SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sticks and Stones on the High Seas

Activists Finally Fight Back—And Win

They call themselves activists. But leftist activists rarely do anything. They march. They chant. They whine.

Then they go home, satisfied that they’ve said their piece without taking a personal risk.

Oppressive governments love such phony “activists.” Not only can they carry on as usual, they point to the toothless demonstrators as evidence that they’re not so bad. Each side legitimizes the other.

Since the ’70s, passive resistance has become a religion of sorts among American “activists.” The exceptions, such as 1999’s Battle of Seattle between Seattle riot cops and anti-WTO protesters, have been notable—not least because they mark the few times the left has won.

So when Israel dispatched a group of armed commandos to seize a flotilla of Turkish ships attempting to break its blockade of the besieged Gaza Strip, they had every reason to expect the usual pathetic pacifist response: rolling over and playing dead.

“We prepared for an operation involving light resistance,” an Israeli navy officer told The Jerusalem Post about the clash on the Mavi Marmara, the biggest ship. “We anticipated that the soldiers would get spat at and maybe slapped. We did not expect that the soldiers would be met by a mob armed with bats, knives and metal pipes.

“We thought there would be verbal and passive violence, but not to the level we encountered,” the Naval officer continued. “Everyone who came toward us wanted to kill us.”

Imagine that.

For the record, the Turkish activists (no quotes, as they’re worthy of the name) claim the Israelis opened fire first. Nilufer Cetin, wife of the Navi Marmara’s engineer, recalled: “The operation started immediately with firing. First it was warning shots, but when the Mavi Marmara wouldn’t stop these warnings turned into an attack,” she said.

IDF forces shot and killed nine passengers in the melée. Up to 60 passengers and 10 IDF soldiers were injured.

Whether the Turks defended themselves or attacked first, no one will ever know. Nevertheless, their willingness to use violence is notable. Here were lefties with guts!

This naturally came as a shock to government officials in Israel and its allies, not to mention the media outlets they control. Government thugs view violence as their exclusive purview. They’re free to bomb and torture and blockade and starve and otherwise oppress hundreds of millions of innocents. Let one of their victims fight back, however, and they’re stunned.

Officials responded to the Navi Marmara incident like any bully who finally gets the bloody nose he deserves.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accused the convoy of a “premeditated and outrageous provocation” and described the flotilla as an “armada of hate.”

“The provocation was as cynical as it was carefully orchestrated,” complained Ralph Peters in the right-wing New York Post.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokesperson for the IDF, said: “They chose to use violence. They had stocks different kinds of sticks, of knives, of metal objects. They took two pistols from our navy SEALs. They used the entire magazines on these pistols. They wounded our soldiers.”

Interesting perspective. In the official narrative heavily-armed commandos who take over a ship on international waters are not “choosing to use violence.” Only individuals forced to resort to sticks and knives have “chosen” violence over the path of peace. As for the gunplay, the SEALS might have avoided getting shot had they not brought guns with them in the first place. Or if they’d stayed home.

It goes without saying that the friends and families of the nine who died will never get over what happened. But they can take some comfort in the fact that they died for a noble cause: ending the joint Israeli-Egyptian blockade of Gaza, home to 1.5 million stateless Palestinians whose lives have been devastated by the resulting economic collapse. Nine lives have been lost; thousands will be saved when the blockade ends.

A U.N. fact-finding mission recently concluded that Israel’s blockade of Gaza should be prosecuted as a war crime at the International Criminal Court if it continues through September: “Israeli acts that deprive Palestinians in the Gaza Strip of their means of subsistence, employment, housing and water, that deny their freedom of movement and their right to leave and enter their own country, that limit their rights to access a court of law and an effective remedy, could lead a competent court to find that the crime of persecution, a crime against humanity, has been committed,” wrote South African Judge Richard Goldstone, head of the panel.

Was violence justified against the Israelis, even in self-defense? Maybe yes, maybe no. The point is: it worked. Had the six hundred-plus Turkish activists acted like American lefties, allowing themselves to be led off like sheep to be arrested, processed and deported, the blockage of Gaza—and the resulting humanitarian crisis—would have continued without an end in sight.

Instead—because of those pipes and axes and knives—the embargo is doomed. Israel finally went too far. The activists finally went far enough.

(Ted Rall is the author of the upcoming “The Anti-American Manifesto,” to be published in September by Seven Stories Press. His website is


20 thoughts on “SYNDICATED COLUMN: Sticks and Stones on the High Seas

  1. Susan, I guess Ron Paul must be a “liberal” or a “progressive” then. And, of course, real “progressives” do not EVER support war, really…

  2. All of the people who voted for the war were conservative, including the Democrats. The few who did not were liberals and progressives. The Clintons are conservative.

    Conservatives wanted and supported the war, and therefore they are responsible for one million Iraqi deaths.

