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Tuesday, June 01, 2010

Separating fact from fiction

I'm glad I resisted the temptation to weigh in yesterday on the Gaza Flotilla raid because most of what was being reported turned out to be either wrong or grossly incomplete.

1.  Let's start in a place where few if any of the media outlets care to go; the blockade of Gaza. 

a)  Is it legal?  

Simply put; yes.  Actually, in technical/legal terms, it is not a blockade per se since although Israel handed over all of Gaza to the Palestinian Authority in 2005, we retained control of the airspace and borders (including both land and sea borders).  [Note: This, not incidentally, is one of the reasons that our claims of no longer occupying Gaza are relatively weak.]  But if we never relinquished control of the borders and airspace, is it legally a blockade?  Not really. The result is the same (at least as far as Hamas is concerned), but blockading our own coast is not the same as if we were blockading another sovereign state.

While there are many countries around the world who do not support the so-called blockade of Gaza, few except NGOs and 'interested parties' use the term 'illegal' to describe it. 

b)  Is Israel alone in the 'blockade' of Gaza? 

No.  While Israel controls the borders of Gaza, Egypt also controls its borders with Gaza and is a full participant in controlling the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza.  It doesn't get much press, but Egypt is actually much more violent in the control of its borders with Gaza; shooting dozens of refugees from Africa trying to enter Israel and Gaza... and using lethal force against Palestinians trying to enter Sinai.

Egypt's interest in maintaining the blockade is different from Israel's.    They maintain "that they cannot open Rafah crossing [and any other border crossing] unless the Palestinian Authority headed by Mahmoud Abbas controls the crossing and international monitors are present. Egypt Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said Hamas wants the border opened because it would represent Egyptian recognition of the group's control of Gaza. "Of course this is something we cannot do," he said, "because it would undermine the legitimacy of the Palestinian Authority and consecrate the split between Gaza and the West Bank." [Source].

Update:  Egypt has just opened (albeit temporarily) their border with Gaza in order to "alleviate the suffering of our Palestinian brothers".  They're not complete idiots.  When the sh*t starts to stick to Israel over the blockade, they don't want to be seen standing guard along any of the borders.   

It is worth mentioning that the U.S.government supports the blockading of Gaza and the isolation of the Hamas terror organization.

c)  Is there a humanitarian crisis in Gaza as a result of the blockade as Palestinian supporters claim?

No.  As much as the Palestinians and their supporters have tried to portray the blockade of Gaza as causing a humanitarian crisis, the truth is that Israel supplies all of their electricity, and allows entry of humanitarian aid from recognized organizations via the border crossings it controls.  Whether Hamas allows all of that aid to reach the people is quite another question.    The sponsors of the flotilla were informed in advance that they could save themselves a trip and allow Israel to transfer all of their aid via official land crossings into Gaza.  needless to say, they refused.

There is also a flourishing smuggling economy that operates via a network of tunnels between Gaza and Egyptian Sinai. 

While the idea of being virtual prisoners in Gaza must not be very palatable to the population or the Hamas leadership that runs the strip, the stores there are full of food and consumer products and the standard of living in Gaza is higher than most of the third/developing world.  Additionally, Israel has allowed Gazans access to its own medical facilities for more serious/emergent cases; something that has been exploited cynically many times by individuals and by Hamas.

2.  Next, let's talk about the issue of 'international waters' and what this actually means in the the context of the current situation.

a)  Claims vs. actual practice:

The news media and the players in this latest drama have been throwing around the term 'International Waters', but few people really understand the idea of maritime territorial claims.  The following illustration should help provide much of the vocabulary you'll need to discuss this topic:

500px-Zonmar-en

I've posted this, not because there is some magic loophole that Israel has exploited (quite the opposite, actually)... but because it bothers me to hear people using terminology that they don't fully understand.

