What was supposed to be a routine Israeli maritime boarding and inspection operation is turning into a propaganda victory for the Islamist terror group Hamas. The main lesson learned from the incident on the ship Mavi Marmara is: Don’t bring a paintball gun to a knife fight.
The initial frenzy of denunciations of the operation in which nine people died - using words like piracy, slaughter, genocide and so forth - is fading in the cold light of facts. United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay claimed that the Israeli operation had no legal justification, which only betrays her ignorance of maritime law. Navies routinely stop, board and search suspicious vessels, and Israel has intercepted blockade runners headed to Gaza for years. The difference this time is that the “peace activists” on board were armed and looking for a fight.
The Israelis boarded with paintball guns, tasers, tear gas and other nonlethal weapons. They expected the usual highly choreographed dance in which they board the ship and take control of it while the activists link arms, sing the Palestinian terrorist equivalent of “We Shall Overcome,” take photos and issue press releases about the latest “Zionist atrocity.” That’s the usual Mahatma Gandhi/Martin Luther King Jr. passive-resistance theater.
But extremists have learned a key lesson of our age - violent resistance is better than passive submission when they know they will not be held accountable. In this case, the pro-Hamas activists sought a confrontation. Israeli troops rappelling onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara were immediately set upon with clubs, knives and other weapons. Pundits who reflexively denounced Israel for “disproportionate force” were blaming the wrong side. Had the terrorist sympathizers on the ship not incited the violence, no one would have been killed. There were no casualties on other ships in the flotilla where people did not resist.
Backers of the illegal blockade-running effort portray themselves as humanitarians, but this claim is dubious. They had rejected an Israeli offer to send the supplies they were carrying to Gaza overland, joining the tons of supplies that flow to Gaza daily, but this would not have fulfilled the organizers’ goal of having a splashy, made-for-media event. So they went ahead with their voyage, fomented the incident, and international organizations, governments and the press fell for it, as expected.
This is the beginning of a high-seas intifada aimed at the hearts and minds of the global community, an attempt to isolate Israel and make heroes of Hamas. The campaign continues this week as the blockade runner Rachel Corrie will make an attempt to reach Gaza. The ship is named after an American peace activist who was killed accidentally in 2003 when she attempted to block an Israeli bulldozer, and it is a much more media savvy moniker than Mavi Marmara.
There will be no more routine inspection operations; Monday’s events raised the stakes. It is certain that the Hamas supporters on board will not yield to Israeli requests that the ship halt, and if troops attempt another boarding, it will be met with violence. This poses a quandary for Israel’s navy, but a few well-placed shells fired at the stern of the Rachel Corrie to disable her rudder and propulsion system may offer a satisfactory solution.
Meanwhile, extremists in Gaza continue to attack civilians in Israel with mortars and rockets, and in one recent incident attempted a terror attack with a donkey-pulled cart-bomb. The world awaits the United Nations’ expression of outrage.