A correction and a changed viewpoint

In my last post, I expressed strong dismay at specific actions of the Freedom Flotilla organizers:

When the Gaza Freedom Flotilla refused Noam Shalit’s offer to advocate for them with the Israeli government if they’d deliver items to his son, they demonstrated a motive in their analysis of the conflict.

Two commenters, kyleb and Jew Geuvara, quickly pointed out a factual error on my part which I feel deserves its own post not merely as a retraction and acknowledgement of insufficient research on my part, but because it significantly changes my perception of the situation.  kyleb’s comment linked to this article which contains the following statement:

Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit’s father. This is a blatant lie.

Read the rest of the article for the full story, but it appears that the flotilla’s purported refusal to deliver said letter and package was concocted entirely to smear the flotilla, whose organizers had in fact agreed to Noam Shalit’s request.  Not only does this damage the image of Noam Shalit as a peace activist, but it absolves the flotilla of a great deal of blame in the situation.  While I’m still furious at whoever thought it was good idea to fight back at the commandoes boarding the Mavi Marmara, I no longer view the two parties (Israel and the flotilla organizers) as equally culpable.  While I reject the characterization of Israel as brutal, bloodthirsty, and having planned a “massacre” (a term which I find inaccurate and non-constructive), I believe they deserve the lion’s share of the blame for what went wrong.

22 Responses to “A correction and a changed viewpoint”

  1. [...] I’ve issed a correction and a reflection on my last Jewschool post. [...]

    Important updates | harpojaeger.com · June 12th, 2010 at 10:39 am
  2. palestinian must be reconized, expanded with jerusalem as its capital and land from jordan, sryia, lebinon, egypt (small portions) going to isreal. forgive me for my spelling.

    jeff chaney · June 12th, 2010 at 10:53 am
  3. Not sure why that article is supposed to be any more trustworthy than Noam Shalit’s word.

    J. · June 12th, 2010 at 11:33 am
  4. I think you are failing to see the complexity of this. There are a lot of different parties involved with a lot of different interests. Some of these groups are peace activists on the boats, humanitarians on the boats, people on the boats who only wanted to embarrass Israel by breaking the blockade, people who want to harm Israel and Jews, the Israeli commandos, The Turkish government, The Israeli Government and -oh yeah – not to mention the Palestinians in Gaza and Israelis in Israel. Given the multiple, varied and sometimes (often) conflicting interests of all of these groups it seems strange that your analysis boils down to “the lion’s share of the blame for what went wrong” goes to Israel. GIve me a break.

    “Not only does this damage the image of Noam Shalit as a peace activist, but it absolves the flotilla of a great deal of blame in the situation”

    Why does it do either of these things? And why do you trust any information from ISM? They are clearly not a beacon of objectivity.

    THe question of who is to blame is somewhat irrelevant and frankly boring because the answer is far from clear. What is more interesting and (should be) pressing is what this means for Israel and Jewish relationships to the world.

    uzi · June 12th, 2010 at 2:16 pm
  5. Why is it that in a situation of two conflicting stories, you assume that it is the Israelis who are misrepresenting? ISM is not an unbiased source of information.

    The situation of Gilad Shalit is untenable. He has been held for four years without being permitted a Red Cross visitor, when Palestinian prisoners in Israel do receive such visits. The treatment he has received from Hamas has had an enormous influence on Israeli attitudes about Gaza.

    And thanks, Uzi, for pointing out the complexity of players and agendas in this mess. This is not a simple situation.

    RabbiAdar · June 12th, 2010 at 9:31 pm
  6. Respect.

    Jew Guevara · June 12th, 2010 at 10:02 pm
  7. RB, this is just one more, continuing effort on your behalf to demonstrate your immaturity in handling situations of any import. Each time, your lack of wisdom and thoughtfulness in formulating your views, and your propensity for self-regard astounds me.

    There are some serious writers for Jewschool – KFJ, BZ, dlevy and others. Learn from them, please.

    Anonymouse · June 13th, 2010 at 12:28 am
  8. Renaissanceboy,

    I appreciate the props for providing the info, but I disagree with being so quick to point the finger at Noam Shalit. Imagining myself in the shoes of the various parties, I figure it most likely that it was Noam’s lawyers playing middlemen who put Zionist PR over getting a message through to Gilad.

    kyleb · June 13th, 2010 at 12:47 am
  9. Agree with J.

    Yonah · June 13th, 2010 at 3:52 am
  10. The ISM article is a primary source. If anyone can show me something written by Shalit’s lawyers (or whoever was on the other end of the conversation) that supports their claim, rather than just news outlets, I’ll gladly post that as an update as well, and probably change my viewpoint correspondingly.

    renaissanceboy · June 13th, 2010 at 11:06 am
  11. Just because it’s a primary source doesn’t make it true. ISM has no interest in being anything other than pro-Palestinian (which sometimes expresses itself as anti-Israeli). There is nothing wrong with that, it’s just who they are and we should recognize that this is their bias.

    uzi · June 13th, 2010 at 4:12 pm
  12. weighed against the interests of the IDF, Israeli establishment/hasbarah, Knesset, individual interests of Israeli power players, et al versus those of ISM… well, I recognize fully they’re both weighed down and blinded by their biases but I have a strong suspicion one is pulled or pushed (depending on your perspective) a little harder towards misrepresenting facts of such an incident…i guess what i’m saying is, one is a very small an rather ragtag group of ‘activists’ and ‘organizers’ functioning as justice tourists in a foreign land, and one is, well The State (not the HILARIOUS sketch comedy show, bologna sandwiches for feet… hehe). In an ideological battle between a group of ragtag protesters and The State who is better positioned to successfully bring the media into its propaganda interests?

