It’s incomprehensible.

Earlier yesterday, before the Propaganda Flotilla floated across the Mediterranean toward Gaza, yells of “Khaybar Khaybar al Yahud” could be heard from the boats. This chant essentially implies violence and death to the Jews.

The key purpose of this Propaganda Flotilla was to injure Israel in the media. Whatever they were carrying could not change the face of the conflict with the Palestinians or improve the situation in Gaza too much. Actually, Israel has been letting a great deal of goods into Gaza anyway and the suggestion that this flotilla could change something material was ludicrous.

Nope, this flotilla was all about the propaganda.

What do you do when a flotilla is about propaganda and its members are recorded yelling death to Jews slogans?

NOTHING!

You let them through, let them have a moment in the Gaza sun, prevent them from returning to wherever they came from through any Israeli crossing, send a couple of commandos to sabotage their ships so they can’t leave via the ocean, and move on.

That’s all. That is all that needed to happen. It should have been shrugged and laughed off.

But Israel, as we’ve noted here before at times, is far from perfect. It has a lot of stupid people running things. These are people for whom subtlety is a foreign term and who do not have the slightest clue as to how to approach a war that has become a war of images and ideas, not of guns.

Tonight’s attempt to board the flotilla was one of Israel’s stupidest mistakes ever. It is stupid because it is senseless, because it is unnecessary, because it misread the nature of the flotilla’s attack, because it fought in the entirely wrong arena, because something that could have been dismissed with humor and a wave of the hand ended with dead people and a news bonanza that has given these boats and the Palestinians more coverage than in their wildest dreams.

You would think that after the ongoing grinding Israel has to confront because of Cast Lead and the Ramat Shlomo debacles, that after Germany’s largest bank opted to divest from Elbit, that after Elvis Costello made a boycott of Israel palatable to many who would have rejected it otherwise, that after the NPT agreement ignored Iran and singled out Israel, that after we finally see Obama trying to make an effort to warm up to Israel, that somebody in a leadership position in the country would have considered the poor outcome, the poor press, the public and diplomatic fallout, the needless boost to a Turkish plan to humiliate Israel, and the distraction from focusing on Iran and its genocidal intentions, that launching an armed raid against these propaganda ships would cause.

They didn’t.

Some people are dead now. Some are injured. For nothing. And the outcome of this is to weaken Israel, strengthen its opponents and cause even more delay and less leverage for Israel in any negotiations with the Palestinians.

There are no words to describe what a stupid, stupid, stupid action by Israel this raid on the flotilla was.

Wait! You can read more of my criticism of the Israeli government!

About the author

themiddle

35 Comments

  • Yeah. This was the dumbest thing ever. They could have disabled the boats, and towed them to Ashdod or wherever without harming anyone. The point is that there were alternatives and this one was without a doubt the dumbest and most badly executed. And the repercussions are just beginning to be felt. Protests around the world, ambassadors being recalled – dumb, dumb, dumb. I want to know who was in charge of this stupid operation?

  • BS”D You are not correct here. It would not have been better to let them through. This is a case of not only propaganda. It also was not about giving anyone in Gaza any supplies – plenty of legal channels to do that.

    To set a precedent of being able to force their way past our legal blockades, and to open up an additional channel of smuggling in weapons, etc – this cannot be allowed.

    There is no PR war. Those that know Israel and know the truth, they are not fooled by propaganda. Even the middle-of-the-roaders aren’t fooled.

    Those who are enemies of Israel – they are enemies no matter what. So why give them another port? Why tell them – whatever we say doesn’t matter, we bow.

    I am not happy anyone was killed. But they came, and they came armed and provoking violence. I will only mourn the wounded, and c’v, anything more serious, on behalf of our beautiful, brave wonderful military.

  • The mission has been a major success. While the loss of life is regrettable, the message is clear: don’t poke a lion with a short stick.

    • According to a Foreign Ministry press release, the decision to tell the Navy to stop the flotilla was a political decision. It doesn’t say which politicians. It also doesn’t specify whether the manner of executing the plan came from the military or the political echelon. It will take a while for this information to come out, but in the meantime expect the enemies of Israel to get a ton of mileage out of this.

  • sara leah i agree with you entirely.
    Life is very valuable but there are laws, agreements, etc, security of the nation comes first.
    Well done and good example. Whoever is really interested will really read and make their valuable conclussions either in favour or against this action, but to put in danger the security of the country or the lives of who are misleading their intentions and threatning your land only to avoid a bad image?… that would be stupid

  • @themiddle; this time I’m in agreement with the general direction of your reasoning. If Israel does not want to make trouble for itself, I understand you to be saying, it should discontinue trouble-provoking acts. How far would you extend this reasoning, however? Could the Occupation too be classed as one of these trouble-provoking acts?

