gaza flotilla massacre: israel adds to its eternal shame

What could be more shameful than slaughtering people trying to bring aid to a trapped and dispossessed people?

The apartheid system that dispossesses those people in the first place.

This from the "only democracy in the Middle East". From the "light unto the nations" I learned about as a young person.

Shame, shame, shame.

Boycott - Divest - Sanction. What you do will not be much, but what we all do will have an impact.

Details on public response to the massacre will be updated on the Gaza Freedom March website.


In Toronto, meet at the Israeli Consulate, 180 Bloor Street West. Vigil at noon. Rally at 5:00.

On Facebook, Outrage over the Freedom Flotilla Massacre, May 31 2010 will have updates of protests around the globe.


allan said...

From one news story:

"According to latest reports, from 1 to 3 vessels of the international flotilla are being towed to the Israeli port of Haifa, not Ashdod as was suggested earlier, so as to avoid encountering international journalists who are waiting at Ashdod."

allan said...

Al Jazeera news clip (8:43)

deang said...

I woke up to this news this morning and have been fuming ever since. Even here in Austin, Texas, there are emergency protests taking place today as I write, with larger ones planned for this evening and tomorrow. One of them is going on in front of the flagship Whole Foods, I guess because it's a high traffic spot. It'll be interesting to see how Whole Foods' right-wing Libertarian management reacts; they traditionally haven't been very good to protesters.

The US needs to quit supplying the Israeli military.

laura k said...

This is a terrible, dark day. I have some paid work today (transcribing) and I keep going over to Facebook to see postings and share anger and grief.

This day is also an opportunity for the Gaza Freedom movement. I hope it brings a shift in public opinion.

A Conformer said...

Laura, you know I'm not an Israel apologist by a long shot- I think the blockade is wrong (although I don't have a better idea) and should be removed, and that the operation itself today was a mistake. But calling it a massacre and saying that it was "slaughtering people trying to bring aid" is way simplistic and, in my opinion, a wrong view of what happened.
First of all, you can't really say the aim of the flotilla was to bring aid. The aid equipment they were bringing would've been a drop in the ocean, and less than what goes through into Gaza (at least by tonnage) in half a week. The aim was political agitation and creating international pressure to raise the blockade (a goal I support, and sadly that's probably one of the ways to bring that about). All this is especially true since the Israeli government has, in past events like this, taken over the ships, checked them for weapons, and then transported them to Gaza along with the rest of the humanitarian aid that goes through (this is all of course to the best of my knowledge...).

A Conformer said...

Now, about the massacre: what do you think happened on that boat? Do you think the soldiers were ordered to open fire on unarmed, non-resisting civilians? I'm sorry, but any way I try to rationalize it, it doesn't make sense. Even if you think the Israeli government would have loved to have all those people die (something I doubt very much), the damage to Israeli international relations will be huge, and they knew that for sure. Besides, if it wanted to kill people, the Israeli army has better ways than to send soldiers with paintball rifles and handguns, outnumbered, on board a ship. A much easier way would've been to just shoot them from the helicopters they were boarding it from, or if you wanna go crazy, sink the ship.
From what I've read and seen (there's some videos you'll not see in Al-Jazeera which are hard to interpret otherwise), it seems the commando forces were expecting what happened in other actions of these kinds: unarmed activists practicing non-violent resistance. Instead, they were greeted, on the Turkish ship, with a big group armed with knives and clubs that attacked them, threw one of them from 4 feet high into the lower deck, and took some of their weapons. The Israeli force then proceeded to use live fire and the maximum force available to them. Now, obviously, I have no real idea what happened, what was the chain of events, and what lead to what, and I don't think Israel is blameless at all (in fact, I've been dreading this operation for about three days now, and thought it was stupid and shortsighted even if nobody would've gotten hurt), but this seems like a much more rational explanation than "massacre".

Stephanie said...

