In the early morning hours of Monday, an array of ships, poised to enter Gaza illegally, brought a measure of madness and violence to the Middle East.

Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza

In 2005, Israel, at great cost to itself, unilaterally disengaged from Gaza, leaving the Palestinian Arabs with a mass of land on which they could develop their own independent homeland.  Unfortunately, instead of focusing on building a future, terrorism and incitement continued unabated.  The 2007 takeover of Gaza by Hamas (formally classified by the US, European Union, and others as a terrorist organization) did not ease Palestinian Arab violence against Israel and escalated pressure and hostility against women, Christians, and homosexuals.

The Gaza blockade and Israel’s humanitarian efforts in Gaza

Israel and Egypt work together to regulate Gaza’s borders, including a maritime blockade of Gaza which Israel is clearly within its rights to impose due to the ongoing armed conflict perpetuated by Hamas.  Food and other supplies pour into Gaza from Israel on a daily basis from Israel, not to mention the rampant smuggling by tunnels; there is no acute humanitarian crisis.  And, as The National Post’s Tom Gross noted in a recent column, while there certainly is poverty in Gaza, there are those who live middle class and even upper class lifestyles.

The Gaza Flotilla

Recently, a group of “activists” decided to break the Gaza blockade.  Among the groups most involved was the IHH, a Turkish organization linked to the logistical support and funding of global jihad.  Along with other connections to terrorism, a Turkish raid of IHH offices in Istanbul found “weapons, explosives, instructions for making IEDs” and documents indicating “that IHH members were planning to take part in jihad activities in Afghanistan, Bosnia and Chechnya”.  In the US trial of Al-Qaeda terrorist Ahmed Rassam in 2000, Rassam testified that the IHH played a critical role in planning his attempted attack on Los Angeles International Airport.

Despite repeated entreaties by the Israeli government, the organizers refused to dock in an Israeli port and allow for the orderly transfer of their cargo.  (In spite of their claims to be on a humanitarian mission, they even refused to deliver letters and a care package for Gilad Shalit, the kidnapped Israeli-French soldier held illegally in Gaza for four years.)  Forging ahead with their plans forced a conflict, one much more violent than for which Israel was prepared.

At sea, the Israeli Navy again requested the largest boat, Mavi Marmara, to divert to Ashdod to unload its cargo under joint supervision.  As you can hear in the video, the Mavi Marmara refused.

Fortunately, five of the six boats did dock in Ashdod.

The Gaza Flotilla’s violent attack

After being ignored by the Mavi Marmara, Israel had hoped to board the ships and peacefully direct them to Ashdod.  Instead of peaceful resistance or even the light abuse of being spat upon or cursed at that they were expecting, the lightly armed Israeli soldiers were overwhelmed by brutal violence.

The assessment within the navy was that the activists would resist the Israeli takeover of their ship, but along the lines of the demonstrations the IDF faces weekly in the West Bank, where Palestinians protest against the security barrier. Rocks and punches would be thrown, it was assumed, and an occasional knife would be brandished – but not the extent of violence they met.

As the rope fell from the helicopter onto the Mavi Marmara’s deck, some of the Turkish activists grabbed it and tied it to an antenna, likely hoping that it would bring down the helicopter. The naval commandos decided nevertheless to go ahead with the operation and began sliding down to the ship.

Armed with rifles that shoot paintballs – which can hurt but not kill – the soldiers landed on the ship and immediately came under attack by dozens of activists armed with knives, bats and metal pipes. Activists grabbed soldiers and tried to hold them hostage, stripping them of their helmets and equipment.

One of the commandos tried to protect his comrade, who was under attack by a group of activists; they had been instructed by the flotilla commander to refrain from using their sidearms unless their lives were at risk.

The “activists” did not stage a sit-in, engage in civil disobedience, or even “lightly” resist.  These videos show soldiers being beaten with metal poles and stabbed with knives from the moment they hit the deck.

Besides the contraband and other cargo destined for Gaza, this video shows just some of the weapons and other preparations made for violent conflict found onboard the Mavi Marmara.

The aftermath

In the mayhem, nine “activists” were killed, and scores of other “activists” and soldiers were injured.  As the organizers of the Gaza Flotilla wanted, the international community reacted in a knee-jerk fashion, condemning Israel with little to no acknowledgment of the violent attack by the Mavi Marmara’s passengers.

Yet, the IHH and Mavi Marmara left Israel with little choice.  As is standard practice in Israel, over the coming days, Israel will investigate if better intelligence might have been obtained prior to boarding the ship or if there were superior alternatives to the operational choices made in taking control of the boat.

However, when faced with avowed supporters of jihad directly connected to terrorism, coming with undeclared cargo which they refuse to allow to be checked while attempting to break a military blockade of a closed war zone, Israel had no choice but to stop the flotilla.  And, the responsibility for the casualties lies squarely on the shoulders of the “activists”, the Gaza Flotilla, and their supporters.