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Israel's murderous Freedom Flotilla fiasco: who wins?

By Samir Hamatto

Israel's political and military leadership clearly had no real strategy for dealing with the Freedom Flotilla intent on breaking the siege of Gaza. The country's government was unable to make the correct decision about how to tackle this particular challenge. On the face of it, the arrival of so much aid from the sea carried with it many political problems, coming as it did with activists from over forty countries. This alone illustrated that Gaza is no longer standing alone in the world. As well as seeking to break the siege and free, even for a moment, the people of Gaza, the flotilla has actually caused Israel to become a prisoner of its own intransigence and criminal activity.

It is obvious that the Israelis have a problem trying to justify its illegal and immoral siege of 1.5 million people; after all, collective punishment is a crime under the Geneva Convention. They claim that it is being done to prevent rockets being fired from Gaza into southern Israel but they have not been able to achieve this. On the contrary, Israel itself now stands accused of committing war crimes and possible crimes against humanity against the people it is besieging.

If Israel was using the siege to turn the people of Gaza against their elected government or for the Hamas government to meet the conditions set by Israel and the so-called Quartet, it has failed there as well. Hamas is stronger in Gaza now than ever before.

What is happening today is the opposite of what Israel intended and instead of Israel achieving its goals of the siege on Gaza, with some Arab and even some Palestinian support, it is now in an unenviable position. Its status and reputation have declined internationally and Israel's friends are embarrassed by their support and acquiescence in the crimes committed by their "strategic ally".

Significantly, especially after the attack on the flotilla in which many 20 Turkish citizens were killed or wounded, Israel's relationship with its long-time friend in the Muslim world, Turkey, is reaching breaking point. The suffering of the people of Gaza has had a huge role to play in this as Turkey seeks to regain a position of prominence across the Muslim world, which is worrying for Israel and some of its Arab neighbours.

Add to that the fact that many European countries which have classed Hamas as a terrorist organization are now critical of the blockade and are attempting to build relationships with the Hamas government. Israeli goods are now facing a boycott in Europe and officials are no longer the welcome guests they used to be.

Public opinion worldwide no longer accepts the collective punishment of the people of Gaza, as the many land and sea convoys bringing aid to the beleaguered territory demonstrate. The tragic Freedom Flotilla itself had many parliamentarians and diplomats on its passenger list, all intent on breaking the siege.

Israel's decision to stop the flotilla in such a brutal way has already caused it a lot of damage in diplomatic circles. Pressure will now be on, surely, for the siege to be brought to an end, because this will not be the last attempt to do this by sea, despite what has happened today, and can Israel afford to be so murderous again against the nationals of so many countries? Every cloud has a silver lining, and perhaps the benefit to be gained out of today's fiasco is that this could be the beginning of the end for the blockade. In every sense, therefore, the Freedom Flotilla has won, as ultimately its goal will be achieved, if not this time, then the next, or the next. The Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank must support these efforts in every sense in order to expose Israel for what it really is; a thuggish rogue state.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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