The loss of life in the Gaza blockade incident is tragic. However, the Times of London has published first-hand accounts which reveal that the organizers of the so-called "Freedom Flotilla" were prepared for violence. The flotilla entered the blockaded area despite repeated warnings and refused to turn away when confronted by the Israeli navy. Downplaying the dangers, the organizers of this mission used willing civilians as human shields for a cynical political stunt.
One woman was quoted as saying, "We were aware of the possible danger; in joining the trip, but there are thousands of babies in Gaza. If we had reached Gaza we would have played with them and taken them food." Feeding babies is a fine thing, but this same woman also brought her own baby with her to a war zone in an attempt to run a blockade. One has to question the motives of a mother who would knowingly place her own child in such extreme danger.
The Times also reports that one of the men aboard the flotilla, "told his wife that the journey could be potentially fatal and asked for her blessing." The people aboard these vessels knew they were going into danger. They were not going to Gaza in peace, but openly vowing to provoke confrontation with the Israeli Defense Forces. Whether by running the blockade itself, or otherwise stirring up trouble, the so-called "activists" were not headed to Gaza for a pleasure cruise.
Media accounts which portray the Israeli navy as acting unlawfully are nothing more than political posturing. Throughout history, navies have always enforced blockades against unlawful civilians with deadly force. The archives of the New York Times include a contemporary first-hand account from the Civil War of a British blockade runner. In those days, the U.S. Navy was not afraid of using force--even against a neutral British ship in foreign waters:
The [U.S.S.] Tuscarora fired a plank gun as soon as she left her anchorage to arouse the watch, I suppose, partly, and to call us to stop and as a warning of what was coming. We kept on as hard as we could but the wretched funnel showed the cruiser our course by a great flame. Bang, bang, ping, went the shot and shell from the Tuscarora as she overhauled us hand over fist. She is uncommonly fast, and beat our craft all to nothing. We thought the game was all up. One shot passed right under our stern, and the last, a shell from his 11-inch Dahlgren, went in a straight line over us, and luckily fell in the water without bursting, just ahead.In the account above, the British ship ended up escaping from its American pursuer in a storm, but not every blockade runner was always so lucky. Although the death of some of the Gaza blockade runners is regrettable to modern sensibilities, those who died were not under any illusion about the risk of their mission. Worse still, by seeking confrontation, this "humanitarian" mission will only prolong the plight of the Palestinians whom they claim to help.