When Islamic extremists perpetrate their violent terrorists acts against unarmed civilians, one of the first things I hear is “Why don’t Muslims stand up and condemn this action.” Many, many do, but that doesn’t make for good TV, so the general public rarely hears about it (more on this in a future post).
I condemn violent acts against unarmed civilians, regardless of who is perpetrating them. That is why I stand up and wholeheartedly condemn last night’s attack by Israeli forces on humanitarian aid ships bound to Gaza. Reports are just starting to roll in, but current reports put the death toll at 16 with over 30 more injured.
For those who are unaware of the situation. A few days ago 6 ships carrying 800 people, from 50 countries, including humanitarians, European legislators, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, and an elderly Holocaust survivor, left port in Cyprus on the way to Gaza. The ships are reportedly carrying 10 tons of aid supplies including medical supplies, electric wheelchairs, prefabricated homes and water purifiers. 20 Charities and NGO’s united under the Free Gaza movement organized the flotilla, the 10th of its kind. Of the previous attempts about half were allowed to pass through. But this trip would be different.
With the other ships falling back to enter later, the lead ship, the Freedom Flotilla, was stormed by Israeli commandos about 65km off the Gaza shore, reportedly while still in international waters. Current reports indicate 16 activists killed and around 30 injured. Israeli Defense officials report once the commandos boarded the ship they were attacked with rocks and knives and some protesters attempted to take weapons from the commandos, giving them no choice but to fire on the activists. People attempting to use rocks and knives in self defense against commandos with automatic weapons, regardless of the reason for boarding, such a disparity should not result in the death of 16 activists.
These are the initial reports, from Israeli, Middle Eastern, and International sources, as well as some of those on board. I’m sure in the chaos of an attack initial reports are fuzzy and will be clearer in the coming hours and days, so give me a little sack if new conflicting information comes in. But as it stands, this is an act that is worthy of condemnation. The unnecessary loss of life is tragic.
I have revised the title, removing the words unarmed, given the fact that the activists did use rocks, sticks, knives and a pistol taken from a soldier. Although technically armed, I see these actions as self defense and not justification for the use of force by Israeli soldiers. The pistol being the most dangerous weapon appears to not have been on the ship before the raid, therefor before guns were introduced to the situation, the boat was only “armed” with rocks, sticks, and knives.
This article was written within about 2 hours of the initial event and was consistent with the known facts at the time, but since then new information has come to light. A good summary of what is now known can be found on Shane’s entry. It appears that the world was duped to some extent. At least one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara, did contain people who acted aggressively, and that is the ship that contained the casualties. The soldiers were attacked and acted in self defense. Although it could also be said that those individuals on the ship were acting in self defense as well, considering they were traveling in international waters, at night, when suddenly a helicopter shows up and what appear to be armed men repelling down.
I’m still not convinced that Israel has the right to board ships in international waters. This “law” has been cited often from people on both sides of the issue. I would say that although Israel is in an armed conflict with those within their border, they are not in a declared war with Turkey, whose flag the boats were sailed under. But considering they would have the right to board once the ships were within Israeli water, where the ships were heading, it is really a technicality.
As I said in the original article, “I’m sure in the chaos of an attack initial reports are fuzzy and will be clearer in the coming hours and days, so give me a little sack if new conflicting information comes in. But as it stands, this is an act that is worthy of condemnation.” Given the new information, it is not a clear case of one side or the other being completely wrong and worthy of condemnation. It appears each share some blame in the situation, it is an unfortunate situation and even more unfortunate that live were lost.
Editor’s Note: Some article links for background.