Yesterday I opined that the Israeli navy would do as much as possible to prevent a repeat of last year’s Flotilla incident in which the IDF killed numerous activists and received international condemnation for the willingness to use excessive force, leading to a relaxation in the siege of Gaza. In other words, the IDF will want to stop the Flotilla and try to keep the news quiet by not doing anything stupid, like killing people. Joseph Dana, in the video I posted yesterday, said that he was worried that there could be violence and his life could be in danger. While I understand the concern, I maintain that the pressure Israel received from the 2010 Flotilla will force the IDF to act more competently and to avoid violent clashes.
A comment yesterday disagreed, saying:
But still I would expect the communication to be jammed – last year there was a live-stream running for rather a long time – and all equipment stolen and destroyed in order to do as they like without any proof in the hands of those who participate in the flotilla.
Just yesterday Allawati remarked that he – a member of the international press – never got his stuff or his money back. And I think that goes for everybody from last year’s press people…
I think Dana takes his view from his experiences with the israeli Army every week attacking peaceful Demonstrations in the West Bank – Nil’in, Bil’in. And considering these strategies I am not so sure that Israel will keep away from violence. Last year, when finally the “Rachel Corrie” approached Gaza – all alone – still they mistreated the passengers, bad press or not.
While it is true that Israel has a nasty habit of using unnecessary violence against unarmed protesters in the weekly demonstrations throughout the West Bank, these demonstrations receive very little international attention. Likewise, the Rachel Corrie was hardly as significant as the 2010 Flotilla. Israel is very good at deflecting or simply ignoring international criticism, however I do believe that a repeat of the violence on the Mavi Marmara created an unacceptable level of criticism for Israel. The simple fact that the siege on Gaza was relaxed (albeit not very much) is proof that the outcome of the 2010 Flotilla could have been handled better by Israel. This year, Israel will be sure to learn from the consequences of last year.
Thus, Israel has a vested interest in treating the activists well. The Israeli navy is one of the best in the world and certainly has the technology and know-how to disable ships, jam communications and simply tow the aid boats to an Israeli port. There will undoubtedly be tension between the activists – who want to break the siege – and the soldiers – who may see the activists as anti-semitic or anti-Israel, but both sides benefit from being the peaceful side. Israel has admitted as much (see around minute 7.20 above) by saying that:
I can tell you that the IDF will want as little physical contact as possible and hopefully not at all physical contact [sic]… We are doing everything to avoid physical contact with passengers.
Of course, everyone must take Leibovitz’s comments at face value as the Israeli government is not exactly the most honest government in the world. The Israeli government apparently sponsored a false video in which an Israeli actor claimed to have been denied a spot on the Flotilla because of his sexual preference. Israel has also been accused of sabotaging one of the boats, blackmailing the Greek government, spreading false rumors about chemicals being brought on board to harm or kill soldiers. Rather than a violent clash – which would not benefit Israel, I expect the battle on this Flotilla will resemble the aftermath of the 2010 Flotilla, when activists and Israel tried to shape the conversation and attempted to disseminate the real ‘truth’ of events.
It is entirely possible that there is a repeat of last year’s violence, in which case we should all pray for the safety of all involved, but it seems unlikely to me. For once, I actually believe the Israeli government when it says it wants to avoid violence.