Wednesday, 2 June 2010

The Marmara Incident - The Verdict.

The ongoing implications of the Marmara incident refuse to lie down. The political storm is still raging. There is passion and rage on the streets, in the campus, and within the diplomatic community.

The organisers and financers of the flotilla hit on a win-win plan. Whatever the outcome they would be perceived as the winners. If they had succeeded in breaking the maritime siege on Gaza they would have won. If they were unable to do so, yet be seen as violently protesting the siege, they would be seen as brave peace campaigners opposed by the mighty Israel.
The best possible scenarios for Israel, that of taking control of the ships in a peaceful and ordely manner and bringing them into Ashdod, could be conisdered a draw. The protesters would have made a point, as would Israel. Game over - until the next convoy.

One thing was for sure. This was not a humanitarian mission. The main targets for the planners was to get to Gaza and embrace Hamas and, at the same time, embarrass Israel. The last thing on their minds were the people of Gaza.  The aid cargo was a blanket to cover a nefarious political and propaganda plot.

It was right for Israel to repeatedly warn the ships to change course. It was right to offer them harbour in Ashdod. It was right of  Israel to guarantee that all humanitarian aid would be transfered to the authorised crossing point into Gaza, under the watchful eye of the passengers. It was right, and within all recognised international laws, to take control of the ships once the warning were ignored.

Five of the smaller ships were taken over by the Israeli navy with little or no resistence. It was only on the Mavi Marmaris, containing most of the extremists including members of the notorious Turkish-based IHH, that violence erupted.
It was here that Israeli soldiers found themselves being beaten unconscious and thrown overboard, by a frenzied lynch mob.
One of the soldiers, interviewed from his hospital bed, blamed the rioters for the subsequent loss of life.
I do not blame the soliders for the violence or the deaths. They did not initiate the violence. The deaths were caused when the soldiers were forced to fight for their lives. Had they not done so several would have been killed by the mob for sure.
I do blame their officers who sent them on this mission badly equipped. Where was the tear gas? Where were the stun grenades? Where were the tazers?
I know the officers said they did not expect that peace activists to behave like a murderous lynching gang, but that only increases their impotence. They should have been ready for all eventualities. It would have been delightful had the soldiers been greeted with roses and a glass of champagne, but what did the commanding officers expect knowing that the Marmara contained members of an extreme Islamic organisation and suspect terrorists?
Amd so it turned out. Wrong equipment = diplomatic disaster.
Heads should roll  for putting our soldiers at risk unnecessarily and for the failure of not recognising the potential outcome.

Furthermore, the graphic film of descending soliders being dragged and beaten mercilessly by the mob was not released to the public for at least nine hours after the incident. This was an unforgiveable mistake by whoever gave the order to hold the video. Valuable time was lost during which Israel lost the information field to the extremists.
Opinion today of the incident would have been perceived as radically different if the first images would have been Israeli soldiers being clubbed and hurled overboard.
True, it would have portrayed israel as being vulnerable, but it would have gained sympathy for what we were doing, and the way we were going about it.
It would also have put the incident in its true sequence. Five ships had been taken over peacefully. The same intention was expected from the Marmara. An attempt was clearly seen to murder the soldiers who had no other option but to fight for their lives. The deaths of the protesters are regretable but patently they, themselves, were to blame for the violent provocation.
Instead, the breaking news was of a rising number of deaths coming to us out of a fog of disinformation.
For those trying to make the case for Israel, inded for the reporters wanting to get a handle on what was happening against a deadline, the holding back of valuable evidentiary proof of what actually transpired was an information and diplomatic disaster for Israel. Heads should roll for this incredible incompetence.

Israel is on the back foot when it could easily have been on the diplomatic attack.
It is too early to gauge but the biggest loser could well be the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians.
The whole aim of the troublesome convoy was to publicly express solidarity with Hamas-led Gaza. Win or lose, Hamas has gained and been strengthened from the incident, and Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, has been weakened.
It was no accident that the organisers and the Turkish Government were trying to create a naval link between Turkey and Hamas-controlled Gaza.  The connection was not through the authortised Palestinian authority in Ramallah, but directly to the Islamic Hamas regime in Gaza. Turkey and Hamas have a shared agenda.
The damage to the Abbas regime has repercussions that will badly damage future progress in the peace process.
Prime Minister Netanyahu had to cancel and important meeting with President Obama over the incident. The peace process was the foremost issue for discussion. That has now been set back.
The last thing that Mahmoud Abbas needs right now is for the world attention and sympathy to be highlighted on Gaza and Hamas.  He has discovered that his serious political rival is in cahoots not only with Iran but now with Turkey. He is viewed as the 'moderate' Palestinian voice, but he is losing ground fast to the radical Islamic extremists in Palestinian society.  Hardly a chemistry on which a solid peace agreement can be reached with Israel.

Turkey was the heart and soul of this operation. The Turkish Prime Minister, who has moved his country into the radical Islamic circle of nations, has beren the spiritual and political leader of the action. It is clear that most, if not all, of those who died were Turks. It will become apparent that they belonged to the radical Islamist group IHH, which is based in Turkey.
Rather than tone down the rhetoric, Erdogan has raised the heat with his emotive language and threats of future escalations against Israel.

The Marmara incident may be coming to a close, but the issue is not going to lose momentum.
Another ship, the provocatively named "Rachel Corrie", is sailing towards Gaza. How will Israel deal with this ship?
The Turkish Prime Minister is ready to inflame the region even further in support of Hamas. He is threatening to add his warships to the fleet.

Today, the Israeli Cabinet must grapple with this realistic future nightmare scenario. 
Aid ships may possibly be escorted by Turkish, or even Iranian, warships to Gaza. What can Israel do if faced with that situation? What are the options facing Israel in such an event?
Attack the warships, thereby sparkling a war with Turkey, or Iran?
Do nothing for fear of starting a war and, thereby, give this and other 'aid' convoys free access to Hamas with weapons and terrorists?
Appeal to NATO to impose a stand-off with the Turks, or Iran? Hardly.
Ask President Obama to threaten or face-off against the Turks, or Iran? Not likely.
Impose the United Nations Security Council to instruct Turkey, or Iran, to turn back? Forget it!

The answer is that the international diplomatic community will be as impotent as they have been over imposed Iranian sanctions. This leaves Israel once again alone to make the awful decisions and take the consequences, which will always be universal condemnation.

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