How the U.S. Corporate Media Got the Israel Flotilla Catastrophe So Wrong
Israel's official statements about the flotilla were terrible. But our media's treatment of the situation was just as bad.
Amid the continuing fallout over the deadly confrontation aboard the Gaza aid ship, Mavi Marmara, there is a critical historical lesson: There is only one real victim, and that is Israel. Sure, the “small, isolated” nation may appear to have been the aggressor, having surrounded a humanitarian convoy in international waters with naval assault boats and helicopters before storming in with heavily armed elite forces killing and wounding dozens of civilians, but it was acting in self-defense.
Appearances are deceiving because understanding Israel’s eternal victimhood requires the proper mindset. And once you have the proper mindset, there is no need for facts. Atlantic Monthly’s Jeffrey Goldberg, who has been hanging “around a lot of Israeli generals lately,” kindly advises us that there should be “no particular pain felt for the dead on the boat.” On the other hand, “There's real pain in Israel...pain at the humiliation of the flotilla raid, pain on behalf of the injured soldiers, and pain that the geniuses who run this country could not figure out a way to outsmart a bunch of Turkish Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers.”
Some might ask if we should feel “no particular pain” for the dead of Sept. 11. Or perhaps we should follow the lead of the White House – which sees no point in condemning Israel’s killing of civilians in the flotilla because “Nothing can bring them back” – and not condemn the architects of Sept. 11 or the Madrid and London bombings because that won’t bring back the dead. But that is the thinking of “idiot fellow travelers.”
Hillary Clinton provides further insight, explaining how benighted Arabs who “are not sure what democracy means” should look to Israel – “a beacon of democracy” – as an example. We can now draw the first conclusion: only Israelis experience pain, while Arabs are not evolved enough to grasp the concept of democracy, Israelis are the only true humans worthy of our sympathy. A point the Washington Post understands, stating, “We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla.”
A second principle, Clinton explains, is that only Israel has “legitimate security needs,” whereas Palestinians’ “legitimate needs” are limited to “sustained humanitarian assistance and regular access to reconstruction materials.” Because Palestinians “are not sure what democracy means,” their needs do not include an end to the siege, basic human rights or a viable state.
We should also assume Israel is a “peace-loving society” that offered to escort the flotilla of “naiveté and malice” to the “Ashdod Port and arrange for the delivery of their supplies to Gaza, after security checks, over land.” It was just trying to prevent “the flow of seaborne military supplies to Hamas,” the Israeli ambassador wrote in the New York Times. The New Republic reveals another conclusion: The incident involved “a ship of terrorists” attempting “to open an arms importation route to Gaza.” Once again, the Washington Post provides the only context we need to consider, “So far there’s been no indication the boats carried missiles or other arms for Hamas.” One could add that so far there’s been no indication the boats carried chemical, biological or nuclear weapons for Hamas.
One can never be sure because Israel’s enemies are so sinister that Washington Post columnist Charles Krauthammer alone comprehends that “the point understood by the blockade-busting flotilla of useful idiots and terror sympathizers … is to deprive Israel of any legitimate form of self-defense.” Krauthammer deduces brilliantly, “The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million – that number again – hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists – Iranian in particular – openly prepare a more final solution.”
If you’ve been paying attention, you can see that if Israel let the flotilla deliver food and medicine to Gaza, it would inevitably result in a second Holocaust.
Israel was only asking to search the flotilla’s cargo for banned “war material” such as coriander, ginger, nutmeg, dried fruit, fabric for clothing, nuts, musical instruments, chickens, donkeys, horses, fishing rods and newspapers.
Reports about Israel’s years-long siege of Gaza – where “more than 60 percent of families do not have enough food to eat, there are daily electricity cuts and the water network is operating far below capacity,” or how Israel allowed in less than 25 trucks of supplies a day on average until recently whereas “Gaza requires a minimum of 400 trucks a day to meet basic nutritional needs” – are irrelevant. Sure, Israeli policy may be to “put the Palestinians on a diet,” fulfilling Army chief Gen. Rafeal Eitan’s longing to turn Arabs into “drugged cockroaches in a bottle,” but the “humanitarian situation in Gaza is good and stable” and people there dine out on “beef stroganoff and cream of spinach soup.” Providing added confirmation, the New York Times observes that in Gaza “daily life, while troubled, often has the staggering quality of the very ordinary,” a quality that would have applied to Soviet gulags, Japanese internment camps, the Warsaw Ghetto, South Africa’s Bantustans and South Vietnam’s strategic hamlets.
