CRETE – Like an anti-Semitic caricature, Israel has extended its long tentacles around the globe in an effort to stop 10 decades-old ships from sailing to Gaza. Many Israelis interpreted this as a great victory.
The story could be read as follows: The Greek government wanted to save people whom it surely views as eccentrics and professional trouble-makers, even if naive, from a traumatic and perhaps even fatal experience. The Greek foreign minister rejected claims that Israeli pressure led his government to ban the flotilla's departure. He explained that Greece wanted to prevent a "humanitarian disaster" in the event of a clash between the Israel Defense Forces and the protesters.
Indeed, a Greek police officer – one of those who tried (in vain) to discover from passengers on the Tahrir who was piloting their ship – did not beat around the bush. We wanted to save you from the Israeli army, he told one of them. The Jew of the blood libel, of whom one must be wary, has been replaced by an Israeli navy commando.
In anti-Semitic caricatures, the cunning Jew is doomed to lose and his control over the world is fated to come to an end. But Israel's government is revising the caricature and sketching a glorious victory. A war of attrition, in the form of mysterious breakdowns and unprecedented red tape by the Greek authorities, thwarted the flotilla's original plan to anchor off the Gaza coast. When Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu openly thanked the Greek government, he knew full well what he was thanking it for.
We must now await future media leaks to know what exactly Greece received in exchange, other than closer military ties. Perhaps money, to complete the caricature?
This is a convenient time to be using pressure tactics. Greece's socialist government is in a fragile situation, as the European Union and the International Monetary Fund are forcing the country to adopt an austerity plan that most of its people oppose. True, the fact that Greece has become a subcontractor of the Israeli army did not bring the masses into the streets, but there is no doubt about it: The sympathy of the Greek soldiers who arrested the Tahrir's passengers and of the bureaucrats who delayed them was with the flotilla and with Gaza, not with their government's orders. That's all we need: another country whose government gets along well with Israel in complete opposition to popular sentiment.
The flotilla's organizers added a term from the world of business and globalization to their description of Israel's domination of the Palestinians. Israel, they said, was outsourcing the industry of the blockade on Gaza. In exchange for reward, a foreign government – Greece – took on an active role and adopted a deliberate policy of keeping the Gaza Strip one huge prison.
Logic dictates that a government whose policy validates anti-Semitic stereotypes ought to worry Israelis and Jews worldwide. But the Israeli government is doing what its voters want and believe in. For there is one stereotype that has not been recycled here: that of the wise Jew.
Outsourcing, aggressive and vocal diplomacy and ridiculous lies thwarted the flotilla, but they have not taken Gaza off the international agenda. If Israel – which knew full well that there was not one gram of explosives aboard the ships – had let them sail to Gaza, the flotilla would not have preoccupied the international media as it did.
Blocking the flotilla did not discourage the organizers, who are graduates of the anti-apartheid and anti-white supremacy struggles. Rather, it provided ample proof of how white Israel is. As a result, blocking the flotilla only increased their motivation to keep placing the Palestinians' demand for freedom at the forefront of the international agenda.