Sunday, May 30, 2010

Flotilla of the Vanities

Avi Issacharoff and Amos Harel point out that no-one involved in the story of the flotilla approaching Gaza today has much interest in the people of Gaza.

It is highly doubtful that the convoy's organizers have the well being of Gaza's residents as their top priority. The cargo on the ships, even if it does reach Gaza, will not effect the average Gazan's condition - we have learned over the three years since the revolution in Gaza (12 June 2007) that the Hamas government isn’t very different from its predecessors regarding its citizens' welfare. In the days of severe fuel shortage, Hamas leaders' vehicles were the only cars that traveled feely. The taxes the government placed on Gazan residents were not meant to improve their lives, but rather to make sure the Hamas rule does not crumble. Freeing Gilad Shalit would have most likely ended the siege, but the organization is in no hurry to do that - again, due to the political accounts it wishes to close.

The flotilla is meant to serve the organization on the international front and depict Israel as a cruel country that harms innocent Palestinians.

Sadly, however, Israel looks likely to play into their hands, since someone on our side has also decided to assign great importance to what is no more than a publicity stunt:

The problem is, as stated, that that Israeli government helped glorify the flotilla. It is difficult to understand why an alternative solution was not fully considered, such as stopping the ships, searching them, and then letting them through. Even if hundreds of Muslim and European activists enter Gaza accompanied by an Israeli MK, it will be incomparable to the damage to Israel's image from the media coverage of a confrontation between its Navy's commando and unarmed citizens. But it's too late now: Stopping the flotilla has become a test of Israel's power of deterrence.

Isn't it great we have such wise leaders?


Barry Meislin said...

And so we are relying on Haaretz to tell us about wisdom? To tell us what is in Israel's interest?


In fact, there are no good choices here. That's what the whole cynical exercise is designed for. (All this together with simply exquisite flourishes such as this and this for maximum effect---but then this has been going on for years now, and it is finally being bought by the Obama administration, along with "concerned liberals" such as Peter Beinart).

Moreover, this is far more than a publicity stunt. It is, of course, part of the international campaign to increasingly deligitimize the State of Israel, but it is also designed to dove-tail neatly with the current campaign (supported by Egypt and the Obama adminstration) to emasculate Israel's nuclear deterrence.

But the worst case scenario should not be ignored: it may provide the current Turkish government's, with its newly discovered "humanitarian" disposition, with a causus belli vis a vis Israel.

This does not bode well for Israel---or anyone in the region---but it is especially dangerous for the Jews of Turkey, who may, inescapably, find themselves in the middle of it all.

Victor said...

I disagree. Stopping the flotilla and enforcing israeli maritime sovereignty is vastly preferable to allowing the boats through. It should be handled as bureaucratically and unemotionally as possible. The donated items should be empounded and handed over to the UN for distribution. Anything less will encourage further such episodes by demonstrating weakness.

Was it necessary to make a big media campaign about this, as the government and army did? That remains to be seen, as does the actual naval encounter, for which we've been told the navy has been preparing.

The only point of concern here is Turkey, which essentially backed this flotilla, and which wins no matter what happens. I still don't see an Israeli strategy for dealing with Turkey. That should concern us all.

Victor said...

The Israelis may be great talking to foreign governments, but they nothing of speaking to people, of public diplomacy.

The deligimization is not happening at a governmental level, but in the general news-consuming public. The Israelis think that as long as the foreign government is talking to them, working with them, then everythink is fine. It's not.

Look at the current Israeli media campaign against the flotilla. Can it be said they are really fighting the propaganda war? Yes, but only to educate and prepare their own population, and to create sufficient talking points for a few foreign supporters, who will get drowned out by the television footage and dramatic pronouncements of flotilla participants.

This is not sufficient. It is not sustainable. You can't keep ignoring public opinion and only focusing on policymakers, who are ultimately serving the public will.

Anonymous said...

I am with Victor on this

going back to old and stuffy and media-undelightful rules of behaviour about borders is highly desirable no matter how much of a wailing and moaning the international "without Borders" crowd will let loose on it.
I have thought long and hard on the "without border" conundrum and come to the conclusion that when all is said and done the interferers do more harm than good.

