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Flotilla Opinion Formed

Andrew Sullivan has a post mocking the heretofore absence of commentary about the latest dust-up in Israel at TNR. You know, it was Memorial Day. Does the memory of America's fallen heroes mean nothing to Sullivan? Of course it doesn't. Many of these fallen heroes were killed by Sullivan's countrymen in the name of imperialism and monarchy, a heartless ideology of world conquest. This is the classic imperialist/monarchist method of murder, lies and distraction. First they cruelly enslave a continent and murder any inhabitants who dare resist in the name of freedom, musket shot ripping through their vital organs, or perhaps their throats ripped open by bayonets, while they cling to life dreaming of one last chance to return home to their loved ones. And then, when you dare take a day to mourn the sacrifice of the heroes, they mock you for your love of freedom, just as they mocked Gandhi for daring to resist their blood-soaked empire.

Well, okay, actually I spent the day driving the minivan back from a trip up the east coast to the in-laws.

Anyway, I have now formulated an official opinion on the Gaza matter, though everybody else got there before I did. There are three basic questions here. First, is the underlying blockade of Gaza humanely constructed? No it is not:

Israel prevents Gazans from importing, among other things, cilantro, sage, jam, chocolate, French fries, dried fruit, fabrics, notebooks, empty flowerpots and toys, none of which are particularly useful in building Kassam rockets. It’s why Israel bans virtually all exports from Gaza, a policy that has helped to destroy the Strip’s agriculture, contributed to the closing of some 95 percent of its factories, and left more 80 percent of its population dependent on food aid. It’s why Gaza’s fishermen are not allowed to travel more than three miles from the coast, which dramatically reduces their catch. And it’s why Israel prevents Gazan students from studying in the West Bank, a policy recently denounced by 10 winners of the prestigious Israel Prize. There’s a name for all this: collective punishment.

Second, given that the blockade was in place, was Israel militarily justified in responding as it did? Yes, it was:

We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists. Israel says that some of the organizers have ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What's plain is that the group's nominal purpose, delivering "humanitarian" supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on "breaking Israel's siege," as one of them put it.

Third, given that Israel had a right to stop the ship and reply to the lethal force used against its soldiers, was it wise to respond as it did? No, it was not:

Better information was needed. The commandos didn't know they were going to face an angry mob armed with knives and bats. Different equipment was needed: The raiders apparently didn't have enough nonlethal weapons on hand. A more creative approach was needed: Maybe a way to stop the ship without having to board it. But these are all just technical details of an operation gone sour.

Here's video of the raid: