What do you say to an Irish Foreign Affairs Minister who thinks the Jewish state is tormenting Palestinians?
[Author's introductory note: The following is a letter I wrote to the Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Michael Martin, a pro-Palestinian supporter and vocal critic of Israel. I did not initially intend to submit this letter for publication. However, I felt that publishing it might encourage others to do the same where their representatives or government ministers are taking an unreasonable stance in relation to the Gaza Flotilla incident. Since I wrote the letter, Minister Martin published an extreme article in a prominent Irish newspaper which indicates he will try to influence the EU to break the blockade on Gaza. But he seems to think nothing of courting communist China. It should be obvious that Israel is facing an existential crisis. The extraordinary hysteria in the media internationally and on the streets is a timely reminder of this fact. Israel needs more sensible vocal support from those who truly care about its future.]
As an Irish citizen living in Ireland I feel it is my duty to provide some observations on the stance taken by yourself and An Taoiseach [the Prime Minister] Mr. Brian Cowen with regard to the Gaza flotilla. Although I am not really a political campaigner I still decided to write to you because I feel your approach to this issue has been deeply unbalanced and damaging.
I have listened to your comments on the Irish media since the Gaza flotilla crisis erupted on Monday the 31st of May 2010. On that day, I listened to your interview on the RTE Radio 1 “News at One” show. You objected to the way Israel had characterised the members of the flotilla as extremists. You stated that they were legitimately protesting. Firstly, there is the issue of the legality in attempting to break a military blockade which I understand you believe is in itself illegal - I will return to this point later. Secondly, your assertion failed to address the accusations that Israel made regarding the violent conduct of certain activists. You had previously stated in an interview on the RTE1 TV "News at Noon" that the military action was completely unnecessary. I found that a remarkable thing to say since you would not have been in possession of many facts at that stage and as a result unable to ascertain with certainty that there had not been a violent response to the boarding of the ship. You claimed in the “News at One” interview that other strategies by the Israeli’s could have been adopted. Subsequently, on TV interviews you stated they could have shadowed the vessels to Gaza. I do not understand what good this would have done in terms of allowing Israel to ensure that the cargo was legitimate humanitarian aid rather then a source of harm to its citizens. You also stated that such violence did not occur before when ships went to Gaza. That is true, but your assertion ignores the obvious point that unlike before, there may well have been a very violent response as the Israeli State has repeatedly alleged.
The flotilla was led by a group called Foundation for Human Rights and Freedom and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). IHH is a radical Islamic Turkish NGO. Sources going back to the 90’s state they are connected with Al-Qaeda and other jihad networks. One example is a 2006 report by terrorism consultant Evan F. Kohlmann. Moreover evidence indicates IHH is directly involved with terrorist activities. The greater potential for violence was a concern by some before the incident occurred. TV footage attests to the jihadist intent on the flotilla.
Violence with the boarding of the Israeli troops only occurred on one ship – coincidentally the Turkish ship. This seems to indicate that the Israeli troops did not set out with violent intent. The violent reaction of the passengers can be fairly characterised as extreme as this YouTube video attests.
You stated that Israel has options for dealing with the flotilla. However, you failed to address the options open to the organisers of the flotilla itself. They could have landed at an Egyptian port or Ashdod Port. When Gilad Shalit's father asked them to deliver letters and parcels to Gilad, they refused. The humanitarian aspect of the flotilla was simply a mask for a more hostile intent. If aid was the true aim of these people it could have been supplied through border crossings. There have been numerous attempts to break the embargo, e.g. in 2008 one ship just carried 5,000 balloons. It was of course known that these ships would be detained. Pro-Palestinian groups milk the events for propaganda. When those on the “Spirit of Humanity” were released they wasted no time peddling lies that were at times truly shocking. A British activist compared the low security prisons where activists like himself were detained with a Nazi concentration camp. The purpose is solely to cause diplomatic incidents to embarrass Israel and it is no coincidence commentators are claiming the present incident is a victory for Hamas. They and pro-Palestinians are the ones that benefited. Here is an article that discusses it.
The Taoiseach Mr. Brian Cowen has been quite unhelpful with regard to his own comments as well. In the Dáil [the Irish House of Parliament] he stated there would be “serious consequences” if any Irish citizen was harmed. Similarly, you stated later on Monday that the Irish citizens on board these ships were kidnapped and demanded that Israel treat the Irish ship the MV Rachel Corrie with respect. A very large number of Irish citizens are involved in this charade of attacking Israel supposedly for humanitarian reasons. None have been harmed in the past to the best of my knowledge. Therefore, while it is of course important to speak out about any concerns regarding Irish citizens, such strong language was unnecessary as it is unlikely any Irish citizens were harmed unless some happened to be on the Turkish vessel.