I watched (via the livestreaming) those most courageous hearts on the boats until the wee hours last night and while I couldn't imagine the exact outcome I never would have imagined such an atrocious and viscious and desperate reaction to end this mission of hope (there were continuous interviews with participants filled with joy and hope you couldn't help but catch it too).

After all the hours sifting through the reports today I still can't make any sense out of it, (perhaps that's my mistake).

I am heartsick, devastated and on the verge of tears all the time (I have tried to work today but it isn't really happening). Yet, every now and again there are those occasional moments of hope (I admit I am probably desperately seeking those) but ...

Just sharing.

A Conformer said...

These people are not peace or humanitarian activists. That's a lynch mob.

Stephanie said...

Dear a conformer,

I think you are having a little too much mainstream media in your coffee...

laura k said...

I wasn't using the word massacre to be dramatic. Kent State was called a massacre. The number of bodies doesn't matter.

Rational explanation? There can be no rationale for these actions.

I won't argue such a basic issue of justice. Sorry.

laura k said...

(although I don't have a better idea)

You don't? I do. Freedom and equality.

laura k said...

Ofer, you're my friend and I have a lot of respect for you as an Israeli who will use the word "occupation". But I can't argue about this - certainly not today, while I am so heartsick and angry. I can't let more comments like this through, either, because I don't want other people to argue about this here. I won't have this blog used as a debate on what, to me, is a basic matter of human rights and justice.

laura k said...

Re video, there's a way to get people to stop attacking IDF. Same easy formula that will stop Canadian & US soldiers from being blown up in Afghanistan and US soldiers from being blown up in Iraq.

A Conformer said...

Laura, again, I'm not talking about the blockade, we agree about the blockade. But things are not as black and white as we'd like them to be. I also agree that sending armed troups onto the ship is asking for problems. All I'm saying is that this was not senseless murder.
Stephanie, I could say the exact same thing in the opposite direction. I am reading things from where I can gather them, and watched both the army videos and the activists videos, and this is the conclusion I have come to.
I am not trying to defend anybody. I am trying to make sense of this, and was looking for contrary opinions, because joining the Israeli chorus of opinion is way too easy. I am not one for one-sided opinions.
Anyway, if you don't want to discuss it here, this will be my last comment.

Stephanie said...

A conformer,

I appreciate your sincerity.

laura k said...

I believe it is senseless murder. And I believe senseless murder is a redundancy. I believe "asking for problems" sounds like government double-speak and apologist 101.

Conventional wisdom says there are two sides to every story, and we must think of it from both points of view, and there are no easy answers, and on and on. And I say when it comes to situations like these, that is utter bullshit.

There is such a thing as right and wrong.

That is not simplistic. It is just simple. I can only hope my moral compass never gets so complicated that I don't know the difference.

Thanks for signing off.

laura k said...

A few comments I read on Facebook regarding that video.

"They were met with violence? They rapell down in masks with weapons in dead of night, shooting, and how did they expect unarmed civilians to respond, by drawing targets on their chests in luminescent paint? OMG they fought back with sticks and bread knives, and some tried to wrestle the firing weapons from the pirates hands! How dare they?" Osie Gabriel Adelfang

"If this video is real and undoctored, it's still clear that the passengers were defending themselves from a commando raid and not from a peaceful takeover of the ship."

"That does seem clear. However, I suspect those passengers were feeling threatened. As would I."

"This is out too fast, too soon. I bet it is a film from something else that was photoshopped."

"yes as soldiers descend from the sky onto a ship one should lie down and hope that they do not attack them...as the IDF, which is a direct descendant of the terrorist Irgun and Haganah, have shown themselves to be more apt to talking first rather than striking first."

"I notice the video didn't circle/highlight the passengers being forced back by the soldiers' weapons."

"if that's what it is, and if it's passengers hitting soldiers, or soldiers hitting passengers!!! even so, i would argue that the passengers get to plead self defense!"

"They don't get to plead anything. They are mowed down by assassins covered by the might of the United States."

"Who cares what Israel *says* when they are shooting unarmed humanitarians in international waters, when they are actively pursuing a genocide with Canada's support?"

