I typically don’t talk about politics, on this blog or otherwise, but lately it seems I can do nothing else. That’s part of the reality of living in Israel — you can’t help but have an opinion about politics here, and you virtually have to discuss it at times. Unfortunately, this is one of those times.
Undoubtedly, you have heard about the flotilla of boats heading towards Gaza that was boarded by Israeli Naval sailors this morning. And of course you have heard that a number of the passengers were killed and injured. What does it have to do with the Israeli tourism industry, the stated subject of this blog? Well the entire event was clearly an unmitigated PR nightmare for Israel, and what hurts Israel’s international image clearly also hurts the tourism industry here as well.
Now I don’t think it will come as much of a surprise to those of you who know me, or to those of you who have been reading this blog regularly, that I am extremely pro-Israel. Now this does not mean that I think the government and army of Israel are infallible, or that I support every one of their actions.
But I look at the events that took place here this morning, and I simply get frustrated. Because as I see it, there simply was no correct way for Israel to have responded. No matter what the government and army would have done, it would have hurt Israel.
Let’s start with the fact that any open-minded person will recognize about the flotilla. The entire thing was planned to do nothing but make Israel look bad. Israel has been letting tons of supplies into the Gaza strip for months now, on a daily basis. So there truly is no actual “blockade” of the Gaza Strip, nor are the people there “under siege” or in a “living prison,” as has been so often stated in the media. Furthermore, Israel offered numerous ways to transfer the material that the flotilla was carrying into the Gaza Strip, but the organizers of course refused. Why? Because they simply did not care in the least if it ever reached there. All they cared about was making Israel look bad. That is the simple and obvious backdrop to what transpired, and it must be stated clearly.
That being said, what could Israel have done in response? As many of you know, I come from a background of screenwriting, and one of the techniques screenwriters do when trying to create original scenes and decisions for their characters is to make a list of every possible response a character could make to a specific situation. Then, once we’ve listed them all, we continue to dig deeper and think about all of the possible options that we might not have originally thought of, no matter how silly they seem on the surface. So I started thinking that way about this situation. What are the various ways that Israel could have reacted to this propagandist provocation?
One option, and the one that many people will say, is that they could have simply let the ships through. That is in fact the suggestion of my friend “themiddle” over here on the Jewlicious blog. And a summary of my feelings is in the comments over there.
In my opinion, this is no solution. I am 100% of the belief that preventing ships from sailing directly to Gaza is of National Security interest to Israel. The Hamas terrorist organization that runs the Gaza strip has not stopped attacking Israel with rockets since they came to power there. And they are directly being armed by Iran, another enemy of the State of Israel. There is no question that given free access to Gaza, Iran would send more powerful weapons and Hamas would not hesitate to use them to attack Israel.
So allowing these ships through (whether they contained weapons, as the IDF claims here, or not) would only delay the difficult choice of response. Because if we let them through now, they would simply send more ships more often in the future, and eventually we would have to stop them or face harsher attacks by Hamas.
Option #1: Failure
Next idea would be to do what they did today. Well, I think that most people would agree this was far from a good response. And whether you agree or not, the facts are that it makes Israel look horrible. Does it matter whether the IDF fired on the ships first, or acted in self defense when their soldiers were attacked? No. All the international public sees is Israeli guns versus “innocent freedom activists” and at least ten dead people. Do they care that Israeli soldiers were attacked, stabbed and beaten? Or that they may have been fired upon? No.
And the truth is, this isn’t about whose fault it is, who is right or wrong, or who “started” it. I am simply trying to think of what Israel could have done to maintain its security while also not looking like complete idiots and bullies in the world’s eyes. Thus…
Option #2: Failure
What about non-violent means of preventing the flotilla from reaching its target destination? Maybe it is an option. Is there a way that the IDF could have disabled the boats without even boarding them, and then towed them to port in Israel to be searched? I don’t know. I am not an expert on such things, and I also don’t know if that wouldn’t have simply delayed the problem as well. When they got to port they’d have to take the people off too. Who knows if the same violence would have taken place then?
One option I thought of would be to actually blockade the flotilla. They could have simply put Israeli Naval vessels in the direct paths of the flotilla, preventing them from moving forwards. Would the boat captains have actually rammed the IDF ships? I don’t know. And if they did, would it have still been a PR nightmare for Israel, blamed on the evil Israeli oppressors? It certainly is one of the best options I came up with. But far from a perfect solution. And it puts many Israeli soldiers’ lives in danger as well.
Option #3a & 3b: Difficult but possible success.
Bottom line? I don’t know that there is truly a viable solution. When people are bent on making you look bad, it is very hard to stop them from doing so. So what I feel more than anything else after this situation (and yes, I do also feel horrible that people were killed and injured) is pure frustration. But I also recognize that in situations like this, there truly are few easy solutions. I don’t know what I would do were I in the government’s shoes.
What would you do?