One person's terrorist really is another's freedom fighter

As the propaganda war rages on over the Israeli Defense Forces' botched raid of the humanitarian flotilla bound for Gaza, it is time for a few home truths about the seemingly endless search for Middle Eastern peace

So here’s the analogy….I am in my own home going about my lawful business and someone breaks in…I defend myself and in the process injure the intruder, but he shoots me – fatally – and claims self defense. On the face of it quite a simple case for which the book should be thrown at the intruder, even if he “believed” I was going to do something that pissed him off.

When it comes to the Israeli government however, it seems special allowances are expected because it will concede nothing in terms of any of its actions, no matter how many international treaties, laws and UN sanctions it breaches, and no matter how many Palestinian and other lives are “regrettably” lost in the process. All the Israeli government does is fire accusations of connections to terrorists or jihadi affiliations and it expects to be excused for any behaviour. Hopefully this time is one time too many.

The world is in no doubt that Hamas, while an elected government, is not doing anything to assist peace between Palestinians and Israelis. It is also uncontested that Hamas is the main source of rockets fired from time to time into Israel, and possibly financed by Iran.

Also undeniable is the political message the flotilla was bringing along with its humanitarian relief.

But now perhaps Israel may see that the world is also in no doubt that the collective punishment of 1.5 million people by blockading them into essentially an open air prison called Gaza, and denying them basic needs such as water, is unacceptable.

Bombing them 18 months ago and firing white phosphorous into heavily populated civilian areas was like shooting apples in a barrel…and illegal under international law.

Stealing the passports of other nations to assassinate someone you don’t like in another country is also illegal.

So too is carrying out an armed guerilla raid on a ship of civilians who were in international waters, not Israeli waters.

It’s a truism that one person’s terrorist is another’s freedom fighter, and perhaps never is it more true than when listening to the propaganda on both sides of the Israel-Palestine argument.

What actually took place on board the ships in the flotilla of humanitarian aid bound for Gaza will possibly never be clear – particularly not if all that we see is the conveniently Israeli edited version of balaclava wearing IDF commandos being ‘attacked’ after rappelling in from helicopters, and NOT the footage of them killing nine (or possibly more) civilians and wounding scores more. Why has that part of the video not been made public?

The other issue in terms of clarity is Israel’s fear of an independent inquiry, with the state’s diplomats rallying immediately to tell the world and the UN that Israel does not need such an inquiry because it doesn’t believe it could be independent. In terrorist/freedom fighter parlance this is code for Israel having been so severely burned by the Goldstone inquiry into its war in Gaza, it will not allow another one that points so clearly to unpalatable home truths.

Israel holds that its blockade against Gaza is legal and so too is its interception of humanitarian ships because it is at war with Hamas. Some of its diplomats, politicians and official spokespersons have cited blockades and interceptions during world wars, Vietnam and Korea.

Equally there are legal assertions that Israel has no right to impose a blockade on Gaza, and international bodies including the UN have consistently asked that it be lifted. Israel says it allows humanitarian aid in. International agencies say Israel allows in about one quarter of the aid needed by Gazans, and still prevents any building materials that would allow for reconstruction following the massive destruction due to Israeli bombs. How then could the civilians from the many countries who contributed to the aid in this latest flotilla have reason to believe the wheelchairs, milk, toys, medicine, construction materials and other such goods would be ‘allowed’ in by Israel either?

This will rage on for some time yet, but here are a few truths that surely must be considered.

Israel has blundered (again) and not only embarrassed itself, but sparked a major rift with its only real Muslim ally in the region, Turkey (despite recent signs of relationship erosion between Netanyahu and Erdogan).

Israel must surely start to look at the management of its defense forces and the competence of its Defence Minister Ehud Barak.

Israel is arguably fast approaching the tipping point between being a valued ally of the West (US) and a hindrance.

Admitting it made some mistakes in this raid – i.e. underestimating the resistance - should not allow the state to be exonerated for killing anyone, including citizens of other nations.

Israel must prove it can meet the UN Security Council’s call for a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards”.

Israel must lift the collective punishment blockade of which the world is now even more painfully aware. The blockade only adds to the propaganda playbook of militant anti-Israeli groups, and will, like the ever-expanding occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, continue to do so.

This is a moral disaster for Israel, and highly likely a legal one too.

Perhaps the best that can be said about it is in the loss of lives, the world has been dramatically alerted to the persecution that constitutes life in Gaza, and can no longer turn a blind eye to it, nor perpetually accept Israel’s excuses for a rather bad habit of using excessive force in the name of securing its own version of ‘peace’.