Thursday, June 3, 2010

Ambush at Sea

June 3, 2010

Picture this scenario: A group of peaceful activists sets out to deliver much-needed aid to a beleaguered population denied access to essentials like food and medicine by a powerful neighboring state. That state opposes delivery of the aid, and raids one of the ships carrying it. In the ensuing melee, nine activists are killed, and the rest are captured and deported to their countries of origin. On its face, it seems a clear case of good vs. evil the plucky underdog activists paying with their lives for defying the laws of an oppressive and cruel nation.

This is exactly how recent events in the Mediterranean, where Israel recently stopped a Turkish ship bound for Gaza called the Mavi Marmara, have been portrayed. This ship was part of an eight-ship “freedom flotilla,” the purpose of which was, ostensibly, to break Israel’s blockade and deliver humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza. After repeatedly defying Israel’s orders to turn back — Israel requires that all goods entering Gaza be inspected to prevent weapons from entering terrorist’s hands — IDF commandos lowered themselves from a helicopter onto the lead ship to take control over it.

Violence resulted, and it’s not difficult to see why. Though portrayed as “peace activists,” many of those aboard the Mavi Marmara were members of a Turkish Islamic charity called IHH, which experts say has ties to Hamas, al-Qaeda, and other radical Muslim terrorist groups. These “peace activists” were ready to fight. Chilling videos taken by the IDF and posted on the Internet show Israeli commandos descending by rope from helicopters onto the boat, only to be swarmed by a mob of club and knife-wielding thugs who beat and stabbed them and threw them over the ship’s railing. Given the danger, it should not come as any surprise that the Israelis resorted to lethal force to defend themselves.

And what about the blockade allegedly starving Gaza residents? The fact is, even after the blockade was put into place in early 2009 in an attempt to dry up terrorist weapons supplies, Israel has allowed essentials into Gaza. Last year, more than 700,000 tons of food, medical supplies, and other humanitarian aid entered the strip from Israel, with the total for 2010 standing at over 230,000 tons as of early May. The fact is that Israel has always taken into account the humanitarian needs of Palestinians living in Gaza. The myth of Gazans being starved by Israel is just that a myth.

Even in the case of the Gaza flotilla, Israeli officials made every attempt to allow the aid being carried by the convoy to get into the right hands. Prior to the raid, an offer was made to redirect the convoy toward the port of Ashdod, where Israel could unload and inspect the shipment and then transfer it by land to Gaza. Leaders of the flotilla turned Israel down. Later, after the disastrous raid on the Mavi Marmara, Israel again offered to send the aid seized in the raid to Gaza. Hamas, which rules the strip, turned down that offer as well, calling it a “deception.”

Obviously, the Gaza flotilla was less an attempt to help Palestinians than it was to provoke Israel. Sadly, it worked: By putting Israel in a situation where the use of force was inevitable, the organizers of the flotilla stirred a firestorm of condemnation from a world all too ready to judge Israel guilty until proven innocent.

The situation with the Gaza flotilla, and the diplomatic crisis it has caused, is still unfolding. I invite you to follow this issue and other Israel-related news on our Stand for Israel blog. And, as always, I ask you to continue to pray for the peace of Jerusalem in these perilous times.

With prayers for  shalom, peace,

 This article was first published on the International Fellowship of  Christians and Jews Web site

My deep appreciation goes out to them. 

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