"Even if they didn't start fighting, their method of boarding -- in the dead of night -- is not exactly like what you get when your cruise ship docks in the South Pacific. IDF has a well-deserved rep for shooting peace activists and journalists. Who knows what was in those peoples' minds at the time?"

"One of my friends was in the Canadian military for many years. Films taken at night with infrared cameras are usually greenish, he says. Yet this one is in black and white. Was the film enhanced or photoshopped? These silhouettes are impossible to identify, my friend also says. So this film proves absolutely nothing."

"Of course the video was manipulated. How else to put little circles and arrows on it?
I also notice a number of edits that jump back and forth in the sense that the light changes. Just saying."

"The IDF have more than enough state-of-the art technology to doctor a video and make it all look oh so real. Hell, Hollywood does this stuff every day!"

laura k said...

Read this bit of propaganda by an embedded Israeli journalist. My mind fucking boggles at the double-speak going on here. link

I would think it was a spoof, but AZ says it's real.

allan said...

I don't want other people to argue about this here. I won't have this blog used as a debate on what, to me, is a basic matter of human rights and justice.

It seems like posting those Facebook quotes will only encourage debate.

laura k said...

Not unless you think that posting things from our POV necessarily encourages debate. In that case, everything I post encourages debate.

I didn't want that video to stand unchallenged.

Anonymous said...

What? Oppose Israel? We can't do that! Our Hol(e)y Bible (pronounced "buy-bull") says that once the temple is restored, all of the believers will be raptured up to Heaven!

The scary part is that there are people in authority on both sides of the border (blessedly much fewer in Canada) that actually believe this crap.

tim said...

This is unbelievable. A couple quick observations:

Typical US reaction - let Israel investigate it themselves! That'll surely be a fair, transparent investigation. The results will probably be just as accurate as BPs reports on the gulf oil spill.

And hypothetically, what if this were a US-based flotilla (using US for this since they are Israel's only ally) with hundreds of pro-Israeli Americans on board, delivering aid to Israel which was attacked in a pre-dawn assault by Hamas "terrorists" dressed up in fuckin' SWAT gear? I'd love to see the US/Israel reaction then.

Well, besides the fact that everyone would probably have guns on that flotilla. And of course, Hamas would view the boat passengers as supporting a terrorist organization, just like Israel says about this one.

tim said...

I won't be around for further discussion on this, going to visit my mom for a couple of days in Miami.

A Conformer said...

Laura, if you'll permit me one more comment here (I think it respects your demand not to argue here): I'd like to invite you, Allan, and anybody of the blog's readers who are interested to discuss what happened yesterday and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in general with me. Please don't think I'm looking for confrontation or to challenge you and your opinions- I'm looking for exchange of opinions and to try and learn new facts and see things from a different perspective. Also, please don't assume I'm coming from any "side" in this besides my own.
Anyway, if anyone is interested, I'm at carmonofer at gmail dot com.

laura k said...

Ofer, thanks for your generous understanding. I was really upset yesterday, and felt a discussion here with the (for lack of a better word) pro-Israeli point of view would very quickly devolve.

If you want to discuss more here, go ahead, and I'll do my best to stay out of it, while continuing to monitor the thread.

I don't want to impede an opportunity for education and reaching out. So... go for it, keeping in mind the general rules of the blog, which I know you will. Thanks.

A Conformer said...

Hey, Laura, believe me, I know how you feel- I had a sinking feeling in my stomach all morning yesterday, was distracted and couldn't really listen at uni, and just kept refreshing again and again on different news sites to try and make sense out of what happened.

