Netanyahu Rejects Criticism of Flotilla Raid

Israel’s prime minister accuses critics of a “biased rush to judgement.”

Speaking defiantly in the face of mounting international pressure, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s attack on a flotilla of blockade runners on Wednesday. “Once again Israel faces hypocrisy and a biased rush to judgment,” he said.

The flotilla, carrying activists and humanitarian aid, was en route for the Gaza Strip on Monday when it was intercepted by the Israeli Navy. When several of the activists attacked Israeli commandos boarding the main ship, the soldiers reacted with force and killed at least nine people. The international community widely condemned the incident, Turkey especially, which described the raid as “a dark stain on the history of humanity” and called for a United Nations Security Council resolution.

Netanyahu appeared on Israeli television on Wednesday to defend the action. He reminded viewers that Hamas, which controls Gaza, is “smuggling thousands of Iranian rockets, missiles and other weaponry” into the area in order to fire on Israeli cities and settlements. “Israel has every right to interdict this weaponry and to inspect the ships that might be transporting them,” he added.

This is not a theoretical challenge or a theoretical threat. We’ve already interdicted vessels bound for Hezbollah and for Hamas from Iran containing hundreds of tons of weapons.

The prime minister said that Israeli forces “were met with a vicious mob” when they boarded the ships: “they were stabbed, they were clubbed, they were fired upon. They had to act in self-defense.” He described those activists as “members of an extremist group” which supports Hamas and “chanted battle cries against the Jews.”

Since it is crystal clear, according to Netanyahu, that the lives of Israeli seamen were in peril, he regretted the premature response of many countries in the wake of the incident. “Once again Israel is told that it has a right to defend itself but it is condemned every time it exercises that right,” he said. “Israel regrets the loss of life, but we will never apologize for defending ourselves.”

The humanitarian aid carried by the flotilla has since been transferred to trucks to be delivered to Gaza. Most of the activists held in detention have been released. Haartez reports that Hamas will not allow the goods to get into Gaza however until all activists are freed and unless the entire cargo is admitted.