The Israeli newspaper Haaretz is filled with grim commentary about the deadly confrontation on the flotilla headed toward Gaza. While acknowledging that there were those on the Mavi Marmara who were far from non-violent activists, the writers question the wisdom of commandos raiding a ship filled with civilians over a matter that does not pose an existential threat. Continuing the theme noted here yesterday, Ari Shavit found bitter parallels with the story of the Exodus ship:
Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak and Moshe Ya'alon are supposed to know history. They are supposed to know there was no greater mistake than that of the British with regard to the illegal immigrant ship Exodus in the summer of 1947. The brutality employed by the British Mandate against a ferry loaded with Jewish refugees turned the regime into an object of revile. It lost what is now called international legitimacy. British rule over the country ended just 10 months after the Exodus fiasco.
The Turkish ship Mavi Marmara was no Exodus. It carried not Holocaust survivors but provocateurs, many of them extremists. But a series of baseless decisions on the part of the prime minister and the ministers of defense and of strategic affairs turned the Marmara into a Palestinian Exodus. With a single foolish move, the Israeli cabinet cast the Muslim Brotherhood in the role of the victim and the Israel Navy as the villain and simultaneously opened European, Turkish, Arab, Palestinian and internal Israeli fronts. In so doing, Israel is serving Hamas' interests better than Hamas itself has ever done.
In its editorial, Haaretz stated that disaster was inevitable:
When a regular, well-armed, well-trained army goes to war against a "freedom flotilla" of civilian vessels laden with civilians, food and medication, the outcome is foretold - and it doesn't matter whether the confrontation achieved its goal and prevented the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The violent confrontation, whether caused by poor military planning or poor execution, resulted from flawed policy, wars of prestige, and from a profound misunderstanding of the confrontation's meanings and repercussions.
Yossi Sarid questioned the purpose of the confrontation:
Had we simply let the flotilla reach Gaza - an option that was proposed - a cry of victory would indeed have erupted from the other side, but it would have died out in a day or two. But the Israel of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Barak, of ministers Moshe Ya'alon and Benny Begin, Benjamin Ben-Eliezer and Eli Yishai and even Dan Meridor, is vying with Hamas and Hezbollah over who can produce the most resounding demonstrations of strength - which amount to nothing but humiliating evidence of weakness.
Gideon Levy not only questioned the confrontation, but the very blockade of Gaza:
...What was it for? Why were our soldiers thrown into this trap of pipes and ball bearings? What did we get out of it?
...Yesterday's fiasco could and should have been prevented. This flotilla should have been allowed to pass and the blockade should be brought to an end.
This should have happened a long time ago. In four years Hamas has not weakened and [captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit was not released. There was not even a sign of a gain.
Photo: Israelis in Tel Aviv demonstrate against the raid on the flotilla (h/t Guardian)