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Repel boarders

April 26th, 2009 - 9:47 pm

The headline tells half the story: Israeli guards aboard Italian cruise ship repel pirates off Somalian coast .

A German-Italian cruise ship with 1,500 people on board fended off a pirate attack far off the coast of Somalia on Saturday, in which the vessel’s private Israeli security force exchanged fire with the bandits and drove them off, the ship’s commander said yesterday. … Domenico Pellegrino, head of the cruise line, said Msc Cruises hired the Israelis because they were the best-trained security staff, the ANSA news agency reported. Security work aboard cruise ships is very popular among young Israelis just out of the army; the job is seen as a chance to save money and travel at the same time. Hundreds of veterans and reservists of elite Israel Defense Force units, including the naval commandos, are employed in security work on cruise ships and oil rigs in areas subject to pirate attacks.

The other half of the story is hidden in the BBC’s account. “Samantha Hendey from Durban, South Africa, told the BBC that her sister Tabitha Nicholson was on board the ship during the attack and the situation was ]pretty dramatic’. ‘She said that there were lots of passengers on deck watching it unfold and they even took action themselves by throwing chairs overboard, trying to hit the pirates,’ Samantha said.” While deck chairs are not exactly effective antiship weapons, the incident seems to suggest that while the Israeli security men were brave and professional, there was no inherent inhibition in the European, nor indeed the human genome, against self-defense. All it needed to awaken was leadership and example. Then the pirates beat a hasty retreat. If the pirates have been gaining against civilization of late, it probably has less to do with the timidity of peoples, who after all, are cut from the same genetic cloth as the hunter-gatherers of 10,000 BC, then with defects of politicians, who imagine themselves to be above it all.

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