-Palestinian activists from the international Free Gaza Movement; members of the Turkish Islamic relief group Insani Yardim Vakfi; and a handful of prominent Israeli Arabs.
That takes us back a link: The decision to send a handful of commandos to seize the ship — a decision approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu and his inner circle of ministers — shows hubris, poor intelligence work, and determined inability to learn from experience. Both the politicians and the generals expected that the arrival of Israeli soldiers would convince the crew and passengers to submit. And yet, a day before the boarding, Israel Radio cited an Al-Jazeera report that people aboard the ship said they were ready to die. The Israel Radio reporter described that attitude as “paranoia.” He didn’t consider the possibility that those aboard were ready for a fight. It seems that military intelligence also failed to examine clues in plain sight.
The naval commandos are an elite unit, trained for daring operations. Controlling an angry crowd of civilians armed with knives and slingshots isn’t in their job description. The riot equipment they got for this mission was insufficient. Outnumbered, they resorted to live fire. But riot control has long been an Israeli weak point. In 1990, outnumbered police fired on Palestinian demonstrators on the Temple Mount, killing a score of people and causing an international crisis. In 2000, police used live fire after Ariel Sharon’s visit to the same holy site, killing several Palestinian protesters and igniting the Second Intifada. Yet before the 2005 evacuation of Jewish settlers in Gaza, troops and police got weeks of training in crowd control and self-restraint. Deployed en masse, they were able to subdue violent protesters without fatalities. Somehow, the comparative lessons weren’t learned before this week’s deadly fiasco.
Perhaps there’s no way to use sophisticated crowd-control methods while boarding a ship. But that problem only leads us further back, to the decision to stop the flotilla. True, if Israel had allowed six ships, their passengers, and their cargo of humanitarian aid to reach Gaza, the siege of the Hamas-controlled territory would have been breached beyond repair.
But the Israeli siege itself is another link in the chain of folly. It was imposed in stages after Hamas’ election victory in January 2006, the abduction of Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit later that year, and the Hamas takeover of Gaza in 2007. Limited supplies are allowed through at land crossings — and a shifting list of civilian goods are blocked. Instead, they reach Gaza through smuggling tunnels from Egypt, along with arms. The siege hasn’t convinced Hamas to return Shalit. It hasn’t sparked a popular revolt against Hamas rule. It has encouraged smuggling, caused suffering, and amplified foreign criticism of Israel. The flotilla was a missed chance for a long-needed review of Israel’s policies toward Hamas since the pullout from Gaza in 2005.
So we move back one more link, to then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon decision’s to leave Gaza unilaterally, rather than as part of a peace agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Sharon knew that reaching an agreement would mean yielding nearly all of the West Bank as well. He saw the Gaza withdrawal as a way to avoid making such a deal. But the unilateral pullout weakened Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas, an advocate of a negotiated peace, and legitimized Hamas and its “armed struggle.”
Before and after the raid, Israeli officials referred to the flotilla as a “provocation” intended to harm Israel. That’s probably true — and only raises the question of why Israel allowed itself to be provoked. Part of the answer lies in a cognitive failure in understanding events long before 2005.
To explain, I need to turn for a moment to what I can only call an omen that occurred the day before the raid: At age 89, veteran Israeli dissident Lova Eliav died. In 1968, as a rising politician in the Labor Party, Eliav shocked his comrades by declaring that the Palestinians must be recognized as a people, that Israel must negotiate with them and give up the occupied territories. His heresy came after he spent months in the towns and refugee camps of Gaza and the West Bank, listening to Palestinians. It was a product of empathy, reason and the ability to believe in both peace and patriotism. He was driven from the party to the left margins of politics. Decades later, his ideas moved into the mainstream.
One more detail of his resumé: In 1947, as a young man, Eliav was the commander of a ship called the Haim Arlosoroff, which tried to bring Holocaust survivors to Palestine in defiance of British immigration limits. The voyage ended off the coast of Haifa when British marines took control of the ship. The would-be immigrants were interred in Cyprus. Eliav’s mission was not a failure, though. It was one step in a campaign that stirred the world against British policy and led to the establishment of Israel.
