Juan Cole, 2010, on the Mavi Marmara

For those of you who still take Juan Cole’s views on Israel seriously, a reminder:

“There are two possible reasons for the violence. One is that the Israeli troops boarding the vessels met some sort of resistance and over-reacted. Aid volunteers are unlikely, however, to have posed much real challenge to trained special forces operatives.” Or, more likely, “the deaths and woundings may have been a brutally frank warning to any future Gaza aid activists.”

Palmer Report: Israeli forces “faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara requiring them to use force for their own protection. Three soldiers were captured, mistreated, and placed at risk by those passengers. Several others were wounded.”

As I pointed out at the time, Israel relied on faulty intelligence, and should have recalled its forces and started from square one when it became clear that they weren’t facing peaceful “aid volunteers,” but organized, violent fanatics itching for a fight.

The Palmer Report suggests that Israelis forces may have used excessive force, and that wouldn’t be surprising–that’s the sort of thing that happens when a bunch of scared, heavily-armed but woefully ill-prepared nineteen-year-olds suddenly find themselves in close combat with armed militants who have captured their friends and are threatening their lives. That’s very different, however, from the completely unsubstantiated claim, pushed by Cole then and others still today, that the level of violence was premeditated on the part of the Israeli government.

And if you’re in a mood for a grim laugh, check out Roger Cohen’s new column, in which he writes that Israel, because of its actions, is “losing one of its best friends in the Muslim world, Turkey.” Cohen appears to be completely innocent of the obvious fact that Turkey’s Islamist government is using hostility to Israel to play to its base, and had done so for some time before the Mavi Marmara. Israel’s remaining friends in the Turkish establishment were primarily in the military–but the Turkish government has locked up many of its top generals on trumped up charges, and many of the rest resigned in protest.

In other words, Israel didn’t have Turkey’s friendship (or at least the friendship of this particular Turkish government) to lose. Does anyone with half a brain really believe that the Turkish government, which occupies Northern Cyprus, blockades Armenia, and suppresses Kurds (including by using cross-border force against Kurdish militants based in Iraq), has been oozing hostility to Israel for years now because it opposes occupation, blockades, and what is perceives as suppression of minorities? The Israeli government, hoping not to permanently damage Turkish relations (perhaps the Islamists will be thrown out of power in due course) can’t be so blunt. But there’s no need for the rest of us to confuse matters.