Still, we should not lose sight of the fact that the Palestinians of Gaza are such a primitive species that Israel has determined they need only 100 items on a “complex and ever-changing list of goods” for a “good and stable” life as opposed to the 4,000 types of goods allowed in before the severe blockade imposed in June 2007 or the 10,000-15,000 items that can be found in a large Israeli supermarket.
In any case, “concern for Gaza and Israel’s blockade is so out of balance,” counsels Thomas Friedman, who excels in his role as the third grader explaining how the world works at the second-grade lunch table. He suggests we focus concern instead on the bombings of mosques of an Islamic sect in Pakistan, the killings of activists in Iran and the trashing of a children’s summer camp in Gaza.
But noble-minded Israel still shows concern. Just as it is always seeking peace with hostile Arab neighbors bent on annihilating it, Israel was willing to deliver supplies that are in abundance in Gaza in spite of the “Gazan terrorists [in charge] who proclaim their goal is to destroy Israel.” So “if anyone goes without food, shelter or medicine, that is by the choice of the Hamas government.” “The likely outcome” will be that the people of Gaza “will be abandoned. … to be ruled by the ruthless and undemocratic Hamas regime without the international community's protests or objections.” Therefore, we can see how the aid flotilla will make things worse for the people of Gaza – whom Israel is trying to help – by leaving them in the hands of the “ruthless” terrorists.
It’s another example of how Israel is victimized, like when it selflessly disengaged from Gaza in 2005. But Israel’s generosity, including firing more than 7,700 artillery shells into northern Gaza in less than a year after its withdrawal, was met with Hamas rockets, which is why one senior Israeli official had to threaten Palestinians with a “bigger shoah.” Some claim “Israel remains the occupying Power as technological developments have made it possible for Israel to assert control over the people of Gaza without a permanent military presence,” but this is the view of terrorist sympathizers like former U.N. Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories John Dugard. Then there are “Hamas sympathizers” who ask why, if Israel disengaged from Gaza, does it still control its coast, airspace, borders, commerce, fuel, water and electricity; why have Israel and the United States rejected Palestinian and Arab offers of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders for some 40 years; and why has Israel sabotaged virtually every ceasefire Fatah and Hamas have agreed to in recent years, even unilateral ones.
These misperceptions persist because they fail to grasp the postulate that Israel only “responds” to attacks from the sub-human Arabs. Dugard and his ilk claim, “History is replete with examples of military occupation that have been resisted by violence – acts of terror,” and while “such acts cannot be justified, they must be understood as being a painful but inevitable consequence of colonialism, apartheid or occupation.” The Hamas apologists even include current Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who once said, “If I were a Palestinian, I would join a terror organization.” This talk should not lull us into seeing the Palestinians as victims because they do have rights. They “have the right to remain silent while Israel starves them, kills them and continues to violently colonize their land.”
Now we can correctly perceive the confrontation between Israel and the “hateful terrorist sympathizer[s]”. Because the U.S. and U.K. understand the issue is Israel’s right to defend itself, the question we should be asking is how naïve, little Israel was outsmarted by “Islamists and their useful idiot fellow travelers,” who were responsible for and welcomed the bloodshed. The flotilla “aimed to provoke a confrontation” and was intended “‘to break’ Israel’s blockade of Gaza,” noted Leslie Gelb, the dean of the U.S. foreign policy establishment, echoing the line from Fox News to the Washington Post. The paper of record indicated that organizers wanted to provoke a “violent response from Israel,” agreeing with the Jerusalem Post, which stated the “‘peace militants’ … attacked the soldiers who boarded the ship with guns, iron bars and knives and led to the dire results they were looking for.” This fact did not escape the Obama White House, with one “senior” official saying, “the organizers of the flotilla were clearly seeking a confrontation – and tragically they got one.”
Ever restrained, the Jerusalem Post connects the dots. Because the “peace militants … hatred towards Israel knows no bounds,” and “wanted to cause some damage, no matter the cost for them,” they are like suicide bombers because “the aim justifies the means.” If the lesson is still unclear, Max Boot, Leslie Gelb’s colleague on the Council of Foreign Relations, spells it out in the Wall Street Journal. The “blood was on the hand of the pro-Hamas activists” because “Israel, like the United States and other democratic nations, is at a severe disadvantage trying to combat a ruthless foe willing to sacrifice its own people to score propaganda points.” Boot may be too generous in calling the activists “pro-Hamas,” however. The Israeli ambassador reveals they are actually Hamas’ “sponsors [who] cower behind shipments of seemingly innocent aid.”
