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Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Louie Sloven: Get the facts before you judge Israel

Louie Sloven has an excellent piece in Monday's Daily Iowan

Guest column: Mavi Marmara fight illustrates many complexities

BY GUEST OPINION | JUNE 14, 2010 7:30 AM

And even though you might disagree with me, I’m not going to call you an anti-Semite. Really!As a young Jewish American who recently finished an eight-month-long stint in Israel, where I interned for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, I’m writing to explain how I feel about the world’s reaction to the recent flotilla fiasco.

I’m aware that most Americans, indeed most people the world over, are livid with anger at the current Israeli decision-makers. They’re wondering why Israeli forces were ordered to rappel down from a helicopter onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara; they’re wondering why that operation couldn’t have been handled in a manner that didn’t result in nine Turks and one American dead.

Indeed, most analyses of the issue focus on the morality of the existing Gaza blockade that the flotilla was attempting to circumvent. Representatives from every international organization, with barely an acronym to their name, have rushed to blame Israel for the decrepit conditions in Gaza. In light of that, many outside Israel are wont to take the side of these nautical “activists,” as they’ve been popularly labeled.

I am not surprised because, by now, this has become the modus operandi: Disasters and atrocities happen all over the world, yet Israel remains on the front page and in the world’s collective consciousness. The Obama administration’s prudent efforts to remain “neutral” in the war of words between Palestinians and Israelis is depicted as submission to “the Israel lobby.” The Palestinians back a powerful narrative of victimhood and succeed largely in demonizing Israelis, portraying them as determinedly land-hungry oppressors.

The media, too, paint a picture in which it’s easy to pick out the heroes and villains. If only the real story were that simple.

The nature of the events that unfolded became contentious primarily because the Israelis had no way of knowing what sort of cargo was onboard the flotilla. (A ship called the Francop was intercepted on its way to Lebanon last year; as it turned out, it was full of Iranian weaponry headed to Hezbollah. And Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, the man assassinated in Dubai earlier this year, was discovered to be working as a Hamas-Iran liaison in the weapons-trafficking business.) It makes intuitive sense to me that Israel wants to keep close tabs on what goes in and out of Gaza.

Second, it’s not simple because Israeli troops probably did meet armed resistance aboard the Mavi Marmara. Even though video accounts of the actual conflict make the order of events difficult to discriminate, there are some YouTube videos of the “activists” aboard one boat chanting about the glory of jihad. I’m sure, like George Galloway’s recent “Viva Palestina” aid convoy, it was a mix of utopian peaceniks and Islamic extremists.

It’s not simple, third, because two ascendant nations — Turkey and Iran — seem to be writing the script behind the scenes and succeeding. It’s not surprising that a Turkish boat was where this scuffle took place; remember the recently aired Turkish TV series that portrays Israel Defense Forces soldiers indiscriminately gunning down unarmed civilians? Not to mention the slew of pictures featuring Turkish Premier Recep Erdogan warmly greeting Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who called this event “the nail in the coffin of the Zionist regime.”

And finally, it’s not that simple for me because I also believe that Israel could have handled the situation more prudently and that there are some fundamental problems with the implementation of the Gaza blockade.

All I want you to understand is this: If you judge Israel before you wade through some of the complexities of the situation, you do us an injustice and you unwittingly serve the agendas of real anti-Semites and anti-Zionists. Don’t believe it’s that simple. We want peace, I swear it.

Louie Sloven
UI graduate