Israel flotilla attack not justified

Before dawn Monday, Israeli commandos launched a brutal raid on a flotilla of aid vessels carrying supplies to the Gaza Strip. The violent attack occurred in international waters aboard a ferry carrying nearly 700 people and resulted in the deaths of nine pro-Palestinian activists.

Israel’s deputy U.N. ambassador Daniel Carmon has desperately defended his country and claimed that some of the activists had ties to terrorist organizations. Another Israeli official pointed to the discovery of two rifles aboard the ship as evidence of ill intent.

Edward Peck, a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, was onboard one of the boats in the flotilla and told CNN what was really on the ferry.

“The purpose was humanitarian. We posed no threat to anybody. We were unarmed,” he said, listing prefabricated houses, water purification equipment and 180 motorized wheelchairs as some of the cargo.

Israel’s actions are hard to ignore. Peck accurately summed up the event when he said, “If this had taken place in Somalia, it would be called piracy.”

After seizing the ship in international waters, the commandos sailed it back to Israel, where the 670 surviving passengers were held prisoner under threat of prosecution.

Aside from needless deaths, the most serious repercussion of the botched raid could be the disintegration of relations between Israel and its close ally, Turkey. The ferry that the Israeli military attacked was sailing under a Turkish flag and carrying mostly Turkish nationals.

Launching such an aggressive operation against citizens of a key ally can only be characterized as boneheaded or worse. Criticism from the Turkish government has been swift and fierce. Turkey’s Foreign Minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said to Fox News that the Israeli raid was “banditry and piracy” and “murder conducted by a state.”

In a country dominated by right-wing politics, Israeli politicians generally have resorted to heavy-handed military tactics. Last year, the Israeli Defense Forces launched a three-week offensive in Gaza that devastated the territory’s infrastructure. According to Israel’s own estimates, 1,166 Palestinians were killed in the conflict.

Ever since, Gaza has been under strict blockade, and the 1.5 million residents of the territory have slipped even further into poverty. Conditions have gotten so bad that civilians are seizing a rare opportunity to escape the besieged area by flocking to the Egyptian border crossings, where travel restrictions have been temporarily lifted because of the attack.

The effects of Israeli foreign policy are hard to ignore. Hardly devoted to a legitimate peace process, the Jewish state continues to oppress Palestinian civilians and thumb its nose at its staunchest allies. Israel should reconsider its key policies, as the country is quickly running out of friends around the globe.

Vincent DeFrancesco is a junior majoring in mass communications.