The storming of the Gaza Flotilla: Israel’s indefensible action

May 31, 2010 at 10:39 am (insanity, israel, Jim D, Middle East, palestine)

Israel’s Kent State

By Moshe Yaroni

Having worked on the issue of Israel and its myriad conflicts for many years, one gets used to tragedy and even to stunningly abhorrent behavior. And indeed, I have seen more than enough of both from all sides in this conflict.

But every once in a while, things take a turn, and that turn is punctuated by a singular, stunning event. The murderous raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this day was one such event.

I waited to start writing this until there was some official statement from Israel. I did that because I want to start off with Israel’s explanation for this horror. Here’s what the IDF spokesperson said, in part:

During the intercept of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.

As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants onboard the ships were planning to lynch the forces.

I am sure, as is always the case, there will be those who believe this version of events. But frankly, I can’t see how anyone can do so unless they are so desperate to justify Israel’s action here that they’ll believe anything. Let’s examine the IDF’s version of events.

We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”

Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.

No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.

When I first heard confirmed reports of this massacre, I thought of the Kent State shootings in 1970. That horrific tragedy, like this one, was the result of a government using ridiculously disproportionate force against civil disobedience.

But at Kent State, the shootings resulted from high tensions and one person losing control, causing others to follow his lead. Was that the case here? I suppose one must allow the possibility, but the quick response of the government certainly gives the appearance that it was not that simple.

Friends and colleagues can tell you, I have been very critical of the Free Gaza Movement’s politics. Before this incident, I had criticized them for refusing to carry a letter and package from Noam Shalit to his son, Gilad. I’m familiar with many of the core activists and know some of them personally. I know their agenda is more than humanitarian; it is more than breaking the siege on Gaza, and it is more radical than I am comfortable with.

But I also know they are non-violent, and quite serious about that. They’re also not stupid, which any group of civilians would have to be to intentionally get into a violent clash with a significant military force. And while I may not be on the same page with them politically, they are entitled to their political views. And the action itself of breaking the blockade, carrying goods to the besieged Strip and showing some support for the million and a half innocent people of Gaza who bear the burden of this policy that has only strengthened Hamas is brave and positive.

The bottom line is that Israel raided these ships with commandoes, and the end result was a great deal of needless bloodshed. And apparently, according to the IDF spokesperson, as reported by journalist Gregg Carlstrom, they couldn’t even wait to do it until the ships had passed out of international waters, which makes it, if no explanation is forthcoming, an act of piracy as well.

Israel crossed a line today, in a way not dissimilar (though certainly of a much smaller scope, thankfully) to the line they crossed in their massive attack on Gaza in 2008-09. Whatever Israel’s detractors have said over the years, this incident, like Operation Cast Lead, was far beyond anything Israel has done in the past.

This was a shocking massacre, and there’s no way to pretty that up. These were people engaged in direct action of civil disobedience. True, the siege on Gaza should simply be lifted, but being that it’s there, yes, Israel can be expected to take action to stop the flotilla. But this doesn’t just go above and beyond and justification, it zooms light years past it.

The IDF talks of gunfire, but apparently the guns in question were taken from soldiers during the confrontation, not precipitating it, according to the IDF spokesperson’s statement: “According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. The violent activists took these pistols from IDF forces and apparently opened fire on the soldiers as evident by the empty pistol magazines. ” All of this begins with the Israeli tactics used to raid the ships.

Israel’s excuses are weak. Industry, Trade and Labor Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer told Ynet, “It was obvious to all that this was a media provocation, aimed at reaching a confrontation with Israel…We are not Shiite suicide attackers, and it is the soldiers’ duty to defend themselves.” If it wasn’t such a tragedy, I’d be rolling my eyes.

It is now up to the international community, and especially the United States, to take action. If the Obama Administration is to have any credibility left on this issue at all, it must forcefully denounce this action and call for an end to the siege of Gaza. The latter is not likely to happen, but the former is an absolute must. Without it, Obama will begin to be seen throughout not only the Arab and Muslim world, but also by Europe as little different from his predecessors on the Middle East issue.

No doubt as well the leaders of AIPAC, the ADL, AJC and similar groups will be quick to support the IDF’s absurd story here. The Jewish telegraphic Agency offers portent by simply parroting the IDF line and framing the incidents as “Protesters on ship bound for Gaza killed in rioting.”

