The last time I sailed the Mediterranean I didn’t say to my wife at 4 a.m., “Let’s go up on deck to look at the moon, or wait for sunrise… and bring a club and a knife with you—and a metal bar, if you have one handy."
The last time I joined a protest, I was armed with a candle. That, and what feels like a millennium of separating the wheat from the chaff since then, brings me to grapple with the grand flotilla “peace” movement.
The Israelis were mugged. Their commandos may well have turned the wrong cloud at the wrong time, but as misguided, unwarranted, over-the-top or downright foolish as their method may have been, they dropped into a trap. The do-gooders were lying-in-wait for them with open armament. As a shipboard bard might have versified wistfully after the drubbing and retaliatory fire, “A club, a knife, a metal bar, and thou beside me swinging in the wilderness.”
Let’s deal with this summarily. The Israelis blundered, hugely. But the flotilla of 546 “peaceful” activists knew what they were sailing into and what they were inviting by doing so. There’s history!—a three-year blockade; accordance with maritime law; previous flotillas intercepted; and Egypt’s co-existing blockade and independent use of force, lethal and conveniently overlooked.
Anyone desiring to stage a world-wide attention-getting event couldn’t do better. And that’s what the “humanitarians” of the six-ship flotilla wanted. According to a prior statement from their Gaza Freedom March, “A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement….”
So, let’s think about this. Why does Israel have to justify inspecting the goods of six ships, or even one, from a foreign country entering its waters and bound for its shores? What country does less? What country today doesn’t have customs officers or the equivalent? What country allows anyone entry without a valid passport? What country in this day and age doesn’t have a responsibility to its citizens to protect them from harm, external or internal? The United States has a Coast Guard. And a Border Patrol. China built a Great Wall to thwart intruders from the north. Imperial Russia chose a wider gauge for its railroad tracks to prevent invasion via rail from Europe.
In 2008, a United Nations provision called for ships belonging to Iran’s state–owned Islamic Republic of Iran Shipping Lines, known as Irisl, "to be boarded and inspected at sea or in port if," according to this morning’s New York Times, “there are ‘reasonable grounds to believe’ they are carrying contraband forbidden by Security Council resolutions on Iran.” The Times’ report continues, “In three boardings, two by the United States Navy and one by Israeli commandos, authorities said they had discovered a virtual arms bazaar, including thousands of Katyusha rockets, grenades and mortar shells, believed to be intended for Hezbollah.” A virtual arms bazaar! How much evidence do Israelis, or their even-handed critics, need?
In New York City, a new Jewish Community Center deems it necessary to block its entrance with concrete posts to protect the lives and limbs of all those on its premises. I’ve yet to see a Manhattan church or mosque that has had to resort to such measures—upright reminders, sadly in particular to children attending to learn “Thou shalt love…” by Commandment and social ethics, that they are hated and randomly in danger for being what they are. Try to tell me Jews have no right to protect themselves and their children—and then, that the Israelis have no right to intercept a flotilla that may carry ill to them or to blockade an area that dispatches, by air and land, missiles, mines or suicide bombs of death, disfigurement, dismemberment and destruction.