Israel made at least two mistakes with regard to the operation in taking on the flotilla yesterday.
One was an intelligence failure. We were not sufficiently prepared for what hit us. The commandos who were sent in apparently expected a crowd of rowdy demonstrators, who were to be responded to with all possible restraint, rather than a mob of terrorists intent on killing. They were sent in insufficient numbers and with insufficient weapons. They boarded the ship via rope from a helicopter above, and no sooner did they touch down then they were besieged. The attacks on our soldiers were premeditated and ruthless. Only when the word came from commanders did they begin to shoot.
Caroline Glick makes it clear in her piece, “Ending Israel’s Losing Streak,” that there was ample opportunity to figure out what the commandos would be confronting:
“…The fact that these pro-Hamas activists intended to commit suicide to discredit Israel on camera was made clear by the fact that the Turkish organizers named the lead ship Rachel Corrie.
“So too, the fact that IDF forces boarding the ships would be met by trenchant, violent opposition was knowable simply by looking at Turkey’s role in the operation.” (see more on Turkey’s role below)
But the other failure has to do with making our case sufficiently. Glick addresses this in her piece, as well:
“And now, in the aftermath of the lethal takeover of the flotilla, Israel’s leaders stammer. Rather than demand an apology from the Turkish government for its support for these terrorists, Defense Minister Ehud Barak called his Turkish counterpart to talk over what happened. Rather than demand restitution for the terrorist assault against IDF troops, Israel has defended its troops’ training in nonviolent crowd control.
“These efforts are worse than worthless; they make Israel appear whiny rather than indignant. And more depressingly, they expose a dangerous lack of comprehension about what has just occurred, and a concomitant inability to prepare for what will most certainly follow.
“Israel is the target of a massive information war. For it to win this war, it needs to counter its enemies’ lies with the truth.”
I could not agree more.
Haifa University professor, Steven Plaut, similarly laments our apparent inability to stand resolute in defending ourselves against public opinion:
“The whole world is speaking about the flotilla affair as ‘tragic’…
“It was not tragic….
“The tragedy is that the idiotic Israeli politicians are agreeing to an ‘investigation’ of the soldiers’ actions, so once again Israel proclaims itself guilty until proven innocent in order to appease the anti-Semites. Once again the world is demanding a Goldstone-style investigation, one whose conclusions were written before the ships even left Turkey.”
But we must not confuse issues: neither of these failings detract one iota from the propriety and necessity of our having taken on the flotilla.
The basic story of what happened, I shared yesterday. You can see footage of the attack on our soldiers here:
The IDF spokesman has put out information regarding the weapons that were found on the ship:
“Once the activists left the ship, security forces began a thorough search and found a supply of weapons, including knives, Molotov cocktails, detonators, wood and metal clubs, slingshots and rocks, large hammers and sharp metal objects. In addition, gas masks were found, pointing to the prior intention of the ship’s passengers to use violence against IDF soldiers who would then be forced to use riot dispersal methods.”
Here you can see very clear footage of the weaponry found:
According to Israel National News, an IDF source reports with regard to the “humanitarian” aid taken from the ship and inspected by the IDF, “the poor condition of the supplies renders most of it unusable…Many of the medicines are expired.”
Clearly, delivering aid is not what this was all about.
And then this most important information regarding the legality of our actions. Aaron Lerner has put up on IMRA material from the Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I believe this will answer questions addressed by several readers:
“Maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognized measure under international law that may be implemented as part of an armed conflict at sea.
“…A blockade may be imposed at sea, including in international waters, so long as it does not bar access to the ports and coasts of neutral states.
“…The naval manuals of several western countries, including the US and England recognize the maritime blockade as an effective naval measure and set forth the various criteria that make a blockade valid, including the requirement of give due notice of the existence of the blockade.
“…In this vein, it should be noted that Israel publicized the existence of the blockade and the precise coordinates of such by means of the accepted international professional maritime channels. Israel also provided appropriate notification to the affected governments and to the organizers of the Gaza protest flotilla. Moreover, in real time, the ships participating in the protest flotilla were warned repeatedly that a maritime blockade is in effect.
“…Here, it should be noted that under customary law, knowledge of the blockade may be presumed once a blockade has been declared and appropriate notification has been granted, as above.
“…Under international maritime law, when a maritime blockade is in effect, no boats can enter the blockaded area. That includes both civilian and enemy vessels.
“…A state may take action to enforce a blockade. Any vessel that violates or attempts to violate a maritime blockade may be captured or even attacked under international law. The US Commander’s Handbook on the Law of Naval Operations sets forth that a vessel is considered to be in attempt to breach a blockade from the time the vessel leaves its port with the intention of evading the blockade.
