Posted by: whatkindofweekhasitbeen | June 4, 2010

4th June, 2010

I’ve had a bit of writer’s block this week, but in light of events, being lost for words seems somewhat apt.

The inexplicable horror of the Cumbria shootings was truly frightening for the inherently unpredictable nature of the attacks, but half way across the world, the brutality being dished out felt painfully inevitable.

While the exact circumstances of what happened on the flotilla is getting lost in revisionist PR smoke and mirrors, claims and counter-claims, this much is certain: at least nine people are dead for no good purpose whatsoever, and yet again Israel are trying their damndest to literally get away with murder.

What the flotilla activists were doing was undeniably dangerous, and while they should’ve expected the IDF wouldn’t exactly be meek in their response, having a ship boarded by commandos in international waters in the middle of the night is not just intolerably beyond the pale, it’s also thoroughly pointless.

For starters, if Israel genuinely thought the ship was a risk to their security, storming it in international waters isn’t exactly the dictionary definition of a defensive move; pre-emptive defence is no defence at all. Neither is there an excuse for implying that a motley group of activists are a monolithic collective of terrorist appeasers. This kind of action only opens the door for the likes of Hamas to point the finger the next time a rocket is launched into southern Israel: if IDF commandos abseiling onto a ship on the high seas can be justified as a defensive move, then so can a rocket attack, and the bar of honourable behaviour slips further.

Secondly, the fact that the Turkish government, now very much in the “former ally” category, checked the boats beforehand didn’t seem to cut much ice with the Israeli government is emblematic of the way they seem to treat the world, with a mixture of extreme arrogance and perverse victimhood. Their tendency to act with such impunity on the world stage with the flimsiest of excuses has two major problems: Every time an Israeli politician talks about peace while settlements are still being built, everyday Palestinians’ trust is severely corroded and with it any semblance of a centre ground, and it also prompts moderates or neutrals or disinteresteds to not only feel more sympathetic towards Palestine, but more likely to feel antipathy towards Israel. Such is their previous form on matters like this, small wonder their offer to take the aid to Gaza from Ashdod fell on deaf ears, especially since UN monitors claim Gaza is only getting a quarter of what it needs, and Israeli spokesmen can’t decide on whether aid is in fact getting in or that the aid isn’t actually needed.

And if those commandos honestly thought that after dropping from helicopters packing machine guns in the middle of the night that they’d be greeted with a mars bar and a tinfoil cape, then they really need to go back to basic training. No more than the activists should have known they might meet some resistance while trying to breach a blockade, the IDF ought not to be astounded that a band of pro-Palestinian activists wouldn’t necessarily all fold like deckchairs at the sight of them. And if the IDF are, as is oft suggested, the best trained unarmed combat force since The New Avengers, should they really have been so easily set upon by a crew of people using whatever was lying round? Presumably krav maga is Hebrew for “gun”.

Whatever your thoughts on the matter, this is truly one of the most pivotal moments in recent history, a kill or cure moment the outcome of which is still very much in flux. As it stands, Israel’s actions have not only exasperated international opinion and dismayed moderates the world over, but likely galvanized Israel’s die-hard enemies, set peace talks into a tailspin and made the pressure to lift the Gaza blockade near impossible to contain.  The extent to which Israel will be taken to task for their actions will be dependent on how the Irish-owned ship the Rachel Corrie is treated as it approaches Gaza. The Irish government, still angry over the use of national passports by Israeli hitmen, has warned any harm coming to their citizens, amongst them the Nobel Laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire, will lead to the most serious consequences. I can’t for a minute imagine what those consequences could possibly be, but Ireland is a country all too familiar with ill-fated or ill-judged campaigns being seen off with wildly disproportionate force, force which only served to make the very movement they tried to crush exponentially stronger. A tremulous face-off awaits.

Considering the price paid by some of the members of the flotilla for what they believed in, the woes David Laws has had to endure recently have been very much put in perspective. Having lasted barely a dry fortnight in cabinet as the Chief Secretary to the Treasury following revelations that he’d been claiming expenses to rent a room off his boyfriend, Laws was treated for the most part with utmost sympathy to the point of eulogy across the political board. While there’s no doubt he had to go, there’s something terribly sad about an ostensibly honourable man resigning like this, especially considering the fact the episode outed him in the bluntest way imaginable, and given the catalogue of politicians over the years with actual nefarious intentions who not just got away with it, but thrived and survived.

Sadly, Ireland has been a de facto museum for such politicians over the years, and those days are far from over. Senator Ivor Callely, who looks every inch like a bad guy in an episode of Columbo, has been under pressure to explain why he’s been claiming expenses for his, eh, home in west Cork when his first home is based in Dublin, but his attempt to defend the indefensible has truly been of Israeli standards.

Scandals such as this are usually emblematic of a government that’s lost discipline and drive, but rarely is a literal inability to drive a sign a government has been in power too long. Former Defence minister and inherently ridiculous human being Willie O’Dea has spent so long being chauffeured about as a junior and cabinet minister that he let his own driving license expire meaning he has to take his test again, which I’m almost certain is the episode outline of a 1970’s sitcom. It’ll be a great relief if he does pass it: not only will have the freedom to drive, but in getting his license he won’t have to sign anything that might get him sacked.

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