Through Israeli Eyes: The Flotilla of Terror

Israeli Pro-flotilla demonstration at Ashdod Dock ~Photography by Gal Lugassi

Though you couldn’t tell from the mainstream media, some citizens of Israel spent the past week running from demonstration to demonstration. Not in our name will unarmed civilians be murdered at sea. Not in our name will over a million people (the majority of which are children) be held under a horrifically violent siege. So we screamed our lungs out, and around 10,000 Israelis marched the streets of Tel-Aviv, last saturday. Around the world hundreds of thousands, knowing exactly how their hard-earned tax money is used, hit the streets, carrying the same message: “Not in our names.”

Of Terror Attacks, Lynches and Unprecedented Violence
In Israel, however, you couldn’t guess this is what was going on, because in Israel, like any other successful totalitarian regime, once the state commits an act so heinous that one’s conscience might start hammering in one’s head, the propaganda machine is turned on to full power. Not only were the pro-flotilla demonstrations that took place this week not reported, unless there was a

Im Tirtzu demonstration at the Turkish embassy

nationalistic counter action by patriotic zealots, but while on my way, Tuesday morning, to the Ashkelon dock, to make sure the captured boats know that there are people here who support and need them, the radio was blurting out statements the likes of “an attack of unprecedented violence on IDF soldiers.” (from memory)

Later on, at home, between the morning demonstration at the dock and the evening demonstration at the Ministry of Defense, I surfed the news channels. All were showing the following shots (courtesy of the official IDF YouTube channel) in a never-ending loop. In the background, the anchor-people of established authority making deep analyses such as “our soldiers expected peace activists and ended up with a band of street fighters.” (from memory) The word “lynch” titling each and every shot:

The result of these immediate reports? A day later, a friend of mine went to the university, sporting a Kuffiah. She was harassed several times, but the most telling was the woman who said: “How dare you?! Right after a terror attack?!”

Naturally, written media is much easier to follow and quote. In a surprising role-reversal, the first reports most closely aspiring to objectivity came from Ynet (the most widely read news service in Israel), while Ha’aretz (that “traitor”’s paper) came out with the same IDF issued videos and statements time and time and time again. That said, at first, Ha’aretz did a considerably good job of non-bias reporting, with the article below:

Being familiar with Ha’aretz’s internet publishing policies of disappearing articles, I kept the above picture. Today – a week later — if you go to the same URL, you will find something completely different:

Israel Navy commandos: Gaza flotilla activists tried to lynch us

(For those of you not familiar with the semantics of the word “lynch”, in Israel, I recommend this article.)

These initial play-by-play reports were quickly followed by more “global” reporting:

Learning from the Goldstone Affair
While reports of condemnations from Turkey are coming in every few hours (is Turkey the next Iran?), little to no news seeps in of the world-wide condemnations, from what is referred to in Israel as “friendly countries.” Israel may be way beyond the bounds of rational thinking, but it’s still trying to save face. Learning from the Goldstone affair, Israel went for the internal inquiry option almost immediately, in a bid to avoid an external inquiry. Defense Minister Barak’s spokespeople also said (bolds by me):

Barak would also agree to the participation of an international observer on the committee, if necessary.

But lest we get exited, let it be clear that responsibility and accountability are not the idea behind this gesture of good will:

Defense Ministry officials told Army Radio that Barak would agree to the creation of the committee on the condition that IDF officers and soldiers would not be investigated.

And in case it wasn’t understood that image polishing is behind this move and not remorse (bolds by me):

“I don’t want the soldiers who were involved to have to appear before an international inquiry commission,” said MK Nir Hasson (Kadima), head of the State Control Committee. “The start of an inquiry by the State Comptroller will demonstrate that Israel has begun a serious internal investigation into what happened, which will lessen the motivation for an external probe.”

It’s the Hasbara, Stupid
Similar to Sabra and Shatila, Israel’s government believes the problem with what happened on the Mavi Marmara isn’t one of massacring civilians on a humanitarian aid convoy in international waters, but that of Hasbara. The mass media, of course, is right on board and our “top analysts” are calling the “operation” a failure (bolds by me):

…after the flotilla failure, I no longer believe in the ability of intelligence organizations and special forces to counter the challenges facing the State of Israel… In the case of the flotilla, Barak is responsible for the failure. Barak did not understand that Israel must not endanger the strategic alliance with Turkey and must not be seen as a terrorist state, operating as a pirate in international waters. Barak did not understand that undermining Israel’s legitimacy is a fatal blow to Israeli security… Netanyahu is undermining Israel’s international standing – he is isolating it and making it hated. He is not calming any of the fronts, only firing them up….Since the prime minister does not understand the essence of the campaign against Iran, he is losing it…

Personally, I got confused when “the campaign against Iran” came into play. What natural conclusion does political columnist and “top analyst”, Ari Shavit, reach after all this shameless blabber about failure that has nothing to do with ethics?

