Like every other country, Israel has done some awfully bloody-minded things over the years. We’ve tyrannized the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank and colonized their land. We’ve sold billions of dollars worth of arms and military expertise to murderous dictators across Africa, Latin America and Asia. We elected two prime ministers, Menachem Begin and Yitzhak Shamir, who headed national liberation movements that deliberately killed hundreds of Arab civilians along with scores of British officials and soldiers, and whose stated goal at the time was a Jewish state on both sides of the Jordan River.
Most recently, we elevated to the post of foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman, whom even Martin Peretz, the belligerently pro-Israel editor-in-chief of The New Republic, describes as a “neo-fascist.”
But still, none of this takes away Israel’s right to sovereignty within its legitimate, pre-occupation borders, including its territorial waters and airspace. And what sovereignty means, finally, is that we have the right to use force to defend our land, water and airspace against any attempt by a foreign entity to take control over it.
A hypothetical case: If the UN, for whatever reason, decided to blockade Israel’s coast, to stop ships going in and out, we would have the right to forcibly break it. And if, being under blockade, we couldn’t break it ourselves, our supporters abroad would have the right to do it for us – certainly the moral right, maybe the internationally legal right, too.
Now let’s say that to break the UN blockade, several hundred international friends of Israel – hawks, doves, Jews, gentiles, etc. – got up a flotilla of ships and sailed for Haifa. And let’s say the lead ship, named the SS Baruch Goldstein
, was loaded with Kachniks from America. And let’s say UN soldiers, determined to enforce the blockade, tried to commandeer the Baruch Goldstein
and were attacked by a mob of Kachniks with knives, clubs and metal rods.
Now all decent people loathe everything that Kach and the example of Baruch Goldstein stand for. And even if they were fighting in a cause as just as Israel’s right to sovereignty, the Kachniks aboard the Baruch Goldstein
would remain loathsome and so would their ideology.
But as evil as they are, it would still not justify the UN blockade of Israel’s coast. And as evil as they are, it still wouldn’t mean their attack on the soldiers enforcing the blockade was wrong.
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Only a pacifist could say that, and around here there are very, very few pacifists.
WHICH BRINGS me to Monday morning’s raid on the Mavi Marmara
. It was wrong. It was wrong because the Gazans, no less than Israelis, have the right to sovereignty within their legitimate borders, including their territorial waters and airspace. And nothing they’ve done, nothing they believe, no one they’ve elected gives Israel the right to control their country or take away the Gazans’ right to defend it with force.
The Palestinians are no more a nation than Israelis are, but they’re no less of one, either. Whoever’s guiltier in our 130-year conflict, there’s plenty of guilt on both sides, as there is on the side of every nation. But still, guilt doesn’t take away any nation’s right to be free.
I know what Hamas is. And I have no trouble believing the reports, Israeli and foreign, that this Turkish IHH organization behind theMavi Marmara
is pro-Hamas, pro-jihad. These are not peace activists; these are not good people at all. These are loathsome people.
They’re no worse than Kachniks, but they’re no better, either.
But as evil as these jihadists are, they were acting in a cause the
whole decent, democratic world knows is right: Freedom for Gaza.
Freedom for the Palestinians. An end to the occupation. An end to the
And here’s the part that’s hard to accept, but that’s nevertheless
true: The justice of that cause, and the injustice of Israel’s
blockade, means those bastards on the Mavi Marmara
had the right to attack our soldiers.
I hate admitting that. I really do. I’m going to be sending two sons
into the IDF, too. And I am furious at my country for giving those
bastards the right, the legitimacy, to attack our soldiers.
I don’t blame the commandos for killing those people; they were
defending themselves. I blame my country for putting them on that ship
in the first place. And I blame my country for the deaths, for the
injuries, for the blood that was spilled – on both sides. It was
spilled, finally, because my country denies another country its
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