Its impact was felt across America and especially in New York, which is home to more Jews than any city outside of Israel as well as a vibrant and growing Arabic community.
The leader of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations, Malcolm Hoenlein, told me: “There’s been a regrettable rush to judgment. Israel confronted a group of trained terrorists with assault weapons. Israel acted with great restraint until the situation became life-threatening.”
Israeli officials, Hoenlein said, had tried to get the flotilla leaders to bring their supplies into Gaza legally. “They had more than humanitarian supplies. They had missiles and other weapons. Several people in this group were trained terrorists who wanted to provoke an incident for propaganda, to create martyrs.”
An American Arab leader, Ahmed Rehab, of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, responded: “The irony is not lost on me that Israel would argue self-defense in a situation where it attacks peace activists in international waters.”
I asked him: what remedy to you propose? “The United States should recognize, as Israel’s ally, that it must demand that Israel plays by our standards of respect for human rights and international law.”
I have visited Gaza several times. The irony is that this is a tiny piece of real estate on the banks of the Mediterranean. Egypt was happy to relinquish any claim to the territory years ago. And Israel doesn’t want any part of it either. Hamas rules the 1.5 million people of Gaza — and the fact that these people have a desperately rough life is as much the fault of the surrounding states as it is Israel’s. The people of Gaza could use far more help than a symbolic flotilla battling the Israeli Navy to land some supplies.
While videos of the confrontation show that some protesters did use metal bats, knives and clubs and marbles to fight the invading commandoes, Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian President, insisted the raid was a “massacre” and ordered three days of mourning.
So what’s the solution? The prophet Isaiah, revered by both Jews and Muslims, said: “They shall beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not llft up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.”
Palestinians, Israelis — and the world — are still waiting for this prophecy to come true.