Halpern: Rough waters ahead


I'm thinking

by Micah Halpern

Issue of June 11, 2010/ 29 Sivan, 5770
The significance of the Israeli blockade of Gaza resonates far deeper than the obvious facts on the ground, or in this case, on the sea. Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is, truly, not just about a few ships and some cargo.

Challenges to Israel’s blockade have far- reaching implications. They jeopardize the balance of power. In the narrow sense, they jeopardize the regional balance of power. In the larger sense, these challenges jeopardize the balance of world power. Both are significant. This is not simply a debate over allowing or not allowing humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.

When Israel is endangered all Western interests and influence are endangered. The correlation is clear: as Israel’s ability to control surrounding waters is questioned or diminished, Iran’s potential for military presence in the Mediterranean Sea is dramatically increased.

At issue is the very foundation of the doctrine of self-defense. In international law there are often seemingly contradictory rights and values. The question to be answered is which right trumps the other right. International law prohibits the use of collective punishment and prohibits the use of starvation as a tool to accomplish the end goal.

International law also, very clearly, permits a country to engage in acts of self-defense and that self-defense includes preventing your enemies from attaining weapons that might endanger your citizens.

International watch groups under the supervision of the United Nations have clearly stated that the situation in Gaza is neither desperate nor is there a food shortage. Even The New York Times acknowledges those truths. Food is permitted into Gaza with Israel actually delivering 10,000 tons of food and medical supplies per week. So the blockade is legal because Israel and not only Israel, but both Israel and Egypt, permit food and medical supplies entry into Gaza provided they are first searched. Israel is justified in using appropriate force to stop ships breaking the blockade.

If that is the case — and it is the case, then it is legally clear that by international standard in the Israeli blockade of Gaza, defense trumps humanitarian issues. That having been determined, if there is any critique of the way in which Israel handled the Gaza blockade vis-a-vis the “humanitarian aid” flotilla that attempted to break the blockade, it is that Israel used too little military force not too much. When highly trained naval commandos are outfitted with paint guns instead of semi-automatic machine guns, it is clear that the term “excessive force” is an exaggeration or an outright lie.

Each time Israel’s right to self-defense is challenged, questioned, criticized or curtailed, the regional door opens wider and wider and wider allowing Iran easier and easier and easier entry to the region.

There is no doubt Iran is anxiously trying to get involved in the Mediterranean. Iran wants to expand their sphere of influence and that influence includes not just politically supporting and financially sponsoring Hamas and Hezbollah, it also includes culturally influencing the terrorist vision as it spreads throughout the Middle East and seeps into Europe.

This is not a misread on my part. Anyone closely watching Iranian leadership will understand my point — unfortunately, most Western leaders have not been paying Iran the attention it deserves. The head of the Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Naval Operations recently volunteered to offer Iranian navy escorts to all human rights flotillas. How more specific, open and upfront could he be? He said that Iran would ensure the safe delivery of the aid to Gaza.

If Israel’s blockade of Gaza is challenged by the United States, by the United Nations or by any other international community, Iran will interpret the challenge as a huge personal victory. And that will be all the invitation Iran needs to enter the Mediterranean Sea.

As if the sea is not turbulent enough as is.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. Read his latest book THUGS. He maintains The Micah Report at www.micahhalpern.com.