Issue of June 4, 2010 / 22 Sivan 5770
All it takes is an objective viewing of the video of Israeli military dropping onto and boarding the flotilla of humanitarian aid ships en route to Gaza to know the truth. Unfortunately, we live in a very subjective world.
The video shows Israeli commandos dropping down, armed with crowd control weapons. They came with side arms. They came as police, not commandos. Then the video shows those same Israelis being beaten, threatened, and stabbed. In a case of role reversal, the military came in with paint ball guns draped across their shoulders in place of mini submachine guns and it was the humanitarians who were in possession of and wielded smoke bombs, clubs and batons.
Sheer disbelief was my response and the response of most fair minded viewers when we saw the video. It was immediately apparent that the lives of these soldiers were in jeopardy. It was apparent that the Israelis acted in defense of their own lives and the lives of their team members. They were outnumbered and out armed. They were ambushed by people who had anticipated and planned for this to happen. They were assaulted by a lynch mob cloaked in the rhetoric of humanitarian aid workers bent on violent murder who turned a simple and symbolic operation into an awful, bloody, mess that resulted in unnecessary injuries and deaths.
So how is it that so much of the coverage has been so lopsided and so critical of Israel? For some, the facts have no real role in this discussion. Despite the easy access to the actual, unedited, footage so many media outlets and so many world leaders have made public statements depicting the Israelis as murderers and those on the ship as innocent humanitarian workers caught up in an unprovoked slaughter.
There are two opposite responses to the Israeli boarding of the human rights flotilla headed to Gaza.
One group is calling for total condemnation of Israel. This group immediately attacked Israel using the terms murderers and terrorists. They view this event as an unprovoked attack against innocent human rights activists. Muslim leaders, Muslim spokespeople and Islamic media outlets have all fallen into line and condemned Israel. For most of this group, facts rarely matter it is the emotional impact that serves their needs and the real story would not change their understanding of the event.
Even after seeing the footage, members of this group, Muslims and non-Muslim haters of Israel, couch their anti-Israel disdain by saying that the act was piracy and terror.
The other group is shocked and feels horror compounded with disbelief. This group saw the video of the Israelis boarding the ship and understood the truth. They are not concerned with politics or propaganda, right now they seek the truth. Many Western media outlets and many Western leaders, including the president of the United States, fall into this category.
There is no doubt that I am a defender of Israel. But I am also a critic. I defend Israel because the vast majority of the time the Jewish state is unjustifiably raked across the coals. Most of those who criticize Israel do so in a way which questions her very right to exist. Undoubtedly there are times when critique of Israel is essential, but not now.
This story is not going away. The pictures are too graphic. Emotions are running too high. Facts are too easy to throw by the wayside. This will be a seminal issue in Israeli/Muslim relations.
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.