Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Presiding Bishop Mark Hanson weighs in on the Gaza flotilla, and echoes a concern that has been raised by French president Nicholas Sarkozy:

While we condemn all violence in the resolution of political disputes, this incident raises a number of questions related to the just use of force. It is not clear that, in this incident, all alternatives were explored prior to the use of military force. One tenet of the just use of force is proportionality, a principle I raised during my meeting with the chief rabbis of the State of Israel during Operation Cast Lead, the Israeli incursion into Gaza which lasted from December 2008 to January 2009. This incident provides an example of how proportionality is an ongoing concern related to Israeli military action against civilians, both Palestinians and internationals.

With regard to the matter of “alternatives,” it must be noted that the Israeli navy spent several hours trying to get the flotilla to voluntarily head for Ashdod, where their cargoes could be inspected for weapons, and the genuine humanitarian supplies forwarded to Gaza. It was the flotilla’s choice to make running the blockade their primary mission, rather than the actual delivery of the supplies. That being the case, the Israeli navy was essentially forced to board the ships and turn them toward Ashdod.

As for “proportionality,” I have no real idea why Hanson thinks this is an issue, since he doesn’t say or explain why he brings it up. In just war theory, proportionality isn’t meant to insure that both sides suffer the same losses, nor does it suggest that a military operation can only take place between forces that are similarly armed. Truth be told, I haven’t got a clue what Hanson thinks the concept of proportionality has to do with men defending themselves from a mob that they thought was made up of peace activists, but turned out to be made up of men spoiling for a fight, and who came armed for such a fight. Maybe he could issue another statement, and clear it up for the rest of us.