Wednesday, June 02, 2010

The outrage machine

As a boater, I'm aware that the Coast Guard has the right to board and inspect my vessel at any time and that I'm required to comply. Upon probable cause and perhaps just suspicion, they have a right to impound and literally disassemble my boat looking for drugs or contraband. Sometimes, as I'm given to understand, they've been known to be rather demanding in their searches, and other completely innocent, law abiding yacht captains I know have complained of dirty footprints on the ivory carpeting or greasy hand prints on the cherry paneling and have suggested that too much protest or grouchiness can earn one an extra careful inspection of safety equipment that might entail a ticket.

Of course we have a real problem in our coastal waters and particularly on the Atlantic coast with illegal immigrants arriving rather often, and then there's always the drug smugglers, so when the Coasties hail you it's best to heave to and not make waves, so to speak. In fact the US has a policy of stopping and boarding vessels anywhere on the high seas and at any time they suspect contraband. For an honest captain or crew, the idea of going after the Coast Guard with a boat hook or marlinespike is pretty much as unthinkable as it is counterproductive.

Yesterday however, when I read about the Israeli raid on the blockade runners attempting to bring supplies to Gaza, I was truly angered at what seemed like a pointless and brutal attack on unarmed civilians, and the video then available seemed to confirm that first impression. The media were making charges of piracy and it seemed less than hyperbolic at the time. Then I saw the rest of the video.

Aside from the question of the embargo itself, it has to be mentioned that the "relief" expedition was required to pass inspection before landing in Gaza, there being good reason for Israel to make sure no weapons or explosives or ammunition were being carried, or fugitives, or any persons wanted for questioning. The word of some Turkish political group that it's a peaceful enterprise is scarcely enough, although reports so far seem to gloss over the obvious with a coat of shiny outrage. Of course the flotilla had no intention of complying or of allowing themselves to be boarded peacefully and inspected, which carries the implication that they had indeed something to hide. The Israeli Navy did what any country would have done and boarded them.

The video that was not shown, of course, was the brutal attack by the passengers, who mobbed the inspectors, threw them to the deck and began beating them with clubs and metal rods. One Israeli was thrown overboard. They were vastly outnumbered. They began to defend themselves. There were casualties. It started to look less and less like piracy or even aggression. It began to look like deliberate provocation. It began to look like assault. It began to look like a mission of strategic martyrdom designed to turn Israel's ally Turkey against them. It looks like a success so far.

As usual, those who have their reasons for hating Israel will not compare the incident to trying to run through passport control at the airport and complaining about being tackled and detained. Those who are quite sure Hamas is justified in any act whatsoever that brings about the total annihilation of all Israelis wouldn't care and might rejoice if the ships had been blown out of the water without warning.

There's not much middle ground, there's not much changing of minds and a fortune is being spent on further polarization. This, in my opinion, is just part of that enterprise. The drums of manufactured outrage will continue to boom about mistreatment of "peaceful" passengers so long as doubt remains as to whether their mission had anything do do with anything but creating provocation against "Zionist Aggression." To some, the passengers will continue to be "tourists" and the haters of Israel will use any opportunity to appear as martyrs, but try this, if you dare: load up a flotilla of ships and announce your destination as Turkey and your cargo as aid for Islamist patriots resisting secularist aggression and when it comes time for customs inspection -- refuse to stop and be boarded. Set your "tourists" on the Turkish coast guard and customs inspectors with fence posts and bits of deck railing and furniture and claim that the secular Turkish government is attacking Islam and peaceful Islamists. Go on -- I dare you.

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