Deadly Middle East gamble: Attack on the Mavi Marmara

August 19, 2010

Photo by News & Letters. In response to the Israeli blockade of Gaza, especially the storming of ships bringing relief aid, hundreds of protesters closed down a terminal at the port of Oakland, Calif., on Jun. 20 to stop the Israeli Zim Shenzhen ship from unloading its cargo. Dockworkers honored the picket lines.

The current issue of News & Letters has a unique analysis of Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara of the Gaza freedom flotilla:

From NEWS & LETTERS, July-August 2010

World in View

Deadly Middle East gamble

by Gerry Emmett

It would be interesting to know what kind of “statesmanlike” theatrics Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, U.S. President Barack Obama, and Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan might have had in mind for the morning of June 1, 2010. Whatever they might have been aiming for was literally blown out of the water by the May 31 massacre of nine Turkish and U.S. activists on the Mavi Marmara, part of the Gaza freedom flotilla supported by the Turkish government.

The brutal killings by Israeli commandos revealed the high stakes in current Middle Eastern politics, and the way events can easily spiral out of the control of the players. It was unplanned, and it was inevitable. Netanyahu was forced to cancel his White House visit, and Erdogan recalled the Turkish ambassador to Israel and canceled some military cooperation with Israel. The world’s justified anger and disgust in the end is forcing both Israel and Egypt to relax their inhuman blockade of Gaza — which is a tremendous achievement of the freedom flotillas.

It now becomes vital to see the forces in play clearly. The friendly tone of Netanyahu’s July visit with Obama, the behind-the-scenes meetings between Israeli and Turkish officials, and the Obama administration’s renewed call for an Israel-Palestinian Authority agreement signal a return to the pre-massacre program.

It is unlikely that Turkey would wish to break its alliance with the U.S. It is very likely that Turkey, which is becoming more regionally assertive under Erdogan’s Islamist regime, is being set up as an alternative to Iran as patron of Gaza’s Hamas government. Saudi Arabia is too obviously committed to anti-Iranian positions to play that part. The U.S. would thus gain more leverage over all parties.

The great threat in the region remains an Israeli attack upon Iran, with the pretext of stopping Iranian development of nuclear weapons. It would be an insane act, but Netanyahu, in particular, seems to be following the logic of Israel’s 2008 war on Gaza to its conclusion — an ultimate confrontation with Ahmadinejad’s Iran which he imagines would “pacify” Israel’s external enemies. What he may be doing is undermining every aspect of Israeli society that would allow it to exist in peace. From the Iranian “enemy,” to the Palestinian in Gaza or the West Bank, to the Palestinian citizen of Israel, to the Israeli Left, to what remains of Israeli democracy itself, this could only end in disaster.

Doubtless the “statesmen” involved don’t see things this way. As they did with the Mavi Marmara, they are likely willing to gamble.

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