It is easy to be blinded by suffering. In the latest misadventure off the coast of Israel / Gaza, the latest reports available list sixteen dead at the hands of the Israeli commandos. Why did they people have to die?
Of course, the easy answer is that they didn’t have too. This morning on the Today Programme the beautifully-voiced Mark Regev defend the Israeli actions that led to the deaths of these unfortunates, along with injuries to many more; both flotilla crew and Israeli personnel. Naturally he claimed the Israelis were attacked first. I must of missed the event that led to members of the flotilla trying to board the Israeli warships. He also reminded the world that the Israelis had offered to take all allowed goods through the Israel-Gaza border. Since the central purpose of the flotilla was protest against the joint blockade by Israel and Egypt and to remind the world of the very real suffering of the Palestinian people, that is hardly the point.
It is easy to become hardened by suffering. Fear does that and fear is the state that the Israeli people are encouraged to live in. The world is against them, misunderstands their plight and that is why their forces, of which they all must play their part, must be aggressive because that is the only language that their barbarous and less sophisticated neighbours understand.
The rest of us, onlookers of various degrees, are asked to take sides by the competing and extremely sophisticated propaganda machines of all sides. For instance, this morning the BBC website initially reported the source of this morning’s tragedy as a Hamas report, despite the live streams coming from various Arabic news organisations onboard. Hamas = terrorists therefore their word is not to be trusted. As a quoted source, the link to Hamas has now been dropped and for the moment it is still reporting only ten deaths, as reported by the IDF.
Why does this matter and why should we onlookers care? I’ve been to Israel several times over the years and it is my opinion that all populations are being misled. Despite being a democracy, Israel in my opinion is also a police state. The population are under the heaviest possible surveillance from the internal security forces. One waitress I met in Haifa was an Arab Christian and formally worked as a receptionist at the hotel where I was staying. Her story was that she made a bad joke concerning the conflict to a guest. Next day, she gets a phone call.
"Hey Girlfriend, how are you?"
"Who is this?"
"You can call me David and I work for the Misrad Habitahon [internal security]. I hear that you have been saying things that you shouldn't have."
"What is it to you?"
"Next time that I hear such things, it won't be a friendly chat over the phone. We will want to know more about you. A visit to our offices. Am I clear?"
The girl laughed at David. "You are afraid of little me? Some silly girl? This country is weaker than I thought."
She kept her dignity but not the job.
The hotel where she used to work was often full. On the last occasion the visitors were athletes and sports people from all over the world for the the Jewish games held last year. Before that, I overheard many snatches of conversations. The arms dealers were the ones that frequently drew my attention though. On one flight across I was lucky enough to be upgraded. My companion was a banker and the file he was perusing was for pilotless light aircraft, used for reconnaissance and attack roles. It was his business to provide the money. I remember reading Robert Fisk's accounts in his book The Great War for Civilisation: The Conquest of the Middle East ; of how he traced the history of one missile used by the Israelis in Lebanon back to the US Marine Corps and thus how the US tax pater is secretly being used to subsidise Israel's conflict with their neighbours.
So to my mind, this is why there is never peace in the Middle East: too many people are making too much money out of war. It is not just the arms dealers, it is their financiers also.
The deaths this morning were totally unnecessary unless their purpose is to keep the fires of hatred burning brightly. The secret fuel for this hatred is money and until the profit is cut, the war will continue. I say this to both sides and of none. Look up and see who among you are getting richer from this conflict. To protestors for peace: research the companies who are making the profit. Now most people don't tend to pop down to our local friendly arms manufacturer for a couple of SAM missiles, so look into the companies that they are dowing business with and the banks that are providing them with the finance and expertise. Target these companies and people for protest, boycott and blockade, not normal people who are just as much victims as anybody else. Governments who want peace, cut the flow of weapons to all sides and refuse entry to the warmongers. If you won't then it up to your populations to hold you to account.
Protests like the flotilla are just a distraction from what is really happening. In fact, by providing opportunities for needless death, they help to prolong the war.