Is it possible to be shocked and yet not be surprised? Israel’s stupidity and disregard for human life is nothing new. It is a recurring theme in the life of the Jewish state from its very inception. Surely as the destruction in Gaza remains untouched18 months after the murderous attacks that began on December 27, 2008 there can be no surprise at Israeli brutality. Yet as the news unfolded and the images of the Israeli assault on the flotilla to Gaza began to unravel a sense of shock was expressed everywhere.
Israel too is shock stricken. Not by the sheer brutality of its forces, or by the injustice of the siege on Gaza but by the PR blunder and fact that this “military mission” was a failure. Once again Israeli commandos are shown to be weak and helpless. How could the decision makers not see that this would damage Israel’s image in the eyes of world and even worse, in the eyes of Israel’s enemies?
Israeli foreign ministry officials claim that Europe and the rest of the world have increased their diplomatic assault on Israel. They claim the world is emboldened by the fact that the American stand in support of Israel has weakened. This they will say is the fault of President Obama, a President Israelis never cared for anyway. The notion that the world is coming to a point where it is unable to bear the racism and brutality of Israel as a state never enters the conversation. Israeli talking heads will not apologize, will not stray from the official line: We, Israelis are right and they, everyone else are wrong; We are good and they are evil; we are victims of age old anti Semitism and they are hateful, violent Muslims intending to kill innocent Jews.
Lives were lost due to a cowardly reaction of trained assassins who were sent to a mission for which they were clearly unprepared, so in a way one can claim that the killers themselves are not to blame, those who sent them are. In the murky relations between the military and the civilian government in Israel it is quite common to fault the lowest person on the totem poll and more often than not it is the military. In this case the mission was an act of piracy aimed at a very determined group of activists who had no intention of backing down. The fact that this particular group of activists took on this difficult and dangerous mission should have in itself been a warning to the Israeli officials that they would not back down and would put up a fight.
There can be no argument as to the courage displayed by the activists aboard the ships as armed pirates with an overwhelming military power attacked them. The pirates, trained Israeli commandos who are known for their brutality and total lack of regard for human life were armed to the teeth and had the support of the Israeli navy, air force and ground forces. Yet as they boarded the ships they were met with a justifiably angry and clearly determined crowd who were not willing to let go of their boats and cargo. Tragically some of them paid for this determination with their lives.
Will this tragedy bring any change? Clearly the only thing that can bring change is a strategic decision by President Obama to divorce the United States from the dysfunctional relationship with Israel. When the President decides that it is time to end the Israeli war on Palestinians he will engage in a head on collision with Israel and its American bully, AIPAC. It is no secret that advisers whose Zionist prejudice surround the President and naturally one is forced to wonder if a strategic shift of such magnitude is possible. Still, if one judges by the fear expressed in Israel perhaps there is some change, some outrage among the Presidents men.
One is reminded of a country long forgotten, by the name of South Vietnam, a country reduced to no more than a paragraph in the history books. Once it was a major American ally in the fight against communism, a country to whom the US promised never ending support. But one day in 1975 as North Vietnamese forces began to overrun the country, South Vietnamese President Nguyen Van Thieu requested aid from U.S. President Gerald Ford. The U.S. Senate would not release extra money to provide aid to South Vietnam and in fact the Senate had already passed laws to prevent further involvement in Vietnam altogether.
It was only a few years earlier that my father, Matti Peled, then a retired Israeli Army General visited South Vietnam at the request of the Israeli daily Ma’ariv. He spent a month in South Vietnam and sent reports that Ma’ariv published. My father, who was an armament and logistics expert, reported that US support for South Vietnam was coming to an end. There was nothing in the rhetoric off US officials to support this, but in speaking to South Vietnamese generals he learned that the South Vietnamese army was running out of spare parts and that the US was no longer replacing them.
The moral of this story is that when Americans get tired of something they are not shy about it. It is not unlikely that when Americans get tired of paying $10 million per day of their hard earned money to the state of Israel that the President will act. The question is how many innocent Palestinian lives will be lost until that day arrives.