Simply put, every country on earth has a legal claim to 12 nautical miles of coastal waters (from the mean low water mark), assuming they have a coastline, that is.  Some countries (Israel, interestingly, is not among them) claim an additional 12 nautical mile 'contiguous zone'.  Whether 12 or 24 nautical miles, this area claimed by all countries is still open to 'innocent passage' (a concept under Admiralty Law) and anchoring.   But a country really has the final say over what it considered 'innocent'.

b)  EEZ: 

It is worth noting that many countries claim and enforce a much larger maritime claim... some out to as far as 200 nautical miles.  While this is considered an Economic Exclusion Zone and is mainly relevant for protecting natural resources (i.e. drilling and fishing rights, etc.), quite a few countries patrol their EEZ with the same vigor as they do their legal territorial claims of 12 or 24 nautical miles.  Don't think so?  Try approaching North Korea's coast.  Or for that matter, try sailing from Cuba to Florida and let me know how that works out for you.  You won't get anywhere near 12 miles before the Coast Guard boards you.


c)  Current law vs. current practice regarding interdiction

Thanks to Somali pirates, and less recently to the ongoing drug trafficking between Caribbean islands and the U.S., the rules regarding when and how boats can be approached and boarded in international waters has been constantly evolving. 

While most of the Navies currently operating in the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea to protect commercial shipping from the Somali pirates rely on a legal concept called "Hostis humani generis" (Latin for "enemy of mankind") a legal term originating from the admiralty law that basically allows nearly unrestricted engagement on the high seas of pirates, slave traders, torturers and a few other select populations that the entire world has an interest in fighting, sadly, smugglers are a more difficult group to legally engage... and terrorists are not yet officially defined as Hostis humani generis.

For context let's look at the U.S. Coast Guard.  On a daily basis the USCG boards and inspects hundreds of boats and ships on the high seas (meaning in international waters) far from their own territorial claims.  In addition, they approach and challenge hundreds more each day but opt for any number of reasons not to board.  How can they do this so far outside their recognized national claims?

The reason is simple.  On a significant number (but certainly not all) of the vessels that the USCG challenges/boards, illegal drugs and weapons are found.   The U.S. has enacted Federal Laws that allow the Coast Guard to operate and interdict suspected smugglers...  even on the high seas far from its legal territorial claims.  Certainly part of the reason this is allowed is that many of the Island nations in the Caribbean do not have the means to adequately control their own maritime claims (and are sometimes directly or indirectly involved in the smuggling), so the U.S. has unilaterally - and sometimes through agreements with neighbors - taken it upon themselves to act as the cops for that part of the world's oceans.

Israel, for its part, is in a similar situation.  It's neighbors are unable or unwilling to control maritime smuggling that both directly and indirectly affects Israel's economic and physical security.  So when ample intelligence indicates that a ship or boat is engaged in smuggling or terror, Israel often acts in this gray area of international law.

Simply put, when Israel engaged the Gaza Flotilla in international waters, they were not on as solid ground (figuratively, of course) as our supporters claim, nor as legally wrong as our many detractors claim. 

The flotilla had declared it's intention to smuggle goods and people into an area that Israel controls (and has declared a closed military zone), and when contacted via radio and offered the chance to alter course to an Israeli port for the purposes of transferring the cargo to Gaza (after inspection, of course), or even turning around and returning to their port of origin, the flotilla again clearly stated their intention to violate Israel's sovereignty.

Under international law, you don't necessarily have to wait for someone to breach your sovereignty before engaging them.  It is often enough that they say they are going to do it; that they demonstrate that they have the means to do it; and that they actually set in motion a physical act that makes it clear they intend to make good on their threats.

c)  How far from Israel's coast did the interdiction take place:

Approximately 40 nautical miles (although I have not seen confirmation of this from Israel sources).  Close enough to infer intent even without the flotilla's declaration of intent to violate Israel's territorial sovereignty.
 

3.  Now that we have some of the necessary background to discuss the flotilla raid responsibly, what happened... and more importantly, what went wrong?

a)  The 'boats': 

There were five craft used in the so-called Freedom Flotilla.  There were originally at least two more - flying Swedish and Irish flags, respectively - but they did not participate due to mechanical problems.