    I question, however, the consistency of your appeal to a press release from the government you decry as morons in mitigation of that same government’s actions – the JPost allegations of hate speech from the boats being sourced to a ministry press release.

    • Perspective, the Palestinians have been involved in anti-Israel violence for years and have refused peace overtures for years. They have also refused to negotiate in good faith. The occupation is there for many reasons, including the fact that this land remains disputed, the absence of a side opposite Israel that is willing to meet the demands of UNSCR 242 and the likelihood of violence against Israel emanating from areas that would be vacated by Israel (example #1: Gaza). So no, the occupation is not a “trouble-provoking” act.

      The press release from the ministry was only part of the claim proving the hate speech from the boats. The hate speech was broadcast on the radio.

  • israel needs a new pr firm…one that it leaders will listen to.

    there was no reason to board. they couldve surrounded the flotilla.

    israeli media couldve kept the video of death to jews chants running constantly….show the world who exactly was on the boats.

    now…the bad guys get all the good press.

    dumb and dumber.

    and the worst thing…its memorial day in the us….slow news day.

  • I agree with you in principle, TM, though not in detail. What happened was a stupid PR nightmare. However, I don’t think letting them go through is the right action. Why not? Because then in a month they send another and a month later 3 more. And at some point there will be smuggling of arms.

    So in my mind, letting them through is simply delaying the problem.

    So what is the solution. It is something I have been thinking about because the way I see it, everything they could do is wrong. If, as CK suggests, they could have disabled the boats without boarding them, I’d be in favor, though I don’t know if that is actually possible. I also thought that maybe the trick is to literally blockade them. i.e. Put our Naval vessels in front of theirs, practically daring them to ram us. Yes that puts our people at risk, but I doubt they would purposely commit suicide by ramming Israeli ships.

    Beyond those two options, I don’t know. But yes, unmitigated PR disaster.

  • Thank you for this piece. You are of course, correct. It frustrates me that Israel doesn’t seem to learn and then complains about worldwide media bias. How silly.

  • TM, your post is very contradictory. Suppose Israel did let the ship through. Now that we know that there were weapons onboard the ship (which you have acknowledged), would you still say the same thing? Or has this turned from a “well-intentioned people doing bad things” thing to a “Karine A” incident?

  • Well, now that we have evidence of arms on board, it has become similar to a Karine A incident. However, my point remains the same: this was a propaganda play by the other side and Israel walked right into their trap. It was moronic. Take a look at the videos. It’s clear the Israeli soldiers were brought on the ship NOT expecting a violent response. They went on board with paintball guns, for god’s sake!

    In other words, they decided to go on board to intercept the flotilla, not because they were expecting this to be a ship carrying a weapons cache. Is that how they planned to fight this PR fight?

    Here is another writer who proposes much the same. http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/analysis-israel-has-forgotten-the-lessons-of-the-exodus-1.293391

  • TM,

    In a vacuum, your argument has some theoretical validity,but in the real world it does not hold up.

    Israel is under constant attack on a number of fronts without any let up – whether it be rockets from Gaza, terror cells from WB, Hizbollah on northern border, University campuses around N.S., Iranian threats to wipe it off the map, etc.

    No matter what it does, there will be so called PR mishaps…the worst mishaps are when it tries to defend itseld. If Israel new what was in store for them by boarding the ships, would they have done so? Of course not BUT I don’t think anyone thought/new that the violence would be so severe nor that the boats would be loaded with weapons. If Israel would have damaged the boats and rescued passengers from water they would have had bad PR as well.

    Israel is between a rock and a hard place. There is no “win win” siutation …..ALL THEY CAN DO IN THE INTERIM IS PROTECT THEIR CITIZENS TO THE BEST THEY CAN AND LIVE WITH THE FALL OUT……..

  • Expect the organizing of a veritable armada of Euroleft-sponsored relief vessels, all steaming for Gaza, daring the Israeli military to react.

    Among other things, this marks the definitive demise of the Israeli-Turkish relationship, though maybe that was little more than a formality at this point anyway.

  • There already is a Turkish FB site calling for the destruction of Israel. Of course, media outlets here have yet to address the Turkish failure to ensure there would be no weapons aboard the ships.

  • Turkey has been gone for a couple of years now, although at least they were an influential Muslim country with which Israel could talk. As Froylein says, Turkey has to answer how so many rockets could be on these ships having left Turkish ports.

