Sunday, June 6, 2010

Orwell in Gaza: Politics and Media Manipulation Decide Morality Part II

by Carlos

2nd part of 2

An illegal act of piracy?

So was the Israeli raid on the flotilla illegal, as many claim? Was it even an act of piracy?

That is the accusation of many of Israel's antagonists. They often bring up international law against Israel, hoping people won't check the details. But if we look at the statutes themselves, this is what we find:

The San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea states (Section V) that "merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral states" may be attacked if "they are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture." This is precisely what happened in this case. The flotilla's stated intent was to breach the blockade. And there is clear video evidence that the ships were warned and refused to stop. Section VI states further that such ships may even be captured if they are attempting to breach a blockade.

Hamas is openly at war with Israel. It has used the seas to bring in materials for its war effort. Thus the blockade is justified under international law. But what about the charge that Israel had no right to stop the ships in international waters? Posner (2010) points out that there is longstanding precedent in international law for enforcing "publicly announced blockades on the high seas." In word and in deed, the Hamas government in Gaza has declared itself in mortal conflict with Israel. Israel has the right to try to stop the buildup of Hamas's military capability.


The Facts Hardly Matter Anymore

Israel has a strong moral and legal case for the actions it took. Nevertheless, it hardly seems to matter. Israel has never been more isolated than it is right now. How can we explain this?

The explanation cannot be legal: there is a basis in international law for what Israel did, and in any case most anti-Israel demonstrators are not familiar with the subtleties of the law. The explanation cannot be moral, for the clear double standard by which Israel is judged cannot be justified morally. Because it too has fears of being destabilized Egypt enforces a strict blockade of its own border with Gaza, yet there is hardly any reaction and nobody accuses Egypt of occupying Gaza. Gaza fires rockets on Israeli cities, which is the whole reason for the blockade, and no one seems to think it's important. North Korea sinks a South Korean ship, and it hardly gets an eye blink. Saudi Arabia uses its oil wealth to bankroll terrorists around the world, and nobody notices. In Afghanistan girls' schools are attacked with poisoned gas and female students get acid splashed into their faces, and nobody protests, demonstrates, or sends freedom flotillas. The examples are endless - just tour the globe and you will find them. China and Tibet, Iran and its homosexuals and Bahais - situations far more serious than what happened on this flotilla, yet hardly eliciting a squeak of protest in comparison to the international uproar against Israel for trying to take measures to protect its cities.
What is going on here?

There is an obvious explanation, but I won't mention it because Jews aren't allowed to talk about it anymore. So I'll mention the not-so-obvious explanation, which can be captured in one word: politics. Political conditions have shifted to isolate Israel more than ever. The Muslim world, which has hated Israel since its inception, has become stronger and more assertive, especially since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Arabs have oil, Israel does not, and the world is more dependent on oil, not less. Islam has experienced a revival, and with that also the conflicts with Jews enshrined in its scriptures - the chants of "Khaybar! Khaybar!" heard aboard the flotilla were no unique occurence; similar language is common in the Arab world and especially among Palestinians. Turkey now has an Islamist government, interested in proving its Islamic credentials and willing to approach Iran by provoking an incident with Israel.

The Palestinians have also become experts at manipulating the media. In this electronic age they are way ahead of Israel in harnessing the potential of the latest media channels such as Facebook and Twitter and YouTube, though Israel is beginning to catch up. The medium has indeed become the message.

This brings us to the Palestinians' greatest success: turning the language of morality into political cant.

George Orwell did a beautiful job of showing how this works in his political novel 1984. The Ministry of Truth, whose job of course was to disseminate lies, had on the walls of its edifice three slogans:


It seems incredible, yet with proper massaging words can be made to convey precisely the opposite of what they were intended to mean. Just keep selling the idea hard enough and often enough, and if it jibes with something people already wish to believe, then it will stick. Here is a great example: When Hamas took over Gaza by force in 2007 and threw out Fatah, it proclaimed in radio messages that it had "liberated" Gaza (Tran, 2007).

And so again the Palestinians have skewered the language of morality to enable people to believe what they want to believe for political reasons, with the comfortable delusion that they are rising above politics. If the mission of the flotilla were truly humanitarian, there would have been a way to deliver those supplies wihout a confrontation. Israel offered to have them unloaded at Ashdod, inspected for weapons materials, and then sent to Gaza. But that would have ruined the protesters' plans to create an incident even at the expense of jeopardizing their mission to get those "vitally needed" supplies to the people of Gaza.

