BOSTON — "Peace is not merely a distant goal that we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal." – Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Nine dead, seven Israeli soldiers and 30 passengers of the Mavi Marmara seriously injured. For those of us — Israelis, Palestinians, Turks, Americans, et al. — who agree that the methods through which we reach peace determine the ultimate durability of that peace, Monday's events were doubly tragic: unprovoked attacks launched under the guise of a humanitarian mission could imperil both the prospects for peace, as well as its eventual sustainability. For every time force is chosen over dialogue, arms over words, the seeds of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict grow, and the task of undoing their damage is threatened.
Indeed, when you embark on a journey intent upon breaking a legal blockade by force — as is now abundantly clear was the case with the Marvi Marmara commanders — you become an obstacle to peace not a seeker of it.
When you are in a flotilla, sponsored by an NGO — IHH — that has close ties to Al Qaeda, and has helped plan and finance numerous terror attacks (as documented in the Danish Institute for International Studies' report: "The Role of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and Terrorism") you are impelled not by a humanitarian mission, but by a death wish.
When you refuse to agree to dock in the port of Ashdod and peacefully unload your supplies for inspection and transfer into Gaza, you do not have the best interests of Gaza's poor in mind, but those of the Hamas terrorists that rule over them.
And when you assault Israeli soldiers with knives and metal pipes, instead of choosing any of the non-violent options they've proposed, it is not the good of humanity, but either publicity for your jaded mission or martyrdom that motivates you. (According to a translation provided by the Middle East Media Research Institute, one passenger told Al Jazeera before leaving: "We are now waiting for one of two good things — either to achieve martyrdom or to reach Gaza.")
Of course, even if there was no peace process at stake, even if the relative stability of one of the world's most vital regions did not hang in the balance, Monday's deaths would be tragic and heartbreaking. For in the democratic community, of which Israel is a member, human loss and suffering are never met with parades (as has been the case in Gaza, most memorably following 9/11).
But make no mistake: This was not an assault or coldblooded attack by the Israel Defense Forces, but rather a manifestation of Israel's legal enforcement of its Gaza blockade.
There are those who struggle to comprehend a blockade's purpose. A suggestion: think of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Soviet pursuit of the capacity to reach the United States with missiles from Cuba led to a nail-biting standoff. As one of the consequences, President John F. Kennedy enforced a naval blockade on Cuba.
When Hamas — recognized as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and European Union — rose to power in Gaza, they began firing rockets and mortars at Israeli innocents. Israel and Egypt then shuttered the border in order to prevent them from acquiring more munitions. Israel deals with the consequences for Gaza's civilians through daily shipments of humanitarian aid, while Hamas does so by eschewing governmental responsibility in favor of terrorist activity; wasting hundreds of millions in international aid in the process.
The Israeli government, like others facing the threat of asymmetrical warfare, grapples with torturous choices every day. Often, as we saw with the Mavi Marmara, there are no good options. Certainly, the outcome of this week's incident was regrettable, but it could worsen if fallacious characterizations are accepted as fact, senseless exploitations continue unchallenged and the peace process is poisoned as a result.
Hopefully, this tragedy will further emphasize what Israel's leaders have been saying for years: The status quo is unsustainable, negotiations must continue in earnest and a durable and sustainable resolution with the Palestinians is needed now more than ever.
Nadav Tamir is Consul General of Israel to New England.