Ever thought anybody how much war lords of all colours and denominations including finance hasardeurs must love the "without borders"-is-saintly-support?

one more thought: when Iceland established it's no-Brits-fishing-zone world opinion was with the audacious "Viking revivified" attitude or is my memory wrong on that one?

and yes Turkey looks like it's set on becoming a terrible problem (with the EU loosing much of its shine it might have been expected that they flirt with grabbing the Islam country lead)
- but coming up for a strategy to deal with people still playing at unpredictability is taking high bets on the law of unintended consequences i.e. Trial and Error may not be the worst tactic - if the opponent can't figure out what you are up to it might hamper him/her just as much as if you put up a clear line of defence.


Anonymous said...

re Victor's second

for a long time now I keep trying to find out how you can fight and win a media war against Romantics' Antiques.

To date I must say that I have never read of a successful strategy except coming up with the better romantics. (maybe I should re-read Jane Austen's "Sense and Sensibility" once more - she should have something to say about it)

When Israeli planes buzzed German UN ships off the coast of Lebanon it lifted my heart because I read it as a good way to highlight the hypocrisy of the enterprise - it made me belong to a very small crowd though.

As the current the Romantics' Zeitgeist is enthralled exclusively with the Kumbaya-crowd to the point that they'd probably claim that "good fences make for bad neighbours" I don't see any loophole/wedge.

Israel is in a terrible bind there it has to make sure it is viewed as a responsible international actor, how to combine that with successful Romantics eludes me.


NormanF said...

Israel could sink the enemy vessels but the dhimmi Jews running Israel are too terrified of the condemnation they will get from the UN, the EU, the Obama Administration and the world media if they seek to defend Israel's sovereign rights. We're talking about folks who side with the genocidal Hamas. They are not friends of the Jewish people or lovers of liberty. They are the enemies of humanity. Sad to say, no one in Israel has the guts to do what any normal self-respecting country in the world would do.

Anonymous said...

any self-respecting country would do exactly what Israel is doing - subjecting the nuts to all a law-abiding state has on offer i.e. waging "lawfare" for the good of its people.


that's unless you would describe let's say North-Korea as a self-respecting country.

Anonymous said...

kind of OT in an effort to lighten or darken the tone - enjoy!

(Many Western nations believe Iran’s nuclear program is meant to produce weapons, not just power.)

the wording is the Daily Beast's summary of an AP-piece


Saul Lieberman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Saul Lieberman said...

It is difficult to understand why the alternative solution which Israel has proposed (stopping the ships, searching them, and then letting their humanitarian cargo through) is any different than the Issacharoff and Harel alternative (stopping the ships, searching them, and then letting them through).

Anonymous said...

I seem to remember that there is something about sovereignty which makes letting ships enter into your nautical whatever which means a real big difference and if I am right, it would make me knee-jerk style happy, if Israel could keep the ships with a valid legal point out of Gaza waters and harbours and processed whatever there is to be transported according to Israeli rules and regulations (the stricter applied the broader I'd beam - there are German MPs on the boats and I want them to suffer any discomfort imaginable)

Nimrod Tal said...

Given that Turkey is leading this Flatilla, I think that Israel should seize the supplies and send them to Kurdistan. The Kurds oppression by Turkey is far larger in scale then what is going on in Gaza, and this action would bring attention to the oppression by Turkey. Also, the Israeli government should team up with the Armenian Patriachate in Jlem to commemorate the genocide of the Armenian people. Since Turkey is an Iranian vassal state, there is no need to worry about offending Turkey. Turkey is to Iran as Vermont is to the US

Victor said...

Nimrod Tal, you're a secret Turkish agent, working for Erdogan and trying to create public and political will in Turkey for ending diplomatic relations with Israel, aren't you! Confess!

Turkey isn't going anywhere. Alienating powerful regional states over some troublemakers is infantile. You want Galloway to claim ending Turkish-Israeli relations as his trophy? Now THAT would be a major accomplishment for anti-Israel activism.

The problem is that Israel doesn't speak to people, it doesn't have a public diplomacy. It speaks to governments, like the Turkish government, in private, and assumes the government will solve the public image problem. At best this keeps the government pro-Israel, as the rest of the population becomes hostile to Israel. At worst, it let's people like Erdogan work all sides to maximize his popularity.

These are gifted populists we're dealing with. The Israeli government needs to start talking to people, to Arab people, to Turkish people, to European people, not with propaganda campaigns or gimmicks, but with sober honesty. Why is that so difficult?

