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The Gaza Flotilla: A World Reichstag Fire

[July 4, 2010]

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Perhaps the most remarkable fact about the flotilla that tried to break the Gaza blockade is that from the moment of confrontation, virtually all Western media and key political leaders forcefully put forward and acted in accord with the position taken in the following May 31st headline from the Daily Mail, the well-known London tabloid:

“Israeli commandos gun down 19 peace activists in raid on Gaza ships with 28 Britons on board”
-- Daily Mail, 31st May 2010

To 'gun down' is to shoot helpless people dead, without giving them a chance to surrender. So this headline, and variations of it from Italy to the USA, called forth the image of gangsters, swarming onto the Mavi Marmara, guns blazing, shooting to kill. If the Daily Mail's indictment were true -- for this is the headline of an indictment, not a news report -- it would be remarkable that virtually all the media and most national leaders knew it was true, and acted on it immediately after the boarding of the Mavi Marmara.

Why remarkable? First because this is so different from the speed and intensity with which they responded to the real horror of the last year in Iran.

The Vatican, which did not utter a single word of criticism over the thousands of Iranians whom the IR (the clerical fascist regime in Iran) has beaten, tortured and murdered since last June, immediately sent condolences to the families of the Marmara dead.  France and the UK, which said at first little and then nothing about the Iranian blood bath, issued ultimatums to Israel. Likewise, Denmark, Spain, Greece. And so on. 

How could they immediately
know Israel was guilty, and knowing, act with such hostility towards Israel, and so fast?  And given all the huffing and puffing originating from Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan, even if Israel had been guilty, and the Western establishment miraculously, immediately knew it, why wouldn't they try to turn down the heat instead of fanning the flames with statements and actions that might have brought masses of people into the streets calling for Israel's blood? (As testimony to ordinary peoples' good sense, all the anti-Israel demonstrations in Europe fizzled.)

However, the reaction of the Western establishment is all the more remarkable because the charges are false.

Since we are witnessing a thousand-voiced indictment, dominating the mass media, with relatively little heard from the other side, before I consider
why Western leaders and the media are behaving so remarkably, let me present some of the evidence that the charges against Israel are a frame-up.

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Is the IDF Naval blockade legal?

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Let us begin with a brief discussion of the blockade.  The claim we have all heard is that because Israel stopped the flotilla outside territorial waters, the boarding was illegal.  This is not true.

Israel maintains a formally announced blockade of Gaza. As explained by the legal department of the IDF, and confirmed in an unusually fair report by
Reuters (archived here), in a properly run blockade, the blockading party has the right to seize boats in international waters, once it is clear that they intend to violate the blockade.

The Gaza blockade, announced January 3, 2009, involves a change in Israel's policy.  Whereas before declaring the blockade, Israel permitted ships carrying humanitarian aid to dock in Gaza, once the blockade was announced, Israel was required, under international law governing blockades, to turn away all vessels, and was required to do so effectively.  (In other words, as the IDF legal report states, quoting the international law, "an
ineffective blockade would expire.")

Equally important, for a blockade to be legal under international law, the blockading power must arrange for humanitarian aid to be delivered to the blockaded territory, subject to various measures to guarantee that the blockaded power does not abuse this requirement.  Israel has posted evidence that, contrary to the flotilla organizers' claims, they deliver about 15,000 tons of aid (in addition to heating oil and fuel) to Gaza every week.  That evidence can be read here and here.

(I participated in a marathon debate on the blockade on a legal website.  For links, go here.)

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The Mavi Marmara was owned and controlled by the IHH, a terrorist organization

==========================================

The reason for the blockade is obvious: Hamas, a terrorist group, controls Gaza and has waged war on Israel non-stop, lobbing about 9,000 rockets into southern Israel since Israel removed all citizens and military forces from Gaza in 2005. All Hamas' weapons (rockets, mortars, etc.) have to be smuggled in. In November 2009, Israel found 500 tons of weapons from the clerical fascist regime in Iran (the IR) on a ship destined for Hamas and Hezbollah.  So the blockade is based on realistic concerns, although this seems not to impress some Western leaders, such as Mr. Cameron of the UK.

