On May 31, Israeli commandos stopped six ships on an aid mission to Gaza. There were certainly some well-meaning activists aboard these ships, but the flotilla was primarily a deliberate political provocation aimed at breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza and creating anti-Israel publicity – at any cost. On this latter point, it has succeeded.
The flotilla was supposedly carrying about 10,000 tons of aid, even though Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza, and international aid groups move freely to and from the region. Israel imposed the blockade of Gaza to prevent weapons from reaching Hamas — the radical regime that continues to make war on Israeli civilians. From Gaza, Hamas has lobbed 10,000 missiles into Israeli cities. Egypt, too, has blockaded the strip, hoping to stop the flow of weapons to Hamas, which it recognizes as a threat.
The flotilla was in international waters, but international law allows a state, during a time of conflict, to enforce an embargo in international waters. Five of the ships complied. The sixth, the Mavi Marmara, ignored Israeli warnings, clearly looking for a fight. The ship was controlled by militants of IHH, a Turkish relief fund. In addition to legitimate philanthropic activities, IHH openly supports terrorist groups, including Hamas in Gaza and others in Afghanistan.
The ship ignored multiple instructions to change course. When Israeli forces tried to board the Mavi Marmara from helicopters, militants allegedly responded by attacking them with knives, metal rods and firebombs. Some Israelis were thrown into the sea. One was almost lynched.
Imagine how U.S. Marines would have reacted if they were attacked by a flotilla of foreign vessels trying to break an American imposed blockade. The Israelis eventually opened fire. Nine people were killed and dozens were wounded.
As so often happens after incidents like this, people were quick to condemn Israel for excessive use of force before receiving all the facts. The press is being used to provide exactly the sort of headlines that the organizers counted on.
The loss of life is always regrettable, and it is certainly hoped that the injured will soon recover and a path to peace will be found. But rather than rushing to judgment, governments and individuals should wait for all the facts to come out. It’s much too easy to jump to conclusions.
(Note: For a unique and critically important view of the overall situation in Israel, I recommend George Gilder’s book, The Israel Test. You can also watch an interview I conducted with Gilder last summer on my TV show, Spirit of the Berkshires, by clicking the ‘Spirit of the Berkshires’ tab at the top of this page. The interview with Gilder is Episode 4.)