Israel’s Deadly Assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla: Murder on the High Seas
Like the cop who batters someone senseless at a demonstration and then accuses the victim of “banging his head against my baton,” Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has accused the victims of Israel’s brutal military assault on a peace convoy to Gaza of attacking Israeli soldiers. An Israeli deputy ambassador to the UN went further, saying, “What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and other weapons to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?''
Let’s straighten this out. The question to be asked is: what kind of country
sends heavily armed troops to assault a boat filled with unarmed, peaceful civilians, and slaughters nine or more of them as if they were enemy troops in a war zone?
It is undisputed that the boarded ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, and five smaller vessels, were in international waters. According to witness reports, including those of respected mainstream journalists who were on board, naval commandos, acting on the highest authority from the Israeli government, but behaving more like Somali pirates, boarded the Turkish ship with guns blazing, and continued to fire even as the activists on board had raised a white flag. The boarding, according to Marjorie Cohn, former president of the National Lawyers Guild, and other legal authorities, was illegal under international maritime law, and in any event, given the fact that the ships were civilian, and the passengers non-military, even had they been in Israeli waters, could have been negotiated peacefully, had Israel wanted to do this.
There was no urgency. The Israeli Navy had the power to prevent the ships from landing without firing a shot. It admits it had nets that could have halted five of the vessels, and it has larger naval vessels that could have halted the Mavi Marmara, either by forcibly towing it, or by physically blocking its way.
NPR, in a particularly repulsive report on the bloody assault which killed 9 people and wounded many more, referred to it as a “bungled raid.” The New York Times, on Tuesday, in a news article, reported as fact, with no attribution, that “the operation seems to have gone badly wrong.” But this was no “bungled” action, or action that had “gone badly wrong. “ The Israeli attack, and the deadly methods it employed, were both clearly deliberate, and had to have been intended to send a message to those who would assist the imprisoned population of Gaza, who for four years and through an Israeli invasion of that territory almost a year and a half ago, has been kept on a starvation diet by an illegal Israeli blockade.
Israel clearly wanted a violent confrontation, as it didn’t need to initiate one to stop the ships from delivering their cargo. The Israeli claim that the violence was justified because some on the boarded ship offered resistance to the IDF attackers, using metal pipes, is absurd. Israel has been fighting an unfair, uneven battle of tanks and Uzis against stone-throwing Palestinians for so long that it apparently no longer even recognizes that the rest of the world sees it for the homicidal bully that it is. Israeli special forces clearly have the training to disarm untrained attackers wielding pipes or even knives (my own 16-year-old, 130 lb., 5’7” son, with his karate training, could handle that).