Proving Euripides right

We are now seeing the beginning of the end of the Zionist state, writes Tony Greenstein

When news came in, in the early morning of May 31, that two members of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla had been murdered, I posted a message to various pro-Palestinian email lists saying that people should be aware that this might just be a hysterical reaction to the boarding of the six ships by Israeli armed forces. As the morning went on and the death toll climbed, however, it became clear that something terrible and tragic had occurred.

I have to confess that I still find it hard to believe that the elite Shayetet 13 navy seals were so panicked that they ended up murdering nine international members of a flotilla of ships delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza. I am comforted in my original reaction by the opening to Robert Fisk’s article in The Independent, ‘Western leaders are too cowardly to help save lives’: “Has Israel lost it?”[1] What is clear from those who are now being released is that people on all six ships were roughed up by the Israeli military and clearly the intent was to teach them a lesson.

Yet Israel’s savage reaction to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla makes no sense. Of course, the BBC has done all it can to promote Israel’s hasbara (propaganda) videos purporting to show that, far from being the aggressor, Israeli troops were the passive victims of a premeditated and unprovoked assault by members of the Mavi Marmara lead ship. Apparently, despite Israel being one of the most heavily armed states in the world, it was unable to take control of six unprotected vessels from unarmed or spontaneously armed civilians without massive use of violence.

Since those on the ships - they included Kevin Ovenden of Respect and Sarah Colborne of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign - had been denied any access to the media by Israel’s jamming of the airwaves, the BBC was happy to use carefully chosen and edited Israeli videos. It is strange, of course, that despite having themselves launched such a fierce attack with knives, metal pipes and guns, all the dead seem to come from the flotilla! But like those who killed themselves in Guantanamo no doubt they had a suicide urge. The reaction on the street, however, is one of overwhelming repugnance at the cold-blooded murder of members of the flotilla.

The attack on the convoy is yet another serious political mistake by the Israeli state. First we had the 2006 invasion of Lebanon, then the 2008-09 attack on Gaza and now the murder of internationals. Although the 10,000 tons of aid that were being brought in was but a fraction of what was needed, politically it hit a very sore nerve. It was the equivalent of the mouse cocking a snook at the cat. Damn it, Israel controls Gaza, by air, land and sea, and it is certainly not going to tolerate a bunch of subversive internationals thinking that they can just sail through the blockade.

A cleverer regime might have worked out that a few boats were not going to make much difference. The mainstream western media had been completely ignoring their progress. Indeed some of us had been bombarding the BBC with emails asking why they did not consider it newsworthy. But we did not take into account Benjamin Netanyahu and his far-right government. To them the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was intolerable.

The incident provides us with an example of how our rulers are far from invincible - they have feet of clay. A starvation siege that has lasted three years is now no longer tenable. Both Hillary Clinton and William Hague have now come out against the blockade (as I write, New Labour has kept silent!).

Like all settler-colonial regimes, Israel has perfected a well-developed sense of paranoia. Using the memory of the holocaust, it has convinced itself that, whatever the situation, it is the victim. When Palestinians go and get themselves killed by Israeli soldiers, it is the latter who are traumatised. Indeed that is what the Zionist left blame the Palestinians for. Taking away their humanity by forcing them to kill and maim and engage in passions such as hate.

If anyone is under any illusions as to the nature of the Israeli regime, then one can consider the deliberate firing of a teargas canister at an American student, Emily Henochowicz, on June 1.[2] Not only is the Israeli state becoming more violent, but it is less and less concerned with who knows. It is also openly restricting what few democratic rights its own citizens, especially if they are Arabs, possess.

The Netanyahu government has in particular, in recent months, targeted NGOs and voluntary organisations and charities which support the Palestinians. It has done this with respect to both Israeli and non-Israeli organisations. It has changed visa regulations to make it more difficult for internationals to be present in the West Bank. Those there without a permit are ‘infiltrators’.

But, like the proverbial bull in a china shop, Israel’s leaders appear oblivious to the likely reaction of those around them. And when their actions are met with hostility it is all down to anti-Semitism! But now the US’s favourite dictator and one of its most abject collaborators, Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, has been driven to open the borders of Rafah to Gazan inhabitants, thus achieving exactly what members of the Freedom Flotilla set out to achieve, albeit at a heavy price.

For its part, Turkey, a key member of Nato, protested vigorously at the murder of its nationals. Historically it has been Israel’s most important ally in the region, part of what was known in Ben-Gurion’s time as the Peripheral Alliance, whereby Israel leapfrogged its hostile neighbours and formed alliances with the next concentric circle - Turkey, Iran, Ethiopia and Morocco. Now Israel has to rely on collaborationist regimes that have no base in the populace.

It is often difficult, when you are caught up by events, to see where the historical process is leading. Nonetheless I will make a prediction. We are now seeing the beginning of the end of the Zionist state. We already have significant sections of world Jewry that are distancing themselves from a state which bears the major responsibility for any upsurge in anti-Semitism. It is clear, despite their propaganda and support from the BBC and western media, that people do not believe Israeli lies any longer. We even have indications that western leaders are beginning to tire of Israel’s antics - Zionist leaders are admitting that it is becoming “less of a strategic asset to America”.[3] In fact it is now threatening to become a liability.

In Israel the terms ‘right’ and ‘left’ do not have the same meaning as they do in most countries. This too is typical of a settler-colonial country. It is no accident that Histadrut, Israel’s scab ‘union’, has issued a statement giving full support to Israel’s military action against the flotilla and blaming the organisers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla for what happened. But historically the Labour Party, Mapai, has distinguished itself from Likud by its slavish support for the alliance with the USA. Revisionism, personified by Menachem Begin, was always willing to be more critical of this relationship and try to stretch it to the limit. This is what Netanyahu is doing and I suspect that the USA will be looking for means to remove him, as they effectively did Yitzhak Shamir over 20 years ago.

The problem now is that Mapai and the traditional Zionist left has all but disappeared as a political factor in Israel. Those whom the gods seek to destroy they first drive mad. It would seem that Israel’s leaders are determined to prove the truth of Euripides’ statement.


  1. The Independent June 1.
  2. See azvsas.blogspot.com/2010/06/evidence-that-attack-on-gaza-freedom.html
  3. See ‘Israel less of an asset for US’ Jerusalem Post January 6: www.jpost.com/Israel/Article.aspx?id=177136