What nation in the world would forbid its soldiers to protect their own lives?
The IDF has released two more videos from the incident Monday morning on the Mavi Marmara, the largest in the Turkish-organized six-ship flotilla that challenged Israel’s blockade of Gaza, and the only one to prepare a violent ambush. One of these two videos is even more dramatic than the one released on Monday, now viewed by over a million on YouTube, that shows Mavi Marmara “peace activists” among other things beating the soldiers with iron bars.
The relatively less dramatic of the two newly released videos shows the “activists”—actually jihadists seeking “martyrdom”—attacking the soldiers with a stun grenade, a box of plates, and water hoses as they try to board the ship. The other newly released video is actually almost purely audial footage of a frenetic exchange between soldiers on the Mavi Marmara and the nearby IDF ship. The former, in a state of acute panic, shout that they need reinforcements, are being fired at from all directions, and have to be evacuated immediately. For a while the jihadists can be heard chanting something in the background.
The iron-bars video was released only late Monday afternoon after the “Israel kills peace activists” media-storm had already swept through the world for eight or nine hours, and some in Israel have bitterly charged that releasing it a good deal earlier, if not immediately, could have saved Israel much of the media and diplomatic damage. The reason for the delay was a concern for military morale: seeing soldiers of the Naval Commandos—one of the most legendary of all IDF units—being abjectly beaten, and in one case thrown over the side of the boat, is not the sort of imagery the IDF and Israel itself want to project of these fighters.
But if the iron-bars video is problematic in that regard, the new one in which the soldiers shout, in panic, for their lives is even more so. Why, then, was it released now, when the UN Security Council, with President Obama’s acquiescence, has already condemned Israel over the incident, the UN Human Rights Council is preparing another Goldstone-type “investigation,” and Israel has generally been dragged through another worldwide round of condemnation? This new video proves beyond a doubt to any reasonable human being that the soldiers finally opened fired, killing nine of their attackers, solely to save their own lives. But what good could it do at this point?
The answer is that Israel realizes its troubles from this incident are not over and indeed are just beginning. Another ship, the Rachel Corrie (named after the young anti-Israeli activist accidentally killed by an IDF bulldozer in 2003), is already on its way to Gaza from Malta; while carrying only fifteen activists, Irish prime minister Brian Cowen has described it as Irish-owned and is calling on Israel to let it through. A group called the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza claims to be planning a new, much larger flotilla than the one intercepted by Israel this week. Newly elected British prime minister David Cameron is calling on Israel to lift the Gaza blockade altogether.
In other words, the democratic world is now getting into the act too—with a vengeance. It was one thing for increasingly-Islamist, Iran- and Syria-friendly, Hamas-supporting Turkey to send the first flotilla. It is quite another thing—and well beyond the usual, de rigueur, but shameful cooperation with Arab-, Islamic-, and “nonaligned”-bloc calumny against Israel in the UN—for Western governments to start getting on this bandwagon as well.
It was in response to the increasingly alarming situation that Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu gave a brief, terse statement to the nation Wednesday night in which he said: “The state of Israel faces an attack of international hypocrisy. This is not the first time we have faced this; two years ago we faced a massive attack of missiles fired by Hamas who hid behind civilians. Israel went to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties; but whom did the UN condemn? It condemned Israel.”
Noting that “It is our right according to international law to prevent arms smuggling to Gaza and that is why the naval blockade was put in place,” Netanyahu pointed out that two ships intercepted by the Israeli navy in recent years—the Francop in 2009 and the Karine-A in 2002—were carrying hundreds of tons of Iranian-supplied weapons, and that while the smuggling of Iranian weapons into Gaza through tunnels continues, what can be delivered by sea is incomparably vaster and would result in an Iranian port in Gaza threatening not only Tel Aviv but also “other countries in the region.”
Turning finally to the uproar over the Mavi Marmara, Netanyahu, noting that he had talked personally with the wounded soldiers and heard firsthand accounts of how their lives were endangered, stated:
The soldiers defended their lives with incomparable restraint. What would any other country do?... I ask the international community, what would you do instead? We’ll continue to defend our citizens and assert our right to self-defense, which is my first duty as prime minister.
It is important that we stay united on this issue, which is a matter of life and death.
The questions Netanyahu raised are indeed very much open. It is no longer clear whether the international community, including its democratic component, is prepared to tolerate the soldiers of the Jewish state shooting back when shot at by a mob, and no longer clear whether it is prepared to countenance the Jewish state defending itself, or existing, at all. Israel, meanwhile, is still trying to make its case, hardly confident that it makes a difference.