Because under international law a blockade can only legally exist if the blockading country refuses passage to
all ships, the Gaza flotilla presented Israel with a dilemma. If the IDF permitted the flotilla to reach Gaza, aside from the secondary concern that there might be weapons on board, the blockade would be legally destroyed.  But if the IDF stopped the vessels, Israel would be attacked as a cruel bully.  Was this the intention of the IHH, the Turkish organization that owned three of the vessels, including the Mavi Marmara, and which was one of the main organizers of the flotilla? Not according to Reuters, which claims the IHH is nothing more than a charity with no grudge against Israel. It just wants to help people in distress:

"Serkan Nergis, a spokesman for IHH, told Reuters: 'We don't have anything against Israel. Our only aim was to carry aid to the people of Gaza. But for Israel, regardless of your religion or your nationality, if you help the people of Gaza you will be declared a terrorist.' "

But the Israeli government says the IHH is terrorist; and it is not just the Israeli government.

One of the countries whose government reacted with alleged outrage against Israel (
alleged because outrage can be real or feigned) was
Denmark. The Danish Foreign Minister and head of Denmark's Conservative People's Party, Lene Espersen, condemned Israel and demanded the Israeli ambassador meet and explain himself. FM Espersen then failed to show up at the meeting, instead sending a subordinate. For this the opposition Socialists accused her of incompetence. However, to paraphrase the great Lou Costello, maybe Espersen wasn't incompetent; maybe she was hiding. Could it be that the Foreign Minister was afraid the Israeli ambassador might show her a copy of a report on Islamic extremist use of charity front groups, which the Danish Foreign Ministry commissioned in 2005, when Espersen was Minister of Justice? According to the Danish report:

"Turkish authorities began their own domestic criminal investigation of IHH as early as December 1997, when sources revealed that leaders of IHH were purchasing automatic weapons from other regional Islamic militant groups. IHH’s bureau in Istanbul was thoroughly searched, and its local officers were arrested. Security forces uncovered an array of disturbing items, including firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions, and a 'jihad flag.' After analyzing seized IHH documents, Turkish authorities concluded that 'detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.' "
-- "The Role of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and Financing," Danish Institute for International Studies, DIIS, pp.14-15.  The PDF file can be accessed here and is archived
here.

On June 7, the main German public TV station, ARD, did an investigative report on the flotilla.  Below is a video of that program, with English subtitles. The group referred to in the video, Die Linke, is a fairly large German party that pays lip service to some traditional left wing ideas while supporting Islamic political extremism.

So, the Turkish component of the flotilla was recruited from Turkish fascist circles, people who believe not only in political Islam but "the Fuehrer principle," which puts them in the same camp as the German neo-Nazi party, the NPD; and a flotilla participant from Bundestag faction of Die Linke says the organizer of the supposedly left-wing component of the flotilla was Pax Christi, the main Vatican organization dealing with the Middle East. Meanwhile, the Turkish flotilla supporters sang: "Oh you Jews, the army of Mohammad is coming."

What a stew. Shades of the 1930s, rebroadcast as a tragic farce.

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Who attacked whom?

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The video below makes clear that, contrary to most media, the IDF soldiers did
not initiate the use of force.  They were attacked by a lynch mob.

As is evident from the video above, the IDF Navy soldiers were beaten with steel poles, knifed and thrown from deck to deck and overboard; this particular video does not show that they were also shot at and attacked with stun grenades and fire bombs. Only after lethal attack did they defend themselves.

In an all-too-rare moment of UK media sanity, Channel 4 (BBC) broadcast a British military expert's analysis of some of the IDF footage.  Here is a video of his remarks, which were kept inordinately brief by the interviewer:

The video below, consisting of film shot by one of the passengers further documents that lethal weapons were used in the attempted lynching of the soldiers:

Below is a video of an Israeli Channel 2 TV news broadcast, using film shot by a passenger on the Mavi Marmara. It shows an IDF Naval soldier being beaten with steel clubs, then stabbed. The news broadcaster does a replay of the knifing, because it happens very quickly and is easy to miss:

Al Jazeera, which, by the way, is a creation of the BBC, not Arab states, played a big role in the anti-Israel media attack, complete with a TV crew broadcasting from the Mavi Marmara. One Al Jazeera cameraman provided a bit of unwitting although exquisite comic relief, which was, rather stupidly, posted on the Al Jazeera web page featuring supposed minute-by-minute live coverage of the capture of the Mavi Marmara.  As far as I know its significance has until now gone unappreciated; you saw it first on Emperor's Clothes.

Please note: all the brackets in the text are from Al Jazeera.  TENC contributed only the notation, "sic!"

[Excerpt from Al Jazeera page starts here.]

