Rage after the Raid Israel's Voyage into Isolation

After last Monday's raid on a flotilla of peace activists heading toward the Gaza Strip, Israel finds itself on the defensive. Not only has Turkey turned its back on the country, but the US too is angered by the unilateralism of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu. By SPIEGEL Staff

AFP

In the port of Gaza City, Hamas had set up a tent, brightly adorned with Turkish flags. The intention was to welcome the roughly 700 foreign peace activists on board six ships who had planned on breaking through Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip for the first time since the war one-and-a-half years ago. But now it was just the senior leadership of Hamas waiting at the site, gazing out at the horizon.

Somewhere out there, elite forces of the Israeli navy boarded the Mavi Marmara, a ship flying under the flag of the Comoros, shortly after 4 a.m. last Monday morning.

According to the Israelis, passengers on the upper deck wielding sticks and knives attacked the soldiers in the "Shayetet 13" unit, who had rappelled onto the decks of the ships from helicopters hovering overhead. The Palestinians, however, say that the soldiers shot without warning at peaceful activists. The only aspect of the case that is undisputed is that nine activists were killed.

But the men from Hamas standing at the port of Gaza weren't looking particularly mournful. In fact, the incident couldn't have been more advantageous for the rulers of the 1.5 million Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip. More ships, they said, will soon begin testing the blockade, a threat which appeared all the more credible over the weekend after Israeli troops boarded the Rachel Corrie, a freighter which was originally intended to have been part of last week's convoy, on Saturday afternoon. Like the first raid, the boarding of the Rachel Corrie took place in international waters, but this time, no one was hurt.

Hamas says more ships are on their way, from Turkey, Ireland, Bahrain, Kuwait and Algeria -- altogether two or even three times as many ships as participated in last Monday's effort.

Victims in the Gaza Strip

"After the attack on the Mavi Marmara, we are now trying to fight Israel with the media instead of with missiles," says Mohammed Abu Ensura, whose nom de guerre is Abu Radwan, of the Popular Resistance Committees, an institution which has frequently been associated with armed attacks on Israel in the past. Hamas has decided to hold back, he says. "We want the world to perceive the people of Gaza as victims."

With each passing day last week, it became increasingly clear that the plan was working. Rarely has there been so much international outrage toward Israel. Tehran and Damascus, as expected, voiced their typical fury, but this time Israel's allies in the Middle East also took their distance. Turkey, which lost the largest number of citizens on the Mavi Marmara, accused Israel of "piracy" and "banditry." Egypt opened its border to the Gaza Strip, thereby abandoning the blockade policy it had pursued together with Israel.

At the summit between Russia and the European Union, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and EU Foreign Minister Catherine Ashton called for an immediate end to the Gaza blockade, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called Israel's policy "unjust," and even the Chinese leadership, which normally keeps itself out of the Middle East conflict, said it was "shocked by Israel's attack."

The strike, in short, was a disaster, irrespective of exactly how it played out. While some critics remained relatively diplomatic, merely ruffling the Israelis for their "immoderate" approach, others were more direct. The influential German weekly Die Zeit described Israel as a "country that is increasingly acting as if it were in a separate moral world, pressured by the feeling of being alone and, as a result, believing itself to be empowered to commit arbitrary attacks."

Last Monday's tragedy demonstrated two things: that Israel is becoming increasingly isolated politically; and that sealing off the Gaza Strip is as inefficient as it is pointless.

'Unpredictable Dimensions'

The question remains as to where the commotion over the Gaza flotilla will lead. No one is sure whether Israel may now review the efficacy of the blockade, though the weekend boarding of the Rachel Corrie seems to indicate otherwise. So too does the Monday report that Israel had shot and killed four Palestinians in diving equipment off the coast of the Gaza Strip. Hamas, too, seems unlikely to back down, now that it has the ear of the world. "The mechanism of violence and retaliation, the cycle of hate and revenge," says Israeli author David Grossman, has "entered a new round of unpredictable dimensions."

Even those who have long exercised patience in the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's unilateralism are beginning to show signs of exasperation. US President Barack Obama has called for a thorough investigation, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, speaking in an unusually harsh tone, demanded international participation in the investigations.

The diplomatic damage is immense. The world had just breathed a sigh of relief after the Palestinians had finally agreed to indirect peace talks, but now the prospects of success are slim once again. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas must now take a tough approach toward Israel to avoid losing face in the eyes of his people.

The attack off the Israeli coast also diminishes the prospects of sharper sanctions against Iran. The United States, which had hoped to achieve a unanimous resolution by all 15 members of the UN Security Council, had to postpone the debate when Ankara announced its opposition to new sanctions.

'Nothing Is as It Was'

The fury of an entire region is now being concentrated in Turkey. With rare unanimity, Turkish politicians from the left and right joined the country's Islamist party in calling for retaliation. "From this day forward, nothing is as it was," Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech to members of his party.

