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This is a gut reaction, written while the events surrounding the boarding of the Gaza flotilla are still fresh. We still have not seen the full evolution of the political consequences (and see here too) of the Israeli action. It is a tragedy that was orchestrated by the "humanitarian" organization that planned the Gaza flotilla, the IHH, which is in fact a terror group (see Who is behind the Gaza Flotilla?). However, greater Israeli wisdom at the policy and military levels might have avoided or mitigated this tragedy.

Israel had the right in international law and the duty, to stop that convoy, whether or not it actually carried contraband. For what it is worth, Israel also has the right to search ships under the Oslo agreements.

What would the United States, or any country do in this situation? Suppose that a gang of terrorists had seized control of a neighboring territory. Suppose that a flotilla of ships chartered by a group associated with Al-Qaeda, as IHH is, was going to break an arms embargo under the guise of a "humanitarian" mission? The "nonviolent" "humanitarians" had guns, clubs, knives and other "nonviolent" weapons. They threw one soldier off the side of upper deck of the ship, shot two others, and wounded about seven in all.

Here is a video of IDF personnel warning the ship and asking them to change course, explaining that the supplies will be forwarded overland to Gaza, with the reply of the captain, "Negative, Negative. Our destination is Gaza."


Here is an account of the action by Ron Ben Yishai, and a video of the 'nonviolent humanitarians" in action against the Shayetet 13 commandos is shown below.


The "humanitarians" in the ship chanted "Khaibar, Khaibar! O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return." Khaibar was a Jewish town whose inhabitants were attacked for no reason and massacred and enslaved by Muhammad and his followers. It is a traditional chant in Muslim pogroms. Theologically, it is viewed as a portent of the end of days, when the army of Muhammad will massacre all the Jews, as explained in the Hamas charter. This video is not "Zionist propaganda" - it was made by al-Jazeera.


Greta Berlin, one of the activists on the ships, stated that the purpose of the flotilla was to break the "siege" of Gaza, not to deliver humanitarian supplies. Indeed, the ships had less humanitarian supplies - 10,000 tons - than the 15,000 tons that Israel send to Gaza in a week. As one of the activists noted in the first video above, their voyage had to have a "happy ending" either way, since they would either reach Gaza or martyrdom. Berlin's remarks are interesting in view of her subsequent statements about the "humanitarian" nature of the mission.

It is certainly impossible for Israel to follow the advice of the British and others, who want Israel to open the borders of Gaza immediately. This would result in the arming of the genocidal Hamas in the same way that the Hezbollah in Lebanon is being supplied from Syria. We are not suicidal.

But we must recognize that the end result is that Israeli decisions and actions, unfortunately, seem to have helped to break the siege and to legitimize the genocidal Hamas. The Israel Navy commandos certainly did not plan to kill anyone. But they were put into a situation where they had no choice except to defend themselves in the only way that they could, and with the only weapons that they had, against a very large and hostile mob that was armed with various potentially lethal weapons, including pistols. Two IN commandos were wounded by pistols fired by the "non-violent" "humanitarians." The commandos should not have been put in that situation if it could have been avoided.

A well-meaning but ill-informed American wrote to us, comparing the Hamas regime to the encircled Berliners in 1948, and Israel to the Soviet Union. That is certainly not the case, but we need to ask ourselves how we got to the point where people see the situation in that way, and what we must do to change it.

Israeli officials sent our soldiers and all of us into a trap set by experts. The results pay "dividends" for all the wrong people. IHH, while publicly shouting about the dead "humanitarians," is privately gloating. The Hamas too, has achieved a great victory, sabotaging the American-led peace process and putting themselves into the spotlight as leaders of the "Palestinian cause." Whether they like it or not, Mahmoud Abbas and the leaders of the Palestinian Authority will not see the possibility of any course other than siding with the Hamas government, their enemies. Very likely they will put off the peace talks, which will generate more U.S. pressure on Israel. Hamas are collecting dividends and cutting coupons.

