(Image taken from NY Daily News)
Evan: So, the people calling people anti-semitic for being pissed off at Israel today obv don’t know many American Jews. I just don’t buy that version of the story that Israel’s selling, and I don’t think anyone else does either. It was a freaking aid supply ship, for god’s sake, but allowing it through would force people to pay attention to the apartheid state Israel has created with Gaza. Even the response from AIPAC has been tepid. Everybody pretty much seems to get that Israel has really gone and done something awful, and it’s a direct result of the government they’ve allowed to take hold over there.
Adam: Well, I have an opinion on this. Israel was wrong, BUT I can see their reasoning for boarding the ships. If those vessels were carrying rockets, weapons, CBR materials, or fighters, then Israel would be irresponsible NOT to conduct a thorough boarding (for the sake of both Israelis & Palestinians). So I don’t fault them for the boarding. The pre-boarding briefing probably got those individual IDF members on edge because they truly didn’t know what they were walking into. Yes, there were many civilians onboard and this was a high-profile event, but let’s not forget the guilt both sides share in the ongoing escalation of this conflict (it’s not exactly like Islamic extremists haven’t used human shields before or would think twice before blowing those ships up with Israelis & civilians onboard). So those boarding team members were probably a bit nervous and probably trigger happy. They were clearly outnumbered (since most boarding teams consist of about 12-15 personnel), and once they got onboard and had to corral and detain all those personnel (who did NOT want to cooperate), that’s when shit got out of hand. So Israel is responsible for what happened, but this is an old story. Civilians like to act like they’re invincible in the presence of armed military/police personnel and then are dumbfounded when people get hurt or killed.
Evan: My thing, Adam, is that, as you said, this was an EXTREMELY high-profile, highly-publicized event. The IDF knew exactly who was coming on that flotilla, and they knew that it wasn’t Islamic extremists. I get why they boarded the ships, as a matter of protocol. And Israel’s statements in defense are truly indefensible, the way they’re clinging to some sort of bullshit about the activists being “violent.” Sure, they were, but proportionately to the IDF’s violence? It’s not even a contest. But remember, part of the outrage about this is that this is not an isolated event. Israel has been pulling this shit with escalating frequency for years now, and this wouldn’t be happening at all if Israel wasn’t clinging to a pathetic claim that they have the right to do anything they want in the name of “protecting themselves” from the Palestinian people, who they’ve been essentially starving to death behind walls, literal and figurative. And then some militant Palestinian hurls a rocket over the border, and Israel’s response is to massacre as many of their people as they possibly can. It was the same thing in the Lebanon war. I’m just getting sick of the “poor, put-upon Israel” act. They’re clearly one of the most dangerous nations in that region, and they have multiple nukes that they seem to be more and more trigger happy to use if somebody looks at them funny. OH AND the fact that this happened in fucking international waters, which Israel does not own, despite the fact that being reminded of that might make Israel have a sad and a self-esteem problem and feel the need to launch a warhead at Malta to make them feel better.
“So, to recap what seems thus far to be the central claim of Israel apologists: Israel is the official Owner of international waters (which is where the flotilla was when it was attacked). As such, they have the right to issue orders to ships in international waters, and everyone on board those ships is required to obey and submit. Anyone who fails to do so, or anyone in the vicinity of those who fail to do so, can be shot and killed and get what they deserve.”
And as to the point about the activists’ violence, as well, Andrew Sullivan sums it up pretty well, with video:
“A simple point. The violence by the activists is pretty abhorrent. These are not followers of Gandhi or MLK Jr. But the violence is not fatal to anyone and it is in response to a dawn commando raid by armed soldiers. They are engaging in self-defense. More to the point: they are civilians confronting one of the best militaries in the world. They killed no soldiers; their weapons were improvised; the death toll in the fight is now deemed to be up to 19 - all civilians.
It staggers me to read defenses of what the Israelis have done. They attacked a civilian flotilla in international waters breaking no law. When they met fierce if asymmetric resistance, they opened fire. And we are now being asked to regard the Israelis as the victims.
Of course they didn’t want the press. They’re the ones systematically oppressing the Palestinian people all under the mantle of victimhood. I bet the US gave them the green light to do this, in which case, wow. The more I read about it, the more damning it is for Israel. Media aboard the flotilla reported that the IDF started firing before they boarded. Plus, the flotilla was NATO-flagged. Yeeeeeah. Big “terrorist danger” there. In international waters.