What the flotilla people don't want you to know is that every week Israel allows the transfer into Gaza of 50% more supplies than were carried on those ships. What they don't want you to know is that Israel is not starving the people of Gaza, and that Gaza markets have been overflowing. What they don't want you to know is the true purpose of their mission: to leverage international opinion to break the blockade so that bombs and missiles can once again flow freely to Hamas.

Seen in this light, the flotilla must be considered an act of aggression, whose mission would result in putting Israeli towns and cities in danger. Yet it was billed as "humanitarian," a mission of "freedom," so that those who support aggression against Israel can do so with a clear conscience, perhaps sincerely believing they are doing what's morally right. And this is the most devastating and cynical victory of all: the transformation of language to make people truly believe that wrong is right.
When Hamas began shooting rockets at Sderot and other towns in southern Israel, people dismissed them as kids firing home-made firecrackers. Yet people were wounded and killed. And since then Hamas has steadily increased the range and payload of its rockets. With no Israeli blockade in place, Iran-backed Hamas could start importing long-range Iranian missiles capable of striking Haifa and Tel Aviv. Understandably Israel does not want to wait until this happens.

Clearly Hamas is not entitled to the language of morality it is exploiting for political purposes. We may not be able to change the political situation, but we must take back the language. We must expose the lie behind the "humanitarian" effort to support a regime with a murderous agenda. We need to unravel the deceptions, reminding ourselves that war is not peace, freedom is not slavery, and sometimes even "humanitarianism" can be aggression by another name.


Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.




Abu Toameh, Khaled, Ron Friedman, and Abe Selig. "Flotilla Aid Refused by Hamas." Jerusalem Post, June 3, 2010.

"Behind the Headlines: The Israeli Humanitarian Lifeline to Gaza." Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 25, 2010.

Buck, Tobias. "Gaza Looks Beyond Tunnel Economy." Financial Times, May 23, 2010.

Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA). "Hamas Blocking Entry of Flotilla Aid into Gaza." Haaretz, June 3, 2010.

Gordis, Daniel. "A Botched Raid, a Vital Embargo." New York Times, June 2, 2010.

Haaretz Service and Associated Press. "UN, Hamas Meet to Discuss Stolen Gaza Aid." Haaretz, February 6, 2009.

Isseroff, Ami. "Who Is Behind the Gaza 'Freedom Flotilla'?." Zionism & Israel Information Center, May 30, 2010.

Kohlmann, Evan F. "The Role of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and Financing." DAnish Institute for International Studies, 2006.

Levitt, Matthew, David Makovsky, and Jeffrey White. "Fallout from the Gaza Flotilla Tragedy." Washington Institute, June 1, 2010.

Oren, Michael B. "An Assault, Cloaked in Peace." New York Times, June 2, 2010.

Phillips, Melanie. "'Peace Convoy'? This Was an Islamist Terror Ambush

." Spectator (UK), May 31, 2010.

Posner, Eric. "The Gaza Blockade and International Law." Wall Street Journal, June 4, 2010.

Ravid, Barak and Yuval Azoulay. "Israel: Gaza Aid Convoy Can Unload Cargo in Ashdod for Inspection." Haaretz, May 27, 2010.

"San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea." International Committee of the Red Cross, June 12, 1994.

"Three Dozen Girl Students Were Poisoned in Afghanistan." Rawa News, April 26, 2009. "97 Girl Students, Teachers Poisoned in Afghanistan." Rawa News, May 12, 2009.

Tran, Mark. "Hamas on Brink of Gaza Takeover." Guardian, June 14, 2007.


"Flotilla Rioters Prepare Metal Rods, Slingshots, Broken Bottles, and Metal Objects to Attack IDF Soldiers." IDF Spokesperson's Unit, June 2, 2010.

"Gaza Flotilla Participants Invoked Killing of Jews." Palestinian Media Watch, May 31, 2010. (Also Middle East Media Research Institute [MEMRI] Video Clip #2489, Al-Jazeera TV Report from 'Freedom Flotilla' Before Its Departure for Gaza: Activists on Board Chant Intifada Songs and Praise Martyrdom. Al-Jazeera TV [Qatar], May 28, 2010.)

"IDF Navy Soldiers Who Were Attacked Aboard the Marmara Ship." IDF Spokesperson's Unit, May 31, 2010.

"IDF Navy Warns Flotilla." Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 30, 2010.

"Mavi Marmara to Israeli Navy: 'We're Helping Arabs Go Against the US, Don't Forget 9/11 Guys'." IDF Spokesperson's Unit, June 4, 2010.


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