    There may be a fleet of vessels that will head toward Israel, but I think a lot of people will think twice now. On the one hand, there is no question about the violent actions and preparations of some of the activists on these boats and now there’s no question they were carrying weapons instead of humanitarian relief aid. We can be reasonably sure that even rabid European leftists are going to think long and hard before embarking on a journey to Gaza where they don’t know whether they’re carrying weapons for Gaza aboard or might have some colleagues whose intentions are to engage in violence when the Israeli navy shows up.

  • just a general statement, if anyone wants to hear it: how does anyone know anything about what happened? this just pisses me off. stop believing everything you see or read because it serves you, and think for fucks sake. get your picture about it from various sources, not only the ones you like. yes yes, its a bit of work… and always be critical about what you read or see.

    the facts (as far as i know) are like this: a flotilla in international waters got raided. people are dead, wounded (yes, even soldiers) and imprisoned (for lack of a better word).

    “In the modern world the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.” Bertrand Russell

    but yeah, killing is wrong. always. if that makes me stupid, so be it. im a stupid lunatic.

    from what i have read, the people who entered the flotilla were x-rayed to prevent them from bringing weapons. so if there were/will be weapons found, they might have been taken away from the soldiers?! further, i would not be surprised if after the inspection of the ships, there will emerge nukes that the flotilla tried to smuggle into gaza, along with confiscated computers that prove the left wing nutcases had ties to hizbollah, al-qaeda and bin laden himself.

    so yes, they wanted to break the siege. and from my pov, israel should have lifted the siege a long time ago. that doesnt have to mean letting weapons in! but lifting the siege would have won hearts everywhere. but then, i dont think the government wants to win hearts. i dont know what they want to win. what they are doing doesnt make sense to me anyway. that must be because im stupid. as stated above.

    • WTF, you’ve failed to address the fact that Egypt keeps a tight seal on its border with the Gaza Strip as well and that your conspiratory theories collide with the news that emerged on the media over here (in Germany) that a large chunk of the activists were deported to their native countries after having been taken to Ashdod. Mind you, US, German etc. navy vessels are at this point patroling international waters and take action there. German navy is currently off the coast of Lebanon, in international waters too, with the distinct purpose of preventing having weapons smuggled there. What Israel did doesn’t seem to be uncommon, but it should have been aware it would draw a lot of media attention either way.

  • themiddle,

    I think I also saw Iraq’s store of WMD’s in that video. “WTF” is right, nobody actually knows what happened. I want to believe Israel was in the right, but from what I understand, the ship was in international waters anyway.

    I think next time we want to engage in an act of piracy, we should get some Somali’s to teach us how to minimize casualties, and things might turn out better.

    We never win by taking these people on by war anymore, and we’re always overreaching. The smart (and magnanimous) thing to do would have been to let them reach the shores, deliver their damn aid, deliver some line like we were “touched” by their effort, and are resultingly more determined to make peace. If there were guns on the ship — which I do believe — there’s no way in the scope of things it was worth a debacle of this magnitude to stop them from getting ashore.

  • There were SO many other ways of dealing with this death chanting boat. I cannot help but agree with TM – the country is run be people who have no SEICHEL. Lowering commandos onto the ship should have been an act of last resort when all else failed. They have hours until the flotilla reached the blockade demarcation.

    Of course the soldiers, put in this untenable situation, were unprepared. It is not their fault they were given false intel, and poor preparation. And paintball guns.

    The more I hear the more I realize that the powers at be in Israel are incapable of looking at every side of an issue. Rather, they just run straight at the oncoming freight train.

  • And, of course, as you well know Rabbi, the people who will pay a price for this idiocy are not just going to be Israelis, but also Jewish students on campuses across North America who will now find a new panel on their university’s annual Israel bash-fest week’s “wall”: the flotilla-attack panel.

  • @tm – While Israel could have handled this situation better (though not, as you suggest, by letting the flotilla in), we Jews in America, including students, should be supporting Israel, even when it makes tactical mistakes, rather than whining that Jewish students on campuses across North America will pay a price for Israel’s actions. By your reasoning, we should be encouraging Israel to capitulate because then there will be no Israel for the Israel haters to have a bash-fest about, and American Jews in college would live happier lives.

    As for what the Israeli government could and should be doing in the current world climate, read some of the recent columns by Caroline Glick and Isi Leibler in the Jerusalem Post. They’re pretty right on.

