Thought on Israel’s seaborne raid.

I don’t know about you, but the more I read, hear and see about Israel’s raid on a group of ships in international waters off its coast, the less I understand.

It wasn’t as though they didn’t know these ships were coming, the entire voyage was widely publicized to draw attention to both the mission and the reason it was being staged: a near-strangle-hold blockade of the Gaza territory by Israel. Nor can they claim that the cargo was anything that could be even vaguely termed “war material”, as the material being carried was also advertised to the media in general. Even with all of this, it was like the Israeli authorities couldn’t figure out some way to let the delivery go ahead, or that they were unwilling to do so.

So, in the end, what resulted was something of a disaster. Commandos storm the passenger ships from helicopters. The passengers, in turn, do what a lot of people have said sailors should do when confronted by a hostile force: they fought back, using whatever came to hand. Even the worst estimates from Israeli sources give the crew an “arsenal” of baseball bats, a few metal pipes, some slingshots and a few improvised flash grenades. Stack that up against pictures from Israeli sources showing their troops carrying automatic rifles and dressed in body armor and you have to ask how things came to the end they did. Can a statement be termed realistic when it claims that trained commandos were “overwhelmed” by the passengers and crew wielding improved weapons? That, as heavily armed as they were, they felt themselves in such danger that they had no recourse but to open fire with live ammunition? And underlying all of this is the most fundamental question: Why was this even necessary?

For now, the government of Israel is sticking to it’s story, that they were attempting to stop a shipment of “dangerous” material into Gaza. The problem is, the more they reveal of the raid, its aftermath, and the cargo they actually seized, the weaker that story becomes. As if to undermine their own version of what happened and how much of a threat the convoy was, all of the people the Israeli military took into custody from those ships have been released. Does anyone believe that Israel would actually release someone who was engaged in an act that threatened them, that could be even vaguely termed “terrorism”?

What have they accomplished, anyway? Turkey one of the few Arabic nations that had a close relation with Israel was the place the convoy left from. Worse, most of those killed were Turkish citizens. The result has been that the government of Turkey has little choice but to break relations with Israel. Worse, even in countries sympathetic to Israel, public opinion is already beginning to take a negative turn towards that embattled state. How this turns out anything but badly for Israel is a mystery to this writer. If it led to certain high-ranking officers and/or ‘security’ types being removed from their positions might be one step. A lifting, or at least a major relaxing, of the blockade on Gaza would also be a good step. Together, they might take some of the mud off of Israel’s face.

And America? A clear and sound condemnation, one that made it clear that this nation stands for the rights of vessels engaged in non-military activities to navigate freely in international water, should be our first and most public step. Beyond that, a closer examination of how we interact with Israel might not be out of line, especially our support for some of the more “cowboy” actions that Israel has undertaken in the past…..and floated that it is contemplating for the future. To do otherwise would be the same as endorsing this sort of action, and that is not an option given our own nation’s dependence on international shipping.

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