And it only took 9-19 (figures are disputed) deaths from an attack on an aid flotilla to do it. Anyone in Israel who thought that stopping this flotilla would starve the gesture of publicity made a woeful miscalculation once they opened fire on the high seas, not even in their own territorial waters, on humanitarian demonstrators. They claim self defence (5 out of 6 boats were seized peacefully, one wasn’t) but as Christine Keeler might say – they would, wouldn’t they?
Greta Berlin, the leader of Free Gaza, which was one of the flotilla’s organizers, said protesters were defending themselves against the Israeli troops. “This was murder,” she said. “People had the right to defend themselves against soldiers armed with machine guns.
Even if they did need to defend themselves, their use of force seems disproportionate, but maybe nobody in the Israeli chain of command cared whether force would be proportionate or not. From the Economist Blogs – The opposite of Entebbe:
First, controlling mass protests is always difficult, even in an open square, and requires a high ratio of police to protestors. Sending several dozen commandos to try to peacefully suppress up to 600 protestors on a large cruise ship, in unfamiliar and tight spaces, seems simply foolhardy. The commandos may indeed have fired in self-defense, but they seem to have been placed in a situation where the likelihood that they might feel obliged to fire in self-defence was high. And placing them in such a situation suggests a low sensitivity on Israeli authorities’ part to whether or not some of the protestors ended up getting killed.
Second, one periodically finds American commentators wondering why the Palestinians don’t just adopt tactics of non-violent protest and resistance, which would surely win them the state they seek through the power of international public opinion. Such commentators seem to be under the impression that Palestinians have never tried non-violent protests. The fate of the Gaza Flotilla is a good example of what happens when they do. Five of the six boat seizures were peaceful, but one wasn’t. […] This is essentially the same dynamic that has obtained since the first intifada. There have always been non-violent Palestinian rallies. They don’t draw the TV cameras. The TV cameras are drawn to the kids throwing rocks, being shot at by Israeli troops.
The Financial Times notes that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu has cancelled his planned visit to Canada and the US where he was to meet with President Obama in a bid to settle tensions between the two countries, and that relations with Turkey, under whose flag 3 of the 6 boats were flying, are already under threat, as are those with many European nations.
Yossi Alpher, a political analyst and former adviser to Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, described the dawn operation as a “fiasco” that would only deepen Israel’s problems.
The UN Security Council is meeting today to discuss the attack.