Activists dressed as Israeli pirates protest 43 years of Israeli occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, Tel Aviv, 5 June 2010. (Oren Ziv/ActiveStills)
Is it possible to be shocked and yet not be surprised? Israel's stupidity and disregard for human life is nothing new. It is a recurring theme in the life of the Jewish state from its very inception. Surely as the destruction in Gaza remains untouched 18 months after the murderous attacks that began on 27 December 2008 there can be no surprise at Israeli brutality. Yet as the news unfolded and the images of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza began to unravel a sense of shock was expressed everywhere.Miko Pelled is a writer and Israeli peace activist living in San Diego. His father was the late General Matti Peled, his grandfather Avraham Katznelson, signed the Israeli declaration of independence, his niece Smadar was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem. He is the co-founder of Elbanna-Peled Foundation. For more information or to respond, go to mikopeled.wordpress.com.
Israel too is shock stricken. Not by the sheer brutality of its forces, or by the injustice of the siege on Gaza but by the public relations blunder and fact that this "military mission" was a failure. Once again Israeli commandos are shown to be weak and helpless. How could the decision-makers not see that this would damage Israel's image in the eyes of world and even worse, in the eyes of Israel's enemies?
Israeli foreign ministry officials claim that Europe and the rest of the world have increased their diplomatic assault on Israel. They claim the world is emboldened by the fact that the American stand in support of Israel has weakened. This they will say is the fault of US President Barack Obama, a president Israelis never cared for anyway. The notion that the world is coming to a point where it is unable to bear the racism and brutality of Israel as a state never enters the conversation. Israeli talking heads will not apologize, will not stray from the official line: we, Israelis are right and they, everyone else are wrong; we are good and they are evil; we are victims of age-old anti-Semitism and they are hateful, violent Muslims intending to kill innocent Jews.
Lives were lost due to a cowardly reaction of trained assassins who were sent to a mission for which they were clearly unprepared, so in a way one can claim that the killers themselves are not to blame, those who sent them are. In the murky relations between the military and the civilian government in Israel it is quite common to fault the lowest person on the totem poll and more often than not it is the military. In this case the mission was an act of piracy aimed at a very determined group of activists who had no intention of backing down. The fact that this particular group of activists took on this difficult and dangerous mission should have in itself been a warning to the Israeli officials that they would not back down and would put up a fight.
There can be no argument as to the courage displayed by the activists aboard the ships as armed pirates with an overwhelming military power attacked them. The pirates, trained Israeli commandos who are known for their brutality and total lack of regard for human life, were armed to the teeth and had the support of the Israeli navy, air force and ground forces. Yet as they boarded the ships they were met with a justifiably angry and clearly determined crowd who were not willing to let go of their boats and cargo. Tragically some of them paid for this determination with their lives.
Will this tragedy bring any change? Clearly the only thing that can bring change is a strategic decision by President Obama to divorce the United States from the dysfunctional relationship with Israel. When the president decides that it is time to end the Israeli war on Palestinians he will engage in a head-on collision with Israel and its American bully, the influential pro-Israel lobby group, AIPAC. It is no secret that advisers with Zionist prejudice surround the president and naturally one is forced to wonder if a strategic shift of such magnitude is possible. Still, if one judges by the fear expressed in Israel perhaps there is some change, some outrage among the president's men.
It is not unlikely that when Americans get tired of paying $10 million per day of their hard-earned money to the State of Israel that the president will act. The question is how many innocent Palestinian lives will be lost until that happens.