The mounting international indignation and isolation of Israel that will result if this tragic event is not handled correctly, if the lessons are not learned, will be far worse for Israel's security in the long run than the smuggling of some bags of cement into Gaza, or even the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. The experience of the "Second Intifada" and the Gaza war should have taught Israeli policy and military planners as well as Israel advocates that the human rights aspects of the confrontation are the paramount security threat, and that every enemy casualty, no matter what their real background, will be marketed by the terrorists and their supporters as an innocent civilian "massacred" by the evil Israelis.

It was also predictable that the EU and others would react as they did to the tragic events. No doubt the Hamas and the IHH took this into account. There is a large measure of hypocrisy in the reactions coming out of various capitals. Is Egypt really anxious to strengthen the presence of Hamas and al-Qaeda on its borders? Would Egypt be interested in taking on responsibility for administering the port of Gaza, or of all of Gaza, to ensure the well being of the Gazans, about whose health it is so solicitous? These videos of the massacre committed by French troops in the Ivory Coast in 2004 should be a reminder of the real position of European countries regarding excessive violence. Likewise American actions in Iraq and Afghanistan speak louder than words regarding their respect for civilian lives. Violence is very bad when someone else commits the violence, but understandable when we do it, right? But this does nothing to change the fact that Israel is in trouble.

There should be, as the EU demands, a full and thorough investigation. But the investigation should not be limited to finding out if commando X was justified in opening fire in case Y. If we are to avoid another such debacle, the inquiry must ask some hard and embarrassing questions:

Why were the possibility of violence, and the consequences of that violence, not foreseen?

Why, after so many years of such confrontations, has Israel not developed ways of meeting violence that do not result in overwhelming enemy casualties that can be exhibited for propaganda purposes as a "massacre?"

Did anyone at the civilian or military levels take into account the background of the sponsoring organization, the IHH, and understand that this was a group likely to use violence? Apparently not, at least according to Israeli accounts, including the account of Ron ben Yishai cited above.

Why didn't Israeli communiques before the event emphasize the ties of IHH with Al-Qaeda and alert the world community to the true nature of this organization?

Why didn't Israel take effective steps to ensure that IHH is on the lists of terrorist organizations maintained by the United States and the EU?

The flotilla could not have sailed without Turkish consent. Did Israel do everything possible, including asking for U.S. intervention, to get Turkey to prevent the flotilla from sailing?

Was there a different way to deflect the ships without boarding them, and if so why wasn't it used?

Did anyone take into account the consequences of boarding the main ship in international waters, rather than waiting into it was inside the three mile limit?

Why has Israel not publicly challenged the EU, the United States and the Arab countries to come up with a satisfactory solution to the problem of Hamas rule in Gaza?

Would the United States and EU really want Israel to strengthen, and perhaps to recognize and legitimize the Hamas, at the expense of the Palestinian Authority? If not, what is their solution?

Is the current policy, including enforcement of the blockade on Gaza ports, still tenable?

If the current policy is no longer tenable, what are the alternatives?

After the fact, it is discouraging that certain Israeli officials are saying "We don't need to apologize for defending ourselves." It is precisely the callous sort of reaction that the Hamas and the IHH hoped to elicit. We must always apologize for loss of life of ostensible civilians. We must always plan operations in such a way as to minimize loss of life.

Time and again, Israel has fallen into the same trap. A terrorist provocation is met with force, and results in numerous casualties. The result is always a military victory for Israel and a moral victory for the terrorists. If a course of action achieves bad results, it must be changed.

But in Gaza, there is a special situation. Most of the Arab countries, as well as the United States and the EU, have no interest in strengthening the Hamas. A Hamas victory would destabilize all the moderate regimes that are friendly to the United States, and would be a great victory for Islamist extremism and for the Iranian government that backs the Hamas. Yet the Americans and Europeans are offering no means for dealing with the problems created by Hamas rule in Gaza. Their pious pronouncements are part of the problem, rather than part of the solution. Israel does nothing to make the U.S. and the EU see that they are undermining their own cause. The Israeli government and Israel advocates have clearly failed to educate the general public regarding the nature of the Hamas regime and its supporters.

