But the real battle over this flotilla debacle won't be fought with metal batons, or guns, or paintballs, or knives. It'll be fought with words, and the usage of words.
Just a quick summary of events, and I'll try to present the sequence as unbiased and factual as possible, then proceed to my opinions and observations.
1. A group of ships carrying several hundred pro-Palestinian activists, as well as 10,000 tons (I'm doubting this number, it's what the AP is saying, but that's a lot. I'd venture that the ship had a tonnage of 10,000, which is pretty big) of supplies, were headed toward the Gaza Strip.
2. The Gaza Strip has been blockaded by Israeli naval forces for 3 years. The Israelis offered to allow the ships to unload any humanitarian aid cargo, which would then be transported into the Strip after inspection. Keep in mind, simple building materials like concrete are considered contraband by the Israelis. They also warned the ships not to run the blockade.
3. In the middle of the night, and in international waters, Israeli troops attempted to take control of the boats in the flotilla. On the boat ferrying the most activists (about 600 of the total 700), a violent struggle erupted. Israel reports 9 activists killed, dozens wounded, and at least 6 Israelis wounded.
It should be noted that essentially all information regarding this incident has been disseminated by Israel. An example of such information is this very short video clip:
I purposely used the word "activist" because it's an incredibly vague term. An activist is an active supporter. Active with what? Warren Goldstein, the chair of U-Hartford's history department writing for the Huffington Post credits these activists with an active defense of their ship:
"By tomorrow morning you will be hearing the "official" Jewish community parroting the IDF line, complaining about the nerve of those activists defending themselves in international waters from heavily armed soldiers enforcing an illegal blockade."
I'll give credit to any activists who confronted "heavily armed" soldiers. That takes some balls. But the reason it's brave is because the soldier has a gun. And he might use it. This isn't 17th century chivalric France. A soldier with a gun won't cavalierly say to an activist with a knife, "So it's knives then, eh? I accept your choice of weapon," drop his gun, pull out a knife and then yell "On guard!"
Then again, how much bravery is required for a dozen guys to take on one soldier, who is "heavily armed" with a paintball gun?
And I don't know about anyone else, but if I'm on a ship, and a military helicopter hovering overhead is depositing soldiers onto the deck, I might not be so brave. Unless, of course, I already had a metal club with me. Which miraculously, through remarkably uniform foresight, these "activists" all wield.
And can we stop calling these guys "demonstrators" or "protesters?" Those two words connote nonviolent resistance. They conjure images of lunch-counter sit-ins, and marching in the street. "Activist" is extremely vague, but I can't summon a more applicable term. "Defenders" is too heroic. "Combatants" is too vilifying. But they're not demonstrating for/against anything. And once they hit a soldier, they were no longer protesting anything. They were fighting. Even if it were fighting in self-defense, it's still fighting.
I'll concede Israel's blockade of Gaza is entirely illegal. You know what else is illegal? Killing. Gaza is politically controlled by Hamas, which has been deemed by the US and the EU as a terrorist organization, rightfully so. Because, you know, they kill innocent people. Hamas' own charter includes this Pat Buchanenesque tidbit about Zionists:
You may speak as much as you want about regional and world wars. They were behind World War I, when they were able to destroy the Islamic Caliphate, making financial gains and controlling resources. They obtained the Balfour Declaration, formed the League of Nations through which they could rule the world. They were behind World War II, through which they made huge financial gains by trading in armaments, and paved the way for the establishment of their state. It was they who instigated the replacement of the League of Nations with the United Nations and the Security Council to enable them to rule the world through them. There is no war going on anywhere, without having their finger in it."
That sounds right. The Zionists were behind World War II, which saw how many Jews killed? Makes sense to me. Tell me, why does Hamas need guns and bombs to fight an enemy so blatantly self-destructive?
No matter where you stand on Zionism, to suggest that Zionists fomented World War II to further their cause is certifiably insane.
So Israel enforces a tight blockade of the Gaza Strip. Why? Because it's a good way to keep guns out. Is that so complicated to grasp? But I'll also say that the Israelis need to develop a better blockade. One that allows humanitarian aid in, while keeping the guns and ammo out. Compose a list of accepted foodstuffs that can enter. Keep it simple. No complex chemicals. No fertilizer. Absolutely no metal. But allow Dried rice. Allow Wheat. Water. Penicillin. Aspirin. Et cetera.
Maybe the public attention and international pressure that this incident has brought will convince Israel to allow basic food and medicine to enter the Gaza Strip. I don't think that would be a bad thing at all. Starving people either die or they kill.
You know who else once instituted an illegal blockade? JFK and the US Navy. We call it the Cuban Missile Crisis, and they cleverly dubbed it a "quarantine." But I doubt you'll hear many Liberal eggheads criticize their demigod for that course of action. And rightly so. The US did what was in its best interest for survival, similar to what Israel is doing right now.
Two words that reporters, critics and pundits have incessantly repeated in this whole fiasco:
What are international waters? Well, a country's territorial claims extend 12 miles from its coast. This attack occurred 80 miles from Israel's coast. But a country's exclusive economic zone extends 200 miles. So in some respects it's international waters. In other respects, it's Israeli waters. The AP and the peace-at-all-costs media will not bother to discover this grey area.
