I’m generally sympathetic to Israel. Despite its faults, it’s one of the most stable and liberal regimes in the region, and many of its critics fail to account for the corrosive effect on the national consciousness of being surrounded by peoples who want them exterminated and routinely take steps (however ineffective) to visit random violence upon them.
However, while it’s easy to understand their seige mentality, this doesn’t mean that this mentality does not at times cause them to go to far and put themselves in the wrong. In this regard, I think Megan McArdle has a pretty good and balanced response to the attack on the “Freedom Flotilla”:
I was all set to be sympathetic to the argument that the commandos who boarded the aid flotilla and killed a bunch of people were reacting to a threat; if you attack soldiers with pipes, you shouldn’t be surprised if someone gets shot. Very clearly, these guys were not the next incarnation of Gandhi; they were on that mission spoiling for a fight.
But then I realized that the ships were in international waters, and had every right to attack armed men attempting to board their ship. It was not precisely bright, mind you–unless you’re looking to die for a cause. But Israel had no right to be there. I think their establishment has gotten a little too caught up in the romance of illicit raids tacitly greenlighted by the US. Suddenly every operation is Entebbe.
I mean, in the case of the Black September folks, my basic sympathies are with the Israelis. And I’m fairly ok with bombing the incipient nuclear capacity of a near neighbor with a death with for your country. But there is just no way to argue that this rises to the level of tracking down the folks who senselessly slaughtered your athletes, or preventing a scary neighbor from getting a nuclear bomb. It’s stopping a ship carrying food and supplies to the hungry. It’s hard to argue that Israel needed to stage this raid in international waters to stop the looming threat of . . . um . . . men with pipes. Rather than, say, wait until the boats entered Israeli-controlled waters in the “exclusion zone” and board them (debatably) legally.
Looking at the statements of the flotilla organizers, it’s pretty clear that they were looking to provoke a fight, and are in fact very much in sympathy with militant organizations like Hamas. They were spoiling for a fight and they’re not nice people. But the Israeli government ended up playing to the narrative through their actions, doing everyone (and peace) a disservice in the process.