Canadian Jewish Political Affairs Committee
Gunboat Diplomacy?
Yesterday morning, while my flight was on a two-hour delay, I was wrestling with attempting to assist a Canadian trooper meeting resistance in getting health coverage for his family and public anger at the G8/G20’s billion dollar expense, when my Blackberry started chirping incessantly.  Jewish advocacy groups were quickly messaging defenses of Israel’s attack on the relief boats headed for Gaza, and Arab/Muslim groups and individuals called repeatedly to defend the flotilla that had been attacked.

Here’s what we know.  Six ships with humanitarian supplies were headed for Gaza and sponsored by the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH.  Almost 600 passengers and activists were on board.  The flotilla had been warned for days that it couldn’t violate the blockade Israel has maintained around Gaza – a deterrent meant to keep arms from reaching Hamas.  Aware that the boats were sailing under humanitarian intent, Israel declined to make an exception.

The attack, when it came, involved Israeli forces descending from helicopters and gunboats from the surface.  Five of the boats permitted the boarding, were discovered to have only humanitarian supplies, and were guided to the Israeli port of Ashod, where the Israeli government said the supplies would be sent to Gaza.  The sixth boat refused the order and resisted with knives, slingshots, metal balls and metal bats.  Israeli forces moved forcefully on the boat and video reveals physical confrontations from both sides. Live arms fire ensued, but no one is yet clear on how that was instigated.  Tragically, 10 or more were killed and a number were wounded.

The international result was swift but muted, as governments waited for more information.  Israel’s reaction was that it remained an act of self-defence and that it “regretted the loss of life.”  Canada’s official position was that it, too, regretted the loss, but that it stood, as always, behind the people of Israel.  The Americans reacted similarly.  The European Union demanded a full inquiry, calling for opening of the Gaza crossing.  Arab reaction called it an act of piracy and a terrorist act.  The UN went farther, calling for an emergency meeting of the Security Council and an immediate international inquiry.  The Council then issued a condemnation of Israel’s actions late-yesterday.

Efforts from both sides yesterday to solicit my support were endless.  I have never been one to seek that seemingly impossible balance attempted by so many leaders.  My greatest concern has always been for the “innocents.”  When rockets are launched into Israeli towns, I regard that as a violation against humanity.  And when Israeli responds to altercations such as this with overwhelming force and the commensurate loss of innocent human lives, I can’t help but condemn it.  The story is always the same: Israel rightfully claims it has the right to defend itself, but then the results repeatedly seem to be excessive brutality and loss of life on the other side.

Where are we going with all this?  It’s an endless cycle of violence and vitriol that never resolves itself.  But what of the innocents?  We are so pre-occupied with managing both sides that we forget that the ultimate result of such conflict isn’t the victory of one side over the other (it remains a geopolitical stalemate in perpetuity), but mostly the deaths of thousands of innocent families caught in a cross-fire of political design.  To point out that Israeli’s perish as a result of random attacks is true, yet their numbers are a pittance compared to the multitudes that die from over-the-top Israeli reprisals.

Perhaps saddest of all, most of the people I spoke with yesterday were neither pro-Israeli nor pro-Palestinian, but just average Canadians, who for decades have hoped and prayed for peace in the Middle East.  The aggressive Israeli attack yesterday has been the last nail in the coffin for some.  That key linkage between the Canadian consciousness and the fate of innocent people struggling in a complex part of the world has now been severed.  We are losing those believers who hoped for the innocents.

Tomorrow – some ideas for temporary solutions

Thursday – some counsel for Israelis/Jews

Friday – some counsel for Arab/Muslims

Sunday – some counsel for people of faith


From The Parallel Parliament