We can do better, and we must. If there is to be any hope of stopping Israel from committing to this suicidal and murderous course it is on, and bringing its supporters around the world down with it, incidents like this must be denounced firmly, with calls for real accountability. This was a serious crime and it cannot be tolerated or excused away.

(From ‘Realistic Peace in Israel-Palestine’; h/t: riki lane )


  1. Steve said,

    I think this needs more than words or calls to end the siege of Gaza. We need action to ensure it actually happens!

    But obviously the rational friends of Israel can see what insanity this action was and how it will harm their beloved Israel. I think I am correct in saying that many of the dead were Turks, this can only have grave consequences for that strategic relationship.

    I also guess we can finally let go of the lie that Netanyahu’s belligerent right wing tough guy politics is somehow in reality progressive.

    A crime of unbelievable irrationality and barbarity.

  2. Jim Denham said,

    “I also guess we can finally let go of the lie that Netanyahu’s belligerent right wing tough guy politics is somehow in reality progressive.”

    Who exactly claims that, Steve?

  3. Steve said,

    Not you Jim!

    I have heard this argment from pundits who say Netanyahu has actually delivered more for the Palestinians than so called moderates. I think that lie was always bullshit and needs to be put to rest.

  4. Jim Denham said,

    Thank you for clarifying that, Steve.

  5. saeed said,

    disgusting…feel really sorry for the Palestinians…they have had top put up with the corrupt PLO and then the fundamentalism of Hamas…topped off with the sheer barbarity of the Israel state…and tio think their are people on the left who are consistent apologists for Israel

  6. Communist Party of Israel leading member congratulates pirate army’s victory « Entdinglichung said,

    […] entdinglichung am 31. Mai 2010 Quelle: Communist Party of Israel (CPI) mehr bei Tendance Coatesy, Shiraz Socialist und David […]

  7. resistor said,

    I see Jim has been busy at Harry’s Place trying to defend his favourite country in the whole world.

    I also guess we can finally let go of the lie that Jim Denham’s belligerent right wing tough guy politics is somehow in reality progressive.

    • Harry Tuttle said,

      No, he wasn’t. Here’s what he wrote,

      Unfortunately it is but an exterme version of an all-too-common attitude: people who just love Israeli brutality, whatever the cost to Palestinians (in this case Palestininan supporters), because they care not one jot about the Palestinians, but simply hate Israel.

      He was responding to another poster who took delight at the situation it put the posters at HP in, rather than being horrified at what just occurred. In short, he was referring to people like you. Try again resistor, one of these days you’ll get it right (but probably not).

  8. Jim Denham said,

    “and tio think their are people on the left who are consistent apologists for Israel”: do you mean “apologists” for the *actions* of Isreal, or the *existence* of Isreal, Saeed?

    If it’s the first, then we’ll probably agree (though I’d wonder whom, exactly, you’re on about). If the second, then most certainly not.

  9. norris hall said,

    I believe that an Israeli military force could have found a less lethal method to stop the flotilla rather than sending in armed soldiers against civilians

    Disabling the boats would have been sufficient to end the standoff without loss of life.

    The images of civilians in life jackets being shot at by soldiers in protective gear are hard to watch.

  10. newcentrist said,

    These “peace” activists stabbed an Israeli soldier. They should have sunk all the boats.

  11. SteveH said,

    No matter what lies or diversions the extremist murdering supporters like newcentrist come up with, it cannot change what a total disaster this is for the credibilty of Israel and it’s standing in the world.

    In fact newcentrist can only do further damage to it’s already shattered reputation, but I think he does represent a significant proportion of pro zionist thought. With supporters like him who needs enemies!

  12. David D. said,

    Without condoning Israeli tactics, it should be noted that only one of the six boats, the Mavi Marmara, was manned by Hamas-linked militants, and it was on this boat that all the violent confrontations took place. As far as I can gather, there were no incidents on any of the other boats. The young men on the Mavi Marmara were hardly “peace” activists and their expedition was hardly “humanitarian”.

  13. resistor said,

    I see Denham has got some of his Zionist friends from Harry’s Place to make excuses for piracy and the murder of civilians.

    Perhaps Jim could now explain to his few ‘leftist’ friends remaining on this site why he supports the blockade of Gaza.

  14. Steve said,

    “Without condoning Israeli tactics”

    No David D that’s exactly what you are doing. Outside the extreme minds of Zionist fundamentalists these pathetic excuses will not wash. Especially in Turkey where many of these peace and human rights activists come from.

