When I first saw that cartoon from flea snobbery, I didn’t really give it much thought, not having then read about the incidents in Gaza this past week. It turns out that not only is this similar to, but it actually IS Israel’s position on why it attacked and killed 19 activists onboard the lead ship of the internationally organised peace flotilla to deliver aid to Gaza.
The Israel-Palestine conflict is, as Arundhati Roy says, ‘one of imperial Britain’s bloodiest gifts to the world’ (the other being partition of India-Pakistan and the present mess in Kashmir that ensued). The long and complex history is a matter of public record and is available to anybody interested in its study. The conclusions people draw from such a study tend to be coloured by their preconceptions. So it isn’t surprising to me that Israel defends its blockading Gaza, and peace activists and citizens of Gaza oppose the blockade.
What is surprising to me, however, is just how shockingly brazen the Israeli government’s actions and rhetoric against the people delivering the humanitarian aid – food, medicines, housing materials and so forth, to the extended ghetto of a 40km stretch of land where the 1.7 million citizens are prisoners in their own homes – has been. The rhetoric has been of the kind one would expect from a school bully, not from a state; and definitely not a state representing people who have themselves been victims of such atrocities.
The ships of the aid flotilla all flew international and white flags, and cooperated with the Israeli navy when they were accosted in international waters. The lead ship shut its engines off and came to a halt when it was flanked by Israeli ships. The navy stormed the ships anyway. What would you expect the navy of a state to say in its defence? Would ‘…they attacked us! We were only trying to take control of their ship’ make anybody’s list? How about ‘…these weren’t peace activists, they were peace militants. They only wanted to provoke Israel’s anger’? I guess the 10,000 tonnes of food supplies and medicines, wheelchairs, machine parts and cement were just there, because… because nobody wants them anyway… or something.
The rhetoric in the Jerusalem Post reeks of paranoia and xenophobia. Now, one can either believe that this represents the state of mind of the Israeli people, or one can attribute it to propaganda from the Israeli state. This, after all, is the state that claims that its attack on a flotilla of unarmed ships with a verifiable humanitarian mission in international waters was legal and legitimate, because the code of armed warfare of the UN says that enemy ships can be seized even in international waters. It’s only the relatively small matter of storming the ship first and claiming that the people on the ships attacked you. Then it becomes ‘armed conflict’, right?