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Israel Bites the Bait

Assessing the fallout from yesterday’s raid on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’

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An IDF speedboat escorts a boarded ship to Ashdod, Israel. (Menahem Kahana/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday, Israeli soldiers raided the “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters before it could run the Gaza Strip blockade, leading to nine civilian deaths and more injuries. Several IDF soldiers were injured, too; two of them, according to Ambassador Michael Oren, were seriously wounded.

It seems clear that these were not purely peaceful activists: This video, for example, shows IDF soliders being violently set upon immediately after boarding; and this one shows the on-boat “activists” revving themselves up beforehand with cries of, “The army of Mohammed will return!” (See also these.) The group behind the Flotilla is known for its Islamist leanings.

It also seems clear that, as the poet said, someone had blundered. This was a “provocation trap,” and boy did Israel fall for it. (In fact, Israeli defense officials are basically saying as much.)

For even if you are one who believes enforcing the blockade is moral, you can still join (prominent conservative) Max Boot in bemoaning this specific incident: “Israel’s actions in boarding the flotilla of ships bound for the Gaza Strip were entirely justified and perhaps even unavoidable,” he argues today. “Unfortunately they turned into a tactical and strategic fiasco that does further damage to the Jewish State’s tattered international reputation.”

The Flotilla Fiasco? It could end up something like the trumped-up “massacre” in Jenin, a non-event that Israel effectively rebutted and that has been all-but-forgotten by all except Israel’s most strident critics. It could be the thing remembered as having kicked off the Third Intifada and irrevocably changed the Mideast’s political landscape, and maybe its literal one, too. It could end up as pretty much anything in between.

What are the immediate consequences?

Prime Minister Netanyahu, who was in Canada, canceled what was to have been today’s White House visit (it will apparently be rescheduled). The prime minister and President Obama have spoken, with the Americans generally saying that they need to learn more facts before passing judgment; most other countries have not been so reticent and have condemned the raid. So far, the United States was able to water down what would have been a harsh U.N. Security Council condemnation into a statement that regrets “acts” and calls for an immediate and full investigation. Turkey had wanted the council to go much further.

Speaking of which: Say goodbye to any hopes for Israeli-Turkish amity in the near future. (Headline of the Day: “Israel-Turkey Friendship Society Suspends Activity.”) Prime Minister Erdogan called the raid “inhumane state terorrism”—well, if you say so, but then maybe it’s time for everyone to recognize the Armenian genocide, hmm?—and apparently the severing of diplomatic ties, with a NATO member that is traditionally Israel’s strongest Muslim ally, is not off the table. It’s worth noting that, in allowing the vessels to gather in waters near Cyprus, Turkey has long been a tacit ally of the flotilla.

As for the effect on Gaza, and the blockade? All I’ll note is that the peace process has seemed exclusively, almost to the point of myopia, concerned with resolving the West Bank and Jerusalem. This makes sense, to some extent: The Palestinian Authority is an almost infinitely more credible partner than Hamas is. At the same time, there was always that asterisk at the end of peace process hopes, and that asterisk, in the midst of these days of proximity talks, is going to take center stage.

Many (including myself—second bulletpoint) saw the tone-deafness of the Israeli response coming last week. From the beginning, the Israeli military decided to ratchet up the rhetoric against the Flotilla rather than simply say nothing and quietly let it through, or perhaps less quietly divert it to Ashdod, as had apparently been the plan.

Ah, but that is easy to write. What should Israel have done instead? I am no expert at maritime warfare, and nor is Tablet Magazine contributing editor Jeffrey Goldberg, but I still feel comfortable endorsing what he wrote yesterday:

There is a word in Yiddish, seichel, which means wisdom, but it also means more than that: It connotes ingenuity, creativity, subtlety, nuance. Jews have always needed seichel to survive in this world; a person in possession of a Yiddishe kop, a “Jewish head,” is someone who has seichel, someone who looks for a clever way out of problems, someone who understands that the most direct way—blunt force, for instance—often represents the least elegant solution, a person who can foresee consequences of his actions. …

The Jewish people have survived this long in part because of the vision of their leaders, men and women who were able to intuit what was possible and what was impossible. Where is this vision today?

It is out to sea.

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hedvah says:

This was stupid and Netanyahu should fire the senior people responsible and replace them with better people. It is difficult and embarrassing to be defending Israeli stupidity, particularly with 9 people dead.

