This weekend's tragic encounter on the Mediterranean certainly brings into sharp focus, once again, the Middle East's most intractable conflict: Israel v. the Palestinians (including the Arab Muslim world).
Forget what got us to this point, because that way lies madness and a nest of competing claims and counterclaims: view this incident strictly in its cocoon.
You have a vessel, presumably bringing humanitarian aid and supplies from an ally to a beleagured people, confronted by a military force of a neighbor who has good reason to suspect the vessel is not what it appears.
Now put this in a different context: say a ship from Saudia Arabia is steaming towards Nova Scotia with commercial goods, but the American Coast Guard suspects there might be opium supplies on board. Interdiction agreements between Canada and the US allow the USCG to board the vessel and inspect it. Similarly, contained in the interim Israeli-Palestinian accords, Israel has a similar right to control the airspace and waters around Gaza.
So a few questions remain just within this context of isolating this incident: Why did the Israelis board at night? Why did the people on the "peace" ship attack the soldiers immediately as they rappelled down? Who gave the order to use live fire against pipes and rods?
Now we can expand the context: Why did Israel have an embargo and blockcade in the first place? There is, of course, the stock answer that Gaza contains Hamas militants (as did the boat), but that answers really nothing about the blockcade. After all, much of the land around Gaza is actually Egyptian territory. A blockcade around Gaza wouldn't stem the flow of armaments and terrorist operatives. Egypt would not tolerate any such behavior on its lands, but then we don't tolerate illegal immigration, yet it still happens.
In other words, a blockade is ineffectual at best, and tragic at worst. And it seems that the Gazans are dying, rather than leave or submit to Israel.
Too, a blockade, as has been seen countless numbers of times over the centuries, is rife with opportunities for just such a tragic encounter as yesterday's boarding.
There's going to be, over the course of the next several days, an awful lot of overheated rhetoric, so here's what you need to know: Both sides were wrong, both sides acted irresponsibly, and therefore both sides deserve condemnation in about equal proportion.