What’s more polarized than American politics? Events or discussions about the Middle East. And in a new tragic chapter to the Middle East, Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of Palestinian activists carrying aid for Gaza Palestinians. The end result: between 9 and 16 people dead, a diplomatic crisis for Israel, conflicting accounts and reaction that sometimes but not always reflects pre-event perceptions on Middle East controversies.
What is certain is this: no matter what the actual facts are — and don’t expect to get those via ideological websites or government spokespeople but most likely than not for what emerges via mainstream media reports weighing a variety of sources — the “optics” for Israel are hideous.
Here’s a roundup of some news accounts, developments, reaction on websites and videos to help readers who want to sift through this and make their own judgments.
The international community on Monday condemned an Israeli naval commando raid on a flotilla carrying aid for Palestinians in Gaza, leaving 9 people dead.
Israel claimed it was defending itself, with the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) saying the soldiers’ lives were in danger after they were attacked with “severe physical violence, including live fire, weapons, knives and clubs.”
The Free Gaza Movement, one of the organizers of the aid, said that Israeli commandos dropped from a helicopter onto the deck of one of the ships early Monday and “immediately opened fire on unarmed civilians.”
A senior Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity in an independent account cleared by military censors, said Israeli troops were planning to deal with peace activists on a Gaza-bound flotilla, “not to fight.”
The military official said most of the nine deaths were Turks. Twenty people were wounded. Seven Israeli soldiers were also wounded, one seriously.
All six boats in the flotilla were boarded according to the IDF but only one, the Mavi Mamara, offered resistance; the other five surrendered peacefully, the military said.
A host of nations condemned the military action and called for an investigation.
Officials estimated that passengers will show slight resistance, and possibly minor violence; for that reason, the operation’s commander decided to bring the helicopter directly above the top deck. The first rope that soldiers used in order to descend down to the ship was wrested away by activists, most of them Turks, and tied to an antenna with the hopes of bringing the chopper down. However, Flotilla 13 fighters decided to carry on.
Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.
However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons.
One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows. The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows.
The Navy commandoes were prepared to mostly encounter political activists seeking to hold a protest, rather than trained street fighters. The soldiers were told they were to verbally convince activists who offer resistance to give up, and only then use paintballs. They were permitted to use their handguns only under extreme circumstances.
The planned rush towards the vessel’s bridge became impossible, even when a second chopper was brought in with another crew of soldiers. “Throw stun grenades,” shouted Flotilla 13’s commander who monitored the operation. The Navy chief was not too far, on board a speedboat belonging to Flotilla 13, along with forces who attempted to climb into the back of the ship.
A war tells a people terrible truths about itself. That is why it is so difficult to listen.
We were determined to avoid an honest look at the first Gaza war. Now, in international waters and having opened fire on an international group of humanitarian aid workers and activists, we are fighting and losing the second. For Israel, in the end, this Second Gaza War could be far more costly and painful than the first.
In going to war in Gaza in late 2008, Israeli military and political leaders hoped to teach Hamas a lesson. They succeeded. Hamas learned that the best way to fight Israel is to let Israel do what it has begun to do naturally: bluster, blunder, stonewall, and fume.
Hamas, and no less, Iran and Hezbollah, learned early on that Israel’s own embargo against Hamas-ruled Gaza was the most sophisticated and powerful weapon they could have deployed against the Jewish state.
Here in Israel, we have still yet to learn the lesson: We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel’s Vietnam.
A picture is worth a thousand words and a You Tube video — even if it is later argued to show things that do not tell the whole story — is worth a million. Which is why this Al Jazeera video of the storming of ship will be so devastating to perceptions about what occurred:
UPDATED: And here is another video — this one showing an Israeli soldier being thrown off a boat as IDF soldiers are attacked by passengers:
The New York Times notes how this event will be used against Israel by its foes:
The criticism offered a propaganda coup to Israel’s foes, particularly Hamas, the militant group that holds sway in Gaza, and damaged Israel’s ties to Turkey, one of its most important Muslim partners and the unofficial sponsor of the convoy. As thousands of protesters took to the streets of Istanbul, Turkey canceled joint military exercises with Israel and recalled its ambassador, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the raid “state terrorism.” Mr. Netanyahu defended the Israeli military’s actions, saying the commandos were set upon by passengers on the ship and fired only in self-defense. The military released a video of the early moments of the raid that seemed to support his claim.
