Tuesday, June 1, 2010

A Thought about the Flotilla Incident

I don’t have anything distinctive to say about the issues that gave rise to the deaths on the Turkish aid ship, viz., the wisdom and morality of Israel’s blockade of Gaza. It’s at best an act of calculated cruelty, and it’s probably self-defeating as a tactic for restraining Hamas in any case. If you ask me, Israel needs a new policy.

But that doesn’t make reactions like this from Von over at Obsidian Wings any less perplexing:

“I am trying to stay open to new facts and possibilities, but I am having trouble imagining facts that exonerate the folks who greenlighted this raid. This whole mess seems predictable in the extreme, including the fall out, and a bunch of people are now dead for no good reason. Possibly, a war crime has been committed. Unless there's some stunning new development, the blame for this debacle/tragedy seems to lie squarely on an overwhelmed and incompetent Israeli leadership.”
Is it really so hard to figure out what the Israeli government was thinking?  Yes, the decision to board the Turkish vessel from a helicopter was a terrible miscalculation, but it wasn’t a matter of inept maritime police work or of bellicose intentions. The Israeli government may be as “overwhelmed and incompetent” as Von thinks it is, but it knows how to run military or para-military operations as well as any government on earth.

It seems pretty obvious to me that Israel’s mistake was in believing that it was joining the Turkish government in stage-managing a theatrical production that would enable each side to make its point and go home. The Israelis were out to show the world that they’re determined to maintain the Gaza blockade in the face of world-wide opposition. They clearly expected that Turkish nationals acting with the consent of their government would be content to turn around and go home after they’d shown the world what heartless bastards the Israelis are.

From the Israeli standpoint, then, all of this was supposed to be a pageant in which the helicopters were just expensive stage props and the soldiers were just bit players. Israeli commandos wouldn’t have descended from the helicopter with only paint-guns drawn if they thought they were about to be met by humanitarians swinging lead pipes. We don’t know how the Turkish production was supposed to end (probably not, I hope, with ten martyrs) just that Israelis following the wrong script was essential to its plot.

So, by all means, blame the Israeli government for presuming that it could still count on the Turkish government’s tacit cooperation in matters involving the Palestinians. But the idea that Israel was willfully escalating the conflict over Gaza doesn’t make much sense.

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