The IDF has distributed a press release claiming that it has evidence that five passengers on the Mavi Marmara were “active terror operatives.” The army’s claims appeared thin at best, and patently false at worst. When I called the IDF Spokesman’s Office to ask for evidence, I was told there was none; all of the IDF’s claims were attributed to “intelligence” it could not share with reporters.
“The information in the statement comes based on intelligence,” Army spokesman Sgt. Chen Arad told me. “I don’t have any further information I can give.”
I pressed Arad to at least describe the intelligence he had seen. “There is very limited intelligence information we can give in this specific case,” he said. “Obviously I’m unable to give you more information.” He referred me to a colleague at the IDF’s North American desk. She did not answer after numerous tries. I’m going to call again tomorrow; journalist Lia Tarachansky has also placed a call to a spokesman and yielded similar responses which I’ll transcribe here soon.
One of the most bizarre accusations the IDF made was that former American citizen and ex-Marine Ken O’Keefe was planning to “train a commando unit” in the Gaza Strip. That’s the same Ken O’Keefe who organized an aid boat to Gaza, Aloha Palestine, with the sister-in-law of Tony Blair, Lauren Booth. In recent days, O’Keefe has been a major presence in the international media, giving his account of the melee on the deck of Mavi Marmara. Why would Hamas want some middle aged American guy with no experience in guerilla warfare to train its elite forces? The answer is the IDF is probably trying to smear O’Keefe to discredit his withering assessment of their conduct during the flotilla raid. “All I saw in Israel was cowards with guns,” O’Keefe has declared.
Hussein Arosh was implicated by the IDF for allegedly planning to “assist in smuggling Al-Qaeda operatives via Turkey into the Strip.” This claim is highly implausible. Why would Hamas allow Al Qaida operatives into the Gaza Strip when it is actively engaged in crushing any Al Qaida sympathizers who crop up within the territory it controls. Last year, Hamas forces killed 21 members of an Al Qaida inspired group in a battle in the Gaza Strip.
Another unusual IDF accusation was that the US resident Fatimah Mahmadi is a terrorist because she is “an active member of the organization ‘Viva Palestine’” who “attempted to smuggle forbidden electronic components into the Gaza Strip.” (I think the IDF means Viva Palestina, not Viva Palestine). Viva Palestina is not registered as a terrorist group by any country in the world; it is the British parliamentarian George Galloway’s pro-Palestine outfit, which is planning to organize more aid convoys.
The IDF’s press release did not appear credible in any way. If any reporters from the Israeli press had bothered to call the IDF to demand evidence, they would have learned that there was none. At least in Israel, the media is serving as a useful tool for the army. Just look at this piece by Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer.