Will the media report accurately and fairly as anti-Israel activists violently resist an IDF naval boarding with tragic results?
In the early hours of Monday 31 May, Israeli naval commandos boarded a flotilla of vessels heading for Gaza. What happened next has created a major media storm as, according to reports, over a dozen anti-Israel activists have died and many more injured, including Israeli soldiers.
Israel’s critics have been quick to condemn the incident, using it to inflame anti-Israel sentiment. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already termed what is undoubtedly a serious incident as a “massacre”. Will this be the latest in a long list of incidents that have been distorted and misrepresented to cause Israel the maximum amount of damage to its image?
Connected to Terror: Who is Behind the Flotilla?
The organizations and passengers behind the Gaza flotilla have been variously described as “peace activists” and “humanitarian organizations”. This could not be further from the truth. The primary objective of this flotilla was not to deliver aid packages to Gaza but to spread anti-Israel propaganda in cooperation with Gaza’s Hamas rulers.
See here and here for detailed information on the IHH.
Amongst the other organizations involved in the flotilla is the International Solidarity Movement. The ISM has a shameful record of placing foreign nationals in danger through encouraging ‘direct action’, which resulted in the death of American citizen Rachel Corrie. In 2003, ISM’s extreme ideology was underscored when terrorists, originating from the UK, used ISM as a cover to attack Mike’s Place bar in Tel Aviv, murdering three people. More recently, ISM has been a leading force in the violent protests against the security barrier at Ni’lin, while an ISM activist has been jailed in the US, charged with “giving about $20,000 to a group he knew supported Hamas.”
An Al-Jazeera report from May 28, translated by MEMRI, shows activists on board before departing for Gaza, chanting Intifada songs aimed at Jews and praising martyrdom. Chants include “Intifada, intifada, intifada! Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews! The army of Mohammed will return!” relating to a seventh century massacre of Jews in Khaybar by early Muslims.
“Peace” Activists Used Deadly Violence
Despite claims that the activists on board were only prepared to resist the IDF peacefully, the reality was quite the opposite. Upon boarding the Marmara, owned and operated by the extremist IHH, Israeli naval personnel were attacked by activists who had prepared themselves with weapons including knives and clubs. This, despite the following statement from a Free Gaza spokesperson:
We were not going to pose any violent resistance. The only resistance that there might be would be passive resistance such as physically blocking the steering room, or blocking the engine room downstairs, so that they couldn’t get taken over. But that was just symbolic resistance.
Is the clip below showing an IDF soldier being attacked with a crowbar “symbolic resistance”?
In addition, IDF forces apprehended two activists holding pistols. The activists took these pistols from IDF forces and apparently opened fire on the soldiers as evident by the empty pistol magazines. This goes some way to explaining the number of casualties as live fire was exchanged as IDF forces found themselves under severe threat as evidenced by the number of injured Israeli soldiers and the types of injuries. One soldier suffered a serious head injury, two others were injured by gunshots and one more was stabbed.
Click here to see Israeli TV footage of Israeli soldiers under attack.
Propaganda Not Humanitarianism
If there was any doubt that these organizations were unconcerned with universal human rights, this was confirmed by the rejection of a request from the family of Gilad Shalit for activists to pressure Hamas to allow international organizations to bring letters and food packages to the kidnapped soldier in exchange for the family’s support for the international expedition’s attempt to dock in Gaza.
In fact, Israel offered to transfer the supplies on the flotilla to Gaza from Ashdod port through official channels, an offer that was rejected in favor of confrontation on the part of the anti-Israel activists. As flotilla organizer Greta Berlin stated: “this mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it’s about breaking Israel’s siege.”
The flotilla was clearly warned by the Israeli Navy in advance of the boarding and the offer repeated by the IDF.
A Legitimate and Legal Operation
IMRA asked Hebrew University international law expert Dr. Robbie Sabel about the legality of the IDF action in international waters.
Dr. Sabel explained that a state, in a time of conflict, can impose an embargo, and while it cannot carry out embargo activities in the territorial waters of a third party, it can carry out embargo activities in international waters.
Within this framework it is legal to detain a civilian vessel trying to break an embargo and if in the course of detaining the vessel, force is used against the forces carrying out the detention then that force has every right to act in self defense.
Dr. Sabel noted that there is a long history of embargo activities in international waters.
Indeed, according to the San Remo Manual that governs international humanitarian law, it is permissible under rule 67(a) to attack neutral vessels on the high seas when the vessels “are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture.”
Will the Media Report Fairly?
The initial pictures and reports of this incident (supplied mainly by the less than objective al-Jazeera and Turkish media) do not paint Israel in a positive light, not helped by the fluidity of the situation and conflicting information.
It is the duty of the international media to report fairly and accurately. We have been here before, from incidents ranging from the al-Dura affair, the Jenin “massacre” and many other libels perpetrated by a media all too willing to take the side of those who seek to harm Israel.
We hope that the media will not repeat its past mistakes. While a clearer picture of today’s events may eventually emerge, the damage has already been done in the first few hours of reporting. Retractions and corrections will do little to soften the blow.
Will the media take at face value the statements and anti-Israel propaganda of groups who were committed to causing an incident of this nature? Will the media join in the automatic knee-jerk anti-Israel reaction that is all too often the norm?
Keep an eye on your local media to ensure that the facts behind this tragic incident are not drowned by a wave of anti-Israel sentiment.
(From Honest Reporting)