The Bitter Herbs of the Mavi Marmara

The Gaza flotilla incident challenged and embarrassed Israeli policy makers, finally defeating them. This is good for Israel in the long run, demonstrating the futility of living solely by the sword.

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Israel Navy forces approaching the Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza, May 31, 2010.
Israel Navy forces approaching the Mavi Marmara bound for Gaza, May 31, 2010.Credit: Reuters

Don’t belittle the fact that the victims were Turkish. Their nationality keeps the Mavi Marmara flotilla incident high on everyone’s agenda. The Turks have a state, a government, representatives at the United Nations and regional influence. The Palestinians have none of these. The moral lesson to be drawn from this is that if you die in a confrontation, at least be Turkish: never die as a Palestinian (not even as a citizen of Israel). Your death will then be like a grain of salt lost at sea. In October 2000, 13 Arab citizens were shot dead, and the shooters remain in the realm of UFO’s.

In stark contrast, the Mavi Marmara saga has demonstrated, let it be noted by all those pesky flotilla or fly-in demonstrators, that a terror incident is accepted here with greater resignation than an act of civil protest. People know how to behave when a terrorist strikes and all systems operate smoothly like a Swiss watch. The timing is perfect, from the sounding of sirens to the flashing lights of emergency vehicles to the fanning out of the Zaka crews (responsible for dealing with dead bodies). Even the confusion of media crews is glossed over now. Above it all hovers the sense of victimhood, the calming sensation that nothing can be done, that it’s a divine decree that we are doomed forever to live by the sword.

On top of it all, after a terror attack there is no need to sweat over tough questioning by the media. After the flotilla much sweat was shed in an effort to transform a few measly knives that would put to shame a kitchen at a midsize wedding hall into a glorious display of weapons for mass murder. One needed to perspire to explain how an unarmed group posed a threat to a well-trained commando unit, and why all nine victims were among the demonstrators. It should be noted that during the flight for peace that took place shortly after the flotilla, every precaution was taken and Israeli airspace was almost completely closed. No terror attack is accorded such respect.

Following the increased Palestinian and international civil struggle and the extreme Israeli response to it, the question that arises is what exactly does Israel want? On one hand no one, justifiably, wants murderous terror attacks, but no one accepts peaceful popular civil protests either. This struggle is depicted in the harshest terms – a civilian flotilla becomes worse than a missile attack, a demonstration against the separation fence is equivalent to a mass terror attack, a call to boycott produce from the settlements is equated to a mega-attack and an appeal to the International Court is the same as a war of annihilation.  In Arabic there is a saying that “one doesn’t know from which side to kiss a bald head”.  It’s high time that the country’s leaders tell us which is worse, the Mavi Marmara flotilla or the terrible suicide bombing at the Dolphinarium. I’m not sure the answer will reflect common sense.

The Palestinians have made their decision: a peaceful popular struggle. Even Barack Obama, with his ears open to any whispers from the Arab world, reminded Israelis that last year not one citizen was killed in a shooting incident in the West Bank. Official Israel is unperturbed – they are counting on this to change. All the gloomy prophecies of Israeli war commentators in the media that a third intifada is just around the corner is met by a total Palestinian refusal:  no more exchanging of roles between oppressors and victims. The Palestinians have learned the hard way that acts of terror, in addition to being inherently immoral, harm their cause in the court of world opinion, which plays a major role in supporting a nation with very little other support.

The Mavi Marmara affair has fed Israeli strong-arm policies many bitter herbs. The incident challenged and embarrassed policy makers, finally defeating them. This is good for Israel in the long run, demonstrating the futility of living solely by the sword. Obama, who on one hand supports non-violent methods of struggle but on the other threatens Palestinians not to appeal to the court in The Hague, is guilty of urging the victim to conceal the crime.

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