My conclusions, as of right now, are these: from the videos it seems obvious to me that the soldiers were not expecting the kind of violence they were met with. I can't see any way that the reports about live fire being shot before they boarded the ship could be true- you don't shoot a crowd and then rappel down into it one by one with only paintball rifles drawn- all other considerations aside, it would be amazingly stupid from an operational POV. Therefore, it seems to me that the soldiers' version, that they were attacked, stabbed and clubbed before they even had a chance for specific and personally endangering aggression against any activist (as opposed to the obvious aggression of rappeling into a boat they were clearly not wanted on). It seems to me like they expected to take over the ship against resistance that wasn't overly violent, and that nobody would get seriously hurt. Once there were 6-7 soldiers on board, that had serious threat to their lives (especially considering the reports that some of their guns were taken and used against them, which looking at the videos, seems reasonable to me), I don't see how things could've turned out differently, unless by differently you mean with 5 soldiers killed along with the 9, or probably more, activists. Frankly, I don't know how the 30 or so people on board the deck could've expected any other outcome.
Keep in mind that none of the other ships had any incidents on them, and that this ship, to my understanding, was the Turkish IHH (an organization I admittedly knew nothing about before yesterday, and still don't know much) ship, as opposed to the rest that were FGM ships, carrying mostly European and USian passengers (this has not been reported as such, but it's what I understood from what has been reported).

I'd like to stress again that I have no real idea of what happened, but these are my conclusions, and I haven't seen any other explanation that makes sense to me. And I'd like to stress again that I was against the operation from before yesterday, am against the blockade on Gaza, and am in no way condoning the military operation and saying the Israeli government and army are not to blame. Also, I fully support an independent, international investigation.

A Conformer said...

One more thing, just to give a little inkling of my broader views on the conflict: about a month ago I had serious doubts about whether or not to attend a protest urging the dismantling of the settlements and creating a palestinian state with its capital in East Jerusalem, because the title of the protest had the word Zionists in it (it was something like "Zionists are not settlers", meaning that true Zionism should be against the settlements), and I don't consider myself one.

edwin said...

A Conformer:

Lets set the scene.

Night time - tensions running high. International waters. Israel is using starvation against a civilian population - that's why the flotilla is there. The current government of Israel is the most right-wing in the history of the country - with discussions of loyalty oaths and other fascist policies being discussed. Are they going to play the non-violent game or are they going to murder some people as a warning?

To start with - a night time raid is going to cause a whole lot more panic and confusion than a day time one. A raid in international waters will be entirely unexpected. In fact, the ship is Turkish territory. Israel just invaded Turkey.


So, from the beginning Israel conducts a night time raid on sovereign Turkish territory - an act of war - not an act of piracy - on the high seas, armed with guns, swooping down from helicopters using surprise and intimidation as their weapons. They claimed to be armed with paint guns. Who knows? I sure as hell wouldn't want to be armed with a paint gun if I were a Israeli soldier in a situation like that. When you play act Rambo you just might find yourself no longer acting. That's the way violence works. Violence provokes violence, and the raid was conducted in an extremely violent way.

The army did what it could to provoke violence by how it conducted the raid. No daylight slow approach of ships with bull horns saying - "give yourselves up" - or anything like that.

edwin said...

A possible scenario

So what happened? We have some edited videos from Israel who always tells the truth. We have some helpful arrows because we sure as hell wouldn't understand what we were seeing without them. We have press censorship to make sure that the "correctint of view is shown. http://www.salon.com/news/opinion/glenn_greenwald/2010/06/01/israel/index.html We have an amazing number of trolls disrupting any attempt to talk abut what happened with extreme right wing propaganda.

Ok lets take a "Captain R" at his word. (http://mondoweiss.net/2010/06/ynet-75-percent-of-flotilla-passengers-had-a-knife-in-hand.html)

'I cocked my weapon when I saw that one was coming towards me with a knife drawn and I fired once. Then another 20 people came at me from all directions and threw me down to the deck below'
In the first interview since he was wounded in Monday's raid on the flotilla, Captain R, who commanded the troops who boarded the Marmara via helicopter, spoke of the battle that took place on vessel.
According to R, hundreds of people who were on the boat took part in attacking him and his soldiers and they were forced to use weapons because of danger to their lives.

