TEL AVIV—Israeli commandos boarded a flotilla carrying aid and activists to the blockaded Gaza Strip early Monday, with the Israeli military saying that more than 10 activists were killed in a skirmish aboard one vessel during the operation.
The incident triggered strong condemnation from Israel’s friends and foes alike, and plunged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu into his worst diplomatic crisis since taking power early last year.
Mr. Netanyahu, who was in Canada, canceled a visit with U.S. President Barack Obama that was slated for Tuesday in Washington, a meeting that Israeli and U.S. officials had hoped would mend a recent rift between the two allies. An Israeli official said the prime minister “feels he has to be home to deal with this.”
Israeli officials scrambled Monday to fend off a diplomatic barrage over the sea battle from Middle Eastern and European capitals. Israel heightened security across the country on Monday in anticipation of Palestinian demonstrations or other unrest, as thousands protested against Israel in Istanbul.
In a statement, White House spokesman Bill Burton said the U.S. “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained” in the incident. The statement said that administration officials are “currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”
European capitals reacted more angrily. French President Nicolas Sarkozy expressed his “deep emotion in the face of the tragic consequences of Israel’s military operation.” In a statement, Mr. Sarkozy said he “condemns a disproportionate use of force.”
Britain’s Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said in a statement that the U.K. has asked for information about British citizens believed to be aboard the flotilla and called on Israel to lift its blockade of Gaza. “I deplore the loss of life,” he said, adding that “there is a clear need for Israel to act with restraint and in line with international obligations.”
Israel defended its actions, saying armed activists attacked Israeli soldiers as they were being lowered onto the deck by helicopter. The Israeli army said early Monday that one soldier’s weapon was taken and turned against Israeli forces. It said that in addition to the fatalities, at least a dozen activists had been injured, as well as 10 Israeli military personnel.
An Israeli military spokesman said later in the day that some activists appeared to be armed with guns, and fired at the Israeli soldiers, though it wasn’t clear who fired first.
IsraellyCool has been following the latest developments and notes that the pro-Palestinian, pro-radical Islam “peace activists” were anything but “peaceful” in response to the soldiers’ boarding of the flotilla, where it looks like (via photos and video) the “peace activists” struck first. It should be noted that the military’s plan of action was to stop the flotilla via non-violent means. Obviously the “peace activists” had other plans:
Our Navy commandoes fell right into the hands of the Gaza mission members. A few minutes before the takeover attempt aboard the Marmara got underway, the operation commander was told that 20 people were waiting on the deck where a helicopter was to deploy the first team of the elite Flotilla 13 unit. The original plan was to disembark on the top deck, and from there rush to the vessel’s bridge and order the Marmara’s captain to stop.
Officials estimated that passengers will show slight resistance, and possibly minor violence; for that reason, the operation’s commander decided to bring the helicopter directly above the top deck. The first rope that soldiers used in order to descend down to the ship was wrested away by activists, most of them Turks, and tied to an antenna with the hopes of bringing the chopper down. However, Flotilla 13 fighters decided to carry on.
Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.
However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons.
One soldier who came to the aid of a comrade was captured by the rioters and sustained severe blows. The commandoes were equipped with handguns but were told they should only use them in the face of life-threatening situations. When they came down from the chopper, they kept on shouting to each other “don’t shoot, don’t shoot,” even though they sustained numerous blows.
Of course, this is quickly becoming a PR nightmare for Israel, thanks in no small part to anti-Israel pro-Palestinian “cause” European countries like France and the UK, which – as the WSJ article noted – quickly condemned Israel before taking the time to review the facts on the table. I anticipate the pro-Palestinian gang at the UN will weigh in shortly with their own condemnation of Israel, if they haven’t already. Same sh*t, different day with respect to how the “international community” acts and reacts to the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, regardless of the history of the Palestinians’ manufacturing stories about alleged Israeli “attrocities” in order to sway world “leaders” on an emotional level rather than a factual basis.
Key in all this? How the United States will respond. So far their response has been measured, but once they’ve taken the time to review what happened, how will our President react? Considering our already strained relations with Israel – thanks to our dangerously inept “fearless leader,” who has been busy the last year and half ripping huge holes in our relationships with longstanding allies like the UK, Germany, Poland, and, yes, Israel – I’m not optimistic. This President, a la Jimmy Carter, has demonstrated a disturbing tendency to see and identify with the “arguments” made against the US made by its foes and enemies, precisely because he – like so many other liberals – refuses to believe in American exceptionalism and instead bows to the gods of Moral Relativism. There is no right or wrong – there just “is” … unless you’re the United States and Israel, which in those cases you can’t do anything right as far as the “international community” is concerned.
I know I’m digressing a bit here but I think it’s an important point to make in light of the flotilla incident and the “official” responses that are already coming out as a result of it. As I’ve written previously:
While I don’t think Obama “hates” America, he clearly is ashamed of it – which is why he routinely apologizes for it, just like he did yesterday at the UN. He is going out of his way to forge new “alliances” with countries that have never shown much – if any – sincere interest in working with us on any issues mutually beneficial to both our country and their respective countries. In fact, some of the countries he’s working with have been downright hostile and in some cases threatening to both the US and her interests abroad, while he’s throwing under the bus the ones we’ve been able to count on over the years – in particular, the UK. If our alliance with the UK is damaged, we might as well have no allies because they are the only country that consistently stands with us when push comes to shove on national security-related issues.
I remember the various outcries during the Bush administration when the left believed we were treating our allies wrongly like, for example, when Rumsfeld referred to certain countries in Europe as “old Europe” – the left went nuts, chiding the administration for “bad form,” “poor diplomacy skills,” and for alleged deliberate attempts at “alienating” our allies. Where is there outrage now? Not only has he damaged our close relationship with the UK, but he’s alienated Germany as well, not to mention the Czech Republic and Poland.
I thought Obama was supposed to be some diplomatic dreamboat, “restoring” America’s good reputation throughout the world? Turns out the joke’s on everyone who voted for this diplodunce in disguise, on everyone who thought two lackluster years in the Senate, a few more years in the Ill. State Senate, a history of associating with Chicago leftist radicals like Bill Ayers and Rev. Jeremiah Wright, a brief overseas rock star tour over the summer, and a few years spent on foreign soil as a child prepared candidate Obama for the tough international challenges Presidents routinely face.
On the foreign relations front, the chickens have come home to roost with this President, whose radical associations were clear warning bells to those of us who weren’t blinded by the obsene amount of limelight that surrounded him, thanks in no small part to a willingly fawning mainstream media in harmonious concert with “respected” pundits and prominent public figures both on the left and the (RINO) right who branded any criticism of Obama during the campaign – and now – as “baseless” or “overblown,” steeped in nothing more than raw, naked “racism.”
President Obama’s impending official response to what happened between the “peace activists” and Israeli military will be key in determining whether or not he honestly intends on mending fences with our core ally in the Middle East, or appease Israel-bashers like the United Nations and Rev. Wright, endearing himself to Islamofascists all over the world who are hell bent on the destruction of the western way of life. Stay tuned.