So much has already been written in the wake of the Free Gaza flotilla fiasco of May 31 that little remains to be said, other than to repeat the obvious: that Israel was set up, that the world’s chancelleries and the United Nations would collaborate in the usual bacchanal of condemnation, that Israel’s enemies would be gloating over yet another propaganda victory, and that Jew-haters and anti-Zionists everywhere would cite the trap into which Israel blindly stumbled as incontrovertible proof of the Jewish state’s innate savagery.
As was to be expected, the analyses of the event’s significance are basically all over the map. For example, on the one hand, James Lewis believes that Israel was sending a strong message to its enemies and their Western enablers: “Israel’s commando attack is a public signal to decision makers” of its determination “to shoot to kill if necessary, regardless of the PR cost.”
On the other hand, Caroline Glick is having none of it. Israel’s strategic planning for the encounter at sea was deplorable and the propaganda defeat it suffered was massive. Indeed, she argues, its lack of preparedness is symptomatic of a far more debilitating inability to operate within a larger cognitive frame that would take into account the “international community’s” concerted effort to demonize the Jewish state. According to Glick, Israel seems helpless to develop a diplomatic and publicity campaign to minimize the damage being inflicted upon it; the country’s leaders are in the grip of “a dangerous lack of comprehension…”
Between these two ends of the spectrum of interpretation, there is a continuum of positions that have been adopted, explicated, and defended. Israeli naval commandos may have been caught by surprise but reacted appropriately under the circumstances; despite the violence that ensued, the consequences might have been much worse. Or casualties might have been avoided had Israel acted with greater restraint. The international response constitutes a devastating blow to Israel’s legitimacy among the community of nations. Or the affair will blow over in a couple of weeks and everything will settle once again into the prevailing limbo. Israel was within its rights to take action against the convoy. Israel was in contravention of international treaties. But in the flurry of conflicting interpretations, there are two certainties: the controversy will rage like a forest fire in a dry region and will run its invariable course to the last bit of tinder, and Israel will continue to be denounced by the UN, the media, the NGOs, and world governments as a super-aggressive bully — for the crime, let us note, of having been sucker punched. Once again, the hyenas are gathering around the carcass. Plus ça change.
There is, however, little doubt that the Israeli raid was dismally planned. Anyone who was aware that the event had been cooked up in Istanbul by the Turkish IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi, IHH) — a well-known radical Islamic organization with ties to various jihadist networks — or who had checked out the activities and ravings of its leader Bülent Yildirim, or who had tuned in to Al-Jazeera or accessed the messages on several internet sites like Twitter and Facebook would have known in advance exactly what was portending.
Further, it should have been obvious to the Israeli authorities that no matter how they might have chosen to deal with the flotilla — the commandos could have rappelled unto the deck of the Turkish ship with roses between their teeth and champagne bottles held aloft — they would still have been vilified in the world press as ruthless criminals intent on unprovoked violence. Since it’s damned if you do and damned if you don’t, a more vigorous and decisive intervention would surely have been preferable.
More to the point, perhaps, if the upshot of this incident was already evident to someone like this writer, by no means an expert in international politics, sitting before a cheap computer in his workroom in a bungalow in a small Canadian town half a world away and days before the confrontation, how could the IDF or the Mossad not have known what was clearly inevitable? “The flotilla took two weeks to get going,” writes Ottawa University professor Seymour Mayne, “and let its participants be made known through channels that were available for monitoring” (personal communication). The episode was so blatantly semaphored that one would have had to be in a coma not to foresee the results. Or have the Israelis been so bludgeoned by the relentless worldwide propaganda onslaught waged against them over these many years, and grown so fearful of offending the international consortium of bigots and hypocrites who have only their demise at heart, that they have been rendered incapable of taking effective action and asserting their rights and their dignity?
Let me get my two agorot in. Were I in a position of command, how would I have replied to the threat represented by this surreptitious armada of jihadist sympathizers? Without being overly facetious, I would suggest that the proper response to the convoy would have been to fill several large helicopters with barnyard slop and dung, which would then have hovered above the bellwether Mavi Marmara and released the full cargo on the heads of the terrorist crew manning the ship, as many times as necessary, until the ship was caked and drenched in liquid manure. Once disabled, the ship could easily have been towed to the port of Ashdod and fumigated. The operation could have been repeated for the other vessels as well, if their captains had remained adamant. Another advantage of this procedure would have been its explicit function as commentary. It might also have given a grimly earnest and sanctimonious world the opportunity to laugh, even against its will, and so perhaps to come to its senses at last.
In any case, such a plan would have been no less absurd and probably far more effective than the Israeli military arming its soldiers with paintball guns.