Photo: Quds Net News Agency/NurPhoto via Getty Images
In the early summer of 2010, a group of mostly Turkish activists attempted to deliver a flotilla of humanitarian aid to the besieged Gaza Strip. The attempt was interdicted by the Israeli military, which launched a raid on one ship that resulted in the deaths of nine people, including one American citizen. The raid triggered an international outcry and led to a diplomatic crisis between Israel and Turkey, while drawing further attention to the civilian impact of the ongoing Israeli siege of Gaza.
Joe Biden took the lead in defending the raid to the U.S. public. In an interview with PBS, he described the raid as “legitimate” and argued that the flotilla organizers could have disembarked elsewhere before transferring the aid to Gaza. “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza?” Biden asked about the humanitarian mission. “Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping eight — 3,000 rockets on my people.’” No weapons were ever found on the ship, only humanitarian supplies. Amid the fury that the raid generated and the muted response from President Barack Obama, Biden’s remarks were welcomed by American Israel Public Affairs Committee spokesperson Josh Block, who said at the time, “We appreciate the many strong statements of support for Israel from members of Congress and the vice president today.”