The truth about the flotilla is slowly coming out. The Independent details how an Al-Jazeera reporter acknowledges an initial small group of Israeli soldiers lowered to the boat were overcome and beaten, while Haaretz reports fears of three unconscious soldiers being taken hostage (the Al-Jazeera reporter details four captured Israeli soldiers). Given Israel's sensitivity about its soldiers being taken hostage (Gilad Shalit was abducted by Hamas four years ago and remains a hostage, while Hizbollah's abductions of Israeli soldiers led to the 2006 Lebanon war), this undoubtedly contributed to a second wave of Israeli soldiers boarding the ship who were apparently far more brutal in putting down the riot. We now have confirmation several of those on board were provocateurs, with family members back in Turkey acknowledging they sought martyrdom. We've seen the slingshots, complete with Islamist slogans and ball bearings, as well as other weapons. We've seen the videos of soldiers being beaten, too, though apparently the journalists who filmed them have complained Israel released the footage without their permission. Elsewhere, the Guardian reports on how Hamas has refused the flotilla aid which their propaganda machine had maintained was essential for the survival of the people of Gaza. Indeed, on the BBC Radio 4's The World Tonight the other day an Arab member of the Israeli Knesset openly stated the flotilla was not about aid, but rather making a political statement. Meanwhile, another ship is making its way to Gaza, also on a publicity mission and adamant it will not stop. Its cargo? Cement. Lest anyone think I've fallen for the Israeli propaganda machine, the media sources cited above are generally on the left and tend to be the most critical of Israel.
It all comes too late, of course. It always does. Israel has already been tried and sentenced in the court of public opinion before some of the facts even had chance to emerge. Time again Israel responds to provocations no other country would tolerate (imagine, say, Syria's reaction to settlers on the Golan firing some eight thousand rockets over the border). The problem is, Israel sometimes acts stupidly, as it did earlier this week. After all, the Hamas propaganda strategy and manipulation of the media is pretty slick and it was clear the flotilla offered a chance for valuable media coverage, which is probably why Israel sent in troops with paintball guns. But as we know it all went dreadfully wrong with tragic consequences.
What is galling is the instant demonisation of Israel by an hysterical media lynch mob whenever she is involved in confrontation. Whether her actions are clearly justified or else Israel acts foolishly (and make no mistake, her gung-ho military doctrine is sometimes a cause for concern), there is an immediate assumption within the Arab world that Israel is out to engage in deliberate murder. Elsewhere, Israel is instantly judged in the court of public opinion, while there is a notable absence of scrutiny of the other side. By the time the facts come out demonstrating Israel is not the demon everyone jumps to assume, it's too late. The damage is done, and the evil Israeli monster narrative is reinforced (which is precisely what the likes of Hizbollah, Iran and Hamas all want, while us poor Western saps dance to their tune).
Earlier this week a blog reader responded to my flotilla post by asking what outrage must Israel commit before I scream, "no, enough". My answer, I think, is that for many Christians the instant demonisation of Israel before the full facts have come to light, the same old anti-Israel propaganda and hysteria, the blatant ignoring of the wickedness perpetrated by Israel's enemies, the West's hypocritical demonisation of the only democracy in the Middle East (however imperfect it is), siding with Islamists and countries such as Iran, and (dare I say it) in some cases blatant anti-Semitism, all make it somewhat difficult for some Christians to join in the instant universal chorus of condemnation of Israel which is so ideologically-based and in many cases hatred-driven.
I'm no ultra-Christian Zionist who takes an "Israel right or wrong" position, and I do try (perhaps not always successfully) to be objective, seeking to point out when Israel when does wrong. But like millions of Christians who eschew supercessionism on the basis of Romans 9-11, I strongly believe God retains a plan and purpose for the Jewish people. When, then, a nation four-fifths of which is Jewish is immediately pilloried and demonised by those unwilling even for a second to consider that there may be another side to the story, it makes it very difficult to join in that condemnation until the full facts are known. After all, while an "Israel right or wrong" position is untenable, an "Israel is always wrong" position is equally unChristian.
Sadly, Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu was right when he recently observed that the world is against Israel. As for me, despite the sin in the land, the need for the Jewish people too accept Yeshua HaMashiach, the Jewish Messiah, however unpopular it is and however much people criticise me for it, I would much prefer to be a friend of God's historical people and take the time to establish the truth rather than be on that side which instantly demonises them no matter what.