It’s been 24 hours since we began watching live video of the Freedom Flotilla as it attempted to deliver 10,000 metric tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and much remains murky. With the Israeli government refusing to provide information on the killed, injured and detained passengers – who included European legislators, medical personnel and activists, all civilians – we are left in the dark.
Of course, Israel is quite happy to spread around the latest IDF videos which claim to show the events on the ships as Israeli commandos attacked. Left out of those video accounts is the essential, core fact that the ships were in international waters at the time – and had in fact specifically decided to alter their course to avoid just such a confrontation during the night.
Many of us watching the live feeds from Turkish TV heard the announcement of the captains decision to shift his course shortly after the Israeli warships made initial contact when the flotilla was still 100 miles off the coast. We then saw the passengers take off their life vests and relax after the initial preparations made with the first Israeli radio message. We thought that things would be calm overnight. We were oh so wrong.
The IDF – forgetting that in a wired world, they do not have total control of what we see and therefore think – has been flogging a set of videos purporting to show the boarding and also provided handy onscreen notes in case US media doesn’t see it the same way. They’ve also provided random shots of slingshots and a few boards or pipes – just lying on what appears to be a ship’s deck but note carefully that they provide no footage of these “weapons” being used nor proof they even belong to the passengers.
Now consider this PR effort in the conjunction with the pre-flotilla effort the IDF launched and which is well documented in the video above. Along with multiple lies about conditions in Gaza, the Israeli Government Publicity Office sent round an “ironic” press release recommending that journalists going to Gaza dine at an upscale restaurant, a claim made to counter any concerns about the desperate conditions in Gaza which had just been reported once again by the UN Relief Agency.
But just as many of us know the lie of today’s Israeli spin which claims Israel’s murder of up to 19 civilians was justified, the lie of the restaurant video effort was shown clearly when viewers saw Mahmoud Abbas dining in the Israeli video. Abbas has not been in Gaza since the launch of the Israeli siege and the video was years old.
Did some passengers resist the Israeli attack – perhaps. In fact some of the Turkish TV video appears to show one or two passengers pushing a commando against a door as he drops from the helicpter onto the deck. So we have the elite Israeli commandos, trained for weeks to board these vessels pushed about – and this justifies the killing of up to 19 civilians? Repeat after me: the passengers were aboard a legal vessel in international waters – not attacking Israel in any fashion – and never intending to land in Israel at all.
Or as Dror Feiler, an Israeli organizer of the flotilla said before sailing:
In an interview with Israel Radio, he said he’s considered the various scenarios: “Either they take over our ships and force us to come to Ashdod, or intercept and sink us — or we’ll make it to Gaza. If we make it, we will have broken the siege. If they sink us, they will be showing the true face of a country gone insane. And if they force us into Ashdod, then they will be exactly like pirates in the Gulf of Aden . . . they’ll be the new pirates of the Mediterranean.”
As of now, there are reliable reports of a death toll of up to 19, with at least 50 wounded and numerous journalists held without the ability to contact their employers. The PM of Ireland has rightly accused the Israeli’s of kidnapping Irish citizens and governments around the world are demanding explanations and information on their citizens as well as an independent investigation. People around the word have gathered to protest this new Israeli crime – from Iraq to Times Square.
The US however is simply asking Netanyahu to investigate – and parroting Israel’s own language – expressing regret at the loss of life. As I write this, the UN Security Council is still conferring behind closed doors with CNN I reporting that the US is blocking efforts to launch an independent investigation into Israel’s actions on the high seas.
Meanwhile, in Istanbul, Turkish families wait for word on their loved ones:
“My son is 4 years old and my daughter is 6. They packed 300 lollipops for their father to take to Palestinian children in Gaza,” [Aynur Akdeniz] said through tears.
… Like the other families gathered at the İHH building trying to obtain news from their relatives on the ship, Akdeniz said she was shocked by the attacks and that she was worried and crying.
“I did not expect that much cruelty. My husband even did not have a pocket knife on him,” she said. “It was a strict rule for all of them not to have anything that might be used as a weapon. But Israel was afraid of a few civilian people.”
While we wait for word from the passengers, we also have learned that a 21 year old American student in Israel has been shot in the eye by Israeli forces with a gas cannister and will lose her eye.