So lets say someone came at Captain R with a knife. Who knows why. Maybe someone panicked. Maybe not everyone on board is named Gandhi. Its dark with spotlights - probably making it very difficult for those without night goggles to see what was going on, if not blinded by the combination of light and dark. Captain R - being the fool that he is - fires his gun. The passengers panic and assume that this is a massacre and there are going to be a heap of dead bodies. Israel is known for committing massacres having just murdered over a thousand civilians in operation Cast Led. They throw Captain R overboard to the deck below - stopping the murder from carrying on and proceed to attack any invading soldiers.

Captain R, in modern battle armour, could surely disarm a knife attack without resorting to shooting couldn't he? Was it the fault of the flotilla for resisting violently, or was it the fault of Israel for setting up a situation that had a very high possibility for the victims of their violence from responding with violence, or was it the fault of Captain R for discharging a gun in a situation that demanded some courage and intelligence to avoid panic?

Were the passengers trying to kill the soldiers? Well not a single soldier died - in spite of - according to the military 2 guns that were taken from soldiers. Either the passengers were amazingly ineffective, or they weren't trying to kill the soldiers. In either case what excuse is there for 19 dead?

Aren't we holding civilians to a much higher standard than we do professionally trained soldiers? Do we really want to spend time criticizing civilians from resisting a military invasion - an act of war - against a sovereign state?

what could have been different?

a) wait until the ship is within Gaza waters
b) wait until it is day light
c) don't engage in collective punishment and starvation as a political tactic in the first place.

DavidHeap said...

Edwin has already covered the most important point which is being overlooked generally: Israeli soldiers boarding the Turkish ship were committing an act of war. Regardless of the daylight vs. night-time, who was armed with what, etc. it was an act of illegal aggression to even attempt to board any of those ships. The aggressor in an act of war cannot subsequently claim "self-defense" when (in sovereign Turkish territory) people respond to their aggression with whatever they find at hand.

AC, I think this may be very hard to grasp because Israel have decades of practice in carrying out acts of aggression while claiming to be a victim acting in self-defense.

The attacks were an act of war against our NATO ally Turkey -- with any other aggressor, NATO countries would be lining up the muscle to show who is really boss of the seas, back up our friend Turkey, etc.

The only video we have is very likely doctored and certainly edited by military censors, who will also have seized all the footage by victims of the attacks, so we will very likely never see anything like the truth about all the Israeli commandos' actions.

Add to this the illegal abduction of hundreds of internationals: can you imagine any other state being permitted to kidnap 750+ citizens of other countries on the high seas?

All clearly war crimes under international law. And all in defense of the longer war crime of the blockade of Gaza. The illegal collective punishment of Gaza has been well-documented by international NGOs. The alternative to the blockade, as Laura suggests, is open borders with (if necessary) internationally monitored inspections to enforce an arms embargo against Hamas (much more feasible with above-ground border crossings than through porous tunnels).

But right now, an arms embargo against Israel -- an international war criminal rogue state -- seems like a much more pressing world priority.

See also Jonathan Cook, http://counterpunch.org/cook05312010.html

(with one tiny factual correction: Hedy Epstein, Holocaust survivor and human rights activist extraordinaire, never made it to the flotilla -- she had to stay behind in Cyprus).

laura k said...

Thank you, Edwin and David.

nick said...

I'm afraid I'm not terribly eloquent on the topic lately...mostly I come up with frustration on the verge of sputtering. I see so much double-speak and nonsense coming from the the Israeli government it pains my brain.

If I may, here is a post on firedoglake with counter-narratives as people from the ships are starting to gain access to the media. Maybe the additional information will be helpful.

laura k said...

Thanks, Nick, much appreciated. What I read in the Israeli media was positively Orwellian. Who was it that called the Guantanamo "suicides" (which weren't) "asymetrical warfare"? That's what it reminded me of.

A Conformer said...

