Monday, May 31, 2010

Tragedy at Sea

The details of what happened are still sketchy, but the outline of this tragedy is becoming clear. Defying multiple orders by Israeli naval forces to be accompanied to an Israeli port, where their humanitarian cargo would be unloaded and distributed, a radical group of extremists attempted to penetrate a maritime quarantine of Gaza. As Israeli commandos, having exhausted methods of persuasion, attempted to board the boats in order to enforce the quarantine while achieving the purported humanitarian aims of the flotilla, violent extremists ambushed soldiers with bats and knives. At least in one case, in the melee that ensued, a soldier's weapon was stolen from him, and then fired at the Israeli contingent. Soldiers responded to suppress the gunfire in the tight confines of a crowded boat, facing hostile combatants, resulting in casualties.

As is clear from the video, the extremist violence was organized in advance and concentrated on causing bodily harm to Israeli naval personnel in the performance of their duties. Various reports put the fatalities between 10-16 illegal combatants, with another 30 injured, while 4-6 Israeli personnel were reportedly injured, including from stab and bullet wounds. Israeli hospitals are treating the injured.

In light of the violent extremism encountered by Israeli forces in preserving the maritime quarantine of Gaza, in place to limit the ability of the Islamist terrorist group Hamas to resupply its weapons arsenal, it remains to be seen what responsibility the organizers of the flotilla, and their political supporters, including Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan, will bear for this completely avoidable and tragic loss of life. At every instant of this episode, from before the flotilla sailed to the moment Israeli forces boarded the ships, it was communicated without fail to the extremists, and their political supporters, that humanitarian aid is welcome through Israeli land crossings, pending inspection for contraband. The insistence on violating established norms of humanitarian relief and challenging the Israeli navy on the high seas sets a dangerous and unacceptable precedent that directly reflects on the reckless, irresponsible agenda of the flotilla's supporters.

It remains to be seen who among the flotilla's leadership or their supporters authorized the illegitimate use of force against embarking Israeli commandos, as is clearly seen in the video footage, thus precipitating this tragedy. This deplorable bloodshed should serve as a sobering moment to those who reject moderation and accommodation, preferring escalation and hostility, without concern for the consequences.

Update: Savagery at sea.

Maybe they thought they were in Paris, or Milwaukee, where violence against Jews goes unanswered.

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