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The Second Battle of Trafalgar

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Reprinted from Gush Shalom


Activists aboard the Marianne before it shipped off, Gaza bound.
(image by (Photo:Freedom Flotilla))
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A MIGHTY naval battle took place this week on the waves of the Mediterranean. It will go down in history as the equal of Salamis or Trafalgar.

In a daring move, the navy of the State of Israel intercepted the enemy, consisting of the trawler Marianne and the 18 people aboard. Israel naval commandos captured the ship and towed it to the harbor of Ashdod.

The admiral who commanded this glorious action has so far modestly remained anonymous. Therefore we cannot honor him with a column in the center of Tel Aviv, like Admiral Horatio Nelson's column in London's Trafalgar Square. Pity.

However, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu lauded the courage of the victors in glowing terms, expressing the gratitude and admiration of the nation for their gallant deed.

I WOULD continue in this vein, but even sarcasm has its limits.

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The whole affair was a masterpiece of stupidity.

Five years ago, several boats tried to reach Gaza, as a symbolic act of support for the beleaguered enclave, and were let through by the Israeli navy. No one mentioned them again.

Then there came the "Turkish flotilla." Several boats were led by the larger Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, with hundreds of Turkish and international peace activists on board. This time, Netanyahu and his minions were determined to show the world that Israel rules the waves. He ordered an attack on the flotilla.

Israeli naval commandos were lowered onto the deck of the Marmara from a helicopter, and in the ensuing melee, nine Turks (one of them also an American citizen) were killed. A tenth died later from his wounds. All of them were unarmed but resisted violently.

The other boats were captured without violent resistance. All were brought to Ashdod harbor.

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The international reaction was immense. For many, the Marmara became a symbol of Israeli brutality. The propaganda catastrophe compelled Netanyahu to release all the imprisoned activists and crew and send them on their way home.

Altogether, what could have been a negligible incident, soon forgotten, turned into a great victory for the activists. The entire world paid attention. The Gaza blockade became the center of international interest.

EVEN WORSE were the political consequences. Turkey became an enemy.

For many years, Turkey -- and especially the Turkish armed forces -- had been a staunch ally of Israel. Secret relations between the two non-Arab Middle Eastern powers were woven. During the reign of David Ben-Gurion, a "peripheral theory" became the cornerstone of Israel's regional policy. Accordingly, Israel established an unofficial alliance with the non-Arab states that surround the Arab world: Kemalist Turkey, the Shah's Iran, Ethiopia, Chad and so on.

Israel sold arms to the Turks. Joint army maneuvers were held. Eventually open diplomatic relations were established.

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