The Israeli Defense Forces said the naval personnel boarding the largest of the six ships in the aid convoy met with “live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs.” The naval forces then “employed riot dispersal means, including live fire,” the military said in a statement.
Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Palestinian Free Gaza Movement, speaking by telephone from Cyprus, rejected the military’s version.
“That is a lie,” she said, adding that it was inconceivable that the civilian passengers on board would have been “waiting up to fire on the Israeli military, with all its might.”
“We never thought there would be any violence,” she said.
The Israeli site Debaka File has an extensive post that needs to be read in full. Here’s part of it:
More questions than answers came from the IDF video shots of the violent reception for Israeli naval commandos when they raided the Turkish ship early Monday, May 31 to prevent the pro-Palestinian flotilla from reaching Gaza Port and breaking the Israeli blockade on the Hamas-ruled territory.
Prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, who cancelled his trip to the United States and is flying straight home from Canada, will have to fill in the gaps left by his official spokesmen.
Released finally 12 hours after the event, the IDF shots failed to explain the big mystery of how soldiers armed with paint balls and pistols managed to kill more than 10 pro-Palestinian activists (The final figure is still not clear. Ankara reports 15 Turkish dead) and injure at least 34 aboard the Turkish Marmora.
Together with six injured soldiers – two in critical condition – the wounded activists are being treated in Israeli hospitals.
Israel’s chief of staff Lt. Gen. Gaby Ashkenazi, and Navy commander, Maj. Gen. Eliezer Marom, reported that a fierce clash developed aboard the ship as the soldiers dropped on deck from helicopters and were mobbed by passengers. The activists fired pistols, but it is not clear if the guns were in the peace activists’ luggage or snatched from the soldiers.
Neither is it clear how civilian protesters were able to disarm elite fighters of the Navy’s Shayetet 6 unit.
The soldiers performed their mission of preventing the flotilla from docking in Gaza Port and opening the door to large-scale weapons deliveries – but at what cost?
Surely the operation’s planners must have taken into account that the 600 mixed nationals aboard the Turkish vessel, the hard core of international Palestinian agitprop against Israel, would not receive the soldiers with flowers and white flags, any more than the demonstrators at Iblin and Naalin hand out to the Israeli Border Police breaking up their riots week after week.
Read it in its entirety.
The Israeli government contends the flotilla wanted violence. If so? It got what it wanted:
The event has sparked protests in Turkey:
And Twitter is being flooded. Do a search on “Israel” and here is some of what you get:
RT @ggreenwald: Israel: Trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza is an “attack on Israel’s sovereignty” – http://is.gd/cxej9 – is that a joke?
less than 20 seconds ago from web
CyrusShares For 31 years IR in #Iran used #Israel & #America as enemies to stay in power, now #Turkey Islamic party is doing the same #gaza #flotilla
less than 20 seconds ago from web
newsoutlines http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaiMjAULWn0 Seek truth. Definitely violent attacks on the Israelis. Israel should have kept distant IMO.
less than 20 seconds ago from web
aly_69 RT @vaderetro: El mundo condena a Israel: el relator de la ONU habla incluso de “crímenes de guerra”: http://bit.ly/9F1xO5 #Flotilla
less than 20 seconds ago from TweetDeck
erik_thomas Dear Israel and Palestine — enough already. Regards, Erik
less than 20 seconds ago from web
Basma_Hesham http://www.ifamericansknew.org/: http://www.ifamericansknew.org/ if u against terrorism then u must see! #gaza #israel #freedomflotilla RT!
less than 20 seconds ago from mobile web
robertnlee RT @astridha: RT @onafrica: Please RT! @twitter : Stop censoring #israel, #gaza and #flotilla from trending topics NOW!