There were two U.S. flagged craft; Challenger I and Challenger II, two Greek flagged craft; the Eleftheri Mesogeios and the Sfendoni, and a Turkish flagged craft called the MV Mavi Marmara.  This latter ship is where all the problems took place

It wasn't until yesterday that the actual dimensions of the participating ships, and most specifically the ship where all the trouble occurred, began to come to light.  The MV Mavi Marmara, far from being a small fishing or pleasure vessel is actually a small-medium sized cruise ship which is over 300 feet in length.  This is significant because the early reports of the mighty Israel military boarding and shooting up some tiny vessels with helpless crew seem silly when placed alongside the image of a cruise ship with hundreds of people aboard. 

b)  The sponsors/supporters: 

There is a feeling afoot that just because there were representatives of many countries around the world and several high profile participants in the flotilla, that the methods and goals of the flotilla had international sanction and support.  This is only partly true.  The flotilla had widespread, but unofficial, international support... and now that the botched raid has pushed the flotilla onto the front page of every newspaper ni the world, many countries have condemned Israel's handling of the situation.  But condemning Israel and officially supporting the goals and methods of the flotilla are not the same thing.  To officially support the flotilla would be madness for any country that wants to protect its own homeland and coastline from smugglers and terrorists.

c)  The 'peace activists'

The videos of anti-Israel/Islamic incitement before and during the cruise from Turkey, and the revelation that many of the people on-board the MV Mavi Marmara were not 'peace activists' but rather armed agitators (many with ties to what I'll euphemistically call militant Islamic organizations), give a clear indication that we weren't dealing with disciples of Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr..

d)  The Israel Navy: 

"Just before the raid, the Israeli Navy again contacted the Mavi Marmara, warning it that it was approaching an "area of hostility which is under naval blockade", and telling it that it could instead dock in the Port of Ashdod, where the supplies would be delivered through the "formal land crossings" under the observation of activists, after which the fleet would be allowed to leave to their home ports. The Mavi Marmara replied "Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza"."  [Source]

Most of you know by now that the IDF naval commandos were given impossible Rules of Engagement.  Far from the bloodthirsty savages who allegedly boarded the ships intent upon murder and mayhem, the commandos were sent aboard with paint ball guns - toys, essentially - and told that even those non-lethal tools were to be used only if necessary for crowd control.  They also each had a pistol for self defense, but were warned repeatedly that their lives had to be in danger before they could use them... and even then they would need to ask for and receive authorization.  We now know that by the time permission was received to use the meager lethal means at their disposal, at least two of the soldiers had been beaten unconscious, stripped of their sidearms and these pistols (and other weapons) were being used against the rest of the group.

The senior echelons of the IDF who wrote up and approved these ROEs should be dismissed without delay.  Besides being an intelligence failure of the first water that we didn't know what our soldiers would be dropping into... you simply don't send commandos into action with their hands tied.  Take away a soldier's weapons and give him toys, and he cannot possibly be effective no matter what the mission.  I don't care if the mission is to go bring back Shwarma from the corner store... a solder will do it better in full gear with all his weapons.

Sadly, in this case, the powers that be decided to make Mike Tyson a bouncer and send him out to face an angry mob, forgetting that if he won't be allowed to do what he was trained to do, he will be nothing more than a target... and a big one, at that.

No, I won't join your facebook group.  No, I won't sign a petition or write to my (or your) representatives.  I won't be part of a spin campaign of any sort.  THis was not Israel's finest hour and I'm not going to try to make it out to be another Entebbe raid.  Even though I believe in my heart that Israel was morally and legally in the right, it was a botched operation from start to finish and we now have to see what can be done to see that no further damage is done.

We've seen the grainy video taken from one of the helicopters hovering overhead.  I don't know about you, but you could tell me Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster were both involved in the skirmishes and I'd have no choice but to take your word for it.

I hope that there were helmet cams used by at least some of the soldiers.  But barring that, we'll have to see what the physical evidence reveals once the boats are searched in Ashdod. 

For the record, I am not a scholar of Admiralty Law, but neither are any of the talking heads raving about whether Israel was or wasn't within her rights to board the flotilla in International Waters.  Personally, I am confident that Israel will successfully assert her right to act as she did... and most of the civilized world will agree to her rationale since they (most of all the U.S.) have too much to lose if slapping Israel's wrist will set a precedent that will ultimately erode their own freedom of action on the high seas.

The best advice I can give you is to NOT become shrill and strident.  Those who are condemning us would do so no matter what.  Those who are inclined to wait for the facts have given very measured statements and are waiting to see how things play out.

I know the title of this post suggested that I would reveal some magical formula for separating fact from fiction.  But from here, I am in the same boat (literally and figuratively) as you.  I am reading the same news reports and filtering the same hype from both sides.  What I hope I've given you is enough background information to be able to read the news with a critical eye.