    Justin · June 13th, 2010 at 6:03 pm
  13. Your question is asked as though the answer is obvious. It’s not. So many variables….

    Jew Guevara · June 13th, 2010 at 7:36 pm
  14. ok, agreed, in theory, but in this case, what, in your opinion, are some of the many variables?

    Justin · June 13th, 2010 at 7:45 pm
  15. I think there are cases where public opinion is on the side of the perceived victims. Starving people, Katrina, the unemployed, Darfur.
    But in the US and Israel especially, there is such a fear of the threatening others who are weaker now but might soon overwhelm, that the previous logic stops applying. A strong current of blaming the poor for poverty, Palestinians for being refugees, and racial minorities for the impacts of racism.
    These two currents are clashing with greater force that usual right now, and it manifests very differently in different communities.

    The image of fruits and veggies in a Gaza market from holiday season 2009 was circulated to ‘prove’ that Gazans aren’t suffering that much. On the other hand, images of Israeli barbarism are used to ‘prove’ that Palestinians are victims, and nothing but, covering over what agency they do exercise. (Which sometimes includes corruption, gangsterism, terrorism, cruelty and rights violations against other Palestinians, etc.)

    The media use and exploit both tropes.

    Jew Guevara · June 13th, 2010 at 10:04 pm
  16. What does the Shalit story, true or not have to do with who is to blame at all for what happened on the flotilla?

    ms · June 13th, 2010 at 10:58 pm
  17. ms, when you live victomology, you need a good guy and a bad guy, a victim and an oppressor, to make your world make sense. Shalit is the swing vote for some here, to decide who is the bigger victim, who deserves sympathy, who deserves justice, and who deserves to die.


    Anonymouse · June 13th, 2010 at 11:39 pm
  18. JG
    I’m not sure how what you said doesn’t support my feeling that the IDF has a stronger need and pull in getting the western media to adopt their story… Sure Israeli “barbarism” sells well in the western media as much as sex and sports but in the case of this particular incident, do you think that the ISM could get the US media to buy into their possibly false version of facts? It seems to me that US media outlets will accept an Israeli establishment bit of propaganda (“those anti-semites are so ruthless they don’t even want to help Noam Shalit) long before some black-hooded protesters…

    Justin · June 14th, 2010 at 1:22 am
  19. If you were saying that the IDF is more strongly motivated than any other player to ‘influence the media’ then I disagree. All sides are strongly motivated.

    If you were saying that pro-Israeli Gov’t forces have greater ability to fashion the narrative when/if the facts don’t actually match, then I’d say agree – partially. That effort works to a large extent within the Jewish community and the right wing outlets in the USA (Fox, Daily News, etc.) But I don’t think it is working right now in general, despite the strenuous efforts involved. Interestintly, I think the pro-Israeli domination of US media markets don’t work as well because of the growing influence of world opinion in the US, via sources like the BBC, Economist magazine, bloggers and the rise of unfiltered media like videos from the flotilla.

    Finally, I do think that it has worked in the past to a greater extent. The fallout of this effort shows not only the craziness of Israeli decision making, but also another decline in it’s ability to use hasbara to paper over indefensible positions.

    Jew Geuvara · June 14th, 2010 at 10:13 am
  20. yeah, I think we agree and I didn’t phrase my initial comment well. I always appreciate your insight on the conflict. Deeply thought, clearly well informed and much more level headed than I am ever capable of coming out with. thanks for that.

    Justin · June 14th, 2010 at 12:37 pm
  21. JG,

    The vast majority of Americans never see anything from the BBC, Economist, or bloggers, while the network TV “news” they do follow gives them a heavily filtered view of the situation, videos from the flotilla and otherwise.

    kyleb · June 15th, 2010 at 12:39 am
  22. RB, you’ll have to explain the logic behind your “changed viewpoint”. So in light of a claim from the ISM that they didn’t refuse to deliver a letter to Gilad Shalit, you now believe that Israel “deserves the lion’s share of the blame for what went wrong.”

    Uh, OK…. So, now that you believe that the ISM didn’t refuse to deliver a letter, Israel’s at fault because its sailors didn’t let themselves die when attacked by a trained mob onboard a blockade-running ship that was violating maritime law? Please elaborate.

    Eric · June 16th, 2010 at 3:00 pm

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"I may attack a certain point of view which I consider false, but I will never attack a person who preaches it. I have always a high regard for the individual who is honest and moral, even when I am not in agreement with him. Such a relation is in accord with the concept of kavod habriyot, for beloved is man for he is created in the image of God." —Rav Joseph Soloveitchik