I don't normally deal with Israel here, or the whole Middle East question (one emotionally charged intractable conflict is plenty, thank you), but what happened the other day does have a fair bit to do with things I've been writing about for the past decade or so.
It should be obvious by now that the "Gaza flotilla" was a trap. Israel walked right into it. Fortunately for the Israelis, they too were filming the whole thing, and knew how to use blogs and YouTube, so they may have even come out ahead in the propaganda skirmish that followed. But there is no doubt in my mind whatsoever that the whole flotilla operation was designed from the start to be a propaganda stunt. The "activists" (is that what they are called these days?) aboard those ships were armed and ready. They wanted to be stopped and boarded, so they could scream to high heaven about being abused by the Israeli "pirates" on the high seas. It almost worked, too.
As I said over on Ilana Mercer's blog earlier in the week, the entire strategy employed by Hamas seems to be a reprise of Sarajevo. So the Israeli presence on its borders becomes a "siege", the legitimate blockade of a hostile polity becomes "strangling", and Israeli raids in response to missiles fired from Gaza become "terror." Israel is dubbed an occupying power even though it unilaterally retreated from Gaza in 2005, leaving it as a de facto independent city-state. And Israeli inspections in international waters, though legal, become "piracy."
Hamas routinely fires missiles from Gaza at Israeli civilians across the border. They see nothing wrong with this - remember, to Hamas, Israel has no right to exist, and needs to be obliterated. But if Israel retaliates, whether by assassinating Hamas leaders or sending tanks into Gaza to destroy missile launchers, or by enforcing a perfectly legal blockade to deny Hamas weapons and ammunition, while allowing food and other civilian supplies in - ah, that's nothing short of "genocide," then!
Israel has a powerful conventional army, navy, air force, and most likely even nuclear weapons (though not officially acknowledged). It has defeated Arab armies on numerous occasions in open warfare, and has successfully fought terrorism and insurgency through special operations. So those who wish it destroyed came up with a way of turning that strength into a weakness: cast themselves as innocent, unarmed, helpless victims and howl as loud as possible about being abused by that very Israel whose strength no one can dispute.
There are two recent examples of this approach being enormously successful. In Bosnia, the government of Alija Izetbegovic (revered in the Muslim world as an ideologue of jihad and Islamic revolution, but still believed in the West to have been a multicultural democrat) provoked an armed confrontation with the Serb and Croat populations, then raised hell in the media about being a victim of "aggression" and "genocide." European and American public were steadily bombarded with the most outlandish claims of atrocities, courtesy of legions of "advocacy journalists" stationed in Sarajevo, who somehow never saw thousands of armed Muslim troops in the city, or their artillery, but only "helpless civilians." Likewise, they never saw any of the Serb civilians killed by Muslim fire on the other side of the line; oh no, every Serb in Bosnia was a drunken, bearded savage with a machine gun in one hand, a bottle of brandy in the other, and a bloody knife in his teeth.
This distortion of reality went so far as to actually exaggerate the military strength of the Serbs, in an effort to make them seem even more formidable (and their enemies that much more innocent/unarmed/endangered). In this kind of 4th-generation warfare, weakness was an asset, and strength became a liability.
Not only was the Muslim (and Croat) version of the war propagated as gospel truth in the West, the Serbs were prevented from saying anything in their own defense through the second-worst regime of UN sanctions in history (the worst being what was imposed on Iraq). By the time the sanctions were officially lifted, the Serbs had been so thoroughly demonized, few dared question the official story when NATO attacked Serbia itself and occupied one of its provinces in 1999. Once again, the world was told of the Evil Genocidal Serb Aggressors wantonly killing and abusing innocent "Kosovarian" civilians, which was obviously so egregious that it required NATO to violate its own charter and that of the UN to launch a "humanitarian" intervention.
Here was identity politics brought to its logical extreme: a situation in which the designated victim could literally get away with murder (Izetbegovic, the KLA) yet be seen as innocent and virtuous, while the designated culprit (the Serbs) could be slandered with impunity, and anything they did would be perceived as purely evil. It isn't just about delegitimizing one's means of defense, but delegitimizing one's right to exist at all.
The problem with trying to explain this to people is that this sort of demonization has so far been practiced only against the Serbs. Even Iraqis, who have suffered horrifically, were not singled out as a nation (rather, the hatred was focused on the persona of Saddam Hussein, and the odium largely dissipated after his execution). Only a few careful observers have seen it as a general trend, applied beyond the Balkans. As a result, no one in the world really believes they could one day get "Serbed" (for lack of a better term) themselves.
But as we see from the flotilla incident, some folks have taken the lessons of Bosnia and Kosovo to heart, even if no one else has. Not surprisingly, the organizer of the propaganda stunt is a Turkish "NGO" first formed to provide aid to the Bosnian Muslims. Among the "activists" detained on the ships were a Syrian with Bosnian citizenship and the "President of Muslim Forum of Kosova" (sic). There are Balkan connections all over - all but guaranteeing that the mainstream press in the West won't say a word about any of them. Because, as we know, the Balkans is a sacred cow and the pure, innocent victimhood of "Bosnians" and "Kosovars" must and shall not be brought into question. Ever.
Why, even the Israelis won't say anything about it, so as not to hurt their own cause. Can't allow oneself to be associated with those Evil Serbs, right? That's how thorough the demonization has been. But if it can happen to the Serbs, it can happen to anyone. The real question is, who is next?