I spent my entire day huddled over my computer, constantly refreshing Ha’aretz and JPost, periodically checking the Gaza flotilla trending topic on Twitter, and generally just trying to make sense of last night’s flotilla fiasco. Â And twelve hours into it, I’m still at a loss.
Thus far, here’s what we know: early Monday morning, 130 kilometers off the coast of Gaza in international waters, elite Israeli naval troops boarded the Mavi Marmara, a ship filled with humanitarian aid – and 600 some passengers – that was headed for the Gaza Strip. Â During the ensuing melee, a number of activists were killed (I’ve seen figures ranging from 9 to 20) after commandos opened fire on them. Â Two soldiers were also seriously hurt in the clash.
Israel has predictably blamed the activists themselves, as well as the Turkish organizers of the relief mission/provocation, for the unfortunate casualties. Â Their claims, spelled out in stunning detail by Ron Ben Yishai, are that IDF soldiers raided the ship peaceably and only used live rounds after fearing for their own lives; they even have the video to “prove” it. Â The only problem is that neither that article nor that video clip actually proves anything.
First, we have no evidence to the validity of Ron Ben Yishai’s recap. Â Was he actually there, alongside the IDF forces as his writing seems to indicate? Â It seems unlikely, and given that he never actually says so, it appears he’s just regurgitating the Israeli position. Â If indeed he was there, his testimony is extremely valuable and would do much to quell the rising tide of blame engulfing the Israeli forces, as well as my own skepticism herein detailed. Â Second, that oh-so-trustworthy aerial footage is fraught with question marks. Â Most glaringly, none of the sequences shown are given context. Â Yes, we know activists threw a soldier onto a lower deck. Â No, we do not know, for instance, if said activists had just watched commandos shoot and kill their best friend from a neighboring navy vessel. Â Without context, it’s impossible to know who really threw the first punch (or fired the first shot, or wielded the first “large metal object”). Â The written play-by-play is also misleading; as grainy as the footage is, there’s really no way to determine the accuracy of a number of those descriptions, particularly the stun grenade and firebomb accusations.
Given all that, I place the blame dozens of miles away from that Mediterranean nightmare, and squarely on the shoulders of Defense Minister Ehud Barak and the senior naval leadership. Â Ignoring the idiotic and counterproductive blockade on Gaza that led to the Turkish aid flotilla, the underlying cause of this catastrophe was poor strategy, plain and simple. Â If decision-makers truly expected a peaceful endeavor, they would’ve quelled the resistance with water cannons (an extremely common tactic in such situations) or tear gas canisters. Â To deploy – in the middle of the night, no less – elite Flotilla 13 commandos, dressed in black with masks and rifles, was at best stupid and at worst homicidal.
So tonight, when Barak and his lackeys fall asleep, I hope they do so with a heavy heart. Â After all, the blood of far too many dead and injured are now on their hands. And judging by the massive protests worldwide, it’s only going to get worse.
Sam Melamed is a Masa participant, participating in Career Israel, one of Masa Israel‘s 160 programs.