Sunday, May 30, 2010

Israeli move to stop flotilla explodes into shooting and damaging rhetoric

It looks like Israel has a lot to answer for after its commandos killed at least nine activists trying to outmaneuver the county's blockade of the Gaza Strip territory controlled by Hamas. The commandos staged a predawn raid to try to stop the six-ship flotilla of 700 activists after it refused orders to stop. The flotilla was bringing thousands of tons of supplies to Gaza's isolated Palestinian population, but violence broke out before the boats could be secured and brought to the Israeli port of Ashdod to be searched, according to the Reuters international news service. European countries that had been steadily warming to Israel for two decades were quick with condemnations including, as expected, the usually hostile General Assembly of the United Nations. Turkey, the Muslim country that has been trying to join the European Union for years and has recently been facilitating negotiations between Israel and Syria, also joined the anti-Israel chorus. But Israel rightly contends that it had a right to enforce its blockade, which was imposed to prevent material that could be used to make weapons from reaching Gaza. Militants have fired thousands of missiles from the territory into southern Israeli cities. Egypt has cooperated with Israel in officially sealing the territory, but there have been reports of massive amounts of smuggling through tunnels under the border between Egypt and Gaza. But Israel is being sadly unrealistic if it ignores the magnitude of its miscalculation. That the commando raid went awry is not entirely Israel's fault, since the supposedly peaceful activists had obviously expected something to happen and came armed with, at least, crude weapons. But Israel did send paratroopers to seize control of the flotilla instead of using navy vessels to force the activists into Ashdod so the cargo could be searched. Israel will investigate the conduct of its soldiers and, hopefully, figure out what went wrong. But Israel will be forced to do it alone, since the rhetoric coming from the Palestinian Authority and other Arab states shows they are less interested in preventing violence than in scoring propaganda points against the Jewish state. Turkey called Israel's actions "terrorism," a comment so illogical it precludes any reasonable response. The Palestinian Authority called the attack on the flotilla "a massacre," which it obviously wasn't. Israel certainly did not expect its commando raid to go so terribly wrong. U.S. President Barack Obama got it exactly right when he said he regretted the loss of life and demanded a full accounting of what transpired at sea.

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