  15. newcentrist said,

    I’m not a fundamentalist nor did I come from “Harry’s Place”…But no matter, keep making excuses for so-called “peace” activists like this.

  16. newcentrist said,

  17. Jenny said,

    So you see the importance of BDS, then?

  18. David D. said,

    In fact not “condoning Israeli tactics” works both ways, Steve. The more I learn about what happened the more I realize that the Israelis were fooled into thinking that there would be no violence. Their “tactics” were ill-conceived for the Mavi Marmara.

    According Free Gaza Movement spokeswoman Audrey Bomse, “The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn’t get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance.” So the Israelis were armed merely with riot-control paint guns and sidearms for use in emergencies. There was no violence on the 5 other ships but the Mavi Marmara had hard-core Islamists with flak jackets, police-issue helmets and – clearly visible in footage shown on Arab TV – knives and long iron bars or pipes. When the Israelis landed on the Mavi Marmara’s deck they were overwhelmed, shot at (some from Israeli handguns snatched by the Islamists, some apparently from guns already on board the ship) and even thrown overboard. The Israelis were vastly outnumbered (see the video linked to below) and apparently feared they would be captured and lynched.

    So, yes, it was a mistake for the Israelis to attempt a commando-style interception at sea (there could have been a more peaceful intervention) but it was also a mistake on the part of the Israelis not to anticipate the sort of resistance they encountered on the Mavi Marmara.

  19. Andrew Coates said,

    Resistor I fail to see how Shiraz Socialist is ‘defending’ the actions of the IDF by…er attacking them.

    True some are trying to find excuses. But the original post is not one of them.

    The whole world and its mother is weeping at this tragedy and all you can find to say is that the AWL is ‘backing’ the blockade of Gaza.

  20. resistor said,

    ‘Resistor I fail to see how Shiraz Socialist is ‘defending’ the actions of the IDF by…er attacking them.’

    Not what I said, I pointed out that Jm Denham (who I admit represents the extreme right of the AWL) actually supports the blockade of Gaza.

    The AWL, and Denham have merely reprinted the hand-wringing of a Zionist afraid that Israel will lose some ‘supporters round the world’.

    ‘The whole world and its mother is weeping at this tragedy and all you can find to say is that the AWL is ‘backing’ the blockade of Gaza.’

    It’s not a ‘tragedy’ it is a crime. Piracy and murder.

    You, and the AWL, are indulging in what is known as ‘praising with faint damns’.

    • Harry Tuttle said,

      It’s not a ‘tragedy’ it is a crime. Piracy and murder.

      The “hand-wringing Zionist” agrees with you. From the last line of the post,

      This was a serious crime and it cannot be tolerated or excused away.

  21. skidmarx said,

    I realize that the Israelis were fooled into thinking that there would be no violence.
    Except for their own.
    hard-core Islamists
    Can you tell just by looking at them?
    some apparently from guns already on board the ship

    • David D. said,


      So far the IDF is saying only that the soldiers were shot with guns taken from them in the melee. So I will withdraw that claim.

      But “hard-core Islamists” is pretty fair. The IHH was banned by Israel in 2008 for its ties to Hamas. Here are its “aid workers” aboard the Mavi Marmara as filmed by Al Jazeera a day before the confrontation. (In case you don’t know what the “Khaibar, Khaibar ya Yahud” chant means, a rough equivalent would be “Kill the Jews” or “Jews, we’re coming to get you”.)

      Another “aid worker”.

  22. Jim Denham said,

    I don’t usually bother to respond to the crazed anti-semite ‘resister’, but this cannot be allowed to pass without challenge:

    “I pointed out that Jm Denham … actually supports the blockade of Gaza. ”

    Evidence, please? A quote from me supporting the blockade, will do.

  23. resistor said,


    Comment 38

    Jim Denham said he supported

    5. Material aid to Palestinians in the West Bank (e.g. sending books and other supplies).

    Nothing about Gaza where such supplies are blockaded by the Israeli state he supports,


    Comment 79

    Jim Denham said, ‘PS: if you want to know about Paul Foot’s anti-semitism, I’ll inform you very soon.’

    Of course Denham did nothing of the sort. No evidence, no proof, just falsification. No, he’ll call anyone he disagrees with a ‘anti-semite’ because that is the classic Zionist defence of murder.

