On Wednesday, June 9, 2010, The Lebanon Democrat published a strongly anti-Israel column, the fifth since May, 2008, by Carol Burger. I submitted a rebuttal, which the Managing Editor was gracious enough to run in yesterday's paper.
The original column is not available online, so if you'd like to read it, I have scanned it (PDF) for your convenience. Here is my rebuttal:
Dear Ms. Burger:
While you are certainly entitled to express your opinions as an editorial columnist, your recent piece on the Gaza Flotilla ("Time for Israel to stand alone for their actions") goes a step further by inventing your own facts, too. Oddly enough, your facts are identical to Hamas talking points. Indeed, it seems that you believe that regardless of all evidence to the contrary, Hamas invariably speaks the truth, while Israel always lies.
Let's consider what actually happened.
In 2005, in response to international pressure, Israel, along with all Jewish residents, evacuated the Gaza strip. Governing responsibility was turned over to the Palestinian Authority (PA). At that time, there was no blockade. Indeed, thousands of Gazans commuted back and forth to jobs in Israel, bringing home badly needed wages with which to support their families.
However, the PA government was so inefficient and corrupt that in 2007, it was voted out of office and replaced with a Hamas-led government. Hamas is, of course, a radical Islamist group which is uncompromisingly dedicated to the eradication of the State of Israel and the extermination of all the Jews. Accordingly, as soon as it took power, Hamas began to fire thousands of Qassam rockets – actually, a total of over 10,000 – into populated areas of Israel, primarily the cities of Sderot and Ashkelon.
Such a situation was obviously intolerable. Every country has a duty to protect the safety of its citizens, and Israel is no exception. So, after repeated warnings were ignored, it set up a blockade, then finally had to launch Operation Cast Lead in order to stop the attacks.
Under international law, codified in the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea of 12 June 1994, such a blockade against an adversary is perfectly legal. Thus, any claim that Israel was acting illegally in enforcing its blockade is demonstrably false.
It is important to note that Israel's blockade is targeted only against weapons, explosives, and building materials which could be used to construct bunkers. Shipments of such items as food, medical supplies, and consumer goods pass freely into Gaza after inspection to insure that they do not include contraband.
For example, were you aware that according to the report of the Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories, a total of 7,233 truckloads of Humanitarian aid from the international community passed from Israel to Gaza in 2009, amounting to some 15,000 tons per week? Did you know that during 2009, Israel accepted 10,544 patients, along with their companions, for medical treatment in Israel? Or that through UNRWA, summer camps were supplied with swimming pools, ice cream machines, musical instruments, and sports equipment?
No, there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. The purpose of the Gaza Flotilla was not to supply Gaza with expired medicines and broken-down old wheelchairs, but to break the blockade. You see, its sponsors were fully aware, even if you were not, that the same international law which makes blockades legal also requires that they be enforced effectively and impartially. If Israel had failed to stop the flotilla, or had even consented to allow it to proceed to Gaza without inspection, the blockade would have automatically been null and void.
With one conspicuous exception, all of the flotilla's vessels were boarded and diverted peaceably to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where their cargoes were offloaded, inspected, and transported overland to the Gaza border crossing – where they still sit because Hamas refused to accept this "sorely needed humanitarian aid."
The exception was the Mavi Marmara, which was carrying a gang of about 30 violent jihadists along with its peace activist passengers. These jihadists' intentions were anything but peaceful. Wearing bulletproof vests, they met the Israeli boarding party armed with iron pipes, steel bars, chains, and knives, then tried their best to lynch the Israeli commandos, who were unfortunately dropped unawares into this well-prepared trap armed with paintball guns.
Once the commandos determined that their lives were in danger, they defended themselves quite effectively, killing nine of their attackers. Six of the Israeli commandos were very seriously injured, including one who somehow managed to escape the clutches of the jihadis by jumping into the Mediterranean and swimming to a nearby Israeli ship while his intestines were hanging out through a gaping abdominal wound and trailing in the water behind him.
Once the Mavi Marmara was finally inspected, it was found to be carrying no humanitarian aid whatsoever -- only peace activists and jihadis.
Natan Sharansky has proposed that we can differentiate anti-Semitism from legitimate criticism of Israel by the "3 Ds" – demonization, double standards, and delegitimization. In other words, if an article demonizes Israel with over-the-top rhetoric such as comparing Israelis with Nazis or Gaza with Auschwitz; if it applies impossibly strict standards to Israel, but to no other countries in the world; if it denies Israel's legitimate claim to its homeland, falsely insisting that Israel is occupying Palestinian land and must be eradicated – then that article represents anti-Semitism. Ms. Burger, I must reluctantly conclude that your article qualifies under all three criteria.
"Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism" (PDF), a 2008 report issued by the U.S. State Department, states it well:
"May every conscience remember that anti-Semitism is always wrong and is always dangerous, may every voice speak out against anti-Semitism, and may all of us have the civic courage to take action against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance whenever and wherever they arise."Do you disagree, Ms. Burger?
Morton A. Goldberg, DVM
If you wish to comment to The Lebanon Democrat about Ms. Burger's column or my rebuttal, please contact Managing Editor Amelia Morrison Hipps at ameliahipps AT lebanondemocrat.com or at 615-444-3952 ext. 13.