“The Israeli government is losing the battle of the images on the international level,” said the French Jewish philosopher Bernard Henry Levy, one of Israel’s staunchest supporters. His words were not the harshest criticism with regards to the reckless and bloody assault carried out by Israel against peace activists and civilians on board the Turkish humanitarian aid ship, the Mavi Marmara. Nevertheless, it comes from a figure with considerable influence on public opinion in support of Israel.
It is not the first time that Israel has expressed indifference with regards to its image as a brutal and violent military state. However, this is one of the times when passive resistance has had a tremendous impact on turning things around and turning public opinion against Israel’s practices. It was a trap in which Israel fell; the state that has made a habit of using excessive violence and brutal force against any kind of resistance no matter how small, weak or limited it might be without showing any care whatsoever for the lives of civilians and their suffering.
The entire world knows this fact. It has always been easy for Israel and its supporters to justify the Hebrew state’s recurring aggressions by highlighting the random and mob-like “resistance” carried out by Hamas and other extremist Islamist movements. However, with respect to the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid ship, the situation is completely different.
The organized media campaign launched by Israel to justify its attack on the civil activists proved futile when pictures of those activists were aired showing them transporting humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, which has been under siege for three years, and being subjected to murder in international waters in front of the world.
The flotilla was not Gaza nor was it South Lebanon. Israel, which is now in confrontation with international public opinion, has caused more confusion than the summer of 2006 war in Lebanon or its war on Gaza in December 2008 or even the Goldstone Report. There has been fierce condemnation from within Israel and Jewish circles around the world that support Israel.
As expected, Arab and Muslim countries rushed to condemn Israel’s attack at sea. The diverse responses from the West were neither weak nor lenient despite the obvious reluctant position adopted by the Security Council and the White House. But what stands out most about this incident is that the internal Israeli debate that ensued and the discussions that broke out among Jewish communities in the US and across the world overstepped the usual boundaries and this is evident in traditional and electronic media.
This is Israel’s image now, both in its own view and in the view of its society, not to mention in the eyes of Western public opinion, which has been tarnished on a number of occasions. The Israeli confusion, despite the attempts to contain it, is an opportunity that the Arabs should seize.
There are many people who smiled, sat back and relaxed in their seats following the Israeli attack. Those people ask, “Did you see that? We told you. The only solution is more weapons.” But, in truth, it seems that the civil resistance by the Freedom Flotilla will achieve a lot more than dozens of missiles ever did.
In order for an equal battle with Israel, we must not get dragged into a game of bloodshed.
Numerous public opinion battles have been lost by the Arabs despite having a strong case. This is now the ideal moment that our media has been waiting for; Israel has lost the flotilla battle so can we take advantage of that?