Column for Jewish News July 3 2015 by Jenni Frazer
There are days when Israel does something so profoundly stupid that the only sensible response is to groan and cover one’s eyes. Facepalm, is the useful term.
And facepalm was the instinctive reaction when the Foreign Ministry proudly unveiled – and fairly swiftly re-veiled – an animated cartoon film which mocked the way in which foreign journalists covered last summer’s Gaza violence.
The claim, made a couple of weeks ago, just before the release of the UN report on the Gaza conflict, was that international correspondents were naive and clueless about the way in which they reported events, swallowing the Hamas narrative wholesale. Now this may well be true, but a sophisticated government surely has no need to indulge in this kind of really childish behaviour. A hapless Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the film was meant to be “amusing.”
Anyone with half a brain cell – which appears to be profoundly missing in those who advise the Foreign Ministry these days, although the fact that there still is no Foreign Minister doesn’t exactly help – could have predicted that foreign journalists would not take kindly to such a cartoon.
And indeed Israel’s extremely active Foreign Press Association, of which I was once a proud member, thoroughly deplored the film. The FPA issued a statement saying: “At a time when Israel has serious issues to deal with in Iran and Syria, it is disconcerting that the ministry would spend its time producing a 50-second video that attempts to ridicule journalists reporting on a conflict in which 2,100 Palestinians and 72 Israelis were killed.
“Israel’s diplomatic corps wants to be taken seriously in the world. Posting misleading and poorly conceived videos on YouTube is inappropriate, unhelpful and undermines the ministry, which says it respects the foreign press and its freedom to work in Gaza”.
I’m with the FPA on this one. The film was dumb, ill-thought through, and somewhere, deep in the grey meeting halls of the Prime Minister’s Office, someone got the message and withdrew it. So far, so facepalm.
But this week, someone in those same grey halls and corridors got it right. Israel’s navy, with great precision and accuracy – and, most importantly, with no violence – stopped the Swedish ship, the Marianne, which was leading yet another Gaza flotilla with the claim that it was trying to break Israel’s blockade of the Hamas-run Strip.
This time, Israel was entitled to be mildly cynical in its response to the Marianne. Sailors presented the ship’s crew after it had been escorted to Ashdod port with a letter. “Welcome to Israel!” it said. “It looks as if you lost your way…
“Perhaps you intended to sail to a place not far from here; Syria, where [President Bashar] Assad’s regime is every day massacring his people, supported by Iran’s murderous regime.”
Even more ironic is the fact that one of the Marianne’s passengers was the former Tunisian president, Moncef Marzouki.
Just as one of Marzouki’s countrymen, Seifeddine Rezgui, was murdering tourists, most of them, sadly, British, (and, by extension, systematically destroying Tunisia’s desperately needed tourist industry), the politician seemed to think the smart thing to do was to sail off Israel’s coastline making a flaccid, at best, point about Gaza.
It’s not even as though the cargo on the Marianne was necessary to help Gaza; Israel, as has been pointed out elsewhere, routinely supplies more aid to the Strip than is possible in these attention-seeking flotillas.
If the aim of the flotilla is – as I believe – to accept the Hamas narrative and its version of events, in a week when foul murders are being committed in Sousse, Kuwait, and France, never mind Syria and Iraq, in the name of the hate-filled ideology which Hamas represents, then Israel is indeed entitled to be appalled at international naivety and hypocrisy.
And the one-time Tunisian president might do well to ponder these ironies and get off the Marianne, and go back to Tunis to try to do something about extremism and radicalisation. Oh, and a bit of facepalm on Mr Marzouki’s part wouldn’t go amiss, either.