Monthly Archives: June 2010

IDF Admits It Doctored Flotilla Audio Clip. Washington Post’s Kessler Must Retract

The IDF admitted today in a press release that it doctored audio footage from its exchanges with the Gaza flotilla in order to paint the flotilla passengers as anti-Semites. I am beginning to wonder if the Israeli military hired James O’Keefe to handle its press shop.

This is the IDF’s “clarification:”

Yesterday evening on 4 June 2010, the IDF released an audio recording of a radio transmission between the Israeli Navy vessel and the Flotilla ships wherein unidentified flotilla passengers tell the Israeli Navy vessel to “shut up,  go back to Auschwitz” and “we’re helping Arabs go against the US, don’t forget 9/11.” There have been questions regarding the authenticity of the recording as well as its attribution to a communication with the Mavi Marmara.

So to clarify: the audio was edited down to cut out periods of silence over the radio as well as incomprehensible comments so as to make it easier for people to listen to the exchange. We have now uploaded the entire segment of 5 minutes and 58 seconds in which the exchange took place and the comments were made.

This transmission had originally cited the Mavi Marmara ship as being the source of these remarks, however, due to an open channel, the specific ship or ships in the “Freedom Flotilla” responding to the Israeli Navy could not be identified. During radio transmissions between Israeli Navy and the ships of the “Free Gaza” Flotilla on 31 May 2010, the Israeli Navy ship attempts to make contact with the ‘Defne Y’ on channel 1-6. Other ships from the flotilla respond on the channel, without identifying themselves. At some point during the radio exchange the Israeli Navy is told by one of the ships to “shut up, go back to Auschwitz” (2:05) and “don’t forget 9-11? (5:42).

It’s nice that the IDF has “clarified” its doctoring of footage. But the new clip it has released that supposedly shows “the entire segment…in which the exchange took place and the comments were made” is highly suspect as well. Why? Because it contains an exchange with Huwaida Arraf that Arraf claims took place on an entirely different attempt to break the siege — Arraf has led previous aid boats to Gaza that were intercepted and hijacked by the IDF. Arraf told Ma’an News:

“I was by the radio the whole time there was any communication. Mine was the only boat in which I answered and not the captain and they all answered in a very professional manner.” Arraf told Ma’an that while she might have spoken of having permission from the Gaza Port Authority on a previous attempt to break the blockade, she is certain that she did not say it on Monday morning. ”When they radioed us, we were still 100 miles away,” she explained.

Mya Guarnieri of Ma’an goes into more detail about the suspicious nature of the new clip the IDF has released, demonstrating how absurd their latest attempt to save face is. The lesson of the debacle is that nothing the IDF says can be trusted by anyone. Not ever. (Of course, that should apply to any nation’s military, and not just “the most moral army in the world”).

Hours after the IDF’s admission, major news outlets which reported on the doctored audio clip as though it was a shocking revelation and not a scandalous forgery have still not corrected themselves. The most blatant stenographer of IDF propaganda is the Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler. Here is what Kessler reported after being participating a briefing session with an IDF flack:

Israeli forces spent four hours trying to persuade the 300-foot-long Turkish ship to shift course away from Gaza, senior Israeli officials said in a briefing Friday for a small group of reporters.

The activists responded repeatedly with shouts — “Go back to Auschwitz!” — and kept the ship at its maximum speed of 10 knots.

Besides the fact that Kessler reported on the “Go back to Auschwitz” claim without investigating it, he claimed that the passengers “repeatedly” shouted the slur. But even the IDF did not claim that anyone “repeatedly” shouted anything; the “Auschwitz” statement is heard in the doctored audio clip only once.

Kessler’s report was so slanted in favor of the Israeli military he was compelled to include this as his opening line: “This is the Israeli version of the deadly raid on an aid ship bound for Gaza.” But Kessler also cited the opinions of “Turkish officials,” and worded his article as though it were an authoritative report on what really happened on board the Mavi Marmara.

Finally, Kessler reports the IDF’s discredited claim that numerous Mavi Marmara passengers were terrorist “mercenaries:”

The activists also had substantial funds, perhaps 1 million euros. Many of the activists who battled the soldiers were each carrying 10,000 euros, which officials speculated meant that they were mercenaries who had been paid to fight.

Right. The IDF had retracted its claim about terrorist mercenaries on board the Mavi Marmara a full day before Kessler filed. Kessler and the Washington Post have let the Israeli military play them for fools. They should issue corrections immediately.

If the Post does not correct, readers should let WaPo Ombudsman Andrew Alexander know that his paper’s coverage of the flotilla massacre remains riddled with major factual errors. Alexander can be reached at ombudsman@washpost.com or 202-334-7582.

