goldslaw (goldslaw) wrote,

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Some thoughts on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict (part 1)

As I write this, we are still seeing reverberations from the Israeli raid on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara. A convoy of Turkish ships, allegedly carrying humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip, refused to stop for the Israeli blockade. Israeli soldiers boarded the ships to inspect the cargo. This was done "peacefully" (without fighting, deaths or injuries) on all but one of the ships. But members of The Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) on board the Mavi Marmara fought the soldiers with knives, metal pipes, and stun grenades.

Nine IHH members were killed during the fight, and the dead were found to be carrying large quantities of cash.

Let's look at the situation under International Law. It seems clear to me that a state of War exists between Israel and the Gaza Strip. Hamas is the government of the Gaza Strip, both de facto and de jure. Hamas has the avowed goal of destroying Israel; if not a formal declaration of War, it is pretty damn close. In addition, the repeated suicide bombings and rocket attacks on Israeli towns are all acts of war, and more than enough to justify Israel's use of force in response.

A naval blockade is one of the recognized and legitimate methods of waging war. The purpose is to deny the enemy access to weapons, ammunition and other war materiel. Any ship entering a blockaded area should expect to be stopped and either turned back or searched. Instead, the Turkish convoy continued steaming ahead at full speed.

At that point, Israel had three choices:
1. Call off the blockade (since it would be ineffective if there were no way of enforcing it)
2. Sink the ships (which would probably have killed everybody aboard)
3. Forcibly board the ships and carry out the inspection to make sure there was no war materiel aboard.

They chose the last option, and on nine of the ten ships everything went smoothly -- the soldiers absailed down from helicopters onto the deck, checked to make sure only food and other humanitarian aid was present, and allowed the ships to deliver their cargo. But some of the passengers on the Mavi Marmara attacked the soldiers with metal bars, stun grenades, and chains. The result was exactly what you would expect: soldiers responded to force with force, and the soldiers had more and better force.

Yes, people were killed. That is unfortunate. But it's clear to me that those on board Mavi Marmara intentionally provoked the confrontation for its propaganda value, and considered the deaths a fair price for what they got out of it.

As far as International Law goes, I believe that Israel was in the right. Just because the crew of a ship says it is carrying only humanitarian aid, doesn't mean that's really the case.

That said, however, this has been a public relations disaster for Israel. Egypt has reopened its border with the Gaza Strip. Turkey, formerly allied with Israel, has now turned against it. If Israel is to ever "win" this conflict, the government needs to think about image as well as the local conflict when dealing with situations of this sort.

Even more to the point, Israel needs to find a way to make peace with its Palestinian neighbors, even though that will be difficult. I will discuss the problems and a possible solution in a later entry.

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