Stefan says:

Strewth, all this inwardly directed anger really is unhealthy. Israeli stupidity? You should be faulting the Israeli soldiers for being the only real humanitarians on board the boat! All the other boats in the flotilla were boarded without incident. Why the difference on the largest one? The behaviour of the blockade runners. These thugs pretending to be on a humanitarian mission tried to lynch young Israeli soldiers. The Israelis’ action in boarding was lawful and reasonable; the unbridled aggression shown them was unwarranted and criminal. Where is the criticism of these thugs? Where is the criticism of a country which seeks EU membership one moment and then supports a risky, terrorist-linked venture aimed at undermining a one-time ally? Try getting over your embarrassment and thank heavens that the Israeli boys were able to defend themselves against these murderous fanatics.

A.L. Bell says:

Stefan, I’m sorry, but trying to shift blame here looks terrible. I’m sure that the protesters who triggered the shooting (not necessarily the ones who died, but the ones wielding the batons) were arrogant jerks, and that the blockade runners were taking an irritating, one-sided approach to the conflict and may well have been used and misused by Hamas or someone like that.

Now we (I’m not legally Israeli, but I’m Jewish and love Israel, so, in Yom Kippur responsibility terms, we) have shot some protesters on a cruise ship dead. The protesters came from all sorts of countries that normally support or at least try to be somewhat even-handed toward Israel. Turkey, for example, has had an ambassador in Israel for years. What matters now is that we shot people dead. We killed people. And, yes, they might have killed some of us, but none of us is dead. They’re dead.

When The Israel Project and Women in Green send me propaganda e-mails about how the people who got shot were the bad guys, it’s just nauseating. It’s hard to imagine how deluded the people writing the e-mails are, how utterly incapable they are of seeing how they look to anyone with even a slightly different perspective on all of this.

The fact that Israel has a Kent State situation on its hands does not mean that it has to give Hamas every item on the Belt Bomber Wish List. It does mean that we as a people have to show some sincere repentance over, if nothing else, our collective failure in protest management strategy. It’s a time to fast, bang on our chests and pray, not a time to trash the people we shot.

Esther Nebenzahl says:

As an outsider, sitting comfortably at home (not in Israel), it is easy to draw conclusions… but for a nation in constant stress, being continuously judged by the rest of the world, it might be too much to expect “seichel” or “yiddishe kop” to be at its best! With John Lennon’s permission “Give Israel a chance!”

allenby says:

humanitarian” “aid” to gaza….
99.99% of all people, incl. reporters and media, have no idea what is gaza.
gaza was a stinky garbage camp with sewage running across the streets. Before Israel took over the control, Egyptians did absolutely NOTHING to improve lives there.Since June 1967 until Israel’s withdrawal from gaza 10 years ago, arabs living there improved their lives not by 100%, not even by 500%, but by at least 2000%. They didn’t need “humanitarian aid”. Israel did everything for them.

Another point I want to repeat again and again… There are no such people called “palestinians”. There were never a nation called “palestinians”. Period. Palestine was called what is Israel today, for 2000 years, the name was given by romans. The only true Palestinians were those 10,000 Jews who lived in Palestine all 2000 years and few thousand arabs. Palestine was almost an empty land except of major town like Jerusalem, Hebron…where majority of population was Jewish all 2000 years, and before of course. Arabs started to arrive with a first wave of Jewish immigration from east europe in the end of 19th c. These arabs came for jobs settled in Judea and Samaria. In 1964 they started calling themselves “palestinians”, as Yasser Arafat named his terrorist organization PLO.

MOST of “humanitarian” aid without exception goes into the pockets of Abass and his gangs members. Maybe 10% is used for humanitarian help. Arafat became a multi-millionaire by milking UN and other “humanitarian” organizations, lying, cheating, stealing.
The true goal of this flotilla is to intimidate Israel, to provoke Israel.

Too bad Israeli government is indeed so foolish today. It’s basically IMPOTENT in every single thing this government does.

If it was Menachem Begin, or Levi Eshkol, or Golda Meir, or a legendary Israeli diplomat Aba Eban…this would not only have never happened, these people would have been able to use this situation to Israel’s advantage.

