Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! We only ask one time of year, but when we do, we mean it. Without your support we can’t continue to bring you the very best material, day-in and day-out. CounterPunch is one of the last common spaces on the Internet. Help make sure it stays that way.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Ships on the Way

by Uri Avnery

The chiefs of the three big parties in Israel–the Likud, the Labor Party and the army–were sitting on the stage. They were frustrated. They knew already that they had not succeeded in selling the great show that they had prepared with so much effort: the capture of a ship loaded with weapons, commissioned by the despicable Arafat. A heroic action, indeed, a second Entebbe.

In one respect they did succeed: in showing that the borders between these three power-centers have disappeared. Their chief could be easily switched–say, Ben-Eliezer to the Likud, Mofaz to Labor, Sharon to the officers–without causing any change at all. Like the Christian trinity, the three are one–Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The capture of the ship was described as a sublime act of courage. The soldiers of an elite unit, using the most advanced technical equipment in the world, overpowered 13 sleepy sailors on the high seas. That was less dangerous than the job of three Bedouin soldiers in a position near the Gaza strip. If General Mofaz needs to tell us that this was equivalent to the Entebbe raid–a daring and sophisticated commando action–it shows that under his command the norms of the IDF have slipped a lot.

It is clear that the army knew all the movements of the ship. Since when? Good question. From the moment that the weapons were loaded? Already from the moment the project was decided upon? It is also clear that the information was provided by agents installed close to the action. But where? In the Hizballah headquarters? In Iran? Among the arms merchants? On the ship itself? And if there was a collaborator on the ship, who?

The captain’s behavior is strange, to say the least. He went out of his way to oblige the Israeli government. Full cooperation. When did that start? Only when he was captured? Or, perhaps long before that?

The captain was very happy to tell all to the Israeli reporters, the picked darlings of Army Intelligence, who played their part in the show. During the evening, I saw the captain on TV three times. The first time I saw something that was omitted later. At the end of the interview, the captain requested: “Tell my daughter that I am a fighter!” Then he broke into tears and hid his face between his hands. What caused this outburst? Is he afraid that his daughter might think he is a collaborator? A traitor?

The captain said that he had received the merchandize at sea, opposite the Iranian coast, and that he was to turn it over at sea, opposite the Egyptian coast. If so, how could he possibly know for whom the arms were destined? Had he been told? That’s strange, considering that the owners of the cargo did not confide in him. And if they told him something, how can we know that they told him the truth?

The ayatollahs have no interest at all in arming Arafat, a secular leader who they are trying to undermine. But they do have every interest in arming his Islamic opponents–Hizballah, Hamas and Jihad. It is logical to assume that the arms were intended for them.

But how? The short Palestinian coastline in the Gaza Strip is hermetically sealed. The Israeli naval blockade is impregnable. Could Gaza fishermen have found the arms beneath the surface of the sea and dragged them to the shore, under the watchful eyes of the Israeli navy? Sounds pretty ridiculous. The whole story does not make sense. It smells of improbability. The more so since all this happened, of course, exactly on time, when Anthony Zinni was due in the country in order to impose a cease-fire to which Sharon strenuously objects (because it would oblige him to freeze all settlement activity). Hocus pocus–and here is a new pretext for continuing the war against Arafat.

It seems that the American suspected much the same thing. It took a major effort of the Israeli propaganda machine–by far the best in the world–to persuade President Bush to support Sharon’s version. In the end he was almost convinced. Almost.

But let’s assume for a moment that the whole story is true. Let’s assume that Sharon, after a delay of 50 years, is now fulfilling Ben-Gurion’s publicly expressed wish that he, please, stop lying. Let’s assume that Ben-Eliezer, too, has been converted to telling the truth, and that Mofaz has become a real soldier again. Let’s assume that this was indeed Arafat’s ship.

So what?

Ehud Barak once said that if he had been a young Palestinian, he would have joined a terrorist organization. One could add: If Barak had been the leader of the Palestinian people at this time, he would have done everything possible to bring in arms, more and more arms.

Like Balaam in the Bible (Numeri 22), Sharon & Co. set out to curse and ended up praising–as far as the Palestinians are concerned. Arafat is sitting in Ramallah, surrounded by Israeli tanks, their cannons aimed at the windows of his room from 300 meters away. And what is he doing? Instead of cringing or escaping, he imports modern anti-tank weapons to destroy the tanks (as his fighters did in 1975 in the alleys of Sidon, when they destroyed a Syrian tank column.)