11:45am: Issam Zaatar, an Al Jazeera cameraman -- one of several Al Jazeera staff who were on board the flotilla -- spoke with our Arabic channel earlier this morning about the Israeli raid. He describes the moments after commandos landed on the ship:

I was filming, he [an Israeli solider (sic!)] ran after me with an electric stick [stun gun]. He could not catch me. One of his colleagues hit my hand from behind with a stick [stun gun]. My camera fell down. He ran to crush the camera with his feet. I told him, don’t break my camera. If you want the tapes, I will give them to you. I told him these are media equipment. They had no limits. They used rubber bullets. They used tear bombs. It was an unbelievable scene.

[Excerpt from Al Jazeera page starts here.]

The story about the camera, expounded in excessive, not to say breathless detail, has all the earmarks of the melodramatic lie.  Surrounded by a violent sea of attackers, as shown in the IDF video above, why would two -- not one but two -- of the handful of besieged soldiers devote their time to getting hold of and destroying this guy's camera?  If their motive were to prevent the cameraman from filming scenes of carnage, why not use some carnage on him, rather than this Keystone Cops mock fight, first trying to knock the camera out of his hands with stun guns, then jumping up and down on the thing -- and this while a mob was beating them with steel poles?

However, aside from the preposterousness of the camera battle, there is something worth noting about Mr. Zaatar's account.

This poor character, trying hard to do his job (i.e., to convince people that the IDF behaved viciously), had exhausted his imagination in creating the epic of the camera, and now had to fall back on the truth: rubber bullets and tear gas!  In other words, as reported on
Al Jazeera, the IDF is accused of being as vicious as -- are you ready? -- the Toronto police at the G20 demonstrations in June, 2010.  Except for these two differences: 1) as far as I know, small groups of Toronto police were never ambushed by hundreds of members of a fanatical lynch mob, armed with knives, steel poles, guns, chains and stun grenades. And 2) contrary to Mr. Zaatar, the IDF men didn't use rubber bullets.  As noted by the British military analyst (above) the soldiers rappelled down onto the deck mainly armed with paintball guns.

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The ultimate proof that the charges against the IDF are lies

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On May 31, the day the flotilla was captured, Al Jazeera, the flotilla media participant, reported:

[Excerpt from Al Jazeera starts here]

The Israeli military said four soldiers had been wounded and claimed troops opened fire after "demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs".

Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the convoy.

Our correspondent said that a white surrender flag was raised from the ship and there was no live fire coming from the passengers.

[Excerpt from Al Jazeera ends here]

OK, so a flat-out disagreement; can we tell who is lying? Quite easily, actually.  Because while telling Westerners that the IDF massacred helpless peaceniks, the IHH organizers wanted to tell their supporters on the Turkish fascist right that the flotilla passengers had crushed the evil Jews.  To that end, the IHH gave the Turkish paper Hurriyet a number of photos. Here is the caption that accompanied the photos in Hurriyet's English edition:
 


And here are a few of the pictures:
 

(You can view all nine pictures here or here.)

Note the two characters in the first picture, armed with steel pipes, exactly as the IDF said they were.  Do they look like peace demonstrators or thugs?

Note the two Israeli soldiers, wounded and being shoved/dragged  downstairs.

Now really, if the IDF soldiers had rappelled down with automatic rifles blazing, as Al Jazeera claims, does anyone believe the flotilla passengers would have been able to wound and capture these soldiers?  And remember, these pictures were supplied by the IHH, not the IDF.

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How did the nine Mavi Marmara passengers die?
==========================================

The  soldiers had every right to fire their sidearms -- the only real weapons they carried -- in self-defense.

However, since mob-members were firing at the soldiers; since it was night time; and since mob-members were surging all around the soldiers, it is certainly possible that some mob members were accidentally shot by their own people.

And the IHH terrorists may have shot some people whom they brought on the voyage for the precise purpose, unbeknownst to the chosen victims, of murdering them if their deaths could be blamed on Israel.

Lest you think this is an extreme accusation, consider: the IHH is a long-established terrorist organization; indeed, it is a coordinator of terror. (See p. 14 of this link, which is archived here.) Terrorists and those using them for propaganda purposes routinely treat people as expendable in pursuit of propaganda gains, including by sending children and mentally disturbed adults on suicide missions.

Obviously, when such people are sent on suicide missions, even if they believe they are doing it 'willingly' (perhaps because they have been told they will have wonderful toys and candy and no school or, if they are adults, because they have been convinced this is the only way to amount to something), they are in fact being murdered by the people who sent them. So why not be more direct and simply murder a few of the more delusionary followers, then reap propaganda gains by saying Israel did it?

