Flotilla attack, day 4 | News round-up: who will lead the investigation?

Posted: June 3rd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Breaking News: Ynet quotes a Turkish news agency that reported the nationality of the casualties: one American and 8 from Turkey.

The big question this morning in Israel is the probe. Yesterday, the UNHRC decided to form a fact finding mission of the attack on the Gaza bound flotilla, similar to the one which issued the Goldstone report. The US, together with Italy and Netherlands, opposed the resolution, and according to reports, suggested that Israel will lead the investigation, but that US observers will take part in it. VP Joe Biden proposed something similar on his Bloomberg interview yesterday, saying Israel would ran the investigation, “but we’re open to international participation.”

There are conflicting reports as to what Israel will agree to. The army, as always, wants to investigate itself. The IDF was able to block all suggestions of a civilian Israeli investigation into the war in Gaza or the events in Jenin in 2002 (it’s very hard to touch the army in Israel: it even blocks attempt to have external inquiries into fatal training accidents when those occur). But this time the IDF might lose the battle, the military blunder is so evident and as even Israeli sources are admitting that an investigation is all but inevitable.

Strangely enough, Israel might even agree to an international probe, and for the most cynical reason of all: an internal civilian investigation might force leaders to resign (as happened after the war in Lebanon in 2006), but an international one won’t have immediate political consequences for them.

Yesterday, Prime Minister Netanyahu, as well as other officials, refused to address the issue at all.

UPDATE: both Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman and minister Ben Eliezer spoke in favor of an Israeli probe with a foreign, probably American, observer.

More political fallout: the battle between Ehud Barak and Labor to Avigdor Liberman and Israel Beitenu has officially opened. After unnamed ministers called for Barak’s resignation two days ago, today Barak and his proxy, minister Ben-Eliezer, are publicly declaring that the attacks on Israel are the result of failed PR effort, or Hasbara, by the foreign office.

Ecuador will be sending home its Ambassador in Tel Aviv. UPDATE: so does South Africa.

NY Times reports that the US wants Israel to abandon the siege policy:

The Obama administration considers Israel’s blockade of Gaza to be untenable and plans to press for another approach to ensure Israel’s security while allowing more supplies into the impoverished Palestinian area, senior American officials said Wednesday.

Turkish TV reporting that all 9 casualties in the raid died of gun wounds. Their bodies’ arrived yesterday to Turkey. More evidences are published on the way the passengers were treated by Israeli security authorities. Regarding the attack itself, here is Former US Ambassador Edward Peck, who was on the Gaza aid flotilla, followed by Israel deputy ambassador to the UN:

recommended commentary:

Nicholas Kristof (NY Times): “Saving Israel from itself: President Obama needs to find his voice and push hard for an end to the Gaza blockade.”

Cenk Uygur (Huffington Post): “If the Israeli government is convinced they took the appropriate action in this case, they can go a long way toward proving that by giving us the whole tape. If not, we have to assume they’re hiding something.”

Ari Shavit (Haaretz’s pundit and Netanyahu and Barak supporter until recently): “Instead of rallying the Palestinians, Syrians and Turks against Iran, Netanyahu is pushing them toward Iran. Instead of rallying the Europeans and Americans in Israel’s favor, he is inciting them against Israel. The process reached a frenzied peak with the flotilla.”

Haaretz editorial: “Like a robot lacking in judgment, stuck on a predetermined path – that’s how the government is behaving in its handling of the aid flotillas to the Gaza Strip.”

Daniel Machover (Guardian): “This was almost certainly a breach of international law and Turkey has the right to take charge of a criminal investigation.”

Moshe Yaroni: flotilla fallout: winners and losers of the raid (very good analysis, with an emphasis on US reaction).

Harold Meyerson (Washington Post): The collateral damage from Israel’s raid (a look on the US Jewish community’s trends).


Flotilla: VP Biden justifies Israel (but gets his facts wrong), UK Prime Minister condemns raid

Posted: June 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

US Vice President Joe Biden supported today (Wednesday) Israel’s claim that it acted within its rights when it attacked the Gaza-bound flotilla. In an interview with Bloomberg’s Charlie Rose, Bidern said that “You can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not, but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in.”

This is from the transcript published in Politico:

…And so now the question is what do we do? Well, we had made it clear, the President of the United States has spoken three times, yesterday with Bibi, or the day before yesterday, he’s spoken once yesterday with a guy that I have spent a fair amount of time with, with Prime Minister Erdogan in Turkey; the Turks, we passed a resolution in the U.N. saying we need a transparent and open investigation of what happened. It looks like things are –

Charlie Rose: International investigation –

Joe Biden: Well, an investigation run by the Israelis, but we’re open to international participation, just like the investigation run on the sunken sub in — off the coast of Korea. That was run by South Korea, but the international community joined in that investigation. And so that is very possible here as well. I might add by the way for all those who say the Israelis, you know, you know, you can’t trust them, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled today that every one of the people on those ships had to be released immediately, immediately.

Even though the VP repeated “immediately” twice, he actually got it wrong. Supreme Court didn’t rule on the issue, and the government even argued before the court it had the right to hold the passengers, only to release them a short while after under fierce Turkish pressure.

