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Karkur, Israel
December 18
Kedem Productions
Born in NYC, living in Israel, obsessive follower of politics in both places. Writer, Editor, Translator, and all-purpose wordsmith.

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MAY 31, 2010 5:47PM

Look, A Trap-Let's Fall For It! (Or: Let's Play Paintball!)

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My country (the rapidly unraveling state of Isra-hell) in its infinite capacity for stupidity, loudly identified a provocative trap for all to hear - and then proceeded to stomp straight into it. This is an extra-special Weekend Holyland Update, maritime edition, commado style.

Like I told you yesterday, the Gaza humanitarian aid flotilla has been en route for about a week, and scheduled to leave for two or three weeks before that. It was the seventh such flotilla, and all the previous ones were intercepted and handled with relative ease by Israel.

However, it was well known a good while before the fiasco of this early morning that this flotilla is seriously different. This one, although initiated by the same grassroots largely peaceful activists, was coopted by the Turkish government, which meant it was much larger, much better organized and far more cynically/efficiently/ruthlessly directed to the end of maximizing political potential.

Despite KNOWING this, and despite having considered several more sensible alternatives to the stupidity that actually took place (jamming the ships' rotors, using water canons or tear gas to subdue the passengers before attempting to board...), Israel's military brass - Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Navy Commander and Minister of Defense - settled on a course of action that treated it as certain that the people on the ships would react exactly as they did in the past six attempts to break the siege when their ships were commandeered - some spitting, some shoving, and nothing else.

So they prepared for the last war, as the saying goes, and told the poor commando grunts to expect no violence. So here are Israel's Navy Seals, rapelling from a chopper, each carrying a pistol and - get this, I swear this is no joke - a paintball rifle. Y'all ever done paintball? It ain't no crowd control implement. You shoot someone with that, unless you hit them in the eye or the head, it just stings like a motherfucker. No disabling action whatsoever. So what was the point of this secret weapon? I don't know, but seeing how our navy commander is a guy who thought it was safe for him in his position to be seen at strip joints, and our CoS is a guy who managed to have his pistol and credit card stolen from his super-secure office, simple stupidity can't be ruled out.

So the commandos rappel from the choppers, they see a seething crowd waiting for them on the top deck of the ship, but they keep going. They're jumped as soon as they hit the deck. One by one. Israel's vaunted commandos, (the same unit that once traveled 1200 miles, stormed a villa in a hostile country, pumped 70 holes in a terror commander without touching anyone else and returned to their subs and back home unscathed) - heirs to that tradition are getting their asses kicked by a crowd weilding crowbars and chairs some kitchen knives and box cutters. A couple get clubbed, one gets shanked and one gets tossed over a rail into the drink. Realizing they walked like a bunch of idiots into a seriously dangerous situation totally unprepared, they have no choice but to draw their firearms and start shooting. They claim that some of the activists managed to snatch the pistols from a couple soldiers and shoot some other soldiers. Funny how the video IDF Spokesman released, in an attempt to show the "brutal, barbaric violence" by the activists shows the crowbars, and the knives, and the tossing of the one commando over the rail, and even a stun grenade and a molotov cocktail, but no snatching of or firing of a pistol. Can you spell "friendly fire", boys and girls?

Anyway, a few bang-bangs later, at least 9 (some say 10, some as many as 19) activists lay dead. Between 30-60 lay wounded, some seriously, and seven soldiers also injured, three in serious but not life threatening condition and the rest medium to lightly wounded.

To compound the humiliation, all Israeli sources, from military brass to journalists down to the commandos themselves, keep using the word "lynch", going so far as to describe their ordeal as "like the Ramallah lynch, just at sea". In the Ramallah lynch in 2000, two Israeli reservists took a wrong turn in the Palestinian city, were blocked, arrested by Palestinian cops who confiscated their weapons, then a mob snatched them from the cops and tore them limb from limb. Yup, sounds exactly like commando fighters willingly rappeling from a chopper onto a ship in international waters in order to execute a violent takeover - basically an act of piracy on the high seas.

As @summersumz put it on Twitter: If you rappel onto someone's ship from a chopper, nothing you subsequently do can be called "self defense".

The demagogic whining doesn't end there: Israel's acting UN ambassador brayed about how the cold-weapon resistance proved that "these were no peace activists, no emissaries of goodwill". Um, they didn't pose as "peace activists" but as "humanitarian aid", which is not synonymous, and any goodwill they purported to have was for the besieged people of Gaza and not the non-reality-based military forces of Israel doing the besieging. All clear now?

It took until the evening for the dominant tone in Israeli media to change from "what a mess, but hey, it's their fault!!!" to "well, maybe we should've been both 'right' AND 'smart'...", and for word to start trickling out that the poor commando grunts are none too happy about being sent like idiots with the wrong intel and wrong gear, or as one guy put it "they sent us with toys to a war!" Because when you try to hijack a ship on the high seas, being treated like its war is simply shocking! And, um, not NICE!

Concurrently, the top economic writer for Israel's leading rag, Yediot Aharonot, says that his paper and others had info that top IDF commanders were opposed to the stupid operation, but they refused to share this info with their readers. As a jounralist, I have no words for how sickening I find this betrayal of the reportorial calling.

The readers, btw, are mostly happy to be treated as eejits, nodding along vigorously when their media repeats the insane lies about "Lynchings", "self defense" and "having to protect our soveriegnty" (in international waters, from a ship with no offensive capabilities or intention of entering our territorial waters [our waters, not Gaza's, which, in case anyone forgot, are not actually the same thing] or reaching any of our ports). Some of them are organizing protests against Turkey, cause it's all Turkey's fault our leaders are inept whining criminal fucktards. Menawhile, in Turkey, thousands have been surrounding Israeli diplomatic missions since the shit hit the fan early in the morning.

