In Gaza, Who Did the Attacking?
Strangely enough, there hasn’t been a great deal of congressional reaction to Israel’s deadly Monday attack on an aid flotilla making its way to Gaza. Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who heads the House Foreign Affairs Committee, has been uncharacteristically quiet on the topic, for instance. And the brief statement from Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations panel, avoided making any judgments whatsoever, saying only that it’s “unclear what happened” and calling for “a thorough investigation.”
Others, though, haven’t been so shy. And those voices all seem to be knee-jerking in defense of Israel.
House Republican Whip Eric Cantor (Va.) put the blame squarely on “the so-called ‘humanitarian aid’ flotilla” for steering into “an internationally recognized [blockade] … in an effort to provoke Israel.” Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) told Greg Sargent that the flotilla was designed “to instigate a conflict with the Israeli navy ,” which, he added, “isn’t hard to do.” And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Fla.), senior Republican on the Foreign Affairs panel, said that Israel was simply acting in self defense.
“Israeli soldiers had every right to defend their lives against a lynch mob attacking them with knives and clubs,” she said in a statement.
But of course, this implies that the anti-blockade activists didn’t have the right to defend themselves from armed soldiers dropping out of the sky onto the decks of foreign-flagged ships in the middle of international waters. The Atlantic’s Megan McArdle today pushed that point further:
This morning a bunch of people are trying to defend Israel by saying that the protesters attacked first. No, they didn’t. Boarding someone’s ship in international waters is an attack. To put it another way, how many of the people mounting this defense would criticize Israeli sailors if they attacked a bunch of armed Palestinians who were airdropping, one by one, onto their ship, after firing tear gas grenades in to soften them up?
Along those lines, why would Iran, Syria or anyone else feel an obligation to obey international law if Israel here is immune from it?