Columbia International Affairs Online: Journals

CIAO DATE: 07/2010

Israel and America's Flotilla Follies (and How To Avoid Them in the Future)

The Objective Standard †

A publication of:
The Objective Standard

Volume: 5, Issue: 2 (Summer 2010)

Craig Biddle


Full Text

On May 31, 2010, a flotilla of six ships manned by alleged "peace activists" motored toward Gaza, which, since 2007, has been controlled by the Iranian-sponsored terrorist group Hamas. But because Hamas openly seeks to destroy Israel and has already fired "more than 4,000 rockets and mortar shells [into the state] from Gaza,"1 Israel has imposed a blockade on the region. The "peace activists" ostensibly sought to breach the blockade and reach Gaza to deliver "humanitarian aid." Their real goal, however, was revealed by their own words and actions.

As Palestinian Media Watch reports, the day before the flotilla reached the blockade, Al-Jazeera TV filmed the "peace activists" chanting an Islamic battle cry: "[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!"2 What is Khaibar?

Khaibar is the name of the last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad's army in 628. Many Jews were killed in that battle, which marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia. There are Muslims who see that as a precursor to future wars against Jews. At gatherings and rallies of [Islamists], this chant is often heard as a threat to Jews to expect to be defeated and killed again by Muslims.3

As the ships approached the blockade, the Israeli navy issued repeated warnings: "You are approaching an area of hostility which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza area, coastal region and Gaza harbor are closed to all maritime traffic." The navy also emphasized:

The Israeli government supports delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, and invites you to enter the Ashdod port. Delivery of the supplies in accordance with the authority's regulations [i.e., Israel's prohibitions on materials that could help Hamas assault Israel] will be through the formal land crossings and under your observation, after which you can return to your home ports aboard the vessels on which you arrived.4

The "peace activists" replied: "Shut up. Go back to Auschwitz."-"Our destination is Gaza."-"We're helping the Arabs go against the U.S. Don't forget 9/11."5

When the "peace activists" refused to cease and desist, Israeli commandos proceeded to board the boat called the Mavi Marmara, with the goal of steering it and the flotilla toward the port of Ashdod. As the commandos rappelled one by one onto the deck of the ship without firing a single shot, the "peace activists" attacked them with steel bars, wooden bats, chairs, chains, and knives.6 In clear self-defense, the commandos eventually opened fire, killing several of the "peace activists"-for which Israel has been nearly universally condemned as evil.

Observe that the "peace activists" were patently not concerned with delivering "humanitarian aid" to Gaza. If that had been their goal, they would have accepted Israel's invitation to redirect the flotilla to Ashdod, which is just north of Gaza, and have the goods transferred to Gaza by land. The "peace activists" rejected the offer because their actual goal was to force Israel's hand in order to discredit her in the eyes of the "international community." This, in turn, was intended to pressure Israel to remove or loosen the blockade on Gaza and thus to clear the way for Iran and other anti-Israel regimes to deliver weapons to Hamas for use against Israel.

Video taken from the deck of the Mavi Marmara makes clear the intention of the participants to force Israel's hand. As one passenger explained, "When I went on the first convoy [there have been a few], I wanted to be a shahid [i.e., a martyr]. I wasn't that lucky. Second time, I wanted to be a shahid. Didn't work. Third time lucky, with the help of God, I will be a shahid." Another passenger said, "We are now waiting for one of two good things-either to achieve martyrdom, or to reach Gaza."7

The flotilla was sponsored by the so-called Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a Turkey-based Islamist organization whose leader, Bulent Yildirim, made his intentions clear in a speech he delivered several years ago in Gaza urging Palestinians to "Raise your fists to the skies and repeat after me: What can the enemy do to me? I carry paradise in my heart. . . . If they kill me-that is martyrdom for the sake of Allah. Allahu akbar!"8

As Gerald M. Steinberg reports in the Wall Street Journal,

IHH is a prominent member of the "Union of the Good," which was designated by the U.S. government as "an organization created by the Hamas leadership to transfer funds to the terrorist organization." In 1997, before the Islamist AKP came to power in Turkey, a police raid on an IHH building in Istanbul found weapons, explosives, and instructions for making improvised explosive devices widely used by insurgents and terror groups. . . .

