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Israel Does the Unthinkable

Israel has fired on a naval relief convoy attempting to reach Gaza with supplies such as concrete, medicines and food, leaving nine civilian activists dead and around thirty injured. The attack took place in international waters. A report from the scene:

Already the justifications have begun. According to Ha’aretz, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “said the Israeli troops who opened fire were justified for defending themselves.” Defense Minister Ehud Barak “called the flotilla a political provocation and said the sponsors of the flotilla were violent supporters of a terror organization.” Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said “that the organizers of the Gaza aid flotilla have connections to international terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al-Qaida.”

But in the words of Al Jazeera reporter Ayman Mohyeldin:

    “All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation.”

Turkey called an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss the incident, and summoned the Israeli ambassador to protest. Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden also summoned their Israeli ambassadors. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Erdogan called the raid “state terrorism,” Hamas leader Ismail Haniya labeled it “barbaric,” and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said it was “inhuman.” The response of Western leaders has been more tepid, with talk of “disproportionate” use of force. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he was “shocked” and added, “I condemn this violence.”

Turkish foreign affairs specialist Murat Mercan had the best commentary I’ve seen so far on the repurcussions of the event:

    “We are going to see in the following days whether Israel has done it as a display of decisiveness or to commit political suicide.”

Comments

Comment from Craig
Time: June 1, 2010, 04:10

But in the words of Al Jazeera reporter Ayman Mohyeldin:

“All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation.”

Al Jazeera reporter Ayman Mohyeldin was lying there. Do you have anything you want to say about that now that some of the footage showing what actually happened has been made public? An update, perhaps, with a more balanced presentation?

Comment from Craig
Time: June 1, 2010, 04:13

“We are going to see in the following days whether Israel has done it as a display of decisiveness or to commit political suicide.”

By the way, in the years to come I think this will be remembered as the incident where Turkey committed political suicide. I don’t think this is going to have any impact on Israel’s situation at all.

Comment from eatbees
Time: June 1, 2010, 07:40

Craig, here is Andrew Sullivan’s reaction:

“There was a fight. But the fact is the boat was in international waters, had committed no crime in Israeli waters, could have been kept away by a variety of other tactics, and was attacked by fully-armed commandos who ended up killing many unarmed civilians. To see Israel as the victim in this is so perverse it borders on unhinged.”

Comment from Craig
Time: June 1, 2010, 15:19

Eatbees, watch the video at the top of this article if you please. After watching it, do you admit that Al Jazeera reporter Ayman Mohyeldin was lying? I’m looking for yes or no, not Andrew Sullivan’s irrelevant opinions :)

But speaking of that:

But the fact is the boat was in international waters…

Andrew Sullivan needs to familiarize himself with international humanitarian law:

SECTION V : NEUTRAL MERCHANT VESSELS AND CIVIL AIRCRAFT

Neutral merchant vessels

67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

Onwards…

…had committed no crime in Israeli waters

See above. Blockade running makes them subject to being boarded and or attacked if they refuse to comply with military forces of the country whose blockade they are attempting to breach.

could have been kept away by a variety of other tactics

That’s not what my friends in the US navy are saying. Perhaps you could get Andrew Sullivan’s expert opinion about what other tactics could have been used?

…and was attacked by fully-armed commandos who ended up killing many unarmed civilians.

All three statements in that snippet are lies. It was the Turks on the vessel who were doing the attacking and the Israelis TRYING to defend themselves and failing. The commandos were NOT fully armed, and were in fact armed with paintball guns when they boarded. The “civilians” were not unarmed. As can clearly be seen in that video.

Andrew Sullivan is a liar.

To see Israel as the victim in this is so perverse it borders on unhinged.”

And the opinions of a known liar are worth what, exactly?

Anyway, eatbees, I was questioning whether or not you wanted to let this blog post stand even as inaccurate and biased as it is. It seems you do. That’s fine with me, and you aren’t alone in presenting an agenda driven version of these events :)

Comment from eatbees
Time: June 1, 2010, 16:31

Craig, what arguably may have been justified if it had occurred in Israel’s own waters, is either an act of war or a prosecutable crime (piracy) if it occured in international waters. And Israel admits that’s where it occurred.

