News of the Israeli commando attack on a six-ship flotilla of peace activists is rocking the headlines. The flotilla was transporting medical aid, stationary, and construction materials to Gaza, which has been under a three-year blockade by Israel. It seems as if the Israeli commandos thought this was going to be a push-over - that a few armed soldiers pushing around hippies would be an easy mission, so they only packed paintballs in their rifles. That didn't go so well.
Dozens of activists and six Israeli soldiers were wounded in the bloody predawn confrontation in international waters. The violent takeover dealt yet another blow to Israel's international image, already tarnished by war crimes accusations in Gaza and its 3-year-old blockade of the impoverished Palestinian territory.
There were conflicting accounts of what happened early Monday, with activists claiming the Israelis opened fire without provocation and Israel insisting its forces fired in self defense.
Speaking alongside the Canadian prime minister, Netanyahu expressed "regret" for the loss of life but said the soldiers had no choice. "Our soldiers had to defend themselves, defend their lives, or they would have been killed," he said.
Unbelievable. It was self-defense? Boarding a ship that was 70 miles off the shore? That must be like the way invading Gaza was a "defensive" move against all those armed Palestinians who were on the verge of taking Tel Aviv in 2008. What a surprise, that Netanyahu had to cancel his trip to Washington DC. The man is quickly on his way of being an international pariah. So much for good relations between Israel and Turkey.
The IDF has several videos on YouTube, which I won't link to, in an effort to push a heavy-handed information operation to support their side of the story. I don't think it will work. Even though this flotilla was a deliberate provocation, Israel ran right into the worst possible solution. Public assassinations, preventive invasions, unwarranted blockades, boarding unarmed civilian ships in international waters - the country's leaders sure make it difficult to be a friend of Israel. Maybe it's time for an intervention.
For more information, Galrahn suggests the boarding was stupid, but legal. He's the navy guy, so I'll accept that. I'm sure there will be more news and opinions. Prof Walt notes some actions the Obama administration should take, in the interests of damage control, but probably won't. Andrew Sullivan also has a round-up of other reactions.