    As for what we should be doing in America, we need a true Pro-Israel movement that works at the level of beliefs, political power, and policy. If this resonates with you, please read and comment on my open letter: http://jeffreybergman.com/with-israel-at-great-risk-we-need-a-true-pro-israel-movement/

  • Jeffrey, calling the people who run Israel morons does not mean that I don’t support Israel. It means that I believe the people who run Israel are morons. The alternative is that they’re evil, which I don’t believe. I just think they are blind to certain realities and therefore continually make stupid mistakes.

    I also didn’t call for anybody to capitulate. I’ve spent years debating with people who attack Israel and I don’t capitulate or think any person who believes in the truth should capitulate. However, when one of the key weapons of a war is propaganda and the other side has set you up, you don’t play into their hands. And yes, you should think about the consequences on campuses, because they will influence the future.

    Thanks for advising me to read Caroline Glick and Isi Leibler. I had never heard of them until you brought them up. Wow. And there’s even a newspaper called Jerusalem Post? Amazing!

    I’m not sure what you mean by “a true Pro-Israel movement” and I’m sorry but I tried reading your description but got lost somewhere in the middle. Somewhere on our site there’s a recent post I’ve written called “Can we also be called a Think Tank?” It includes my proposal about the best way to confront the anti-Israel movement. If you have a moment, you should check it out.

  • TM – I know you’re getting all sarcastic because I came across harsh, so I apologize for that. I don’t think you’re suggesting that Israel capitulate. I’m saying that the government of Israel has to be concerned about Israel, not American Jewish college students.

    More to the point though, is what I mean by a true pro-Israel movement. Let me try to clear it up.

    Here’s the first main point of the letter:

    There are people and organizations that say they are pro Israel, and perhaps believe that they are pro Israel, but in actuality are not pro Israel.

    Take JStreet for example. They claim to be pro Israel and pro peace, when in fact they’re doing is not in Israel’s interests, nor will their actions (and the policies they advocate for) lead to peace.

    Hopefully you’re with me so far.

    The school of thought that the Israeli presence over the Green Line is the major obstacle to peace, and that Israel must be forced into a peace agreement for it’s own good, is incorrect.

    Many people believe it though, and think that they are pro-Israel. They may be pro-Israel in their minds, but they are not pro-Israel in reality.

    Here’s the second main point:

    As long as the American Jewish community blindly supports the Democratic Party with our money and our votes, we have no power or influence over US policy towards Israel, Iran and the ME conflict. That wasn’t always the case, but it is today. It doesn’t mean we have blindly support the Republicans, but it does mean we have to break that automatic support and base our support on what Obama and the Democrats actually do, and not on what they say in a “charm offensive.”

    If that resonates with you, try to read that letter again. If not, don’t bother, because even if you can follow it this time you won’t agree with it.

    If you live in LA, I hope you’re planning to attend that Israel Advocacy event that Rabbi Yonah posted on facebook. I look forward to meeting you.

    -Jeff

    • Jeffrey, I only hang with Rabbi Yonah when he invites me for a sip or two of slivovitz, which hasn’t happened in a while.

      I don’t disagree with the notion that automatic Jewish support for the Democrats is healthy. However, I will say that the movement toward dividing support for Israel along American political partisan lines is foolish. There’s no reason to alienate either party and the hope is that both parties will see the benefits of supporting Israel.

      I also would encourage you to think carefully about the notion of what pro-Israel means. We agree that when J Street students have a problem listing “pro-Israel” as part of their self-description, chances are they aren’t pro-Israel. However, there are many pro-Israelis who would disagree with some of your statements. Amos Oz, for one. Now, if you can claim that your views are pro-Israel and Amos Oz’s aren’t, then you are kidding yourself. And yet, the guy is critical of Israel and its presence over the Green Line.

      I am not seeking to undermine what you’re trying to do. I’m merely suggesting that you may wish to give it some further thought.

  • @themiddle – I’d send this privately rather than post to this comment thread, but I don’t know how to reach you any other way…

    You said to me, “Now, if you can claim that your views are pro-Israel and Amos Oz’s aren’t, then you are kidding yourself.”

    I just came across a column in Haaretz, which is a response to a column by Amos Oz, the English translation of which appeared in the NY Times.

    (English translation of Oz column: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/02/opinion/02oz.html

    Response by Dina Porat: http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/questions-for-amos-oz-1.295800)

    I contend that the while Oz may think of himself as pro-Israel, and may love Israel in his heart and mind, his views as stated in his column are not pro-Israel; they are effectively anti-Israel.

    I recognize that opinion is divided on these issues in both Israel and America. It’s a very important dialog to have in the Jewish community.

    I’d welcome your ideas on how to have this dialog on a large scale. You can reach me at jeffrey@jeffreybergman.com

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