Where to start, where to start?
Israeli government radio and the tabloids parrot the hasbara machine, interviewing the mother of a naval commando while not interviewing any passengers of the Flotilla (at least none that I heard). The Israeli spin is that the Turkish ship had terrorists and mercenaries, that once again the IDF was defeated by its hyper-morality and good-naturedness, and that the world is hypocritical. Nothing new there. Haaretz, as usual, is a beacon of liberal Zionism, with its annual writers' issue dominated by Amos Oz's essay on the limits of power, an essay that could have been written (except for some details) anytime in the last forty three years , although it would accurately describe Israel from its inception. Oz, like other aging liberal Zionists in Israel, hearken back to the mythical Gan Eden/Garden of Eden that was the state before the sin of 1967; all this is weary, stale, and unprofitable stuff. We are locked into some kind of eternal return machine, like Bill Murray in Groundhog Day.
I shudder to think what the next Israeli "price tag" attack on Palestiniean civilians will be. A state whose elite unit was humiliated by Turks with clubs and dagger will need to "reestablish deterrence." We have been through this before as well. After the Second Lebanese War, that feeling of fashlah/failure and humiliation among the Israeli public led to the war crimes of the Gaza Operation. I hope Israel will not take the advice of one of my friends here on Facebook, who said, "Next time we should not risk the lives of our soldiers; we should just torpedo the boats." Of course, were Israel to do something like that, they would say that there were weapons on the boat.
Here I sit in Jerusalem and see the utter disconnect between the World and the US, a disconnect that happens frequently when talking about Israel and the Middle East. The mainstream media in the US has been bombarded by the Israeli spin machine in the last forty-eight hours, and a content analysis would show this. And we are not talking about Fox News. Let's take that liberal, progressive cable channel, MSNBC. The best one can expect will be an attempt for balance, right? I mean, this is what it means to be progressive on Israel in the US – gently criticize, then talk about its real security problems, then go on to bash Sarah Palin. But no, we have three Israel-cheerers, followed by journalist and blogger Glenn Greenwald for "balance". Among the Israel cheerers is guest-host, Eliot Spitzer, Hopkins law professor Ruth Wedgwood (nee Glushien) and former Netanayahu chief of staff, George Birnbaum. As if that were not enough, Wedgwood, known for her neocon political views and her support of Bush administration policies like military tribunals, was brought back to respond to Glenn Greenwald. (Greenwald's short segment is well-worth watching on his blog here)
And all this on MSNBC, the station of Keith Olberman and Rachel Maddow (for the complaints of her viewers that MSNBC is neglecting the Flotilla story read here). Once again, you have the "progressive-on-everything-but-Israel" syndrome. When will that change? Probably not for some time now.
And the Obama White House has once again shown that on Israel it is continuing the policies of the previous administration; it doesn't even talk tough anymore. And why? Well, there are several reasons. Israeli newspapers point to the need to cultivate and retain pro-Israel fundraisers and donors, and an election year is not the best time to go head-to-head with Israel. So the official reaction is to deplore the deaths, not to condemn anybody, and to ask for time to study the situation. I would like to think that this will end in November, but it won't. When Rahm Emanuel takes a bar mitzvah trip to the Occupied Golan Heights with his son, you know that there is something much more basic. Obama was elected with a lot of Jewish – oops, I mean, pro-Israel money, and don't expect to see anything new, there. After the election, maybe some tough talk, maybe a peace plan, but a lot of backtracking after that. Every year is an election year.
I would like to think that the above explanation for Obama's wishy-washiness is indeed his motivation. What I fear, though, is that he and the White House think that they are acting on principle and not because of political expediency.
My fear is that Obama sees the Flotilla business as one of his "distractions," something to get by in order to advance the peace process. Well, Mr. Obama, THERE IS NO PEACE PROCESS NOR WILL THERE EVER BE ONE IN THE CURRENT CONSTELLATION OF PARTIES. It is past time to say that human rights of the Gazans trump peace; that holding those rights hostage to a never-ending process, in which absolutely no progress has been made, is a scandal. Better to stop the peace process now and ensure that these rights are not trampled on.
The blockade must end now; Fatah and Hamas must get their act together; Israel must negotiate with all the legitimate representatives of the Palestinian people. That is in the short term. In the long term, those representatives will have to speak for not only the Palestinians in Palestine land now, but for the Palestinians barred from returning to their land.
President Obama could have saved a lot of time had he took one man into this administration who is saying the above: Robert Malley. See the response to the Flotilla fiasco by the International Crisis Center, where Malley heads the Middle East section. That response places the blame squarely on the shoulders not only of Israel but of the United State and the Quartet's support of the blockade.