They stepped out onto the deck and sat in a neat line. The captain escorted several men and told them to join the group. The boats were very close now. People on the deck felt calm, however, despite their adversaries’ olive-green uniforms and military gear. They knew that as long as they kept their hands to themselves, they will be spared any abuse.

Thus, passengers of infamous vessel Rachel Corrie offered no violent resistance to the IDF soldiers and – according to military sources – cooperated with the boarding troops. Soon enough, the soldiers – now in control of the boat – brought Corrie to the Ashdod port, where passengers, as well as the cargo, were offloaded. Israeli officials even praised the activists, hailing their non-violent protest. Sadly, the cargo will have to wait, as Hamas government bars entry of ‘Freedom Flotilla’s goods into the Gaza Strip – a curious occurrence in itself, as Hamas claims people literally die on Gaza streets. Where is the empathy?

The empathy is left down in the sea, with the propaganda. Hamas isn’t the only movement which denies Gazans’ access to aid – so is Free Gaza, the movement that allegedly champions Palestinian cause and risks own lives (or, should I say, lives of others) to promote radical agenda, as illustrated by IDF’s most recent audio clip. In it, Israeli Navy officers attempt to resolve Rachel Corrie standoff peacefully, without the need to border the ship. Moreover, the Israeli Defense Force offers transfer of the goods into Gaza by an independent NGOs – not the army – yet, Free Gaza activists decline the offer. I guess it’s better for the aid to rot at the border.

Expectedly, Free Gaza crowd receives support from some of the most radical elements around the world – from Hamas to Turkey to Iran. Some reports went as far as claim Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan might himself visit Gaza to personally break the blockade – a circus we’d all love to see (the report was later dismissed by Turkish officials). Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered (no political play here, of course) the Revolutionary Guards to escort future ‘Freedom Flotilla’ convoys – a spectacular view no doubt. Iran’s tactic at sea, you might remember from its recent exercises, is use of multiple very small rocket boats to swarm and attack its target. It is likely those could be easily destroyed by the Israeli Air Force.

Israeli authorities say they’ve uncovered terrorist support for the flotilla, as some ‘peace activists’ arrested on board Mavi Marmara were directly involved with terror activities, such as funding or training terror groups. And last – but not least – German Jewish group just announced they would support Free Gaza by organizing a ‘blockade-busting’ flotilla of their own. Well, ‘flotilla’ is too tough a word – scheduled for July, activists have a single boat, filled with 12 to 16 persons.

 

'Flotilla 13' soldier held at knifepoint by 'Mavi Marmara' crew Far from politics, various sources released more information about the mess on board Mavi Marmara. First reports by Israeli sites claimed several IDF soldiers were kidnapped by Marmara crew after being beaten by ‘peace activists’. While at first critics doubted such allegations, later in the day Turkish newspaper released pictures of injured IDF soldiers, held at knifepoint by the ‘Freedom Flotilla’. The pictures further enraged Israelis and shifted somewhat opinion in the international press towards Israel’s point of view. The intent of Turkish Hurriyet was to humiliate the injured soldiers, headlining the article “Tears of a Commando”.

On the Israeli side, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attempted to diminish the conflict between Israel and Turkey, by diverting attention from sail’s organizers to the extremists themselves. In a cabinet meeting, Netanyahu claimed the few dozen activists who attacked the IDF soldiers on board Mavi Marmara organized and boarded the ship separately from the IHH and Free Gaza activists, thus exploiting the sail for own purposes. Turkish behavior, however, seems to counter those claims.

 

Despite fiery speeches and unequivocal support of local media, Turkey faced harsh criticism from some famed quarters around the world. The New York Times’ editorial, for example, snubbed Thanksgiving country’s government for going radical, saying that while extremist rhetoric might score few points for Erdogan among his people, he will find it much harder to convert his coarse language into reality:

Mr. Erdogan may find it hard to walk things back when he needs to — and he will.

(Ynet)

Erdogan, however, might already be in trouble, according to some experts, who say Erdogan’s passionate rhetoric is the result of predictions his party will lose upcoming elections next year. The analysts say Erdogan sees support for his Islamic Movement diminish, thus he attempts to restore some faith in his policies and influence the vox populi.

Erdogan and Free Gaza movement find themselves in deeper trouble, as their claims of ‘illegal blockade’ and ‘illegal raid in international waters’ is being crushed to pieces by legal experts around the world. In an interview to BBC, Douglas Guilfoyle, a maritime lawyer and a lecturer at University College London, claimed that while the issue is complex and requires thorough investigation, Israel’s actions might be within parameters set by the international law. In a Reuters Q&A, several experts claim that Israel is allowed to board vessels declaring they are about to breach an imposed blockade – even if it means boarding the ships in international waters. Moreover, Reuters says Israel’s interception of Gaza-bound ships could be applied globally, as long as ship’s declared goal is to breach Israeli-imposed blockade. The only areas where Israel cannot uphold its blockade is waters of a neutral, third-party state.

Most importantly, Turkish violence, vile allegations and demands enraged the Israelis – from IDF supporters to satirists. Several demonstrations in support of the IDF were held in Israel throughout past few days. While handful radical Left-wing activists – supported by Israeli Palestinians – marched through Tel Aviv, calling upon the government to lift blockade on Gaza, most Israelis offered explicit support for the troops and the government. With feelings of persecution rising among Israeli Jewish population, Benjamin Netanyahu managed to keep nation’s spirit strong.

Some pro-Israel NGOs and blogs take on the job to counter anti-Israel claims and press. In one post, Little Green Footballs – a blog that revealed a ‘doctored’ photo in Reuters’ report during Second Lebanon War, again encountered dubious practice by the wire service, where picture released to subscribers excluded a knife held by an ‘activist’. A slew of others stood up for Israel, such as Elder of Ziyon, CAMERA, News That Matters, Augean Stables, and many others. These blogs identified and collected much information on legal issues, as well as inaccuracies reported by Free Gaza and the likes.

To contribute to national pride, a satirical group Latmah released a video clip, based on famous song ‘We are the World’. The Israeli version – named ‘We Con the World’, has already seen over 1,100,000 views – and still rising. The video – posted four days after first report on the incident by Al Jazeera English – still surpassed the latter by 400,000 views. Turkish expressions of outrage over the clip produced no damage to its popularity.

On the other side of the activist aisle, some Israeli students set off to organize own flotilla into Turkish territory, with supplies to nations oppressed by Erdogan’s radical regime – the Armenians and the Kurds. The organizers are yet to set a date for the humanitarian mission, but claim their goal is to set sail by the end of the week.

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