A pretty remarkable editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, clear, correct and being proven right in the Middle East by events. Blind support for Israel is causing its death. Discuss:
In seeking to reassert forcefully its blockade of Gaza, Israel has succeeded only in calling its action even more into question. And each new ramification of its action in boarding the pro-Palestinian protest vessels attempting to run the blockade serves only to undermine its case further.
The Herald has covered the protest from the start. Running the blockade was clearly a political act in the guise of a humanitarian one – provocative and dangerous, but nonetheless legitimate.
The Israeli government was informed, through its ambassador to Australia, that the Herald journalist Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty would be with the flotilla. The two were detained along with the protesters on board the boats. That was predictable, given the confusion of the night-time interception in which nine protesters lost their lives. But what followed was not.
Once their identities were known, instead of being allowed to carry on with their professional activities, the two had their equipment confiscated and despite legal action pending in the Supreme Court of Israel against the legality of the country’s action on the high seas, they were deported yesterday morning to Turkey. They signed notes assenting to deportation: in the circumstances they had little choice.
The government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which routinely thumbs its nose at international opinion, clearly treats Israeli law and due process – and the freedom of the media to cover events in the region – in a similarly high-handed manner. No doubt its mailed-fist approach to protests which push the Palestinian cause will win it support among parts of the Israeli population; other Israelis, though, will view with dismay their country’s gradual descent from the democratic ideals with which it was founded, in which the shooting of protesters is only the latest stage. Israel’s allies are right to urge a full inquiry into the assault on the vessels. It would be a first step to reasserting Israel’s great claim that it is the only democratic country in its region.
We believe that it is time for Jews of the diaspora to question Israel’s actions. For too long the spectrum of Jewish opinion outside Israel has been narrowed on Middle Eastern questions to a compulsory, unquestioning support for the Israeli government of the day, no matter what. A few brave individuals challenge this orthodoxy – to their cost. No similar constraints exist in Israel itself, where debate even now is robust about the rights and wrongs of intercepting the blockade-runners, and broader issues of Palestinian rights. Not the least reason for the domestic criticism is that Israel’s excessive response has now guaranteed the Gaza blockade protest will have imitators, all of them confidently expecting the Israelis to repeat their initial blunder.