[T]he IHH was a logical vehicle for the Islamist-led Turkish government, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to turn against its former ally Israel. While embracing Syria and Iran, Mr. Erdogan is fueling anti-Israel hatred in his country and throughout the region.9

Another sponsor of the flotilla, the "Free Gaza Movement," states its purpose on its website:

We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness . . . and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine's right to welcome internationals as visitors . . . and establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world.10

In other words, the "Free Gaza Movement" seeks to enable shipments of anything (including weapons) from anywhere (including Iran) to reach anyone (including Hamas) in Gaza.

The purpose of this flotilla was unmitigated evil. And Israel had both a right and an obligation to thwart it. Unfortunately, her efforts to do so were pathetic-as were America's reactions to Israel's efforts.

For her part, Israel self-sacrificially placed her commandos in harm's way by having them rappel, one by one, onto the deck of a ship full of hostile thugs. This is obscene. Israel's soldiers are not meat to be fed to animals; they are noble, heroic young men and women charged with fighting at the front line against barbarians. (They are also conscripted, which is utterly immoral, but that is an issue for another day.) Sacrificing teenagers and twenty-somethings to pacify the "international community" is an unforgivable moral crime.

What should Israel have done about the flotilla? She should have warned the "peace activists" that any attempt to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza would be seen as an act of war (which it is), and that any boat that got close enough to the blockade to pose a credible threat11 would be sunk. If, after the warning, the boats continued toward the blockade, Israel should have sunk them.

Of course, the "international community" and the anti-Israel media would still have screamed "bloody murder!" So what? By acting on the principle that any attempt to break Israel's vital blockade constitutes an act of war, Israel would have stood on the objective, selfish, moral high ground. She could then have answered: "Yes, we sank the enemy ships, and if any more approach our blockade, we will sink them too. We have a moral right to defend ourselves against barbarians who seek to kill us and against ‘useful idiots' who seek to help them. Israel is a legitimate, rights-respecting nation, and we will not participate in stunts designed to harm or weaken us."

Israel is routinely condemned by practically every state on the planet for defending herself and her citizens against assaults by those who deny her right to exist. Would that such criticisms were fully accurate. Yes, Israel should be condemned for her response to the flotilla assault-but not because she attacked humanitarians or used excessive force or the like; she did nothing of the sort. Rather, Israel should be damned for failing to defend herself, her citizens, and her soldiers with the full capabilities of her military. Israel should be damned for acting selflessly.

How did America respond to the flotilla incident and to Israel's selfless response? The Obama administration reacted exactly as the "peace activists" and their sponsors intended it to: by calling for an "international investigation" conforming to "international standards"12 (imagine how that would play out) and by announcing that "it's time to change our Gaza policy"13 and "remove the impulse for the flotillas."14 This, too, is obscene. Not only does it throw Israel to the wolves who wish to eat her; it also shows that the Obama administration is a virtual pawn of the Iranian and Turkish regimes.

How should America have reacted to this situation? First, she should never have permitted such a situation to arise. Had America already eliminated the main regimes that sponsor Islamist assaults against the civilized world-namely, the regimes in Iran and Saudi Arabia-there would be no "impulse for flotillas" nor for any such evil. (For elaboration, see Elan Journo et al, Winning the Unwinnable War: America's Self-Crippled Response to Islamic Totalitarianism [Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009].)

That said, what should America have done in response to this event given that she has been too cowardly to defend herself and her allies fully selfishly in the past? Well, it is never too late to become rational.

America should have scolded Israel for sacrificing Israeli soldiers and for failing to use the full capacity of her military to defend herself against the "peace activists." America should have advised Israel that if this happens again, she has the full blessing of America to sink the offending ships. America should have announced to the "international community" and the anti-Israel press that their irrational opinions and blatant evasions carry no weight with moral, civilized nations. And America should have announced to the world that any regime found to be complicit in this recent anti-Israel flotilla-including the new regime in Turkey-or any such schemes in the future will be seen as the enemy of America that it is, and dealt with accordingly.

America is regularly condemned by practically every country on the planet for being concerned only with her own citizens and their interests, which include Israel's security. Again, would that such accusations were true. Yes, America should be condemned, but not for the reasons asserted by the "international community" or the anti-America press. America should be damned for failing to defend herself, her citizens, and her most important ally, Israel. America, too, should be damned for acting selflessly.

As everyone knows (including those who deny it), America and Israel are allies in a war against Islamists who seek to annihilate both countries and to eliminate freedom from earth. Americans and Israelis who want to win this war had better demand that their governments adopt a selfish, moral foreign policy. And fast.