ON May 18 last year the long, bitter war between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government came to an end. After tens of thousands of deaths over decades, it is believed, 40,000 Tamils died during the final few days.
On January 17 this year, in Nigeria, about 300 Muslims were slaughtered by Christians. In March 500 Christians were slaughtered by Muslims. On March 26, North Korea torpedoed a South Korean ship, killing 46.
On May 28, in Lahore, Pakistan, 95 members of the Ahmedi Islamic sect were killed in an attack on a mosque because they were blasphemous. A few days later six “police” machine-gunned the survivors, killing 12.
Detailed lists of this year’s suicide bombings in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India are not available, but readers will be aware that barely a week passes without suicide bombers causing the deaths of hundreds of innocent families. It has been one continuous slaughter for almost a decade. Then there were the hundreds massacred after last year’s Iranian elections and the 400,000 killed in Darfur in recent years.
The question that comes to mind is, did anyone notice? Most of these massacres received only a cursory glance from the media but few asked questions. Nobody demanded an independent inquiry.
There was some tut-tutting but little else. Where were the demonstrations, protests, marches and letters to the editor by those compassionate souls who demonstrate whenever brutal Western regimes commit an action of which they disapprove? They were nowhere to be seen.
Which brings us to Gaza, and the flotilla of “peace activists” who we had known for weeks would attempt to break the Israeli and Egyptian blockade of Gaza.
A little background is essential. Israel had no desire to run Gaza. It wanted to get out and let the Gazans run it themselves, which is what Ariel Sharon did in 2005.
In the election that followed, Hamas, committed to the destruction of Israel and the killing of all Jews, won comfortably. They consolidated their position with open warfare with Fatah and about 2000 Palestinians were killed. If they’d do that to fellow Palestinians, imagine the fate of Israelis.
Having established a brutal totalitarian regime, they concentrated their efforts to bring about peace by firing 7000 rockets into Israel, killing 20 Israelis. The inaccuracy of the rockets was little consolation for those who, daily, had rockets whistling over their heads. Finally, Israel decided it had had enough. Hence Operation Cast Lead resulting in 1300 Gazans and 13 Israelis killed.
Those who had remained silent as thousands of rockets were lobbed into Israel suddenly crawled out from under their rocks screaming “disproportionate”. Some of us had the bad manners to remind them that “disproportionate”, had rarely been used during World War II when the Americans bombed Tokyo, Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the Allies flattened Germany, killing 670,000. Not much proportionality there.
Israel decided not to reoccupy Gaza but to ensure that it did not become a repository for rockets and more sophisticated missiles being smuggled in from Iran and Syria. They placed a blockade on Gaza to ensure that any humanitarian aid came through Ashdod (Israel) or El Arish (Egypt). Hamas did not take kindly to these restrictions, which brings us to the “peace flotilla.”As the story unfolded it became clear that Israel’s chief mistake was to assume that the flotilla’s main goal was to deliver humanitarian aid and that those on the six ships were genuine peace activists caring only for the plight of the Palestinians. Some were, but there was no shortage of thugs spoiling for a fight on the lead boat, the Mavi Marmara.
Flotilla organisers had been told that if they wanted aid to reach Gazans they should go through Ashdod or El Arish. One, Greta Berlin, admitted the flotilla’s aim was to break the blockade.
Much of the media went into overdrive to condemn Israel, with the loudest cries screaming that the blockade was illegal. Those with a knowledge of maritime law said this was nonsense, recounting the American blockade of Nazi Germany and Japan and president John Kennedy’s blockade of Cuba during the October 1962 missile crisis. Israel has already stopped hundreds of tonnes of guns and missiles from entering Gaza.
What was uncharacteristic was for the Israelis to believe that they were dealing with followers of Gandhi. If not, why had they chosen as their weapon of choice paintball guns? Let me run that past you again; paintball guns. The miracle is that no Israelis were killed. They were, however, brutally beaten with iron bars. Naturally the usual suspects in the left-liberal media screamed “disproportionate”. What should the Israelis have done? Allowed themselves to be beaten to death or brought out their Monopoly boards?
Israel’s critics forget that Hamas is at war with Israel. The hypocrisy is breathtaking. But the prize for the hypocrite of the century must surely go to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He accused Israel of “state terrorism, a bloody massacre” and called the attack as being “like 9/11 for Turkey”. That is obscene! All this is a bit rich coming from a country that refuses to acknowledge or have an inquiry into the alleged genocide of one million Armenians during World War I.
Nor did he mention the nonstop war between Turkey and its Kurdish minority that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of the latter.
Israel is not perfect and it makes mistakes but it is not alone. When it does the wrong thing it deserves to be criticised. Anyone who reads the Israeli press would be aware that its severest critics are in Israel. Criticise Israel, by all means, but spare us from the hypocrisy of those whose hands are 100 times more bloodied.
Barry Cohen was a minister in the Hawke government.