A look back at history underscores the adverse diplomatic consequences of the incident. Turkey was the first majority Muslim nation to recognize Israel after its independence in 1948. What began as a partnership of convenience in the Cold War became a strategic alliance in the mid-1990s. Israeli fighter pilots trained over Anatolia and the Turks received Israeli military technology.

However, Prime Minister Erdogan was finding it increasingly difficult to justify Ankara's closeness to the "Zionist state" to his conservative Muslim voters, particularly as the Israelis repeatedly provoked their ally. Ankara hasn't forgotten that Israeli soldiers marched into the Gaza Strip at the end of 2008, even as Turkey was still brokering peace talks between Israel and Syria. Since then, Erdogan hasn't missed an opportunity to sharply criticize the Israelis.

"Turkey's hostility is as strong as its friendship is valuable," Erdogan said last week in an unmistakably threatening tone.

Jerusalem, however, blames Turkey for the escalation off the Gaza coast. After all, it says, the Turkish charity IHH, which organized the flotilla, has ties to global jihad. If Israel had allowed the flotilla to pass through the blockade, says Netanyahu, Gaza would have been turned into an "Iranian port" for "hundreds of ships carrying missiles."

Netanyahu's words were as exaggerated as they were incorrect. The activists had no weapons on board, and allowing them to reach Gaza would not have posed a threat to Israel. Netanyahu's predecessor, Ehud Olmert, allowed such ships to pass through the blockade several times. And there were also alternatives. For example, the Israeli navy could have destroyed the ships' rudder, says Swedish author Henning Mankell, who was on board the pro-Gaza flotilla.

