It’s Time to Stop Demonizing Israel

The flood of hypocrisy and bad faith that seems to have just been waiting across the media worldwide for the Mavi Marmara is by no means acceptable.

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Of course, my position hasn’t changed. As I said the day it happened, during a fierce debate in Tel Aviv with one of Benjamin Netanyahu’s ministers, I continue to find the manner in which the assault against the Mavi Marmara and its flotilla was effected off the Gaza coast to be “stupid.”

French philosopher Bernard Henri-Levy

If I’d had any remaining doubt, the inspection of the seventh boat − carried out without a trace of violence Saturday morning − would have convinced me there were other ways Israel could have operated to have kept the tactical and PR trap set by the provocateurs of Free Gaza from snapping shut, and with blood spilled.

That said and repeated, the flood of hypocrisy, bad faith and, ultimately, disinformation that seems to have just been waiting for this pretext to flow into the breach and sweep across the media worldwide − as is the case every time the Jewish state slips up and commits an error − is by no means acceptable.

The catchphrase being trotted out ad nauseum refers to the blockade imposed “by Israel.” The most elementary honesty, however, requires one to make clear that this blockade has been undertaken by both Israel and Egypt, conjointly, along the borders of the two countries that share frontiers with Gaza, and with the thinly disguised blessing of all the moderate Arab regimes. Saying the blockade has been imposed by Israel alone can only be described as disinformation. The moderate Arab regimes, of course, are only too happy to have someone else contain the influence of this armed extension, this advanced base and, perhaps one day, this aircraft-carrier of Iran in the region.

The very idea of a “total and merciless” blockade ‏(Laurent Joffrin’s June 5 editorial in the French daily Liberation‏) “taking hostage the humanity [of Gaza]” ‏(former French prime minister Dominique de Villepin in Le Monde on the same date‏) also constitutes disinformation. We mustn’t tire of reminding others: the blockade concerns only arms and the material needed to manufacture them. It does not prevent the daily arrival, via Israel, of between 100 and 120 trucks laden with foodstuffs, medical supplies and humanitarian goods of every kind. Humanity is not “in danger” in Gaza, and it is a lie to state that people are “dying of hunger” in the streets of Gaza City.

It is debatable whether or not a military blockade is the right course of action to weaken and, one day, bring down the fascislamist government of Ismail Haniyeh. But it is an indisputable fact that the Israelis who man the checkpoints between the territories night and day are the first to make the elementary but essential distinction between the regime ‏(that they seek to isolate‏) and the population ‏(which they are careful not to confuse with the regime, and in particular not to penalize as, once again, aid has never stopped passing into Gaza‏).

Disinformation: the utter silence, throughout the world, about Hamas’ incredible attitude now that the flotilla has carried out its symbolic duty − to trap the Jewish state and relaunch, as never before, the process of demonization. In other words, now that the Israelis have carried out their inspection and brought the aid cargo to those for whom it was supposedly intended, Hamas’ attitude in blocking that aid at Kerem Shalom checkpoint, allowing it to slowly rot, is met with silence.

To hell with any merchandise that has passed through the hands of Jewish customs! Chuck out the “toys” that brought tears to the eyes of good European souls, but became impure after spending too many long hours in the Israeli port of Ashdod! Gaza’s children have been used as nothing more than a human shield for the Islamist gang who took power by force three years ago, or cannon fodder or media vignettes. The children’s games or their wishes are the last thing anyone in the Strip worries about, but who says so? Who shows the slightest indignation?

Liberation recently ran an awful headline − “Israel, Pirate State” − which, if words still mean anything, can only contribute to the delegitimization of the Jewish state. Who will dare explain that, if there is a hostage-taker in Gaza, one who coldly and unscrupulously takes advantage of people’s suffering and, in particular, that of the children − in sum, a pirate − it is not Israel but Hamas?

Laughable, but given the strategic context, catastrophic disinformation was clearly seen in the speech given in Konya, in central Turkey, by a prime minister who throws in prison anyone who dares to evoke the genocide of the Armenians in public, but who has the nerve, there, before thousands of fired-up demonstrators yelling anti-Semitic slogans, to denounce Israeli “state terrorism.” Still more disinformation: the lament of the useful idiots who, before Israel did, fell into the clutches of these strange “humanitarians” who, in the case of the Turkish IHH, are Jihad enthusiasts, anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish apocalyptical fanatics, both men and women − some of whom, just days before the incident, expressed their wish to “die as martyrs.” ‏(The Guardian, June 3; Al Aqsa TV, May 30‏).

How can a writer of the calibre of Sweden’s Henning Mankell allow himself to be taken advantage of this way? When he tells us he is thinking of forbidding the translation of his books into Hebrew, how can he really forget the sacrosanct distinction between a stupid or wrong-headed government and the masses of those who do not identify with it? How can a chain of cinemas ‏(Utopia‏) in France decide to cancel the release of a film, “A Cinq heures de Paris,” in the same way, simply because its writer, Leonid Prudovsky, is an Israeli citizen?

Finally, the battalions of Tartuffes who regret that Israel is declining the demand for an international inquiry are disinformers as well. The truth is, once again, much simpler and more logical: What Israel is refusing is an inquiry requested by the UN Human Rights Council, where those great democrats − the Cubans, Pakistanis and Iranians − reign. What Israel does not want is a procedure of the kind that resulted in the famous Goldstone report, commissioned after Operation Cast Lead in Gaza. The five judges on that sympathetic commission − four of whom had never made a secret of their militant anti-Zionism − wrapped up 575 pages of interviews of Palestinian fighters and civilians, conducted under the watchful eye of Hamas political commissioners ‏(an absolute and unprecedented heresy in this kind of work‏), in a matter of mere days.

Such a botched inquiry would amount to a masquerade of international justice, something Israel simply cannot stand for. Its conclusions would be known in advance and would only serve to haul, as usual and perfectly unilaterally, the region’s sole and unique democracy into the defendants’ dock.

One last word. For a man like me, someone who takes pride in having helped to conceive, with others, this kind of symbolic action ‏(the boat for Vietnam; the march for the survival of Cambodia in 1979; various and sundry anti-totalitarian boycotts and, more recently, the deliberate violation of the Sudan border to break the blockade hiding the perpetration of massacres in Darfur‏) − in other words, for a militant of humanitarian interference and all the media fuss that goes with it, this pathetic saga has something of a caricature to it, a gloomy grimace of destiny.

But this is all the more reason not to give in. All the more reason to reject this confusing of genres, this inversion of values. All the more reason to resist this hijacking of meaning, that places the very spirit of a policy conceived to counter the intent of barbarians at their service.

Destitution of the anti-totalitarian dialectic, its imitations and its reversals. Confusion of an era when we combat democracies as if they were dictatorships or fascist states. This maelstrom of hatred and madness is about Israel. But it also concerns, as we should be well aware, some of the most precious things established in the movement of ideas in the last 30 years, especially on the left, and these are thus imperiled. A word to the wise is sufficient.

Translated from the French by Janet Lizop.



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