Opinion » Ted Rall

On the High Seas

Activists finally fight back—and win


NEW YORK—They call themselves activists. But leftist activists rarely do anything. They march. They chant. They whine.

Since the '70s, passive resistance has become a religion of sorts among American "activists." The exceptions, such as 1999's Battle of Seattle between Seattle riot cops and anti-WTO protesters, have been notable--not least because they mark the few times the left has won.

So when Israel dispatched armed commandos to seize a flotilla of Turkish ships attempting to break its blockade of the Gaza Strip, they had every reason to expect the usual pacifist response: playing dead.

"We prepared for an operation involving light resistance," an Israeli Navy officer told The Jerusalem Post about the clash on the Mavi Marmara, the biggest ship. "We anticipated that the soldiers would get spat at and maybe slapped. We did not expect that the soldiers would be met by a mob armed with bats, knives and metal pipes.

"We thought there would be verbal and passive violence, but not to the level we encountered," the Naval officer continued. "Everyone who came toward us wanted to kill us."

The Turkish activists (no quotes, as they're worthy of the name) claim the Israelis opened fire first. IDF forces shot and killed nine passengers in the melee. Up to 60 passengers and 10 IDF soldiers were injured.

Whether the activists defended themselves or attacked first, no one knows. Nevertheless, their willingness to use violence is notable, which naturally came as a shock.

Officials responded to the Mavi Marmara incident like any bully who finally gets the bloody nose he deserves. Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the convoy of a "premeditated and outrageous provocation" and described the flotilla as an "armada of hate."

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the IDF, said: "They chose to use violence. They had stocks [of] different kinds of sticks, of knives, of metal objects. They took two pistols from our Navy SEALs. They used the entire magazines on these pistols. They wounded our soldiers."

In the official narrative, heavily armed commandos who take over a ship on international waters are not "choosing to use violence." Only individuals forced to resort to sticks and knives have "chosen" violence.

The friends and families of the nine who died will never get over what happened. But they can take some comfort in the fact that they died for a noble cause: ending the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, home to 1.5 million stateless Palestinians whose lives have been devastated by the resulting economic collapse. Nine lives have been lost; thousands will be saved when the blockade ends.

A United Nations fact-finding mission recently concluded that Israel's blockade of Gaza should be prosecuted as a war crime at the International Criminal Court if it continues through September.

Was violence justified against the Israelis, even in self defense? Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is: it worked. Because of those pipes and axes and knives the embargo is doomed. Israel finally went too far. The activists finally went far enough.