By way of illustrating the mindset of terrorist leaders, listen to the discussion on the video below, taken from a January 15, 2002 Palestinian Authority TV (PATV) interview with Yasar Arafat. The interviewer asks Arafat what message he wants to give children:


 

















Notice that Arafat does not say, 'How wonderful if a child disables an Israeli tank!'  Rather, he says to this TV audience full of Arab parents and children, 'What a wonderful message for the world if a child, attacking a tank, gets killed!'

If the IHH killed some of its supporters -- perhaps picking people from countries where the deaths would yield maximum propaganda effect -- why would that be more horrifying than, for example, Arafat using the TV to recruit children to die for the propaganda effect?  And remember, Arafat was supposedly the
moderate terrorist -- some oxymoron, eh?  The IHH is close to Hamas and to the Islamist regime that controls Iran (IR). Nobody calls them moderate.

Perhaps IHH organizers would not have needed to keep their murderous intentions secret from all the chosen victims. Perhaps some would have been happy to be killed for propaganda.  Below is a video featuring film footage that the IDF removed from one of the cameras collected from passengers arrested on the Mavi Marmara. Note how calmly this so-called "peace activist" tells the interviewer, apparently from PressTV, that he hopes that on this trip he will be lucky enough to be a Shahid, i.e., to die for Islam:



Below is another video, this one taken from an Al Jazeera, broadcasting in Arabic from the Mavi Marmara on May 29, 2010, two days before the attempted lynching. To better understand this video, you should know that, as Palestinian Media Watch (PMW), which translated the broadcast, explains, the chants heard in the video about "Khaibar" are important:

"Khaibar is the name of the last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad's army in 628. Many Jews were killed in that battle, which marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia. There are Muslims who see that as a precursor to future wars against Jews. At gatherings and rallies of extremists, this chant is often heard as a threat to Jews to expect to be defeated and killed again by Muslims."
-- "Gaza flotilla participants chanted Islamic battle cry invoking killing of Jews and called for Martyrdom,"
PMW

Two points about the video above:

A) While Al Jazeera broadcast this message in Arabic, it told English-speaking audiences that the Mavi Marmara passengers were peace activists.

B) Probably some or all the people in the video above, "enthusiastically" (as the Al Jazeera reporter cheerfully puts it) screaming for Jewish blood, would later be among those trying to lynch the Israeli soldiers.  And obviously Al Jazeera reporters and flotilla spokespersons like Greta Berlin are lying cynically when they depict the people on the Mavi Marmara as just plain ol' folksy peaceniks:

" 'This is not a confrontation, this is a massacre. We have no weapons. We are standing there with our backpacks and jeans and we have been attacked, it’s not the other way around. ' "
[My emphasis. -- J.I.]
-- Greta Berlin, interviewed by France 24

Going back to the video just before the last one, as you listened to that gentleman saying that he hoped his luck would improve so he finally might die for Islam, did it occur to you how difficult it must have been for those IDF soldiers, rappelling into a crowd of homicidal maniacs, who were armed with lethal weapons and worshipped death?  And did you consider that the surviving maniacs are now enjoying the out-of-body experience of being transformed into suffering heroes of the Western world, so that now they are not only maniacs; they are maniacs with extravagantly swelled heads?

By staging this ambush of Navy soldiers who
thought they were just conducting a routine police action (hence their main weapons were paintball guns), the IHH wanted to achieve one of two goals:

1) Either to get Israel to agree, under pressure, not to block ships bound for Gaza, thus ending the blockade (the organizers' stated goal). This would allow Hamas to ship in strategic weapons that are too big and heavy to be smuggled in via tunnels from Egypt, such as medium-range missiles from Iran. A bad defeat for Israel, forcing it either to go into Gaza and destroy Hamas once and for all, or risk the destruction of population centers.

2) Or, if Israel was not intimidated by the threat of bad publicity from the all-to-eager international media, and did board the ships, the IHH planned to a) sacrifice some of the disturbed lambs they had brought from various countries and b) attack the soldiers boarding the Mavi Marmara with lethal violence, pressing the soldiers to put down their paintball guns and pull their handguns to defend themselves, so that whatever deaths occurred (maybe from the soldiers defending themselves, and maybe some or all from IHH 'friendly' fire) could be presented to the very receptive international media and Western leaders as an unprovoked massacre of peaceniks. You know, people in jeans, carrying backpacks.

This second scenario, in which Israel enforced the blockade, has occurred. This was used by Turkish PM Erdogan (head of the extremist AK Party, whom George W. Bush helped make Prime Minister of Turkey) to hit the  Turkish secular majority (Erdogan is still prime minister, but he has done increasingly poorly at the polls) over the head with the stick of supposed Israeli misdeeds, pressuring the secular-oriented Turkish military to take the undesired step of confronting Israel.

