Free Markets, Free People

The Israeli/”Freedom Flotilla” thing – first read

There is a lot more information that needs to come out about this thing, and I’m disturbed that numerous reports show this so-called “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters when Israel boarded, but I’m not prepared to go all Andrew Sullivan on it.

If the flotilla was indeed in international waters, then the Israelis had no business on that ship. That said, what I’m not seeing in most of the reports are facts. I’m seeing a lot of emotional statements and conjecture and posturing by various politicians and nations.

What I’ve been able to discern at this point is Israeli Commandoes descended on a ship full of “peace activists” whose only supposed desire was to run the Israeli blockade and deliver supplies to Gaza – or so their story goes. As I read more an more about it, it seems less and less likely that those “peace activists” were from the MLK/Ghandi wing of the organization.

In fact, growing evidence is they were from a much less savory part. As the commandoes descended by fast roping on to the deck, armed with paintball guns (and sidearms, holstered), they were set upon by the peaceful folks trying to make it to Gaza.

Let’s step back a moment – Israel absorbs about 6,000 rockets a year, most from the Gaza area. They’re obviously getting their arms by some route and Israel takes a keen interest in where. I can’t imagine why. So they’ve attempted to cut the sea-borne supply line with a blockade. But the blockade doesn’t prevent the delivery of aid to the Palestinians in Gaza. It’s not like they turn it all away. In fact, this flotilla is simply another attempt among many past attempts. Yid with a Lid explains:

Every few months, a flotila of boats head toward Gaza with the purpose of convincing the world press that Israel is the evil empire. Usually what happens is Israel stops the boats, directs them to an Israeli port,and Israel delivers the aid though a land route (once it was checked for weapons). Israel has a convoy delivering humanitarian aid to Gaza on a daily basis. In fact Israel transfers about 15,000 tons of supplies and humanitarian aid every week to the people of Gaza.

That’s how the necessities of survival have dictated it is done – if you want to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, head for the Israeli port. Mission accomplished – unless you’re an arms smuggler or looking for a fight. And it appears, more and more, that’s precisely what this flotilla was looking for – and got. It also appears the escalation of respose was probably warranted given the “peace activists” continued attacks. Here’s why:

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.

Video has emerged of the commandoes being attacked with metal pipes, clubs, bats and the like. There’s also a shot of one commando being thrown over the side of one deck and landing on another, to be set upon again. Obviously the paintball gun didn’t have the desired effect. But their ROE (Rules of Engagement) said, no use of firearms unless their lives were under threat.

OK, so now what? Well, step two was to attempt to break up the attackers with stun grenades:

The forces hurled stun grenades, yet the rioters on the top deck, whose number swelled up to 30 by that time, kept on beating up about 30 commandoes who kept gliding their way one by one from the helicopter.

You’re probably saying, “but wait, these are Israeli commandoes and they were some activist rabble. The odds were pretty even. Why didn’t the commandoes just take them?” Because when you fast rope in one-by-one into a crowd of 30, it is pretty hard to get any sort of cohesive unit action going, especially when you’re set upon individually. You’re fighting for your safety from minute one.

Anyway, stun grenades didn’t disperse them, so what was the next step? Well, it was actually dictated by the “peace activists” when they disarmed and threw the commando I mentioned above over the side. It all went downhill from there:

Only after this injury did Flotilla 13 troops ask for permission to use live fire. The commander approved it: You can go ahead and fire. The soldiers pulled out their handguns and started shooting at the rioters’ legs, a move that ultimately neutralized them. Meanwhile, the rioters started to fire back at the commandoes.

“I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.” Two soldiers sustained gunshot wounds to their knee and stomach after rioters apparently fired at them using guns wrested away from troops. During the commotion, another commando was stabbed with a knife. In a later search aboard the Marmara, soldiers found caches of bats, clubs, knives, and slingshots used by the rioters ahead of the IDF takeover. It appeared the activists were well prepared for a fight.

I don’t know how “well prepared” they were, but they certainly had crude weapons (the slingshots were using glass marbles which can, at close range, kill if they hit the right spot) and a will to attack the Israelis.

None of this, by the way, excuses the Israelis from boarding a ship in international waters (if that is indeed the case). They need to answer for that. International waters makes this an illegal raid. According to reports the flotilla was intercepted 65km of the Gaza coast. But the contiguous zone is only 24 miles or 38.6km off shore.

Within this zone, a coastal state can stop and inspect vessels and act to punish (or prevent) violations of its laws within its territory or territorial waters.

However, it also seems clear that this particular flotilla was in the business of trying to provoke violence and succeeded. As the claims and counter claims come in and the usual absurd posturing takes place about the deaths caused in this incident, remember this sequence of events and what prompted what happened on board the Marmara. Certainly one can sympathize to an extent with the peace activists who actually do want to see the people of Gaza receive humanitarian supplies. And one can also get their back up at armed men attempting to prevent them from doing so freely.

