Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Boat attacks helicopters

A newspaper magnate once said that "dog bites man" isn't newsworthy, but "man bites dog" -- that is news. We now have a similar situation in the brutal world of peace activism.

The New York Times (ever the beacon of responsible journalism) has raised a subtle point about the recent struggle on board the Mavi Marmara, a ship carrying humanitarian aid for the besieged people of the Gaza strip. In a recent article a certain Brian Stelter suggests that it is difficult to determine who was the aggressor in this conflict. The article in question starts "When Israeli commandos attacked the so-called Freedom Flotilla...", which appears to resolve the issue, but spin-doctoring must be hard work and evidently Mr Stelter forgot this line while writing the rest of the article. Instead he went on to say:

"But what is missing so far from the flotilla clips on both sides is context: it is difficult to establish the sequence of events or, more simply, to determine who attacked first."

How true. Without having been on the spot, how can we know whether Israeli helicopters attacked the boat, or the boat attacked the helicopters? It all boils down to plain conjecture. Of course we do know that peace activists are aggressive by nature and their boats are equipped James-Bond-like to make gigantic leaps into the air. So my guess is it was the latter that happened - the Israeli helicopters were snatched out of the air and slammed down on the boat, caught totally unawares while they thought they were safe in "international airspace".

One feels a pang of sympathy for the Israeli government, which despite being the victim has received criticisms ranging from "deeply concerned" to "terrible". Knowing how sensitive they and their army can be, is it fair or responsible to denounce them thus? What if they get depressed and discouraged as a result?

16 comments:

Rahul Siddharthan said...

The boat attacked the helicopters. Peace activists on their own ship, in international waters, are "rioters".

Israel parachuted commandos onto those ships because they expected to find Gandhian peace activists there, not people who would try to defend themselves. (I actually read that somewhere, and there's a similar quote in the "rioters" link.) Naturally, encountering resistance, they had the right to shoot. As someone remarked: if a foreign army enters your house, and you grab a kitchen knife to defend yourself, they have the right to gun you down.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Kitchen knives were indeed found, along with a couple of spanners and a monkey wrench, as you can see here. With all these WMD's, I'm surprised the boat people didn't just take over all of Israel...

Shamashis said...

A 'premeditated' attack with slingshots! This could have well been a spoof of the Israeli Defense Force website.

Rahul Siddharthan said...

That is a truly amazing link. So they found a handful of kitchen knives and plumbing equipment on a ship that has a capacity of 1080 passengers. If Israel and the IDF think these pictures will convince the world that the activists are terrorists, they're insane. Now the problem for the world is, how do you deal with an insane government and military?

Rahul Basu said...

Rahul S: The answer to your question is -- you cannot and they will continue to get away with it because the world's only superpower will always throw its full weight behind it (notwithstanding that the US has for once supported the Security Council resolution condemning this action). Throw in a quasi-fascist Lieberman, (not that Netanyahu is any oil painting) and I think it's a good guess that even India and Pakistan will solve their problems before the Israelis and Palestinians. After all, think how many times Israel has gotten away with what for any other country would be considered a war crime.

Dark Legend said...

Some of the weapons look like Frisbees and at least one bears a close resemblance to a tablecloth...

ansumali said...

According to nytimes
"Returning activists admitted fighting with the Israelis but insisted their actions were in self defense because the ships were being boarded in international waters by a military force."

But these things do not matter to you guys. When so called peace activist fight with army you guys cry foul. However, none of you actually make any noise if a crazy guy just decide that he want to blow himself up in crowded hotel in Israel. Where were u guys when suicide bombing was a routine affair in Israel. Not heard of any peace activist going to Palestine and trying to stop suicide bombing. Blasting Isreal seems to be favorite game here.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Ansu - close your eyes for a minute. An Indian boat is sailing in international waters. Pakistani soldiers land on it from helicopters. In your world-view, would this be legal? Acceptable? Would the Indians on the boat be allowed to fight back? Lodge complaints? Expect the world community to condemn Pakistan for this action? Tell the truth now!

Repeat the mental exercise with Iranian paratroopers landing on an American boat in international waters. Who is in the wrong?

I hope you don't believe that rules should vary depending on the country to which they apply?

Taatya Vinchu said...

