A couple years ago, an Orcas Island octogenarian named David Schermerhorn participated in a flotilla attempting to break through Israel's blockade of Gaza. Instead, Schermerhorn ended up spending three days in an Israeli jail. Nine others aboard the flotilla were killed by Israeli forces. Not a good move, says an Israeli report issued this week.
From a New York Times account:
Some crucial meetings among top officials were held one on one, without any staff work or documentation, the report said; the top seven ministers in the cabinet did not meet to discuss the flotilla until after it had embarked, and then only for a hastily called and superficial discussion.
After that meeting, the decision was made to raid the flotilla with a military operation 'without the plans having been presented in a detailed, orderly manner and without any real alternative courses of action having been presented.'
The report also said that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had been warned that a raid might meet with a violent response by flotilla participants, but the warnings went unheeded.
Schermerhorn, an avid sailor who talked to Seattle Weekly after a jaunt around the San Juans yesterday, is less than impressed. The report merely criticized Netanyahu "from the standpoint of execution and poor planning, but not the basic concept of stopping the boats," he said.
He also doesn't think the issue is whether Netanyahu received a warning about the flotilla participants' allegedly violent bent. He insists they weren't really violent all, and that the real question is the violence of Israeli soldiers.
Schermerhorn spent some time on the Mavi Marmara, the boat on which nine were killed, leaving for another ship in the flotilla just 10 hours before the raid. He says he caught up with some of the Mavi Marmara passengers after the deadly clash, who told him that those on board resisted the soldiers with their bare hands and the boat's railings, not knives and guns.
The United Nations, often critical of Israel, found otherwise last year in its own report, which noted "organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers." The UN also criticized the flotilla for "recklessly" attempting to breach a blockade that it characterized as "legitimate," given a need to prevent weapons from being smuggled into Gaza.
Obviously, Schermerhorn looks at things very differently. After the 2010 flotilla, he participated in two more attempts to break the Gaza blockade, neither of them successful. (On one, he shared a boat with the writer Alice Walker.) Now, he says, "I'm getting ready for the next one."
Of "several options" he's considering, one is an effort to build a boat inside Gaza and then sail out. About to turn 83, he says he'll go "if there's room on board."