Tuesday, June 01, 2010


I don't comment on Israel a whole lot, mostly because there are so many people out there who know more about the Middle East than I, particularly Alterdestiny alum Matt Duss.

However, I am struck by the sheer stupidity of Israel's attack on the flotilla attempting to break the Gaza blockade. Just amazing stupidity. Does Israel simply not want peace with its neighbors? Does it not want Turkey, one of the only nations in the region willing to work with it, to continue that parternship? Does the IDF really think that overwhelming military force is the only way to meet any conceivable threat?

There are certainly many unanswered questions about the attack. Did some of the flotilla members indeed have arms? Why did Israel send their version of the Green Berets out to deal with this instead of a less aggressive group? Who started the shooting?

But whatever the answers are, this is Israel's greatest diplomatic disaster since at the beginning of the Second Intifada.

Moreover it's worth mentioning that Israel's policy in Gaza is just evil. In the West Bank it's wrong and stupid. Jimmy Carter is right in calling it apartheid. But by blockading Gaza, they are essentially creating a giant concentration camp for those people. And yes, I used that term intentionally. Because that's essentially what it is. Like the United States with the Japanese in World War II, Israel has identified an entire group of people as a national security threat, locked them up in a tiny piece of land, and isolated them from the world. This cannot continue without some kind of blow up.

Why wouldn't someone from Gaza become a terrorist? I can't think of a single good reason. There is no economy. No hope of a better future. Nothing. Nothing at all except poverty, isolation, depredations from Israel, and hopelessness. We might say that being a terrorist is wrong and that's why they shouldn't do it, but that's real easy for us to say from our computers in the U.S., Europe, or Israel.

Of course, Israel is primarily able to engage in these policies because it knows the U.S. has its back. The decline of the Israeli left has allowed right-wing elements to treat the Palestinians  with ever increasingly contempt, knowing that AIPAC will support whatever the Netanyahu government decides or possibly even criticize it from the right.

I don't know what Obama will do here. He doesn't have a lot of great options. There are many reasons why he can't simply condemn Israel. Though a denunciation might be the right thing to do, it would expose him to massive criticism from the very powerful right-wing Israeli lobby. Besides, it doesn't really fit his pragmatist foreign policy doctrine.

But either way, Israel has struck another blow against itself being accepted by its neighbors. If Israelis think an apartheid policy can protect itself against a rapidly growing Muslim population, they have another thing coming. Provoking violence and creating regional strife probably isn't a good idea.