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Israeli raid on flotilla: an intentional message for Gaza and the rest of the world

Israel’s raid on the flotilla headed for Gaza was no accident. It was a massacre. And the world community must not allow it to stand..

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On Monday Israeli commandos boarded one of the civilian passenger ships that was part of the “freedom flotilla” sailing to break Israel’s siege on Gaza and opened fire, killing at least nine and injuring many others. My first reaction was, as respected New York Times columnist Nick Kristof tweeted, that “Israel wldn’t be that stupid.”

The movement that put together this blockade-busting attempt sought to draw attention to the heinous blockade of Gaza that Israel has imposed for four years.

Bloodshed at the hands of the Israeli military could only mean that the story of the flotilla, which had already garnered some media attention, would become a leading news item. As they say in the news industry: If it bleeds, it leads.

Prior to the latest Israeli attack, Israel was already reeling from devastating blows to its international reputation. The three-week war on Gaza during 2008-09, which left some 1,400 dead, mostly civilians, and a number of others maimed, is just one of many recent examples.

To avoid further international disdain, Israel needed to find a peaceful end to the standoff with the flotilla to avoid embarrassment.

This was not merely a confrontation of boats on the high seas, but a public relations battle. On one side, activists sought to expose Israel’s collective punishment of Gaza’s civilian population. The Israeli side sought to keep the reality of its blockade hidden.

Yet Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman tipped Israel’s hand a few days before the assault at sea when he said Israel would be prepared to stop the flotilla “at any cost.” We know now what he had in mind.

Today the death toll remains sketchy, and Israeli officials continue to insist that they support the actions of Israeli soldiers and gave fair warning to the boat filled with activists on board. Ridiculously, Israel says that these activists had connections to Al Qaeda.

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