Nine “peace activists” were reportedly killed Monday when Israeli commandos raided the Mavi Marmari, the largest of six ships seeking to break Israel’s military blockade of Gaza. In response to the botched military action, governments from around the world have roundly condemned Israel.
Facts still remain murky, but we in the West should remind ourselves that Israel is a liberal, democratic society that values human rights. They deserve some benefit of the doubt. It is highly unlikely that the Israeli government sought to harm a single soul on the Mavi Marmara ship, if not because of the Israeli Defense Forces’ high ethical standards, then at the very least because of the negative consequences and publicity it would bring about.
Indeed, if Israel was really practicing “state terrorism,” as the government of Turkey has alleged, it will go down as the first pre-meditated military massacre in history where the soldiers slated to do the massacring were armed primarily with paintball guns.
That’s right. Paintball guns.
The Israeli commandos who stormed the Mavi Marmara reportedly did so with paintball guns as their weapon of choice. While they also reportedly carried pistols, they were ordered not to utilize the weapon unless their life was threatened.
From the videos that have emerged, it seems that many of the so-called “peace” activists on the ship were interested in anything but peace. As Israeli commandos were lowered onto the ship, video shows that they were violently assaulted. One video clearly shows a passenger stabbing an Israeli soldier. Another video shows Israeli soldiers being beaten with metal objects. Some of the pistols the commandos were carrying, the Israeli government says, were stolen by the supposedly non-violent peace activists on board and fired at the soldiers.
What is shocking is that it does not appear that Israel’s military planners anticipated such a violent confrontation. They should have. One of the sponsors of the preposterously named “Gaza Freedom flotilla” was the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief (IHH). The Turkish based organization is little more than a front for terrorism.
During the 2000 trial of the attempted Millennium bomber Ahmed Ressam in Seattle, French counter-terrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Brugiere testified that the IHH played “an important role” in the plot. He continued by noting, “The IHH is an NGO, but it was kind of a type of cover-up… in order to obtain forged documents and also to obtain different forms of infiltration for Mujahideen in combat. And also to go and gather [recruit] these Mujahideens. And finally, one of the last responsibilities that they had was also to be implicated or involved in weapons trafficking.”
I’m no military planner, but it seems outrageous that the highly trained Israeli commandos were sent into a confrontation with combatants who may have been full fledged terrorists primarily armed with, to paraphrase former U.S. Senator Zell Miller, “spitballs.”
If the government of Israel sought to perpetrate a massacre on the high seas, it would have sunk the flotilla outright. It would not have sent soldiers armed with paintball guns and pistols. By giving the benefit of the doubt to a terrorist front group and portraying Israel as this pariah state that massacred innocent human rights activists, world governments and many in the international media have handed international terrorism a major propaganda victory.
Is it too much to expect that Israel’s so-called friend would at the very least withhold judgment until the facts of the operation were known? When all the facts come out, there will be plenty of time for judgment. And what facts have emerged so far seem to vindicate Israeli intentions, if not Israeli military planning.
But, in many respects, the damage to Israel’s reputation has already been done. “A lie,” Mark Twain once wrote, “can travel halfway around the world while the truth is putting on its shoes” This has never been never truer than in our age of 24-hour cable news.
The most important response in the days ahead will come from President Obama. This crisis provides a real test for him. So far, he has handled it better than one might have expected given his recent handling of the Arab-Israeli conflict. But will the president continue stand with Israel and push back against those who wish to delegitimize the Jewish state?
Let us hope. The Islamist terrorists who seek to destroy Israel also seek the destruction of the United States and the Western world. The West must hang together in this fight so we don’t all hang separately.