Jeffrey Goldberg should have used the construct “both/and” rather than “either/or” in thinking about this issue: “Most Israelis are aware, unlike much of the rest of the world, that these ships were not on a humanitarian mission, but a political mission, one meant to lend support to Hamas, which seeks Israel’s destruction, so you might have to excuse Israelis for not sympathizing overly much.”
Compare, for instance: “Most Palestinian Arabs are aware, unlike much of the rest of the world, that the Exodus was not on a humanitarian mission of rescuing refugees, but a political mission, one meant to lend support to Mapai, which seeks to establish a Jewish state in historically Arab areas of Palestine, so you might have to excuse Palestinian Arabs for not sympathizing overly much.”
Which leads us to a comparison. In 1947, having blocked the Exodus and its 4500 passengers from disembarking in Haifa, placed them on more seaworthy boats, and sent them temporarily to France, where they refused to disembark, the British determined that they would have to return the refugees to camps in the British-occupied zone of Germany to screen them for “extremists”; simply setting them free posed an unacceptable risk of releasing Zionist radicals who might go on to kill British soldiers. In Hamburg, the Holocaust survivors being pulled off the boats and sent back to camps in Germany understandably resisted. The British sent in 300 soldiers to evacuate the 800-900 passengers on one of the boats. The result was 33 refugees and 3 soldiers injured. The commanding officer, Lt. Col. Gregson:
“It is a very frightening thing to go into the hold full of yelling maniacs when outnumbered six or eight to one.” Describing the assault, the officer wrote to his superiors: “After a very short pause, with a lot of yelling and female screams, every available weapon up to a biscuit and bulks of timber was hurled at the soldiers. They withstood it admirably and very stoically till the Jews assaulted and in the first rush several soldiers were downed with half a dozen Jews on top kicking and tearing … No other troops could have done it as well and as humanely as these British ones did.” He concluded: “It should be borne in mind that the guiding factor in most of the actions of the Jews is to gain the sympathy of the world press.”
A different witness, Noah Barou of the Jewish World Congress, described the soldiers as behaving in a much more aggressive fashion. But no one was reported killed.
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