Monday, June 29, 2015

Arlene Kushner on Flotilla -- And The Palestinian Perspective on Boycotting Israel

From Arlene Kushner:
June 29, 2015

Never do I relinquish hope, my friends.  Not even in the midst of growing horrors.  And so I begin here with something we did right: the way we handled the “threat” of the “Freedom Flotilla.”

The flotilla, carrying a total of 47 passengers, was comprised of four boats, lead by the largest – the Swedish-registered “Marianne of Gothenburg,” with some 20 passengers aboard.  When all diplomatic efforts to re-route the flotilla failed, a political decision was made to stop it at sea.  During the night last night, three Israeli navy boats approached the “Marianne” in international waters – some 100 nautical miles from shore - and in accordance with international law, repeatedly advised the lead boat to change course.  When there was no compliance, the “Marianne” was surrounded; Navy commandos from Shayetet 13, the special forces unit of the Israeli Navy, boarded, seizing control of the boat without violence or incident. 

The other three boats in the flotilla turned back.  The “Marianne” will be brought to the port in Ashdod. After its crew and passengers are questioned, they will likely be deported via Ben Gurion Airport.

photo
Credit: YouTube Screenshot

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The PR emanating from the pro-Palestinian Arab passengers and news sources sympathetic to them strikes me as parody.  One passenger referred to the Israeli navy as “pirates.” and one news source explained that the “Marianne” was on a humanitarian voyage - carrying solar panels because “there is no electricity in the Gaza Strip.”  Indeed there is electricity: and Israel supplies 70% of it!  The pity is that there are some who believe this garbage.

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Last night, a letter to the passengers of the “Marianne” from Prime Minister Netanyahu was released (emphasis added):

“Welcome to Israel.


“You seem to have gotten lost.  Perhaps you meant to sail to a place not far from here – Syria where Assad’s army is slaughtering its people every day, and is supported by the murderous Iranian regime.

“Here in Israel we face a reality in which terrorist organizations like Hamas try to kill innocent civilians. We defend our citizens against these attempts in accordance with international law.

“Despite this, Israel transports goods and humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip – up to 800 trucks a day. In the past year we enabled the entry of over 1.6 million tons of products, an average of one ton per person in the Gaza Strip. By the way, these supplies are equivalent to 500,000 boats like the one you came in on today...

“However, we will not allow the terrorist organizations to transfer weapons into the Gaza Strip by sea.  Only one year ago, we thwarted an attempt to smuggle hundreds of weapons into the Gaza Strip by ship. These weapons were meant to target innocent Israeli civilians.

There is no siege on the Gaza Strip, and you are welcome to transfer any humanitarian supplies for the Gaza Strip through Israel.

Barring the entrance of boats and ships into the Gaza Strip is in accordance with international law, and was even backed by a committee commissioned by the United Nations Secretary General.

“If you were truly concerned about human rights, you would not be sailing in support of a terrorist regime which summarily executes citizens in the Gaza Strip, and uses children as human shields.”

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I thought this would be a good place to share the following fascinating piece of information, as well (emphasis added):

“Shop owners in the West Bank lament that it is impossible to boycott Israel, Jordan-basedAlbawaba news reported on Thursday.

“According to the report, Palestinian political party Al-Mubadra Al-Watniya, or the Palestinian National Initiative, has launched a campaign throughout Ramallah urging consumers to boycott Israeli products, as part of the larger international boycott, divestment and sanctions movement against Israel. Signs throughout Ramallah call on Palestinians to ‘boycott Israeli goods’ and to refuse to ‘pay for the bullets that kill our children.’

“But it appears locals are having difficulty accomplishing just that because of certain specialty goods that come from Israel. ‘Our gluten-free bread and lactose-free milk come from Israel,’ one Palestinian businessman said, according to the report.

“According to the report, most small grocers in Ramallah continue to sell Israeli goods, despite the active boycott movement.

“Pharmacist Samer Toubassi told Albawaba, ‘We’re with the boycott, but for many products we have no alternatives,’ adding that 40 to 50 percent of his medications come from Israel...

’Palestinians do not have the technology to produce medicine that is used to treat cancer, problems with the immune system, or diabetes, for instance,’ said Toubassi.

“One Palestinian told the Jordanian paper that he would not boycott ‘the settlements’ — Jewish communities built on lands conquered by Israel in the defensive 1967 Six-Day War — because the settlements provide many Palestinians with work.

“’I don’t believe in boycotting. If we boycott settlement products, what about the Palestinians who work in the settlements?’ said Ramallah resident Mahmoud Jbbarin.

How about that?

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Then I want to return to the issue of the Druze in Syria, who were said to be threatened by Islamist rebels fighting Assad.  Recently Israeli Druze demonstrated in large numbers, and appealed to the Israeli government to act to save their cousins across the border, who presumably were facing potential genocide because of their support for Assad. 

Photo
Credit: AP/Ariel Schalit

Many here, sensitive to the issues of genocide, declared in support of acting to helping the Syrian Druze.  There was discussion of the establishment of a “safe zone” on the Syrian side of the Golan, for example.
But the story has grown ever more complex since then, taking on different shadings every day or two. 