less than 20 seconds ago from HootSuite
endrunlv @warpsix The Time is at hand! #Israel: 2010-2012 http://tinyurl.com/29xlrsh #israel #syria #russia #gaza please read & RT
less than 20 seconds ago from web
sarahbickerton So, apparently someone put Shrub in charge of Israel’s military tactics
half a minute ago from Twitter for iPhone
ClassicBookworm No question now that Gaza flotilla had violent intentions. RT: @RayBeckerman: ‘They came for war’ http://bit.ly/aRTsZA via @jerusalempost
less than 20 seconds ago from Echofon
Q_DoLLy Fact2:EDUCATION–1/3 of schools were destroyed during attack on Gaza in ’09; they still haven’t been rebuilt
less than 20 seconds ago from web
PabloLatapi No hay explicación, mucho menos justificación, para un ataque como el de Israel contra la Flota Humanitaria que llevaba a ayuda a Gaza
less than 20 seconds ago from web
LebaneseVoices RT @Abdirizack: RT @georgegalloway: At the UN, Britain has just said that the only response to the attack is to end the blockade of Gaza.#gaza #flotilla #fb
less than 20 seconds ago from Snaptu
schleprock Israeli representative states to UN Security Council, “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.” Well, I guess that’s that, then.
less than 20 seconds ago from web
vivs1man RT @ggreenwald: Israel: Trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza is an “attack on Israel’s sovereignty” – http://is.gd/cxej9 – is that a joke?
less than 20 seconds ago from web
dunablue RT @lalacyrl: RT @Anne2Gaza @DenaShunra @nmoawad @ZuZ: BREAKING: Irish ship who was late to the #flotilla is STILL on it’s way to Gaza #freedomFlotilla
half a minute ago from choqoK
Now the question becomes: will the UN press Israel to lift the Gaza blockade? Russia Today:
The BBC wonders: What next for under-fire Israel? Here’s a small part of the extensive piece, which needs to be read in full:
Governments everywhere are asking how and why this happened – some angrily, some cautiously. Many are protesting.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is flying home after cancelling a meeting with US President Barack Obama (who has limited himself to regrets and a commitment to “understanding” the circumstance). The meeting was to have been used to try to patch up tense relations.
Perhaps the most significant damage will have been done to Israel’s relations with Turkey. It was not so long ago that the two countries shared a certain strategic vision of opposing Islamist extremism in the region.
Since the Gaza invasion in 2007, Turkey has turned hostile to Israel. This episode, involving a ship with so many Turks on board, will only exacerbate that hostility. Turkey has recalled its ambassador. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the Israeli action “state terrorism”.
Israel’s standing with the European Union has also taken another knock. The EU foreign policy representative, Catherine Ashton, called for an inquiry and for the blockade of Gaza to be lifted.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, sympathetic to Israel, said: “I deplore the loss of life”, a phrase that avoids laying blame, but added that Israel needed to act “with restraint” over Gaza, and that it should follow the Security Council resolution (1860) and lift restrictions on Gaza.
The incident, therefore, is more than just a clash at sea. It calls into question Israel’s wider approach to Gaza, and indeed the faltering peace process itself – now centred on the proximity talks brokered by the Americans.
Meanwhile, as Israel’s critics use the incident as a take-off point to press their views on larger issues involving the Middle East and Israel, Jewish organizations are reacting as well. Here’s the statement from Bnai Brith of Canada:
TORONTO, May 31, 2010 – B’nai Brith Canada has expressed its regret for the loss of life and several casualties, including Israeli personnel, that took place when a ship from the Free Gaza Flotilla refused to enter safe harbour in Israel for customary cargo inspection procedures, and Israel was forced to intercept it.
The Free Gaza Flotilla was organized by the International Humanitaire Hilfsorganization (IHH), a radical Islamist organization based in Turkey. Numerous reports have linked the IHH to terrorist organizations across the globe, including Al-Qaeda, Hamas, and the Muslim Brotherhood. Participants of the Gaza flotilla have been recorded chanting “Jews, remember Khyabar, the army of Mohammed is returning,” a slogan referring to a seventh-century massacre of Jews in Arabia.
“The kangaroo courts of NGOs and countries hostile to Israel have already joined the stampede to condemn the Jewish State and her supporters across the globe,” said Frank Dimant, Executive Vice President of B’nai Brith Canada. “The truth is irrelevant for those whose prejudice against Israel as a Jewish State is uppermost. This very sad incident gives hate mongers one more chance to spew their venom against Israel and the Jewish people.