Meanwhile, the UK’s new Prime Minister, David Cameron, has a very different view, calling the raid “totally unacceptable” and adding that:

“Friends of Israel – and I count myself a friend of Israel – should be saying to the Israelis that the blockade actually strengthens Hamas’s grip on the economy and on Gaza, and it’s in their own interests to lift it and allow these vital supplies to get through.”

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Check out my op-ed on the flotilla affair, from the Israeli point of view, in the Jewish Daily Forward:

…Amid feelings of sorrow and anger, Israelis should be asking one simple question: What were the soldiers doing aboard an unarmed private vessel, carrying hundreds of civilians — hostile and violent as they may have been — dozens of miles from Israel’s territorial waters?

Full text here.


Gaza flotilla | Things the IDF doesn’t want us to know

Posted: June 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media | Tags: , , , , , , | 25 Comments »

The videos released by IDF from the Mavi Marmara are controlling the news cycle in Israel for the past 48 hours. Their effect has been tremendous: They silenced all questions on the operation, and had the public rally behind the government and the army, as the Maariv poll shows. They made Israelis go out to the streets, demonstrating in front of the Turkish Embassy and having smaller rallies around the country.

But Incredible as it may seem, it’s been almost three days since the army raided the ship, and we know nothing on the attack itself, except for the fact that some of the men on the Mavi Marmara stormed the soldiers as they descended from the helicopter to the upper deck. We also have reason to believe that this attack was planned in advance, but that there were no firearms involved.

In other words, we only know what Israel wanted us to know.

At this point it is extremely important to say what we don’t know: We don’t know the names and nationality of the killed passengers (UPDATE: Turkey released some details). we don’t know for sure how many people were injured. We don’t know where they were killed, when, and how they died. we don’t know if and when people were given medical treatment. There were security cameras on deck, but Israel doesn’t show us what they filmed, except for the material which serves its purposes. The night vision clips released by the army end just before the shooting begins.

We don’t know what happened before the civilians attacked the commandos. There were passengers claiming soldiers opened fire before they even boarded the ship, but we don’t know if that’s true.

Most important, we don’t know anything about the battle itself – if it was a battle. It seems that it was a long one, since we have short recording, in which you can hear Israeli MK Hanin Zoabi calling for help and begging the soldiers in Hebrew and English to stop shooting (It’s the second clip on this page). At this time there were already passengers hurt, and one can assume that the attack on the soldiers ended. But the shooting went on.

Some of this information could have been available had the IDF not confiscated all material from the Mavi Marmara. What’s even worse is that the army is now editing the films and releasing it in a way which suits its own narrative. This film, shot from the upper deck, seems to have been taken by a camera crew or a passenger on board the ship. The film embedded below, showing the passengers getting ready for the Israeli attack was taken from the ship’s security camera.

Here is a good post regarding the IDF clips on the New York Times lede blog. Robert Mackey notes in it that the images the army released lack context. My only remark is that they were deliberately taken out of context.

The way Israel is withholding information is very troubling. If the army has nothing to hide, why not release the material? Naturally, Israel is also refusing to address the bigger questions, such as why the flotilla was attacked in international waters, and if so, whether the passengers actually had the right to resist the soldiers’ attempt to board their vessel.

The worse effect of this PR war is on the Israeli public, which now views the entire flotilla as a terrorist enterprise. One can see the effect of this nationalistic mood in the way the members of Knesset almost physically attacked MK Zoabi today (video here). In fact, the government’s campaign was so successful, many protested the release of the detained passengers, claiming “the terrorists” should be “brought to justice”.

All this leads to the conclusion that only an internationally led investigation might shed some light on the events on the Mavi Marmara. Even so, the chances the IDF will give full access to the materials and soldiers are slim at best.


Flotilla attack, day 3 | Waiting for the US, as more ships are headed to Gaza

Posted: June 2nd, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us, war | Tags: , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Almost a riot in the Knessset as Jewish house members try to prevent Arab MK Zoabi from speaking:

Israelis behind the government, for now: Maariv daily paper published a poll in the morning, showing that 63 percent of the Jewish public think that the flotilla should have been stopped by other means, and that about half the public think Israel should establish its own inquiry committee to investigate the events at sea.

Still, support for Defense Minister Ehud Barak and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remains high, and a clear majority thinks that none of them should resign. This figure, however, might be a bit misleading. At times of national crisis or under international pressure the Jewish public in Israeli tends to rally behind its leaders and generals. Only later, when the initial shock passes, people start asking questions. They don’t necessarily become more dovish – quite the opposite sometime – but they might turn their anger at the leaders. This is exactly what happened after the 2006 war in Lebanon.

Media continues not asking questions regarding IDF clips: a new film released today shows activists throw plates and  a firecracker at the soldiers (watch here). but didn’t the IDF earlier claimed the boats arrived only after the commandos dropped on the mavi Marmara? so who took that video from upper deck? If this is confiscated footage, why not say so? (h/t: Dimi Reider).