But you also have to keep in mind what happens from Gaza all too many times during each year. And you have to keep in mind that self-defense is also a right. I’m sure the “peace activists” will claim they were only defending themselves and their property, and in this case, it appears to be a valid claim. However, it seems clear from the videos that they’re intent on doing a little more than just defending themselves against paintball gun wielding commandoes. And it is just as clear from the ROE and the sequenced or phased response that the Israelis had no intention, upon landing on the ship, of killing or injuring anyone.

But this is now a full-fledged international incident with all the insanity those sorts of things normally bring to the fore (NATO is meeting about this? Really? And Turkey is threatening to escort another flotilla with its navy? Oh great, that’ll lessen tensions – maybe NATO does need to meet.).

Stay tuned for more.



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27 Responses to The Israeli/”Freedom Flotilla” thing – first read

  • If the flotilla was indeed in international waters, then the Israelis had no business on that ship.

    I’m not a lawyer, but I’m skeptical about that. The Israelis had openly declared the blockade, and if I understand correctly, the flotilla organizers had openly declared their intention to run it. Under those conditions, it seems unreasonable for the Israelis to have to wait until the ships get out of international waters to take action.

    As careful as the Israelis were in other respects (not carrying heavy weapons, for example), I’d be surprised if they let themselves get on the wrong side of that legal point.

    • I am not concerned at all about the ships being in international water.   Those ships had made their intentions clear.  This was not piracy as some idiots suggest.  Israel was quite willing to let the supplies through after inspection.  Those who fought objected to the inspection.  That indicates their intentions were quite a bit less than pure.

  • Israel needed to release the video of their guys being assaulted first, rather than have the activists get their version out first. What a difference it makes. Those guys looked like they could have easily been killed by the mob.

  • next time just put a torpedo into them

    • I sometimes wonder if this sort of attitude would result in a good bit LESS terrorism, piracy, and other bad international behavior.  I think that a lot of bad actors, ranging from Kim Jong-Poofy Hair down to pot-smoking ELF types, do the things they do in large part because they believe – with considerable cause – that the worst consequence they can usually expect is a slap on the wrist.  If they could expect with equal confidence that they’d get their heads knocked off, it might give them a moment of pause: “Do I REALLY want to do this?”

      If I was the Israelis, I might be sorely to ensure that any future “freedom flotilla” vessels that approached the Israeli coast would quietly, accidentally, disappear into the depths of the Med  with all hands, never to be seen again.  Sure, people would suspect Israeli foul play, but there would be no proof… except in the place it would count the most, i.e. the people who man those vessels.  Do they REALLY want to die for Gaza?  Methinks not.

      At the very least, the Israeli navy should wait right at the limit of their territorial waters with a company or two of Israeli marines (or whatever they have in the way of maritime infantry) and conduct a board-and-search, making it QUITE clear that any resistance will be (ahem) overcome quickly and violently.

  • I seem to remember the US threatening to board a cargo ship headed to Iran (which was thought to have duel use nuke components on it) not to long ago.  Chasing the ship all over the world while it looked for a port that would take it in.
    I am a full supporter of going to the enemy instead of waiting for them to come to you, international waters or not.

  • I will also add this whole incident is directly traceable to the weakling in the White House.  His bias against Israel and his weakness in Eastern Europe, Iran, and North Korea has encouraged adventures such as this.  It is hard to believe Obama has made Carter look decisive and in control.
    Reagan pointed out that none of the wars in his lifetime occurred because US was too strong.  Obama is the epitome of weakness and indecisiveness.  That leads to war as other countries try to take advantage of weakness.  We now have the possibility of nuclear war in the Middle East and in Korea.  This has all caught Obama unaware.  He will probably tell us again this has been the worst time since the 1930’s.  He will not understand his part and his weaknesses.  I used to think we could survive anyone for 4 years, but it may not be true this time.
    Carter left us a legacy of Iran.  Will Obama leave us any legacy at all?

  • Israel has to sort its self out, it like living next to a jumpy psycophathic killer, that has taken your garden. Death toll from Gaza’s impotent rockets only a handfull of israelies, death toll from gaza blockade, & israel attacks many thousands.

  • Shouldn’t the UN be looking into charges against the crew of the ship?  After all, they were CLEARLY armed, which is (apparently) in violation of international relations.  I mean, consider the wailing and gnashing of teeth from the UN when there is talk of arming merchantmen operating in waters off the coast of Somalia.

    / sarc

    The crew was clearly spoiling for a fight, but also counting on Israeli restraint.  “We know they won’t actually shoot at us, so we can beat them all we want!”

    Israel is in an untenable PR position.  NOTHING Tel Aviv says or does will convince the left that controls the UN, DC, and most world capitals that their position in legitimate.  The UN and now our own regime have made it crystal clear that they regard Israel as the villain, and only by rolling over and dying will the Israelis be able to prove the contrary.