  24. Jim Denham said,

    …and your evidence that I support the blockade of Gaza, resistant-to-reason?

    It’s true, btw that I never did get round to writing about Paul Foot’s anti-semitism; but I will. It concerns his response to his school chum Tam Dayell’s coments about Jews in positions of power.

  25. resistor said,

    This is what Paul Foot said

    ‘Is Tam Dalyell anti-semitic? My first job as a young feature writer on the Scottish Daily Record 41 years ago was to interview the Labour candidate at a parliamentary by-election in West Lothian, an engaging Old Etonian who lived in a castle. I liked him at once (and have liked him ever since) but was rather surprised when he told me a few months later that there was only one socialist country on earth: Israel. Obviously, Tam has changed his mind since, and obviously he is wrong to complain about Jewish pressure on Blair and Bush when he means Zionist pressure. But that’s a mistake that is constantly encouraged by the Zionists. The most honourable and principled Jews, here, in Israel and everywhere else, are those who oppose the imperialist and racist policies of successive Israeli governments. It was a Palestinian Jew, Tony Cliff, who convinced me very early in life that the six-day Israeli war in 1967 was a war of conquest and occupation that would make it easier for US billionaires to keep their fingers on the region’s oil. When I wrote in this column not long ago about the discrepancy in reactions to UN resolutions against Israel and against Iraq, I was surprised to read a rebuttal from a representative of the Board of Deputies of British Jews. The Board was set up in 1760 to “protect, support and defend the interests and religious rights and customs of the Jewish community in the UK”. There are lots of Jews in Britain who are bitterly opposed to the loathsome Israeli occupation of other peoples’ countries and the grotesque violence it involves. Are their interests also protected and defended by the Board of Deputies? If not, are the deputies guilty of making the mistake for which they denounce Tam Dalyell?’

    In case you were thinking of twisting it.

    So why did you propose sending books to the West Bank and not Gaza?

  26. Jim Denham said,

    “resister”: loath as I am to enter into dialgogue with an anti-semite like you (any more than I would with, say, a member of the BNP), I will just point this out to your attention:

    “Obviously, Tam has changed his mind since, and obviously he is wrong to complain about Jewish pressure on Blair and Bush when he means Zionist pressure.”

    A classic example of the “left” substituting the word “zionist” for “jewish”, thus making it OK. Of course, someone like you wouldn’t get that, because you’re an anti-semite, anyway.

    I repeat my previous challenge: when and where have I *ever* supported the blockade of Gaza? You have signally failed to produce one single solitary shred of evidence. I suggest you put up or shut up, liar!

  27. resistor said,

    I did provide evidence, your own words – see above. Clearly you fail to understand that there are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. So please do tell us why you propose sending books to the West Bank and not Gaza?

  28. Jim Denham said,

    “Clearly you fail to understand that there are sins of omission as well as sins of commission. ”

    So: you cannot produce one single, solitary piece of evidence for for your accusation. You are, in fact, a liar.

    “Clearly you fail to understand that there are sins of omission as well as sins of commission”:

    When and where have you, resister, opposed holocaust denial?

    I am no longer going to engage with you, you anti-semitic, lying piece of scum. Just fuck off, eh?

  29. resistor said,

    As for Paul Foot being an anti-semite for believing Dalyell had misspoken, how about this?

    Prof Moonman, president of the Zionist Federation, said: “I do not believe Tam is anti-semitic,” but said his “old friend” had used language which could support that view

    Does this make Eric Moonman an anti-semite?

  30. resistor said,

    I have always opposed holocaust denial.

    So Jim tell us why you propose sending books to the West Bank and not Gaza?

  31. Jim Denham said,

    I have always been in favour of sending books to Gaza.

    So resister tell us why you are not on record before now as opposing holocaust denial?

    Then fuck off.

  32. resistor said,

    So finally you do support breaking the blockade. That took some doing.

    No withdraw the accusation that Paul Foot, and by implication Eric Moonman, was an anti-semite.

  33. boycottisraeltoday said,

    It is a total lie that Israel commandos met armed resistance (which included knives, slingshots, etc), bare in mind that when this news was circulated (by Israeli PR) no witnesses had spoken to the media or at least had not got over the shock of this pirate like attack on their convoy in International waters (which happens to be illegal).

