Who’s to Blame for the Mavi Marmara?

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As the international fallout continues over the clash between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian peace activists aboard a ship carrying goods through an Israeli-Egyptian blockade into Gaza, the details of what actually happened onboard are still being sorted out. Israel maintains that its soldiers acted in self-defense after being attacked with metal rods and knives, and released a video to back its claims. But even some who think Israel was right to board the ship are questioning whether it used a disproportionate amount of force, leaving nine people dead. So who's really at fault here? The debate is raging online.

The activists:

• Wesley Pruden asks, "If the Israelis allow such flotillas to deliver supplies to Gaza, other ships will follow, not with rice and beans but with explosives, rifles and long-range Iranian Fajr-5 missiles." [Washington Times]

• Mona Charen points out that "the Israeli government asked the organizers to deliver their humanitarian aid first to an Israeli port where it would be inspected (for weapons) before being forwarded to Gaza. The organizers refused." [National Review]

• Jonathan Tobin agrees: "The convoy’s supposed goal of bringing succor to starving Palestinians in Gaza is a lie." Its real goal "was to provoke bloodshed no matter what the Israelis did." [Contentions/Commentary]

• The Wall Street Journal editorial board thinks the force was justified: "In the case of Monday's raid, the Israeli navy first sought to warn the ships off verbally, then sent in commandos armed with paintball guns, according to Israeli media reports. It was only after the humanitarians aboard the ship assaulted the commandos with clubs and knives that the Israelis used live fire. If the Internet videos of the commandos being viciously attacked as they descended from a helicopter are accurate, they were acting to defend themselves." [WSJ]

• David Bernstein thinks that "there was obviously an operational/intelligence failure that led to Israel’s naval commandos having to open fire to defend themselves," but "it does appear that the physical violence started from the other side, which to begin with had the rather unhumanitarian mission of aiding Hamas, and, to the extent there were sincere humanitarian/peace activists involved, allowed themselves to get hijacked by violent Islamic extremists who manned one of the ships." [Volokh Conspiracy]

• Jonah Goldberg wonders "what the wiser alternatives were. Should the Israelis [have] fired across the ships [sic] bows? Then what? With the boats en route, what was the smart play Israel didn't make?" [Corner/National Review]

• Leslie Gelb thinks that the "Israeli commandos who stormed the ship, where fighting erupted, badly mishandled the situation. But theirs was a mistake in pursuit of a legal goal, not a war crime." [Daily Beast]


Israel:

• Andrew Sullivan says it seems "as if the Israeli government has again replied to a gnat with a bazooka. The disproportionate use of force, the loss of life, the horrifying impact of the blockade of Gaza in the first place: it makes Israel look like a callous, deranged bully, incapable of accepting any narrative that it cannot control and responding instinctively with disproportionate violence." [Atlantic]

• The Washington Post editorial board has "no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla," but it's "clear that Israel's response to the pro-Palestinian flotilla was both misguided and badly executed." [WP]

• Max Boot believes that while "the Israelis were perfectly justified in trying to stop Hamas from receiving outside aid," if they were more concerned about the fallout, they would "have avoided the raid altogether, with all the possibilities of something going wrong, and used more stealthy means to prevent the Hamas activists from reaching their objective. The IDF should be mindful of the French experience in Algeria and the American experience in Vietnam: it is possible to win every battle and still lose the war." [Contentions/Commentary]

• Joe Klein calls Israel's response "an insane use of disproportionate force." [Swampland/Time]

• Daniel Drezner says that while the flotilla's organizers were "dying for a confrontation with Israeli forces," still, "it should be possible to gain control of an unruly ship without, you know, killing more than ten people, further worsening relaions [sic] with your primary regional ally, and forcing the UN Security Council into emergency session." [Daniel Drezner/Foreign Policy]

• Jeffrey Goldberg isn't rushing to judgment, but wonders whether Israel is "ready to deploy seichel ["ingenuity, creativity, subtlety, nuance"] in these battles, rather than mere force?" [Atlantic]

• Glenn Greenwald thought "[i]t hardly seemed possible for Israel — after its brutal devastation of Gaza and its ongoing blockade — to engage in more heinous and repugnant crimes. But by attacking a flotilla in international waters carrying humanitarian aid, and slaughtering at least 10 people, Israel has managed to do exactly that. If Israel's goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt for it as possible, it's hard to imagine how it could be doing a better job." [Glenn Greenwald/Salon]

• Blake Hounshell wonders "just what possessed the Israeli government to risk such an outcome when it sent naval commandoes [sic] to board the vessel." [Passport/Foreign Policy]

• Jackson Diehl thinks "Netanyahu’s decision to use military force to stop boats populated with European and American notables, and, even more, the bloody execution of the operation, are indefensible." [Post Politics/WP]