Flotilla | New Mavi Marmara pictures raise more questions regarding IDF attack

Posted: June 6th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, media, the US and us, war | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Turkish paper Hurriyet published pictures of captive IDF soldiers inside the Mavi Marmara (see them here) during the Israeli raid on the ship. IDF spokesperson already declared that “this is clear proof of Israel’s repeated claims, that the boat was carrying mercenaries, whose sole purpose was to kill the soldiers.”

But to me these pictures raise even more questions. It seems that the people on the Mavi Marmara actually kept the soldiers alive – rather than “lynch” them, as Israel claims. This might also explain why the battle against unarmed civilians took so long: Could it be that the nine casualties weren’t just the result of an attempt to protect the life of the soldiers at the moment they were attacked, but rather the outcome of a violent rescue operation?

Since the Gilad Shalit kidnapping, there is a standing order in Israel not to let any IDF soldier to be captured alive, even if it means risking his own life – let alone the life of the people around him.

Another thought: could it be that the bullet injuries few IDF soldiers suffered occurred during this rescue attempt?  Maybe it was IDF shots that caused them?

Here is another picture, posted on the IHH flickr page, showing passengers treating a wounded IDF soldier. I don’t know if this pic is real or not, but if it is, it might back the claim that the passengers were trying to defend themselves rather kill the soldiers:

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As long as the IDF doesn’t release it’s version of the events and all confiscated material, we have no way of knowing what happened on the Mavi Maramra. But as passengers’ testimonies are released and more material is coming out, the army’s version seems to have more and more holes in it.

UPDATE: Alon Ben David, channel 10 military correspondent, gave last night an unofficial account of events from army sources: attack on the ship started on 4:30 AM, with 15 soldiers going down the ropes to the upper deck. The first three were captured in the lower deck. After one minute the soldiers opened fire and took control of the upper deck.

At 4:35 another team arrives by helicopter. At 4:50 the army starts taking over the ship. At 5:00 the army announces it has control over the ship’s bridge. The soldiers in the lower deck escape from their captives: two jump to the water, and the third reach the front of the ship and awaits there for the other commandos to rescue him. According to a report from Al-Jessira (quoted here in Ynet), the third soldier didn’t escape; IDF commandos broke into the room he was held in and shot the passengers surrounding him.

There is no official IDF version of the events yet.

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Israel has rejected United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s idea for an international commission of inquiry into the raid. According to this offer, the inquiry committee would have been led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer (an expert on maritime law), with an Israeli representative and a Turkish one serving under him.

Yet Prime Minister Netanyahu informed the government today (Sunday) that he would not agree to such an investigation. Netanyahu also said that the world is beginning to open up to the Israeli view of last week’s events.

The Israeli dilemma is simple: reject an international committee, and you risk having another Goldstone report, based entirely on the evidences of the flotilla’s passengers. Accept the committee, and you risk ending up with a report which will condemn Israel and enjoy world wide credibility. There is also a problem with the IDF, which opposes to having soldiers testify in front of any sort of civilian committee, Israeli or international. Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who finally agreed to some sort of investigation in order to ease up the pressure on Israel, still firmly object to having soldiers testify before it.

Israeli leaders also have their own political concerns, which further complicate things: a civilian Israeli committee might force them to resign, while an international inquiry won’t have personal implication on them.

The solution Israel is hoping for is an Israeli-led investigation, with an international observer, preferably an American, sitting on it (but staying out of the room when security issues are discussed). Zeev Segal, Haaretz’s legal expert, wrote in favor of such a solution this morning.

I explained here why the international community should not accept an Israeli-led investigation.

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The talk of the day in Israel was the decision by Boston Rock group The Pixies to cancel their gig in Tel Aviv planned for this Wednesday. The Pixies are very popular with my generation of Israelis (I had tickets), and this was supposed to be their first show in Tel Aviv. But the real issue is that Israelis are extremely troubled by the idea of an international boycott. Producer Shuki Weiss, who booked the show, called the pressure on bands not to perform in Israel “cultural terrorism“.

Most pundits and talking heads I heard today said that it was a PR failure, rather than a policy one, which led to pressure on Israel these days (here is an example from Israel’s most popular columnist). Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman decided, like many Israelis, to put the blame on the left and the Israeli Arabs.

