Some 700 protesters intent on breaking the arms embargo of the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip sailed a flotilla of six boats from Cyprus toward that Mediterranean shore this week.
The Gaza Strip is largely occupied by the families of Palestinian Arabs who were thrown out of the Palestinian Arab state of Jordan after Yasser Arafat's henchmen attempted to seize control of that country in 1970.
This week's flotilla was dominated by the Turkish group IHH, which was banned by Israel in 2008 because of alleged ties to the Islamic militant group Hamas. Israel and Egypt -- yes, Egypt -- imposed the blockade three years ago after Hamas, a terrorist organization, seized power and stepped up rocket fire into Israel.
Israel warned the flotilla it would not be allowed to land, though Israel offered to transfer any food or medical supplies they were carrying. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman called the flotilla a "provocation" and warned it would be stopped "at any cost."
Early Monday morning, Israeli special forces troops rappeled down onto the deck of the main ship from a helicopter, at which point amateur videos of the attack show each soldier was surrounded by a gang of the "peaceful protesters," and beaten to the deck with clubs. Passengers on the boat also acknowledged the "peaceful protesters" had used hatchets.
But by 5 a.m., the ship was under Israeli control. Nine activists were dead, most of them Turks, according to the Israeli military. Dozens were wounded, along with seven soldiers.
So Israel now stands accused of over-reaction, of "terrorism" -- the usual predictable gamut, which was obviously "Plan B," from the start.
In fact, the problems here arose because Israeli forces under-reacted.
The Israeli helicopters did not strafe the ships. The Israeli soldiers did not open live fire as they descended -- both tactics that would have minimized Israeli casualties.
Nor did the Israelis do what most nations would do if you threatened to break a military blockade. Standard procedure is to hail the blockade-runners, warn them to expect to be boarded and seized, and -- if they resist -- sink them. That's what President Lincoln's Navy did to blockade runners attempting to bring aid and succor to the Confederacy in the 1860s. That's what the British Navy did to those attempting to evade their blockades of Bonaparte, and later of Hitler.
The Israeli blockade of Hamas in Gaza is far more humane than that -- food and medical supplies are allowed to pass through, even to an enemy that rains explosive rockets on the civilian Israeli populace at every opportunity.
By noontime Monday, Turkey had recalled its ambassador to Israel, Greece had canceled a joint military exercise, and nearly every country in Europe had condemned Israel. One goal of the protesters was thus met.
A new flotilla of suicidal provocateurs has reportedly now set sail to test the blockade again. Though support from the current gang in Washington will be half-hearted at best, Israel should stop attempting a "measured response" to please its enemies -- since no response other than abject surrender could ever accomplish that.
After a couple of loud warnings, Israel would be well advised to sink the bunch of them inside its territorial waters, asking that the next bunch please at least come at night and steer a zig-zag course, in order to provide their gunboats with more useful target practice.