Update: United Nation says Flotilla journalists’ equipment was confiscated by IDF soldiers.

More ships to come: As the Rachel Corrie makes its way to Gaza. Organizers of the flotilla declared they raised the money for another ship, named Freedom II. There are some indications that Turkey is looking to diffuse the tension with Israel, so it’s not clear whether this ship will sail, but if it does, Israeli and US decision makers will face a major challenge, as the whole world will be closely watching this time. IDF sources boosted earlier this week that they will meet the coming ships with even more force, but these seems like empty words, intended for the ears of the public at home.

Administration under pressure: the flotilla incident caught the White House at a delicate moment. It hard for it to publicly denounce Israel, because the US was part of the failed Gaza policy, and it obviously can’t support it. The ball is in the American court right now: Will they cast their weight behind the calls for an international probe? Will they work to defuse tension between Turkey and Israel? One thing is clear – the White House and State Department need to act, before things escalate even further.

Godlstone report, round II? The UN Human Rights Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution this afternoon, on whether to send an international committee to investigate the circumstances surrounding Israel’s operation on the Gaza-bound flotilla. this is the same UN body which sent the Goldstone comittee to Gaza. I think it might be a good idea to let some other organization lead the investigation this time, so it wouldn’t suffer from the results of delgitimizing campaign Israel initiated against the Goldstone report.

UPDATE: UNHRC resolution regarding investigation passed. US, Netherlands and Canada Italy opposed it.

opinion round-up (I highly recommend the first item):

Fania Oz-Salzberger (daily Beast): “The army in which I served, which will soon enlist my children, is only good for one thing: to fight those who are aiming a gun at me. Not those who dislike me, demonize me, or hope to see me dead.”

Michael Godween (NY Post): President Obama should do what any American president would — protect our friend and ally from the predators who want to devour it.

Michael Tomasky (Guardian): this event really could be a tipping point in America.

Mark Steel (Independent): It’s time the Israeli government’s PR team made the most of its talents, and became available for hire.

Jeremiah Haber (The Magnes Zionist): Once again, you have the “progressive-on-everything-but-Israel” syndrome. When will that change? Probably not for some time now.

One more thing: more than 48 hours have passed since the raid on the Mavi Marmara took place, and Israel still hasn’t released the names and nationality of all casualties.

more opinion, news and video in this morning’s post.


Attack on Gaza flotilla: Passengers’ accounts coming out, Israel faces political, diplomatic fallout

Posted: June 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us, war | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Passengers on board the Gaza flotilla are released by Israel, and their account of the raid is coming out. Here is Huwaida Arraf, and American citizen, talking to CNN:

the Crisis with Turkey: Both Yedioth and Maariv daily papers report today that the decision to release the detained passengers was also a result of a firm action by Turkey, who sent three military planes to Israel and demanded that they return with all their citizens, even the wounded ones. It was reported today that Israel decided to sent home family members of its embassy staff in Ankara because of the hostile atmosphere in the Turkish capital.

there are also reports that Turkey declared that future Gaza bound Vessels will have military escort. I haven’t seen this on any major media organization, and it sounds a bit exaggerated, but Israelis were speculating on such scenario in the last couple of days.

Nicaragua suspends diplomatic ties with Israel because of the attack on the flotilla.

Opinion Round-up:

New York Times editorial: The questions raised by an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla demand an immediate and objective international investigation.

David Ignatius (Washington Post): Israel has been unable to resolve the Gaza mess on its own; it should turn now to the Security Council for help. That begins with a U.N. investigation of what happened off the Israeli coast.

Robert Fist (Independent): Something has changed in the Middle East these past 24 hours – and the Israelis (given their extraordinarily stupid political response to the slaughter) don’t seem to have grasped what has happened.

Aluf Ben (Haaretz): The attempt to control Gaza from outside, via its residents’ diet and shopping lists, casts a heavy moral stain on Israel and increases its international isolation.

George Packer (New Yorker): The flotilla was bait, and Israel took it—a classic triumph of civil disobedience over state power.

Thomas Friedman (New York Times): both Israel and Turkey have gotten out of balance lately, and it is America’s job to help both get back to the center — urgently.

I also liked Ann Telnaes’ cartoon on the Washington Post.


Attack on the flotilla: the day after

Posted: June 1st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments »

2:15 AM: As the second day following the attack on the Gaza bound flotilla comes to its end, the Israeli public is standing behind its government and military. But things might still change, as the country will go on facing international pressure and the fingerprinting among top government and army official will increase.

The international community demands an inquiry, again. After its campaign against the Goldstone committee, it’s clear that Israel won’t like an external investigation, but this time it might not be easy to avoid one. The question will be, as always, the White House’s position. So far it’s been a very careful one, expressing regret on the loss of life, but not condemning the raid. Israel couldn’t have hoped for better.

From here it also seems that Israel was able to get some of its message through today, at least in the US. Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon briefed hundreds of Jewish community leaders today, and as long as they feel that Israel is under attack, they might try to fight any measures from being taken against it. But the American Jewish community is changing, and it seems that most of it is getting tired from the policies of the current Israeli government. The real effect of the attack on the Mavi Marmara will be felt there once the initial storm passes.