Israeli politics today is not “politics” at all. The sociopathic Left controls the media, controls the army, brainwashes Israelis with lies. And the most interesting lie is support of the biggest arab lies of all, the existence of “palestinian” people.
How is that possible to betray our own Jewish Zionist Principles???
Zionism ideas are being betrayed every single day. All this reflects in Israel failures in politics and military operations.

Israel is being ruled not by Zionist leaders, but by dirty political Dealers.

Tablet coverage of the “Freedom Flotilla” incident is the best I have seen in the media. It was a provocation, it was a tragedy, it was unexpected, the Yiddishe’s “seichel” is after all human and we are vulnerable, as a reminder that we have a Gd to acknowledge over and over again to give us the right inspiration (binah)

Ken Besig Israel says:

For the first time in what seems ages, Jewish blood is no longer הפקר
another Jewish word the writer of this ridiculous and self hating article should know. It means that Israel will no longer sit idly by when some one tries to kill a Jew, it means that ,סכל real Jewish consideration, is active self defence, not crying about our plight to a world which would just as soon see all of us dead. For the first time in ages, Israel forcefully defended herself and showed the world that the safety of Israeli citizens comes first, and if that means a few terrorist supporters on a Turkish cruise ship will die or be wounded, then so be it. I wonder why no one asked how it could be that Turkey could be allowed to sponsor this flotilla, allow it to sail from Anatolia, and not even search the vessel for weapons and prevent violent individuals from taking part. I wonder why the flotilla organisers refused to off load the humanitarian goods at an Israeli or an Egyptian port for transfer into Gaza after being checked for contraband, Israel and Egypt both offered to take the goods into Gaza. How is it that Egypt, which shares a common border in the Sinai Peninsula with the Gaza Strip also has a blockade on the Strip, but is never called to account for that embargo?
It is because the writer of this sick drivel, Marc Tracy, like most journalists don’t know or even want to know anything serious about Israel, the Hamas, the Palestinians, or even the Middle East. Marc you are truly despicable though, as a Jew I would expect at least a little understanding from you that since Israel is constantly under terrorist attack from the Hamas in the Gaza Strip that you would and t should be given Israel some leeway or at least the benefit of the doubt in protecting her citizens, instead you side with and give aid and comfort to Israel’s worst enemies with your silly, simplistic, and uninformed criticism. To you, like far too many know nothing Jewish American Leftists, Israel is just another country on the international stage, and a rather annoying one at that. The next time you choose to write something about Israel, a little humility might be in order but at least get your facts straight and your morality cleaned up, this article makes you sound like a dangerous simpleton!

Thanks you providing the first “fair and balanced” report of the situation that I’ve read. It’s very, very much appreciated.

That’s “thanks to you for providing…,” rather! 😉

rivka says:

I’m glad that Tablet’s coverage brought to the forefront the provocative/theatrical aspect of the incident.

As a side note, it would be nice if the article’s hyperlinks opened in a new window so one’s reading can flow more seamlessly (as clicking on a link can cascade into a complete digression). Just a thought. Shavua tov.

sharon says:

Turkey is no longer the “friend” it once was and with the election of the islamist prime minister has been pulling away from Israel for a number of years. This gave them an excuse to further cut ties, and maybe to rewrite their secular constitution which is an impediment to showing their true colors. And all of the Israel hating Europeans have still not let Turkey into the European Union. Hmmm. Maybe they are afraid of Islamists getting more influence on their lives. This was a set up – pure and simple – and Israel bought it. Lets see if President Obama waits for the facts to come out.

Yale Gancherov says:

It is unfortunate that Hamas holds Gazan civilians hostage to their desire to kill Jews. So long as that is the case, imports unscreened by Israel will assist in the killing of Jews. International law was followed,in every detail. Regarding the opinions of others, they are unfortunate, but also contribute to the killing of Jews, and therefore need to be regarded as the enemy weapons they are. As damaging as those words may be, protecting against actual “sticks and stones” takes priority.

The mistake was giving up Gaza in the first place. All the Islamist scum there did was destroy everything the settlers had built. This was a tragic error. The leveling of Gaza could also have been avoided.

Marty Janner says:

Another controversial issue arrives relative to the ongoing saga of Israel versus the Muslim States. unfortunately the PR apparatus is much more productive for the bad guys!

