How Did You Not See This Coming?

In lieu of the latest news coming from Israel, Foreign Policy Magazine’s Daniel Drezner used colloquial profanity to describe Israel’s behavior on board a vessel just outside the Gaza Strip. Mr. Drezner wrote, 

Sure, you can argue that the people on the ships weren’t exactly Christ-like in their embrace of nonviolence.  That said, it should be possible to gain control of an unruly ship without, you know, killing more than ten people…

However, what Drezner and many other pundits failed to recognize this following clip:

According to the New York Times,

Israel, which says it allows basic supplies into Gaza through points along the land border, denounced the flotilla as a political provocation and has vowed not to let the boats reach Gaza. It has invited the flotilla to land at an Israeli port, Ashdod, instead.

For Israel, Gaza and Hamas pose a legitimate threat to Israeli way of life and security, considering that these two states border one another and have, historically and repetitively, attack one another in a series of provocative engagements coming from both sides. But for a nation like Israel to just allow anything to enter Gaza without Israeli supervision would be like inviting al Qaeda for dinner in New York City. And although this analogy is simplified, this is the way Israelis perceive the scenario.

For pundits like Drezner to admit that those on board the vessel attacked first in not-so Christ-like ways and then condemn the Israeli commandos for killing those attacking them is quite naive. In a situation where you are dangling off a helicopter rope and being shot at, it’s hard to imagine how any human being would react. Furthermore, when the video explicitly shows how the commandos were repetitively beaten upon entering the vessel, I’m almost certain that anyone in a commando’s shoes would want to react violently back to whoever was beating him with a metal object; it’s natural human instinct and under those circumstances, you’re not thinking of the “political repercussions” that may ensue.

For a Palestinian or Turk on board the vessel, you may feel threatened by the presence of an Israeli helicopter coming on board for inspection. However, the Israeli blockade has been stationed there for years and vessel inspection has been standard operating procedure. For a vessel to attempt passing it without anticipating some kind of Israeli inspection is naive as well. It takes a well thought out modus operandi to execute the first blow and that is precisely what the Palestinians and Turks did. 

The United Nations is scrambling, the media is blowing things out of proportion, and Turkey feels insulted. Whatever Turkey is doing interfering in Israel’s affairs is beyond Realist understanding; however, given the events, Turkey should have minded its own business, aid or not. The naive understanding that international institutions have on Middle East politics only creates more trouble and entices more to reactionary violence. The United Nations needs to understand that feeling sorry for a people or state truly gets everyone nowhere. Simply condemning does nothing and intervening does too much.

And although foreign affairs academics such as Hans Morganthau admit that states have always and will always intervene in the affairs of others, that gives no excuse (either to Turkey, the U.N., or the U.S.) to intervene in Israel’s affairs, especially when intervention within itself almost always leads to a high casualty rate or loss of money. While I never like to take sides in an issue like Israel and Palestine, I have to ask the world, “How did you not see this coming?”

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