The affair itself is far from being over: Israel has yet to finish releasing the detained passengers, which will finally be able to tell the story from their point of view. It was said that Israel confiscated all cameras and phones, so I don’t know if we will get any new material from the time of the attack. So far, the IDF only released the clips showing the soldiers being attacked, and not anything that followed. I guess they have a good reason for that.

Israel also needs to make public the names and nationality of all casualties. There were reports that at least four of them are Turkish nationals, and possibly one or two others are Arab-Israelis.

2:10 AM Amos Oz in a NYT Op-Ed:

Even if Israel seizes 100 more ships on their way to Gaza, even if Israel sends in troops to occupy the Gaza Strip 100 more times, no matter how often Israel deploys its military, police and covert power, force cannot solve the problem that we are not alone in this land.

1:15 AM Opinion and comments round-up (some of this stuff was posted much earlier today, but I didn’t have time to get to it):

David Grossman (Guardian): “No explanation can justify or whitewash the crime that was committed, and no excuse can explain away the stupid actions of the government and the army.” [this article appeared also in Hebrew in Haaretz].

Alan Dershowitz (Huffington Post): “The moment any person on the boat picked up a weapon and began to attack Israeli soldiers boarding the vessel, they lost their status as innocent civilians.” [this article apeared also in Hebrew on Maariv]

Peter beinart (Daily Beast): “Don’t blame the commandos for the flotilla disaster. Blame Israel’s leaders, who enforce the cruel and corrupt Gaza embargo, and their supporters in America.”

Helena Cobban (Just World News): “Israel should also be required to provide a full accounting of what happened to all those who were killed or injured, and to cooperate with the international inquiry.”

Andrew Sullivan (Atlantic): “Time after time, Netanyahu just pwns Obama; and the US president just lets it happen.”

Seth Freedman (Guardian): Flotilla activists had ample opportunity to defuse the situation before the IDF arrived – instead they decided on violence.

M.J. Rosenberg (TPM cafe): “The administration barely uttered a word of criticism yesterday. The whole world was appalled but we only asked for an investigation.”

Read also rep. Anthony Weiner strongly defends Israeli attack on flotilla, in a conversation with the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent.

1:00 AM: Under international pressure, Israel will release most of the flotilla’s passengers, including those who were on the Mavi Marmara. There are conflicting reports as to whether those who attacked the soldiers will be released. Ynet.co.il claims that Israel will go on detaining them, while Maariv and Haaretz say they will be released as well. I estimate that Maariv is right, and only few might be detained any further.

Haaretz: The White House demanded a “credible and transparent” investigation into the Israel Navy raid of the flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip.

00:50: IHH launches an information site on the Gaza flotilla.

10:45 PM: Something I couldn’t avoid noticing since yesterday: all the material released by Israel is from one minute (!) during the battle. The soldiers’ testimonies refer to this timeframe as well. But events on the Mavi Marmara lasted, according to reports, several hours. Even at this early stage, if Israel wants its version to have some credibility, it needs to start explaining what happened from the minute the soldiers took their first shot, until they held their fire.

10:15 PM Ynet’s military correspondent has a report claiming that the people who attacked the soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara had “direct and indirect ties” to the Global Jihad. According to the IDF, they pre-planned the assault, and even had bullet proof vests and light weapons.

Some of the suspects were found to be carrying large sums of money. Others had Kevlar vests and gas masks; and all were found to be carrying weapons such as knives, metal clubs and slingshots. Several of the suspected were wounded by IDF fire.

Investigators have already concluded that this was the group that planned the violent resistance, which centered on the Marmara’s top deck.

IDF also released another clip, this time a recording of the radio transition prior to the moment when the soldier opened fire. While I post it here, I must say that it’s very hard to conclude anything from these clips, as the IDF doesn’t reveal any material concerning the actual shootout, and according to reports, even confiscated all recording devices the passengers on the Mavi Marmara had.

10:05 PM Labor junior MK Daniel Ben Simon joins the calls for the resignation of Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

10:00 PM Another diplomatic crisis on the way? Ireland officially requested Israel to let the Rachel Corrie, with 15 activists on board, into Gaza. Haaretz reports:

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen urged Israel to let the vessel to finish its mission. The ship was carrying 15 activists including a northern Irish Nobel Peace laureate.

“The government has formally requested the Israeli government to allow the Irish-owned ship … to be allowed to complete its journey unimpeded and discharge its humanitarian cargo in Gaza,” Cowen told parliament in Dublin.

21:50 PM A few small pro-IDF rallies took place in several towns in Israel, including Jerusalem, Kiryat Shmone, Karmiel, Gush Etzion (West Bank), Beer Sheva, Maalot, Raanana, Netivot and Natanya. Each of the rallies had between a few dozens to a few hundred protesters. Demonstrations against the attack on the flotilla took place in the Arab town Arabe, in Jaffa, and in several other Arab towns. Pro-IDF protesters clashed with Palestinian supporters of Raed Saleh in Ashkelon, were the Shikh was brought before a district judge.