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As my readers may remember, Druze in the Israeli Golan attacked an IDF ambulance that was bringing two Syrians to a hospital for care – one Syrian died and the other was left in critical condition.  This was a situation that was by all measures unacceptable and had the effect of shifting attitudes here in Israel.  Civilians in Israel (many but not all Israeli citizens) cannot attack an IDF ambulance under any circumstances, or otherwise interfere with an IDF mission. 

The Druze in the Golan were charging that the Syrians who were attacked were rebels belonging to groups that threatened the Syrian Druze.  Israeli officials said that we help Syrian individuals – presumably civilians, who have been injured in cross-fighting – and that Israel does not directly support the Nusra Front.  How it is determined who is a civilian was not made clear. 

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All this by way of background.  Five days ago, Brig- Gen. (res.) Imad Fares, a Druze IDF officer who served in high positions, went public with a statement, saying that the Israeli defense establishment cannot and should not intervene in Syria (emphasis added):

“If we can be mature and accept this point, it will be easier for us to understand the complicated nature of the situation.

“It is not a correct or realistic request, and I think that intervention must be coordinated with the side receiving the support, and therefore intervention with an Israeli stamp of approval is unacceptable, will not happen, and there is no mutual interest, making it useless to think about.

“...the Druse in Syria also won’t want Israel to intervene on their behalf. The Syrian Druse, let’s be honest, identify with the Assad regime. Their continued survival is also dependent on other alliances which won’t necessarily be helped by joining with Israel.”

Quite a departure from the original statements we were hearing, and makes a great deal of sense. 
I had reported on the analysis of one of my contacts, who had said that all Israel might do is send weapons to the Syrian Druze so that they can better defend themselves.  The weapons should go through Jordan, he told me: This would be so that they were not readily identified as having come from Israel.  And this dovetails with what Fares said.

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Now there is yet another take on the situation, which is what prompted me to revisit it (emphasis added):
“Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon said Monday that Israel has been providing aid to Syrian rebels, thus keeping the Druze in Syria out of immediate danger. Israeli officials have previously balked at confirming on the record that the country has been helping forces that are fighting to overthrow Syrian President Bashar Assad. 

“During a briefing with Israel’s diplomatic correspondents at the IDF’s headquarters in Tel Aviv, Ya’alon said that Israel’s ongoing humanitarian assistance to Syrian rebel fighters, a source of growing conflict between Israel and its own Druze population, safeguards the minority population in Syria.

’We’ve assisted them under two conditions,’ Ya’alon said of the Israeli medical aid to the Syrian rebels, some of whom are presumably fighting with al-Qaeda affiliate al-Nusra Front to topple Syrian President Bashar Assad. ‘That they don’t get too close to the border, and that they don’t touch the Druze.’”
Not the same story we started with...

It is no secret that the Israeli government tends to see the radicals such as Nusra Front as the lesser of the evils in Syria (a lesser evil, not as dangerous, but this does not mean an ally), with the first goal being to see Assad – the puppet of Iran - taken down.

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The horrors I refer to in my subject line?  Very real and growing daily.

There has been a series of terrorist killings in a host of different venues over the last few days that boggle the mind with their horror and inhumanity.  Perhaps I will return to deal with them in greater detail.  Perhaps not.  The beheading, the drownings, all the rest.  Not sure if it serves purpose to dwell on the details (although threats to France must be mentioned).

What strikes me, again and again, is a perversity so great that it makes it difficult to take a breath: Israel has been charged by the UN with possible war crimes for defending herself in Gaza.  Israeli leaders in turn may be charged with war crimes by the ICC (if Abbas has his way – and this I must return to).  Israel!  When we are surrounded by beheadings, and rapes of six year olds, and all the rest.

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There is incredible unrest and insecurity in the EU, starting with Greece, but not ending there. Along with fiscal instability, there are problems of large numbers of Muslim refugees flooding into Europe. This must be watched carefully.

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And, of course, what I must return to in detail is the perennial subject of the negotiations with Iran.  As matters stand now, the deadline – that’s tomorrow! - will not be met.  Netanyahu declares himself pleased that no deal is likely to be signed, because he knows it would be an awful deal.  It can still be improved, he cautions. But this is a pipe dream, not reality.  Each day, as I see it, the situation is worse, not better.  The negotiators of P5+1 are not going to suddenly discover they have backbones.

The best case scenario that I can envision (I guess also a pipe dream) is that P5+1 tells Iran, we have given you more than enough time and you have not cooperated in good faith.  Negotiations are now declared failed.  This would mean, this should mean, the imposition of the stiffest of sanctions, to bring Iran to its knees, backed by a credible military threat if Iran pursues further military nuclear development. 

I have just read that Dennis Ross, formerly an advisor to Obama on Iran, says it would be reasonable to negotiate for another three to six months.  This is daft.  Obama cannot bear to say the negotiations failed, and so concedes more and more to keep them going.  (Boy, do the Iranians have his number!)  In six months, he’d probably be sending hi-tech advisors into Iran to help them. 
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© Arlene KushnerThis material is produced by Arlene Kushner, functioning as an independent journalist. Permission is granted for it to be reproduced only with proper attribution. 



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