Two years ago almost to the date, the “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” set sail from Turkey in an attempt to break the Israeli naval blockade on the Hamas-led terrorist enclave. Organized by the Free Gaza Movement and the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), the Ankara-backed, six-ship flotilla was ostensibly bringing medical and construction supplies to the people of Gaza.
Since this was the ninth attempt on the part of activists to pull such a stunt, the Israeli government and military were prepared. Or so they thought.
For a few weeks before the scheduled event, Israeli naval commandos had practiced boarding ships from speedboats and helicopters, as well as dealing with potential chaos. They were told to expect all kinds of provocations (such as being spat on, having lit cigarettes thrown at or stubbed out on them, being pelted with garbage, and maybe even suffering a few blows). They were instructed not to allow such actions to rile them. After all, there were going to be camera crews on the ships, waiting eagerly to catch the Big Bad Wolf pouncing on Little Red Riding Hood.
When the fateful day arrived — May 31, 2010 — and the flotilla reached a certain point in the international waters of the Mediterranean, the commandos were sent in. Because no major violence had been anticipated, most of them were only equipped with paintball (!) guns, some tear gas, and a few smoke bombs for riot dispersal. Only a few were armed with real rifles and live ammunition.
The captains of the ships were notified that they could dock at the Ashdod port, where their cargo would be inspected. Any non-blockaded items would then be delivered to Gaza by land. (This would be nothing new for Israel, which has provided humanitarian aid to the inhabitants of the Islamist mini-state all along.) But the activists rejected the proposal. So the commandos began to board the ships.
On five out of the six boats, the commandos encountered passive resistance. Those ships were simply towed to the Israeli coast, and their passengers were detained for a while before being deported.
The trouble began on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara. The minute the commandos began being hoisted onto its deck, they were assaulted viciously by dozens of IHH radicals, there for blood. This caught the commandos off guard. Before they had a chance to employ their riot-dispersal techniques, they were pummeled with iron bars, stabbed with knives, thrown overboard, and shot at. The ensuing “battle” would result in the deaths of nine activists and the wounding of 10 commandos, one of them critically.
The raid of the flotilla caused an international outcry — against Israel, of course. Nor did the condemnation let up after footage of the violence against the soldiers was released. No anti-Israel elements like being confused by the facts, after all.
One such fact was that some of the activists tried to block the commandos from helping other activists receive medical attention. The commandos then had to forcibly evacuate the wounded against their will, to save their lives.
Another piece of information that might have slipped by the media is that many of the wounded, who were rushed to Israeli hospitals, refused or interfered with treatment (by pulling out IVs and the like), announcing that they would rather die as “shaheedim” (martyrs) for the cause.
Unfortunately, their wish did not come true. Instead, they were sent back home to Turkey, where they were welcomed as heroes and victims simultaneously — a feat radicals always seem to manage to pull off with panache.
Israel’s response? To ease the blockade on Gaza, and to begin serious attempts at repairing relations with Ankara — behavior that Jews keep imagining will garner them sympathy.
The Turkish government was delighted with the whole turn of events. As it began moving away from America’s axis, it needed a “legitimate” excuse to sever its once cordial ties with Israel. To this end, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan demanded that Israel not only apologize for the Mavi Marmara raid, but that it pay compensation to all the injured activists.
Even Jewish idiocy has its limits at times, however. Thankfully, the Israeli government did not comply, though it did try to come up with an alternative formula for expressing regret for the lost lives on the ship. Turkey’s response was to expel the Israeli ambassador from Ankara.
This week, to add injury to insult, an Istanbul court voted unanimously to press criminal charges against four Israeli officials and a number of soldiers it deemed responsible for the deaths of the nine activists from the Mavi Marmara. One of these officials is former Israel Defense Forces Chief of General Staff Lt. Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi. The punishment for his and the others’ alleged crime of “inciting to kill monstrously in a torturous manner” is eight to 18,000 (!) years in jail.
It doesn’t look as though Ashkenazi — ironically, one of Israel’s more pacifist chiefs of staff — will be taking any vacations over there in the near future, at least not without his trusted paintball gun in his holster. Spending 18,000 years in a Turkish prison is not anybody’s idea of a good time.
Nor should any of the rest of us spend one more shekel, dollar or euro on, or in, that budding radical Islamist country which is still referred to as a “regional democracy,” in spite of its siding with and behaving exactly like our other enemies.
Let’s talk Turkey. The time has come to face the reality that yet another state a virtual spit away from Tel Aviv is a foe, not a friend, and must be treated accordingly.
Ruthie Blum, a former senior editor at The Jerusalem Post, is the author of “Hell in a Handbasket: Carter, Obama, and the ‘Arab Spring,’” to be released by RVP Press in the summer.