Posted by David Bogner on June 1, 2010 | Permalink

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Thanks for the write up, David. One source I keep seeing cited is the San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflict at Sea. The question that seems relevant is exactly who has what rights. If this is indeed a blockade, the law (67.a) seems to permit and indeed require the party imposing it to interdict any ship attempting to run it. If it is a question of Israeli control of borders, the same point applies to a vessel suspected of carrying contraband. Interestingly enough, I don't see any mention of smuggling, and yet I don't see how it could be possible that Israel would have fewer rights if it controls Gaza's sea lanes than if it were simply engaged in a blockade.

Posted by: Russ | Jun 1, 2010 4:38:32 PM

My sympathy are with the naval forces put into an impossible situation,and those soldiers that were injured.Mossad screwed up big time as did those in the IDF that planned the operation.Waiting for the ship to be searched.

Posted by: Ed | Jun 1, 2010 5:03:09 PM

Trep, I had not thought about how those soldiers were sent into what their commanders knew was a volatile situation with toy weapons.

And I also was nervous about all the video being putting out there showing our soldiers being stabbed that really showed just fuzz. But there is one video that pretty clearly shows the soldiers being clubbed with sticks or rods as they descended the cable from the helicopter. I'm sure you've seen it. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gYjkLUcbJWo

Posted by: Baila | Jun 1, 2010 6:43:15 PM

Big Foot and the Lock Ness monster were both involved


Sadly it sounds like you just described an episode of Scooby Doo. It was one of those "damned if you do and damned if you don't situations." Given those choices I would have been far more aggressive in stopping the ships. It is guaranteed that our "fans" will cry foul no matter what Israel does. So if you are going to take a beating you might as well "earn" it.

But that is easy to say as an armchair quarterback.

Posted by: Jack | Jun 1, 2010 7:31:32 PM

Sink the Damn Ships!

Posted by: Gene | Jun 1, 2010 8:09:16 PM

Not the worst (after all, people died and got hurt - that's always the worst), but probably the most damaging failure for Israel happened afterwards. I'm speaking of the giant PR(opaganda) failure - Israel didn't manage to get the news under control, failed to get it's version of the events across and the official channels so far haven't been very convincing, either. Even Y.'s first-hand report left much to be desired and didn't really shed a great light on Mossad and IDF. While certainly counteracting the stupid and hateful "murderous savages" depiction, it made the Mossad look blind and the IDF unprepared. Which, for a state in Israel's position, can be really damaging: If you're suurounded by enemies, you don't want to lose the psychological advantage that comes with operations like Entebbe. You don't want the commandos you take so much pride from seem weak and defeatable.
As much as this incident has to be properly researched on a military/operational level, it's communicational aspects have to be investigated as well. Someone hasn't done his/her job right, and that's bad for everyone.

Posted by: Carsten | Jun 1, 2010 9:08:54 PM

I wish this post could be published in an international newspaper. It is balanced and fair and is written by an ISRAELI

Posted by: Kiwi Noa | Jun 1, 2010 10:10:44 PM

This is a very well balanced assessment of the situation. I have said earlier (on a private email list against a fellow leftie with whom I usually agree) that israel was justified on a strategic level, and had no choice but to interdict, but that any failures were on a tactical level. The idea in general that the IDF would use commandos lowered from helicopters rather than other less innovative but conventional methods (shot across the bow, etc.) seemed to be risky, not just in terms of the soldiers themselves, but also that should things go wrong, there would be no intermediate steps available to the commandos short of lethal fire. It was a situation rife with potential for failure. I think at the end of the day, the professional soldiers and diplomats around the world will at worst shake their heads at the Israeli authored SNAFU, but fall far short of the blanket condemnation Israel's enemies are hoping for.

Posted by: Jordan Hirsch | Jun 1, 2010 10:12:32 PM

Thank you. Particularly for the summary on international waters, EEZ and territorial waters.

Posted by: Idit | Jun 1, 2010 10:22:09 PM

I'm trying to imagine the US allowing a 'humanitarian convoy' for the Taliban into land-locked Afghanistan....

No, guess not, but when its Israel, well whip it up and lets hear it for the poor Pali's!