IDF Releases Apparently Doctored Flotilla Audio; Press Reports As Fact

The IDF’s propaganda is increasingly unbelievable, yet the media is enthusiastically playing along. This audio, which purports to show flotilla passengers telling the IDF to “go back to Auschwitz,” appears to have been doctored by the IDF General Press Office or someone connected to it.

The clip originally released by the IDF on May 31 of its exchange with the Mavi Marmara, which is featured below, shows the IDF warning the ship’s crew, “Mavi Marmara, you are appproaching an area of hostility which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza area coastal region and Gaza harbor are closed to all maritime traffic…” The Mavi Marmara responded to the IDF’s warning: “Negative, negative. Our destination is Gaza. Our destination is Gaza.” There was no reference to Auschwitz in the video the IDF released on May 31.

The original video released by the IDF on May 31

On June 4, the IDF released apparently doctored audio of its exchange with the Mavi Marmara. The clip the IDF released featured the same imagery from its previous clip, but the voice of the Israeli Navy dispatcher was dramatically different. And the reply from the Mavi Marmara sounded like an impersonation of an Arab by a mentally challenged pre-adolescent (both videos are still on the IDF’s YouTube channel even though they completely contradict each other).

The video apparently doctored by the IDF, released on June 4

Further, the IDF is claiming its “Aushwitz” audio is from the Mavi Marmara. Yet it includes a recording of Huwaida Arraf saying “we have permission from the Gaza port authority to enter.” Huwaida has confirmed to the Institute For Middle East Understanding that her voice appeared in the apparently doctored clip. Unfortunately for the IDF, Huwaida was on the Challenger One, not the Mavi Marmara. How can the IDF account for this inconvenient discrepancy?

The Israeli daily, Yedioth Ahronot, which means “latest news,” are in fact the latest idiots. They’ve reported the apparently doctored audio clip as fact. And so has Haaretz. Haaretz has quietly changed its headline but the article remains stenographic in nature. Neither outlet made any effort to investigate the veracity of the IDF’s claims.

Either the mayor of Chelm is in charge of the IDF Press Office, or the Israeli military has something very ugly to hide.

Update: Ali Abunimah has also confirmed with Huwaida that her voice appeared in the apparently doctored IDF audio clip, but that she was not on the Mavi Marmara.

The Flotilla Raid Was Not “Bungled.” The IDF Detailed Its Violent Strategy In Advance.

Tel Aviv-Israel Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior ministers have attempted to blame army commanders for “the bungled raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla,” according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. The AP reported that “Israel’s bloody, bungled takeover of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel is complicating US-led Mideast peace efforts.” And according to Reuters, “Israeli military admits errors in bungled boarding.”

But was the raid really bungled? Did the Israeli military command and Netanyahu government have no clear strategy going in? Or was the violence they meted out against the flotilla activists deliberate and methodically planned?

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The elite Israeli commando unit known as Unit 13 was tasked with carrying out the mission and its role was known by the Israeli public well before the raid took place. Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated. The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

On May 28, three days before the raid, top Israeli military officials revealed details of their strategy to Maariv, Israel’s most widely circulated paper. The caption of the Maariv article reflected the military command’s plan to use force: “On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way.”

Here is a translation of relevant portions of the article:

Maariv, 5/28/10 P. 4

Title: Head to Head in the Heart of the Sea

Caption: On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way.”

Subhead: The sea encounter that will occur at the end of the weekend is already planned detail by detail. From the moment that the ships will pass the “red line” on their way to Gaza, the fighters of Unit 13 will take control and transfer 800 passengers from their boats back to where they came from. And special arrest units were set up.

From the body of article: This operation was approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak and will be led by the commander of the Navy, Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Maron, who is nicknamed “Cheney.” If the people aboard the boats will not agree to turn around, the operation will transfer to the stage of force. “We are afraid that there will be a terror attack by the boats,” said a high ranking officer. “If terrorists have gotten on the boats or if there is an intention to use hot weapons against our forces, we will use full seriousness and caution. We want to avoid using force but as soon as there will be danger to the life of our forces we will be forced to use live fire as a last resort.

[...]

After our fighters take over the boats, OKETZ unit dogs and forces of the IHLM unit corps of engineers will inspect them looking for sabotage materials and fighting tools.

A Maariv article from 5/28/10, page 4, reveals the Israeli military command's flotilla raid plan

A Maariv article from 5/28/10, page 4, reveals the Israeli military command's flotilla raid plan

So the Israeli military broadcast its plan for violence, inciting the Israeli public and the soldiers of Unit 13 with fevered visions of a kill-or-be-killed encounter with a group of Arab “terrorists.” The stated conditions for using live fire were arbitrary and poorly defined, giving the commandos little direction and lots of leeway to kill — at the very least the plan demanded force in some form.

After the initial violent stages, the plan called for the gathering of the activists’ “fighting tools,” an acknowledgment by the Israeli military that the activists might try to repel its commandos once they forced their way on the ships. The plan to search for “sabotage materials” also foreshadowed the IDF’s post-raid propaganda campaign.