Adam: BUT you have to look at it this way (from the soldiers’ perspective): they may have ONLY been trying to hit the armed soldiers with lead pipes, but the first thing that tells that boarding team about their mindset is that they aren’t concerned about their own lives, much less those of the IDF. What if one of those “peace” activists were able to disarm an Israeli soldier and open fire on their team? Now, reasonable escalation of force should first include non-lethal measures like steel retractable batons & OC spray, but if those measures weren’t enough, then bullets would certainly be the next logical step. The way that military & police forces are trained is to anticipate escalation and to execute certain pre-planned responses to minimize the danger to their teammates. It’s really easy to label these guys one way or another, but you have to understand that from their standpoint, they were just following orders. Once those activists got violent, they had to make a quick decision about how best to protect their team. Again, I’m not an Israeli apologist, but I can say with certainty that most effective military or police forces in the world would’ve reacted in a similar way. Btw - I doubt the US gave them the green light to do anything (or would’ve even had to). Nobody over here cares much what we Americans think.
Evan: A couple of things, though:
- Again, they flew out into international waters and boarded that ship, which was legal and NATO-flagged. That was an act of aggression in and of itself.
- We already know that they were sent without the usual arms for a boarding situation like that, but rather followed an aggressive protocol. This after the captain of the ship had already diverted course away to avoid a confrontation at night.
- In international waters!
My read is that the Free Gaza people set Israel up to prove how fucking stupid they are, and it was a success.
Adam: International maritime law is tricky. Any flagged military vessel basically has the right to board & search just about any civilian vessel, regardless of the flag they fly. Ships of all nations are boarded in international waters all the time. That, in and of itself, is no crime or act of war. And incidentally, diverting a course is actually a strategy of resistance, not compliance. Protocol would have been to slow their speed and assemble personnel topside to allow the boarding team access and show good faith. That type of compliance can mean the difference between life and death, and any ship’s master knows that. So we need to stop downplaying the actions of the Free Gaza people. There was no misunderstanding about their actions. These people were apparently willing to die for their cause, because they actively opposed the boarding, knowing full well what the consequences of their actions would be. And, incidentally, I don’t pity those who get killed in these types of circumstances. They’re willing to die, and they choose their course of action in line with their beliefs. I just don’t feel bad for them. If they had wanted to live more than they wanted to prove their point, they’d still be alive.
Evan: My understanding, though, is that they diverted and held back a while before the boarding took place. The Israelis had to fly miles out into international waters to board. But again, and I keep coming back to this: I understand that they board and search all the time. But they knew exactly what this flotilla was doing, and moreover, they knew who was on those vessels. They knew there were 25 members of the EU Parliament on those vessels. They knew there were aid workers from all over the Western world, as well as the Middle East. So, knowing what they knew, you have to see that Israel made a fully informed choice to go start shit with the flotilla. I don’t buy that they were nervous or anything, because they knew that they weren’t directly threatened by the flotilla. I DO buy that they were trigger-happy, because Israel, as a nation, is trigger-happy. As Norman Finkelstein put it earlier today, the question is whether Israel is BECOMING a fucking lunatic state, or whether they already ARE.
Adam: The implication in the Huffington Post article was that they diverted course in order to prolong the event and have their altercation in daylight for more publicity. I just can’t pity them. These aren’t innocent civilians in the sense that they were just minding their own business, not trying to bother anyone.
Evan: Oh, I never said that. There are very specific political implications to the way this was carried out. I just happen to agree more with the broad coalition who organized the flotilla than I agree with anything Israel ever says or does. Indeed, though, the flotilla has worn its symbology on its sleeve. One of the ships coming in by Wednesday, which the Israelis have already said they’re going to seize, is the Rachel Corrie. Will they seize it, or will they bulldoze it? Meanwhile, the entire event is symbolically linked with the Uris novel Exodus, about the Zionists breaking the British blockade of Palestine.
Adam: Yea, I can understand that, and I’m not trying to defend their actions explicitly. I’m more just pointing out that under the circumstances, I don’t think the members of the IDF boarding teams did anything outside of protocol given the orders they received. I don’t fault them for how they responded. That being said, the people to blame in this are those who gave them their orders.
Evan: Bingo. And the people running Israel right now are lunatics.