The commando raid: some next-day thoughts

Some next-day thoughts on the Israeli commando raid on the Turkish ship heading for Gaza.

–Anyone who can watch the videos we posted yesterday and still believe that the commandos ruthlessly massacred peaceful humanitarians is deliberately obtuse– at best. After holding fire while they were stabbed with knives and beaten with metal rods, the commandos clearly acted in self-defense. There were hundreds of people on the ship; if the Israelis’ intention was to kill as many as possible, clearly they failed miserably. By refusing Israel’s offer to transfer their aid to Gaza, the organizers made it clear that their main purpose was political and confrontational rather than humanitarian.

–Just as clearly, there were disastrous and self-defeating strategic and tactical failures on the Israeli side. Once again, the Israeli government has failed to grasp that just because they may have the right to do something doesn’t mean it’s always wise to do it. Allowing the ships to dock in Gaza, unload their cargo and be on their way– as the Israelis have done in the recent past– might have provided some minimal aid and comfort to Hamas, but nothing like the propaganda coup that yesterday’s events did. And if the Israelis believed that the commandos would meet little or no resistance on board– and it seems they did believe that– there was obviously an enormous intelligence failure.

–While protecting its security, Israel has to find creative ways of dealing with situations like this which put the public onus on its enemies and not, as almost invariably happens, on itself. (One way to do that, an Israeli journalist suggested, would have been for Israel to announce that it would allow the ships to enter Gaza if Hamas released Gilad Shalit.) Almost everything Israel does these days seems plodding and obvious and designed to make it look like the villain.

Jeffrey Goldberg, who is currently visiting Israel and whose commitment to the Jewish state is as strong as anyone’s, has (as he almost always does) some sensible things to say:

There is a word in Yiddish, seichel, which means wisdom, but it also means more than that: It connotes ingenuity, creativity, subtlety, nuance. Jews have always needed seichel to survive in this world; a person in possession of a Yiddishe kop, a “Jewish head,” is someone who has seichel, someone who looks for a clever way out of problems, someone who understands that the most direct way — blunt force, for instance — often represents the least elegant solution, a person who can foresee consequences of his actions.

…Israel may face, in the coming year, a threat to its existence the likes of which it has not experienced before: A theologically-motivated regional superpower with a nuclear arsenal. It faces another existential threat as well, from forces arguing that Israel’s morally disastrous settlement policy fatally undermines the very idea of a Jewish state. Is Israel ready to deploy seichel in these battles, rather than mere force?

Update: Israel plays into the hands of Guardian readers.

(Hat tip: Michael Fife)

Further update: Ynet reports that most of the goods found on the ships are on the way to Gaza:

The equipment found on the ships seized early Monday by the Israel Defense Forces while making their way to the Gaza Strip is being unloaded at the Ashdod Port since Monday night.

“Most of the equipment was scattered in the ships’ storerooms and was not packed in an organized manner,” said the port’s CEO, Shuki Sagis.

“We began unloading in the night,” Sagis explained. “We see cargo which was arranged and repacked in order to be led to Gaza, mostly humanitarian cargo, food and toys.”

He added that some unusual items were also found, but refused to elaborate.

The cargo has yet to be weighed, and according to Sagis, in an ordinary situation the ship would not have been accepted at the port as most of its content was unpacked and unorganized.

“Nonetheless, we took in those ships and are engaging in Sisyphean labor,” he said.

According to the port’s CEO, after the goods were packed, “product after product,” they were being led to the Gaza Strip.

“So far we have sent dozens of trucks with cargo,” he said. Dudi Gofer, head of the Defense Ministry’s international transportation unit, said that some 20 trucks had left for Gaza.