In the late 1980s, during what came to be known as the Second Palestinian Intifada, I was out on the road south of Jerusalem one day, on my way to cover the afternoon's rioting. Just outside Bethlehem I noticed a group of Palestinian teenage girls coming out of their school. The girls began hurling angry insults at a nearby unit of Israeli troops and then started throwing stones at them from a carefully prepared ammunition pile.
The Israelis responded by revving up their motors and racing their jeeps towards the girls who first ran away, then quickly resumed their torrent of abuse and rocks. Eventually the Israelis opened up with tear gas canisters and one or two IDF boys fired off some rubber bullets.
The girls began shrieking in terror. Three of them took refuge alongside my "PRESS" marked car. "See what they do to us," shouted said one of the girls in English! "Tell the world to make them stop!"
Perhaps it was naive of me, but I turned to her and said, "maybe if you stop throwing stones at them, they'll stop shooting at you." To no avail.
I thought of that 20-plus-year-old incident this morning when I heard about the events off the shores of Gaza aboard the Turkish ferry the Mavi Marmara. No one likes to see needless death and injury. But let's not mistake it. While I'm sure there were some well meaning souls aboard the ship, the so-called "humanitarian flotilla" to Gaza was primarily a deliberate Islamist political provocation aimed at breaking the Israeli-Egyptian security blockade of Gaza and embarrassing Israel -- no matter what the cost.
Cypriot authorities had wisely refused to allow the flotilla to set sail from its shores. Israeli authorities had clearly warned the flotilla days ago that it would not allow any of its ships to land anywhere in Gaza -- which is sealed to make sure that arms do not arrive for the Hamas and other terrorist groups that rule there to use against Israel and its population -- something that Gazans have been doing since Israel withdrew from that wretched stretch of land in 2005..
In fact the Israelis had announced several times last week that if the convoy of six ships would divert to the Israeli port of Ashdod, Israel would allow it to offload its aid shipments and then after inspection (to insure they didn't include military contraband) would facilitate their direct delivery to Gaza and its people -- just as Israel allows 10 to15,000 tons of humanitarian aid to be delivered to Gaza each week.
Five of the six ships agreed. But the sixth, the Mavi Marmara, ignored Israeli warnings. it was clearly looking for a fight. Small wonder. Like much of the flotilla, the Turkish ship was controlled by militants of IHH, a Turkish relief fund with a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation. In addition to legitimate philanthropic activities, IHH supports radical Islamic networks, including Hamas. It also has had ties to global jihad groups.
When Israeli marine and naval units tried to board the Mavi Marmara from helicopters , militants on the ship responded by attacking them violently with poles, iron rods and firebombs, threw some of the Israelis into the sea, tried to lynch one, stole weapons and according to some reports, actually opened fire. The Israelis eventually opened live fire themselves and we know the rest .
In the days ahead, we will hear another outburst of enthusiastic outrage against Israel - just as we did when Israel attacked Gaza last December to defend itself against Palestinian rockets. Some of my Huffington Post colleagues have already begun. But please remember who caused this incident and why they caused it. And imagine how U.S. Marines would have reacted had they been attacked by a flotilla of foreign vessels trying to break an American imposed blockade.
When will the agony end? When Hamas and other Palestinians renounce their sworn goal of destroying the Jewish state and agree to live in peace and prosperity with their Israeli neighbors. No blockade of Gaza will be needed then.