Turkey recalled its ambassador from Israel for consultation, most countries around the world condemned the killings and the UN security council members called on Israel to cease its Gaza blockade. And that's just the beginning of the fallout. Lucky the 86 year old holocaust survivor didn't join the journey at the last minute, that none of the foreign legislators and dignitaries (like nobel winner Mirread Corrigan Maguire) were hurt and that contrary to initial reports, Israeli-based Islamic leader Raed Salah was not in fact hurt.

There's tons more to be said, but this covers some of the main bases, and should be enough to get the discussion going. Thank you for sailing the stupid seas.

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Feed. I am seriously pooped. Long day. Sleep deficit. There won't be all the links that can be... feel free to add them in the comments, those of y'all who follow stuff.
Ricky, I was thinking of your post from yesterday as the news started rolling in this morning on this whole disaster. I have been following the story closely to see what additional details are forthcoming and thanks for adding yours in this post!
Thanks, des. Who knows, maybe this will be considered important enough to join Gary Coleman, sex and the city and some reality TV show on the OS cover. stranger things have happened.
I don't know much about the Israeli/Gaza issues but always like to be educated. If you rappel onto someone's ship from a choper, nothing you subsequently do can be called "self defense".
That seems to sum it up!
I wrote haaretz, long ago, that israel need not be afraid of Arabic nations, as israel is determined to destroy itself by thousands of self-inflicted wounds.

Even, this "liberal" rag, no longer publishes my comments.

Didn't say they should. Israel in its vast stupidity with the blockade is enabling anyone - including worse assholes than the Turks - to take the side of the angels at its expense.
Thanks for this Ricky. I've also posted a short commentary on this at my blog here.
You made this real - thanks.
Good question Jane.
The UN as an international body has no power over soveriegn nation states. The only weapon the UN SG has is moral authority. Resolutions can be, and are, ignored by Israel.
Depressing answer, o'stephanie.
Interesting. It sounded fishy the whole time, like someone wanted to stage a provocation.
I have been avoiding this story all day. That's hard to do on-line. I am very glad you were here to explain it to me when I finally decided I had to face it. I don't think I need to read another word of coverage.

Props to stella for linking in and sending me here.

Thanks Ricky, for the honest reportage.
Jane - beyond what has been said, while UN sanctions can have some impact, in Israel's case the "can" is merely theoretical since the US routinely shields it from any and all UN censure, vetoing all resolutions condemning its actions and so on. The Obama administration's mere implied threat to not do this for once, in response to Israel's intransigence regarding the peace process and insults towards the US, has been considered an outrageous breach and "betrayal of America's obligation to stand by Israel".

I know, if you don't follow the news, this bit above makes absolutely no sense. Actually, even if you do it doesn't.
Shayetet 13, it should be noted, has basically no experience with less-then-lethal crowd control. There's a big difference between knowing how to kill mothafockers with a crazy straw, and knowing how to control a hostile crowd armed with makeshift weapons *without killing* mothafockers. The IDF would have been better served by any half-dozen Boston cops.

Of course, a sane nation would have deployed a Propeller Entanglement Device (they rock now, make out of kevlar, and they work) to disable the flotilla, then towed them to port. There would have been no high-drama night boarding meant to do nothing but pump poll ratings for a certain prick who hopes to be Prime Minister again one day.

The Rachel Corrie is comming into Gaza tomorrow. Maireád Maguire is aboard, and hell, the IDF has already shot her once. They won't be turning around with being boarded.

After that comes ships with Turkish military escort. Not kidding.

Meanwhile, Israel makes quite the show of deploying a Sub off of the Iranian coast, and Turkey tries to organize a push-back against sanctions on Iran.

All of this the week after Lula released the "Barack Obama is a lying fuck" letter and showed the world how the US has stalled for time while in fact seeking only excuses to escalate.

Israels Kurdish allies launch a series of attacks against Turkey over the last 24 hours.

Oh, and Bonnie Prince Sadr is marching his boys toward the Green Zone.

We live in interesting times. Damnit.
stellaa sent me over here, and I'm glad she did, your perspective adds depth and context to the reporting I've been seeing since last night, it would appear that incompetence is as rampant in the Likud government as arrogance and racism
Yes, this should get the discussion going, for awhile, just like the massacre in Gaza got it going. They will continue this as long as the US continues to let them do any damn thing they please!
Thank you for this. I just keep wondering when the US will quit giving Israel a free pass on everything it does. I have posted the following before:
At my aunt's evangelical church, she stood up to talk about a video she watched about signs of the end of the world approaching. She said that in the video, it showed that after George H. W. Bush had in some small way supported the Palestinians, his house burned down. Obviously, (my aunt and the video concluded) this was because God was punishing Bush for supporting the Palestinians in any way.
I know that there are more complex reasons for American support of Israel, but what bothers me at a grassroots level is that many people like my aunt vote.
I guess this issue isn't important enough for the cover, or even an EP. Oh well. Maybe if I added a cheeseburger recipe, or a "look, samantha jones getting laid again" review...
So I finally made it over here to look for this article, and here it is buried way back in "every other post" -land. This treatment might be the most successful at being both cogent and concise that I've seen of the whole sorry fiasco yet; why wasn't it a "pick" or at least a cover page link? American readers in particular need this kind of accessible explanation of the complexities of context and history when it comes to Israel/Arab news. Perhaps the new editor will give a bit less time to expanded Facebook updates and more to solid journalistic essays.