“…Here we should note that the protesters indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements. Moreover, the route of these vessels indicated their clear intention to violate the blockade in violation of international law.
“…Given the protesters explicit intention to violate the naval blockade, Israel exercised its right under international law to enforce the blockade….”
You might also want to see excerpts from the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994. It includes this:
“67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:
“(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;
(b) engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy;”
So that there be no mistake about it: we are at war with Hamas, which indeed is the enemy. We run a blockade of the Gaza coastline to prevent Hamas from securing weapons by sea that would be used against Israeli civilians. Were the flotilla to have broken the blockade it would have enabled a flow of missiles and rockets into Gaza for use by Hamas.
Palestinian Media Watch has now provided additional information on the intentions of those in the flotilla. Two days ago, speaking on Al-Aksa TV (Hamas-controlled), Dr. Abd Al-Fatah Shayyeq Naaman, lecturer in Shari’ah law at a university in Yemen, who is now visiting Gaza, said:
“The [Gaza] flotilla commander said yesterday: ‘We will not allow the Zionists to get near us and we will use resistance against them.’ How will they wage resistance? They will resist with their fingernails. They are people who seek Martyrdom for Allah, as much as they want to reach Gaza, but the first [Martyrdom] is more desirable.”
This puts the lie rather conclusively to arguments still being advanced that we attacked a group of humanitarian activists intent on bring supplies to suffering Gazans.
The bottom line here is our ability to believe in the rightness of our own position, and to stand tall before the world, unafraid of being censured and secure in the knowledge of who we are.
And, my friends, one and all — as difficult as it is if you live where the media is now engaged in a frenzy of attacks on Israel — I am hoping that you will find ways to stand tall with us.
Our strength is not something to be apologetic about. As Glick commented:
“Israel is the frontline of the free world. Its ability to defend itself and deter its foes is the single most important guarantee of international peace and security in the world. A strong Israel is also the most potent and reliable guarantor of the US’s continued ability to project its power in the Middle East.”
There are many commentators echoing these sentiments. The observations of Dr. Mordecai Kedar — fellow at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies, Bar-Ilan University — in his piece, “A war for the world’s future,” should be particularly noted:
“It is clear to anyone with eyes in their head that the battle taking place off the Gaza shore is in fact a clash between an Islamist coalition which Turkey attempts to head – and which includes Iran. Hamas, and Hezbollah on one hand – and forces with a liberal Western orientation, represented by Israel, on the other hand.
“This fight isn’t about Gaza. The battle is about the future of the Middle East: Will it be a future where the existing political order is maintained, or will radical Islamic forces rise and replace the current order as already happened in Lebanon and in Turkey?
“…the big question: Who is the master of this region? It appears that Israel chose to tell the Islamisizing Turkey… no more. The forces of the Ottoman Empire, who aspire to again rule the Middle East as they did almost 500 years ago, will be stopped at Gaza’s shores.
“…The time has come to tell those who live near and far that this battle is not just about the Middle East; rather, it is a fight for the face of this world. At this time, Israel is located at a frontal outpost, where it fights the war of the enlightened, liberal, pluralist, open, and democratic world – in the huge struggle against the Islamic forces that threaten to take over the world and subjugate it to their green flag.”
You can see more on the issue of the Turkish role in the Gaza confrontation in a Ralph Peters article in today’s New York Post:
“Yesterday’s ‘aid convoy’ incident off the coast of Gaza wasn’t about bringing humanitarian supplies to the terrorist-ruled territory. It wasn’t even about Israel.
“It was about Turkey’s determination to position itself as the leading Muslim state in the Middle East.”
From the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, information on IHH, the Turkish organization connected to the flotilla:
All important to know, as you defend Israel against charges that we attacked humanitarians.
I hasten to add that “peace” between Israel and the PA would do nothing to deflect the intentions of Islamists such as Turkey — pronouncements by Obama aside.
Here, before closing, I want to single out J-Street’s Jeremy Ben-Ami, who put out a statement that said, in part:
“J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed…”
“Civilians?” Obfuscation to hide the militant/terrorist inclination of those on the ship. And why mourn their deaths instead of expressing outrage at what their intentions were?
Continues Ben-Ami: “This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza…”
“An effort to bring humanitarian relief”? He maintains this fiction in the face of all the evidence to the contrary. So we’re the bad guys, right?
Do not, ever, believe representatives of J-Street when they say they are pro-Israel. Ben-Ami stands exposed.