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.

More articles by:

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.

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

June 27, 2017
Jim Kavanagh
California Scheming: Democrats Betray Single-Payer Again
Jonathan Cook
Hersh’s New Syria Revelations Buried From View
Edward Hunt
Excessive and Avoidable Harm in Yemen
Howard Lisnoff
The Death of Democracy Both Here and Abroad and All Those Colorful Sneakers
Gary Leupp
Immanuel Kant on Electoral Interference
Kenneth Surin
Theresa May and the Tories are in Freefall
Slavoj Zizek
Get the Left
Robert Fisk
Saudi Arabia Wants to Reduce Qatar to a Vassal State
Ralph Nader
Driverless Cars: Hype, Hubris and Distractions
Rima Najjar
Palestinians Are Seeking Justice in Jerusalem – Not an Abusive Life-Long Mate
Norman Solomon
Is ‘Russiagate’ Collapsing as a Political Strategy?
Binoy Kampmark
In the Twitter Building: Tech Incubators and Altering Perceptions
Dean Baker
Uber’s Repudiation is the Moment for the U.S. to Finally Start Regulating the So-called Sharing Economy
Rob Seimetz
What I Saw From The Law
George Wuerthner
The Causes of Forest Fires: Climate vs. Logging
June 26, 2017
William Hawes – Jason Holland
Lies That Capitalists Tell Us
Chairman Brandon Sazue
Out of the Shadow of Custer: Zinke Proves He’s No “Champion” of Indian Country With his Grizzly Lies
Patrick Cockburn
Grenfell Tower: the Tragic Price of the Rolled-Back Stat
Joseph Mangano
Tritium: Toxic Tip of the Nuclear Iceberg
Ray McGovern
Hersh’s Big Scoop: Bad Intel Behind Trump’s Syria Attack
Roy Eidelson
Heart of Darkness: Observations on a Torture Notebook
Geoff Beckman
Why Democrats Lose: the Case of Jon Ossoff
Matthew Stevenson
Travels Around Trump’s America
David Macaray
Law Enforcement’s Dirty Little Secret
Colin Todhunter
Future Shock: Imagining India
Yoav Litvin
Animals at the Roger Waters Concert
Binoy Kampmark
Pride in San Francisco
Stansfield Smith
North Koreans in South Korea Face Imprisonment for Wanting to Return Home
Hamid Yazdan Panah
Remembering Native American Civil Rights Pioneer, Lehman Brightman
James Porteous
Seventeen-Year-Old Nabra Hassanen Was Murdered
Weekend Edition
June 23, 2017
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Democrats in the Dead Zone
Gary Leupp
Trump, Qatar and the Danger of Total Confusion
Andrew Levine
The “Democracies” We Deserve
Jeffrey St. Clair - Joshua Frank
The FBI’s “Operation Backfire” and the Case of Briana Waters
Rob Urie
Cannibal Corpse
Joseph G. Ramsey
Savage Calculations: On the Exoneration of Philando Castile’s Killer
John Wight
Trump’s Attack on Cuba
Dave Lindorff
We Need a Mass Movement to Demand Radical Progressive Change
Brian Cloughley
Moving Closer to Doom
David Rosen
The Sex Offender: the 21st Century Witch
John Feffer
All Signs Point to Trump’s Coming War With Iran
Jennifer L. Lieberman
What’s Really New About the Gig Economy?
Pete Dolack
Analyzing the Failures of Syriza
Vijay Prashad
The Russian Nexus
Mike Whitney
Putin Tries to Avoid a Wider War With the US
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail