“Flotilla dissents”

I have to credit the Dish for publishing some Dissents of the Day that contain a semblance of sturdy argument on this Flotilla mess. Lately, the Dissents for the Day, on Israel at least, have contained some limp arguments, combined with hostility that runs counter to Andrew’s hostility. Or as one “dissenter” says to the Dish about an earlier one:

I briefly skimmed the “dissent of the day.”  I question whether you should even respond to emails of that sort; the “Jew hater” comment is offensive independent of any evidence for it.  I think the proper response is to stop reading.

So it’s strange that the email the above criticism referred to was the cream of crop, when in the blogosphere some of the most pertinent arguments disagreeing with Andrew are deliberately suppressed when addressed and emailed to him, or ancillary quotes are plucked from posts (such as Hussein Ibish’s) in order to deflect their main points which would embarrass the Dish with its headstrong ignorance .

In one post, Andrew notes that Jonathan Chait has “woken up,” by which the Dish means either “woken up to reality” or “woken up to the responsibility” to write a commentary on the Flotilla ASAP without waiting for the end of his family vacation on Memorial Day weekend. After ignoring Chait’s send-up of an example of the Dish’s over-wrought, propagandistic, venomous writing, Sullivan says that Chait mostly agrees with him about the Flotilla. In fact, Chait enumerates three opinions, in which he strongly disagrees with Andrew for two of them, and agrees only that the allowed-and-prohibited goods list for the Gaza blockade is unnecessarily cruel. (Chait alludes to Peter Beianart’s article on it, however, Beinart presented some erroneous information.)

What’s really at stake here in this Flotilla debate is Andrew’s ego and defensiveness about having been accused as an Israel-basher, not an antisemite. Anyway, I’m glad Andrew gave in to the pressure of a wave of emails disputing the fairness of discussion on the Dish or just decided to give his opposition a real shot, instead of suppressing it and quoting emailers who accuse him of Jew hatred:.

So after a reader charges Andrew with misrepresenting the violent protesters on the Flotilla as only engaging in an act of self-defense, and painting over the procedures involved in enforcing a blockade, Andrew writes:

I do not believe, and have not written, that Israel intended this slaughter. I do think that disabling the vessel would have been far smarter, and the decision to assault it was reckless.

Apparently, disabling this kind of vessel would have been a greater upfront risk of civilian casualties, i.e., the majority of the people who did not participate in combat on the boat or as an ongoing avocation. 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 do not seem to be on Andrew’s side and he doesn’t care about them much anyway.

BTW, this veteran of the British royal navy, now a security expert, gives Jon Snow a explanation of the raid tactics, that make them seem like the totally orthodox ones in the situation:

But the reader quote above was a decent enough argument that it was an assault. The intent of the people landing on the boat was known, and the normal course of naval action was known to the captain.

Sullivan doesn’t even gloss it over; he just sidesteps and stares ahead blankly.

[…] and you are then assaulted in international waters by shock-troops, self-defense is an option.

I would say that the same degree of self-defense appropriate in international waters would be reasonable in Israeli waters.

Especially when your ship contains building materials, toys and wheelchairs and has on board a host of activists from many countries.

But Sullivan doesn’t know what, if any, goods were on this particular ship! All he knows is that it had activists (many of whom priming themselves before the voyage for the good fortune of having a martyr’s death).

There was a clear element in the raid of making a show of force – pour decourager les autres.

Please don’t bring the French into this. (Pretentious Twit alert.)

This was a “Don’t Fuck With The Jews!” moment.

Pardon your French …

It was unnecessary, and a sign of Israel’s increasingly erratic behavior.

Has he written about the “increasingly erratic behavior” of Turkey once on the Dish yet? And America’s changing relationship with it?  It’s been obvious for a while, even if we don’t fault it for its role in this event, at the Davos conference or in the Iran deal. Doesn’t he say he’s gone realist?

[UPDATE, 6/5: If this report is true, it will be a hilarious example of “increasingly erratic behavior” to cause the Dish to have to break its silence: Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal says Erdogan considering going to Strip himself in order to break siege.”]

But if war is politics by other means, and the result of the blatant exercize of brute force is the strengthening of your enemy, why go that route?

“Brute force”?  I.e., paintball guns? Waiting to get fired on? Waiting 40 minutes to fire?

And why, in all these emails, is there no actual regret for the dead civilians on board?

Maybe because reasonable people don’t know yet, if the 9 people killed were “civilians” or not, given that the man who organized this ship has gone way beyond mere solidarity with Hamas, and asks his followers to join a Muslim war to take Israel for the Muslims. Plus, I don’t read “any actual regret” for the deaths on the Dish. Charged language about Israel’s behavior doesn’t exactly count.

