Political Promise

As Expected Israeli Forces Open Fire

In Dan Owens on May 31, 2010 at 9:24 am

By Daniel Owens


It appears that the response that the majority of the intellectual world expected (ie those outside of the Israel Lobby and the US government) has become a reality. Early on Monday 31st May 2010, Israeli’s military confirmed that navy forces intercepted the fleet, carrying aid and over 600 pro-Palestinian activists, killing more than 10 of the passengers. Israeli forces opened fire on at least one of the ships with the death toll reportedly as high as 16, with over 30 wounded.

The Israeli military reported that the activists attacked Israeli forces with knives, axes, metal pipes and rocks (on a ship, in the middle of the sea?). However, television footage broadcast by al-Jazeera and Turkish television clearly shows the activists fighting hand to hand, wearing life jackets and using sticks only.

Israeli sources have said that as least four soldiers were wounded. Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has condemned the raid as “unacceptable,” highlighting that “By targeting civilians, Israel has once again shown its disregard for human life and peaceful initiatives,” and warned Israel of the consequences of attacking a peaceful convoy.

A spokeswoman for the organisation behind the mission, Greta Berlin, accused Israeli troops of indiscriminately shooting at “unarmed civilians”. “How could the Israeli military attack civilians like this?” Ms Berlin said. “Do they think that because they can attack Palestinians indiscriminately they can attack anyone?… We have two more boats, this isn’t going to stop us”

The confrontation took place approximately 80 miles off the Gaza coast, in international waters which are under siege from Israeli forces, despite the Geneva Convention preventing anyone from controlling the high seas. The latest strike against peace activists follows a series of attempts to break the illegal and immoral Gaza blockade which was put in place nearly 3 years ago. Israeli forces allow 15,000 tonnes of food and aid into Gaza every week, only a quarter of the UNs recommended 60,000.

The latest attack on civilians was attacked by the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniyeh. He said “We call on the Secretary-General of the U.N., Ban Ki-moon, to shoulder his responsibilities to protect the safety of the solidarity groups who were on board these ships and to secure their way to Gaza”

This incident will be particularly damaging for Israel’s relations with its Arab neighbours and its western allies such as the US and UK. This act, which took place on the high seas constitutes a blatant breach of international law and it is hoped that international pressure will lead to a change in Israeli policy towards Palestinians in Gaza.

  1. Get the impression you guys understand the Internetz way more than the real world.

    Israeli commandos representing a democratic state (Israel) were attacked when they boarded a ship that was attempting to provide aid to a terrorist organisation (Hamas) which had rule Gaza by force since its coup in 2007.

    I put it to you that the Israeli military were intent on a peaceful boarding which was made impossible by an ambush from a violent group on board which had access to knives, bats and two pistols. The gun of one IDF soldier was snatched which either caused the escalation or happened once the fire-fight began. You make no mention of these salient facts.

    Your piece does not attempt to provide an analysis of the event. You quote from a small selection of media and political sources that are opposed to Israel. Your product is indistinguishable from Palestinian propaganda I could read on TSR. No, I wouldn’t give Israel a free pass but neither do I give Hamas a free pass, which is what your are doing.

    • I think it is hard to write anything about Gaza without receiving criticism for the other side. But in a country where Israeli views take precedence over anything else, by virtue of partisanship and side-taking, maybe we do need a voice from the other side. We won’t wholly be on any side, any reader of the blog knows we cater most political opinions on here (sorry monster raving loonies, not EVERY) and please don’t attack Dan for his insightful, interesting piece. It’s here to provoke debate in the issue, not to put one side over the other. It is a passionate subject and I’m glad you have taken the time to read and comment.

    • The Israeli forces were breaking a UN Resolution by having a military presence on international waters like that.

      “…a terrorist organisation (Hamas)”. Hamas has been democratically elected by the people. It is as legitimate a group as the Israeli government. I suspect you were the type of person that would have deemed Nelson Mandela a terrorist?

      “Your product is indistinguishable from Palestinian propaganda”.

      Many Western leaders, such as William Hague and Nicolas Sarkozy, have already deemed that the reaction from Israeli forces was over-the-top. So I don’t think it is fair to say that the author is being biased.