More and more it seems that Israelis simply don’t understand why the world is mad at them. As Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz today, the one place IDF propaganda actually worked very well is Israel, where both the media and the public now views the attack on the flotilla as an heroic success story.

British Author Iain Banks also decided to join the boycott on Israel. He explains why in a letter to the Guardian:

Writers and artists refusing to visit Israel, and the cutting off of as many other cultural and educational links with Israel as possible, might help Israelis understand how morally isolated they really are. It would be a form of collective punishment (albeit a mild one), and so in a way an act of hypocrisy for those of us who have criticised Israel for its treatment of the Palestinian people in general and those in Gaza in particular, but appeals to reason, international law, UN resolutions and simple human decency mean – it is now obvious – nothing to Israel, and for those of us not prepared to turn to violence, what else can we do? For the little it’s worth, I’ve told my agent to turn down any further book translation deals with Israeli publishers. I would urge all writers, artists and others in the creative arts, as well as those academics engaging in joint educational projects with Israeli institutions, to consider doing everything they can to convince Israel of its moral degradation and ethical isolation, preferably by simply having nothing more to do with this outlaw state.

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News and Suggested reading:

NY Times: Washington Asks: What to Do About Israel?

Our own Freedom Fries: A right-wing group has asked Elite, Israel’s largest coffee manufacture, to change the name of its popular  Turkish Coffee [link in Hebrew].


The problem with Benjamin Netanyahu

Posted: December 25th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: elections, In the News, The Right | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Why the PM’s brilliant political moves this week won’t help him

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This was one of the strangest weeks I can remember in Israeli politics. It started with everybody waiting for a prisoner exchange deal with Hamas that could change the diplomatic reality in the entire region – just to forget it immediately as PM Benjamin Netanyahu’s move against Kadima was reveled. Gilad Shalit was back in his cave in a split of a second, and all attention was turned to the seven backbenchers who supposedly agreed to deflect from Kadima to Likud, thus making Netanyahu’s coalition – which is fairly strong as is – significantly more stable.

Even as it turned out that Netanyahu wasn’t able to split Kadima (only one Knesset Member, the unimportant Eli Aflalo – known mostly for his impressive mustache – announced his departure from the opposition party), it seems that he handed his political opponent the blow of her career. Now Tzipi Livni has to chose between abandoning her entire political strategy and accepting Netanyahu’s offer to join his coalition, to trying to keep her party together in the opposition – a task which seems much more daunting by the day, if no entirely impossible.

In the last couple of days, many pundits were praising the PM for his brilliant move. Here is for example Amir Mizroch, news editor at The Jerusalem Post, on his blog:

If he had managed to pull it off, Netanyahu would have stepped up a level as a political operator. This was a Sharon-like move. In fact, this was the move designed to counter Sharon’s establishment of Kadima. Sharon undone. Disengagement from Kadima. If he had managed to pull it off…

But to what end?

When Yitzhak Rabin was split Tzomet party in 1995 he did it to pass the Oslo agreement in the Knesset, once it was clear that the Orthodox Shas would vote against it; and when Ariel Sharon split the Likud he did it to carry out his plan of unilateral withdrawal from the Palestinian territories. Netanayhu, it seems, is trying to break Kadima for little more than getting even at his political opponents. The only reason that would really require Netanyahu to strengthen the left flank of his coalition is some sort of diplomatic progress with the Palestinians or with Syria. With regards to Iran, the Goldstone report, the Hamas and Gilad Shalit, the Knesset and the public are more than likely to support whatever decision the PM would take.

Right now there are no negotiations with the Palestinians or the Syrians, and in any case, all indications are that Netanyahu wouldn’t go one step further than where the White House forces him. He accepted the two state solution because of president Obama’s speech in Cairo, and he agreed to a partial settlement freeze only after tremendous pressure from Washington. As even some of Netanyahu’s supporters recognized, in both cases, his move came too late to hand him real political gains, and the world remained suspicious of the Israeli PM’s agenda.