At the very least, this is a public relations disaster for Israel (as well as a human disaster for those killed or injured), because it was avoidable if they had just allowed the convoy to proceed to Gaza, or boarded in their own waters after giving sufficient warning not to resist. Here is an article from STRATFOR that argues that the flotilla’s organizers wanted to provoke a disproportionate reaction from Israel to create an international crisis, and Israel took the bait. So, stupid, stupid for Israel.

Another argument that has been made is that if the same actions had been taken by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard against an international aid convoy in the Persian Gulf, people like you would be reacting very differently.

But frankly, I wonder why you find it worthwhile to comment here, because this is just a small blog where I express my personal opinion on events of the day. Its readership is not large, and I don’t get any pleasure scoring debating points for somebody’s “team.” If you want to take on some heavyweights among those criticizing Israel’s flouting of international law and common decency, check out Mondoweiss, War in Context, or Gideon Levy and Bradley Burston in Ha’aretz.

Comment from Oli
Time: July 7, 2010, 00:24

You should make an update on this post. Israel actually warned them several times, ask them to agree to go to ashdod’s port… Their answer was no, our destination is Gaza… Peace activist are rarely armed, never use violence, and try to solve things in a peaceful way… How do you explain that all other boats agreed to go to the port while this one refuse? It was full of racist, islamist extrmist using kids and old people as shields…
Israel made the mistake of fallign into their trick by defending their land in internationnal water, but that is their only mistake…
I could post you at least 15 different links to show you how wrong you are, but I’m not sure it’ll be of any use.
Information is never one document, it is a group if them, showing the different points of view… Otherwise, and this is what you’re doing, it is called propaganda.

Comment from eatbees
Time: July 7, 2010, 04:20

Oli — I understand that activists on one of the boats fought back with improvised “weapons” like metal bars torn from the rails of the ship, or their bare hands, and that some of the Israeli soldiers were in danger.

I also know that many people on board that ship insist to this day that the IDF soldiers who fell on them from out of the sky did so without warning, and that firing began before they hit the deck — so the violence that occurred on the part of the activists was self-defense against a surprise attack in international waters, in the middle of the night.

This post isn’t propganda. It is a personal reaction, written in the heat of the moment, out of shock at what had happened. I haven’t updated it because I have diverse interests and have other things on my mind. And as you can see, I haven’t updated my blog at all in a month.

The day before the event, I had been joking cynically with a friend that maybe Israel would attack the ship and kill activists to show how tough they were, as they surprise attacked the U.S.S. Liberty in 1967 — but neither of us believed they would be that arrogant or stupid. We assumed they would just disable the ship and tow it to shore, and everyone would forget about the Gaza flotilla. But then they did attack, leaving nine people dead (the first reports said over 20) which is why I put “unthinkable” in my headline, because I could hardly believe it.

Please don’t send me your 15 different links proving your side of the story. I could dig up eyewitness accounts of people on the ship saying just the opposite, and where would that get us? I don’t want a propaganda fight here. Let the media and the governments handle that. Neither of us is shaping world opinion, and readers of this blog can find all the points of view they need on the internet. What matters to me personally is that I still feel sad for the lives of the activists that were lost, especially the young photographer who was shot several times in the face at point blank range.

And let’s not forget the reason the flotilla was sent to begin with — to try to break the blockade of Gaza. It’s great that the blockade has been “eased” now, but 1.5 million Gazans are still being held prisoner, and the Palestinians of the West Bank are still being occupied too, after 43 years. Citizens of Europe and the U.S. are finally beginning to see this for what it is, an ethnic cleansing campaign not so different from what the Serbs were trying to do in Bosnia. Ultimately, no amount of propaganda or righteous argument either way will decide the case, because actions speak for themselves.

Comment from david
Time: December 22, 2010, 09:36

too bad the vessel was not sunk

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