    • therewaslight,
      I feel as the author of this piece that I should offer some sort of explanation of my article and maybe help you to understand the angle from which I was approaching it. I apologise for not responding earlier, but I had my last exam of Uni today – which happened to be “contemporary issues in the middle east”.

      Whilst I understand that you are not directly attacking my coverage of the above, which was a rather quick posting compared to other mainstream media outlets, I also think that it is hard to take a fully objective view when soldiers of the “democratic state” entered into the act of piracy, in contravention of Article 100 of the International Law of the High Seas which dictates that it is the incumbent duty of a boat crew to protect itself from violent aggressors. Which can be viewed fully at: http://untreaty.un.org/ilc/texts/instruments/english/conventions/8_1_1958_high_seas.pdf

      I admit that the article, whilst covering all of the key points was written in the very early hours of the Israeli assault – before all of the details were available. However, I stand by my point that Israel was in contravention of international law in its boarding of the Turkish ship – regardless of its destination.

      Secondly, I take that accusation that I am giving Hamas a free pass quite seriously as I do not believe that they are the most suitable representatives of the Palestinian people. However, when looking at the last 63 years, particularly the last 10, it is obvious to see that Israel exercises its political and military muscle as a means to prevent Palestinian Arabs from reaching their full potential; including the emergence of any serious democratic power focussed on political reform.

      Whilst it is apparent from your other comments that you are able to quote sources of other blogs and news sites – it doesn’t appear that you are the author of any of these. Additionally, I am quite well read on the above issue, and from my perspective, the article is right in every sense. Going forward then, I encourage you, as I’m sure all of the other contributors do, to write for Political Promise and maybe offer an insightful argument from the Israeli side of the argument.

      To close, I agree with the editor of this blog, no matter what angle you approach this issue, due to it’s contentious nature – you are going to be accused of being wrong by one person at least. I thank you for taking the time to read the article and especially to provide feedback – and I hope to read some of your own articles on the blog in the near future.

      All the best,
      Dan Owens

  2. http://eureferendum.blogspot.com/2010/05/deliberately-provocative.html

    I read this today – read this. That is insightful. Get it?

    Now, I don’t expect you to become Israeli fan boys but please provide something different from the media. Sorry that I’m picking on Dan, it’s not his fault, I see this everywhere. Unless you are prepared to see an example of rival analysis you are not going to say anything new, or interesting.

    Since you claim to be ‘Conservatives’ I have another couple of blogs that should be in your private bookmarks. Google Atlas Shrugs and Steve Sailer. These two blogs don’t hold compatible positions on many subjects but the quality they have is usually being a different product than you get in the media and thus interesting.

  3. I should say something nice – I love the look of this blog and as far as being well-written goes, the above article was well-written – that is why I was motivated to reply, you’re obviously intelligent enough to get it right, if so guided. I wish you ever success in getting attention for your blog!

    • The arrogance and attempt to patronise people in your responses doesn’t help your argument by the way.

      Regarding the link you posted;

      “Defying a radio warning from the Israeli navy not to approach the region, the ships then ignored Israeli government instructions to steer for the port of Ashdod, their crews stating their intention to land in Gaza and disembark cargo.”

      Israeli navy do not have control over international water. They can’t tell aid ships not to come through international waters that they are permitted to go through. If you’re driving down a road, and someone random who has nothing to do with that road tells you you can’t go through, what do you do? If they then jump in the passenger side, what do you do?

      “This resulted in the predicted, expected and deliberately provoked boarding of the vessels by IDF personnel, in international waters. Subsequently, nine or more activists were killed and an unknown number injured. At least six IDF personnel were also injured, at least one seriously.”

      This is a great paragraph. It explains the IDF perfectly. So they boarded the vessels and then, the next thing that happened, was that nine or more activists were killed. As the paragraph confirms, the killings were “subsqeuent” to the IDF boarding the boats. Something akin to a Freudian slip by neglecting what happened between boarding and killing maybe?

      Anyway, it goes on….