In general, the current hysterical media campaign against Israel has the goal of putting pressure on forces everywhere that oppose Islamism, the Islamic version of clerical fascism. The idea is to intimidate them into denouncing Israel, for fear that otherwise they will be isolated. In fact, if they denounce Israel they would only strengthen their deadliest enemies.

And it has the specific goal of creating a false impression of balance between the IR butchers and Israel, thus putting a fresh coat of whitewash on the image of clerical fascism, so tarnished by the IR's brutal repression of the Iranian democracy struggle.  The underlying message of the current media onslaught is: "See? Both sides are bad, but the Israelis are so much worse."

This is precisely how the Western media attacked the Krajina and Bosnian Serbs and the Bosnian Muslims who were loyal to Yugoslavia, from 1992 to 1996.   And, by the way, according to a 1996 CIA report (see scanned excerpt from CIA document at bottom of this page), the IHH had offices in Sarajevo (in Bosnia), an important headquarters for the attack on Yugoslavia, and Zagreb, capital of Croatia, the main center of that attack.

It is my hypothesis that the IHH (see p. 14 of this document) picked this particular time -- shortly before June 12th, the first anniversary of the start of the great Iranian rebellion -- in the hope of demoralizing the Iranian rebels and diverting public attention from the monstrous repression in Iran.  If that is the case, perhaps the IHH reached the blockade area at the end of May instead of a couple of days before June 12th due to incompetence.

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Does Israel Fulfill its Obligation to Deliver Aid?
================================================


IDF unloads material from the flotilla, loads it onto trucks, and attempts to deliver it in Gaza

Before boarding the Mavi Marmara, the IDF contacted it by radio, asking it to dock in Israel and stating that the IDF would deliver all legitimate aid material to Gaza, as required under international law governing naval blockades, and offering, as is not required, to let flotilla personnel witness the delivery. The organizers refused.

Despite the subsequent attempt to lynch the IDF soldiers, Israel, as shown in the video above, unloaded the aid material, loaded it on trucks, and attempted to deliver it. And then? Then the trucks were turned back by Hamas.  First the Mavi Marmara refuses to let the IDF deliver the aid by land, even though they
only came to Gaza to help the people, right? And then Hamas rejects the aid.  So now, who did you say was keeping aid out of Gaza?

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How much aid gets into Gaza?
================================================

Regarding aid delivery, based on official reports, from May 23-27, 2010, Israel moved an average of 3275 tons of aid per day into Gaza; this apart from cooking and diesel fuels. It is all free (for the Gazans) including food from Israel, which country has plenty of poor citizens who could use that food. In addition, Israel provides most of Gaza's electricity and cares for Gazans at its top-notch hospitals (an average of 70 people per day from May 23-27), and again, it is all free. Gazans may be the most aided people on earth. However, lest you think Gaza knows how to receive but not to give, you should know that Gaza sends Israel two things: missiles and terrorists.  Two terrorists infiltrated last week (they got into a firefight with IDF troops, which they lost) and Gaza terrorists fired a rocket that exploded in the Western Negev area.  

Israel spends huge sums on aid for Gaza even though the Gaza 'government' is at war with Israel, firing about 10,000 rockets, plus mortars, into southern Israel since 2005. (That was the year that the Israeli government succumbed to U.S. pressure and forced all Jews to leave Gaza.) 

Is it unreasonable that Israel would act to prevent Hamas from smuggling in weapons, which Hamas attempts to do daily? Weapons which will kill, maim or traumatize Israeli civilians?

================================================
And now, a word on Cameron & Clegg
================================================

The UK's Cameron-Clegg government has been among Israel harshest attackers this past week.

Would Messrs. Cameron & Clegg pay for an expensive operation to aid a neighboring territory whose 'government' was lobbing thousands of rockets plus infiltrating terrorists into southern England? It sounds like a joke, does it not? But it is exactly what Israel is doing, in observance of the international law governing blockades.

 
If the UK were being attacked by a terrorist-controlled statelet such as Gaza, would Cameron & Clegg allow such a territory to trade freely, knowing that the only thing the terrorists were interested in trading was  strategic weapons from Iran? Not if they cared about the UK's continued existence. Yet Prime Minister Cameron, head  of the UK's Conservative Party, has demanded that Israel "open up Gaza" -- his exact words  -- indicating that he is not troubled about Israel's continued existence.

I suppose I should not be amazed. Yet, I am amazed.

-- Jared Israel
Editor, Emperor's Clothes
 

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