Were Israel’s current leaders able to read the past as Eliav did, to see oneself in one’s adversary, they would have seen the implications of the voyage of the Mavi Marmara and the folly of interdicting it. They might even understand that their consistent effort to avoid a two-state solution is a mistake. Eliav embodied a heroic, humanistic Zionism. The omen of his passing was ignored. It remains for Israelis who believe in his path to demand that the government finally break the chain of folly.
Hebrew original by Ofer Shelah is a leading Ma’ariv commentator and author of several books on the Israel/Palestine conflict, translated by Eran Kahane
The attack on the boat caught me abroad, and evidently it takes a foreign perspective to understand the level of disconnect; the way Israelis view the situation compared to the way the rest of the world does is almost to the point that white is black and black is white.
In Israel we talk a…bout the “lynching of soldiers” and analyse the amount of crowd-dispersal logistics available to the commandos, as if the problem is a tactical one: if only we had brought the right tools everything would be alright. In the rest of the world, ever TV channel I watch and every news site I read paints the picture of a strongarmed state whose only solution to every problem is a military reaction, and whose sense of self-victimisation is driving it crazy.
States seeking to be part of the community of nations – and Israel must be so for its own survival, if not for any other reason – simply do not do such things. They don’t deploy armed soldiers against civilian ships, even ones trying to break the “holy siege” on Gaza. They don’t operate a police action on foreign nationals in international waters, and they definitely don’t end such missions with a 2-digit number of casualties.
Countries who do this kind of thing are ones who have long ago replaced their foreign policy with the sense that anything, even bringing pasta into Gaza, is an existential threat; states with no leadership, but a gang of populists who understand that their public is addicted to the feeling that “the world is against us” and to military might.
I know that logic has long ago stopped being a decisive factor in these matters. Too many people, in political power and in media, make their living from the campaign of the evil world against Israel. To me, this state of affairs – and particularly the whiny attitude is creates that shakes itself from responsibility that through itself brings on – is much more a threat than terrorism or Hamas.
So here you are, the reasonable results of the recent maneouvers: complete lack of legitimacy for every Israeli action, from the continuation of the siege on Gaza to every violent reaction, even those that the world would justify under different conditions.
The continuing process of our “South Africanization,” at the end of which it will no longer be legitimate to trade with Israel, to exchange information and invite us to sporting events. It will mean the loss of ability from those supporters of Israel – in Washington and everywhere else – to defend any move made by us, even from unreasonable criticism.
All this, the people supposed to be leading us should have understood at first glance. You don’t need UN experience or a degree from Stanford to understand it. They simply needed to understand in advance that military power should not be used here, even at the price of the “Marmara” docking in Gaza. But all they saw were headlines abouts the “brave assault,” the photographs of soldiers sliding down ropes, of the people of Israel once again thanking God that they have the best and most moral army in the world.
So this is what came out of it: From today the hands of the best unit in this army – whose warriors enlist to truly defend Israel – are soaked in the blood of civilians. This is what happens to those whose world is Entebbe.
Wednesday’s Commons debate on Gaza was a remarkable illustration of just how weak Israel’s position has become in this country, as in others. Hague’s statement was probably more forceful than David Milliband’s would have been were he still Foreign Secretary. But it was strongly criticised as not going far enough by at least twenty MPs from nearly every party in the House. Defence of Israel was left to the DUP; even Louise Ellman and Denis Macshane, committed defenders of Israel, could not bring themselves to challenge the consensus that the assault on the Gaza flotilla was an outrage (they confined themselves to attacks on Hamas). The legion of MPs who’ve enjoyed expenses paid visits to Israel were silent.
Following Milliband’s strained effort to establish some significant difference between himself and Hague, more substantive responses came form Jeremy Corbyn, Caroline Lucas and others who called for sanctions against Israel. They pointed out that Israel had ignored international condemnation on numerous previous occasions, and that it was the failure of governments to move beyond condemnation that had led the Israelis to believe they could act against the Gaza boats with impunity.
