Friday, January 28

Slow Learners to Set Sail on 'Freedom Flotilla II' to Gaza (audio)

(You can listen to a radio feature of this report here)

The title of this article refers to pro-Palestinian groups that organized last May’s six-ship bid to breach Israel’s anti-armament maritime blockade of Gaza. The so-called humanitarian mission ended with nine passengers dead and dozens of other injured. Seven Israeli naval commandos were shot, stabbed, and beaten by peaceful terror-enablers on board the lead craft, the Mavi Marmara.

Now, slow learners who survived the first encounter say they plan to send more, and larger such convoys towards the Hamas-ruled coastal enclave on the upcoming first anniversary of the event.

The Hamas-affiliated Turkish IHH and the Free Gaza movement said they would send another two sea convoys in April and May, Israeli media reported on Monday.

Flotilla supporters say Israel’s blockade causes privation and starvation, is inhumane and violates international law.

However, Hamas often responds to Israel’s allowing in humanitarian aid via several monitored crossing points by issuing counter-offers promising Israel's annihilation:

...and then bombing said crossing points, cutting off the aid along with their noses.

So, after the Islamist group’s violent coup wresting power from the Palestinian Authority in 2007, and deadly shrapnel showers visited on Israeli cities by close to 10,000 Kassam rockets for more than seven years, Israel cordoned off the Strip until further notice, meaning either Hamas’ leadership learns to dance the hora, or, failing that, that their jig is up.

For those who may not remember, that six ship flotilla ferried – along with guns, knives, chains, clubs, slingshots and other humanitarian weapons – some 40 martyrdom-seeking Turkish Islamists aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Israeli intelligence officials have proven direct links between the IHH, Hamas, and al-Qaida, and video and audio clips by those aboard the last slow boat to hell showed many preparing for martyrdom when the Israelis showed up.

In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, nine of them got their wish when Israel Navy SEAL teams fast-roped from helicopters down to the decks intending to seize the craft and turn it towards Ashkelon Port.

There, Israeli officials made clear that the paltry aid aboard the other five craft, which included expired medicines, non-functioning wheelchairs, and third-hand clothes, would be transshipped to nearby Gaza by truck, after being inspected. The goods eventually reached Gaza, where even Hamas turned them down.

Poor intel by Israel’s intelligence services, however, meant that the Shayetet 13 commandos, who were packing little more than paintball guns and sidearms in expectation of peaceful protesters, rappelled down the ropes...

and straight into the waiting arms of a howling mob itching to display their humanity.

Coping with the ensuing melee and the international diplomatic, political, legal, and public-relations fallout from the raid-gone-arwy has proven to be one of Israel’s most daunting challenges in recent years, with the next chapter developing just as soon as the next ship of fools decides to anchors aweigh.

Freedom Flotilla II,” as the organizers dubbed the tubs, is set to shovel like-minded acolytes from almost a dozen countries, including the U.S. and Canada, once again into the breech. One of the leaders is Dror Feiler, a 60-year-old Sabra artist and musician who emigrated to Sweden in 1973.

Feiler is a vehement critic of the Jewish State and the entire Zionist idea.

But when not “spitting in the well he drank from,” Feiler – apparently a musician and artist – still finds time to answers to the muses: In 2004, he erected a protest art exhibit at the National Antiquities Museum in Stockholm, cleverly entitled, “My Heart Swims With Blood.” The display featured “a boat floating in a pool of red liquid with a photo of the Palestinian suicide bomber Hanadi Jaradat attached to the mast as if ‘forming the sail of a little toy boat on a pool of blood.’”

(Charming, no?)

Hanadi, if you may recall, murdered 21 diners and wounded 51 others at a jointly Jewish-Arab owned restaurant in Haifa that year when – after first having a sumptuous meal herself (she reportedly didn’t pay) – detonated a bomb vest she was wearing.

“Art for art’s sake,” Hanadi for Allah’s sake and all that, but, let’s go back to the flotilla.

The Turkel Commission report, released on Sunday, said Israel acted properly in its anti-weapons blockade policy against the terrorist-led enclave and in its counter-terror operation to gain control of the flotilla.

“The naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – in view of the security circumstances and Israel’s efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations – was legal pursuant to the rules of international law,”
former Israeli Supreme court justice Jacob Turkel, who headed the five-member panel, said of the unanimous conclusions. The blue-ribbon panel, which included two esteemed international observers, said the naval commandos acted in self-defense in using deadly force to take over the ship.

In an interview held shortly after the raid took place, I spoke with an Israeli-American maritime security and counter-terrorism expert, who shared his take on the tactics and events on and below-decks aboard the Mavi Marmara. His thoughtful conclusions in June, 2010, presaged those reached by the commission seven months later.

Ariel Siegelman, 30, heads The Draco Group, an international security firm experienced in guarding freighters and passenger ships making their way through the pirate-infested waters of the Gulf of Aden, the south China Sea, and elsewhere.

Siegelman grew up in Atlanta, Ga., and, when not staving off Somali pirates, lives in Jerusalem with his wife and baby.

At first glance, Siegelman doesn’t strike you as someone who’s used to facing off against pirates and gunmen, until the soft-spoken, observant Jew shares hair-raising experiences as a professional Israeli security chief guarding passenger vessels and freighters plying treacherous waters far from his hearth and home.

You can listen to the radio feature I produced of that conversation here.

In addition to the interview itself, the report includes clips of statements from a passenger on the Mavi Marmara hoping for martyrdom (on his third try, no less; “inshallah,” as he hopefully puts it), audio of the Israeli Navy warning off one of the flotilla craft, and responses including, “shut up – go back to Auschwitz!” and, “We’re helping Arabs going against the U.S. — don’t forget 9/11, guys.”

Going by off-the-record remarks by senior Israeli officials I’ve spoken with, and testimony by senior Army officers before the Turkel Commission, when and if the next such group shows up off Gaza’s shoreline, Israel will not only not have forgotten either of those responses – having learned painful lessons from the last flotilla – it will be readying a fitting response of its own.

(A previous version of this article appears here:


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