The current extent of Israeli public diplomacy is going on Al Jazeera with the same talking points they take to Fox News, and expecting Arabs who think Jews control the world to believe that Jews didn't mean to bomb a house and blow a little girl's head off. Then why is her head blown off?! Even worse, is it even good to apologize for such a thing in arab culture?
Do Arab leaders apologize for civilian deaths?

Yaacov, where is the modern Moshe Sharett when you need him?

Anonymous said...

I think the whole apologizing mania has gone over the top in the "west" as well and believe it or not in (western) office feuds the one who does it has a good chance to end up the loser, same applies to board meetings for fire brigades and other village organisations. Why our media keep telling us it is the road to success when everyday life teaches us again and again that it is not, is an enigma.

that said, I think you are demanding from Israel to do the impossible i.e. spin straw to gold. If they would talk to "little folks" of their dangers and fears in an effective way their foes will very likely smell blood. In my book it is an extremely fine line they have to walk between making "us" see their vulnerability but at the same time keeping up a sufficient bullishness a "don't you dare mess with me"
- to consistently get the two in one message together is extremely hard but come to think of it Netanyahu at the UN with his rightful indignation first part of his speech came across pretty well to me - but who can and will listen to the complete original and not just patched together sound bites by oh so unbiased media?
also as far as I can see HE-men are not close to coming into fashion again soon which is a pity if one listens to Peter Schreier singing a lullaby - it starts at 3:20 - enjoy (remember Nycerbarb taught me it comes from a psalm)


Nimrod Tal said...

Turkey will eventually sever diplomatic relations with Israel, probably by the end of this summer. Ahmadinejad needs Turkey to do this now that Turkey's gambit to hide Iranian uranium has been exposed. The failure to admit Turkey into the EU has led Turkey into the Iranian orbit, and this has nothing to do with Israel. This flatilla is organized at the highest levels of the Turkish government, probably at the personal request of Ahmadinejad. If Israel organized a convoy to Kurdistan without provocation, Turkey would sever diplomatic relations. Its time for Turkey to get a little egg on its face for its efforts to embarass Israel

Anonymous said...

Now Nimrod this is interesting

"The failure to admit Turkey into the EU"

do you really believe that if the EU had been more welcoming to Turkey that Erdogan/AKP would have given up on his hopes to impose his agenda?


Nimrod Tal said...

I believe that if the EU had admitted Turkey, Erdogan would have never been elected. Erdogan rose to power upon a wave of Turkish resentment against the EU. It also explains why Cyprus, an EU member, has not been favorable to a Turkish led flatilla, especially since Turkey occupies Northern Cyprus

Bryan said...

I'm pretty sure Cyprus' disapproval of the flotilla has everything to do with Turkey occupying half of it and nothing to do with the fact that the EU rejected Turkey.

Accepting Turkey to the EU would not have killed the growing Islamist movement in Turkey, it just would have opened it up to new markets.

Lee Ratner said...

I'm with Victor on this one, Israel is horrible at public diplomacy. Maybe the people at Israel's Foreign Affairs Ministry believe that government's shouldn't engage in public diplomacy or maybe they simply think that Gentiles won't listen to Jews anyway so what's the point of public diplomacy. Either way, Israel is horrible at explaining itself. Abba Eban was good at public diplomacy but he seemed to not have influenced other Israeli diplomats.

I'm also disappointed with Israeli response. It was really very stupid. Yes, I understood that national sovereignty issues but sometimes its best to let them slide. Inspecting the ships would have been enough of a demonstration that they are not getting through without Israeli permission. The fact that ten people died is a seriously stupid blunder.

Anonymous said...

by my last count there are four Israeli soldiers wounded, one was thrown 30 feet down to a lower deck got his head injured and was unconscious.
another got a knife into his stomach - I hope it wasn't the one Elder of Ziyon has posted.

In my book there were people out for a fight on the ship and they would have gotten either free access to Gaza with a loss to Israeli sovereignty or they would have gotten their fight.

It may be possible to disperse football hooligans in a city but doing that with people at least as well trained and eager is hopeless on a ship.


Anonymous said...

I think that Israel should sever diplomatic relations with Turkey, before Turkey does it with Israel.I have no sympathies for the 10 anti-Israel crusaders who got killed. Good riddance