The mood of the Commons was merely a reflection of opinion in the country. What’s important to note is that this sea change has come about not because of but in spite of the leaders of the mainstream parties and the political establishment in its widest sense. It has come about despite a media which, under heavy pressure from the Israel lobby, has largely bent over backwards to give credence to Israeli accounts and arguments, now as in the past.
A major factor in the shift is of course the sheer indefensibility of Israeli behaviour. But that would not be perceived as it now is had it not been for the long-term, patient, grass roots campaigning by pro-Palestinian activists, who come from a wide range of political, religious and ethnic backgrounds. It is the international solidarity movement that has put sanctions on the agenda. It is the international solidarity movement that has ensured the blockade of Gaza has not been forgotten; pressure on Israel to end the blockade is now growing because actions taken by that movement have forced it on to governments’ agendas. The bravery and sacrifices of the people on the boats, along with so many others in previous actions, has made a huge difference. Without it, public awareness and debate would be entirely other than it currently is. Those who have advised a sotto voce approach to Israel have been proved wrong. In contrast, huge credit belongs to those who have forced the issue – from the volunteers on the aid boats to the students at Berkeley California who waged a determined campaign for disinvestment in defiance of a wave of insult and misrepresentation. Those who have persisted, often at considerable personal cost, in challenging the complacency and indifference of others are the reason why Israel is now in the dock as it has never been before. This Saturday’s demonstrations in London and elsewhere will show that their ranks are swelling.
It is the hard-won but of course profoundly incomplete success of the international solidarity movement that made its representatives on the flotilla prime targets for the Israeli government. Had the intention merely been to stop the boats reaching Gaza, than entirely different tactics would have been employed. It is not an accident that the attack took place in international waters. That was part of the message the Israelis wanted to send: that they can reach out and punish their enemies even outside their own jurisdiction, that they regard supporters of the Palestinians, from whatever country, as fair game. It was meant to be a warning to the rest of us, but it has backfired. Far from being intimidated, activists will now redouble their campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions. And they are likely to meet a more sympathetic response than ever.
The Israeli commando raid on what has become known as the Freedom Flotilla is shocking on a number of levels. What could have driven Israel to order its navy to attack, in international waters, a flotilla of ships full of human rights activists, MPs from governments around the world, a Nobel Prize winner and two former US diplomats? What was there to gain from killing civilians—at least nine are dead, along with several dozen injured—attempting to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid for the 1.5 million people of Gaza suffering under an Israeli blockade? Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading daily, said, “The decision makers’ negligence is threatening the security of Israelis, and Israel’s global status.”
Condemnation of the raid was immediate and overwhelming, with the shameful exception of the US government, whose UN representative merely expressed “regrets” at the loss of life. Demonstrations broke out in cities worldwide, including New York. Many countries condemned the attack—notably Turkey, until recently a key Israeli ally and regional power broker with whom relations may now be irreparably damaged because so many of its nationals were in the flotilla. The UN Security Council demanded an end to the Gaza blockade, although Washington successfully watered down the official statement and forestalled calls for an independent investigation. Without such an inquiry, it’s unlikely that those responsible for this assault will be held accountable.
The attack on the Freedom Flotilla is the culmination of more than four years of failed policy, in which a siege has been imposed on the entire population of Gaza in an attempt to weaken and isolate Hamas after its victory in the 2006 parliamentary elections. Israel does not bear sole responsibility for an unjust blockade that also undermines its own long-term security; indeed, the policy was jointly crafted and executed with the United States and has enjoyed the collusion of the European Union, Egypt and even the Fatah wing of the Palestinian Authority.
The effects of this policy on the people of Gaza have been devastating. According to various UN agencies, the formal economy has collapsed. More than 60 percent of the people are food insecure, and nearly 80 percent depend on the UN for sustenance, with rising levels of malnutrition. The destruction of Gaza’s infrastructure has been comprehensive, with the reduction in electricity supply damaging food production and storage and dangerously limiting access to safe drinking water. The blockade has prevented all but minimal repair of the damage from Israel’s 2008–09 military assault; thousands are still displaced from their homes.
