Monday May 31, 2010
Rosner’s Domain: First comments on the Gaza flotilla disaster
Posted by SHMUEL ROSNER
Details are still sketchy as I write this post, so all is subjected to changes. However, here are a couple of things that need to be watched, and understood at this time. I will update this post as we go along.
1. Obviously, this was not the intended result of Israel’s intercepting of the convoy. Did Israel know in advance that the soldiers will be ambushed? If not, that is a problem. Maybe the problem. If they did, how did Israel prepare the forces and what was the plan for taking over the ships
2. With all the all-too-familiar outcry about public relations, public opinion, world opinion, Israel’s image etc, one has to remember that PR – as important as it might be – is not all in life. Definitely not all in military life. If force had to be used as to prevent the flotilla from going into Gaza – if there was no way around it – than PR becomes a secondary issue and will have to be dealt with later.
It’s not that simple. If the IDF didn’t anticipate this, and they didn’t have at least one photographer with every landing team, then that’s a failure to understand what this is about. This is cognitive warfare and the violence is for effect, not for victory. If you drop the cognitive and just focus on the military, you’ve taken your eye off the ball. PR is not secondary; it’s above all primary in this situation. This doesn’t mean you let soldiers by killed for PR, but it means that if you’re going to have to kill – as this case turned out to be – then you damn well better have your ass covered.
3. Will Netanyahu cancel his US visit and go back to Israel? I think he shouldn’t do such thing, but this will be politically risky. Rabin didn’t come back from a visit when the first Intifadah erupted (he was Defense Minister) and was criticized for it. I always thought this criticism wasn’t fair – it was Monday morning quarterbacking. But Netanyahu might face the same dilemma and the same result if he doesn’t come back – and violent demonstrations make this event the cornerstone marking the beginning of third Intifada. If he comes back and nothing happens he will also be criticized – for being hysterical.
I heard Charles Enderlin announce to the camera that Netanyahu was coming back, and that this was a full scale diplomatic crisis. Don’t know if that’s true, but given this, I’m not sure he should have been in Washington in the first place.
4. With all due respect to Turkey’s protestations, the crisis in Turkey-Israel relations isn’t new, and the interests of the two sides didn’t change because of this event. If the Turks turn this into a major crisis it is because they were looking for excuses to ignite such crisis.
They probably were and did. But that brings us to a new level of crisis. This is Turkey’s way of positioning itself at the vanguard of Muslim activism globally. If the Israelis have captured Turkish soldiers on this boat, then this should be used to counter-strike. But then, in the world of diplomacy, all the rules change.
5. Remember the Jenin Massacre? Remember reports like this one? “A British forensic expert who has gained access to the West Bank city of Jenin says evidence points to a massacre by Israeli forces”. The evidence was bogus, as we all know now. When there’s smoke screen, there’s rumor. When there’s rumor, we know nothing.
Absolutely. This is the framework in which to understand what’s happening: unscrupulous provocateurs circulate “lethal narratives” like Jenin and the media gobble it up and present it as news. The journalists who jump on these lethal narratives – the Israelis landed firing at us peaceful protesters – should be held accountable for their incompetence when the story comes out. Apparently, even Turkish CNN has admitted the soldiers were swarmed on landing.
For a good analysis of the implications for US-Israel relations see Richard Fernandez’s post Where the Old Flotilla Lay.