Like most of you, I awoke this morning to the disturbing news that Israeli commandos had raided a flotilla of “peaceful” ships trying to bring food to the residents of Gaza. In their “brazen” assault, the Israelis had killed at least ten “peace activists.” Oh no, I feared, perhaps some of those young Israeli soldiers finally snapped under the pressure. This time, they went too far. They had spilled the blood of those who had chosen the path of peace.
Then the facts of what actually happened began to emerge. As they did so, it became increasingly apparent that the Israelis had acted in self defense, after repeated attempts to avert violence had been ignored. And it also became clear that once again Israel’s side of the story was neither obvious nor simple. It takes an open mind and knowledge of the facts to understand what led to today’s tragedy at sea. Lacking both, most observers issued their guilty verdict against Israel the minute the death toll was announced.
First of all, this “humanitarian” flotilla was, at best, a cynical PR stunt. There is no food shortage in Gaza. Israel maintains an open corridor for the transfer of food to Gaza, and this route is used daily by legitimate relief organizations including the United Nations and the Red Cross. Over the last 18 months, well over a million tons of humanitarian supplies have entered Gaza from Israel. This equals almost a ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza.
Secondly, the Israelis offered the flotilla a peaceful way to resolve the conflict. They proposed that the ships dock at Israel’s southern port of Ashdod and unload their cargo there. The Israelis pledged to transfer all truly humanitarian cargo to Gaza. They simply wanted to screen the cargo first so that they could ensure that no arms or explosives were hidden among the food and other legitimate items. This offer was flatly rejected.
Only then — when faced with the declared intention of these ships to break Israel’s security blockade of Gaza – did Israel decide to board the ships and bring them to Ashdod by force. To do otherwise would have been to allow Israel’s opponents to dictate Israel’s security policy. The Gaza strip is controlled by Hamas, a terrorist organization openly committed to Israel’s destruction. As the constant smuggling of arms and rockets into Gaza – and their repeated use by Hamas — makes clear, Israel has every right and reason to screen shipments going into Gaza.
So long as the Israeli soldiers who boarded these boats were met by peaceful protests, no one was hurt. Of the six ships in the flotilla, Israeli naval forces boarded five of them without incident. Only on one ship – the Marmara — did Israeli soldiers harm passengers. Why did they do so? As videos taken by Israel’s navy since made clear, the Israelis boarding this particular ship met with instant and vicious violence. As the Israeli soldiers were lowered one-by-one onto the ship by helicopter, they were assaulted by an angry mob that beat them with metal rods and knives, threw them off the sides of the deck, and reportedly stole their handguns and shot at them. What awaited the Israelis was a lynch mob, pure and simple. Only after the mob began using deadly force did the Israelis respond with deadly force to save their lives.
Anyone doubting the intensity and severity of the attack by the so-called peace activists should watch the following video taken by the Israeli navy. It is sobering.
We will no doubt learn more of the specifics in the days to come. And we may well come to learn that the Israelis made mistakes in the planning and execution of this operation. But as the initial facts have emerged, it has already become clear that these soldiers were acting in self defense, and would never have resorted to violence had they not genuinely feared for their lives. Yet as in prior conflicts, Israel’s efforts at self defense are being twisted and distorted by the very people who provoked and now celebrate the violence.
So here we go again. Prepare for a wave of attacks and vitriol to crash upon Israel. Get ready for lies and exaggeration to control the media coverage. And gird yourself to stand up and spread the truth. Because once again, the truth is Israel’s ally. And once again, it is up to us to spread the truth when others will not.
If you have not yet signed the Israel pledge, please click here to do so now. And if it is at all possible, please join us in Washington, DC this July. It was already clear months ago that this DC Summit was going to be our most important one yet. And the stakes have steadily risen since then. We need to show up in DC record numbers to make Israel’s case to our elected officials and to the general public. Yes, the truth is Israel’s ally. But the truth will be lost in a sea of lies without witnesses willing to testify.