“We commend both the Canadian and American governments who have demonstrated wisdom and compassion with their statements expressing sorrow for the dead while awaiting all of the facts before rushing to judgment. We also await the facts and urge rational Canadians not to jump to conclusions, even though there are many who are trying hard to seize this obviously-staged opportunity for the purpose of spreading hateful propaganda.
“No one should be fooled that the Gaza flotilla was part of some docile humanitarian mission. This was an action organized primarily by Islamists with ties to various terrorist groups across the globe whose obvious goal was to provoke Israel into a response.”
Newsweek notes that Turkish anger is a problem for Israel:
Turkish anger over the deadly storming Monday of the Gaza aid ships is another setback for Mideast peace and a serious problem for Israel, which counts Turkey as one of its few allies in the Mideast.
When news broke that a convoy of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza had been stormed by Israeli commandos, large groups of angry demonstrators gathered in downtown Istanbul. Many carried Palestinian flags; others waved placards saying, “We are all Palestinians” and “Israel: Killers.”
Images of the stormed ships dominated the television news, the pictures made all the more poignant for Istanbulis because of the familiar Mavi Marmara logo on the largest, a ferry leased from an Istanbul-based shipping line. More than 400 of the 580 passengers were? Turks. Much of the aid on board had also been paid for by public subscription through a network of Turkish charities, one of which is headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wife, Emine.??
Anti-Israeli demonstrations are not uncommon in Turkey, and the game of recalling ambassadors happens so frequently to have become almost meaningless. Last year Erdogan stormed out of a meeting at Davos with Israeli President Shimon Peres after telling him that “You know well how to kill people.”
But this time the rupture appears to be more serious, the Turkish anger deeper, and the consequences likely to be longer-lasting.?? It’s a bad time for Israel to alienate Turkey. Thanks to a fortuitous alignment of foreign-policy opportunities and an industrious foreign minister, Ankara has over the last year made dramatic steps toward patching up differences with its neighbors, as well as forging close ties with Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmed Davutoglu told NEWSWEEK last fall that Turkey’s “primary strategic relationship is with NATO” and the West. Nonetheless, Ankara has also taken a leadership role in the region it hasn’t occupied since Ottoman days, instituting visa-free travel with Syria and boosting economic ties with all its eastern neighbors.
As the international community rushes to condemn Israel for the violence on board one of the ships in the Gaza flotilla, which left a reported 10 people dead and dozens injured, it is now obvious that the real purpose of this ‘armada of hate’ was not merely the further delegitimisation of Israel but something far worse.
Gaza’s markets are full of produce, thousands of tons of supplies are travelling into Gaza every week through the Israeli-controlled border crossings, and there is no starvation or humanitarian crisis. It was always obvious that the flotilla was not the humanitarian exercise it was said to be. Here is footage of the IDF offering to dock the Marmara — the main flotilla ship — at Ashdod and transfer its supplies and being told ‘Negative, negative, our destination is Gaza’.
And now we can see that the real purpose of this invasion — backed by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a radical Islamic organization outlawed by Israel in 2008 for allegedly serving as a major component in Hamas’s global fund-raising machine — was to incite a violent uprising in the Middle East and across the Islamic world. As I write, reports are coming in of Arab rioting in Jerusalem.
The notion – uncritically swallowed by the lazy, ignorant and bigoted BBC and other western media – that the flotilla organisers are ‘peace activists’ is simply ludicrous. This research by the Danish Institute for International Studies details the part played by the IHH in Islamist terror in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya. According to the French magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere testifying at the Seattle trial of would-be al Qaeda Millenium bomber Ahmed Ressamin, the IHH had played ‘[a]n important role’ in the al Qaeda Millenium bomb plot targeting Los Angeles airport. It was also involved in weapons trafficking, and played in addition a key role in galvanizing anti-Western sentiment among Turkish Muslims in the lead-up to the 2003 war in Iraq. ‘Peace activists’ these people most certainly are not.
Go to the link to read the piece in its entirety.