This observation comes from someone who has been a life long supporter of this small country who has become the most productive entity in the Middle East, however this action taken is without merit! For one, it subverts the few supporters it enjoys. Turkey, the one Muslim country that has been the in a legitimate relationship is now forced to dissolve what once was. The next friend the U.S. has been put into the position that is most unentenable.

Forget “seichel and a Yiddish Kup”, this was pure stupidity!

i hope this terrible tragedy wasn’t some sort of stupid gamesmanship provoked by the behavior toward the turkish ambassador, or whoever it was, in israel a few months ago. but i wouldn’t be surprised if it was that personal.

Mackie says:



On the surface, it is being portrayed as yet another example of how the big bad Israelis are subjugating “POOR” Palestinians and the “KIND” humanitarian folk who only want to help out of compassion.

What is NOT being discussed at all, is Israel’s LEGITIMATE RIGHT as is recognized by the World Community to operate a Naval Blockade against a declared enemy, which in essence means using all measured force necessary to keep out unwarranted shipping.

But, the facts which most of the media are wrestling with, go far beyond the reason and cause for this incident, since they focus just about ONLY on ISRAELI VIOLENCE.

One of the tragedies is that Israel was FORCED to react at all. That Israelis were beaten, stabbed, clubbed and shot at while trying to peacefully board the ships for the express purpose of turning the flotilla to an Israeli port, where the ships would be unloaded, allowing non military cargo to be transported to Gaza.

The other TRAGEDY is that the world has another EXCUSE to demonetize and punish Israel.

But WHY it happened and WHO is responsible? It happened specifically because of BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA who is singularly and totally responsible. If Obama wasn’t so busy EMPOWERING the Muslem World with his lies and deceit, while insulting Israel, and diminishing his own country, the SO-CALLED Peace Activists aboard those cursed ships would have NEVER felt empowered in what they did. Obama has drawn an entirely new ROAD MAP for the Middle East by giving victim status and unwarranted legitimacy to the Palestinians, while playing Joseph Goebbels AGAINST the Jews of Israel.

1 – The people onboard these ships, especially the ship that led the attack against the Israelis were NOT Peace Activists. Peace Activists don’t smash the heads of other people with steel bars, stab other people, and shoot other people.

2 – That the Israelis killed ONLY 9 of these Peace Activists is in my opinion a tremendous display of restraint.

These were NOT mercy ships bringing humanitarian aid to starving impoverished people. These ships were nothing more and nothing LESS than an open PROVOCATION and challenge to Israel’s security and sovereignty.

It’s fascinating how the WHOLE WORLD rushes to the support of Palestine, this FICTIONAL political creature, and PRETEND people that NEVER existed before the UN LEFTISTS created it, while creating for themselves a never-ending INDUSTRY, at the same time ignoring the REAL suffering of people living under the thumb of totalitarianism in the name of Islam and others.

No region and people on the planet command as much attention, resources, and global wealth than do the Palestinians. It is a TRILLION dollar perpetual industry that keeps UN LEFTISTS, mostly Euro-Trash in Fat City, just about all of which is financed at the expense of the Western Democracies they actually disdain.

There are no starving Palestinians. There is no health crisis in Gaza. There is nothing these ships could have been bringing to Gaza that isn’t already available through the Gaza/Egypt/Israel Border Crossings courtesy of the UN.

Nothing that is; that aren’t rockets, explosives, guns, bullets and who knows what else the Palestinians could and would use to kill Jews in Israel.

Leah says:

“The Jewish people have survived this long in part because of the vision of their leaders, men and women who were able to intuit what was possible and what was impossible. Where is this vision today?”
You mean like the negotiations we had with the Nazis?
Israel has the moral high ground here. Case ended.

David44 says:

Ken Besig:
“I wonder why the flotilla organisers refused to off load the humanitarian goods at an Israeli or an Egyptian port for transfer into Gaza after being checked for contraband, Israel and Egypt both offered to take the goods into Gaza.”
Doubtless because Israel doesn’t only interdict weapons going into Gaza, but also bans products such as chocolate, newspapers, coriander, potato chips, musical instruments, children’s toys, and many other things (See for a full list). Some of these were certainly being carried on the flotilla, and one can easily see why the activists would not trust Israel’s goodwill to allow them in, when they have been banned in the past.
Perhaps some of the people here who support the blockade could explain why chocolate, coriander, and children’s toys are banned. Certainly it would be a lot easier to justify Israel’s actions here if the blockade were only aimed at preventing weapons from reaching Hamas, and was not, as it appears to be, trying to punish the entire population of Gaza.

tillkan says:

Your reference to Jenin is disgusting. Just because it was only 50 or 100 instead of thousands does not mean it was not a brutal assault. But you all here seem happy to cheer on brutal assaults. By you Israel can do anything and always be right no matter what it does.

