Since Israel’s May 31 attack on the Mavi Marmara aid ship, there has been growing criticism of Israel’s behavior across much of the world, including from traditional allies like Turkey.
Yet as this criticism has grown abroad, the pressure for Israel’s public to toe the official line on the story (whatever it may be at any given time) has also grown, and in the West there is an increasingly visible effort to lionize the Israeli attack and do demonize even perceived criticism of the Israeli government as “anti-semitism.”
In a speech earlier this week, several Congressmen demanded that the US bar anyone who was on board the Mavi Marmara from ever entering the United States because they are “terrorists.” There have also been calls to join Israel in re-classifying the aid group that sent the ship as a “terrorist organization” because they sent the ship that attempted to transport electric wheelchairs and toys to the Gaza Strip.
The ire has been even more blunt against Turkey, as a number of US Congressmen are openly promising “payback” against the Turkish government for complaining about eight of its citizens being slain on the Mavi Marmara. A US citizen was also slain, eleciting the following response from America’s Vice President: “So what’s the big deal here?”
In fact while officials were finishing up a collective yawn on the attack, the real ire was saved for Helen Thomas, a White House Press Corps reporter who responded to the attack by saying Israelis should “get out of Palestine.”
In the run-up to Thomas’ resignation, the White House publicly condemned her remarks as “reprehensible” and demanded she apologize. There were several open calls to punish her for the comment, and several claimed that the comment proved Thomas was secretly an anti-semite for years, the new explanation for her years of criticizing the wars of the Bush and Obama Administration.
The situation is even more incredible in our neighbor to the north. Canadian member of parliament Libby Davies, a representative from Vancouver, called Israel’s occupation of Palestinian lands “the longest occupation in the world” and hinted that she personally supports a boycott campaign against Israel.
The backlash against Ms. Davies was quick and astonishing, with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper demanding that she resign and insisting that he had called Israel’s ambassador to reassure him that this was not the position of the Canadian government.
Ms. Davies may be thankful that she is not in Germany, however, where three MPs who were on board the Mavi Marmara are facing charges of “incitement to hatred” for even being on the ship. The MPs and their Left Party were, in public comments by rival politicians, condemned as “anti-semites” on a number of occasions.
In the weeks since the attack, the story about the Mavi Marmara has changed a number of times, as has the tenor of the story. An Israeli attack became a battle and finally an “act of self defense.” The aid workers on the ship have gone from aid workers to “pro-Palestinian activists” to “terrorists” in the blink of an eye. Turkey itself appears to have moved from “close US ally” to NATO member and finally to enemy in the same span, with Israeli Education Minister condemning Turkey’s government for a “new type of anti-Semitism.”
The story can be taken as an example of how much can happen in a matter of a half a month, and while Israel’s killings may have sparked enough outrage to force at least minor relaxing of the blockade, they have also underscored just how large a crowd remains willing to praise anything Israel does, no matter how much of an atrocity, and willing to attack anyone even tangentially opposed to it at the slightest provocation.