So the world, it would seem, is outraged over the deaths of activists during the Israeli raid on the Gaza flotilla. While, as mentioned in my last post, I’m beginning to have doubts about the neutrality of media reports on the subject, there seems little doubt that a significant number of people have leapt immediately to the conclusion that the deaths were deliberate murders by the Israeli military.
The New Zealand government has condemned the deaths – without assigning blame – and expressed concern to the Israeli ambassador. It has also pointed out that an Israeli investigation “is not going to suffice in these circumstances”. All of this is entirely reasonable, and doesn’t justify the sensationalist headline it was reported under.
On the other hand, of course, the Greens are also in on the act. Keith Locke says the action was a “murderous assault”. Really? Isn’t that just a tad premature, since as yet there is no actual evidence (nor even so much as a credible claim [**]) to refute the Israeli assertion that the soldiers were attacked and had to defend themselves? I doubt even the most hard-line partisan could assert that this is an implausible scenario, or at least not with a straight face. Palestinian activism, on the whole, is not exactly well-known for a Gandhiesque approach to conflict.
I also have to wonder what motivation is Israel supposed to have had for sending soldiers onto the deck to shoot at the activists in question. If they wanted to kill them, wouldn’t it have been a whole lot safer to do it from the air? They could have sunk the entire ship from a distance, for that matter – the only reasonable explanation I see for sending in soldiers is that they intended (or at least hoped) to take control of the vessel peacefully. [*]
Israel has hardly benefited from the deaths.
By all means let’s have an independent investigation. In the meantime, let’s not overreact to a tragedy that may, sadly, have been largely of the activists’ own making.
[*] I suppose there’s an outside chance the attack was a cover-up for the assassination of a particular person that Israel wanted badly to kill and knew was on board, but that seems an awfully far-fetched scenario to me.
[**] Added 4 June 2010: this may no longer be true, although Ms. Enchmarch seems to stop short of explicitly claiming that the soldiers had definitely not been attacked first.