A CROSS SECTION OF WEBLOG REACTION. Note that these are excerpts and we encourage you to go to the link to read EACH post in its entirety.
The white flag had allegedly been raised after two people had been killed. So, according to the eye-witness al Jazeera reporter on board, Israel’s military killed perhaps a dozen civilians on an unarmed ship after a white flag had been raised. If this were not Netanyahu’s government, I’d be more skeptical. But we know what his government is, what it believes, and what it is prepared to do. Mercifully, Netanyahu will not be meeting with president Obama this week. …
….But it looks to me as if the Israeli government has again replied to a gnat with a bazooka. The disproportionate use of force, the loss of life, the horrifying impact of the blockade of Gaza in the first place: it makes Israel look like a callous, deranged bully, incapable of accepting any narrative that it cannot control and responding instinctively with disproportionate violence.
The suicide continues … and US aid to Israel, especially military aid, should be suspended until the Israeli government starts acting like something other than a rogue state.
“USEFUL IDIOTS CONDEMN ISRAEL”. Actually, I think that’s giving them too much credit . . . .
The reaction of European leaders to the clash between the Israeli Defense Force and the armed activists who, it appears, attacked them when they boarded a boat headed to Gaza has been swift, predictable, and baseless. It is summarized in this equally predictable headline in the New York Times: “Deadly Israeli Raid On Aid Flotilla Draws Condemnation.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, once considered a friend of Israel but now a reliable purveyor of whatever anti-Israeli line seems fashionable, called Israel’s use of force “disproportionate.” This is the mindless buzzword employed Israel’s knee-jerk critics whenever Israelis successfully defend themselves after being attacked with deadly force.
It’s certainly conceivable that the IDF’s response was disproportionate. But Sarkozy has no basis for forming such a judgment at this stage. His judgment is based not on facts known to him, but on the anti-Israeli bias that has become a familiar feature of his foreign policy utterances.
I’m happy to say that, so far, the Obama administration’s response has been far more measured.
Botches is the only word that comes to mind… it would seem that if they were going to do this, they might’ve done so more effectively and without the loss of life that has resulted…
They’ve in essence handed a propaganda bonanza to the radical Arab world.
In the supercharged atmosphere of the middle east, expect the fog of war in the media — which is where this war has been being fought for decades — to intensify, even if the actual conflict does not.
If it were any country other than Israel, the United Nations would be loudly condemning this brazen, premeditated attack on a sovereign nation by sea.
What Israel did was completely within her rights according to international law.
Unlike Islamists, Israel is now actually providing medical attention and air-conditioned tents to the Turks who came to attack them.
Where is Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit? What kind of medical attention is he receiving? As I point out in the following article, the so-called “humanitarians” refused to bring food and a note to this poor Israeli, long a hostage in Gaza.
And, by the way: Some Gazans live in great luxury, others quite comfortably. You would never know this from the world propaganda which only depicts poor or homeless Gazans.
The Israeli raid on relief supplies going to Gaza was certainly a bad move, both on humanitarian grounds and in terms of public relations. It is a shame that so many people are framing the events in Israel and Gaza as being for or against Israel. It is It is possible to understand why Israel has gone to extreme measures,seeing its survival at stake, and to support Israel’s survival, while still opposing some of Israel’s actions.
Supporting Israel’’s safety and continued existence is like supporting the United States in defending ourselves against terrorism while also opposing the Iraq War. During the war the question wasn’t one of being for or against the United States (even if many right wingers tried to frame it this way).
Just as American liberals opposed George Bush’s acts in the so-called “war on terror” while still supporting the United States, many American liberals also support Israel while opposing many of its actions, especially when led by those on the far right such as Benjamin Netanyahu.
—The Talking Dog (who is a TMV co-blogger. Usually we let co-bloggers post their own but this needs to be here):
Israel was already taking a hit in its standing with Turkey, the Muslim country with which it has long had its best relationship. Now, with Turkey being the de facto sponsor of the flotilla, and having recalled its ambassador, there will be much work to do before that relationship is back on track. Israeli PM Netanyahu has canceled his visit with President Obama, European nations are demanding an explanation of why the Israeli military apparently massacred their civilians… and at the end of the day… for what? Presumably, to satisfy some constituency of stupid people, whether in the Israeli general electorate or its elites, who think the answer to interloping upscale civilians (including, I suspect, a not insubstantial number of diaspora Jews) is to launch a violent raid in international waters.