Then there's a further consideration, a tactical one. If you're trying to takeover a ship of 600 with only a few dozen commandos with as few casualties as possible, do you do so at night or during the day? Had the Israelis waited for the ships to reach their territorial waters, it would have been broad daylight. Unlike the US's military, Israel's doesn't consult their PR Department when planning an operation.
Two more words you'll hear in opinion pieces this week:
Was it really excessive? Isn't that impossible to know at this point? Warren Goldstein of the University of Hartford again:
"But is there really nothing Israel will not do? Ok, I guess they could have sunk all of the ships. Great. Shall we congratulate the IDF on its restraint...?"
Well if Israel were as EXCESSIVE, relentless, ruthless, aggressive, belligerent, or bellicose as some like Goldstein have suggested, wouldn't they have fired on the ships? Or at the very least, armed their first-wave of commandos with guns that fired bullets instead of paint-pellets?
And what is excessive force? The people who throw these words around tend to have never been in a situation in which their lives were in the balance. They also can't comprehend what it might be like to be in such a circumstance. Rather, they choose not to comprehend what it might be like. They just enjoy critiquing and Monday-morning-quarterbacking the people who find themselves in life/death positions.
The Israeli side of the story, supported by the videotape (they've edited then provided, remember that) suggests that the commandos COULD have been acting in self-defense, and/or in defense of their comrades. You see someone attack your buddy with a knife or a metal club. What do you do? Fret about how much force is excessive? No. You fucking act.
And clearly, the "activists" on the boat weren't demonstrating, or protesting, they were fighting. Again, perhaps fighting in self-defense, but nonetheless fighting.
And I'm not defending the actions of the Israeli commandos either. Because quite frankly, I have no idea how those 9 activists were killed. We don't know. It's impossible to determine if the force used was justified or excessive, or somewhere in between. Of course, the scant facts we do have were quite sufficient for the Turkish government, along with countless other groups and organizations, to denigrate Israel for their actions.
And let's say one, two, even a dozen Israeli soldiers acted inappropriately and used excessive lethal force. Does that mean an entire NATION should be censured?
But how can one assail actions that one can't even accurately describe, let alone understand? All we know is that 9 people died, most likely killed by Israeli bullets. What were the circumstances of these deaths? We don't know yet. In America, unlike certain parts of the world, someone is innocent until proven guilty. Then again, in certain parts of the world, an Israeli is guilty until proven dead.
But all that aside, is it ever justifiable to board and commandeer a civilian ship carrying activists and aid? Even if armed with knives and bats, those are hardly "weapons" in any military or terrorist sense. After all, these vessels were just trying to bring aid to a beleaguered population. Or were they? A spokeswoman for the Free Gaza movement had this to say:
"What we're trying to do is open a sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world. We're not trying to be a humanitarian mission. We're trying to say to the world, 'You have no right to imprison a million and a half Palestinians.'"
Delivering humanitarian aid was not the mission. This was a stunt, a coup, a stratagem. And for what? To open up the sea lanes to the Gaza Strip. And how many guns, bullets, shells, rockets, and grenades will be funneled through those lanes if opened?
This was a set-up and a trap. This flotilla was "unofficially" backed by a Turkish government, which removed its ambassadors and cancelled joint military exercises so quickly it was as if they'd prepared for this incident a week ago. It was a brilliant way for Turkey's government to appease the anti-Israel elements of its population, without pissing off the US or the EU for doing so. Turkey, Israel's only Muslim ally, has now cut ties. And nobody on either side can really blame them. After all, the lead ship sailed under a Turkish flag.
It's an ingenious piece of political maneuvering, orchestrated with such cunning, guile, and subtlety that it would give Machiavelli a deadly 4+ hour hard-on.
And of course in revisionist America, we think there's a perfect solution to everything. Did we really need to drop the A-Bomb on the Japanese? I mean the war was practically won by that point. And how about the fire bombings of Dresden and Cologne?
The same historians who criticize the framers of the 1938 Appeasement at Munich for not being strong-willed enough, also criticize the strong-willed leaders of 1914 Europe for not appeasing enough. Hindsight is 20/20, and also makes you sound like a pompous ass.
But my point is that in the West, we think we can conjure up the perfect solution to EVERYTHING. And if anything goes wrong, then somebody fouled up. "Botched" seems to be the mot du jour (word of the day). The Israelis captured a boat, and it cost 9 lives. Somebody fouled up. They probably used excessive force.
So now Europe and America will shun Israel for this apparent excessiveness. Couldn't they just not try to stop a 10,000 ton ship headed for a hive of people who consider the very existence of The State of Israel to be an abomination? Or if they did have to stop the ship, couldn't they have done so without killing anyone?
And for the Pro-Palestinian "activists" ranging from Free Gaza to Hamas, this was a resounding victory. Now international pressure will squeeze Israel. In America, Israel's strongest and firmest ally, public support for Israel will wane. Fueled by that hindsight-armed, perfect-solution-seeking media, we'll start to question why we're friends with such reckless and/or ruthless people.
In the end, Israel should also learn from this. Next time, drop cans of tear gas, arm soldiers with tazers. Then again, if an "activist" steals your machine gun, are you supposed to draw your pepper spray? If he stabs your commanding officer, are you supposed to taze him?
And there will be a next time. As two more ships have been sent to try running this blockade.
But this war won't be contested in the Mediterranean. It will be fought within the media. It will be fought with words, not bullets. Words like "activist," and "excessive." Words like "terrorist," and "flotilla."