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This is something that characterized Netanyahu’s approach to politics throughout his career: he (almost) never initiates moves. He always reacts. This has nothing to do with ideology, Left or Right. There are leaders on the right who try to shape reality themselves (Ariel Sharon and George W Bush come to mind, and maybe that’s part of the reason they had such good personal relations), as there are some leaders on the Left who tend to react to events. It’s a matter of personality. Read the rest of this entry »


Israel prefers Hamas (part III)

Posted: November 24th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, the US and us | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment »

In previous posts I’ve explained how the US and Israel’s policies strengthen Hamas on the expense of the Palestinian Authority, and most notably, Abu-Mazen.

The prisoner exchange deal – which reportedly is about to be signed soon – will make things even worse for the Palestinian president. The timing of the deal – which could have taken place months, even years ago – makes me believe that Netanyahu’s diplomatic plan which is about to be announced is not a serious effort to restart the peace process, but rather another attempt to contain the international pressure his government is facing.

The sad part is that the US administration plays into the hands of Netanyahu.

Israel is currently holding around 11,000 Palestine in its prisons (many of them without a trail, including hundreds of teens). That’s thousands of Gilad Shalits. Releasing hundreds of them – including PLO people – will be Hamas’ greatest achievement since the Israeli unilateral withdrawal from Gaza. In a time when Israel is depriving Abu-Mazen from any significant gain, it is handing Hamas one of its greatest victories, well worth the suffering and the victims of Cast Lead.

We are at a critical crossroad. If Netanyahu releases the prisoners, and than gets US approval for its partial settlement freeze, it will be a death blow to Abu-Mazen (and to the new administration’s credibility). I really hope the Americans understand that. Read the rest of this entry »


Gilad Shalit

Posted: March 10th, 2009 | Author: | Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , | Comments Off

These past few days I’ve been watching “John Adams”, HBO’s TV series about the life of the 2nd president. In chapter 5 President George Washington consults Adams on the signing of the Jay’s Treaty, which secured the US nutralitie in the war between Great Britain and revolutionary France.

As they discuss the issue, the president and the vice president look outside the window on the mob demanding the United State will take side with the newly formed French Republic. The “nice” thing to do was to help France, which fought with the US in its war against the British. Washington decided not to. And in chapter 6 we learn that Adams’ unpopular refusal to let the Quasy-War deteriorate into a full-scale one with France has cost him his re-election.

I don’t know how accurate the series is, but its creators have recognized what makes the difference between a good politician and a good leader  – the leader’s ability to rise above the moment and “do the right thing”. Nothing else matters. He can change his mind regarding things he said during his campaign, not keep his promises and even lie. As long as when the moment comes, he does what’s right.

In Israeli politics right now, this right thing would be to approve the prisoners exchange deal with Hamas, and get Gilad Shalit back home.

Read the rest of this entry »


and now what?

Posted: December 31st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: In the News, war | Tags: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

I had a busy week, partly because of the war, and couldn’t update the blog with my thoughts on the events in Gaza. I guess that’s the problem with being a journalist.

I oppose the war. I think it is immoral and unwise.

On the moral side, I don’t agree with the common Israeli point of view, according to which “we left Gaza and they kept firing rockets”. Israel evacuated the settlements, but kept the siege on Gaza, probably in hope that it would topple the Hamas (This policy, of putting the pressure on civilians in hope of replacing the Arab leadership, is not only immoral, but it also failed us again and again, both in the West Bank and in Lebanon). This does not justify the rockets that were fired on Israel, but since Israel refused to even consider removing the siege or ruled out negotiations with the Hamas, it left the other side with very few options.

Read the rest of this entry »


Rememeber Gaza

Posted: December 15th, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , | Comments Off

Regardless the identity of the next PM, it is clear that the Gaza problem will wait for him (or her). Nobody will take on a military operation against Hamas, which might turn into a version of the second Lebanon war, so close to the election.

What awaits to be seen, is whether Ehud Olmert will use his last days in office to sign a deal for the release of POW Gilad Shalit. I hope he does. He’s not up for re-election, so he can pay the price. The government will surly approve any deal to that cause. There will be a few votes against from right-wing ministers, but such ministers will most likely make sure their votes aren’t decisive. Nobody wants this issue on their conscience (or political image), it’s just a question of the political price of releasing several hundreds Hamas members from prison.

Read the rest of this entry »