Hey Edwin,
I'll start where you finished, by agreeing with you on A and B, and with C, which would've rendered the first two moot.
I think we agree on the setting and the provoking nature of the operation. But I think it's pretty obvious that the place where we differ is that of premeditation. From all evidence I can gather (and from using what I would call common sense), I don't see how you can make a coherent argument that the Israeli troops came with intentions or orders to kill. They certainly put themselves in a situation where violence was likely to occur, but I don't think it was the intention.
It does seem to me like the activists had a premeditated intention to use a high level of violence, seeing as how they attack the first soldier (Captain R...) before he's even down on the deck, and they're all ready, some with poles and knives drawn. I'm not even going to go into blame and morality (you'll notice none of my conclusions about the Israeli Army's action are made on moral grounds), but I don't think it could be deemed self defense, the same way I don't think the soldiers can claim self defense.
I will not take Captain R at his word, with all due respect. I don't see how he was in any position to assess if the people attacking him were 30 or hundreds. Besides, the videos tell a different story about the moment he's talking about.

I know nothing of international maritime law, but I've seen discussions in other places that claim the opposite citing this and that code of law. I'm don't see how I can comment on that- I'm entirely unqualified, and frankly, it's a discussion that's less important to me.

About the "ineffectiveness" of the activists in killing any of the soldiers- considering that, as you said, these are armoured and highly trained commando soldiers, I don't think it's a stretch of imagination that the final tally of such a confrontation would be 10 injured soldiers to 9 (I'm not sure it's the true final number, but that's the one being steadily reported for a while now) dead and about 30 injured activists.

As to the point raised by David about the videos being doctored: all three videos I've seen that show the moment of boarding coincide, including one taken by the activists. I don't see how you could doctor them that well. I guess I'll assume they're not and you'll assume they are, and I don't see any way either of us can prove his assumption. They are obviously edited- that goes without saying. But I think there's enough info an outside observer can gather from them. Among other things, I'd say you can recognize the paintball guns up to a good level of certainty.

In short, I think there's a huge, huge difference between purposely seeking to murder activists (what would be the goal? Instilling fear to prevent future flotillas? That is so counterproductive I can't imagine anybody would be that stupid, no matter how evil he supposedly is), and expecting to board the ship against a mildly violent crowd and having it escalate out of control. I think the latter is what happened. Again, if there's any kind of conclusive evidence otherwise, I guess I'll have to somehow wrap my head around it. And I don't really consider the testimonies of either side's participants reliable enough to not take with a big grain of salt (although there'll still be a lot to learn from them). If there's any specific person you know (at least by reputation) who was on the deck and comments on it, I'd appreciate it if you call my attention to it.

Sorry for the really long comments, BTW...

DavidHeap said...

Signs of tampered IDF "evidence" already emerging: http://ibnkafkasobiterdicta.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/gaza-flotilla-how-israels-ministry-of-foreign-affairs-fakes-photos-of-seized-weapons/
Who would believe anything the IDF provides? They denied using white phosphorous too...

Eye-witnesses present on different ships report (Haaretz, Guardian) being shot at before boarded, and those who offered no resistance being beaten brutally by these IDF "heros", before and after their illegal abduction.

DavidHeap said...

Also, if the IDF has such a solid case, they would charge and prosecute those who attacked their soliders. Instead, they release them, suggesting they in fact have no real evidence (of the kind that could hold in court) to back up the stories they feed the media. And that they are likely afraid of having to answer in court for their soldiers' actions.

laura k said...

19-year-old USian among the Gaza flotilla dead

He was shot five times, including 4 in the head.

For shame, for shame, for shame.

allan said...

That's being ruled a suicide, right?

laura k said...

Heh. Exactly.

When I spoke to my mother yesterday, she said it reminded her of Kent State.

laura k said...

British survivor of Gaza flotilla raid: 'Israelis ignored SOS calls': Sarah Colborne said pleas for aid were dismissed by the troops who fired live rounds at the activists and handcuffed medical staff

laura k said...

There is no defense. It is indefensible.

laura k said...

Israel killed more than 9, threw wounded into sea, witnesses say

laura k said...

Correct link to firedoglake post from Nick, above.