I don't think two wrongs make a right, and in this case the first 'wrong' was that this convoy set off from Cyprus. The second 'wrong' was Israel intervening in such a fashion.

I agree that Israel must be allowed to defend her borders and territorial integrity, protect her citizens, and interdict terrorists/smugglers, no argument. Perhaps the IDF, having given what appears to be more than fair warning to the 'Freedom Flotilla' not to attempt to proceed to Gaza, should simply have holed the boats/ship and be done with it. I'm not, by the way, suggesting that they should have been blown up, just holed sufficiently to prevent them proceeding, a kind of slow sinking, and Israeli forces could have remained on hand to ensure that those aboard could be safely rescued and taken to a port under the protection of the IDF. That may sound fanciful, given the number aboard the MV Marmara, but strikes me as less foolhardy than sending in troops with toys guns!

It appears 10 died in this incident. That is still 10 too many, but there is a context and a perspective here....

Soviet Russia had no difficulty shooting down a Korean Airlines passenger jet with hundreds on board and all of them died.

The US shot down an Iranian passenger plane after confusing it with an Iranian fighter jet. No survivors there either.


Posted by: Ken | Jun 1, 2010 10:32:43 PM

My understanding is a bit different. Israel and Hamas/Gaza are in a state of war, or at least belligerence, and Israel has instituted a blockade against Gaza. A blockade is a legal act of war.

President Kennedy instituted a blockade of Cuba in the Missile Crisis that enabled him to stop Soviet ships on the high seas, outside of any international waters.

Under the laws of war, the blockading belligerent (Israel) can intercept for boarding and inspection a ship from a neutral country (Turkey or Ireland) and also stop them from proceeding.

The flotilla had clearly announced it was heading for Gaza and was going to run the blockade. They had been told that Gaza was under blockade. The flotilla chose confrontation.

Running the blockade would be an act of war, and the blockaders (Israel) would be within their legal rights to sink the ship should it try to evade them.

See this pdf summary of maritime law, especially sections 7.7 through 7.10:
http://www.usnwc.edu/getattachment/a9b8e92d-2c8d-4779-9925-0defea93325c/1-14M_(Jul_2007)_(NWP)

This means that resisting the boarding by force was not within the law. Even if they only used sticks and knives.

Caveats: There are genuine gray areas. Gaza/Hamas is not a nation and has not signed any treaties. Hamas claims that they are not restricted by any international law whatever and any violence they do is "Legal".

Posted by: AreaMan | Jun 1, 2010 11:22:32 PM

I don't think Turkey will follow through on its reported threat to supply a military escort to future shipments. This would be an act of war by Turkey against Israel (on behalf of Gaza). Obama would have to step in. I also don't think Turkey really wants to recognize Hamas as the leader of Gaza, though they might.

Posted by: AreaMan | Jun 1, 2010 11:26:17 PM

Err...Israel and Gaza are not at war. Gaza, despite what some might wish you to believe, is NOT a sovereign state. As such, under the modern concept of international law, a state of war CANNOT EXIST between Gaza and any other entity, because non-state actors have no formal standing in the Westphalian system.
- R

Posted by: Rob | Jun 1, 2010 11:40:33 PM

@Rob

The existence of non-state actors being belligerent is somewhat new and steps out of precedent.

For example, the best definition I've seen of terrorism is "Acts of war by NGOs". Everybody else says it's attacks on civilians. I think it's attacks by civilians.

We can't say that Hamas/Gaza is at peace with Israel. If Hamas does not have the "Legal" right to target Israeli civilians with rockets then of course Israel has the right to prevent this. The blockade is part of the prevention.

If you are right that the law does not apply, then both Hamas and Israel are not bound by any international treaty at all in their dealings with each other. I suppose this is possible. According to treaty, all actions would be "Legal". Almost nobody holds this view.

Posted by: AreaMan | Jun 2, 2010 12:00:27 AM

Are you sure there is not a humanitarian crisis there? This article says different.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/may/31/gaza-blockade-israel

>The UN humanitarian co-ordinator said last week that the formal economy in Gaza has "collapsed" and 60% of households were short of food. According to UN statistics, around 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water.<

Question: Would YOU choose to live in Gaza? You make it seem like it's not such a bad place to live. I'm thinking you would not choose to live under such conditions.

