A ship in the flotilla (AP/Uriel Sinai)
The Israeli version of events is as follows, from Ha'aretz:
The left-wing activists on board a flotilla carrying aid to the Gaza Strip tried to lynch the Israel Navy commandos who stormed their Turkish-flagged ship early Monday, Israel Defense Forces sources told Haaretz.
The commandos, who intercepted the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara after it ignored orders to turn back, said they encountered violent resistance from activists armed with sticks and knives. According to the soldiers, the activists threw one of their comrades from the upper deck to the lower after they boarded.
If only it was that clear-cut. And, yes, we don't know all the facts. And Ha'aretz has a picture of one of the people on the ship holding a huge knife -- but that's one person. However, the IDF is an interested party here. And I'll correct the record if this turns out to be true.
But this event looks more like a ghastly overreaction that will do more to help Hamas, and to a lesser extent Hezbollah and other terrorist groups than any act of terrorism could ever do.
The Israeli navy may well have fired on the vessel before the commandos boarded it. The attack took place in international waters -- where the Navy does not have jurisdiction. Ha'aretz reported that between 14 and 20 people may have been killed.
On board were 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid (still not enough to solve the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza), 700 pro-Palestinian activists, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan, European legislators, and Hedy Epstein, an elderly Holocaust survivor. (To be clear, their views are not necessarily my own. -LJ)
It is in its own self-interest for Israel to open itself to a full international investigation of the events. If the IDF is indeed correct about the source of attacks, then this investigation will show that. If they are not, then it proves -- what I still cling to -- that Israel is a democracy committed to examining its errors more than the United States, or easily, most of its Middle Eastern neighbors. (Syria, for instance, would never "investigate" the crimes of its military in say, Hama.)
In U.S.-Israel relations, Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled his visit with President Obama on Tuesday. The United States "deeply regretted" the loss of life.
Whatever your views about "who started it" or "how it will play," we can all agree that this was a preventable tragedy.
I can be reached at email@example.com. Follow me on Twitter for my columns, and many things not releated to foreign policy. I haven't commented on it -- because I don't have a lot to add -- but Peter Beinart's essay in the New York Review of Books on the failure of American Jewish organizations is teriffic. I'll be interested to know how AIPAC responds to this incident.