Brilliant. With luck, the Netanyahu government will fall over this, and the Israelis will put in a different, hopefully less stupid, set of leaders. Unfortunately, I fear that like Americans, Israelis’ view of the universe is a tad self-centric, and Netanyahu and company will only be more popular. And this at a time when Israel is mobilizing its Neocon fifth column here to suggest that the United States take military action against Iran in defense of it (Israel)! Good luck with that, geniuses,.
The irony at the end of the day is that Israel’s greatest threat will not prove to be Iranian nuclear weapons or Hizbollah rockets or Hamas… but itself. Very much a paradigm of the situation the United States is in– fully capable of dealing with all of its “threats”.. except its biggest one: its own stupidity, which will cause the manageable to become unmanageable in no time at all. We really do have nothing to fear… but stupidity. I don’t know about you, but I’m deathly afraid of it.
The actions of the Israeli government continue to make no sense, especially where Gaza is concerned. They are courting mass condemnation through this aggressive act, with Turkey, once a valuable ally in a sea of hostility moving further away from Israel.
Anyone believing that the Netanyahu government wants “peace” is whistling past the diplomatic graveyard.
Commentator Moshe Yaroni has it exactly right. This is Israel’s Kent State….
The usual suspects are already rushing to offer the usual double talk to defend what Israel did. Here is typical claptrap from the Israel-is-always-100%-right American Jewish Committee. Also AIPAC and its media acolytes are out there to tell us that the Israelis are the victims, and if you don’t think so, you are an anti-semite. Or a self-hating Jew/
But the massacre happened in international waters and the attack was launched by military commandos against civilians trying to relieve other civilians suffering under an illegal blockade.
There is only one spot in this country where the lobby will be able to sell the story that the humanitarian flotilla was the aggressor and that Israel is the victim here. That is the United States Congress.
—Ed Morrissey (who has a long post with lots of quotes, links and videos):
The preferred media headline so far this morning has been “Israelis kill 10 peace activists in Gaza flotilla,” but that’s not quite what happened. The IDF attempted to head off a number of boats attempting to run the blockade on Gaza, a blockade necessitated by Hamas’ repeated attacks on Israel. They boarded the lead ship by helicopter, expecting to either convince the occupants to turn back or to commandeer the boat themselves. What they didn’t expect was to find armed “peace activists,” and a bloody melee ensued…
….The world will blame Israel for this, but the blockade exists to keep weapons out of the hands of Hamas, which continually attacks Israel despite the latter’s withdrawal from Gaza years ago. It’s a legitimate and necessary military response to Hamas’ terrorism, and the flotilla knowingly sailed itself into a military conflict — and carried arms into it as well. That makes them legitimate antagonists in the conflict and fair game for Israeli’s military.
I’ve seen enough of these kinds of incidents to be quite skeptical of the initial reports from both sides. But getting too focused on just who fired first misses the deeper rabbit hole the current government of Israel is going down by pursuing the raft of policies its backing. The breakdown of relations with the Turks is extremely bad news for Israel — something I suspect not a few people in the current Turkish government are not unhappy to see and just as many in the current Israeli government are happy to facilitate.
With a lot of people crying out that this was a crime or a war crime or whatever else my own take, to quote Fouche, is that it was a worse than a crime; it was a mistake. But we’ll see.
This is the 9th time that they’ve tried to send a floatilla through Israel’s blockade. Incidentally, Israel has that blockade in place for a very good reason: to keep weapons that will be used to murder Israelis from being shipped through to the Palestinians. So, since aid can be sent through the UN — where it’ll be checked for weapons — what’s the real point of these floatillas? It’s an attempt to embarass the Israelis into giving up the blockade, so that weapons can be shipped to the Palestinians, so that more Jews can be killed.
In any case, this time around, the Jew haters on the floatilla made a critical Darwin Award worthy error: they assaulted an Israeli commando team with knives, sticks, and guns. The Israeli commandos responded, quite correctly in my opinion, by killing AT LEAST 10 of them.
