Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Roger Cohen on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla . . and the US's Double Standard

By my lights, absolutely a must-read.  And I'm sure that Abe Foxman will be commenting soon.  Roger Cohen has become a favored whipping-boy for the Likudist elements in the US.  I only wish his courage were more contagious.

And his point here is right on.  An American gets killed by Israeli commandos - but because he's Muslim, and has a Turkish name . . . well, he can't be a real American, can he?

I wonder if Barack Hussein Obama has anything to say?

8 comments:

Jenny said...

John -

Cohen is seriously off the mark.

The lack of reaction and backlash against Israel is not because the kid is a Muslim with a Turkish name, but because he attacked Israeli commandos with bats/knives, prior to being shot.

While Cohen may think one had nothing to do with the other, there were plenty of other Muslims on the other ships who left the incident intact - they're the ones who didn't attack,

John Robertson said...

Jenny,

Thanks for your comment - but how do you know that this kid was one of those who were brandishing bats/knives? And aren't you skirting Cohen's point a bit? This kid was an American citizen whom IDF commandos (whose right to rappel onto the ship's deck was questionable at the very least) shot 4 times in the head, once in the chest - yet his killing goes ignored, even by his congressional rep?

Jenny said...

That's the point - it's not protested or condemned because it's believed that it was justified. Nothing to do with his name/ethnicity.

While you're right that we can't know whether this specific kid was one of the attackers, we'll have to wait for Israel's commission of inquiry to shed light on that, and until then - based on the fact that the IDF didn't go around shooting up boats on which they weren't attacked, nor their passengers, it seems like a good working theory that this kid was a part of that mob.

If Cohen wants to make a true point about violence against Muslims that's ignored because of the ethnicity of the parties involved, he should check out the numerous clashes between warring Muslim parties (including in Gaza itself) that are ignored because Muslims are killing Muslims.

John Robertson said...

I completely concur in the gist of your last point - that the US media ignore stories of Muslims killing Muslims. They know that most Americans would just turn the page.

But I still buy Cohen's point: "a chill descends when you have the combination of Israeli commandos doing the firing, an American with a foreign-sounding Muslim name, and the frenzied pre-emptive arguments of Israel and those among its U.S. supporters who will brook no criticism of the Jewish state."

And I also sense that Cohen's pointing out, not only that many of Israel's supporters have a knee-jerk, stridently negative reaction to any criticism of Israel, but that too many Americans are inclined to believe that whatever Israel does it, it must be OK - simply because Israel did it.

And again, I still question what right the Israelis had to send in those commandos in the first place.

Jenny said...

While you're right that the media focus on events between Jews and Muslims is because it's "sexier", the fact that Cohen tries to argue that the reason no one cares about this activist is because he's a Muslim killed by Jews, when there are exponentially more Muslims being killed by other Muslims, and no one cares about them, is somewhat disingenuous. It's also belied by the simple fact of how much press the Israeli-Palestinian conflict receives as opposed to other conflicts with hundreds of times more casualties. Of course, it's not only Muslim v. Muslim conflicts - while news that NATO forces have killed tens of (real) civilians in a single strike is news for maybe a day, Israel's actions against armed activists, a number of whom have expressed their desire to die in such conflict still hasn't found its way off the op-ed pages, there doesn't seem to be a better explanation than the fact that Israel is being singled out for unfair treatment by those who shape the world's opinions.

I would absolutely agree with you (and Cohen) that a chill should descend in the situation he describes. But he doesn't understand the situation, and this isn't it. Israel is not being criticized not because of a knee-jerk reaction to defend anything Israel does, but because the situation actually warranted what Israel did. It seems that Cohen cannot make that distinction.

It is unbelievable though that after the amount of flak and condemnation Israel received for this incident, that Cohen would write an entire column focused on the one or two people who did not condemn Israel's actions! As if it must be taken for granted that those who do not condemn it must be due to the activist's name/ethnicity. There is no thought that there could be another point of view, one which thinks that action in self defense is okay. [Of course the ICJ has already ruled that Israel has no right to self defense when fighting terrorists in the disputed territories, so Cohen's in very good company]

Jenny said...