The “human rights” activists armed with clubs and knives sailed in support of “peace-loving Gazans” who elected Hamas with a charter that reads:
“Israel, by virtue of its being Jewish and of having a Jewish population, defies Islam and the Muslims…. Muslims will fight the Jews and kill them; I indeed wish to go to war for the sake of Allah! I will assault and kill, assault and kill, assault and kill.”

The last ships that Israel Defense Forces stopped at sea were the Karine-A and the Francop carrying hundreds of tons of weapons smuggled from Iran aimed at murdering Israelis. IDF has the right to inspect the cargo of every ship attempting to reach those who seek to destroy Israel.

Happy and Proud says:

The only reason you call the raid a “fiasco” is the hypocritical rantings of Jew-haters. Let’s see – Iran, which has vowed to destroy Israel first and the U.S. next, is making nuclear weapons; North Korean attacked a South Korean vessel killing dozens; 5,000 people a day are dying of AIDS in Africa; Saudi Arabia and the Taliban are jailing and killing women who drive or go to school – and the world is in an uproar about nine terrorists killed trying to lynch Israeli soldiers. Where’s the outrage over Iran, North Korea, and Saudi Arabia?

Israel would be condemned no matter what she did. There was no ‘good’ way to stop the ship – disabling the engine would require towing, which would result in confrontation and/or seamen being fired on when attaching cables, diverting the ship would end up with it being rammed and possibly sinking as happened before, etc.

The only thing I feel bad about is that Israeli soldiers were injured. The terrorists who tried to lynch the soldiers got what they deserved.

Norwegian says:

So sad to see those of us who disagree with Israels policies of militancy and violence described as either anti-semites or selfhating jews. From the reactions in the US military blogging community, the general agreement is that this was a total screw-up and that several other options were available to the Israelis. Yet still they chose a maximalist confrontation, as they have been doing ever since Nethanyahu and Lieberman recieved the power.

But I guess Im just another anti-semite for not applauding the killing of 9 civilians by Israeli top trained commandos in international waters.

Sam Stein says:

Israel can do no wrong. Never, under any circumstances. The IDF and Israeli policies can kill hundreds, starve thousands, humiliate millions, act like a bandit on the high seas, but Tablet’s correspondents will defend its policies no matter what. I thought this magazine was going to be a breath of fresh air and provide a new and critical read on Jewish life. Sad to see that it has fallen into the old tropes of expansionist and militarist Zionism and knee-jerk pro-Israeli propaganda.

Sam Stein says:

Starting the article with a quote by Michael Oren — uber Israeli apologist. That didn’t make me want to read any more.

Don Robison(racist) says:

Wow! a jew publication defending the raid and murder of turks in international water. How convienient!

robyn says:

Israel has a right to defend itself – these were not innocent victims. It is a tragedy when people die – but their deaths were their own fault – not the fault of the soldiers defending themselves from gangs with knives and iron clubs.

el lonsico says:

“It seems clear that these were not purely peaceful activists: This video, for example, shows IDF soliders being violently set upon immediately after boarding”

No shit… Heavily armed pirates assaulting ship in the wee hours in international waters –and you say one doesn’t have the right to resist them? Killing each one of the pirating bastards would have been a right in international law.

Or do you mean that by being assaulted on the high seas by bandits is a crime? In fact, you don’t seem to know clearly what you mean or you have no idea of the legal situation, or then you are pretending to be a bit slow.

“The group behind the Flotilla is known for its Islamist leanings.”
1. So fucking what? The group behind “Israel” is known for its theocratic Jewish leanings and extreme nationalism.
2. Just forgot to mention that the flotilla was composed of Greeks (2 ships), Swedes, Irish, etc. People of 32 different nationalities and very un-Moslem ones, too. Provide to female escorts services. We have a full portfolio of the most elegant and stunning girls that you ever likely to meet in Israel. Our ladies can visit your hotel or join you for an unforgettable evening at your home. At all times, discretion is assured.

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