Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Department of Needless Pain and Anxiety

It is with a heavy, heavy heart that I learn about the newest Israeli miscalculation in Gaza. The Israelis are used to explaining and countering and defending themselves, but it is getting increasingly hard to swallow their explanations.
Obviously, a vessel that deliberately tries to break a military blockade is looking for trouble. The whole exercise is designed not only to bring aid to those who need it, but to make Israel fall into a public relations trap. Which, astoundingly and stupidly, it did. A civilian vessel, with civilians inside, carrying humanitarian aid to civilians, defying a blockade which is mostly punishing the civilian people of Gaza. And what does Israel do? Needlessly storm the ship in international waters. Israel offered to dock the boats in Ashdod and search the aid before sending it to Gaza to ensure no arms smuggling. The flotilla would not have that. They wanted to go directly to Gaza and do it themselves. It is a gutsy provocation and one that should have been dealt with a lot more cunning and a lot less brute force.
Israel needs to start winning the international public relations war, instead of coming up with farkakte military operations that are impossible to justify morally and that set back the hopes for peace in the region. As I write this, Netanyahu is saying that no matter what the world thinks, he's sticking to his guns. This policy of who is mas macho is going to end up hurting Israel and the Jews.
What would happen if aid was permitted, and Israel tried playing the role of good cop, instead of the bad cop? How would Hamas react? This blockade has similar unintended consequences as the Cuban embargo: it helps the enemy, it makes them stronger.
Israeli Army leadership either has extraordinary tunnel vision or they fail to see or care about how this is plays out in the world. But the consequences of such an irresponsible strategy, so badly implemented are dire and global. Gone are the days in which something happened in that crazy part of our planet and the repercussions weren't a threat to the stability of the entire world and to the safety of Jews everywhere. This is not Israel's mission in the world, to make it a more unsafe place for Jews inside and outside its borders. But this is where the occupation is leading.
I am a staunch supporter of Israel and its right to exist in peace in the world. But as Mario Vargas Llosa has said, and I paraphrase, at this stage, the occupation has reached grotesque levels (and he is a friend). 
The Israelis are not only becoming tone deaf. They are squandering the little good will they accrued since 9/11. They are ostracizing themselves once again from the community of nations. I agree with many Israelis and Jews who feel that some actions of the occupation now go way beyond a guarantee for safety. In fact, the occupation creates a climate of feverish hostility to both Israel and the Jews, more of a threat to stability, plus it is morally incompatible not only with a democratic state, but with the core principles of Judaism and with the lessons from our painful history.
The world does not have a long memory. The world does not want to look at the ancient thread of hostility and at who started what. The world looks at hundreds of thousands of suffering people right now, and it is outraged.
And frankly, so am I.
I have been reading the commentary in Israeli newspaper Haaretz and it's a shitstorm in Israel, where there is healthy, vocal dissent. This is a reminder to my Jewish friends that it is possible to love and support Israel without scrambling to justify the indefensible. Here are some links from Israeli newspaper Haaretz that reflect my feelings about this entire mess.


  1. mooki7:02 PM

    excellently said, as usual my friend.

  2. I have to said something as a non-religious Jew myself. Any religious State is going to have the same problems that Israel has. You cannot support a whole State on religion, and this goes for the Muslim and Christian (or Catholic) countries too. As much as I want a safe place for the Jews a religious State is a paradox that cannot sustain itself.

  3. gloriasalt@aol.com10:34 AM

    thanks for your comments.. I so want to love Israel and be blind to her faults, but as you say it becomes increasingly difficult-- the way I stay in relation to her is to believe that we must continue to love our family even when they do horrible things,yet,we may still enact an intervention and set limits for them.Time for all of us to say..dayenu..