There are some Palestinian intellectuals, like Edward Said, who have been asserting that Arafat has become a collaborator, a sub-contractor of the IDF and Shin-Bet. Some good people, Palestinians as well as Israelis, have written millions of words about the rampant corruption of the Palestinian Authority. They have asked again and again: Where does the money go? Why is there no transparency? How come only Arafat and a tiny group of his confidants know about the secret accounts abroad? Now, along comes Mofaz and says: The millions were spent on arms. Soon Mofaz will publish the Palestinian balance sheets, and transparency will come into its own.

Arafat is interested in a cease-fire, and therefore is making a great effort to enforce it. At this point in time, it is in the Palestinian interest. Many Palestinians say, quite rightly, that by breaking the cease-fire, Hamas and Jihad are only serving Sharon.

But Arafat knows full well that Sharon will not accept a cease-fire, and that, if he is compelled to accept one, he will break it at the first opportunity, in order to continue building settlements. Sooner or later, Mofaz will resume his all-out offensive. To withstand such an attack Arafat needs arms, a lot of arms. Anti-tank and anti-aircraft weapons, as well as long-range Katyushas for deterrence. The Israeli contention that Arafat is buying exactly these weapons will raise his standing among the Palestinians sky-high and fortify his position as their uncontested leader. Never before has he been more “relevant”.

In the mid-40s, when ships bearing illegal immigrants were plying the seas and had become a major weapon in our fight against the British government in Palestine, the poet Nathan Alterman wrote a song that became a battle-hymn for a whole nation: “Here’s to the cold and steadfast night, / The night of danger and hardship, / Here’s to the little ships, Captain, / To the ships that are on their way!” Perhaps some Palestinian poet is now penning a similar song.

That’s how it looks to the Palestinians. Israelis are, of course, glad that these arms did not reach their destination, wherever that was. But there is no power on earth that can prevent the smuggling of arms by a people that believes it is fighting for its life, its very existence. Indeed, in our own war of liberation we smuggled arms into the country by all available means, especially during the periods of cease-fire.

No war is one-sided. Sooner or later, the Palestinians will find ways to destroy tanks and down attack helicopters and fighter planes.

It makes sense to make peace before that happens.

URI AVNERY is an Israeli writer and peace activist with Gush Shalom. He is a contributor to CounterPunch’s book The Politics of Anti-Semitism.

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
James McEnteer
Eugene, Oregon and the Rising Cost of Cool
Norman Pollack
The Great Debate: Proto-Fascism vs. the Real Thing
Michael Winship
The Tracks of John Boehner’s Tears
John Steppling
Fear Level Trump
Lawrence Wittner
Where Is That Wasteful Government Spending?
James Russell
Beyond Debate: Interview Styles of the Rich and Famous
September 26, 2016
Diana Johnstone
The Hillary Clinton Presidency has Already Begun as Lame Ducks Promote Her War
Gary Leupp
Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Against Russia
Dave Lindorff
Parking While Black: When Police Shoot as First Resort
Robert Crawford
The Political Rhetoric of Perpetual War
Howard Lisnoff
The Case of One Homeless Person
Michael Howard
The New York Times Endorses Hillary, Scorns the World
Russell Mokhiber
Wells Fargo and the Library of Congress’ National Book Festival
Chad Nelson
The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis
Colin Todhunter
A System of Food Production for Human Need, Not Corporate Greed
Brian Cloughley
The United States Wants to Put Russia in a Corner
Guillermo R. Gil
The Clevenger Effect: Exposing Racism in Pro Sports
David Swanson
Turn the Pentagon into a Hospital
Ralph Nader
Are You Ready for Democracy?
Chris Martenson
Hell to Pay
Doug Johnson Hatlem
Debate Night: Undecided is Everything, Advantage Trump
Frank X Murphy
Power & Struggle: the Detroit Literacy Case
Chris Knight
The Tom and Noam Show: a Review of Tom Wolfe’s “The Kingdom of Speech”
Weekend Edition
September 23, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
The Meaning of the Trump Surge
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: More Pricks Than Kicks
Mike Whitney
Oh, Say Can You See the Carnage? Why Stand for a Country That Can Gun You Down in Cold Blood?
Chris Welzenbach
The Diminution of Chris Hayes
Vincent Emanuele
The Riots Will Continue
Rob Urie
A Scam Too Far
Pepe Escobar
Les Deplorables
Patrick Cockburn
Airstrikes, Obfuscation and Propaganda in Syria
Timothy Braatz
The Quarterback and the Propaganda
Sheldon Richman
Obama Rewards Israel’s Bad Behavior
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail