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The Rachel Corrie arrives in Ashdod without serious incident, but trouble looms on horizon

Ira Sharkansky

By Ira Sharkansky

JERUSALEM–The IDF brought the Rachel Corrie to Ashdod without the violence that marked the capture of the Mavi Marmara. The Irish government urged the blockade breakers to comply with Israeli demands, while Turkish leaders continue their charges of murder against those who dealt with the fighters on their ship. 

A commentary in the Wall Street Journal links the Turkish regime with anti-Semitic and anti-American campaigns including blood libels that both countries have been harvesting organs from Iraqis killed in the violence that they provoked.  

It is too early to see any peace on Israel’s Gaza front. Nine deaths have added to the picture that the country is out of control. Operations in its defense are less costly in terms of human rights than how the Turks treat the Kurds, or the collateral damage associated with American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such comparisons are essential to any moral judgement, but there is no indication that people of note have done the arithmetic. Israel has a near monopoly of evil on the campuses of prestige universities and in the street demonstrations of major cities.

A good deal of Israel’s problem derives from the Palestinians’ possession of the David image: small and weak, fighting a more powerful enemy, while asserting the popular demand for a country of their own. Jewish pragmatists must make an effort to realize that big and powerful Goliaths are more likely to prevail.

Perhaps most of the people demonstrating against Israel have no awareness, or no concern for the actual record of vicious actions against Israeli citizens, and the sworn intention of many Palestinians to destroy Israel on their way to claiming their own country. 

Does the widespread antipathy portend serious danger?

It does not help that the Obama administration has staked out a posture of engagement with its adversaries, including working through international organizations that have exhibited automatic “don’t bother me with the facts” condemnations of Israel, far out of proportion to its actions in comparison with those of other countries. 

Most disappointing is the American failure to produce anything serious against the Iranian nuclear threat, or Syrian-Iranian funneling of offensive weapons to Hizbollah. If the Americans’ obsession with the Israel-Palestinian peace process has appeared naive, efforts to persuade Iran and Syria appears closer to madness.

It does help that Israel has friends. American public opinion has failed to show any clear shift in the direction of hostility, and highly placed individuals in European governments have shown an understanding of the threats that Israel faces. 

President Obama and his advisors do not ignore Israel’s concerns. One can quarrel with the lack of trust toward Obama and his administration expressed by many Israeli Jews, but it is one of the elements affecting any assessment of the near future. 

Also in the mix is the strident style of Prime Minister Netanyahu, and the even more fervent comments from his Foreign Minister and Minister of the Interior, both of whom have operational responsibilities for issues of importance to Europe and the United States. Netanyahu and his colleagues have concerned themselves with settling Jews in hostile Arab neighborhoods of Jerusalem, no matter what that might do to the willingness of others to help on the more vital topic of Iran.  

It has not been a cheerful week. Speculation that Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan may board a warship and lead an assault on the blockade of Gaza raises the prospect that the near future will be worse. 

 On this, we can hope for assistance from countries not wanting a naval battle in this part of the Mediterranean.

We continue on edge, but that has been the Jewish fate for as long as we have written about our history. In those 2,500 years or so, there have been many weeks worse than the one just experienced.

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 Sharkansky is professor emeritus of political science at Hebrew University.

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