Monday, May 31, 2010

Operation Over-Reaction

Psst...Israel. Let me tell you a little secret. You're not going anywhere. Yes, it's true the 250 million Arabs want to drive you into the sea. It's true that latte-sipping Europeans in their ivory towers can comment on how "fascist" and "genocidal" your nation is, with no hint of irony or guilt for what their grandparents may have done to your grandparents. Yes its true that Iran will probably host another of its remarkably disgusting academic conferences to argue that the holocaust never took place. But guess what? None of that matters; you've won. You've won every battle and in every test that mattered, and if you are ever really threatened once more, well, you'll win again.

That's why heavy-handed actions like shooting 10(or 16, or 19, the number is unconfirmed as of yet) passengers on board a ship in a blockade-running flotilla destined for Gaza is such a bad idea (reported here in the London Times). Even if the ships were carrying arms, even if they were going to re-supply Hamas, using such brute force simply undermines the strongest argument for a strong Israel: that Israel is a decent democracy that respects human rights, but has the bad luck of having a remarkably precarious geo-strategic position. That you have a right to be powerful as a nation, but you will use that power wisely and sparingly.

Israel, when you shoot people, even activists who are trying to beat or stab your soldiers, you inevitably use disproportionate force; not because you mean to, but simply due to the fact that you are better armed than the opposition. And the sad fact is (and I recognise how easy it is for me to say this, as I safely sit, unfit and overfed at a keyboard) that democracies have to respond to violence and threats with calm and a desire to limit the use of force to an absolute minimum. That is the burden of being a democracy; we have higher standards than our opponents. We truly are the good guys.

When you fail to do this, Israel, you merely undermine your own security position; you give those self-righteous Europeans a feeling of contentment inside, you make the Islamic fundamentalist feel they have some justification for their irrational hatred of you, you give those aimless youths across the Western world a new target for their protests against life in general.

Ultimately, you could have let these ships pass, and I suspect the negative consequences would have been far less than storming them. And, secretly, you know full well that extremists and anti-Semites can threaten all they want. Those who hate you and live in Gaza or the West Bank cannot destroy you; and those who live further afield and who may have the capacity to destroy you, cannot face the heavy retribution you will rain down on their heads (as the Times also reported today).

Israel, I and many others in this world see ourselves as your friends; and we consequently expect high standards from you. For your own sake, please live up to them

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