Disproportionate force on the flotilla: the Dish on who was bad, who was badass

In a post entitled “Badass Israel,” the Dish may be trying to pivot the discussion away from international law to keeping up appearances with Friends:

But the fact is the boat was in international waters, had committed no crime in Israeli waters,

In other words, Andrew has figured out that stopping the boats in international waters wasn’t illegal.

could have been kept away by a variety of other tactics, and was attacked by fully-armed commandos who ended up killing many unarmed civilians.

Wha …? They weren’t “fully-armed,” and he has no idea if the 9 civilians said killed (down from 16) were unarmed.

To see Israel as the victim in this is so perverse it borders on unhinged.

I wouldn’t say Israel is “the victim”; I wouldn’t say its “the aggressor” either.

It wasn’t “looking for a fight,” and neither were the passengers on the other ships. The passengers of that one ship were “looking for fight”, as evidenced by their “Khyber Khyber” chants earlier. Israel was looking to maintain a blockade on a rocket-firing polity, while conducting all humanitarian supplies to the people of that rocket-firing polity.

If Andrew truly thinks that these passengers experienced an “act of war” when Israeli soldiers boarded their ships, then he needs to follow through with the implications. The Free Gaza organizers seemed to have made statements that all violence would be non-violent passive resistance such as blocking doors. So that made it out of bounds to defend the ship with violence, according to Just War theory. Additionally, I’m not sure if metal pipes, knives and molotov cocktails are considered use of “proportionate force” in getting soldiers to leave a ship — at least not the way these passengers were using them.

But I don’t get the sense that Andrew even wants to touch his Just War theory, just as he tried to walk away form it in his Cast Lead smears and didn’t give a fig about it in the Battles of Fallujah.  The hyperbole “so perverse it borders on unhinged” implies that the Dish doesn’t have a lot of resources for its argument.

Many things that have been “unhinged” on the Dish. Peggy Noonan was “unhinged Noonan” the other day for BSing that Barack Obama is going to lose — she wasn’t even “bordering on” it! But the Dish’s frequent use of “unhinged” reminds me of what Sullivan recently remarked, when Jonathan Chait said that Peter Beinart’s argument was overwrought:

I know this technique – you call the straight ones “over-wrought” and the gay ones “hysterical.” But world-weariness is not an argument.

One might say that generalization borders on unhinged. (For describing claims, I might say “hysterical claims”; I might describe arguments as “overwrought,” not as “hysterical” … maybe if I meant they were very funny. — So when people write “excitable Andrew,” are they saying that because Andrew is gay or because he is excitable?) Anyway, the more world-weary Andrew ends with a half-decent reader quote:

Another reader writes:

As an Israeli citizen (although I no longer live there) I am appalled at Israel’s tactics with the ships bound for Gaza. They could have easily used non-lethal means to accomplish their objective.

Well they tried to. Then, they got attacked and shooting, apparently, started only when some weapons were taken away from them. [UPDATE, 6/1 — Israel says the soldiers began to shoot 40 minutes after boarding.]

For example, they could have moved a gunboat in front of the large ship forcing it to stop or slow down. They could have dropped a frogman into the water to disable the propeller and/or rudder with a small explosive. The immobilized ship could then be towed anywhere Israel wanted.

I like the reader’s brainstorming — it’s more than the Dish is capable of — except that I think any explosive would risk the sinking of the whole boat with its passengers and thus violate international law. [UPDATE, 6/1 — Brigadier General Itzik Turgeman said to the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee  that the size of the ship prohibited sabotaging the engine.] And a frogman can’t disable a moving propeller so far as I know. Maybe drop a huge chain from a helicopter on the propeller and help guide it from underwater? I don’t think it could happen.

A related problem with the reader’s idea: how could these tactics be considered “proportionate force” for the mission, unless they knew that the people on it were armed and unlike the passengers on the other boats?

Israel apparently didn’t do the research or surveillance necessary to determine that this one ship was different. Even before they came on the boat, the soldiers seemed to be attempting to use “proportionate force.”

Right now, I’m looking through the San Remus manual and trying to find out whether Israel was legally bound to “visit and search” the ship. So far it seems like it wasn’t.

Knowing the Israeli psyche like I do, they took the approach of confrontation to teach “them” a lesson and show “them” who is boss. I see the same thing every time I’m in the West bank, which is twice a year for the Holidays visiting my settler relatives.

Was quoting that reader supposed to be badass, Andrew?

But regarding the title of the Dish’s post … I don’t know how commandos boarding a ship with paintball guns or waiting to get beat up and thrown off boat decks by a bunch of guys in orange life-vests could be considered very “badass.”


UPDATE, 6/1: In a flash of nostalgia last night, I remembered the Dish post nearly a year ago How to Tell Who the Good Guys Are, where Andrew answered

They”re the ones who sometimes rescue a beleaguered riot policeman:

Evidently, they did not harm this policeman after this photo, and either promptly sent him on his way with his tail between his legs or prevented him from leaving for the duration of the protest.

The next day the Dish passed along this video:

One thing that’s inspiring about the video is that the crowd is throwing rocks (mere improvised weapons) over and over again at … a burning motorcycle. The policeman on the motorcycle they have evidently not … hit with metal pipes, stabbed with knives, burnt with Molotov cocktails, cut with broken glass battles, slashed with retractable razor blades or thrown out a 2nd-story window.

… But would that have been within their rights, having suffered an unprovoked attack?

We remember last year when the Dish would have credited these protesters with the effort they made to identify “proportionate force” with which respond to the threat against them, using it to incapacitate their attackers and preventing themselves from going any further. Then, that was a reason we knew “who the good guys are.”


One Response

  1. […] a greater upfront risk of civilian casualties. But as I have written — in the post “Disproportionate Force on the Flotilla: the Dish on who was bad, who was badass” — Just War arguments are not on Andrew’s side and he doesn’t care about them much […]

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