  3. I believe all the attention that this is getting does in fact mean that Muslim and non-Western lives are worth something–there is a lot of empathy for Palestinian oppression right now and forgetfulness about the history of that land, and blindness to what each party really wants.

  4. Susan,
    Those deaths were “caused” by Congress when they voted for Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq Resolution of 2002. It was passed with 41% of the D’s in the House and 58% of the D’s in the Senate. No please reply by telling me how they were lied to by W. I have all the quotes by Democrats, pre-W, who were ready to go to war with Iraq over WMD’s including Bill & Hill.

  5. >>>Susan,
    Unlike you leftists, conservatives largely do not resort to violence.>>>

    Yes you do. The one million dead Iraqis were not caused by me.

  6. Susan,
    Unlike you leftists, conservatives largely do not resort to violence. Go watch the next G anything meeting and see who is violently protesting in the streets, smashing anything/anyone in their path like petulant little children.

  7. US 395, Unfortunately it is the executive tier that has brought that level of hatred on themselves. They have a choice: behave responsibly and listen to the citizens, or don’t. They have repeatedly chosen the second option, which is what led to the events in Greece. Make no mistake – that would happen here, if Joe Sixpack didn’t have those luxuries I mentioned.

    You make it seem as if I want violence. I don’t. When the elite tier refuses to listen and respond, it is unfortunately often the result.

  8. >>>Get a few hundred SEIU & ACORN thugs together and you can have Greece style violence in no time.>>>

    Why don’t YOU do some Greek-style violence, US 395, since you hate government sooooo much? Well, it’s like what exkiodexian said up there, “as long as Joe Sixpack has his Ford Bronco, his 500 channels, his NASCAR, his Bud Light, and online porn – all is AOK in the world”.

    You don’t really hate the “Kenyan” president enough to miss Monday night football, do you?

  9. <>

    You say that with what seems to be an approving tone. Though I am indeed for passive resistance and non-violence I too can sympathize with people reacting to government thugs (a.k.a, law enforcement) coming at them with guns and armour. I can only abhor cases like the Greek one, where your Commie buddy “activists” vandalized other people’s property and caused the death of innocent people. I don’t see you shedding a tear for them, nor for the Branch Davidian loonies when federal thugs came for them. The selectiveness of leftist outrage is telling.

  10. Don;t give up exkiodexian. Get a few hundred SEIU & ACORN thugs together and you can have Greece style violence in no time. Maybe you can even burn some bankers alive!

  11. “Nevertheless, their willingness to use violence is notable. Here were lefties with guts!”

    Let’s be straight about this. It takes guts to risk harm to yourself. However, any dweeb can harm an enemy. The activists who boldly faced the superiorly armed soldiers had guts, but not because they wielded pipes and knives.

  12. Now that the press has discovered that something unsavory is going on, I wish it would start highlighting some of the proposed solutions, rather than trying to apportion the blame, which has many many contributors dating back many many decades.

  13. “They call themselves activists. But leftist activists rarely do anything. They march. They chant. They whine. Then they go home, satisfied that they’ve said their piece without taking a personal risk. ”

    Someone has to take the beating (or worse), someone has to go to jail, someone has to have their life ruined. That person is the one on the front lines. I don’t mean going to Afghanistan. I mean storming the offices of the energy companies or wall street with bats, bricks and knives. I mean ALF-style action. They go to jail. They get beatings. They get sued and tailed by the government.

    Someone has to do it. Doesn’t seem to be any that want to be in that role. Why? Too much to lose. If Americans were in serious economic trouble (and I mean serious not this fake-depression bullshit), then possibly there would be such people. Not now though. As long as Joe Sixpack has his Ford Bronco, his 500 channels, his NASCAR, his Bud Light, and online porn – all is AOK in the world.

  14. The Navi Marmara was on the high seas and was flying a Turkish flag. By international law, this ship WAS Turkish sovereign territory. When armed soldiers from a different nation attempted to board the ship, the crew and passengers had every right to attempt to repel the boarders.

    As for your take on the state of protest, Tom Engelhard touches on a similar theme her

  15. I’d like to point out a factual error in this post: the activists mentioned were not 600 Turks. They were 600 internationals. They included a former ambassador, current members of governments, and even a Holocaust survivor. One of those killed on the ship was a 19 year-old American.

    I’d also like to point out that in 2003, a young American woman by the name of Rachel Corrie placed herself in front of a Palestinian doctor’s home in Gaza and was ran over by the bulldozer. A British national named Thomas Hurndall also died in the West Bank a year later.

    Granted, the two latter deaths did not result in a change of policy at the time, but they cracked open the door for it. Nobody much cares when a Palestinian dies. But two Westerners? That’s something different.

  16. Wanna bet?

    No one has the guts to force Israel to end the embargo. And what happened on that ship isn’t going to change a damn thing.

    I’d love if you were right, but you aren’t. Not about this.

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