Israel and Palestine

Comment on the boarding of the Gaza flotilla (Aug 2010)

Israel's violent boarding of the Gaza flotilla in may 2010, with the deaths of 9 activists, has rightly gained a great deal of international attention and stimulated a more realistic appraisal of the nature of the Israeli state.

Israeli officials stated that the killing of the activists was a clear case of self-defense by the IDF (Israel defense force) soldiers. It appears that this point of view is taken quite seriously by the majority of Israelis. I have also had conversations with US scientists who seemed quite sympathetic to this point of view.

I think we can leave the legal arguments to the experts. What happened on the ships? We will probably never know precisely. What about the legal situation? Is the blockade of Gaza legal? Can it be legal to board a boat by force in international waters? I don't know either.

However I am quite interested by the self-defense arguments by Israel, and the fact that such a thing can be said while keeping a straight face. The fact that such a thing can be said, and received, with both sides not flinching before the evident absurdity, and emitting a collective raspberry, says a lot about the breakdown of any sense of reality in Israel and its supporters.

In the nice Yiddish dictionary by Leo Rosten, each word is defined through a joke. The entry for chuzpah reads: "that quality enshrined in a man who, having killed his mother and father, throws himself on the mercy of the court because he is an orphan."

We can now revise the definition. Chuzpah is that quality displayed by the leader of an army, who having ordered his men to board a ship of unarmed activists in international waters, killing 9 of them, claims that the killing was an act of self-defense. In fact, if the word chuzpah did not exist, it would have to be invented for this occasion.

But more seriously, this event and its apparently serious defense by Israeli spokesman, says a lot about the abnormal mentality of the Israeli public, and its defenders, particularly in the United States. In this strange world, Israel must always, and for ever, be both strong, and be a victim. So even the most violent action is portrayed as if it is Israel that is the victim, even when shooting political activists while having the advantage of obviously overwhelming force. Shoot and cry. Be violent, but treasure your sense of victimhood.