4:20 PM Amos Oz: Israel is turning into the new South Africa.

Celebrated Israeli author Amos Oz said today on IDF radio that Israel is becoming the new South Africa:

“We are placing ourselves under an international siege, which is more dangerous for us than the siege on Gaza in dangerous to Gaza.

“Israel is turning into South Africa in the Apartheid days – a country which the world’s nation wouldn’t want to buy its goods, wouldn’t want to visit, and that will be thrown out of international organizations. We will become a pariah state that nobody wants anything to do with

Oz said that there was no reason to prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza, and added that Israel is not only losing the media battle, but also the moral battle.

4:00 PM The flotilla got its first victory: The siege on Gaza have been partly lifted, after Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing until further notice, allowing goods and people to travel in and out of the strip.

Egypt has been facing mounting pressure from pro-Palestinian groups and opposition elements for its support for the Israeli siege on the strip. So far president Hosni Mubarak allowed Rafah crossing to be opened only on for limited periods, claiming that he wouldn’t let Israel make Gaza an Egyptian problem.

2:30 AM Guardian: Journalists on the flotilla were censored and arrested by Israeli forces.

Irish Times reports that Rachel Corrie, the last ship of the Gaza flotilla is due to arrive at Gaza territorial waters. No official word has come out of Israel concerning this ship, but army sources told Maariv that the ship would be treated in the same way the other ships were handled.

2:00 AM Maariv is reporting that unnamed “senior ministers” are calling for Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s resignation over the Mavi Marmara fiasco [link in Hebrew].

Some more commentary from the world:

Glenn Kessler (Washington Post): Condemnation of Israeli assault complicates relations with U.S.

Jeffrey Goldberg (Atlantic): the disappearance of Jewish wisdom.

Stephen Walt (Foreign Policy): Will the Obama administration show some backbone on this issue?

Leslie H. Gelb (Daily Beast): Israel was right.

12:30: Israel might have sabotaged the engines of some of the vessels in the Gaza flotilla, but not the Mavi Marmara’s. Haaretz reports that in a testimony in front of the Knesset’s Foreign and Security affairs committee, Colonel Itzik Turgeman of the IDF command stated that some of the ships were treated in what he described as “a gray way”.

According to colonel Turgeman, the Mavi Marmara wasn’t sabotaged so a humanitarian crisis wouldn’t break in it when the ship will run out of food and water, and because towing it to Israel would have taken too long.

Head of Mossad, Meir Dagan, said in the Knesset that “Israel is becoming from an asset to a burden on the US”.

—————————-

11:00 AM: During the night, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla and calling for an investigation, as well as the immediate release of the captured vessels and the their passengers. It seems that Israel will not complicate things further and all foreign passengers will be deported in the next few days.

The Israeli passengers might face charges (though most of them have been released by police). MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) was interrogated twice and proceeding against her, which began in the Knesset prior to the attack, will probably resume. There are also calls to press charges against Sheikh Raed Saleh, already one of the least popular Arab public figures with the Jewish public. Saleh is still under arrest.

Israel is yet to release the names and nationality of the passengers killed in the attack. Yedioth Ahronoth reported this morning that most of them are Turkish nationals. The paper claimed that six of the 9 casualties were identified as ones who took part in the assault on the soldiers.

Attorney Avigdor Feldman filed a petition to the Israeli Supreme Court demanding the immediate release of the flotilla passengers, and allowing them to sail to their original destination in Gaza. Feldman claim the attack on the flotilla was done without legal authority (my guess is that it’s more of a political move. The court will not intervene in these matters, and Feldman knows that).

Israel’s morning papers frame the entire incident as a trap the government stepped into. Yedioth’s front page headline is “the trap” and Maariv follows with “The failure and the heroism”, referring to the soldiers that were put in risk. The rightwing Israel Hayon also view the events from the soldiers’ perspective: “Soldiers facing Lynch“, the headline says. as one might expect, the only ecception is the Liberal Haaretz, which calls for a state inquiry committee which will investigate the decision-making process, and “decide who should pay for this dangerous policy”.

opinion round-up:

Jerusalem Post’s editorial is dismissing some of the public and internationl outrage, caliming “IDF response to violence could have been worse.”

Ari Shavit (Haaretz journalist known until not very long ago for his good relations with Ehud Barak and Benjamin Netanyahu): “During the 2006 war in Lebanon I concluded that my 15-year-old daughter could have conducted it more wisely than the Olmert-Peretz government. We’ve progressed. Today it’s clear to me that my 6-year-old son could do much better than our current government.”

Zvi Mazel (Foreign Office veteran writing for Jpost): “We are facing a full-blown diplomatic crisis (…) we can’t expect help or even assistance from anyone. But if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it is. The biblical words from Numbers 23:9 come to mind: wLo, the people shall dwell alone and shall not be reckoned among the nations.’”

Gidon Levi (Haaretz): “If Cast Lead was a turning point in the attitude of the world toward us, this operation is the second horror film of the apparently ongoing series.”