The alternative of breaking the embargo which you and many others endorse, will of course let shipments into Gaza without weapon import controls. This is a remarkable thing for any right-thinking individual to seek. Need I remind you that Hamas controls Gaza? They are funded and supplied with weapons by Iran. They will inevitably rearm themselves without the previous limitations imposed by using tunnels. The ensuing result will be another war with Israel which could be a good deal worse as Hamas will be much better equipped. How can anyone in good conscience claim that this is a viable alternative unless they regard the destruction of the State of Israel as a worthy goal?
To the best of my knowledge you are the loudest critic of Israel in the Irish Government and have been involved in quite a number of proposals and initiatives harmful to the State of Israel. Only in recent weeks you were involved with the UN conference limiting weapons of mass destruction in the Middle-East which resulted in a declaration which astonishingly singled out Israel rather than Iran, the state that threatened the Jewish Nation with extinction.
At the ICTU conference in April you asserted to your credit that you did not believe in boycotting Israel. However, at the same time you spoke of the need for Israel (rather than the Palestinians) to move toward a position where peace was possible and strongly advocated a two-state solution. I sometimes wonder when I hear the views of pro-Palestinians if they are referring to the same conflict. People like yourself act as if Israel alone prevents a Palestinian state. The Palestinian’s rejected every opportunity from the 1947 UN Partition resolution to the offer in 2008 by Ehud Olmert who agreed to virtually all the territory they demanded. As history has shown repeatedly, all parties require some level of good faith before there is any chance of achieving peace. In the past, the Israeli electorate has often backed peace-makers while the Palestinians often choose the opposite, such as with the 2006 Gaza election of the Islamist group Hamas. At best, “peace” talks are an exercise to appease the unrealistic expectations of the international community and at worst, a game of strategy to gain a propaganda victory. See a 2003 survey where only 20% of Palestinians state they will peacefully co-exist with Israel.
Israel will not be secure even if it achieves peace with the Palestinians. Besides the obvious threats of extinction, Iran is funding Hamas’ and Hizbullah’s assaults on Israel. Peace negotiations with Egypt and Jordan succeeded in preventing further military conflict but relations were never truly normalised at state level decades after peace was made. Syria's leaders have indicated that normalised relations are not an option. Turkey, with its present Islamist government became hostile long before the current controversy. This conflict is an intermittent Islamic/pan-Arab war. Despite the precarious situation, Western politicians that luxuriate in peace aggressively encourage this state to take “risks for peace.” Yet when peace efforts go wrong they typically ignore the common Palestinian intransigence.
In your op-ed article for the New York Times “Gaza a Year Later” (published 4th March 2010) you wrote: “The tragedy of Gaza is that it is fast in danger of becoming a tolerated humanitarian crisis, a situation that most right-thinking people recognize as utterly unacceptable in this day and age but which is proving extremely difficult to remedy or ameliorate due to the blockade and the wider ramifications of efforts to try and achieve political progress in the Middle East.” In no way has it become or is becoming a “tolerated humanitarian crisis.” It is a crisis but certainly not one of the most serious in humanitarian terms. The population is not starving. Yes, rebuilding infrastructure and improving living conditions is problematic. You clearly blame Israel, but as soon as Hamas in essence committed a military coup it had little option but to isolate this terrorist organisation which has repeatedly stated in recent years that it will use terrorist acts to destroy Israel. When it greatly increased its attacks on Israel, it became, in effect, in a state of war. I am no expert on international law, but it is clear Israel has a legal right to defend its citizens. More importantly, it has a moral right.
“What I witnessed in Gaza, amidst all the rubble and devastation still so evident from last year’s conflict, was a population traumatized and reduced to poverty by an unjust and completely counterproductive blockade. All that is being achieved through the imposition of the blockade is to enrich Hamas and marginalize even further the voices of moderation. I view the current conditions prevailing for the ordinary population as inhumane and utterly unacceptable, in terms of accepted international standards of human rights.”
In actual fact, what “is being achieved” is a legitimate defence of Israeli citizens. The voices of moderation were thrown off rooftops. I refer to Fatah/PLO which aren’t exactly voices of moderation but are not quite so implacably opposed to Israel’s existence. Whether we like it or not the citizens of Gaza chose their fate when they elected Hamas because, in effect, they chose war. This is not a justification for collective punishment but neither can we simply excuse the election as some sort of expression of democratic will which shouldn’t have any consequences one way or another. All adults bear the brunt of moral choices so why exactly should Gazan’s be exempt? To suggest that the moral actions of the citizens of Gaza and the corresponding consequences should not be connected is to equate them with children. This is not a justification for their suffering but an assertion that they themselves are at least partially morally responsible for their present unfortunate circumstances. They chose war and they will chose it again. This clearly does not fit in with your view of peace loving Palestinians but that in itself does not make it incorrect. To ignore war mongering will not bring peace. Simply ignoring it will worsen the situation and harm the forces that legitimately oppose it.
Quite frankly I realise it is unlikely this letter will hold any sway with you or your department. However, I hope the points raised will encourage some reflection on the issue and, despite your feelings of support for the Palestinians, bring about a greater impartiality in dealing with this and future matters relating to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.