Now you close your eyes and imagine a Pakistani boat trying to enter Indian waters, supposedly trying to provide aid to some needy people in India. Wouldn't the Indian Navy want to investigate the ship? If during that investigation, people on the ship turn violent, albeit using kitchen knives, wouldn't the Navy have the right to retaliate? Situations can get from bad to worse within no time and irreversible damage can occur.

If a cop is trying to stop a car, would you oblige and cooperate or would you try to run from him? If you have nothing to fear, you would stop and let the cop investigate.

I am no foreign policy expert but all I am saying is that we should refrain from commenting on some age-old, complex issues unless we have first hand information on the entire issue from the beginning.

ansumali said...

Well, Sunil imagine the Indian boat you are talking is full of rogue RSS activists too and want to land in pakistan on a supposedly peace mission about right of POK or Ahmedia muslims there? They have no permission from pak and are carrying lots and lots of cash and some of them might have violent intentions too. Will you expect no action from pak? Pak will be an idiot if they wait till this boat land on their land and generate even bigger adverse publicity for them.
There are too many Possibilities of that sort. Imagine a peace mission from Pak to Kashmir. May be next Kargil peace mission with 100000 activist and x number of pak militant sympathisers. Will Indian state wait till they actually land in Kashmir?
Private player acting like state or even some European court trying to act like arbitrator of international disputes is a direction which can be abused in many ways. For example, I am glad that attempts by European courts were resisted by India, USA and many other countries.
If the talked about boat was really on a peace mission rather than on any anti-Isreali propaganda (or who knows may be even Kargil like attempt to sit in a part of disputed territory), I would expect that they will follow Gandhian principle and will allow at least weapon checks from Isreal. Else, I do not understand how else Isreal should behave in a hostile environment where whatever they will do be always criticized but suicide bombers in civilian areas will be tolerated by so called international community. They can't rely on European opinion to keep their citizens safe.

Regarding the more general question of Isreali-Palastine issue, it is my personal opinion that while given a fair chance Isreali public opinion and leaders will accept some sort of compromise. Oslo process onwards
many time such an indication came. However, there is no willingness from Palestine side. Arab states will remain happy too if this dispute never get resolved. Personally, I have scientist friends from both side and I find it irritating when Palestine friends tell that even 100 year war is acceptable but the vexed issue of "right to return to Jerusalem" is non-negotiable. I do not see how Isreal can ever accept that condition. Although to be fair to them, they do accept that terror attacks and emergence of Hamas has only weaken palestine cause.

Sunil Mukhi said...

Taatya: In your story the waters are Indian, in my story (and in the one that was in the news) the waters are international. I believe that makes all the difference.

Mind Without Fear said...

I often find Irfan Husain's ( associated with the Dawn media group ) views on various matters reasonable and similar to my own thoughts. Here is a link to an article he wrote after the Israeli raid ...

http://www.dawn.com/wps/wcm/connect/dawn-content-library/dawn/the-newspaper/columnists/21-irfan-husain-turkey-holds-israel-to-account-260-sk-04

vbalki said...

The boat attacked the helicopters, all right. But not by means of any James-Bond-like leaps, like you suggest. It's obvious that the guys on the boat speared fish out of the water using the pen-knives and threw the thrashing, twitching creatures at the helicopters, which fouled up the rotors. Just the sort of thing diabolic boat people would do...

Anirbit said...

Apologies for probably a very stupid question.

You had linked to this blog,

http://idfspokesperson.com/2010/05/31/pictures-of-weapons-found-on-the-mavi-marmara-flotilla-ship-31-may-2010/

Is this a serious document written by a national army or is this a very well-designed clever spoof by someone?


Do the Israeli army really think that pictures of kitchen knives, sling shots and hammers will convince people how lethally equipped the aid ship was?

Sunil Mukhi said...

Anirbit: Yes I believe this is the blog site of the Israeli Defense Forces Spokesperson, just as it claims to be. Go directly to the main site and scroll through the several dozen entries over the last 10 days -- you may end up wanting to join the IDF!!

Sunil Mukhi said...

Ansu: I see that our points of view don't have much convergence. So we may agree to disagree. However on one point you are simply not being fair: the flotilla wanted to land in Gaza which is part of the Palestinian territories, therefore your comparison with an Indian ship wanting to land in Pakistan is no good -- unless you believe that the Gaza strip is a part of Israel, something which even Israel doesn't believe.