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Israel and the PR War

World Affairs

With respect to the recent confrontation between a Turkish flotilla of six ships alleged to be carrying "humanitarian aid" to Gaza in violation of the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza established to  prevent importation of rockets and other armaments, Israel has neatly fallen into a superbly engineered trap.

The flotilla was organized by a Turkish organization called Insani Yadim Vakfi (IHH) that has two faces. One is as a legitimate humanitarian-aid NGO (non-governmental organization) and the other as a radical anti-Western Islamic organization supporting Hamas and other global jihad elements, with ties to al Qaeda, according to French Intelligence. The following link is to a report with more details on IHH.

http://www.terrorism-info.org.il/malam_multimedia/English/eng_n/pdf/hamas_e105.pdf

The ship boarded by Israeli Navy commandos rappelling down from a helicopter was the Mavi Marmara, sailing under a Turkish flag. The first commandos to reach the deck were immediately surrounded and attacked by Turkish activists armed with iron bars and knives (The iron bars can be seen on video of the attack; the knives cannot.) The commandos were armed with non-lethal paintball rifles and were under orders to not use their sidearms. As a result, several were injured before permission was given to use sidearms to defend themselves. In the ensuing hand-to-hand combat, according to Israeli sources, at least ten and as many as 19 activists were killed and as many as 12 Israeli Navy commandos were injured, some seriously.

The ship was towed by the Israelis to an Israeli port, and unconfirmed reports say that there were no humanitarian supplies on board. The other five ships in the flotilla were peacefully redirected to the Israeli port of Ashdod 40 km north of Gaza, where whatever humanitarian supplies that were on board will be transported overland to Gaza via established channels.

Israel established the blockade when Hamas gained control in Gaza and proceeded to rain rockets, mostly shipped from Iran, into Israeli territory. The purpose was to block the shipment of arms and missile components into Gaza. Egypt cooperated by blocking overland--and under it via tunnels--routes into Gaza. The blockade has worked to a great extent. The established procedure for humanitarian aid was to divert to Ashdod where the shipments would be examined and legitimate humanitarian supplies transported overland into Gaza. No humanitarian supplies were prevented from reaching Gaza.

IHH organized this particular flotilla not to break the blockade but to induce Israel into exactly the type of confrontation that occurred. Israel was neatly boxed in by being confronted with the Hobson's Choice of either allowing the ships through, which would render the blockade meaningless and indicate weakness, or intercepting them chancing a bloody confrontation for which Israel would be vilified by the press and by nations not sympathetic to the Jews, which is most of them, as being brutal and unreasonable.

Israel chose to use force to maintain the blockade, creating a stage for the bloody confrontation with armed Turkish activists that ensued. Predictably, many nations, Arab and other, immediately jumped to condemn Israel literally before the smoke cleared, abetted by most of the mainstream media. Wisely, the Obama administration has adopted a more reasonable stance so far, counseling calm until the facts become clear. However, the IHH strategy was a resounding success as a public relations ploy. Whether they expected the loss of life is debatable, but given the jihadist martyr complex, it probably wasn't an issue for them.

An objective investigation would unmask this whole thing as a brilliant exercise in the manipulation of public opinion against Israel. Whether said investigation will actually take place, or be objectively reported, remains to be seen. Israel has vowed to continue to enforce the blockade regardless of consequences. I cannot fault them for this approach, as the jihadists only understand force. For Israel to display weakness would simply encourage more of the same.

The Obama administration desperately wants to achieve progress in resolving the Palestinian problem. I hope realistic pragmatism will result in a fair and honest reaction from Washington instead of the knee-jerk anti-Semitic response we have seen so far from other nations.

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