The United States has had ample opportunity to change its one-sided policy, which has resulted in continued warfare, occupation, misery and death for Palestinians and Israelis. Israel’s occupation would not have been possible without tens of billions in US military aid, without dozens of UN vetoes cast by Washington, without the State Department’s back-room strong-arming of other nations. It would not have been possible without the dishonesty of a US media establishment that habitually twists or simply refuses to report basic facts about the Israel-Palestine conflict—and is often less critical than the media in Israel. It would not have been possible without the active collusion or cowardly silence of the vast majority of the Democratic Party and liberal policy establishment, which for too long has bowed under the intimidation of AIPAC and other right-wing Zionist organizations, including Christian Evangelicals, all of which claim to defend Israel but which in fact support the most retrograde forces in Israeli society—elements that are leading Israel on a path of self-destruction.
The rightward trend in Israeli politics, and widespread outrage stemming from the 2008–09 attack on Gaza, have led to tough questioning of the US-Israel alliance, not only among the younger generation of activists and bloggers in America—many of them Jewish—but also by the new liberal lobby J Street. This phenomenon was exemplified and noted recently by former New Republic editor Peter Beinart in a scathing New York Review of Books article critical of the older Zionist establishment. The trend is also analyzed at length by Norman Finkelstein in his new book, “This Time We Went Too Far”: Truth & Consequences of the Gaza Invasion. Disenchantment may finally be growing in official circles too. As noted recently by Centcom commander Gen. David Petraeus, Washington’s uncritical defense of Israel has increasingly become a threat to US interests in the region, where Islamist extremists use the oppression of Palestinians as a recruiting tool and where leaders have become increasingly wary of association with the United States.
One positive outcome of the attack on the humanitarian flotilla is that it has focused the world’s attention, as never before, on the indefensible blockade of Gaza. The siege must end immediately, and along with it the counterproductive US-Israeli policy of isolating Hamas. Only then will it be possible to work constructively toward a resolution of the conflict.
Neve Gordon, 1 June 2010
“Why didn’t they greet us with muffins and orange juice?” was my friend’s facetious question after listening all morning to the Israeli media’s coverage of the assault on the relief flotilla heading for Gaza, the navy assault that left nine citizens dead and many more wounded. Like a group of pirates in the Mediterranean, the Israeli navy attacked humanitarian aid ships in international waters, and yet Israeli officials and commentators were totally surprised when the passengers did not receive them with open arms. Going through the talkbacks on news sites, it seems that most Jews in Israel were also taken aback.
Later in the day, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman held a press conference, in which he made two revealing declarations. First, he asserted that no country would allow a foreign entity to threaten its sovereign borders. This claim, however, reveals the basic lie regarding Israel’s Gaza policy.
Israel has to decide once and for all whether or not it withdrew from Gaza in August 2005. If it did and Gaza is an autonomous entity as Israel claims, then the attempt on the part of these humanitarian ships to reach the Gaza sea port is not an infringement on Israeli sovereignty. If, on the other hand, Israel considers the flotilla’s entrance into Gaza’s territorial sea line as a violation of its own sovereign borders, then Israel needs to admit that it has never given up its sovereignty over Gaza. Lieberman’s statement discloses, in other words, that Israel has fashioned itself as a unique creature in the international arena: the non-sovereign sovereign. When it suits its interests, the government claims that it has relinquished sovereignty over Gaza, but when it does not, the government reasserts its sovereignty. Lieberman should keep in mind that with sovereignty comes responsibility. Thus, if Israel was indeed defending its borders yesterday morning then as sovereign, Israel is also responsible for the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip–for their livelihood as well as their security.
Lieberman’s second declaration was that the Israeli military is the most moral in the world. No other soldiers, he said, would have dealt in such a forgiving way with the people on board the ships.
Lieberman conveniently ignored the fact that according to international law the Israeli soldiers were acting like pirates, since hijacking an unarmed humanitarian aid ship in international waters is by definition piracy.
Moreover, his second observation is informed by the lesser evil argument; namely, the Israeli military could have been more brutal and chose not to. As the great Jewish philosopher Hannah Arendt pointed out, “Politically, the weakness of the argument [for lesser evils] has always been that those who choose the lesser evil forget very quickly that they chose evil.”