Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Little Boats

She's damned if she does and damned if she don't. A flotilla - the word sounds so inoffensive - of fragile little boats sets sail from Turkish waters to bring much-needed 'aid' to the beleaguered Gazans, as the world gazes down in sympathy. On board are 'dissidents', 'Free Gaza activists' and others, including a Nobel prizewinner and a Holocaust survivor who, it would appear, engorged with moral outrage at the despicable Israeli tactic of preventing weapons smuggling, intended to deliver the contents personally, where, it was alleged, a hero's welcome awaited them. Smoke and mirrors, froth and bubbles. Whoever is running Hamas' propaganda unit, he or she is the one deserving a Palme d'Or.

Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas violently seized control in June 2007. I wonder whether the anniversary of Dunkirk was deliberately chosen.

Some claim that the demonstrators attacked IDF commandos with guns and other weapons, which is policyspeak for 'the bastards fired on us'. There is evidence that the boarding party was set upon first with knives and metal rods which shifts responsibility from the political and military decision-makers to the soldiers, who acted in the heat of provocation and combat and quite properly fought back. One indeed was thrown overboard. No point in sending armed men if all they have to do is be reasonable. It may be convenient to Netanyahu and his partners in government to present the battle as a local incident that escalated – but they cannot, unfortunately, escape responsibility. Exactly what Hamas wanted. The clumsier and more politically inept  Israel can be made to look, the more sympathy is garnered toward  those who seek to bring her to her knees and it should not be forgotten that the rulers in Gaza are classified as a terrorist organisation. If a minority authority elects such people to attempt to govern it, they have only themselves to blame if those whom they have sworn to drive into the sea reciprocate using men with guns.

Operationally, Israel came out on top; of course they did - they have superb tacticians. Moshe Yaalon, and the defense minister, Ehud Barak, are both former chiefs of staff. Between them, they have almost matchless experience of military planning and combat. Netanyahu - a former elite commando - has a formidable intelligence and operational record. Of course the Israelis will win tactically if they bring Hamas to battle, but their very superiority on the battlefield is what brings about the propaganda losses they invariably suffer. The world wants a Palestine and doesn't understand why Israelis can't give it. The problem here is mindset. Both Hamas and Israel see themselves at war and the world has made a choice based on what looks like fairness, but is spectacularly ignorant of the cultural milieu on the ground. Article 13 of the Hamas Charter is particularly instructive.

The UN and almost everyone else think that they deserve some answers. Fine. Let the roasting begin, but all sides and most particularly those allied with organisations with a history of Islamic militancy should be prepared for the odd cockroach to  flee from the flames. Let him that lacks wisdom...


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