  • I think this is the beginning of a setup of justification for an all out attack on Israel by multiple Arab nations. The supposed, scheduled meeting between Netanyahu and Obama just makes Obama look clean. I don’t think he will defend Israel with anything except lip service.

    • They’ve tried that a few times before, and it never works out well for them. 

      • In fact, we’re pretty much over due for them thar jews to have to remind the Arab world of that fact…
        I’m sure they have set aside a weekend to run rough-shod over anyone who tries it.

  • The “humanitarian” aspect of the mission was a pretty thin smoke Screen:
    Flotilla ‘Aid’ to Gaza Includes Expired Medicines, Old Equipment
    The video of the fast ropers and the result can be seen here:
    They came to be martys not to deliver drugs:
    Several of the extremists shouted the common Islamic chant, “[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Mohammed will return!” according to video footage on Al Jazeera television
    Khaibar is the name of the last Jewish village defeated by Mohammed’s army in 628, PMW explained. Many Jews were killed in the battle, which marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia, and there are Muslims who see that as a precursor to future wars against Jews.
    “The chant is often heard as a threat to Jews to expect to be defeated and killed again by Muslims,” PMW added.
    Al-Jazeera also interviewed a woman who said that the flotilla participants’ goal was “one of two happy endings: either Martyrdom or reaching Gaza.”
    Following is the transcript from Al-Jazeera TV as translated by PMW:
    Reporter: “Despite the Israeli threats and several unexpected delays, the arrival of the ships at the meeting point before sailing to the Gaza Strip inflamed the emotions and the enthusiasm of the participants.
    While singing songs reminiscent of the Intifada, participants expressed their longing to reach Gaza.
    A participant: “Right now we face one of two happy endings: either Martyrdom or reaching Gaza.” [
    Hamas’ Al-Aqsa TV chose to glorify flotilla participants who shouted the Islamic battle cry by broadcasting an interview with a university lecturer from Sanaa, Dr. Abd Al-Fatah Shayyeq Naaman, who said, “Yesterday I followed the news agencies and they conveyed Zionist threats to stop the convoy and prevent it from entering Gaza; on the other side, those with faith and will, once again call out upon hearing the reports of the threats: ‘[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!'”
    “Free Gaza’ activists said before boarding the flotilla they would not use any violence, but Al-Jazeera reported that before the confrontation, the flotilla’s leaders announced that they would use “Mukawama,’ the Arabic word for resistance and often used as a euphemism to refer to all violence against Israel, including suicide terror.

  • Just asking – anyone know why these activists don’t try to cross the Gaza border through Egypt?  Israel is not the only one (well, up until today anyway) enforcing a blockade on Gaza.
    I guess I have a good idea of the answer.

  • Israel has every right to intercept and board a declared blockade runner.

  • “and I’m disturbed that numerous reports show this so-called “Freedom Flotilla” in international waters when Israel boarded, but I’m not prepared to go all Andrew Sullivan on it.
    If the flotilla was indeed in international waters, then the Israelis had no business on that ship. ”

    Of course they had business on the ship, the ship was part of a declared effort to break a blockade.  That’s an act of war if done by a government, if I recall, and likewise cause for sinking/confiscation if done by private parties, and then indefinite internment thereafter.  For the same reason the Belgrano sinking was valid although done in international waters, the seizure of these ships was by the book legal.


  • According to StrategyPage, the terror supporters on the ship were apparently expecting the Israelis to come in during daylight inside Israeli territorial waters, and had plans to have children on deck mixed in amongst the fighters. The idea apparently was to try to get some children killed, and to use that to get enough international, media and leftist pressure generated to force an end to the blockade. That would then allow HAMAS to get fighters out and weapons in much more easily than they can at present.
    So yeah, I have no problem with Israel doing this in international waters, given the declared intent of the ships and the state of war in Israel and the territories.

  • There is no international law, there’s only consequences.

    • Yep. Voting for Obama resulted in consequences. This is one of them.

      • Now, come on Don, this isn’t about Imeme.  But he’ll correct that oversight soon.
        I forsee a frown, a “let me be clear” and a serious face aimed towards Israel.  If necessary, he’ll call a meeting with Hamas, and bow to their representative to show he’s sincere.

  • I’m gonna pile on and point out that what passes for “international law” in this area is firmly on Israel’s side regarding “international waters”.
    The “San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea” (, which appears to be the “conventional international law” on the subject, states:
    67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

    (a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

  • Everything I have been able to find supports the Israeli position as seen at the link provided by Ragspierre.  Israel had the right to stop and board any ship seeking to run their blockade. There is ample precedent,  including our blockade of Cuba in 1962, the maritime exclusion zone declared by the British during the Falklands war, allied actions during WWII, etc.