Israel and the Flotilla

I know that I am not the only one who is upset, frustrated and/or disturbed about the situation in which Israel now finds itself.  If you haven’t been keeping up, you can read a little more about it here.  As a Jew (not to mention a rabbi) I know that I will be asked to justify and to explain Israel’s actions in the coming days.  As a Jew (not to mention a rabbi) I know that I will have to figure out for myself exactly what happened and why before I could begin to discuss it with someone else.

While I am not afraid to criticize Israel and her government when she deserves it and Israel is certainly not perfect, I really believe that Israel got painted into a corner on this one.  A few things to keep in mind as we try to unravel this.

1. The organizers of this flotilla were warned by Israel not to try and break the blockade.  They were asked to go to Ashdod where the cargo would be unloaded and transferred by ground to Gaza (which is what has happened since the boats landed in Ashdod).  They ignored all warnings.

2. The 10,000 tons of aid which they had on board sounds like a lot of aid, but it is less than the 15,000 tons of aid that Israel allows into Gaza each week.

3. The people on these boats were not ALL peaceful activists.  Many of them had less than noble intentions as can be seen by the video of them attacking the Israeli soldiers.  I believe that there were many European activists who were truly on those ships for the right reasons, but they were being used by pro-Hamas organizers for just this sort of PR.

4. There was no violence on 5 of the 6 ships.  All the violence took place on the one ship – the Mavi Marmara on which the activists attacked the Israelis.

5. The threat to the Israeli soldiers was real.  Not only were they vastly outnumbered when they landed on that ship, but every soldier is acutely aware of the fact that Gilad Shalit has been held by Hamas since June, 2006.

6.  Just because the UN thinks that there has been some violation of human rights does not make it so.  Of all the resolutions issued by the UN Commission on Human Rights (which has had several names during its history) directed toward a specific nation, one third of them have been about Israel.  The Commission has yet to denounce the genocide in the Sudan.  Perhaps, that is because the Sudan sits on the UN Commission on Human Rights (no, that is not a joke or an error).

I don’t know what the solution is in Gaza.  I am certain that if Israel could have a do-over, they would do things differently.  That being said, they could not allow a shipment which could have contained arms or explosives into the Gaza Strip from where rockets are still regularly fired into Israel.  Peace between Israel and the Palestinians must be negotiated around a table and not through the media.  This was a great PR victory for the Palestinian cause and, obviously, a resounding defeat for Israel’s.  That does not mean that somehow the Palestinian cause is just and moral while the Israeli cause is unjust and immoral.  It only means that Israel got baited into an embarrassing situation while trying to defend herself.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is essentially a street brawl with low blows and hidden weapons on both sides.  To somehow suggest that the Palestinians are blameless in this whole flotilla fiasco – as the UN, the EU and most media outlets are trying to do – is a naive and shallow interpretation of the events.



About Rabbi Avi Friedman

I am the rabbi of Congregation Ohr Shalom - SJCC, a progressive Conservative and traditional congregation. I am also husband to Jodi as well as father to Gabi, Jonah, Jessica and Ilana. I have been a part of the Summit community since 2005.
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One Response to Israel and the Flotilla

  1. Bob Latzer says:

    Michael Oren, in yesterday’s Times, pointed out that about 100 of those people detained fro the boats were carrying large sums of Euros, almost 1 million. Why?
    Also spent cartridges on the Mavi Marmara were not of the caliber used by the commandoes, several of whom were injured by bullets. Finally propaganda clips found on the boat showing passengers “injured” by Israeli forces, were made during the day while the raid took place at night.
    I wonder if these matters will be addressed in any independent investigation.
    But how is it possible that Israel fell into such an obvious PR trap?

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