Caroline Glick (Jerusalem Post): “A straight line runs from the anti-Israel UN resolution passed last Friday and the Hamas flotilla.”

Yossi Sarid (former minister and head of Meretz, writing in Haaretz): “Seven Idiots in the Cabinet.”

(Sarid is refering to the top decision making forum in Netanyahu’s government, whose members are Barak, Netanyahu, Liberman, Eli Yishay (Shas), Beni Begin and Dan Meridor (Likud) and deputy PM Moshe Yaalon from Likud. The final go ahead to yesterday’s operation was given in the “7 forum” prior to Netanayhu’s departure for North America – an issue that will surly be discussed in the days to come).

Ofer Shelah (Maariv military correspondent): “Israel is being portrayed as a country which acts violently, without thought, and out of a permanent existential fear” [Hebrew].

Yedioth Ahronoth’s top political correspondent, Nahum Barnea, and senior pundit Sever Plotsker are attacking the government this morning, and Plotsker – that reveled yesterday that Yedioth didn’t publish information regarding vast concerns the army had over the operation – is calling for Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s resignation. Military correspondent Alex Fishman is claiming that the even with its consequences, “the operation was the right thing to do.” (Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s most widely read daily paper, doesn’t post editorials online, so I can’t link to its articles).

Amnon Abramowits, Channel 2 senior political commentator, is calling in an op-ed in Yedioth for PM Netanyahu to immediately form a different coalition that would have new diplomatic policies, both in Gaza and in the West bank.


Death at Sea | the attack on the Gaza flotilla (live blogging)

Posted: May 31st, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, war | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments »

2:50 AM: finally, going to sleep. I will post at least another media round up in the morning.

2:05 AM: the finger pointing begins. Ynet quotes [Hebrew] unnamed government ministers claiming the army guaranteed them that taking over the ships would end with no casualties. One senior cabinet minister said: “we didn’t understand how explosive this story is.”

Senior IDF official was quoted saying the all scenarios were presented to the cabinet before PM Netanyahu left for north America. “the responsibility lies with the political level.”

0:30 AM: MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) who was on board the Mavi Marmara, is interrogated at the Ashdod police station. Sheikh Raed Saleh is also interrogated.

Earlier this evening, some 500 people demonstrated in front of the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv, protesting the Turkish involvement in organizing the flotilla and Ankara’s recent hostility towards Israel. the demonstration received extensive coverage in the Israeli media.

11:42 PM: Weapons found by IDF on Mavi Marmara: knifes and sticks (IDF spokesperson picture here).

11:05 PM: It seems that the government and the army got their message through, at least here in Israel. The last two graphic videos released clearly showed the soldiers being attacked, and are going to have an enormous effect on the Jewish public, as such images always do.

These images will be used by Israel in its PR counter attack in the US and Europe, and might have some effect there as well, though people will surly wonder what reaction the army expected when he sent commando unit on a civilian ship in international water.

As the last passengers of the Mavi Marmara leave the ship, the day’s drama comes to an end, but the diplomatic and political game only begins. There are reports of another ship – the Rachel Corrie, heading from Irland – on its way to Gaza; Israel haven’t released the names and nationality of the passengers killed in the attack; the Security Council is meeting. Questions might be raised even in Israel, once the initial shock passes. More important, we have yet to hear testimonies – and we might even get some new pictures and videos – from the passengers of the Mavi Marmara, something that is bound to have an effect on public opinion, in Israel and outside.

I will follow events here in the next few days, focusing as always on the Israeli angle. I will also try to add some of my own analysis, something I didn’t find the time to do today.

10:18 PM: Dozens of Ultra-Orthodox demonstrated in Jerusalem in protest of the Israeli attack on the flotilla [link in Hebrew]. They carried signs reading  “Zionist ד= pirates”.

9:48 PM: Evening analysis round-up:

Dan Ephron (Newsweek): Israeli Attack highlights failure of Gaza blockade.

Jo Klein (Time): This is an insane use of disproportionate force. It is a product of the right-wing radicalization of the Israeli government.

Andrew Sullivan (Atlantic): The disproportionate use of force, the loss of life, the horrifying impact of the blockade of Gaza in the first place: it makes Israel look like a callous, deranged bully, incapable of accepting any narrative that it cannot control and responding instinctively with disproportionate violence.

Adrian Blomfield (Telegraph): Under the stewardship of Benjamin Netanyahu, its abrasive prime minister, Israel has developed an extraordinary knack for inopportune timing.

Gideon Rachman (financial Times): “three particular angles for the Israelis to worry about. First, that there will be some sort of new intifada. Second, the continued deterioration in their relationship with Turkey. Third, their fraying ties with the Obama administration” [I don't agree. there won't be Intifada over this. the major problem is Europe and world public opinion, not US].

Yossi Melman (Haaretz): the government acted in such a tragic and stupid way, it’s hard to even understand it [Hebrew].

9:40 PM final casualties report from IDF spokesperson: 9 civilians killed, 7 soldiers injured, out of which four soldiers were moderately wounded, and three lightly wounded. The number of injured civilians wasn’t reported.