Posted by: MDL | Jun 2, 2010 4:40:55 AM

MDL... You are trying to make a connection between two unrelated things. No, I would not want to live in Gaza... but then again, I wouldn't want to live in many places in the world where the standard of living is higher even than where I currently live. but since you mention it, I couldn't live in Gaza even if I wanted to seeing as it is Judenrein. As to the Guardian, I do not consider them a reliable source of information on this topic since they have been shown to have a demonstable bias in favor of the palestinians in nearly all of their reporting (including using information provided by Hamas without any attempt at fact checking). But since you want to site statistics, why not think for a moment where those statisitcs come from. The Palestians receive more sustained foreign aid per capita than any population in the history of the world. Israel has been allowing all legitimate aid to cross the borders. Again, if it is not reaching the people of Gaza then you have only Hamas to blame.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 2, 2010 7:50:12 AM

Well reasoned and well said.

On a lighter note, David, you came up in a conversation this weekend where I remarked to a certain female companion that I knew a New York trombonist that used to play weddings now lived in Israel.

I hope that you and your family are well. Some day I hope that we will meet.

Posted by: christopher | Jun 2, 2010 9:32:56 AM

christopher... I'm trying to imagine the context in which such an observation might come up. :-)

You know you have an open invitation to visit. Chez treppenwitz has a guest room with a view!

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 2, 2010 9:47:30 AM

christopher: just to chime in: i whole-heartedly second the open invitation to host you! the friendship developed over the years has been very meaningful and we both share the hope to meet!

Posted by: zahava | Jun 2, 2010 10:19:10 AM

thanks trepp...sigh...what i really want to say is DAMN DAMN DAMN...there...i feel a little better...now if i can only stay away from the news for a couple of hours...thanks for writing and thanks for caring...someone has to get through to the cousins in america...see our middle eastern cousins now THEY have cousins...and the world shloft...stay safe my friend and again thanks

Posted by: marallyn ben moshe | Jun 2, 2010 11:23:01 AM

Gaza short of food?
Humanitarian crisis?
Hamas takes all the best and divides it among themselves.Only those in favour get any.
But see here:Plenty

http://www.tomgrossmedia.com/mideastdispatches/archives/001114.html

Posted by: charlotte | Jun 2, 2010 1:43:31 PM

treppenwitz

While I respect your right to your opinion on such matters it is evident that you too have your own bias. Right? It is not a one way street. Overall, I view the whole blockade and this incident regrettable. But both sides are to blame. And I'm not excusing anything Hamas does.

charlotte
The link to the plush Gaza is really misleading. It is merely anecdotal and leans toward the kind of propaganda Israel wants you to see. You could find any poor country in the world and find a few rich spots that do not represent the whole. I'm sure North Korea has more than a few. But if you took the net worth of that one area in Gaza and dispersed it among all the people who live in Gaza it would be inconsequential.

Posted by: MDL | Jun 2, 2010 7:13:27 PM

I have second-hand knowledge of a USCG intercept of a drug-runner off the coast of Ecuador -- a country not known for its proximity to American waters. (I heard the story from one of the Coast Guard boarding party.) So the notion that Israel's intercept was illegal stikes me as biased reporting.

My question is that now that the IDF has seized the vessel, will an Israeli admiralty court condemn the vessel and sell it at auction? That's the legal thing to do. Returning the vessel to Turkey would be magnanimous but will not be seen to be so.

Posted by: antares | Jun 3, 2010 7:39:09 AM

Russ ... Thanks for the link. I'd been hearing that one too and in retrospect I'm sorry I didn't have it at my fingertips when writing my post.

Ed... Yours and mine both.

Baila... It makes me physically ill to watch.

Jack... There's a reason I'm not in charge here. I would have hit the whole fleet with fuel air explosives and helped a ten minute news conference where I did nothing but hold up both middle fingers and smile.

Gene... Not good enough for 'em.

Carsten... Sadly, the way things work here, nobody will be held accountable.

