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Israel Finds Little International Sympathy for It's Justification to Stage Raid


Israel's deadly raid on a Gaza Strip-bound flotilla earlier week has sparked global condemnation. While Israelis and the organizers of the convoy tell their versions of what happened, Israel is finding little sympathy outside its borders for acting in what it says was its legitimate national interest.

Monday's raid has triggered protests around the globe and condemnation from world leaders.

British Prime Minister David Cameron made his view plain in the British parliament. "What has happened is completely unacceptable. We should be clear about that and we should also deplore the loss of life."

In Jerusalem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the blockade of Gaza had to be enforced to prevent arms shipments to the Palestinian militant group Hamas. "Of course, we are sorry for the loss of lives. But our soldiers were also facing a life threatening situation. I forward my questions to the international community and I ask to leaders throughout the world whom I spoke to: What would you have done?," he said.

The organizers of the international flotilla say they were on a humanitarian mission to bring aid to Gazans who are suffering because of the Israeli blockade.

"I think the sharp international criticism is the result of the use of armed force against unarmed civilians who were engaging in a nonviolent peaceful resistance," said Phil Wilcox, a former U.S. diplomat who served as Consul General in Jerusalem during the Clinton administration.

But Israel says its soldiers were attacked with lethal weapons. The Israeli military has released video showing people onboard one of the six ships bludgeoning soldiers with clubs after they boarded from a helicopter.

David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says Israelis believe global opinion is against them -- that the United Nations is swayed by Islamic countries, while European leaders are increasingly dismissive of Israeli security concerns. "They've really developed an ethos, I call it, of self-reliance, because they believe the international system is rigged," he said.

Makovsky says repeated global condemnation when Israel believes it is acting to defend itself makes Israelis less responsive to international concerns. "Because their view is when people don't care if you live or die -- when all they want is to say the blockade is lifted -- and after that that Hamas gets weapons, they'll say, 'Oops, sorry about that,'" he said.

Makovsky contrasts the outcry over the Israeli raid to the relatively muted reaction to North Korea's torpedoing of a South Korean warship in March, in which 46 sailors were killed.

Robert Blecher of the International Crisis Group says Israel is under greater scrutiny because the conflict with the Palestinians attracts more attention. "I think that this conflict has a special resonance throughout the world. Whether it's because of religious reasons or historical reasons or political reasons, there are many more people who are invested in this than in other places," he said.

Some critics say Israel would not be condemned as much if it lifted the blockade. But many Israelis argue that it keeps arms from Hamas, which has sworn to destroy it. Analysts say the global outcry over the raid might lead them to insist on maintaining the blockade more forcefully.

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