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Stroopwaffel 06/07/2010
1. Hey Spiegel, Israel's isolation is a myth!!!
Der Spiegel is perpetuating a myth. First, Israel has always been a diplomatic pariah, this is nothing new and nothing has changed. You can look back 40 years and find the socialist bloc, the Islamic bloc, and the so-called "international community" issuing the same condemnations and the same "statements of concern" as they do now. So again, nothing has changed. Second, and more importantly, Israel has good-to-excellent relationships with government's representing 1/3 of humanity, namely India and China, and that's not even mentioning the United States. This is something that you Europeans forget. But the world is NOT Europe. Europe will hardly even matter soon. You are dying, and fading into irrelevance. And even in Europe, where most of the media and politicians are visciously critical of Israel and openly campaigning for the Arabs, roughly 35-45 percent of the population (it varies by country) are ignoring the propaganda and looking favorably on Israel!!! So it's not even accurate to say that Israel is isolated in Europe. Where are Israel's tourists coming from, if not Europe??? Again, this story of "Israel's isolation" is a fraud. There is no isolation. Israel has the best international relationships that it ever had. It shares intelligence even with some Muslim countries. The Arab boycott has disintegrated and Israeli-made paper cups are used to hold coffee in Saudi Arabia. Get over it.
margarett 06/07/2010
2.
It gets complicated. Israel is a country with dissent ,by the way. Also, it has a very good economy, better than most European and better than Egypt's by per capita calculations. Intellectual patents-high numbers. Water rights-Israel. Land rights-here comes the debate. Which wealthy nation can show by example how they have made room in their land, water, economy for people who have much less, in fact, gave up productive water containing areas-esp. to people who may harbor enemies? Glass houses. Perhaps if the Muslim world, the Palestinians would fight overpoulation, unequal rights for women, terrorism fom each other they would be a great neighbor. Israel can stand on its own without aid from the US then the relations between the two will be effective.
freiheitfürimmer 06/07/2010
3.
First, it's all a political play, and the world is playing along. The Turkish government has its own agenda now and Flotilla served a role. I am neutral about Israel, but I think that it's the best country in the region in terms of freedom and human rights. The citizens of any neighboring nation don't have the same sort of respect that the citizens of Israel enjoy. The cultural scene is more active in Israel than in anywhere else and the government isn't permanent. Its achievements deserve a lot of respect, both in terms of economy and survival in a very hostile environment. Back in some Spiegel features about Turkey, the new Turkish worldview was impeccably explained. Turkey is now seeking hegemony over the former Ottoman empire. What do other Middle Eastern countries have against Turkey? Secularism and good Turkish-Israeli relations. Secularism is being killed by the conservatives who are doing whatever it takes to secure their power and have allowed the Islamic dressed females into universities, thereby strengthening the rise of fundamentalism that will make them more appealing to Islamic countries. They've even proposed changing the constitution to strip the army - the overseers of secularism - of their powers. So, now that the sunset of secularism has started, the second thing to get rid of is Israeli relationships, but how? Let's see send some aid to Hamas, if the aid gets there Israel will be infuriated that Turkey's supporting the terrorists next door, if it doesn't then Turkey can play the victim. They should also make sure that there are some Europeans on board, to make it a global outcry. By showing solidarity with "Palestine" Turkey will be gaining favor from the former parts of the empire. That's for what started the whole aid scheme. As for what actually happened, you also showed that those on board were praying in life vests a more than 24 hours before any Israeli-intervention, they had weapons with them as the videos show, they did resist the Israeli search and were hostile - anti-Semitism runs deep in the blood of humanity. Then it was called piracy and kidnapping. From the Israeli viewpoint: that was aid for Hamas, not the Gaza people. The Gaza people have all they need to survive, though not in a convenient way. The inconvenience means that those people can rebel against the terrorist theocracy that is Hamas, and it also means that articles of convenience can't be turned into weapons - electronic parts and chips. Flotilla indeed was aid for the terrorist theocracy that is Hamas. The people are surviving okay. Always beware those who are too concerned about the hardship of others. The Gaza thing has been going on for a long time, why now? why Turkey? I think that the whole game is clear now. I will use an analogy, let's say that you're a parent and your child is grounded: "no tv for a month", you called the parents of all his friends and told them that he is not allowed to watch tv anywhere. How will you react when the parents of the kids next door send over a tv to him despite your instructions? what's more, you are in a damned-if-you-do damned-if-you-don't situation. If Flotilla had been about aid for Al-Qaeda, would it have had any international support. What if the U.S. marines intervened and stopped those Al-Qaeda support ships? It's a justified act of self-defense. Those were not cruise ships heading for Gaza or a Gaza university 46th reunion ships. Those were ships carrying aid for terrorists. Israel needs peace, it's good for business and will mean less money for the military. The obligatory military service isn't a joy ride, and the whole ongoing war gives everyone a lot of headaches, but peace requires two parties. With whom can you have peace? Hamas, Fatah, the people, the Arab "leaders" who use Israel to distract their people away from their rights and democracy, their right to live free from pain and fear, the right to lead their lives the way they want to, the freedom from institutionalized religion? Your neighbors aren't ready for peace. The last thing the world needs is another theocracy. Iran is more than enough, even when the activists are stranded abroad with pending asylum applications just "to save money" or to "be able to negotiate about the nuclear program". The world is truly full of hypocrisy.
Norberto_Tyr 06/08/2010
4. The rabbit and Israel always surprises US
The rabbit and Israel always surprises US; the former jumping out of the hat, and the later when are attacked with no warning. Carlyle, talking about literature, said that the most important mission of the artist is to momentarily suspend reader’s disbelief, and both, professional magicians and also Israel excel at doing precisely that. In the same way we gladly guess what will happen when we see the magician with the top hat entering the scenario, we see Israeli’s politicians explaining how their ‘chaplinesque’ commandos were unfairly attacked in international waters by vicious humanitarian relief activists when they were clumsily dangling from the ropes like incompetent circus trapeze artists over the wavy waters of the Mediterranean. As the reader could easily see, they both succeed in momentarily suspending our disbelief In both cases we know well in advance what will happen, nevertheless, in both cases we clap in joy when we are surprised like children. Yes, despite of the doctrine of preemptive attack, Israeli politicians always tell US: 1- they were ‘unsuspectingly’ attacked; or, if someone realizes that there was an inversion in the sequence of events according to Israel’s recount; 2- that they KNEW they WILL BE attacked; therefore we have a catch 22 situation since regardless of what had happened Israel always REACTS either to a factual aggression or an anticipated one. Of course, in the realm of normal perception in which there is an irreversible time line (and this is not a reference to German Idealism from the philosophical perspective) this doctrine goes counter to the old roman (the empire of the common sense in the words of Gibbon, if I am not mistaken) juridical doctrine: ‘in dubio pro reo’. “If I doubt I kill you; just in case…”, seems to be much more safe, indeed. Norberto
BTraven 06/08/2010
5.
Zitat von StroopwaffelDer Spiegel is perpetuating a myth. First, Israel has always been a diplomatic pariah, this is nothing new and nothing has changed. You can look back 40 years and find the socialist bloc, the Islamic bloc, and the so-called "international community" issuing the same condemnations and the same "statements of concern" as they do now. So again, nothing has changed. Second, and more importantly, Israel has good-to-excellent relationships with government's representing 1/3 of humanity, namely India and China, and that's not even mentioning the United States. This is something that you Europeans forget. But the world is NOT Europe. Europe will hardly even matter soon. You are dying, and fading into irrelevance. And even in Europe, where most of the media and politicians are visciously critical of Israel and openly campaigning for the Arabs, roughly 35-45 percent of the population (it varies by country) are ignoring the propaganda and looking favorably on Israel!!! So it's not even accurate to say that Israel is isolated in Europe. Where are Israel's tourists coming from, if not Europe??? Again, this story of "Israel's isolation" is a fraud. There is no isolation. Israel has the best international relationships that it ever had. It shares intelligence even with some Muslim countries. The Arab boycott has disintegrated and Israeli-made paper cups are used to hold coffee in Saudi Arabia. Get over it.
How is it that in the UN-security council only the States regularly prevent Israel form being criticised for his action? Never China nor India have ever vetoed an UN-resolution where Israel was condemned for a military action causing many victims or demanded to give up its harsh policy against Palestinians. I do not understand how Israel can enjoy trading with all countries while Palestinians is not given the chance to establish themselves in the world.
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