Let’s say for argument’s sake that the Israeli military blockade of Gaza is illegal, and that the Gaza flotilla is therefore justified. That still would not alter the fact that both the blockade and the attempt to breach it forcibly are military actions. The perennial ritual now gathering in the Eastern Mediterranean — a flotilla of small craft hoping to bring relief supplies to the Palestinians of the Gaza strip — is an act of war, and quite possibly a violation of U.S. law.
The flotilla’s purpose is not humanitarian. The residents of Gaza are drowning in international charity. Any humanitarian aid can readily make it to Gaza without threatening or provoking anybody. The aid need only disembark in Israel, go through an Israeli checkpoint to make sure no dangerous items are in the baggage, and then make its merry way to any part of the Gaza strip that the Hamas terrorist government may deign to make available. And now that the new government of Egypt has permanently opened the Rafah crossing, aid shipments can easily come through Egypt, no matter what they’re actually carrying.
Even more telling, the flotilla will be carrying laughably little aid, especially when compared with the huge volumes of aid that pass through Israeli and Egyptian checkpoints (and tunnels) into Gaza every day. It is not a “relief” operation in any serious sense of the term. What the flotilla will be carrying quite a lot of is anti-Israeli activists, some of them possibly armed with “defensive” weapons for use against any Israeli attempt to board the flotilla.
Some of those activists are Americans. You will remember their type from college protests. Many of them are pitifully innocent activists who can’t believe that anybody would oppose “justice” in such a black-and-white case. They believe that the Palestinians are a subjugated people, crushed under an unbearable and criminal occupation, tortured daily by an evil Israeli regime with a mountain of war crimes on its head. Their explicit intention is to challenge the Israeli military, as a supreme expression of solidarity with the Palestinians.
The activists are right about one thing: This is a black-and-white case. There are few conflicts in history in which one side was more clearly in the wrong, and the other more clearly in the right, than in the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. On one side, there is a diverse coalition of people dedicated to peace, tolerance, democracy, and the rule of law, which has been mercilessly abused and attacked for 100 years. On the other is an obscurantist, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, fascistic, and murderous political movement that persecutes homosexuals, represses women, and glorifies the murder of children in their sleep. The activists are right — the Israeli–Palestinian conflict is about good vs. evil — they’re just confused as to which is which.
The Israeli naval blockade is firmly anchored both in international law and in the peace process. It has been endorsed by Egypt, the Palestinian Liberation Organization (a.k.a. the “Palestinian Authority”), the European Union, and the United Nations Security Council.
A fundamental premise of the peace process is that changes to the status quo left behind by the 1967 Six-Day War must be negotiated. Every issue relevant to the blockade of Gaza is a subject of negotiation. On the successful settlement of those issues depends a lasting settlement of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict. Protecting the peace process and seeing it through to fruition are vital U.S. interests. This is why Turkey’s tacit support for last year’s flotilla was so reckless. That is also why the Greek government’s refusal to let the flotilla set sail from Greek ports this year is so welcome.
Under U.S. criminal law, providing any sort of “material support or resources” to a foreign terrorist organization is punishable by up to 15 years in prison. U.S. prosecutors have concluded several successful prosecutions for aiding Hamas in recent years. The flotilla’s foolish participants should know that they are dangerously close to committing felonies, and that they could be prosecuted.
They fully deserve it, whatever their admittedly gross ignorance. They are trying to get involved in an international conflict on the side of one of the most evil political movements known to man. Christopher Hitchens recently noted Hamas’s official endorsement of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. “This disgusting fabrication,” he writes at Slate, “is a key foundational document of 20th-century racism and totalitarianism, indelibly linked to the Hitler regime in theory and practice. It seems extraordinary to me that any ‘activist’ claiming allegiance to human rights could cooperate at any level with the propagation of such evil material.”
Having attended the University of Wisconsin, I don’t find much of anything extraordinary about a group of misguided, ignorant, and deeply confused young activists trying to agitate for what they think is a just cause. But confusion is no defense to the law. Those who provide aid and comfort to Hamas are enemies of the state, and should be dealt with accordingly.
— Mario Loyola is a frequent contributor to National Review.