While I respect Roy Antoun’s willingness to present an unpopular position on the Gaza flotilla clash, I don’t think his position is coherent.
Roy posted footage of the flotilla incident showing activists fighting IDF soldiers “boarding” their boat by hitting them with a metal pole, and throwing a stun grenade and fire bomb. He used this footage to characterize Daniel Drezner and other critics of the Israeli soldiers as “naïve”:
For pundits like Drezner to admit that those on board the vessel attacked first in not-so Christ-like ways and then condemn the Israeli commandos for killing those attacking them is quite naive. In a situation where you are dangling off a helicopter rope and being shot at, it’s hard to imagine how any human being would react. Furthermore, when the video explicitly shows how the commandos were repetitively beaten upon entering the vessel, I’m almost certain that anyone in a commando’s shoes would want to react violently back to whoever was beating him with a metal object
I see a few problems with this characterization, as well as Roy’s broader argument.
First, Roy presents his timeline — in which the activists deliver the first blow — as established fact. But this claim, and the edited video footage supporting it, originally came from IDF officials, who are about as neutral in this matter as Al Capone at a bootlegging trial. Moreover, Israel isn’t coming across as a government without guilt (oxymoron, I know) by forcibly banning all foreign journalists from talking to eye-witnesses on the scene. Further, their account is heavily disputed by other sources.
Second, even if we take Roy’s sources at their word — a privilege no libertarian should ever extend to any government — we must still condemn these soldiers for invading the non-resisting boats and incarcerating hundreds of innocent activists. And the “boarding” of the battle boat was an aggressive invasion and a violation of property rights if I ever saw one. To those declaiming that the “law is the law” and the troopers were merely upholding it, I respond with St. Augustine’s pronouncement that “an unjust law is no law at all.” By delivering food to the people of Gaza, the activists were defying the crazy and crippling blockade Israel has imposed on these people. We should applaud anyone who opposes such monstrous, anti-market “laws.”
Third, even if we swallow every word Israeli officials say about the lead-up to the attack, the acts of barbarism committed by the IDF soldiers cannot be excused. While Roy may believe that the violence employed by the activists was disproportionate, I don’t think he can argue that it wasn’t defensive, at least under libertarian moral theory. He urges us to empathize with the plight of fully armed soldiers “dangling off a helicopter rope and being shot at,” but glosses over any fear-inducing shock the activists (you know, the people acting defensively) felt at the sight of these soldiers invading their ship. To have been shocked by the boarding would be inexcusably “naive” because “the blockade has been stationed there for years and vessel inspection has been standard operating procedure,” Roy argues. Most glaringly, he overlooks the possibility that many of the slaughtered were unarmed civilians.
I emphatically agree with the underlying philosophy of non-interventionism that, at least in part, motivated Roy’s post. The US and all governments can only make matters worse by intervening in the matter. But private Americans citizens should reject the notion that our media is “blowing things out of proportion.” Noninterventionists especially should prove the moniker of “isolationism” is falsely attached to us by condemning this atrocity.
Finally, know that I wouldn’t criticize Roy if I didn’t think he was a superb blogger, and able to handle criticism.