Now, it’s worth noting that the Left and Right have had a VERY different reaction to this incident.
Meanwhile, the usual wingnut suspects are backing Israel’s assault on a “Jew Hating” aid convoy. None are even attempting to explain why the Israeli commandos weren’t at least using baton rounds instead of live ammunition. None are attempting to square the one or two “moderately wounded” Israeli soldiers and the 16 dead and 30 to 60 injured aboard the aid ships with Israel’s feeble alibi of being attacked when they boarded foreign flagged vessels on a humanitarian mission. Even Israel’s Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, admits the assault was carried out in international waters.
Oh, and Netanyahu is reportedly considering cancelling his visit to the US.
The siege of Gaza is explicitly directed against the civilian population. It has been condemned by nearly every government in the world, and according to UN agencies and human rights organisations it constitutes “collective punishment … a flagrant violation of international law” (Amnesty International [.pdf]), possibly amounting to a “crime against humanity”. In attempting to deliver aid to Gaza the Freedom Flotilla activists were not merely highlighting the brutality of the siege, they were challenging Israel’s basic right to dominate and control the occupied territories. Hence the hysteria from Israel, and hence the attack.
Even so, Israel’s cavalier disregard for its own, already battered PR image is surprising. To attack a convoy of unarmed peace activists in international waters, and then to claim that it was the peace activists who committed the aggression, is so manifestly absurd that one wonders whether Israel truly has, as Chomsky recently implied, entered the “irrational” phase. I would caution against this conclusion. In the run-up to the voyage Israeli officials showed a keen awareness of the difficult PR situation they were in. It’s not that the Israeli government doesn’t care about its international image – far from it. Rather, the most plausible explanation is that, after a cost-benefit analysis, it determined that it would be able to attack the peace activists on the flotilla, take the concomitant day or two of bad media coverage in its stride, muddy the waters as much as possible with PR spin, and then move on without suffering too much damage as a result. Yousef Munayyer recently observed that ‘Palestinian non-violence requires global non-silence’. Evidently, the Israeli government took the risk of attacking the flotilla on the presumption that the world would be muted in its response.
It took a thirty minute shoot-out for the Israelis to take over command of the ship. This shoot-out happened because the Israelis were ambushed and met with violence when they boarded the ship. Had the activists not attacked the Israelis, then ten of those activists would not have been killed. And this is after the Israelis did everything they could to avoid using live rounds. Later, after searching the ship, there were several caches of weapons found — showing that the “innocent” activists were prepared for and expecting a fight. The group behind the flotilla also has a history of supporting violent jihad.
Yet liberals would have you believe that Israel was the aggressor here, bullying poor innocent activists with perfectly innocent intentions. The truth is nothing close to that, of course, but liberals will do anything they can to demonize Israel and glorify Palestinians — the same backwards, genocidal savages sick with bloodlust at the thought of murdering Jews. And while liberals will probably also try to say that the Israelis are lying about this confrontation, that can be disproved — the Israelis had the cameras rolling for the entire confrontation.
–-Salon’s Glenn Greenwald has an extensive post that needs to be read in full. Here are his last few updates:
Israel’s foreign minister is now actually claiming that attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza are “an attack on Israel’s sovereignty.” Is that supposed to be some kind of a joke? The only claim that I can recall that’s remotely comparable is when the U.S. General serving as Commander of Guantanamo condemned suicides by three detainees there as an “act of asymmetric warfare waged against us.” The U.S. and Israel are very adept at claiming victimhood: even when they’re killing large numbers of civilians and locking people up in cages with no charges, they’re the ones who are the suffering, wronged parties.
Thus, there are at least 10-20 dead passengers and 50-60 wounded on those ships — compared to no Israeli fatalities and virtually no wounded — but it’s the passengers, delivering humanitarian aid in international waters when Israel seized their ships, who are the aggressors and were “attacking Israeli sovereignty.” The only thing worse than this claim is how many apologists for Israel will start parroting it….
