Following Israel's May 31 raid on the so-called "freedom flotilla" that attempted to run the Israeli blockade of the Hamas-run Gaza Strip, world opinion has jumped on the bandwagon to condemn the Jewish state. Little attention is paid to the fact that the "humanitarian supplies" included bullet-proof vests, night-vision goggles and gas masks.
That said, Israel botched this operation. There are reasons for Israel to enforce an embargo on Gaza, or more specifically, on Gaza while under Hamas control. However, fast-roping a small team of naval commandos armed primarily with paintball guns onto a large vessel loaded with anti-Israeli activists is asking for a confrontation. Presenting the unarmed - well, no firearms, anyway - activists with overwhelming military force actually prevents loss of life.
The other vessels in the convoy were stopped by Israeli sailors fouling the propulsion and steering mechanisms - the Mavi Marmara was too large for such tactics. Certainly the Israeli navy is capable of stopping a vessel without killing nine people. By trying to use crowd control devices rather than the threat of military force, the Israelis caused more violence to occur. In defense of the Israeli troops, however, once the crowd began using steel bars, clubs, knives and sidearms taken from the commandos, all bets were off - troops do what they have to do.
Unfortunately, nine people died. The loss of life is, of course, tragic, and only plays into the hands of Israel's critics. The television coverage of funerals in Turkey inflames public opinion in what was Israel's only ally in the region causes European countries to denounce the blockade of Gaza as inhumane, and has the United Nations Secretary General demanding that Israel lift its blockade, calling it "counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong."
Perhaps Ban Ki-moon might read some recent history to put this in perspective.
Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip in 2005, after removing hundreds of Israeli settlers by force. On the afternoon of the final day of the withdrawal, Hamas militants fired homemade rockets from one of the abandoned settlements into Israel. Since that day, over 8,000 rockets have been fired into Israeli towns on the border with the Gaza Strip - most landing in the town of Sderot.
I visited Sderot last year. When I returned, I wrote this piece: Sderot - Israel's "Rocket City". Perhaps someone on the Secretary General's staff could get a copy to him. Maybe he could also demand Hamas stop bombarding Israel, calling it "counter-productive, unsustainable and wrong."
One would have to assume that the Secretary General is too busy imposing "crippling" sanctions on Iran. Well, one could hope....