Israel supporter? Play offense, not defense  

Israel supporter? Play offense, not defense  

Lots of American Jews, including many in the Pittsburgh community, think of themselves as supporters and defenders of the state of Israel. These folks are having a tough week. Why? Because many don’t like thinking that the Jewish state “massacred” nearly a dozen “peace activists” who were trying to deliver “humanitarian aid” to “starving” Palestinians in the Gaza Strip.
These lovers of Zion don’t want to defend actions they find morally repugnant and ultimately indefensible. OK then, allow me to let you off the hook. If you read the preceding paragraph and didn’t see the need for the quotation marks, your suffering is over. Just stop defending Israel because your kind of defense only serves to embolden those whose mission is the destruction of the Jewish state.
The reason for the quotation marks is because what happened on Sunday night was the most recent salvo in the war against Israel’s legitimacy.  This war takes two forms: actual violence and propaganda. The flotilla meant to serve both fronts, either by having munitions reach Gaza for use by Hamas against Israel, or by creating another Israeli public relations “crisis.” The only response for Israel’s supporters is to fight the propaganda war with offense, offense, offense.
What happened aboard the Marvi Marmara, one of the ships sailing from Turkey toward Gaza, was not a massacre.
Israeli naval commandos successfully and peacefully boarded all the other ships in the flotilla. The soldiers who boarded the Marvi Marmara were attacked by those on board — there is video to prove it — and they acted in self-defense only after 40 minutes of being aboard.
Turkey, one of the sponsors of the flotilla, screams that what happened was a massacre. But why is Turkey exploiting suffering Palestinians to attack Israel? Their motives may have a lot to do with that government’s recent turn toward a more Islamist posture and toward Iran. But regardless, it is in Israel’s interest, and those who defend her, to critique and question the Turks. Noah Pollak, who blogs at Contentions, has some excellent suggestions on what a good offense might have looked like in this case.
Pollak says Israel could, “expel the Turkish ambassador and declare his return contingent on a full, credible, and public Turkish investigation of the terrorist organization that planned and funded” the flotilla. Or how about “publicly demand[ing] reparations from Turkey for the costs of the operation, including the medical bills of the thugs and Jew-haters who have been given such lovely medical care in Israeli hospitals.” The Israelis could also “demand a U.N. investigation of why Turkey is funding terrorist organizations that are involved in attacks on Israel.”  
But what’s this about terrorists aboard the ships, weren’t “peace activists” involved?
Jonathan Schanzer, a former terrorism finance analyst at the U.S. Department of the Treasury, says the charity that sponsored the flotilla was banned by Israel in 2008. “The Turkish IHH (Islan Haklary Ve Hurriyetleri Vakfi in Turkish) was founded in 1992, and reportedly popped up on the CIA’s radar in 1996 for its radical Islamist leanings…. The Turkish nonprofit belongs to a Saudi-based umbrella organization known to finance terrorism called the Union of Good (Ittilaf al-Kheir in Arabic)” which is headed by Sheikh Yusuf Qaradawi, “who…[according to one report] personally transferred millions of dollars to the Union in an effort to provide financial support to Hamas.”
The Israelis have blocked the Union for Good’s activities in the West Bank and Gaza since 2002.  And, as Schanzer points out, the “U.S. government … also views the Union of Good as a terrorist organization.  On Nov. 12, 2008, a press release from the U.S. Treasury announced the umbrella group’s leaders as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT), stating that the group was ‘created by Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization.’ ” According to Treasury Undersecretary Stuart Levey, “Terrorist groups such as Hamas continue to exploit charities to radicalize vulnerable communities and cultivate support for their violent activities.”
It wasn’t just Hamas supporters on those ships, however. Hanin Zoabi, an Arab member of Israel’s parliament and a passenger on the Mavi Marmara, has accused the Israeli military of a premeditated attack. “Israel prepared, expected and planned these results,” she said. But what was MK Zoabi doing on the ship in the first place? As a duly elected representative of the Israeli government, what is she doing breaking the law by trying to defy the blockade? By the way, why didn’t she just buy some food and supplies in Israel, file a request for humanitarian aid to Gaza with the Israeli army and then drive it there? How was going through Turkey, and traveling back to Gaza, illegally, by ship a more efficient aid delivery system than coming from Israel over land, legally?
The flotilla was not a humanitarian mission. If its main purpose was to get aid and supplies to Palestinians in Gaza then why did the ships’ passengers refuse to let the boat dock in Israel to get inspected and then move on? As former New York Times foreign correspondent Leslie Gelb explains, the purpose of the flotilla was to break the blockade, not deliver aid. “Listen to Huwaida Arraf,” Gelb writes, “one of the Free Gaza Movement leaders. She said on Sunday before the incident that the boats would steam forward to Gaza ‘until they either disable our boats or jump on board.’ How on earth did she expect that strategy would not lead to violence?” If this was a true humanitarian mission, shouldn’t the passengers have been more interested in delivering their goods to those in need, than they were in confronting the Israeli military?
Finally, there’s no Palestinian starvation in Gaza for which a humanitarian mission is necessary. Lately, a few courageous Palestinian journalists have accurately reported that there is no food crisis in Gaza. The crisis is that Hamas is having a harder time getting munitions into their territory. Egypt was helping Israel with the blockade exactly because they consider Hamas an enemy as well and do not want arms getting through either.
The flotilla is just the latest battle in the now more than six decades-long war against Israel. What has changed recently is that the propaganda war has become so effective, its warriors don’t even feel the need to hide what they are doing. For those of us here, those who believe in the absolute right of Israel to survive and thrive, there is no effective defense against Israeli rejectionists, there is only offense. For those others who feel the need to express their love for Israel through criticism, silence would be golden.
(Abby Wisse Schachter blogs at and can be reached at