9:10 PM: estimated 2,000 people at tel Aviv protest in front of defense department.

8:55 PM: 7th eye (Israeli media watchdog organization): Yedioth Ahronoth daily knew but wouldn’t publish vast IDF top brass opposition to the raid on the flotilla [Hebrew].

8:50 PM: IDF posted another very graphic video in which the activists are shown attacking the soldiers landing to the Mavi Marmara. Passengers’ video supposedly show IDF shooting on board Mavi Marmara even after the ship raised a white flag.

8:40 PM: The Maramra docked in Ashdod, and the passengers are being detained by Israeli authorities. So far, there were no violent clashes. According to reports in Israel, the activists will be deported soon.

In New York, the UN  security council began its discussion.

6:45 PM: The Mavi Marmara is about to enter the Israeli post of Ashdod, while some demonstrations take place in Israel: a few hundreds are protesting the attack on the flotilla in the Arab town Um El-Fahem. Small protests are scheduled for 7.00 in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. There were also pro-IDF protests in Ashdod and in Haifa.

6:15 PM: Opinion and analysis round-up: there is a growing gap between what’s the talking heads are saying in Israel rigth now – focusing on the threat to the soldiers lifes and the insuffianct force that was sent to take control over the Mavi Marmara – to what’s going on in the world, where this is viewed as a brutal attack on civilians on international water, or as Moshe Yaroni puts it, Israel’s Kent State.

David Horvitz (Jerusalem Post’s editor): A race to contain the damage: The “humanitarian aid” flotilla was clearly a perniciously well-conceived initiative, for which Israel prepared inadequately.

Blake Hounshell (Foreign Policy): It’s not hard to imagine boycott campaigns gaining momentum, damaging the Israeli economy and isolating the country diplomatically, especially in Europe.

MJ Rosenberg (Huffington Post): Israel is in trouble. At the present rate, the remarkable accomplishment that is Israel will be lost because the right (i.e, Netanyahu, AIPAC, etc) prefers the settlements, smashing Gaza and building in Arab East Jerusalem to Israel itself.

Marc Lynch (Foreign Policy): It is difficult to fathom how the Israeli government could have thought that this was a good way to respond to a long-developing public relations challenge, but its actions will certainly fuel its evolving international legitimacy crisis.

Avi Trengo (Ynet): When Israel conveys a sense of weakness is it any wonder that a mob would charge at a commando and attempt to lynch him?

Richard Spencer (Telegraph): Whether on land or now at sea, there is a terrible symmetry to Israel’s engagement with the Palestinians and those who support them.

Rafi mann (Seventh Eye): The Palestinian Exodus [Hebrew].

5.00 PM: IDF completed search of Mavi Marmara, no weapons discovered except for the two pistols that were taken from the soldiers (channel 10).

4:57 PM: IDF spokesperson: 9 activists killed on Mavi Marmara, 7 soldiers injured. Ynet: 31 activist injured.

4:55 PM: It’s Official: PM Benjamin Netanyahu canceled his trip to Washington and will not meet president Obama, but rather return home to handle the crisis. It was speculated that part of the reason is the will to avoid the scheduled press conference with the president, in which the President will be forced to condemn the attack in the presence of the Israeli PM.

4:35 PM: IDF releases video and report of the events:

4:15 PM: CRIF, the representative council of the organized Jewish community in France, declared the events “not good news for peace,” and expressed its regret on the death of civilians.

4:00 PM: Israeli media framing the incident as one in which the soldiers were the victims of an organized, surprise attack (the fact that it was the IDF soldiers who boarded the ships on international waters is hardly mentioned). There are more and more descriptions on channel 1 and 2 of the knifes and bats that were used against the soldiers.

The IDF just started releasing videos of the demonstrators rushing to the soldiers as they board the ship. According to most pundits, the mistake the IDF did was not applying enough force, and boarding the ship with a small force, not fully armed.

This is Ron Ben-Yishay, Ynet’s military correspondent, that was on one of the Israeli navi ships:

Our Navy commandoes fell right into the hands of the Gaza mission members. A few minutes before the takeover attempt aboard the Marmara got underway, the operation commander was told that 20 people were waiting on the deck where a helicopter was to deploy the first team of the elite Flotilla 13 unit. The original plan was to disembark on the top deck, and from there rush to the vessel’s bridge and order the Marmara’s captain to stop.

(…)

Navy commandoes slid down to the vessel one by one, yet then the unexpected occurred: The passengers that awaited them on the deck pulled out bats, clubs, and slingshots with glass marbles, assaulting each soldier as he disembarked. The fighters were nabbed one by one and were beaten up badly, yet they attempted to fight back.

However, to their misfortune, they were only equipped with paintball rifles used to disperse minor protests, such as the ones held in Bilin. The paintballs obviously made no impression on the activists, who kept on beating the troops up and even attempted to wrest away their weapons.

3:10 PM: Two of the smaller ships arrived at the Ashdod post. The Marmara, – the main ship on which the fight occurred – is not expected to arrive before 7PM. Israeli press speculates on possible danger to soldiers and Israeli civilians from the protesters on the ships. Riot police and anti terror units are on their way to Ashdod. Early reports claim that 16 protesters were arrested.

