Expansion and Clarification

There is some misunderstanding about my point about international waters, which is undoubtedly due to my own lack of clarity.  I was not arguing about whether Israel may, or may not, stop blockade runners before they hit territorial waters, though I got dragged into that morass in the comments.  Rather, the point is that dropping commandos onto a ship in international waters is explicitly a military operation.  And people who are being attacked by the military are justified in violent response.  That's what war is:  attack, and violent response.  People who are resisting the police, on the other hand, are not behaving in a legitimate fashion, unless they are victims of some odious totalitarian regime.  Israel exercising its policing power over its own waters is different from Israel engaging in a military raid.

To put it another way, when Hamas kidnaps an Israeli soldier, they're engaging in a legitimate act of war.  We can argue over whether their broader strategic goals are evil, whether it was a tactically stupid thing to do, or whether the indefinite holding of said soldier as a bargaining chip is legitimate (I'd say no; they'd say that Israel has a bunch of their soldiers; I'd say it's a stretch to call terrorists soldiers, and then we'd be here all night arguing, so I'll stop here).  But attacking the military is not in the same category as deliberately firing Kassam rockets at civilian areas of no military significance, or blowing yourself up in a crowded marketplace, for which there can never be any excuse.

(No, not even for a side as unquestionably awesome and right as the folks who proudly firebombed Dresden and Tokyo. On a side note, I cannot even begin to express my weariness with "other people have done worse things at some point in the past, many times even" as a debating point.  Such arguments ultimately suggest that the Bataan Death March is the baseline for human behavior.)

The Israeli soldiers were perfectly justified in defending themselves once attacked.  They may have been perfectly justified in launching the raid in the first place.  The problem is, the other side was also perfectly justified in launching a violent response to a military operation.  I'm not specially mourning the dead flotilla members as The Good Guys; I'm mourning all the deaths and wounds on both sides as sad, which any loss of life or health inevitably is.

Rather, I think that they proved their point that Israel is willing to kill people to keep non-military supplies out of Gaza, which has highlighted the blockade in a way that the Israelis are finding unpleasant.  They were willing to die for that cause.  So were the Israeli soldiers, for theirs.  Fair enough on both sides.  But given that most people in the world seem to find the "cause" of shipping non-weapons goods to Gaza more compelling than the "cause" of maintaining the blockade, this was not a win for Israel.

On a side note, Jeffrey Goldberg is complaining that I am unfairly singling out Israel for criticism, which he says is a new direction for The Atlantic.  Look, I blog about this stuff very irregularly.  And as far as I know, since I've come to The Atlantic, the Israeli body count in this conflict has consisted of one Arab construction worker who died of wounds sustained in a rocket attack, and kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who seems to still be alive.  If the vile, rapacious and brutal Hamas regime, or any of the other vile, rapacious and brutal Palestinian terror groups, kills more Israeli citizens, I will be happy to note my outrage and revulsion at vile, rapacious groups of people who believe that murdering civilians is an appropriate means of pressing their grievances (no matter how legitimate they may or may not be).  Well, not happy, you understand, but I'll do it anyway--and have, many times before.  It is possible that I have known more victims of Islamic terror than my colleague, given where I grew up, and the fact that I did consulting work for a number of companies housed in the twin towers; it's hard to argue that I'm soft on Islamic terrorists.  There's a reason they called us "warbloggers".

However, for the last three years, the deaths have overwhelmingly been on the other side.  If and when that changes, I will be among the many voices raised in horrified condemnation.