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How Israel thwarted the second Gaza flotilla

Marc Tracy
July 06, 2011
A pro-flotilla protest yesterday in Gaza City.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)
A pro-flotilla protest yesterday in Gaza City.(Mohammed Abed/AFP/Getty Images)

So the flotilla could turn out to be the Mideast’s non-event of the summer (unless the Palestinians do absolutely nothing in September, either in the West Bank or in Turtle Bay, in which case that will be the Mideast’s non-event of the summer). Through a combination of the legal efforts of an Israeli group called Shurat HaDin-Israel Law Center; diplomatic pressure exerted (and taken credit for) by Israel on the government of Greece, which is facing a dire fiscal crisis; and the sabotage of two of the ships in the flotilla (which Israel denies having a hand in), the boats remain docked and, likely, defunct. (A small French vessel managed to sneak out, but it likely lacks the fuel to make it to Gaza.) Max Boot, who last year was a very early voice on the right condemning Israel’s tactics in enforcing its blockade, which left nine dead, points out that Israeli diplomacy additionally scored a major coup in defanging the flotilla by persuading Turkey not to tacitly endorse Flotilla 2, as it had Flotilla 1, and to get the Turkish IHH charity, which has ties to Hamas and was Flotilla 1’s ringleader, to withdraw.

Instead, Friday, activists will allegedly try to fly into Ben Gurion International. Which, let’s face it, lacks the drama of the original.

And the drama of the original—along with the tragic nine deaths—was actually the point, and the reason why Israel went to great lengths to avoid its recurrence. (It’s also why the activists declined Greece’s offer to deliver their humanitarian cargo to Gaza—with the flotilla, the medium is the message). Ethan Bronner noted over the weekend that the case for a Gaza flotilla is objectively much weaker this year than it was last. “Last year’s flotilla made a big difference for the people of Gaza—at a terrible cost in lives—by refocusing international attention on their plight and forcing a change in Israeli policy,” he noted. “Today, twice as many goods enter from Israel as before.” Gaza may be “a deeply sad and deprived place,” but, as Bronner himself reported only a week ago, it’s not as sad and deprived. In the end, Israel’s most effectual stroke of anti-flotilla hasbara was to give in to the demands of its supporters. And Flotilla 1’s victory proved Flotilla 2’s defeat.

Marc Tracy is a staff writer at The New Republic, and was previously a staff writer at Tablet. He tweets @marcatracy.

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