Kiwi Noa... I either need a bigger soap box... or an agent. :-)

Jordan Hirsch... That you agree is gratifying. But what you and many others fail to provide is the 'what then?' after the shot across the bow fails to stop the ships. What then? When you have people ready for martyrdom, you can't threaten force unless you are prepared to use it. A shot across the bow is the naval prelude to an armed encounter. It doesn't matter if you use commandos or battleships... an armed encounter is an armed encounter. And when dealing with martyrs, any armed encounter would have ended badly.

Idit.. Don't thank me... I'm a giver. :-)

Ken... The hypocrisy of nations calling for an independent inquiry when they have had far worse tragedies (in terms of loss of civilian life) in their own military ops... and would never in a million years allow a third party to pass judgement. It makes me want to scream!

AreaMan... Good points all around. Thank you.

Rob... You are arguing semantics. In real terms, Hamas is a belligerent and Israel can and has acted accordingly within the scope of the law.

MDL... I dealt with you yesterday from my cell phone and I realize now that your idiotic point wasn't even worth the air charges I used up.

christopher ... You, on the other hand, were well worth the investment in minutes. :-)

marallyn ben moshe... And what I really want to say can't be printed here (being a family blog and all). :-)

charlotte ... You will never convince the likes of MDL. He/She has never been to Gaza but knows more than anyone who has.

antares... Sadly, rather than using the vessels for naval target practice... we're going to give them back. I'm sure they'll send us a repair bill at the end of all this. We're such idiots sometimes.

Posted by: treppenwitz | Jun 3, 2010 1:17:00 PM

David, I wanted to thank you again for the time and effort you took with this post. It helped me with a letter to the Seattle Times. Shabbat shalom.

Posted by: Idit | Jun 4, 2010 8:35:27 AM

The were multiple videos taken by cell phone cameras from the people on board of MV Mavi Marmara. The videos as I have heard from the news, were confiscated by the IDF. They could be used to prove that the IDF was not responsible for the death of the 9 on board. On the other hand, I would be shocked, I am telling you, shocked, to find out that IDF did actually something illegal and it is captured.

Posted by: jonny | Jun 5, 2010 11:09:46 PM

Ya, we will never know what actually happened. May be the 9 people that died as reported after autopsy with bullets in the heads were actually killed by falling down after slipping on bananas and hitting their heads against IDF paint guns.
Who knows?
As for my future plans, I will go to Gaza to stock up on all the goodies from the fantasticly supplied Gaya stores. Right, David?
The lives must be just great there. Envy of the whole world.

Posted by: jonny | Jun 5, 2010 11:25:24 PM

David
Thank you for clearing up the "international" waters issue that the local TV harps on., and consequently some of my friends as well, I admire you calm and balanced point of view of yours.
I was traveling in UK when it happened, and as I had no Internet access relied on the BBC!! Sky and CNN ,which btw was worse than BBC
I was traumatized by the UK/ US media who condemned us even before the facts got clearer.
I fully support our boys they had no other alternative except of course make the international community ever hostile to Israel ,happy and let themselves to beaten to death.!!!
The only fault I find is the absence of the intelligence , the Mossad should have known who were on that boat, thugs and extremist.ready for violence and as we know now ready to became Shaids.but than those thugs were planted on purpuse with no indentification on them but with plenty of cash
I love all the armchair critics who have never even been in a rowing boat say 'they should have done this or done that'

Posted by: iva | Jun 6, 2010 11:55:46 AM

the problem is-it does not matter if actions of israel are ligal or not- while obama administration and ahmadinejad (who probably provides black oil to usa) work on new provocations, the whole world will accept israel as agressor...

Posted by: avi@israel | Jun 6, 2010 1:51:29 PM

Many have posted that no one knows what happened on that ship. Maybe, but why not listen to
video by Arab and Farsi speaking people being interviewed for Arab and Farsi press and TV?

In multiple interviews of passengers on that very ship after they were released by Israel, they are (feeling very safe on "their" TV) laughing at the cowardly Israelis who not only would not shoot, but were" trembling in fear", holding up their hands in front of them. The passenger says they were "Cowards! Cowards! Cowards!" and later it is disclosed that rubber bullets were used before real ones. These statements carried by Al Jazeera, etc. are made by many of the passengers themselves aboard the ship whereas many writers naively and reflexively and unthinkingly claim otherwise:
http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/0/0/0/0/0/0/2496.htm

Posted by: Oh, yeah? | Jun 14, 2010 5:03:24 AM

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