Israeli Gunboat Diplomacy

The news is full of reports this morning that Israeli forces have seized a flotilla of aid ships that were heading towards Gaza in defiance of the naval blockade that Israel has been maintaining for the last three years. Seemingly it’s the eighth or ninth attempt by pro-Gaza aid groups to pierce the blockade.  Unusually this time the Israeli response was to land commandos on the ships via helicopters, and that’s when things go out of hand. Nine aid workers from aboard the largest ship were shot dead after by the Israelis after the commandos were allegedly attacked with knives, clubs and even their own guns which had been seized from them. Both sides are already blaming each other for this violent turn of events, but no clear picture has emerged of the situation as yet.

Naturally the internet is already on fire over the raid. People are either taking the aid worker’s side against the evil “Zionist Beasts” of Israel, or applauding Israel for taking a proactive stance to her national security. The first camp seem to have conveniently forgotten that the blockade is a joint Israeli-Egyptian effort in protest at the way Hamas seized control of Palestine during the battle of Gaza. They also seem to have conveniently glossed over the fact that the organisers of the aid convoy were clearly attempting to provoke Israel. They seem to have been under the mistaken belief that if the convoy is made up of packed passenger ships full of witnesses rather than bulk carriers the Israelis would think twice about boarding the ship.

The pro-Israel camp are just as deluded as their opponents however. It doesn’t really matter how you slice it the Israelis should have kept better control of their troops during the boarding actions. I’m sure it was a highly stressful situation for all involved, but why couldn’t they have fired some warning shots, or carried shotguns loaded with beanbag rounds. The could have surely mounted some machine-guns on their helicopters to cover the landing troops without risking an incident.

The few things that all sides agree on seem to be that Israel acted illegally in seizing the ships while they were in international waters.  I suppose it is fair to say that Israel’s actions contravene international laws that have held sway for centuries and could, quite rightly, be described as simple piracy, but I don’t really think they care.

It’s odd perhaps, but one of the things I’ve often admired about Israel is their sheer indifference to international opinion when it comes to matters of their own national security. They know that many of the actions that they take are considered illegal under international law, but they don’t give a shit what anyone thinks. Israel has always been a nation under siege. She has fought wars against, and often spectacularly defeated,  almost all of her hostile Arab neighbours at during the course of her existence. Now it’s fair to say that the West, and the United States in particular, have given Israel a lot of leeway and support over the years, but her continuing survival has been a product of aggressive politics, military action and a complete disregard for anything that is not in Israel’s best interests. Sometimes I wish other nations, including the UK, were as proactive in the promotions of their interests and their self defence as Israel, but more often I’m glad they’re not. Israel has nuclear weapons, even though they refuse to admit it, but thankfully they have the intelligence to keep them under wraps. I would hate to think what would happen if a rogue state like North Korea were in Israel’s place.

Israel’s actions are already being condemned, and most strongly by the previously friendly Turkey under who’s flag most of the ships were sailing. Of course there’s still no response from Downing Street or the White House, and to be honest I’ll be surprised if we see more than a carefully worded missive in condolences to the people killed. It will be interesting to see if anything comes out of this, or if in a weeks time I’m sitting here talking about another shooting on another misguided attempt to breach the blockade.

1 Response to “Israeli Gunboat Diplomacy”



  1. 1 Here We Go Again at GreyKodiak Trackback on June 5, 2010 at 13:32

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