Passengers may have included European legislators, U.S. diplomats, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Israelis, artists, historians, doctors, clergy and journalists from around the world. But Israel was not battling civilians on a “mission of mercy,” writes the great humanitarian Marty Peretz. In fact, the Turkish sponsor, the Humanitarian Relief Fund, “is said to have ties to Al Qaeda. Which would be logical since Al Qaeda is an ally of Hamas.” Furthermore, Peretz illuminates, Hamas is the “Gazan outpost of the global jihad” and “second cousin once-removed of Hezbollah.” Thus, in stopping the aid flotilla, Israel was really battling a branch of the devious global jihad that hates the West irrationally. (Hamas is also “an Iranian pawn,” which may seem confusing because Iran and Al Qaeda are fierce enemies, as are Hamas and Al Qaeda, but such are the complexities of the Middle East that only experts like Peretz can divine.)
Prior to the deadly attack, there were eight previous attempts to deliver aid by sea, including ships that Israel chose not to confront and which delivered goods to Gaza without incident. This time, the Israeli navy spent “many weeks … preparing to meet the flotilla,” the military admitted three days before the raid that it planned to use violence, and the Israelis warned the captains of each ship while in international waters that “lethal force would be used if they persisted.” Despite all this, we learn from the Wall Street Journal, Israel “walked into a trap set by a flotilla of Hamas sympathizers;” from the New York Times, it “blundered” into a trap; from the L.A. Times, it “fell into a trap;” from the Financial Times, it “sail[ed] into a Turkish trap; and from the Guardian, it was “lure[d] … into a trap.”
If it seems curious that prominent media all conclude that golden-hearted Israel was duped, such is the “blatant double standard” applied to the “small, isolated” nation that “is destined and compelled, like a puppet on a string, to react the way it did.” That double standard also requires that the Israeli ambassador, counsel generals, embassy officials, academics, novelists, and journalists, and their American supporters, be given a largely unchallenged platform in the mainstream media.
The task at this point would appear to be disentangling what happened during the actual raid. For instance, why were the “outnumbered, under-equipped and incorrectly prepared commandos” – who also happen to be “the best trained and most effective in the world” – “taken off guard by a group of Arabic-speaking men”? Why has one journalist, Max Blumenthal, been able to force Israeli officials to admit they doctored photos and audio clips released after raid or show they falsely claimed five passengers were “active terror operatives”? Why have eyewitnesses on the Mavi Marmara said “live ammunition was fired before any Israeli soldier was on deck,” and “The Israeli navy fired on the ships five minutes before commandos descended from ropes that dangled from helicopters”? There are also the questions that Uri Avnery has compiled, such as why is Israel claiming Gaza’s territorial waters are part of Israel’s territorial waters when it has “separated” from it; why were five people on the Mavi Marmara shot in the back; “What is the source of the lie that the Turks called out ‘Go back to Auschwitz’”; and “Who invented the story that the activists had brought with them deadly weapons”?
All these questions miss the point. Israel is still the victim, even if it’s a “self-inflicted wound,” so say the Times from New York to L.A. You see, Israel made the mistake of trying to justify its actions with evidence. It forgot that reality has a well-known terrorist bias. When the facts sympathize with Hamas, terrorists and drugged cockroaches, Israel needs to dispense with the facts. Because we know Israel is the eternal victim that is all we need to know. All that matters is how Israel says it perceives the situation.
Arie (Lova) Eliav, one of the “granddaddies of the Israeli Left” and a founder of Labor Party, who died literally hours before the raid on the flotilla, put it best in an interview six years ago, saying, “We acted as they would have done to us.” While he was speaking about Israel’s founding war of aggression, the statement justifies every actual Israeli atrocity since 1947 and any future one. Since Israel is confronting “ruthless, indiscriminate animals” its response is only limited by the imagination. After all, according to the Obama administration, “the president has always said it will be much easier for Israel to make peace if Israel feels secure.” And how does Israel feel? “Israel has long seen itself as the Alamo, a fortress under the siege,” a former U.S. ambassador to Israel explains.
The next time there is news about Israel killing activists, massacring children, bombing a refugee camp or perhaps obliterating an entire country, there is no need to pay attention to the facts. All you need to know is Israel, the eternal victim that says it will never feel secure, is just responding to some terrorist. And once the last ruthless animal is exterminated, there will be “peace.”
Arun Gupta is a founding editor of The Indypendent newspaper.