      “Israel’s Defence Ministry has blamed the violence on activists aboard the flotilla, who they said had attacked soldiers with knives, metal bars and snatched rifles, and had tried to “lynch the security forces””

      Well, if someone illegally boarded my boat armed with rifles, I’d probably react quite violently. However, I accept that that was probably not best practice. Though I find it intriguing that whilst you criticise the original article for pro-Palestinian bias, you advocate this article which uses the source, Israel’s Defence Ministry, that could not be any more partial towards the IDF. I would also point out that the original article cites the same source giving the same account of the events before it goes on to give the opposite account. Now, the article which you have provided the link to does not provide an account from both the IDF and the organisers of the ships; only the IDF (in the form of Israel’s Defence Ministry). So which is unbalanced?

      Also, intriguing use of the word “lynch”. Isn’t lynching usually hanging or burning? So these aid vessels contained some sort of late 19th century punishment experts or something? Very odd.

      This horrendous article is finished off with the following disgusting line:

      ” It has also sparked “international outrage” which, of course, was the whole purpose of the exercise.”

      If nothing before this line discredited this article, then this line did. Those ships were going to Gaza to deliver aid to people who were being denied basic supplies to live and build homes destroyed by military bombardments. It may seem alien to someone who is, apparently, pro-Israel, but many people are motivated to go on long maritime journeys with the sole intention of helping people who are in desperate need. That was the “whole purpose of the exercise.” In addition, I’m sure the people who died on those boats weren’t going there with the “whole purpose” of creating an incident that got them killed.

      Finally, you said “…please provide something different from the media”. Sorry if I’ve missed something, but what, in the article that you linked to, is different from what we have heard in the media? The first thing I heard after hearing about this event was the Israeli Defence representatives going on about how they were provoked. There is nothing in the article that you linked to that is different from anything I have seen or heard in the media except for that utterly vile remark that the “whole purpose of the exercise” was to provoke some sort of Israeli military response.

  4. As everyone knew, the ships were going into Israeli waters and the Israelis decided to use the cover of night to defend themselves. For that reason the boarding took place a few miles into international waters. Only a pedant could ignore the right of Israel to defend themselves from an extant threat a few meters across the other side of the border when the threat had previously announced to everyone they were about to cross the border.

    The IDF were armed with paint-ball guns.


    It’s time for you to rather more humbly update your tawdry little propaganda exercise with some of the facts.

  5. Haneen Zuabi, a member of the Israeli Knesset who was on the Mavi Marmara, has accused Israel of trying to “cause the largest number of fatalities”.

    She was released today after questioning and has been giving her version of events at a news conference, according to the Israeli news website ynetnews.com she told a conference.

    “I entered the captain’s room. He was asked to stop by the Israeli soldiers. He said, ‘We are a Turkish ship.’ We were 130 miles off. It was 11:30 pm. We saw four Israel vessels, they were at a distance because we were in international waters. At 4:15 am we saw the ships approaching.

    “They were dinghies and choppers. At 4:30 am the forces landed quickly. I did not hear any warning from the ships, because noise was coming from the ships and the choppers. Within 10 minutes there were already three bodies. The entire operation took about an hour.”

    “There was not a single passenger who raised a club. We put on our life vests. There were no clubs or anything of the sort. There were gunshots, I don’t know if they were live bullets or not. There were gunshots fired from the ships in our direction.

    “A clear message was being sent to us, for us to know that our lives were in danger. We convened that we were not interested in a confrontation. What we saw was five bodies. There were only civilians and there were no weapons. There was a sense that I many not come out of it alive. Israel spoke of a provocation, but there was no provocation.”

    Balanced enough source?

  6. William Hague has certainly been thrown in at the deep end with this one.
    In reference to the points made above, I suppose you could assume any position in support of either side in the whole Israel/Palestine debacle depending on the perspective/angle you look at it from.
    In this instance however, I think it is clear Israel have overstepped the mark and should rightly receive condemnation.

  7. On the “provide something different from the media” point, I would quite like to add that this story was picked up by Dan a good 36 hours before I saw it on mainstream news websites or TV. He should be commended for his great insight in the topic as well as his journalistic nous. Thank you for your kind words therewaslight I hope you continue to read the blog.

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