So I have to credit the Dish with publishing real dissents. Unfortunately, I cannot credit the Dish with having a mind that is able to process and respond to arguments that dissent on certain issues, where his mind finds it much easier to group people into self-made camps, of ideology or loyalty.

Here are the Dish’s Flotilla dissents. You tell me if you think the Dish has addressed the arguments in any of them in the last several days:

[1]

You misrepresent what the protesters did as “self-defense“.  Self-defense occurs where there is imminent danger to life or bodily safety.  When the Israeli Navy approached, it informed the boat that their destination was blockaded (as they already knew, obviously), and that they would be permitted to dock at Ashdod and that their aid supplies could then be transferred to Gaza.  The ship refused.  What followed was pretty standard protocol in a blockade – a ship that tries to run the blockade and refuses to be redirected voluntarily is then stopped (boarded, or disabled and towed, or threatened with a shot across the bow until it complies).  The obvious intent of the commandos was to redirect ship to the port, not to inflict bodily harm.  The fact that they descended one by one reinforces this fact, as well the fact that there was no violence on any of the five other vessels.  So the premise of self-defense is specious, whatever one thinks of the blockade.

[2]

While not excusing Israel’s actions, I did want to question some of your logic. You wrote:

“…a country with 150 nuclear warheads, the most lethal military in its region, the ability to occupy neighboring countries at will, and the protection of the global super-power was actually threatened by … a small crew of boats.”

Well, yes. Welcome to terrorism in the 21st century.

New York has one of the world’s greatest police forces, with an intelligence unit bigger than that of many small countries, yet a major tourist attraction and population center was almost taken out by … one guy in a used SUV.  We have the planet’s most powerful air force, yet 9/11 was orchestrated by … a small crew of terrorists with box cutters.  The USS Cole was a member of the world’s greatest naval fleet in the world, a destroyer equipped with the most sophisticated radar equipment known to man, yet it was actually attacked by … a small rubber dinghy manned by two Al Qaeda members.

Israel’s response to what has been labeled a peace flotilla manned by “activists” will be debated and there’s no doubt that there are at least a dozen other actions the IDF could have taken to turn the ship around, but to imply that a great military power can not or should not be threatened by small actors is to ignore the disturbing recent history of terrorism.

[3]

I have never considered your criticism of Israel to be anti-semitic, but your stance on this incident is really starting to be “anti-reason”. Maybe it’s the real time nature of blogging, so your thought process is put out there for all of us to see, and the “interim” conclusions you are reaching now would be thrown away later when you are writing a more considered piece on the matter.

In other words, the above reader is charging the Dish with deliberately being “anti-reason,” throwing its commitment to critical thinking off the ship … this will probably urge Andrew to be demonstrably not “anti-reason” … or to re-christen “Israel derangement syndrome,” whereby people who disagree with him are in fact anti-reason.

It is valid to argue over the necessity and the scope of the blockade. But once you acknowledge that a blockade is justified to keep weapons out of Gaza (as you have done), then you must also accept that ships attempting to run the blockade will be subject to intercept and search. Otherwise the blockade is pointless. And you must also accept that given the nature and purpose of the blockade (to interdict weapons and “strategic” materials going into Gaza), the folks doing the boarding will be armed. And if they are set upon by passengers wielding knifes and lead pipes … well, what the hell do you think is going to happen? I’ve been pulled over for traffic violations before, and I can guarantee you that if I set upon an officer with a lead pipe and tried to wrestle away his/her gun, that officer’s partner would draw down on me, and all hell would break loose. At least I expect that’s what would happen, because I am an adult who lives in the real world.

And you really need to stop making such a huge deal about the ship being in international waters. It’s been a while since I studied international maritime law, but my recollection is that if the ship has declared its intent to run the blockade, is nearing the blockade zone, and refuses to alter its course after being warned, the fact that the ship is in international waters is irrelevant. The Israeli’s didn’t sink the ship, after all; they intercepted it.

Eric Posner has just written that it was within Israel’s rights to sink the ship.

[4]

Your assertion of disproportionate violence is abhorrent for two reasons. The activists clearly were acting with violence as to threaten the soldiers’ lives (yes, multiple people surrounding a single individual and hitting him with metal poles is a lethal threat). Using lethal force to prevent this is is no way disproportionate. Additionally, the entire idea of using “disproportionate” as an argument against Israel’s actions is inherently biased, as it is based on the idea that one cannot use superior skills and weapons at their disposal to protect themselves because the fight would be otherwise unfair. The fact that the activists were bad at fighting does not in any way mean they didn’t have the ability to kill.

The update I had for my earlier post about the question of disproportionate force on the Flotilla is worth adding here:

[ — quoting — ]

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.”

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