Ami Isseroff

Original content is Copyright by the author 2010. Posted at ZioNation-Zionism and Israel Web Log, http://www.zionism-israel.com/log/archives/00000741.html where your intelligent and constructive comments are welcome. Disributed by ZNN list. Subscribe by sending a message to ZNN-subscribe@yahoogroups.com. Please forward by e-mail with this notice, cite this article and link to it. Other uses by permission only.

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Replies: 6 Comments

Israel does NOT need to apologize for killing anti-Semites. Those who come to kill Jews deserve what they get. Israel did not instigate bloodshed - the terrorists did and they reaped what they sowed. Israel will be using maximum armed force in the future to stop attempts to break the blockade. A lesson has been learned to prepare correctly for the next time it happens.

Wholesale Judaica, Sunday, July 11th

Part of the probelm behind this is that Israel simply fails to get over to the rest of the world the profound complexities of the situation and the limited options that nay nation states has in such circumstances. For a country that plays a leading role in IT development I am simply amazed that Israel does not utilise it more effectively to promote an environment where the difficulties are better understood by a wider audience. Were this done support for some of the factions that organised this flotilla and planned the violence might just wither away.

Rod Davies, Wednesday, June 2nd

Israel does NOT need to apologize for killing anti-Semites. Those who come to kill Jews deserve what they get. Israel did not instigate bloodshed - the terrorists did and they reaped what they sowed. Israel will be using maximum armed force in the future to stop attempts to break the blockade. A lesson has been learned to prepare correctly for the next time it happens.

NormanF, Wednesday, June 2nd

Thanks for this piece, Ami. It contained information that the Australian media have not highlighted.
Having seen the IDF footage of the attack on the commandos who rappelled on to the boat, it's pretty clear to me that this flotilla's primary objective was confrontation. As Mark Regev has remarked, if their real aim was to deliver aid, why didn't they negotiate to leave the goods with either Israeli or Egyptian authorities so those authorities could then pass the aid on?
Ami, you've raised some really good questions and you're right about the moral victory for the terrorists. I doubt if any of those demonstrators who hit the streets from London to Ankara to Sydney yesterday gave a thought to Gilad Shalit and the fact that the flotilla's organizers had refused to carry a parcel from his parents to him, and what that refusal might actually say about the Free Gaza Movement's real objectives.

Jo, Wednesday, June 2nd

I believe Israel must insist an open investigation is conducted on the other side in parallel to that of Israel's actions. It appears Islamic terror orgs were involved and this should not go unattended. Israel can win this cae if she exposes Turkey, Hamas and Iran here - as opposed only defending her rights. Israel must refuse to conduct an investigation unless both sides are investigated - therwise she will face these charades every month. The Israel bashers are attacking with media smart weapons - and Israel must follow suit. If it is found there is an Islamic plot here, as in previous cases [Kartina; Al Dura; etc] - it is a good reason for Israel to confront these enemies - these attacks must be seen as the same as Iran's nuclear aspirations.

There are two sides to a coin. The UN Madarassa must be ashamed for condemning before the investigation it calls for.

IamJoseph, Wednesday, June 2nd

Israel's continued willingness to acquiesce to the patent absurdities contained in the international positions regarding Gaza is at the root of this issue. If the int'l community insist that Gazans should be able to import and export whatever goods & personnel via the Gazan coast, then they forfeit the right to access Israel. The int'l community must be told they cannot have both and seek to prosecute war at the same time.
If the border between Gaza and Israel is the recognised int'l border between two states then both have an absoluite right to open or close their component elements.
The current situation simply indulges the Palestinian infantilised state of mind and can never deliver a stable peace.

Rod Davies, Monday, May 31st

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