An alternative plan that would have been likely to avert violence could have been set into motion. The Israeli Navy could have done what it had in the past and hijacked the aid ships without boarding them, then towed them to shore. However, the Rambo-style plan concocted by Netanyahu, his top aides and the Naval commander with the unfortunate nickname of “Cheney” made the killing of activists likely, if not inevitable.

Why didn’t Israel’s leaders choose to deal with the flotilla in a more judicious fashion? Were they that stupid, or just crazy? From the details of the plan it appears that Netanyahu and his cohorts had envisioned Entebbe Part Deux, a daring anti-terror raid that would lift the sinking morale of the Israeli public while intimidating Iran and the Arab world. Though Israel may be more isolated than ever as a result of the massacre, the Netanyahu administration is reaping considerable political benefits at home.

The day after the massacre, spontaneous celebrations broke out in Ashdod, Tel Aviv, and throughout the country, bringing together right-wing elements with everyday Israelis. Over a thousand Israelis gathered tonight outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv to rally against the Turkish government and express their support for the raid. Multiple demonstrators including one man who has lived in Israel for 60 years told me, “What Turkey [the sponsor of the Mavi Marmara boat] has done is great. I have never seen this country more united in my entire life. We are all standing together now.” (Video coming soon).

Israeli newscasters are routinely using the term “mechabel,” or terrorist, to refer to the flotilla activists, while the violence that broke out on the deck of the Mavi Marmara is called “the lynch.” (Nevermind that zero commandos were hung and nine activists were killed, including an American citizen who was shot in the head four times.) No evidence is required to support claims in the Israeli media. The public desperately wants to believe that its government is right, so much so that Israel’s media is not even making a token effort to challenge the increasingly hysterical press releases disseminated by the IDF press office every few hours.

Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian-Israeli member of the Knesset who was on the Mavi Marmara, was physically accosted in the Knesset by fellow legislators for attempting to relate her experience aboard the flotilla. MK Miri Regev of Likud called her a “traitor,” while Yoel Hasson of Kadima, a supposedly centrist party, denounced Zoabi as a “terrorist.” An Israeli Facebook group devoted to inciting Zoabi’s assassination has gathered 600 members in just a day and a half. In the meantime, Israel’s Interior Minster Eli Yishai is “looking into” means of stripping Zoabi of her citizenship.

This Friday, anti-occupation activists expect to encounter intense violence from the Israeli Army and Border Police at the weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and Nebi Salah. “In this atmosphere, you can expect with pretty reasonable certainty that the soldiers will go crazy,” a veteran of the Sheikh Jarrah protest movement told me.

With two more ships on their way towards Gaza with aid for the besieged civilian population, the Israeli military and Netanyahu administration are not wasting time in hatching a new strategy to stop them. Once again, the plan calls for violence and possibly more death. “Next time we’ll use more force,” a top Naval commander told the Jerusalem Post. “We will have to come prepared in the future as if it was a war.”

Under Scrutiny, IDF Retracts Claims About Flotilla’s Al Qaeda Links

When placed under journalistic scrutiny, the IDF is being forced to admit that its claims about the flotilla’s links to international terror are based on innuendo, not facts. On June 2, the IDF blasted out a press release to reporters and bloggers with the shocking headline: “Attackers of the IDF soldiers found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries.” The only supporting evidence offered in the release was a claim that the passengers “were equipped with bullet proof vests, night vision goggles, and weapons.” A screen capture of the press release is below:

The IDF distributed this press release on June 2. The following day, it changed the headline, essentially retracting its lurid accusation.

The IDF distributed this press release on June 2. The following day, it changed the headline, essentially retracting its lurid accusation.

Not content to believe that night vision goggles signal membership in Al Qaeda, reporter Lia Tarachansky of The Real News Network and I called the IDF press office to ask for more conclusive evidence. Tarachansky reached the IDF’s Israel desk, interviewing a spokesperson in Hebrew; I spoke with the North America desk, using English. We both received the same reply from Army spokespeople: “We don’t have any evidence. The press release was based on information from the [Israeli] National Security Council.” (The Israeli National Security Council is Netanyahu’s kitchen cabinet of advisors).

Today, the Israeli Army’s press office changed the headline of its press release (see below), basically retracting its claim about the flotilla’s Al Qaeda links. The new headline reads: “Attackers of the IDF Soldiers Found Without Identification Papers” (the top of the browser screen still contains the original headline about Al Qaeda). The more Israel’s claims about the flotilla’s terrorist links are challenged, the more they fall apart.

After admitting "there is no evidence" to back up its claim about the flotilla's Qaeda links, the IDF quietly changed the headline of its press release.

After admitting "there is no evidence" to back up its claim about the flotilla's Qaeda links, the IDF quietly changed the headline of its press release.