The confrontation at sea between pro-Palestinian activists seeking to end the international blockade of Hamas-controlled Gaza and Israeli forces seeking to enforce the closure has put the State of Israel in a difficult position. Despite the fact that the aim of the so-called “freedom flotilla” was to bring aid to the terrorist regime running Gaza, the deaths of several persons on board one of the ships that resisted Israeli commandos who boarded the vessel has created a public-relations bonanza for the anti-Zionist groups that organized the effort.
The chorus of condemnations that rained down on Jerusalem only hours after the incident shows the depth of anti-Israeli passion around the world. Governments, NGOs, and UN officials all chimed in with the usual refrains about the use of “disproportionate” force, as well as the myth about the ships’ seeking to alleviate a humanitarian crisis in a region where food and medical supplies are not barred by the Israeli and Egyptian blockade, which is aimed at forcing Hamas to either step down from power or recognize Israel.
But while Israeli spokesmen will be scrambling to tell their side of the story in the coming days, the spotlight on “liberal Zionists” will be crucial in determining not only the way American Jewry responds to the crisis but also the reaction from the Obama administration.
As with the case of Israel’s December 2008 counterattack on terrorist strongholds in Gaza after years of ceaseless missile attacks on its southern towns and villages, today’s naval confrontation offers American Jews a stark choice. They can back Israel or Hamas.
Despite the drumbeat of condemnations against Israel that will be heard in the coming days, the fact is the Gaza flotilla was inspired and supported by Hamas as the presence of several Hamas leaders at its launch in Turkey revealed. The convoy’s supposed goal of bringing succor to starving Palestinians in Gaza is a lie. The Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Hamasistan has not halted the flow of food and medicine to the region. The blockade is aimed at preventing “construction” materials from flowing into Gaza, since Hamas uses these materials to strengthen its military defenses as well as its homegrown arms industry. Talk about aid to suffering Palestinians is nothing but a cover for efforts to aid the Islamists of Hamas, whose ruthless hold on the district was achieved by a bloody coup.
Moreover, the supposedly peaceful intent of the volunteers on the ships is given the lie by an Al-Jazeera news report from the flotilla that was publicized by Palestine Media Watch. In the tape, the so-called humanitarians chant Islamist slogans about killing the Jews as they invoke the example of Khaibar, where the Prophet Mohammed’s forces slaughtered the Jews in the year 628. Another participant speaks of their goal being either “martyrdom” or Gaza. It appears that by shooting at Israelis boarding at least one of the ships, some achieved the former goal. The question of whether Israel’s forces might have been better prepared to subdue them is one for Israelis to consider, but it is not germane to the question of whether the blockade is justified or the contention that those on board the ships were innocent humanitarian victims considering that the Hamas supporters’ goal was to provoke bloodshed no matter what the Israelis did.
The question now is whether self-proclaimed liberal Zionists — to use the phrase made popular by the controversy over Peter Beinart’s Israel-bashing essay in the latest New York Review of Books — will use this incident to bolster their campaign for American Jews to distance themselves from Israel. In December 2008, J Street stood virtually alone as it condemned Israel’s counterattack on Gaza, exposing the group’s extremist nature. President Obama has belatedly realized that this left-wing lobby is not representative of American Jewry, as his May “charm offensive” toward Jews, which sought to back away from a policy of confrontation with Israel, revealed.
But J Street renewed its call for an end to the blockade of Hamas in a statement that echoes the rhetoric of anti-Zionist groups about Gaza, and demanded that America force Israel into more concessions to Hamas. American Jews, especially liberals, must decide whether they stand with a group that essentially backs the short-term goals of Hamas and its supporters or an Israeli government that was elected by its people. At a time when Israel needs American support as much as ever, liberals must understand that the administration will be looking to them to see whether they can abandon Israel with impunity.
Americans who are looking to excuse themselves from the more difficult task of explaining the truth of Israel’s dilemma to a hostile world may seize upon the convoy deaths as a fresh rationale. But if that is what amounts to Liberal Zionism these days, then its adherents must be judged as, at best, fair-weather friends and, at worst, little different from open anti-Zionists who implicitly support the Palestinian terror organization’s goal of eliminating the Jewish state.
If Liberal Zionism in 2010 amounts to the backing of Hamas’s propaganda campaign and the delegitimization of Israeli self-defense, then it is time to admit that such liberals have left the Zionist camp altogether.