UPDATE VI: Among the countries condemning Israel for its attack are Russia, Turkey, India, China, Brazil, France, Spain and many more. By stark contrast, the White House issued a statement which conspicuously refused to condemn the Israelis (Obama “expressed deep regret at the loss of life in today’s incident, and concern for the wounded”), while the U.S. State Department actually hinted at condemning the civilians delivering the aid (“we support expanding the flow of goods to the people of Gaza. But this must be done in a spirit of cooperation, not confrontation”).
Obama’s call for “learning all the facts and circumstances” is reasonable enough, but all these other countries made clear that this attack could never be justified based on what is already indisputably known: namely, that the ship attacked by Israel was in international waters and it resulted in the deaths and injuries to dozens of civilians but no Israeli soldiers were killed and a tiny handful injured. In any event, Obama’s neutrality will have to give way to a definitive statement one way or the other, and soon.
Of course, this is quickly becoming a PR nightmare for Israel, thanks in no small part to anti-Israel pro-Palestinian “cause” European countries like France and the UK, which – as the WSJ article noted – quickly condemned Israel before taking the time to review the facts on the table. I anticipate the pro-Palestinian gang at the UN will weigh in shortly with their own condemnation of Israel, if they haven’t already. Same [thing], different day with respect to how the “international community” acts and reacts to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, regardless of the history of the Palestinians’ manufacturing stories about alleged Israeli “attrocities” in order to sway world “leaders” on an emotional level rather than a factual basis.
Key in all this? How the United States will respond. So far their response has been measured, but once they’ve taken the time to review what happened, how will our President react? Considering our already strained relations with Israel – thanks to our dangerously inept “fearless leader,” who has been busy the last year and half ripping huge holes in our relationships with longstanding allies like the UK, Germany, Poland, and, yes, Israel – I’m not optimistic. This President, a la Jimmy Carter, has demonstrated a disturbing tendency to see and identify with the “arguments” made against the US made by its foes and enemies, precisely because he – like so many other liberals – refuses to believe in American exceptionalism and instead bows to the gods of Moral Relativism. There is no right or wrong – there just “is” … unless you’re the United States and Israel, which in those cases you can’t do anything right as far as the “international community” is concerned.
…President Obama’s impending official response to what happened between the “peace activists” and Israeli military will be key in determining whether or not he honestly intends on mending fences with our core ally in the Middle East, or appease Israel-bashers like the United Nations and Rev. Wright, endearing himself to Islamofascists all over the world who are hell bent on the destruction of the western way of life. Stay tuned.
Was the Israeli response — opening fire and killed dozens of people — proportionate? No. But could it be justified, based on the threat they faced, or though they faced? Perhaps. But should the soldiers have been rappelling down onto ships in the middle of the night in international water to begin with? Probably not.
It’s likely that Israel decided to launch the raid to surprise the flotilla, but doing so in international waters probably raises some nasty legal questions for Israel. Landing by helicopter and at night also only seems to increase the chance of an incident. Why not wait until the ships had entered Israeli waters during daylight, destroy their propulsion using prop foulers or something like that, then board over the side. Israel would still look cold-hearted for enforcing its stranglehold on Gaza, but any violence would, in that case, probably be verifiably attributable to the flotilla members.
Regardless of tactical questions, or even the matter of who attacked whom first, the raid is proving to be a political and public-relations disaster for Israel, another step down the far-right road that has been the stereotype — but is quickly proving accurate — of the second Netanyahu administration. The prime minister is set to visit Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to meet with President Obama, though it’s likely that visit will be cancelled or played down. Don’t look for any smiling side-by-side shots. Meanwhile, the flotilla disaster just serves to confirm in the minds of those like me who have felt, at least since the advent of the Obama – Netanyahu administrations, a decided slippage in Israel’s international reputation, beginning with Operation Cast Lead, extending through the continued Gaza blockade and settlement building and into today.
Joe Gandelman is a former fulltime journalist who freelanced in India, Spain, Bangladesh and Cypress writing for publications such as the Christian Science Monitor and Newsweek. He also did radio reports from Madrid for NPR’s All Things Considered. He has worked on two U.S. newspapers and quit the news biz in 1990 to go into entertainment. He also has written for The Week and several online publications, did a column for Cagle Cartoons Syndicate and has appeared on CNN.