Spin, not facts, on Israel and the Gaza “aid flotilla”

Sitting at the computer this Memorial day morning, it’s striking how many people are responding authoritatively to the news of Israel’s attack on the Gaza aid flotilla, even though at this point almost all the news is coming from sources with a strong vested interest in how it’s spun.

The left and pro-Palestinian forces are portraying the death of at least ten activists on the highly publicized convoy as a “massacre,” describing the victims as innocent humanitarians interested only in providing relief to the besieged people of Gaza.

The Israeli government is already saying it met with armed resistance when naval forces boarded the ship, and that they know the ship’s passengers included those with known links to terrorist groups like Hamas and Al Qaeda.

Pro-Israel groups in this country have been silent, but that may be more a case of folks being out for the holiday weekend than prudence about speaking before all the facts are known.

I don’t have the facts, but I’m guessing that the the truth lies somewhere between these two poles; unraveling exactly what happened, what provocations the Israeli troops met and to what extent they overreacted, will take a long time, and whatever truth is uncovered will be drowned out by the usual shouting from both sides that accompanies each new crisis in the Middle East.

The New York Times reported this morning that the attack “drew widespread international condemnation,” and that the result was a “propaganda coup to Israel’s foes, particularly the Hamas group that holds sway in Gaza, and damaged its ties to Turkey, one of its most important Muslim partners and the unofficial sponsor of the Gaza-bound convoy.”

That much, I assume, should have been anticipated by the Israelis. There was plenty of warning that the flotilla would attempt to break through the Israeli blockade; pro-Gaza protestors have always been a mix of those with mostly humanitarian concerns, those whose focus is hostility to Israel and Hamas sympathizers who have no problem with the idea of armed conflict against the Jewish state.

One question that needs to be answered is whether Israeli leaders sufficiently planned for the kind of scenario that ultimately unfolded. If there really was a premeditated attack when Israeli troops tried to board the ship, weren’t there other ways to handle it, given the certainty that the world would react negatively to the killing of those in an “aid flotilla?”

In the Times story, a leader of the Free Gaza Movement, said ““We never thought there would be any violence.”

Well, for people who had no inkling the Israelis might attack, the flotilla supporters sure are making hay of the incident.

Defense minister Ehud Barak today asserted that “the sail’s organizers and its participants are fully responsible.” He also said that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” an assertion echoed in the days before the flotilla sailed by some Jewish groups here.

Well, “humanitarian crisis” is a matter of definition, but I suspect that line isn’t going to help Israel one little bit, and will probably hurt, in a world that plainly believes Israel is using collective punishment against Gaza’s residents.

The Left is already agreeing with Turkey and others that this was a premeditated attack against a purely humanitarian mission. Swallowing that without a healthy dose of skepticism seems as foolish to me as swallowing Barak’s line that all the blame lies with those who were killed, and that Israel was entirely innocent in this matter.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.