Tell me, what are you getting on your televisions and in your papers? Being surrounded by activists and watching Al Jazeera, here’s what we know:
At least 9 civilians (reports of 23, still not possible to tell as Israeli army has abducted all passengers) on board peace and justice boats headed to the Gaza Strip have been killed by armed Israeli commandos, another over 30 injured. Total numbers and names not known yet as everything is now under the control of the Israeli military and occupation regime.
Footage from cameras on board the flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, show:
-Israeli commandos sliding down wires from helicopter and opening fire on civilians on the boat.
-Israeli gunboats flanking the ship.
-civilians –peace and justice activists–being carried away after being shot by the Israeli commandos.
-Al Jazeera reporter Jamal Elshayyal, on board the Mavi Marmara, described the civilians raising a white flag as Israeli commandoes continued to fire live ammunition on the crowd.
“All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation.”
The Freedom Flotilla, originally comprising 9 vessels but sailing yesterday with only 6 vessels—3 cargo boats and 3 passenger boats—was in international waters 65 km of Gaza’s coast when confronted and surrounded by Israeli naval gunboats.
Organisers of the flotilla carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night. The passengers include people from Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Norway, Palestine, Serbia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Turkey, and include European Members of Parliament.
Al Jazeera was among the first channels broadcasting on the Israeli attack and killing of the international civilians aboard.
The Guardian also has been reporting:
“According to tweets from activists on board the ships, Israeli forces dropped from helicopters on to the deck of the Turkish passenger ship, the Marvi Mamara, at 4.30am and immediately opened fire. The ship was surrounded by navy vessels.”
But Israel is flipping the story, trying again to appear the victim and justify its massacre as “self-defence”.
Israel’s defence, propagated by the BBC, is that the boats knew that they would be intercepted and were being told to go back.
Therefore the Israeli commandos’ live firing into a crowd of hundreds of unarmed civilians is justified.
In the truth smear on the attack, BBC, a main propaganda player, calls it an ‘incident’ and mentions ‘fighting between the activists and Israeli soldiers’.
From Mark Regev, to Press TV, as spin doctors and media outlets decide how to react and report on the Freedom Flotilla in the coming days, it’s important that one scrutinises their words (or lack of) in every way possible. For starters, one must ask why such a big story is not being covered by many of the large international news networks. Surely one of the biggest demonstrations of collective international civil resistance, involving 50 nationalities, more than 30 parliamentarians, and costing millions of dollars is news worthy.
Free Gaza organizer Greta Berlin “strongly rejected the Israel’s claim that the activists were the first ones to start shooting. She said there were no weapons on board the boats, and that any violence from the activists would have been in self-defense:
People certainly have the right to resist if they’re being attacked. We taught our Free Gaza Movement people to be non-violent, and the Turks did the same, but if anyone resisted, it was in response to soldiers opening fire on them when they hit the deck.”
Israeli military analyst Yakov Amidror justifies the shooting by saying that the Israeli authorities declared the area (international waters) a closed military zone, therefore the boats should not have been there, therefore innocent civilians may be shot.
Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Danny Ayalon, called the activists allies of Israel’s Islamist enemies in Hamas and al-Qaida, saying soldiers found weapons on board the ships.
Israeli Military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, admitted that the navy attacked in international waters but defends this saying “we have the right to defend ourselves.”
Remember, of course, Israel is ‘defending itself’ against a fleet of peace and justice activists with 10,000 tons of aid.
Human Rights organization, Amnesty International, isn’t buying Israel’s excuses:
“Israeli forces appear clearly to have used excessive force,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Israel says its forces acted in self-defence, alleging that they were attacked by protestors, but it begs credibility that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have been justified. It appears to have been out of all proportion to any threat posed.”
Journalist Erin Cunningham points out:
“It is unclear how much of this 9-minute video from the boat (and posted on Maan) is sequenced properly… if it is, it would seem commandoes repelled onto the boats and initially killed 2 activists, after which flotilla organizers display a white flag (according to the reporter), more live fire is heard, and more Israeli commandos repel down and are subsequently attacked by activists wielding sticks. details still sketchy at best.”
The Ma’an article notes: An update from passengers on the ship said none were armed but the landing soldiers, who fired “the moment their feet hit the deck. They shot civilians asleep.”
America’s reaction has been muted as expected. Al Jazeera notes:
Marc Lynch, a professor at George Washington University – writing in his Foreign Policy blog – notes that the global outcry over the attack will force the Obama administration to react.
I’ll just say that the bottom line for Washington is that the U.S. can not ignore this or try to hope that it will pass quickly so that it can resume business as usual. It is rapidly spiraling into one of the most intensely galvanizing issues in the Arab media — and around the world — since the Israeli war on Gaza itself. If Obama goes ahead and meets with Netanyahu as if nothing happened, then his administration’s outreach to the Muslim communities of the world is effectively over.
Turkey, Spain, Greece, Austria, Denmark and Sweden have all summoned the Israeli ambassador’s in their respective countries to protest against the deadly assault.
Greece and Turkey have cancelled joint military excercises with Israel and Turkey has recalled its ambassador from Israel.
In my own country, Canada, Prime Minister Harper is shaking hands with Benjamin Netanyahu despite the Israeli navy massacre of justice activists.
And many Palestinians in Gaza, while mourning the deaths of justice activists, are not surprised that Israel could again go to such great extremes. After the 2008-2009 Israeli massacre of Gaza, killing nearly 1500 and wounding over 5000, many feel Israel will do what it wants, when it wants, regardless of international law.
So it’s beyond time to take it into our hands, shake our drowzy governments and make our own action.
Numbers for Israeli officials:
* Mark Regev in the Prime Minister’s office: +972 2670 5354 +972 2670 5354 +972 5 0620 3264
* Shlomo Dror in the Ministry of Defense: +972 3697 5339 or +972 50629 8148
* Major Liebovitz from the Israeli navy: + 972 5 781 86248
* The Israeli Ministry of Defense, Fax: 972-3-697-6717
* The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Fax: 972-2- 5303367
* List of Israeli embassies in other countries
Organize a demonstration at an Israeli embassy
Numbers for United States officials:
* White House: 1.202.456.1111
* Department of State: 1.202.647.4000
Call or send a letter to your Congressional representative with this sample letter:
Dear YOUR REPRESENTATIVE,
In one of the most outrageous attacks on civilized people, the Israeli military killed at least 20 people and injured at least 30 more in an unprovoked assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters. The ships presented no threat as they were filled with diplomats, academics, journalists and human rights workers hoping to bring humanitarian goods to the besieged Gaza Strip.
I call on you to hold Israel accountable for their despicable actions and to immediately dispel your Israeli ambassador until a thorough investigation can be undertaken by a credible third party.
Please contact your foreign ministries, embassies and representatives.
Implement BDS, hold Israel accountable for its occupation, siege and crimes.
Live Coverage: Israel’s flotilla raid [updated regularly]
*photo from IHH