This morning’s Haaretz has an only too revealing editorial. The editors are “troubled” by statements by the IDF’s chief of staff, Gabi Ashkenazi, concerning the lessons of the Israeli attack on the ship carrying goods to Gaza in defiance of the Israeli siege and blockade, an attack that killed nine Turkish civilians. It is worth quoting from the editorial at some length:
“Ashkenazi said that for him the main lesson from the operational aspect is that if the Israel Defense Forces confronts a similar scenario in the future, it will have to use snipers, which he says would prevent harm to soldiers. This is very serious and shows that the chief of staff and the IDF have not learned a single lesson from the flotilla affair and Operation Cast Lead.The implication of the chief of staff's words is that the IDF will not hesitate to hit civilians from a distance, using snipers firing live rounds….This was precisely the doctrine of Cast Lead: minimum military casualties at nearly any cost - sometimes harming civilians and ignoring the laws of war. For this Israel continues to pay a heavy international price, and now it turns out that the chief of staff is threatening to continue this doctrine.”
The editorial concludes:
“In the future, similar flotillas must be handled precisely the opposite way. First, we should ask whether there is a need… [for] a forceful takeover, if we know that the passengers on the ships are not carrying weapons destined for the Gaza Strip. Even if a forceful takeover is decided on, the IDF will have to find ways to ensure minimum casualties among both the soldiers and passengers….It’s not only about Israel’s image in the media, but also about the ethical profile of the state and its army.”
Note that even Israel’s most liberal newspaper, its acclaimed voice of what remains of Israeli reason, morality, and self-criticism, does not question whether Israel has any right at all to continue its occupation, repression and economic siege of the people of Gaza. On the contrary, it starts from the premise that Israel has both the right and need to blockade even civilian goods—just that it shouldn’t use force in that case, or at least not if its soldiers enforcing the blockade are not in danger.
And, by further implication, the restrictions on the use of force are even further relaxed if the ships are carrying weapons. Weapons, that is, that are intended to fight the Israeli occupation. You know, like the clandestine weapons flow to the Zionist movement during the 1940s, designed to resist the British occupation and establish an independent Jewish state.
What accounts for this astonishing moral blindness, all the more painful considering its source as well as its concern about the “ethical profile” of Israel? Two possibilities suggest themselves: either the editorialists share in the blindness, or they fear that if they question not only the methods but the purpose of the Israeli occupation and blockade, they will lose any chance of convincing their fellow countrymen to reconsider the Israeli occupation and blockade of the Palestinians.
Either way, it is hard to find reasons for optimism about the future of such a society.