[Robert Dreyfuss is a contributing editor to The Nation magazine, and the author of Devil's Game: How the United States Helped Unleash Fundamentalist Islam (Metropolitan)]
Whatever your thoughts about the Gaza flotilla incident, one thing is certain: Neither the event itself, nor the subsequent world reaction, has anything to do with anti-Semitism. But try telling that to Charles Krauthammer or Bibi Netanyahu.
In what may be his worst op-ed of 2010 -- and that is saying something -- Krauthammer lies and prevaricates through his viciously misguided column in the June 4 Washington Post entitled “Those Troublesome Jews” and includes this pathetic zinger:
“The world is tired of these troublesome Jews, 6 million -- that number again -- hard by the Mediterranean, refusing every invitation to national suicide. For which they are relentlessly demonized, ghettoized and constrained from defending themselves, even as the more committed anti-Zionists -- Iranian in particular -- openly prepare a more final solution.”
Krauthammer’s disgusting insinuation is echoed by Netanyahu, the thuggish Israeli prime minister, who says: “Once again Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgment. I’m afraid this isn't the first time.”
Playing the anti-Semitism card means that you can play with the facts. Krauthammer, for instance, arrogantly claims that he can “prove” that the flotilla was an act of aggression rather than a political statement aimed at weakening Israel’s embargo of Gaza by this canard:
“Oh, but weren't the Gaza-bound ships on a mission of humanitarian relief? No. Otherwise they would have accepted Israel’s offer to bring their supplies to an Israeli post, be inspected for military materiel and have the rest trucked by Israel into Gaza -- as every week 10,000 tons of food, medicine and other humanitarian supplies are sent by Israel to Gaza.”
But, of course, Israel would not allow those supplies to reach Gaza under any circumstances precisely because many of the items -- cement, for instance -- are on the do-not-allow list that Israel arbitrarily maintains to weaken Gaza economically. To be sure, the point of the flotilla was not to provide Gaza with supplies. The point of the entire effort is to make a demonstration to the world that the continued embargo of Gaza is outrageous and cruel, and in that they have succeeded remarkably well.
It appears that the message has gotten through -- on some level at least -- to the Obama administration, which has tried to pretend since taking office in 2009 that Gaza doesn’t exist. Having ignored Gaza entirely -- never once sending George Mitchell, the special envoy appointed in January, 2009 -- Obama now says that things have to change:
“What’s important right now is that we break out of the current impasse, use this tragedy as an opportunity so that we figure out how we meet Israel’s security concerns, but at the same time start opening up opportunity for Palestinians.”
That’s a start.
I am no fan of Hamas. As far as I’m concerned, Hamas is a radical-right organization whose main leaders are fundamentalist Muslims with a penchant for blowing up pizza parlors. There are some elements in Hamas that are more enlightened. But overall Hamas is a creation of Israel itself: First, because in the 1970s and 1980s, the Israeli secret service helped fund and organize Hamas because it believed that radical Muslim Palestinians would split the Palestinian movement and fight Fatah. And they did. Second, because during the 1990s and 2000s Hamas’ nihilistic radicalism fed off the cynical radicalism of extremist Israelis such as Ariel Sharon and Netanyahu.
It was the extremism of Sharon and Netanyahu that led to the growing popularity of Hamas. If Hamas were serious about peace, they’d agree to accept a permanent ceasefire with Israel and to accept the principle of a two-state solution by recognizing Israel. That’s what the PLO under Yasser Arafat did in the 1980s and 1990s. By doing so now, Hamas could checkmate the Israel embargo and capitalize on the fact that Israel is on the defensive politically.
But to get there the Obama administration may have to change its policy and start talking to Hamas. Smart diplomats can figure out a dozen ways of doing so and of making it work.