…a commission of inquiry will not solve a thing. Everything has already been said.
Therefore, it is our leaders’ duty to shorten the process: to admit their failure, learn their lessons and fix things. Create a government of national unity immediately. Set up a high-quality national task force immediately. Undertake a political initiative immediately. And we should immediately implement the recommendations of the Winograd Committee. The Second Lebanon War was a warning. Operation Cast Lead was another. Now the alarm has been sounded. Is Jerusalem listening?

So top analyst, Ari Shavit, doesn’t want an inquiry, because he knows all the answers. Do they include the murder of 9 people and wounding of dozens? No. Shavit’s conclusions are that this fascist state needs an even more uniform government (this after “opposition” leader Tzipi Livni said “In defending the IDF and the combat forces there is no coalition or opposition.”)  I’m not sure what the man means by “Set up a high-quality national task force immediately. Undertake a political initiative immediately”, but the mentioning of Winograd [Hebrew] can mean two things:

  1. The army didn’t use enough force. (This includes not acting in accordance with IDF ethics, such as “Adherence to the task, and fighting fiercely in order to achieve it.”)
  2. The army should improve its ability to act according to international law by “assimilating international law in the IDF” and “legal consultation during combat”. (The committee didn’t actually look into these matters because it discovered “positive findings”, it just got a lot of complaints from NGO’s.)

What warnings did the attack on Lebanon and Gaza serve? Was it the media debacle, or did we not use enough force? Or was it the use of the Dahiyeh doctrine?
Embedded “top analyst“, Anshel Pfeffer, fell into his own pseudological trap (bolds by me):

I don’t want to use this column to discuss the shortcomings of Israeli hasbara, as the implications of this event go well beyond public relations in their significance. But one thing that was very clear to me on Monday, as I watched the Israeli media strategy unfold before the television cameras at the Ashdod port, was how all the professional spokespersons swiftly fell back on the same comforting tropes that appeal only to the Israeli public and a shrinking group of die-hard supporters overseas. Even the experienced professionals, who should know better, could do no more than to convince the already convinced.

And reached the obvious conclusion that:

When the history of the Jewish people in the early 21st century is written, the conclusion will be unavoidable. In its hour of need Israel was let down by the Diaspora.

Umm… yeah….

(Not so) Diplomatic editor of the Israeli daily newspaper Ha’aretz, Aluf Benn, is much more clear and less confused (I’m not sure that serves to his credit):

Israel would inform the international community that it is abandoning all responsibility for Gaza residents and their welfare. The Israel-Gaza border would be completely sealed, and Gaza would have to obtain supplies and medical services via the Egyptian border, or by sea. A target date would be set for severing Gaza’s water and electricity systems from those of Israel. The customs union with Israel would end, and the shekel would cease to be Gaza’s legal tender. Let them print their own Palestinian currency, featuring portraits of Sheikh Ahmed Yassin.
Israel would also make it clear that it will exercise its right to self-defense by inspecting suspicious cargo on the high seas in order to thwart arms smuggling. That is also how the Western powers behave: They search cargo ships for nuclear weapons and missile components. And if we are shot at from Gaza, we will shoot back – with intent to cause harm. We have already proved that we can do so.

The Public has Spoken
With media like this, who needs government issued Hasbara? But the Israeli public isn’t satisfied. The “Flotilla Affair” wasn’t the only time the Israeli public has made comments about the Hasbara not being good enough. So the concerned citizens of the website Latma [Hebrew], satirizing mainstream media from the common, nationalistic point of view in Israel (=hate site, one step behind the S.H.I.T List), took matters into their own cynical hands:

Indeed, people capable of mature and sober satire.

When events such as this occur, I tend to say that I’m never surprised, but always shocked. The massacre on the Mavi Marmara is a shocking event, and yet the people of Israel could barely give a damn. It’s not in their consciousness beyond reality shows and upgrading their cellphones. This doesn’t shake their perception of what goes on here, only strengthens their paranoia. As we can see, the government, of course, strengthens this with statements from Ehud Barak along the lines of “if the flotilla breaks the siege, then a hundred more boats loaded with rockets will come next.” (from memory) And the media is in tune with the party line. But no matter how deeply entranced the Zionist conga line is, the massacre on the flotilla is, in fact, yet another point of no return. Just like the Gaza massacre, just like the Goldstone report. Is the world listening?

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