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Flotilla's Goal Was Not Humanitarian

A Commentary by Debra J. Saunders

Friday, June 04, 2010

On CNN earlier this week, American Edward Peck, an activist who sailed with the Free Gaza Movement flotilla, asserted, "The purpose of the movement was humanitarian."

Sorry, but the video of so-called peace activists clubbing Israeli soldiers and tossing one onto a lower deck didn't exactly exude the Kumbaya spirit to me.

While Peck argued that the flotilla was not "hostile," its goal was provocative -- to break Israel's military embargo against Hamas. Activists knew they were taunting a standing army.

They also knew they couldn't lose. Israel already delivers food and other relief to the Gaza Strip. As for the PR war, even before Israeli forces boarded the Gaza armada, the Jerusalem Post reported, Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told supporters, "If the ships reach Gaza, it's a victory for Gaza. If they are intercepted and terrorized by the Zionists, it will be a victory for Gaza, too, and they will move again in new ships to break the siege of Gaza."

And I don't think some American and European activists minded being linked with terrorists. When anchor Rick Sanchez had asked Peck if the flotilla organizers had ties to al-Qaida, Peck answered, "No. Are some of the people on it involved? That is possible."

When journalists interviewed the brother of Furkan Dogan, 19, a Turkish American who was killed during the melee and whose body was returned to Turkey, The New York Times reported that the brother replied, "We didn't expect him to come back like this. However, we were not sorry to hear that he fell like a martyr." Be it noted, the usual way to become a martyr in the Middle East is to die while trying to kill other people. So spare me the "humanitarian" conceit.

Sure, Americans and Europeans who boarded the flotilla may tell themselves that they simply wanted to bring food, medical supplies and cement -- barred by Israel lest it be used to build bunkers or tunnels -- to Gaza's 1.5 million inhabitants, but at some point, they will have to recognize that they also were serving as tools for men who were prepared to martyr themselves. And in so doing, they have aided extremists who want to move Turkey into the arms of radical Islam.

As Our Betters in Europe pounced on Israel, President Obama has been wise to refrain. There's no need to jump on Israel. Israelis know that, at best, their military blundered by underestimating the threat and ultimately playing into the hands of extremists looking for a public-relations victory.

Other Israelis question the embargo itself. In banning the importation of such innocent goods as instant coffee, dried fruit and nutmeg, as well as the export of Gaza agricultural produce, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu gambled that Palestinians would see no future in Hamas and turn on its leaders. That gamble has not paid off.

But then it's hard to win when there are so many guns pointed at your back, and you are held to standards not applied to the true despots of the world, who are not afraid to bite back.

Think about it. A team of international investigators found that North Korea sank a South Korean warship in March, killing 46 sailors. But I don't think you'll see many American peace activists on a flotilla to North Korea.

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Views expressed in this column are those of the author, not those of Rasmussen Reports.  

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