3:00 PM: Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon on Channel 10:

“As time passes, it becomes clear we found weapons in the ships. The events move now to the diplomatic front. All our messages were passed to the Foreign Media.

“Regarding relation with Turkey: we did not initiate any confrontation; we hope there won’t be damage to relations. This wasn’t a peace flotilla, it wasn’t a humanitarian flotilla. IDF spokesmen will publish material that will prove that there were terrorist personal and arms on the ships. This is our message to the world.”

2:50 PM: Channel 10: soldiers boarded the main ship with paintball guns and were immediately in danger for their life. they had no choice but to move to live ammunition.

2:40 PM: Defense Minister Ehud Barak, Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi and Navi Commander Eliezer Marom held a press conference in which they gave the first Israeli official explanation to the day’s events. Barak declared that the flotilla organizers are to blame for the casualties.

“The soldiers were attacked after arriving at one of the ships. Some were injured by serious physical violence on the part of the protestors.

“In light of the life-threatening situation, the soldiers were forced to use crowd dispersal means and firearms,” said Barak, adding that some of the casualties were killed by firearms. According to Barak, 10 soldiers were injured in the incident, some from firearms and some from cold arms.

“The IHH organization, which was behind these unruly ship, is a violent and radical organization acting under the cover of humanitarian activity.”

2:30 PM: Israel Ch1 military reporter: Islamic leader Raed Salah “alive and well” – reports of him injured and in surgery are a case of mistaken id.

2:15 PM: commentary round up:

Bradley Burston (Haaretz): We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege, which is itself becoming Israel’s Vietnam.

Aluf Ben (Haaretz): Netanyahu should stop US trip, come home and form an official commission of inquiry. excuses that activists were armed won’t work [Hebrew].

Ian Black (Guardian): Israel’s bloody interception of the Gaza flotilla looks like a disastrous own goal… this was a gift to Israel’s worst enemies.

Amos Harel (Haaretz): If rumors are confirmed that Muslim leader Raed Salah is among casualties of Israel’s raid on a Gaza aid convoy, the country’s Arab population could explode.

Glenn Greenwald (Salon): If Israel’s goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt as possible, how could it do a better job?

Shmuel Rosner (Jerusalem Post):  PR – as important as it might be – is not all in life (…) If force had to be used as to prevent the flotilla from going into Gaza – if there was no way around it – than PR becomes a secondary issue and will have to be dealt with later.

1:50 PM: CH 10 TV defense correspondent Alon Ben David at Ashdod: Rioting expected to continue at port. Some passengers still locked in cabins. Channel 10 site: Arabs from Haifa among casualties.

1:40 PM: Israeli Foreign Office warned Israelis from trips to Turkey. Those already here are advised to stay in hotels. Turkey canceled three planned military maneuvers with IDF. Greece also canceled its planned maneuver with Israeli air force.

1:30 PM: Turkish ambassador leaving for Ankara.

12:30: Deputiy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon accuses Flotilla organizers of having ties to Hamas and AL-Qaeda. Regarding the attack, the Foreign Ministry web site stated that:

According to reports from sea, on board the flotilla that was seeking to break the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip, IDF forces apprehended two violent activists holding pistols. The violent activists took these pistols from IDF forces and apparently opened fire on the soldiers as evident by the empty pistol magazines.

As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire.

12:10: Leftwing protests scheduled for 6 Pm in Jerusalem; 7 Pm in Tel Aviv (in front of the Defense Ministry on Kaplan st.); 7 Pm in Haifa. Some protesters are on their way right now to Ashdod and Haifa ports, to which the flotilla boats are headed.

12:00 AM: Ynet: two soldiers badly injured during the attack on the ships. 7 civilians in Israeli hospitals.

11:40 AM: Haaretz: Raad Saleh injured, not dead, hospitalized in Tel Hashomer (Tel Aviv). UPDATE: ynet reports that according to army sources, Salah is on one of the boats, only slightly injured.

video: MK Hanin Zuabi (Balad) calling for help in English and Hebrew from the attacked ship.

Ynet: 15 died on Ships.

10:50 AM: We woke up to the news of the violent takeover of the flotilla by IDF soldiers, and to the rumors that Sheikh Raad Salah, the Israeli-Palestinian Muslim leader, is among the 10 casualties. Regardless of one’s political views and what comes out of this incident, these are horrible news. It seems that the government really blew it this time. Violence looks almost inevitable, and who knows what will follow.

After a few hours of silence, Army and government spokesmen started commenting on the affair, declaring that the people on the boats “tried to lynch the soldiers“. But the spins won’t work here. Even without knowing what really happened, so much is clear: when you keep more than a million under siege for years – even if you make sure they don’t starve to death, as Israelis constantly remind us they do – some people are bound to try and break this siege. And when they do, if you send the commando at them in the middle of the night – and on international water! – there will be consequences, and there might be casualties.

I will keep updating this post as news come.

This is an insane use of disproportionate force. It is a product of the right-wing radicalization of the Israeli government