The activists were asking for it By Mark Steel

4 June, 2010 — Socialist WorkerThe Independent

The wild rhetoric flying around since Israel attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla shows that there’s nothing at all that defenders of Israel won’t jump to defend.

IT’S TIME the Israeli government’s PR team made the most of its talents, and became available for hire.

Then, whenever a nutcase marches into a shopping mall and guns down a selection of passersby, they could be on hand to tell the world’s press: ‘The gunman regrets the loss of life, but did all he could to avoid violence.’ Then various governments would issue statements saying, ‘All we know is a man went berserk with an AK-47, and next to him, there’s a pile of corpses, so until we know the facts, we can’t pass judgment on what took place.’

To strengthen their case in the assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the Israelis have released a photo of the weapons they found on board (which amount to some knives and tools and wooden sticks) that the naive might think you’d expect to find on any ship, but the more astute will recognize as exactly what you’d carry if you were planning to defeat the Israeli army.

It’s an armory smaller than you’d find in the average toolshed in a garden in Cirencester, which goes to show the Israelis had better destroy Cirencester quickly as an essential act of self-defense.

It’s a shame they weren’t more imaginative, as they could have said, ‘We also discovered a deadly barometer; a ship’s compass, which could not only be frisbeed at someone’s head but even had markings to help the assailant know which direction he was throwing it; and a set of binoculars that could easily be converted into a ray-gun.’

That would be as logical as the statement from the Israeli prime minister’s spokesman: ‘We made every possible effort to avoid this incident.’ Because the one tiny thing they forgot to do to avoid this incident was not send in armed militia from helicopters in the middle of the night and shoot people. I must be a natural at this sort of technique, because I often go all day without climbing off a helicopter and shooting people, and I’m not even making every possible effort.

Politicians and commentators worldwide repeat a version of this line. They’re aware that a nation has sent its militia to confront people carrying provisions for the desperate, in the process shooting several of them dead, and yet they angrily blame the dead ones. One typical headline yesterday read: ‘Activists got what they wanted–confrontation.’ It’s an attitude so deranged it deserves to be registered as a psychosis, something like ‘Reverse Slaughter Victim Confusion Syndrome.’

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

ISRAEL AND its supporters claim that Viva Palestina, made up of people who collect donated food, cement and items for providing basic amenities such as toilets, and transport them to Gaza, wanted the violence all along. Because presumably they must have been thinking ‘Hezbollah couldn’t beat them, but that’s because unlike us, they didn’t have a ballcock and several boxes of plum tomatoes.’

One article told us the flotilla was full of ‘thugs spoiling for a confrontation’, and then accused them of being ‘less about aid and more about PR. Indeed, on board was Swedish novelist Henning Mankell.’ So were they thugs, or about PR? Did they have a thugs’ section and a PR quarters, or did they all muck in together–the novelist diverting the soldiers with his characterization, while the thugs attacked them with a lethal spirit level?

But some defenders of Israel are so blind to what happens in front of them that there’s nothing at all they wouldn’t jump to defend. Israel could blow up a cat’s home, and within five minutes, they’d be yelling ‘How do we know the cats weren’t smuggling semtex in their fur for Hamas?’

If this incident had been carried about by Iran, or anyone we were trying to portray as an enemy, so much condemnation would have been spewed out that it would have created a vast cloud of outrage that airlines would be unable to fly through.

But as it’s Israel, most governments offer a few diplomatic words that blame no one, but accept that the deaths are ‘regrettable.’ They might as well have picked any random word from the dictionary, so the news would tell us ‘William Hague described the deaths as ‘hexagonal’,’ and a statement from the U.S. Senate said, ‘It’s all very confusing. In future, let’s hope they make every effort to avoid a similar incident.’

Columnist: Mark Steel
Mark Steel Mark Steel is a comedian, a columnist for the Independent newspaper, and a socialist and activist in Britain. He’s the author of two collections about contemporary Britain, It’s Not a Runner Bean: Dispatches from a Slightly Successful Comedian and Reasons to Be Cheerful–as well as Vive la Revolution: A Stand-up History of the French Revolution.

first published in the Independent

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