Missing the Boat

Skewed Responses to Israel’s Attack on Gaza Flotilla

Much has been said, but too much is missing from the reactions to Israels attack on the Gaza flotilla. Start with terrorism.


Omitted from discussions of the ‘pirate type’ action is that Israel has once again swelled the terrorist ranks. The world’s principal manufacturer of terrorists has assured itself relatively immunity from terrorist actions by walls, fences, blockades, assassinations and ‘shoot to kill’ approaches. This is not true for the rest of the world. The western world acts as a safety valve for Israel, absorbing the terrorist shocks derived from the nefarious actions of the small Mediterranean nation.

President Obama, aren’t you pledged to defend the American people? Then, why permit the roots of terrorism to be planted by Israel? Why not defend the American people by stopping terrorism at its feeding source?


Critics of Israel’s actions have permitted themselves to be led into spurious debates that misplace the rhetoric and give a sense of legitimacy to invalid arguments.

There is no meaningful debate to whether the Israeli commandos or the Mavi Marmara ship’s passengers attacked first?  Israel does not define legality. A ship in international waters has a right to defend itself against attack. That should be taken as a given and there is no debate with a given.

Ship passengers don’t relish being towed to the port of a militarist and antagonist nation who will interrogate them and possibly hold some of them in detention…for, who knows how long. They won’t have any recourse. Only Israel’s government will determine their individual outcomes.

Whether or not the blockade of Gaza is legal and Israel has the right to stop ships entering Gazaare not debatable. Israel’s claim of defense in time of war is only a made-up story. There is no war, only an oppression of Palestinian people who are purposely provoked to revengeful attacks, while Israel wages a ferocious and unilateral war. It’s similar to insinuating that slavery in America and Great Britain’s subjugation of 19th century India were wars. Why legitimatize the oppression by discussing it in invalid terms?

Can Israel force ships, with cleared manifest, to steer to a selected port? This is not debatable. Israel’s actions permit any nation, of which there are many, who want to punish another nation for competitive or other reasons, to seize cargo at sea.  Even the Somali pirates can rationalize their actions by stating, “We feared the ship was bringing material to our antagonists and that could be harmful to us.”

Tying the piracy at sea to resolutions of the peace process (Is there one?), and the illegal Gaza blockade has its merits. Nevertheless, the significance of a criminal piracy at sea should not be diluted by other crises. It should receive a unique spotlight and be approached with complete legal and moral force. Israel’s almost daily criminal actions have always been related to other contexts and then allowed to be defended by these contexts – security, defense, retaliation, righteousness, spurious references, misplaced arguments, victimization, public relations, propaganda and obfuscation. Take your pick.  

International investigation! The investigation proceeds from an indictment. An unarmed Turkish vessel was seized at sea. Turkey has the right to demand the pirates be brought to justice and every nation that believes in international laws must agree to that indictment. A confused investigation by an international group (who are they?) will only end in another Goldstone report – bound paper and unbound criminals. All those involved in this obvious international piracy scheme, similar to the Somali pirates, should be indicted. The prosecutors can investigate and bring the case to court. 

Misdirected Reporting

Dubious reporting skewed the facts. Practically all widely read and conventional media used the term pro-Palestinian activists for the intrepid deliverers of humanitarian aid. Can there be a conspiracy? How about pro-peace or pro-humanity activists? Isn’t either of those more aptly descriptive terms

The first reports of the commando attacks came from the flotilla web broadcasts, pleading to be heard and protected. Conventional media did not respond to these reports. Only after Israeli press published their government’s version of the deadly attack, did the U.S. media recognize the onslaught in the Mediterranean.

Israel claimed its soldiers boarded (boarded or invaded?) the Mavi Marmara and “were attacked with axes, knives, bars and at least two guns,” but didn’t mention pencils with erasers.  Wasn’t it obvious that references to passengers being prepared for a “lynching,” and having batons, clubs, knives, and pistols (later conveniently dropped from the list of weapons) were only creative propaganda? Why repeat the obvious mendacities and not counter them with logic?   

Read and gulp at media reports. Who supports this ‘journalism’?

Israeli Officials Claim Aid Flotilla Had Ties to Al Qaeda, PM Gives Military ‘Full Support’, FOXNews, May 31, 2010:

The Israeli military attacked a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, leaving at least nine dead, after receiving reports that the fleet had links to al Qaeda, the Israeli ambassador to Denmark said Monday.

Gaza Flotilla: Why the Blockade Makes Sense for Israel by David Makovsky, Christian Science Monitor, June 1, 2010:

The activists aboard the Gaza flotilla that was raided by Israeli security forces Monday may have believed that breaking the Gaza blockade was at its core forcing Israel to address an issue the activists see as moral blindness. Yet the situation is far more complex than they would like people to believe.

Once again, blaming the Jews first. Washington Examiner editorial, June 2, 2010:

Violence erupts when a “flotilla of humanitarian aid ships” is stopped by the Israeli military and once again the ‘Blame the Jews First” brigades are in full cry.

Institutional Innocence

Most disturbing were the naïve comments by peace institutions which deflected the unique seriousness of the attack, coupled it with other situations, and only responded with platitudes. These institutions missed the boat.

Noam Shelef, Director of Strategic Communications — American Peace Now

Both supporters and detractors of Israel are engaged in an ugly contest over who is to blame for the tragic outcome of Israel’s attempt Monday to intercept ships traveling to Gaza as part of an international aid flotilla. We’ve got to get past this culture of blame.

J Street

We mourn the latest loss of life in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as we mourn the countless deaths and lives destroyed by this tragic conflict over these past decades on both sides of the conflict.

Our deeply-held values demand that we speak out against the death and destruction that accompany this conflict, and the suffering inflicted on both the Palestinian and Israeli people over the decades.

We support an immediate end to the blockade of civilian and humanitarian items from entering Gaza subject to inspection and screening to prevent the import of arms and weapons. We also call for the immediate release of Corporal Gilad Shalit.


The tragic events on board the Mavi Marmara Monday must shine a spotlight on the reason the flotilla was heading towards the shores of Gaza in the first place: the three-year old Israeli siege of the Strip.

Israel, as usual, ‘fought in self-defense’ against a vast and well-armed enemy who its soldiers provoked and gravely offended. Israel. as usual, suffered no deaths and few wounded. The others suffered many deaths and many wounded. Israel crossed the Rubicon many decades ago. Few took notice.  Now it’s sinking in the swamp besides the slogan made famous by the exploits of Julius Caesar. If world’s leaders refuse to give attention to this unjustified killing of dedicated humanitarians the world’s peoples will learn an irreconcilable lesson: We are led by psychopaths. Pity us!

Dan Lieberman publishes commentaries on foreign policy, economics, and politics at substack.com.  He is author of the non-fiction books A Third Party Can Succeed in America, Not until They Were Gone, Think Tanks of DC, The Artistry of a Dog, and a novel: The Victory (under a pen name, David L. McWellan). Read other articles by Dan.