As to whether or not Israel had the right to board the ships - I'm assuming you mean the legal right under international law, as opposed to a moral right, which it seems clear the Israeli government has, as I don't think anyone would dispute that they should do everything possible to keep weapons out of the hands of Hamas. Unfortunately I don't know all that much about international law. Ruth Lapidot, one of the foremost legal experts in Israel, has written that the blockade (and therefore the right to enforce that blockade) is legal. Here - http://jcpa.org/JCPA/Templates/ShowPage.asp?DBID=1&LNGID=1&TMID=111&FID=442&PID=0&IID=4402
Moreover, the IDF's legal team was of the opinion that enforcement of the blockade is a legal act. As such, I'm not sure what the Israeli government's responsibility should have been in such a situation - their legal team says it's legal, respected scholars of international law say it's legal, and while there might be others who disagree, it doesn't seem the other option of allowing Hamas to import weapons was the proper choice, both for Israel, as well as for anyone else with hopes for peace in the region.

One more point that I'm not sure if it was noticed outside of Israel with regard to the Flotilla incident - Israel has a vibrant democracy, with a free press, and serious debate between Right and Left (much like in the US I assume). In general, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voices are heard from across the spectrum - right left, center (and while American Jews might try to put up a united front with regards to support for Israel, there are no qualms about bashing Israeli government policies over here). However, after the flotilla, there really wasn't that much debate. There weren't voices from the left (save the extreme left which, like other extremes should be left out of such equations) condemning or even questioning the wisdom of Israel's decision. There was more of a collective national questioning of what the heck is the world talking about?

Israel is trying to prevent a terrorist organization from establishing a port on the Mediterranean, where it can then import all sorts of weapons from Iran - after offering to deliver any humanitarian aid (of which the boat in question turned out not even to be carrying, and which the entire aid delivered by the flotilla pales in comparison with that delivered by Israeli itself every day) and warning the ships that they would be boarded - they then boarded...with paintball guns! And when the soldiers were attacked and fought back, the world goes nuts.

It's interesting that in place achieving the result desired by those who condemned, the incident really served to crystallize in the minds of many Israelis that whatever they do, and whatever steps are taken to protect a civilian population and to try and avoid violent conflict, the world will blame Israel. It's viewed as the delegitimization of Israel's right to self defense.

Jenny said...

One more point that I'm not sure if it was noticed outside of Israel with regard to the Flotilla incident - Israel has a vibrant democracy, with a free press, and serious debate between Right and Left (much like in the US I assume). In general, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, voices are heard from across the spectrum - right left, center (and while American Jews might try to put up a united front with regards to support for Israel, there are no qualms about bashing Israeli government policies over here). However, after the flotilla, there really wasn't that much debate. There weren't voices from the left (save the extreme left which, like other extremes should be left out of such equations) condemning or even questioning the wisdom of Israel's decision. There was more of a collective national questioning of what the heck is the world talking about?

Israel is trying to prevent a terrorist organization from establishing a port on the Mediterranean, where it can then import all sorts of weapons from Iran - after offering to deliver any humanitarian aid (of which the boat in question turned out not even to be carrying, and which the entire aid delivered by the flotilla pales in comparison with that delivered by Israeli itself every day) and warning the ships that they would be boarded - they then boarded...with paintball guns! And when the soldiers were attacked and fought back, the world goes nuts.

It's interesting that in place achieving the result desired by those who condemned, the incident really served to crystallize in the minds of many Israelis that whatever they do, and whatever steps are taken to protect a civilian population and to try and avoid violent conflict, the world will blame Israel. It's viewed as the delegitimization of Israel's right to self defense.

You say that you question whether Israel had the right to send in the commandos. But what choice did they have? What would you have done? If you're running Israel, and you know that Hamas's #1 goal is to get the best weapons they can to attack you, you'd just let a ship sponsored by an organization with terrorist links to go and dock in Gaza? Israel did everything it could to avoid the conflict. Their overtures to the ship were met with calls to "go back to Auschwitz". And of course with violence.

Jenny said...

It's interesting that in place achieving the result desired by those who condemned, the incident really served to crystallize in the minds of many Israelis that whatever they do, and whatever steps are taken to protect a civilian population and to try and avoid violent conflict, the world will blame Israel. It's viewed as the delegitimization of Israel's right to self defense.

You say that you question whether Israel had the right to send in the commandos. But what choice did they have? What would you have done? If you're running Israel, and you know that Hamas's #1 goal is to get the best weapons they can to attack you, you'd just let a ship sponsored by an organization with terrorist links to go and dock in Gaza? Israel did everything it could to avoid the conflict. Their overtures to the ship were met with calls to "go back to Auschwitz". And of course with violence.

Sorry for so many posts - it was too large to post as one.

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