Friday, June 04, 2010

Reasons not to jump the gun . . .

Gaza Flotilla Blocked?
Illustration by Anthony Russo
(Image from New York Times)

As is sometimes observed, "Truth is the first casualty of news." When the news about Israel's attack on the Gaza Flotilla was first reported, I knew that the story would eventually get more complex, that it would not be a simple black-and-white incident, that the peace activists would soon appear not so peaceful. Here's what Michael B. Oren had to say recently in the New York Times:
Millions have already seen the Al Jazeera broadcast showing these "activists" chanting "Khaibar! Khaibar!" -- a reference to a Muslim massacre of Jews in the Arabian peninsula in the seventh century. YouTube viewers saw Israeli troops, armed with crowd-dispersing paintball guns and side arms for emergency protection, being beaten and hurled over the railings of the ship by attackers wielding iron bars.

What the videos don't show, however, are several curious aspects Israeli authorities are now investigating. First, about 100 of those detained from the boats were carrying immense sums in their pockets -- nearly a million euros in total. Second, Israel discovered spent bullet cartridges on the Mavi Marmara that are of a caliber not used by the Israeli commandos, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers "injured" by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.
I have, in fact, seen the You Tube videos cited by Mr. Oren, particularly the one made available by the IDF (Israeli Defense Force) showing the activists very actively attacking the IDF commandos as the board one of the ships, the Mavi Marmara. These particular peace activists were not especially peaceful, and I have also seen the other photos and videos at a website maintained by the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. And, of course, there's the continually updated account at Wikipedia.

What's missing for me so far is a clear account of the sequence in which the events transpired. The videos show the IDF commandos being attacked, but still unclear to me is precisely why the activists attacked.

Mr. Oren's account of "propaganda clips showing passengers 'injured' by Israeli forces . . . [as having been] filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred," will need to be confirmed, but if true, these imply that the violence on the activists' part was premeditated.

Mr. Oren, of course, is hardly a neutral source of information, given that he is Israel's ambassador to the United States and is writing an op-ed piece titled "An Assault, Cloaked in Peace," so I'm still waiting for a more authoritative account.

I've seen no evidence, incidentally, that the flotilla was carrying any missiles, whatever the image above might otherwise imply.

At any rate, such cases as this one offer reasons for treating initial reports with a grain of salt and thus explain why Gypsy Scholar never jumps the gun and therefore never officialy reacts to news.

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At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The videos show the IDF commandos being attacked, but still unclear to me is precisely why the activists attacked."

First reason: The activists didn't want Israeli commandos getting control of their flotilla. Second reason: The activists wanted to provoke a violent reaction that would draw international condemnation. I find it very credible that the activists attacked the commandos as they rappelled onto the boat. My main concern about Israel's actions is that the raid took place in international waters.

At 7:14 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Many questions remain, of course.

One question: Why the activist violence on this one ship?

The IDF commandos boarded other ships without resistance, so what went wrong on this one?

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

There were many different nationalities and organizations represented on the flotilla. I don't think those folks with pipes and knifes throwing the IDF soldier from the upper deck were European peace activists. Nine of the twelve dead were Turks, including a young man with dual Turkish-US citizenship, raised in Turkey since the age of 2. I feel sorry for this young man in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I'm a little dismayed to see him portrayed as an American victim by the Turkish governmentn no less to elicit sympathy and outrage from Israel's staunch ally. Nonviolent activist Rachel Corrie's horrible death went unnoticed by most Americans, and Turks are mistaken if they think one of their dead will arouse American anger because he held a US passport.

At 10:04 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


At 11:06 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks for the additional information. I've read that several of the Turkish activists were linked to terrorist groups, but I don't know if that's been securely established.

I'll wait for an authoritative report, which may take a few days or weeks . . . a bit like with the Cheonan incident.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:26 PM, Anonymous Malcolm Pollack said...

Read all about it.

At 1:04 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Malcolm. That confirms some of what I've been reading.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 4:00 AM, Blogger GI Korea said...

I think the whole issue of international waters is irrelevant. The hired thugs on that ship would have attacked the Israeli soldiers whether or not they were in international waters or not. Does anyone really think if the boat was stopped in Israeli waters those thugs would have acted any differently?

This was a well planned Islamist propaganda operation that was conducted with the approval of the Turkish government that now appears ready to use the Palestinian cause to score points in the greater Islamic world.

At 5:37 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

GIK, I think that you're right that this specific ship was used by Islamists as a provocation to produce propaganda (though the videos are working against them).

The problem is that the IDF seems to have dropped down into a trap, one that would force them to use lethal force, and having boarded the ship in international waters tightens the trap.

But what is the status of international law on this point? Boarding a pirate's vessel on the open seas is surely allowed. What about this case?

Jeffery Hodges

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