Wednesday, June 02, 2010

If Only History Would Repeat Itself...

On March 5, 1770, a clash between British soldiers and local citizens in Boston, Massachusetts ended with the deaths of five men. Tensions had been high for some time prior to the incident - the presence of Redcoats enforcing unpopular laws imposed on the Colonies by Parliament was deeply resented - and New England was a powder-keg awaiting only a match...and what would shortly thereafter become known as the "Boston Massacre" stood a good chance of being just that. It was in the interests of many at the time to avoid open rebellion - war - and so a middle ground was tread: A trial would be held for the British soldiers and their commander. Justice would be served.

Defending the British soldiers being accused of murder was the man who would, several years down the line, become the first Vice President of the United States, and our young Union's second President: John Adams. Passions were high, and as is often the case today with regards to Israel, people had already made up their minds about the guilt of the accused. If ever there was a more thankless job, it was being the defense lawyer for British troops in the wake of the Boston Massacre. By the time the trial opened, the event had been immortalized by Paul Revere in an engraving likely familiar to anyone who has taken an American History class.

But Mr. Adams handled himself quite well, though he knew the odds were stacked against him. An avowed Patriot, he nevertheless gave the men an honest defense. He argued that the Redcoats were faced with what was effectively a lynch mob. If, as they claimed, they were being threatened and felt endangered by "a motley rabble of saucy boys, negroes, and molattoes, Irish teagues and outlandish jack tarrs," then they had the legal right to fight back. At most, they could be found guilty of manslaughter - not murder - if they hadn't been in any danger but were instead merely provoked. In the end, the jury agreed with Adams.

They acquitted six of the eight soldiers, perhaps ultimately swayed by an argument made by Adams, as true and applicable to our world today as it was back in Colonial times: "Facts are stubborn things, and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence." As for the two other soldiers, they were convicted of nothing more than manslaughter: Further evidence that the jury agreed with John Adams's argument that the soldiers had some justification for opening fire. As for the soldiers' commander, one Captain Preston, he too was acquitted of any crime.

Stop and think about that for a minute: British soldiers accused of murdering five people in cold blood - accused of carrying out a massacre - in 1770s Boston, Massachusetts (a hotbed of Patriot sentiment) were able to get a fair trial, and were defended by no less than John Adams, one of the more prominent Patriots of his day. The Redcoats were ultimately judged not by the dictates of passion of the common people or the wishes of the Sons of Liberty or New England's inclination to rebellion, but by the stubborn facts of the situation they faced (for instance, there were those in the mob yelling at the soldiers, taunting them to "Fire!").

Fast forward from 1770s America to the modern Mediterranean: On May 31, 2010, a flotilla put together by a Turkish organization suspected (with good reason) to have ties to Islamist terrorist groups throughout the Muslim world challenged an Israeli naval blockade of a strip of land ruled by Hamas, an Islamist Palestinian terrorist group committed to the eventual destruction of the Jewish state. As predicted, Israel's navy intercepted the flotilla and - after giving fair warning - proceeded to board a ship, the Mavi Marmara. Nine people died in what was described immediately thereafter by international media as an "Israeli attack".

Not twenty-four hours would pass before the incident earned the democratic State of Israel yet another trip to the United Nations Security Council (Jerusalem really ought to have its own key to the place, it's there so often), though it's worth noting that an unprovoked North Korean attack on a South Korean naval vessel (the Cheonan) this past March, in which 46 sailors were killed, has yet to earn Pyongyang any sort of censure by the august UNSC (incidentally, China has yet to admit its DPRK ally might be even possibly responsible for the attack...while Obama's USA once again threw Israel to the wolves. Who has the better friend?).

Turkey in short order recalled its ambassador to Israel and declared its former close alliance with Jerusalem to be at an end (honestly, though, we who pay attention saw this coming). The EU has condemned Israel, yet again. Al-Jazeera has predictably devoted ample time and resources to vilifying Israel. And China - reluctant to accept the findings of an international investigation into the Cheonan sinking that found its unstable, unpredictable, nuclear-armed and despotic North Korean ally responsible - wasted little time in saying the People's Republic was "appalled" by Israel's actions (no investigation needed, apparently!).

In contrast to the trial of the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre, which took place nearly 240 years ago in a hostile political environment and yet proved unimpeachably fair, it is all but impossible today for Israel or any of its soldiers to get a fair trial anywhere...except in Israel itself. Whereas once it was possible for Redcoats in Colonial America to be acquitted of a crime by arguing on behalf of the unalterable "state of facts and evidence", today Israeli soldiers are judged guilty by an outside world that makes judgements based not on stubborn facts, but "whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion."

Despite the uphill PR battles it regularly faces (and often, loses), Israel doesn't give up in trying to use stubborn facts in defense of its actions. It's a good - if idealistic - and straightforward strategy, though our civilization has progressed to a point where we don't have the patience to sit and view or listen to the facts of an issue, whether its Israel's latest military action or a law on illegal immigration in America. We're urged to "feel", discouraged from "thinking". We're content to let 24-hour news network anchors or op-ed columnists do our thinking for us.

It's so much easier, isn't it? Letting others do your thinking for you.

Yes. Yes, it is. ;)

But interestingly enough, the State of Israel this time around has an unwitting ally in its usually clumsy efforts to defend itself with stubborn facts: YouTube. According to the Jerusalem Post, the most popular video on YouTube for the past day or so (with over one million views) has been a posting by the Israel Defense Forces of its raid on the flotilla approaching Gaza, consisting of footage of Israeli troops dropping down onto the aforementioned Mavi Marmara and those Israeli soldiers being assaulted with weapons of various kinds and levels of lethality.

The footage even shows one soldier being thrown off the side of a ship:

Another video shows the same scene, but from a different perspective - the deck of the ship itself:

Activists are seen here attacking Israeli soldiers with a stun grenade, a box of plates, and water hoses as they attempt to board the Mavi Marmara. Note, this is before the soldiers boarded!

Here you can witness Israeli soldiers discovering that some of the activists on a ship flying a white flag are using real weapons against the Israeli boarding party:

And it wasn't as if Israel didn't try to avoid a confrontation, before the raid commenced:

Despite the best efforts of CNN, BBC News, Al-Jazeera and other news organizations (but not FOX News, according to what I've seen) to censor such footage from Israel's raid on the Gaza-bound flotilla, footage that could prove Israel isn't the bloodthirsty, barbaric monster that the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, the EU and Turkey portray it as, people are finding it and watching it and, likelier than not, making up their minds for themselves (Al-Jazeera's raid footage hasn't proven nearly as popular).

In contrast to its treatment by the news media, Israel might just be able to find itself judged in the court of public opinion according to...facts.

If only the Redcoats had YouTube...but then, they had John Adams. We don't. So...YouTube it is...

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Well said, Jeremy! Your comparative analysis here is spot-on, though I suspect that any hardcore leftist looking to find fault with the argument will focus on the (by today's standards) racist terminology used by Adams in the British soldiers' defense, rather than the main issue itself. By the way, you mention that the Israelis can't get a fair trial anywhere save Israel itself. But can they receive one even there?

You know, at first I figured that the Israelis stepped into a trap, and that their use of force was probably justified. But seeing the video evidence, it goes further than that. Their level of restraint bordered on the ridiculous. These boys are being forced to fight with one hand tied behind their back, and are being held to a standard in the international media that no civilized nation would demand of its military.

If the best weapon the terrorists and their sympathizers have is the microphone (or bullhorn), the best weapon the Israelis have to fight back with is the camera. Of course, something tells me that Israel's enemies aren't going to be deterred by something so inconsequential as the truth.