UPDATE: Israel Army Radio reports that the FAA has lifted its flight ban. FAA confirms this. Haaretz states that Israel offered unspecified security “assurances” that convinced the federal agency to lift its ban. But other international airlines have not yet followed suit.
Yesterday, the FAA announced it was cancelling all flights to Israel due to a Hamas rocket that landed a mile from Ben Gurion Airport and damaged two homes and injured a resident. Then today, it renewed the flight ban. Most of the rest of the world’s airlines followed suit. Even though the pro-Israel Harper government did not issue a flight ban, even Air Canada cancelled flights to Israel.
Israel protested there’s nothing unsafe about flights into Ben Gurion. But its reassurances somehow rang hollow:
“We knew about that rocket,” said Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev. “We were tracking it for about three minutes, our Air Force. We could have taken it down, but because we saw that it wasn’t going to hit inside the airport, we let it through.”
So, if the IDF knew about the missile and “let it through,” it allowed it to strike Israeli homes causing great damage and injuring one person. Does that sound reasonable or logical to you? If it’s true, then those responsible for Iron Dome targeting should be demoted.
Not only is Israel worried about its perception in the outside world, it perceives a flight ban as creeping boycottism (as in BDS). And there’s some truth to this. Though commercial aircraft are worth $300-million each, I seriously doubt the FAA believes any aircraft are in danger. My guess is that John Kerry wants to bring home his claim a few months ago that Israel’s intransigence is making BDS become a real threat.
The travel ban is a form of official BDS. Not organized from the grassroots or the result of pressure tactics by the activist community, but the product of Obama administration anger at the mounting stacks of Palestinian dead, including 150 children. Buzzfeed’s Rosie Gray, a trusty mouthpiece for the pro-Israel Lobby voices Aipac’s lament that the flight ban is politically motivated:
The most powerful pro-Israel lobbying group in Washington has come out against a Federal Aviation Administration ban on U.S. airlines flying to Israel…saying that the ban “sends the entirely wrong message.”
“…We are concerned the ban could have the effect of isolating Israel at a time when we should be demonstrating our strong solidarity.”
…The Weekly Standard argued that “Obama administration is using the travel warning to exert pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire.”
…Sen. Ted Cruz alleged that, via the FAA ban on flights to Tel Aviv, the Obama administration “has just used a federal regulatory agency to launch an economic boycott on Israel, in order to try to force our ally to comply with his foreign-policy demands.”
Gee, I don’t know, it sounds pretty good to me. Why shouldn’t the European vacation plans of the Israeli elite be inconvenienced when its army is eviscerating a large part of an entire nation? In fact, I maintain that this is the ONLY way to get Israelis to pay attention. Otherwise, they’re fully absorbed in their own narcissism to the exclusion of those who are their victims.
Israel (by which I mean mostly its leaders, though many ordinary citizens as well) behaves like an obstinate mule. Sometimes what’s necessary is to whack the poor animal on the head and make it realize that life won’t be as pleasant if it doesn’t pay closer attention to what its owner (or in Israel’s case, the rest of the world) wants. I apologize to mules for the analogy.
Israeli tourism, one of the country’s top revenue-generators is taking a huge hit. Foreign tourism has dried up. The flight ban will only reinforce the notion that Israel may not be a safe place to visit just now.
The IDF has created a “buffer zone” for the duration of its invasion that includes over half of the territory of Gaza. It consists of 3 km on Gaza’s north, east and southern border with Israel. Since Gaza’s width is between 3.7-7.5 miles, this effectively turns those living in over half of Gaza into internal refugees. Gazans, of course, cannot be refugees in the normal sense, since they cannot leave the place (besieged as they are by Israel and Egypt). Nor can they find refuge in UN shelters which are already filled with 100,000 Gazans. I suppose they might learn to levitate and find refuge in thin air or dig their own personal underground bomb shelters (with what materials I don’t know, since they’re embargoed by Israel).
IDF reservists have published an eloquent statement in the Washington Post, in which they not only denounce the Gaza War, but the entire military system with its sexism, physical abuse of women, and toxic effect on Israeli society:
We are more than 50 Israelis who were once soldiers and now declare our refusal to be part of the reserves. We oppose the Israeli Army and the conscription law. Partly, that’s because we revile the current military operation. But most of the signers below are women and would not have fought in combat. For us, the army is flawed for reasons far broader than “Operation Protective Edge,” or even the occupation. We rue the militarization of Israel and the army’s discriminatory policies. One example is the way women are often relegated to low-ranking secretarial positions. Another is the screening system that discriminates against Mizrachi (Jews whose families originate in Arab countries) by keeping them from being fairly represented inside the army’s most prestigious units. In Israeli society, one’s unit and position determines much of one’s professional path in the civilian afterlife.
To us, the current military operation and the way militarization affects Israeli society are inseparable. In Israel, war is not merely politics by other means — it replaces politics. Israel is no longer able to think about a solution to a political conflict except in terms of physical might; no wonder it is prone to never-ending cycles of mortal violence. And when the cannons fire, no criticism may be heard.