Keeping the bigger picture in mind regarding the blockade and Gaza
I have been following the ebb and flow of academic thought about the “flotilla” incident. Being interested in the issue, but not wishing to debate the scholastic or legalistic aspects of what occurred, I thought that perhaps readers woulld be interested in a brief “layman’s” perspective of why there even is a blockade of Gaza, let alone a “flotilla”.
My perspective has its roots in biblical and modern history, especially in the era after World War 1 and the San Marino conference, the League of Nations’ adoption of the Balfour Declaration of November 2, 1917 and the 1947 United Nations General Assembly resolution, passed in the aftermath of the Holocaust, which, despite ferocious objections, recognised the legal, fundamental right of the Jewish people to have their own State in that part of the former Ottoman Empire known as Palestine.
Notwithstanding that formal acknowledgement, my perspective is also shaped by the ongoing failure of so many nations (both those which existed prior to 1947 and those which came into being subsequently) to positively answer the fundamental question which underlines those resolutions, namely: “do Jews have a right to their own independent homeland / nation?”. The response — which should be an obvious and resounding “yes”, should be that, yes, the matter has been resolved and settled by League of Nations and UN resolutions and that therefore there ought not to be any more debate on the issue — instead seems to be more obfuscated and more in dispute than 90 or even 63 years ago.
The 1947 refusal of the Arab / Moslem countries (many of which were also products of the same Versailles Treaty) to accept even the original boundaries, because they simply would not tolerate a Jewish nation in their midst, has meant that a state of war and a state of conflict, inevitably, continues to this day. The resulting 1948 War of Independence and the armistice which followed set the stage for yet other wars (Suez, Six Day War, Yom Kippur War, Lebanon Wars, Intifada 1 and 2, Gaza, etc.) as the desire to destroy Israel qua Israel continued.
The failure of many non-Arab and non-Moslem nations to, explicitly and without equivocation, tell and re-tell the Islamic world that Israel’s existence as a Jewish State in the Middle East is simply not negotiable and not a matter that can or should be debated is also a cause of concern. The seeming indecisiveness on the part of such countries has been seen as a “green light” for the continued delusions of an Israel-free Middle East by Arabs and others. Because of that lack of clarity, somehow, some way, the situation has morphed from one of wars which pitted many nations against one, as the many attempted to destroy the one, to a scenario which depicts the founding and existence of Israel as somehow being the sole cause for the failure of Arab Palestine to be formed.
This not-so-subtle shift of the international focus has turned history upside-down and obliterated the reality of how the current crisis came into being. It is ironic that what is forgotten is that for 20 years (1947-1967) the actions of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, Iraq and others were directed only towards the destruction of Israel, without any thought or desire to create an Arab Palestine. It is ironic that what is overlooked is that which was accepted and agreed to by the League of Nations, the Peel Commission, the UN, as well as the Jewish inhabitants of the Mandate in 1919, 1937 and 1947, namely: the creation of an Arab Palestine. And that this was always objected to by the Arab people and the Arab States.
In other words, the Arab States’ insistence that Israel be still-born in 1948, and wiped off the map after 1948, seems to have been whitewashed and completely forgotten. While Egypt and Jordan have since formally signed peace treaties with Israel, and while Fatah (the Palestinian Authority) has somewhat modified its position since the death of Yasser Arafat, such progress has only been due to Israeli resoluteness in the face of war and/or terror attacks. The current situation, though, still remains dire for Israel as it faces Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria, Iran, al-Qaeda and others.
In place of the previous state of active war between nations is the much more insidious plea to “punish” Israel for its alleged failure to abide by “international law” – however that’s interpreted by usually well-intended professors and scholars. These calls for “justice” are then linked to attempts to counter Israel’s alleged breaches with sanctions, boycotts, disinvestments, false descriptions of Israel as an “apartheid” state that should be destroyed, and relentless condemnations and attempts to delegitimize this Jewish, Zionist entity.
As a result, this flotilla is yet another example of what has become a cynical, politically-correct, end run to get around and avoid spotlighting the still-on-the-books Charters of Hamas and others that explicitly call for the destruction of Israel, the incendiary oratory of Iran and the discriminatory practices of virtually every Arab and/or Moslem country vis-a-vis Israelis or those who have Israeli stamps in their passports.
When Israel pulled out of Gaza, and especially after Hamas took control, there was no effort by Hamas to tone down or renounce its stated goal of annihilating Israel. To the contrary, this only served to “crank up” their rhetoric. If those words would not have been accompanied by action (the launching of thousands of rockets into Israel), and if there would have been no consistent, continuous efforts by Iran and Syria to re-arm Hamas, perhaps then the necessity of a blockade (one of several presently in force around the world involving other countries) could be questioned. But surely Israel has the right to take seriously the implacability of Hamas, its insistence on the destruction of Israel and its insatiable appetite for arms. Surely Israel has the right to look at history in the eye and not ignore what took place and, more importantly, why it took place.
Israel’s sea-blockade, like its (and Egypt’s) land-blockade, is predicated on a need to inspect deliveries to Gaza. This, in turn, is based on national security needs. Such preventive measures are logical, necessary and unimpeachable. The fact that ships of the “flotilla” deliberately decided to break that blockade, despite offers to have them transport their goods to Gaza after inspection stops in either Ashdod or in an Egyptian port, places some responsibility of what next happened upon them, as well as upon Israel.
But the background of why there is a Gaza blockade, and why the “flotilla” was rightly seen as a possible attempt to smuggle arms, armaments and offensive supplies to Hamas, must be viewed in the context of the refusal of Hamas, Hezbollah, Iran, Syria, al-Qaeda and the bulk of Arab and Moslem countries to still accept Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish State in the middle of the Middle East. It is wrong and intellectually dishonest to isolate this unfortunate incident from history.
In this instance, Israel may be guilty of poor planning and a failure in intelligence-gathering. But it cannot and should not be found guilty of trying to protect its very existence from an implacable, untrustworthy enemy. And it surely shouldn’t be subjected to a double standard in the face of what was clearly a public relations “set-up” by groups aligned with or sympathetic to Hamas and its ilk.