Getting Into The Israeli-Gaza Waters

Ken AshfordMiddle East2 Comments

As you may have heard, Israeli commandos killed as many as 16 peace activists and wounded over 50 others as they boarded and commandeered six ships heading toward the Gaza Strip carrying relief and aid in the form of water purifiers, in violation of Israel's self-imposed blockade of Gaza.  CNN:

Israeli soldiers rappelled onto the deck of the ships from a helicopter. The boarding of the ships took place in international waters more than 70 nautical miles (130 km) outside Israeli territorial waters, according to IHH, one of the flotilla organizers.

Yigal Palmor, the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, told CNN on Tuesday that Israel regrets the casualties but said "the sole responsibility" for the violent incident lies with activists who have "chosen violence and confrontation."

The six ships were carrying more than 10,000 tons of aid and 600 passengers from more than 20 countries, according to the Free Gaza Movement.

Much is being made of the fact that the peace activists fought the soldiers as they boarded the ship.  On the right, people are showing YouTube videos of the "peace activists" beating the invading soldiers, and yes, they put the phrase "peace activists" in quotes, as if that proves something.

But I don't get what point is trying to be made.  When your ship is invaaded in free, open, international waters, that's — well, an invasion.  Certainly, they had a right to defend themselves.  Isn't that piracy? 

And besides, these relief workers never claimed to be Ghandi.

The ramafications of the incident are huge.  In a rare public denunciation of Israel, the United Nations Security Council on Monday condemned the Israeli raid on the Gaza aid flotilla and deplored the loss of innocent life that attended it. The world body insisted that Israel immediately release the 480 humanitarians it had taken captive, and demanded that it also let their ships go. The UNSC also instructed Israel to lift its blockade of the Gaza Strip, calling the siege “not sustainable.”

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. 

It seems to me that Israel really blew this.