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Why Israel ignores global criticism of Gaza flotilla raid

Israel's growing isolation – including the global outcry over the May 31 Gaza flotilla raid – strengthens a pessimistic world view, say analysts. Israelis see international criticism as hyperbole linked to centuries of anti-Jewish persecution – and something that can be ignored.

By Correspondent / June 9, 2010

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delivers a speech during a financial conference in Tel Aviv Wednesday. Netanyahu said today he was willing to testify in an inquiry Israel intends to hold into its deadly raid on a Gaza flotilla bound for the Israeli-blockaded Gaza Strip.

Jonathan Shaul/Reuters

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Tel Aviv, Israel

Five decades ago, while debating an offensive against Gaza militants, Israel's founding prime minister, David Ben Gurion, is said to have discounted United Nations intervention with a now famous Hebrew quip: "oom shmoom."

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Rough translation: "UN is nothing."

In the face of an international uproar over the May 31 Israeli commando raid of a Gaza aid flotilla that left nine Turks dead, a similar disdain for the global community has resurfaced here.

IN PICTURES: The Gaza flotilla and the aftermath of the Israeli naval raid

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's complaint of an "international offensive of hypocrisy" against Israel has been echoed by political rivals and many ordinary Israelis.

"If it wasn't this ship, tomorrow it would be something else," says Dror Epstein, a Tel Aviv lawyer. "It doesn't matter what we do."

Indeed, Israel's recent growing isolation is strengthening the belief that international criticism is mostly hyperbole linked to centuries of anti-Jewish persecution – and something that can be discounted. Though it is unclear how prevalent the belief is among decision makers, analysts note that a feeling of isolation could boost support for provocative and unilateral policies.

"When the world confuses a jihadist lynch mob for peace activists, Israelis nod their head and say, 'We recognize this as a Jewish moment,' " says Yossi Klein Halevi, a fellow at the Shalom Hartman Institute, a Jewish research and education facility in Jerusalem.

"Almost every Israeli, regardless of the way they feel about the operation, knows that this [flotilla raid] is not a moral failing of Israel," says Mr. Klein Halevi. "And yet Israelis see the world entering a spasm of moral outrage that we don't see being expressed over Darfur." He adds that Israelis angrily reject world opinion as inherently biased.

Not enough force used?

In a poll of Israeli Jews after the flotilla raid, 61 percent said Israel should not adjust its tactics to curry favor with the international community, according to Princeton, N.J.-based Pechter Middle East Polls. Eighty-five percent of the 500 polled said that Israel either did not use enough force or used the right amount of force.

Some 56 percent said that Israel should resist calls for an international investigation of the raid.

In contrast, a Jerusalem Report poll four months ago found Israelis evenly split over the question of whether the response to international isolation should be to renew negotiations with the Palestinians.

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