    Now, witnesses have come forward and spoken about their experience and boy do they tell a different story. The following quote I took from BBC website (and a link to this is provided at the end) from Norman Paech a German pro-Palestinian activist, he was on board one of the ships, he said:
    “German pro-Palestinian activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship. Personally I saw two-and-a-half wooden batons that were used… There was really nothing else. We never saw any knives. This was an attack in international waters on a peaceful mission… This was a clear act of piracy,” he added.

    To me its very clear, Israel has a habit of confusing reality with ‘information over-flow’ where many different versions of the same story are talked about by many different people from one side, this then conflicts with the real story and leaves the view totally confused hence less attention is given to the story over all. This is exactly what Israel PR and spokes-people have been saying. I could swear when I was monitoring this story as it happened (and monitored it for another six hours or so) I could have wrote down 6 to 8 different stories which was told by Israel spokes-person.

    The fact of the matter is this – Israel has committed a crime on many fronts not to mention the choking of the entire Palestinian population, the information black-out, the killing of innocent Palestinians – activists and many more, Israel has conducting crime on a mass scale and now it needs to answer to the world. Israel cannot handle responsibility and has no justice but a state ruled with mobs, murderers and terrorists.

  34. Israeli terror and the Gaza flotilla « Boycott Israel Today said,

    […] […]

  35. Jim Denham said,

    “Now withdraw the accusation that Paul Foot, and by implication Eric Moonman, was an anti-semite”
    And go fuck yourself, “resister”, you anti-semitic asshole

  36. David D. said,

    “German pro-Palestinian activist Norman Paech said he had only seen wooden sticks being brandished as troops abseiled on to the deck of the ship. Personally I saw two-and-a-half wooden batons that were used… There was really nothing else. We never saw any knives…”

    Weapons collected from the Mavi Marmara…

    Videos of those weapons being used…

    As Groucho would have said (or was it Chico?): “Who’re you gonna believe, me or your lyin eyes?”

  37. Cugel the Clever said,

    ‘Khaibar, Khaibar ya Yahud’

    Well, so much for that you theocratic fascist fuckpigs.

  38. resistor said,

    Cugel your politics are as crass as your taste.

    Plot summary

    Cugel is easily persuaded by the merchant Fianosther to attempt the burglary of the manse of Iucounu the Laughing Magician. Trapped and caught, he agrees that in exchange for his freedom he will undertake the recovery of a small hemisphere of violet glass, an Eye of the Overworld, to match one already in the wizard’s possession. A small sentient alien entity of barbs and hooks — one Firx — is attached to his liver to encourage his “unremitting loyalty, zeal and singleness of purpose,” and Iucounu uses a spell to transport Cugel via flying demon to the remote Land of Cutz.


    Fuck off back to the Land of Cutz

  39. maxdunbar said,

    What on earth is that reference about? I think Dr Resistor has been getting high on his own supply of mojo pills.

    Seriously though, I think everyone who moderates this site would agree that a) the blockade is cruel, counterproductive and should end and b) the flotilla action was disporportionate and indefensible.

    This won’t stop the idiot wing of this debate which is against the two state solution and is already sending out its mass emails calling for boycotts and sanctions against Israel – as if the solution is just to stop blockading the Palestinians and start blockading the Jews, and as if you can overthrow a government by punishing its people.

  40. Greg said,

    There are reports floating around that a list was retrieved from one of the IDF personnel or the commando happened to lose it in the melee. The list contained the names of several of the activists that should be killed. Apparently each of the commandos carried this list.

    If you REALLY want to know what Israel’s agenda is do some research on “The Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion”. It is quite stunning and freightening. They claim it is all a complete and total falsehood and a bunch of lies. I would most certainly claim the same thing if I were them. Read it, compare it to what’s happening in the world today and then YOU decide.

  41. David D. said,

    Wow, Greg. The “Protocols”, eh? That certainly puts the whole Mavi Marmara business in perspective. (Though I’m sure none of this would come as any surprise to “Resistor”.)

  42. David D. said,

    And since everyone seems in agreement about sending books to Gaza, maybe a few copies of the “Protocols” could be included as humanitarian aid. The Hamas schools were reported to be running short.

  43. maxdunbar said,

    It begins!

  44. resistor said,

    I’d guess that Greg and David D are the same person.

    • David D. said,

      The operators of this blog can confirm that I am not “Greg”. I’m guessing that you aren’t either, though his outlook on the world would seem perfectly congenial with yours.

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