How to Respond to Free Gaza Flotillas

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.