Marty Peretz on the Flotilla...
Peretz is always interesting to read...
The propaganda for the flotilla has been in the works for months. Most of it was simply false. The poverty in Gaza is not qualitatively greater than that of your average Arab city. (Take Cairo. Or Amman, for that matter.) The markets are full of fruit and vegetables ... and flowers. Persistent pockets of deprivation exist in the historic refugee concentrations, which the Palestinian political class maintains as evidence of the ancient wrong. And, no, nobody is building big houses ... except again the elites, to the extent that they can smuggle materiel through the hundreds of tunnels which are perhaps less corrupt than the ordinary channels of commerce.
Who is behind this overhyped mission of mercy? And who is its beneficiary? It is none other than Hamas, the Gazan outpost of the global jihad, cousin of the Taliban, second cousin once-removed of Hezbollah. Wishing Hamas well, laboring for its success, is actually a crime against the Palestinians themselves. Of course, the new realists, so-called, will now beat the drums for a “pragmatic” opening to Hamas. It is an old trope for Robert Malley and his ilk. So, over the last two days, they have returned with the same message: Hamas is the future. Soon we will hear from James Baker, James Wolfensohn, even Paul Volcker, who knows a lot about some things but absolutely zero about the Middle East.
But Hamas is the past, the ugly past of ignorance. That does not mean it has no future. Hamas is the Palestinian counterpart of the movements of dread that now course throughout the world of Islam, and against which the West and moderate Muslims are struggling. The backward Muslims were Lost in the Sacred, as Dan Diner put it in his dazzling book-long essay, subtitled Why the Muslim World Stood Still. Pascal Bruckner depicts their Western sympathizers in The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism. Read these two books and you’ll understand the desperate and comradely pity educated men and women have for pitilessness.
Sympathy for Hamas is an odd reality in the Western world, and Israel needs to puzzle over how it has lost so much ground in its struggle against Arab and Muslim barbarism. I understand that the revival of a certain chic anti-Semitism has paved the way for the grosser anti-Semites and for the Muslim phantasts who deal in torment and salvation. Among these were the voyagers on the ship of fools who, a clip from Al Jazeera demonstrates, awaited the shores of Gaza ... or martyrdom.
The front page of the Financial Times reads “Israel faces global backlash.” Turkey, it says, “calls flotilla attack ‘inhuman.’ ” This is Turkey, mind you, which can’t admit to the Armenian genocide of nearly a century ago and won’t relent on the Kurds today. As it happens, the Security Council, meeting way into Tuesday morning, passed a balanced, even judicious, resolution that was, in true meaning, at least as much a rebuke to the Turks as it was a criticism of Israel. Neither Russia nor China stood in the way—at least not in the end—of fairness to Israel. And they did not try to exculpate Hamas or the macabre joy riders, including young Fiachra O’Luain.
And I must admit that this marks a turning point in the Obama administration’s attitude to Israel. Although it made some de rigeur criticisms, it was not about to make Jerusalem a sacrificial lamb for a faltering foreign policy. Susan Rice, with whom you know I have many problems, made all the appropriate visits and phone calls—bravely, conscientiously, and wisely. Maybe it was at least as much for the Palestinian Authority as it was for the Jewish state. Or for ultimate peace, unlikely as it is. But it was. Neither did anyone walk out of the “proximity talks,” non-talks as these are. And, for this, I assume the president is responsible. Mazel tov.
In fact, many people are having second thoughts … or are freeing their initial thoughts from the tiresome orthodoxies in smart parlors.
There were several smart pieces yesterday about the flotilla fallout. One was written by Michael Sean Winters in the lefty National Catholic Reporter. It is called “Judging Israel.” And it judges the Jewish state fairly. But perhaps the most important take on the episode appeared in The Daily Beast. The piece (“Israel Was Right”) was written by Leslie H. Gelb, a senior ideas man in the American foreign policy establishment, a former New York Times columnist, and the longtime president (now president emeritus) of the Council on Foreign Relations. Writes Gelb:
Israel had every right under international law to stop and board ships bound for the Gaza war zone late Sunday. Only knee-jerk left-wingers and the usual legion of poseurs around the world would dispute this. And it is pretty clear that this "humanitarian" flotilla headed for Gaza aimed to provoke a confrontation with Israel. Various representatives of the Free Gaza Movement, one of the main organizers of this deadly extravaganza, have let it slip throughout Monday that their intention was every bit as much "to break" Israel's blockade of Gaza as to deliver the relief goods.
Regarding international law, blockades are quite legal. The United States and Britain were at war with Germany and Japan and blockaded them. I can't remember international lawyers saying those blockades were illegal—even though they took place on the high seas in international waters.