The debate over the violence sparked when a ship bound for Gaza was boarded by Israeli commandos has quickly collapsed into predictable narratives. Most critics of Israel have been quick to ignore the fact the putatively unarmed humanitarian aid workers attacked Israeli troops with knives and clubs, attempting to seize hostages or just plain lynch them. And most supporters of Israel have been quick to ignore the foolishness of using a special forces assault to confront anti-Israel activists obviously trolling for any available way to make Israel look bad.
What almost no one seems to be talking about is the political processes that brought us to the brink of war between two major U.S. allies. How did we get here?
It’s easy to point the finger of blame at Israel, and that is exactly what most of the so-called “international community” will do. Israel is, in some ways, its own worst enemy these days. Benjamin Netanyahu’s government seems to have adopted a mulish and politically tone-deaf policy of confrontation towards the Palestinians. After defeat in the brief Gaza War, Palestinian civilians exist in perpetual limbo, caught between an openly genocidal and internally repressive Hamas regime and Israel’s rigid policy of blockade. Because Gaza is controlled by Hamas, which openly embraces the goal of the genocidal extermination of the Israeli state and the Jewish people, Israel has legitimate cause to question whether incoming “humanitarian aid” might be the proverbial camel’s nose under the tent for weapons smuggling. Indeed, the fact that Hamas routinely uses smuggling operations not to bring in food or medicine, but rather to bring in weapons, shows that Israeli concerns are well-founded. But Israel’s policy is simply unsustainable over the long or even intermediate term. Netanyahu’s hard-line policies reap domestic political benefits, but at the cost of further entrenching a conflict that ultimately bleeds Israel.
But looking at it from Israel’s perspective, it is also possible to identify another contributor to this social and political disaster — anti-Israel activists themselves. It is certainly true that not all critics of Israel are anti-Semites who relish the thought of destroying the Jewish state, but it is also true that at least some of Israel’s critics are willing to collaborate with anti-Semites in service of their cause. And that collaboration has reaped great political success on the global stage. Israel stands isolated, with even its closest ally — the United States — increasingly willing to support anti-Israel criticisms. Moreover, the political isolation of Israel has ossified into a permanent bias in the vast majority of media coverage — anything Israel does right will be ignored and anything Israel does wrong will be exaggerated and trumpeted from the global rooftops. The bottom line is that Israel can’t get fair treatment and its enemies get a perpetual free pass.
And that’s where the price comes in. Israel’s enemies know that their depredations will be largely ignored or blamed on Israel. Thus they feel free to launch rockets at Israeli civilians (Hamas and Hezbollah) or bait Israel with a “humanitarian aid flotilla” infested with violent extremists armed with knives and clubs to lynch any Israeli soldiers who might try to inspect the cargo without any concern that they might endanger their international support by doing so. The anti-Israel bias of the so-called “international community” operates as a shield that Israel’s enemies know about and eagerly use.
More important, however, is the effect of pervasive anti-Israel bias on Israel. Hard-line polices are politically costly to Israel only to the extent that they forfeit benefits Israel might otherwise receive. And when Israel becomes aware of the fact that there are no benefits and that any attempts to adopt a more reasonable policy towards the Palestinians will just be ignored by the “international community” and exploited by Hamas and Hezbollah, well, who can blame Israel for deciding it’s not worth the gamble? The net effect of the persistent bias against Israel in the global media is to tell Israel that it is going to “do the time” regardless of whether or not it actually “does the crime”, so Israel may as well go ahead and indulge. The international anti-Israel movement is, in short, all stick and no carrot. And they’re willing to use the stick even when the justifications are manufactured by Hamas and Hezbollah propagandists. Israel has no reason to heed the demands of such intractably biased critics and every reason to simply dismiss them as de facto agents of Hamas and Hezbollah. In the words of Jerusalem Post columnist Caroline Glick, “Israel is the target of a massive information war.” It’s a fair complaint, yet almost no one on the anti-Israel side is willing to deal with the implications.
Getting out of this mess is a long, and perhaps impossible road. The cycle tends to be self-reinforcing. When an incident like the violence on the anti-Israel flotilla (I refuse to call it a “humanitarian aid flotilla” — that’s a self-serving and inaccurate name for a flotilla that was clearly intended, staffed, and equipped to provoke a violent confrontation) happens, Israel’s critics refuse to even consider Israel’s side of the story. When Israel sees that, it reinforces their belief that its critics are just hopelessly biased, so Israel proceeds to ignore them and escalate its confrontational methods. And when the critics see that, it confirms their worst prejudices about Israel. And round and round we go. They only way to begin to break the cycle would be — just once — to actually do an “impartial investigation” that holds both sides accountable. That means, yes, criticizing Israel for its disproportionate response, but equally condemning anti-Israel zealots for their cynical and illegal use (or condoning) of a “humanitarian aid” flotilla to deliberately provoke a violent confrontation.
But since anti-Israel forces control the vast majority of international media outlets, I don’t think it can happen that way.