What’s a nation to do when people around it are hell-bent on seeking to destroy it, to bring in (even more) weapons, to violently provoke it, and to paint it as an unfair aggressor?
Israel is no in any kind of enviable space: it is surrounded by communities that do not genuinely believe it even ought to exist, and every act of self-defence is imaged elsewhere as though the government of Israel, protecting its population, is aggressor.
Why a naval blockade in the first place? simple: as one amongst many examples, only a few months ago, the Israeli Navy intercepted the ship Francop containing 320 tonnes of arms sent from Iran (the image to the right is part of the weaponry seized). In this and other instances, the weapons and ammunition were disguised as civilian cargo amongst numerous containers.
What’s Israel to do? Part of the ‘problem’, of course, is that in so many instances in recent history, the aggressor which has had to be countered has been the official State. This remains the case in the ongoing struggles between Kurds and the Turkish government, Tibet and China, the freedom movement in Sri Lanka, the appalling situation in numerous parts of sub-sahara Africa and all too many islamic regimes. As westerners, we also collectively face the more recent struggles of independence movements in former colonies, these often in nations that have become, especially since gaining independence, at the mercy of islamic groups (from ‘benign’ examples such as Indonesia and Malaysia, to the difficult situations in places like Zimbabwe, Algeria, and so many of the ‘-stan’ nationstates of the regions that connects Asia to Europe).
Israel, in that context, remains a rather unique counter-intuitive example where the State is placed in the situation of being permanently at war with organisations funded by foreign governments who see it in their political advantage to perpetuate aggression. How is Israel to protect its citizens?
Despite the all too numerous deaths that have occurred on all sides, what’s really quite astounding is the ongoing military restraint that Israeli governments have displayed over the years, and the incredible similar restraint its individual soldiers have shown. This does not mean there aren’t a relatively small (but still unacceptable) number of incidents whereby individual soldiers have apparently gone over the top. In comparison, however, it’s quite astounding how benign the vast majority of personnel within the Israeli armed forces have shown themselves to be. Frankly, I doubt that the equivalent units in any neighbouring nation (or further afield ones, for that matter) would have acted with such humanist values. At the very least, consider what each of us would have done if part of the navy escorting the redirection of ships to Port and being attacked without provocation – not sure about others, but I suspect that my own defense would have been swifter than the restraint shown by the Israelis (cf this report).
With regards to the part of Israel generally referred to as the West Bank, this was an area that was relinquished by the (also new) State of Jordan following that country’s unsuccessful attempt to destroy the State of Israel in 1967 – recalling also that Jordan is one of the country established under what used to be called the Palestine Mandate, divided into Trans-Jordan and the remainder. Ie, Jordan this is the nation established for Palestinians, in the same way that Israel was established as the homeland of the Jewish population. That Palestinians continue to be treated as ‘refugees’ in Jordan is tragic, and only perpetuates the regional problem. Why was the area named ‘Palestine’? this goes right back to the Roman invasion of Judea, renaming the region in part to obliterate memory of the Jewish homelands.
For a good overview of the recent political history of the region, see http://www.hebrewhistory.info/factpapers/fp026_eretz.htm