“Delegitimization and Defense”
The queries/comments of a couple of readers has motivated me to return to the whole issue of delegitimization and how Israel handles herself. A clarification is in order:
We must stand for what we know is right for us — what most properly reflects our rights — without backing down in the face of world criticism.
The key example right now: Some countries think the poor Gazans are suffering and that we should let those “humanitarian” ships of the Flotilla get to Gaza to unload their goods. Do we back off in the face of this criticism? Most certainly not.
Our prime minister has put out the word: Do what must be done (while avoiding loss of life when possible) in order to insure that those ships do NOT break the blockade. If some of the “participants” on the ships end up dead, so be it — and if the world disapproves, that’s the way it goes. We will be doing what international law permits, and what our security requires.
But this is not to say that we have no concern about what the world thinks. There definitely is concern, and, I believe, properly so. The flip side of doing what we have a right to do, what we must do for ourselves, is making certain that the world at large understands all the parameters. It’s a question of making our case within the international community as effectively as we possibly can. Historically, this has been Israel’s weak point.
So now we’re putting out material on improvement in the conditions in Gaza, and on our legal rights to sustain a naval blockade against an enemy. We’re sending emissaries to visit various capitals to explain, and to seek assistance. And we’re preparing now to make our case after the fact — with journalists on board the Israeli ships who will be able to instantly transmit what transpires, so that there cannot be misrepresentation and false accusation. This is wise.
Rely on history, on legal precedent and calls for protection of Jewish rights. Make it clear to the world — to whatever degree the world is ready to see it — what Israel’s legitimate position is.
I can hear the moans, even as I write this: Yea, sure, like the world will care what Israel’s legitimate position is.
There are those nations so caught into anti-Semitic viewpoints, or so beholden politically or economically to our enemies, that they will never see. But there are some that can be convinced when a solid and cogent case is made. And it’s our job to make it.
The question, then, is why the understanding of the nations of the world should matter to us in the slightest. There are those who believe that we need court no friends, no understanding. But this is a bit naive in today’s world.
Via boycotts, sanctions and divestment, there are nations of the world that can make things quite tough for us: It does matter if we are read out of economic agreements, or our scientists are barred from conferences where important information is shared.
It matters in terms of votes in international forums, and in a host of other ways — such as logistical support for blocking the smuggling of weapons into Gaza.
Right now something is going on that demonstrates in real terms what happens when our relationship with another country is good.
Friday night, the “Audacity of Hope” carrying 36 American passengers, four crew members, and a handful of members of the media, tried to set sail from the port of Perama, near Athens. But Greek coast guard speedboats stopped the ship, and took the captain into custody. He will face a court hearing on charges of trying to leave port without permission and of endangering the lives of the boat’s passengers (I believe because the vessel was not sea-worthy).
It did my heart considerable good to see a video of armed officials — Greek armed officials, not Israeli — boarding this ship to arrest the captain.
And why is this happening? Menachem Gantz — in “Our new friend, Greece” — gives a splendid overview:
“For a whole year, organizers of the second ‘freedom flotilla’ to Gaza have been preparing for the climax: A media-covered confrontation, violent or not, with IDF soldiers at sea. For a long year they were engaged in eliciting millions of Euros for the purchase of vessels, recruitment of a crew, the organization of activists, ties with the media and the setting up of an international operation.
“…Yet…the flotilla is stuck in Athens and it’s unclear when it would be able to set sail…
“Every day, more journalists quit, key figures such as parliament members become impatient, and the flotilla becomes less interesting.
“It appears that organizers did not take one thing into account: Greece’s attitude to the flotilla and that dramatic change this year in Israel-Greece ties. Similarly to Turkey, Greece was considered fertile ground for planning and executing the flotilla. The moment Turkey announced that it was withdrawing its support, Greece became the more natural default option. The country was always considered a pro-Arabic state and an enthused supporter of the Palestinians…
“However, this year Greece’s prime minister decided to reshuffle the deck…
“In the current crisis, Greece is a greater believer in American power and in the influence of American Jewry. Last year, Greece’s prime minister visited in Jerusalem, and PM Netanyahu headed to Greece immediately after that, thereby marking a fundamental change in the ties between the two countries. Mutual visits by ministers led to frequent trips by officials and journalists, strategic ties developed considerably, and hundreds of thousands of Israelis headed for vacations in the Greek islands.
“Officials in Jerusalem are now seeing the results of this change. Every day that passes without the flotilla setting sail marks yet another Greek reward for the State of Israel. Thus far, the Greeks did everything in their power to prevent the flotilla from heading out…
“If last year flotilla organizers managed to surprise Israel and the IDF, this year it was Greece that surprised the organizers. The Greek determination to stop an American vessel, as happened Friday, is unprecedented. The Greeks intend to go as far as they can: Greek officials already expressed doubts whether the flotilla will be setting sail in the coming days.”
So international understanding and support can make a difference.
And there’s more: Yesterday the Quartet — the US, the EU, the UN, and Russia — released a statement indicating that while there was still concern about “unsustainable conditions” in Gaza, there has been a marked increase in the quantity and nature of goods being permitted into Gaza. And, said the Quartet statement, Israel “has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded.”
Really now? This is a bit of a switch.
The Quartet urges parties wishing to deliver goods to the people of Gaza to do so through “established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings.”
And it “…calls on all governments concerned to use their influence to discourage additional flotillas.”
Seems a turning in the tide of international opinion, does it not?
All to the good, if the international community acts so that the Israeli navy may not have to.
And it’s worth noting that the same Quartet statement yesterday called for an end to the “deplorable five-year detention of Gilad Shalit.”
What may be the imminent demise of the Flotilla 2 venture had other causes as well. The Israeli government has done a superb job in garnering intelligence on the operation.
And Shurat HaDin, the Israel Law Center, has worked tirelessly to put up stumbling blocks to the Flotilla via legal efforts. Perhaps most recently, a civil suit was filed against the global satellite company Inmarsat, alleging that it was providing communication services to ships used by suspected terror organizations in the Gaza flotilla.
Previously, Shurat HaDin had submitted a complaint to the Greek Coast Guard suggesting that seven of the ships planning to join the Flotilla might be lacking insurance or were improperly registered. This was after the Law Center had contacted some 30 maritime insurance providers to warn that insuring the vessels may leave the companies open to prosecution for aiding a terrorist organization. Several insurance companies, including Lloyds of London, subsequently said they would not insure the ships.
And so, as I write, the whole “Flotilla” venture is looking a bit doubtful.
But those determined to give Israel a difficult time, and a black eye, are already gearing up for their next gambit. A “Welcome to Palestine” Facebook page that was set up a couple of months ago is now urging “activists” associated with 40 different groups to fly into Ben Gurion airport on July 8.
The plan is to have these people — some estimates say as many as 700 — then travel to places such as Ramallah and Bethlehem for tours and visits. The international community, meanwhile (here we go again), is being urged “to recognize the Palestinians’ basic right to host visitors from overseas.”
The goal here, of course, is not to break the Gaza blockade, but rather to cause an uproar that will embarrass Israel and attract international attention. The Foreign Ministry of Israel, therefore, is taking this seriously and making appropriate preparations.
But there is hardly panic. Said Ministry spokesman:
“We don’t think such internet initiatives can be dismissed. The activists are motivated, and buying an airline ticket is easier than arriving by boat. This has to be taken seriously.
“There are known groups who are trying to stage ‘organized embarrassments’ for Israel, especially in illegal manners. Those who fail at sea are doomed to fail here, too.”
One report indicates that visitors, on arriving, will declare “Palestine” as their destination. They will be deported.