Hijacking boats in international waters and killing passengers is, of course, a serious crime.
But the crime is nothing new. For decades, Israel has been hijacking boats between Cyprus and Lebanon and killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes holding them hostage in Israeli prisons.
Israel assumes that it can commit such crimes with impunity because the United States tolerates them and Europe generally follows the U.S.'s lead.
As the editors of The Guardian rightly observed on June 1, "If an armed group of Somali pirates had yesterday boarded six vessels on the high seas, killing at least 10 passengers and injuring many more, a NATO task force would today be heading for the Somali coast." In this case, the NATO treaty obligates its members to come to the aid of a fellow NATO countryTurkeyattacked on the high seas.
Israel's pretext for the attack was that the Freedom Flotilla was bringing materials that Hamas could use for bunkers to fire rockets into Israel.
The pretext isn't credible. Israel can easily end the threat of rockets by peaceful means.
The background is important. Hamas was designated a major terrorist threat when it won a free election in January 2006. The U.S. and Israel sharply escalated their punishment of Palestinians, now for the crime of voting the wrong way.
The siege of Gaza, including a naval blockade, was a result. The siege intensified sharply in June 2007 after a civil war left Hamas in control of the territory.
What is commonly described as a Hamas military coup was in fact incited by the U.S. and Israel, in a crude attempt to overturn the elections that had brought Hamas to power.
That has been public knowledge at least since April 2008, when David Rose reported in Vanity Fair that George W. Bush, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and her deputy, Elliott Abrams, "backed an armed force under Fatah strongman Muhammad Dahlan, touching off a bloody civil war in Gaza and leaving Hamas stronger than ever."
Hamas terror included launching rockets into nearby Israeli townscriminal, without a doubt, though only a minute fraction of routine U.S.-Israeli crimes in Gaza.