In the early morning of May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, which was carrying international activists in an attempt to break the blockade of Gaza. On board the ship was a contingent of approximately 40 members of the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (İHH), who met the Israelis with ‘cold’ but deadly weapons — metal bars and pipes, knives, axes, etc.
Due to poor intelligence the Israelis were not prepared for a violent reception, and actually landed on the deck carrying paintball guns and stun grenades. These ‘weapons’ had no effect on the IHH militants, and soon the Israelis found themselves in danger of their lives. Several were seriously injured. At this point they drew their deadly weapons and fired in self-defense. Nine of the IHH members were killed and one critically injured.
A UN commission ruled that the blockade and enforcement thereof were legal, but that Israel used ‘excessive force’. Since the alternative to the said use of force would have been the death of the Israelis, it’s hard to see how they could have done otherwise. Of course this is the UN, and the fact that they found the blockade itself legal under international law is remarkable.
As I wrote at the time, the commission bent over backwards to find some culpability on the Israeli side:
Deadly force was not used by the commandos until live fire (at least from guns taken from captured Israelis and possibly from other weapons, although this is still not clear) was directed at them. In other words, knives and metal bars were not initially considered deadly weapons, although of course they are. There is no doubt that some of the Israelis would have been killed if they had not used their guns.
Options could not have been ‘reassessed’ when seriously wounded commandos were already in the hands of the IHH thugs. Considering the degree to which the Israelis were outnumbered, that firearms were in the possession of the passengers, and that several of the Israelis had been captured, the decision to shoot to kill was understandable.
In any event, the Turks were and are furious.
On Wednesday an Istanbul prosecutor submitted an indictment seeking life sentences for four former Israeli military commanders in connection with the raid, including the Israel Defense Forces chief of staff at the time, Gabi Ashkenazi…
The Turkish prosecutor proposed charging Ashkenazi, along with the heads of the Israeli navy, air force and military intelligence. They face nine consecutive life terms in prison for “inciting to kill monstrously, and by torturing,” the Turkish news agency said…
The indictments will reportedly include a demand for 10 life sentences for each officer for their involvement in the deaths of the nine Turkish citizens and the critical injury of a tenth citizen, who was left comatose.
Israel supposedly offered to compensate the families of the dead and express ‘regret’. But the Turks want an admission of guilt.
Which they are not going to get, at least not from the Netanyahu government.
There is good reason to think that the Mavi Marmara affair was orchestrated at the highest levels of the Turkish government, in order to embarrass Israel and to weaken, if not break, the blockade. And in this it was successful, insofar as the US response was to force Israel to end the embargo on goods (except for actual military-use items) into Gaza, ending Israel’s attempt to bring down the Hamas regime by economic means.
But there is more to it than simple diplomatic warfare. Turkish pride implies that it is absolutely unacceptable for a Jew to kill a Turk, under any circumstances.
Indeed, this is an issue in the Arab and Muslim world generally. The Islamic principle of Muslim superiority is damaged — the world is turned upside down — when Muslims are defeated in warfare by Jews, Christians or infidels. So the fact that the Jews of Israel have beaten their Muslim enemies consistently since 1948 is infuriating and intolerable to them.
This is one of the reasons that the kind of compromise peace plans offered by the US and the Israeli Left are consistently rejected by the Arabs. The only end to the conflict acceptable to their ideology is a total surrender by the insouciant Jews. This is why Yasser Arafat chanted “with blood and with spirit we will redeem you, Palestine.” For Arafat, only blood would do.
The Arab (or Saudi) Initiative illustrates the Arabs’ need to restore the balance of the world. It requires Israel to take full responsibility for the conflict, accept an Arab majority, and place itself under Arab ‘protection’.
As long as Islamic ideology is ascendant in Turkey and the Arab nations, I don’t expect a rapprochement between Israel and its neighbors. The continued existence of the Jewish state will depend on its military superiority, and upon the weakness of its enemies stemming from the division and conflict in the Muslim world.