Gerald M. Steinberg: The War Against Israel

Roundup: Media's Take

[Mr. Steinberg teaches political science at Bar Ilan University and heads NGO Monitor.]

The blurring of terrorist-activists and civilians that characterizes 21st century warfare took on a new dimension in the violent confrontation between the "Free Gaza Flotilla" and the Israeli Navy last week. Ostensibly, the hundreds of passengers on a ship carrying a large Turkish flag were "peace activists" on a "humanitarian" mission to bring aid to Palestinians "trapped behind the Israeli blockade." But this moral façade hid a strategy of engaging Israel in a bloody confrontation to exploit the "halo effect" (automatically granted to groups claiming moral missions) and to reinforce the image of Israelis as "war criminals."

Despite all the misreporting, Gaza is not starving as Israel allows tons of food, drugs and humanitarian aid to reach Gaza every day. The entirely legal naval blockade is designed to prevent arms, primarily from Iran, from reaching the terrorists in Gaza, from which Israel withdrew in 2005. The flotilla's aim was not to feed ordinary Palestinians, but to help Hamas break the embargo so that it can bring in weapons.

The "Free Gaza" group is a potent example of how the new alliance between radical-left Western groups and Jihadists is waging this new war. In 2001, 1,500 organizations, both Islamic and Western, participated in the NGO Forum of the United Nations Durban Conference on Racism. They declared Israel to be "a racist, apartheid state" and "a crime against humanity," while calling on the "international community to impose a policy of complete and total isolation." To advance this hate agenda, Israel's enemies would use terror attacks to provoke an inevitable response, and then strip away the context to highlight allegations of "war crimes."

The approach was implemented in the 2002 Jenin massacre myth, when Palestinian lies alleging Israeli atrocities were reported by the mainstream media and NGOs as facts. This strategy was further perfected in the 2006 Lebanon and 2009 Gaza wars, when Hezbollah and Hamas respectively attacked Israeli civilians while hiding behind their own civilian populations. Israel was then held responsible for the unavoidable death of civilians in the cause of its legitimate self-defense. In each case, false allegations of "war crimes" were published by NGOs and then adopted by U.N. inquiries, such as the deeply flawed Goldstone report.

The "Free Gaza" round of provocation and condemnation marks a major escalation. The Turkish Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation) reportedly purchased the boats and provided the crew, as well as the paramilitary forces that attacked the Israeli boarding party. As the videos from the ship's own security cameras and the IDF show (, the soldiers acted in legitimate self-defense as they were assaulted by a lynch mob armed with slingshots, steel bars, broken glass bottles, chairs, chains, and knives. Prior to the flotilla launch, activists chanted Islamic battle cries "[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!" Khaibar was the last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad's army in 628. The battle marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia.

One participant told Al Jazeera, "Either the Israelis let us reach Gaza, or they can stop us . . . . We can also die as martyrs and never return, which is okay with us."

For the IHH, as in the case of other Islamist charities, the "humanitarian relief" dimension is a cover, or at best, a side show...

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