The Israeli Media’s Flotilla Fail

My summary of the Israeli media’s shambolic performance following the flotilla massacre was originally published here in Hebrew at Dvorit Shargal’s excellent Israeli media blog, Velvet Underground. The English version follows:

If the raid of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was a disaster for the Israel Defense Forces, its aftermath demonstrated an equally bewildering performance by the Israeli media. The IDF Spokesman’s Office churned out one misleading claim after another, each one more implausible than the next, seeking to implant in the public’s mind a version of events that bore little relation to reality. To a degree, this was to be expected; but it was startling to see how some of Israel’s most respected reporters lined up to serve as military stenographers, barely challenging the IDF’s rapidly changing versions of events. IDF claims about the flotilla passengers’ links to Al Qaida, anti-Semitic statements shouted at the Israeli Navy, and their terrorist intentions were eagerly broadcast by the Israeli media without a second thought. When independent reporters forced the IDF to retract or “clarify” all of these claims, Israeli news outlets refused to correct their errors, or covered them up without acknowledgment.

It so happened that I arrived in Israel for a research trip the day after the flotilla raid. As a result, I was able to do something which I always thought to be a very basic journalistic practice, so basic it’s supposed to be applied routinely: Asking an implicated party in a story to produce evidence for its claims. What I found bewildering is that at least judging from Israeli media reports, few, if any, mainstream reporters applied this practice, and when a visiting colleague did their job for them – nobody bothered to correct or withdraw their original report.

On June 2, the IDF disseminated a press release entitled, “Attackers of the IDF soldiers found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries.” The accusation was not accompanied by any conclusive evidence — the IDF reported that Mavi Marmara passengers were equipped with night-vision goggles (gasp!). This did not stop Yedioth’s Ron Ben-Yishai, who was embedded with the Navy commandos, from amplifying the baseless charge. Citing an “interrogation” of Marmara passengers — “lynchers,” he called them — Ben-Yishai wrote the same day, “Some among the [flotilla passengers] are believed to have ties with World Jihad groups, mainly Al Qaeda.” The article made no reference to any efforts on part of Ben Yishai to investigate this claim, nor did he seem to think to ask why the IDF was about to release dangerous operatives of Osama Bin Laden — presumably they would attack again, wouldn’t they?

On June 3, Israeli journalist Lia Tarachansky of the Real News Network and I placed calls to the IDF Spokesman’s Office to demand further evidence of the Marmara’s Al Qaeda ties. We received identical responses from spokespeople from the IDF’s Israel and North America desks: “We don’t have any evidence. The press release was based on information from the National Security Council.” Hours later, the IDF retracted its claim, changing the title of its press release to, “Attackers of IDF Soldiers Found Without Identification Papers.” Despite the official retraction, Ben-Yishai’s article remains uncorrected.

On June 4, the IDF released an audio clip purporting to consist of transmissions between the Mavi Marmara and a Naval warship. “Go back to Aushwitz!” a Marmara passenger shouted, according to the IDF. YNet and Haaretz reported on and reproduced the audio clip without investigating its authenticity. Forget that the voice uttering the anti-Semitic slur sounded like a mentally disturbed teenager; had reporters performed a cursory search of the IDF Spokeman’s Office website, they would have found a longer clip released on May 31 that featured a dramatically different exchange with the Marmara with no mention of Auschwitz. Further, the voice of flotilla organizer Huwaida Arraf was featured in the “Aushwitz” clip, yet Arraf was not aboard the Marmara (she was on the Challenger One). Could the IDF have doctored audio to exploit public hysteria surrounding the issue of anti-Semitism?

On my blog, I pointed out the discrepancies in the IDF’s footage and raised the question of doctoring. The next day, the IDF conceded that it had in fact doctored the footage, releasing a “clarification” and a new clip claiming to consist of the “full” exchange between the Navy and the flotilla. Unfortunately, the authenticity of the new clip was impossible to verify.

Despite the IDF’s admission, YNet and Haaretz have not corrected their original reports, though Haaretz has at least altered its headline. Once the doctoring was exposed, the New York Times covered the episode in detail, directing international attention to the triumph of independent online reporting and the apparent failure of Israel’s parochial press corps.

On June 7, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer reported on an IDF press release claiming without evidence that five flotilla passengers had links to international terror. The press release was larded with highly implausible claims, including that Ken O’Keefe, who runs an aid organization with Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, was planning to train a Hamas commando unit in the Gaza Strip. When I called the IDF Spokesman’s Office, I learned that once again, no evidence was available to support their press release. “There is very limited intelligence we can give in this specific case,” Sgt. Chen Arad told me. “Obviously I’m unable to give you more information.” Did Pfeffer demand more evidence? If he did and was answered in the same manner as I did, why did Haaretz publish an unsubstantiated spin as fact?

Joined by Haaretz military correspondents Avi Isacharoff and Amos Harel, Pfeffer became a channel for another daytime deception by the IDF. On May 31, the three reporters produced an article based exclusively on testimony from Naval commandos — the flotilla passengers’ side of the story was ignored — claiming they had faced live fire and lynching attempts from Marmara passengers. Since the story was published, the IDF has produced scant evidence to support either accusation. The article was accompanied by a suspicious photo from the IDF Spokesman’s Office depicting a bearded Muslim man brandishing a knife and surrounded by photojournalists. Daylight beamed in from a window behind the man. Haaretz’s caption, which was sourced to the IDF, asserted that the photo was taken “after” the commandos had boarded the Marmara. However, the commandos raided the ship at night, while the photo was taken during the day. Once again, the IDF’s story was fishy.

I called Sgt. Arad at the IDF Spokesman’s Office to investigate. He told me he had no evidence to support the photo’s questionable caption. Soon after our phone conversation, Haaretz quietly altered the caption, removing its claim that the photo was taken “after” the commando raid. For nearly a week, the false photo caption had remained intact. Why did Haaretz suddenly change it? The only plausible explanation is that the paper received a tip from the IDF Spokesman’s Office. If true, the tip-off suggests a scandalous level of coordination between the Israeli military and the country’s media.

In the wake of the flotilla raid, Israeli journalists had a unique opportunity to lead the global media’s investigation into the bloodbath that occurred on the deck of the Mavi Marmara. After all, no one had better access to the military or the eyewitnesses aboard the flotilla. Instead, too many among the Israeli press corps allowed themselves to be conscripted into the IDF’s hapless information war, leaving the important task of investigating the raid to independent reporters who remembered to view claims by any nation’s military with extreme skepticism.

So why do well-connected, experienced reporters follow the IDF baton so willingly, and fail to follow up when IDF claims are retracted? Is it simple bias, a desire to present their military in the best possible light, a desire so strong they abandon their duty to their readers to verify their information? Are they afraid of sanctions, of losing contacts and access to information? Do they fear personal reprisals? Their readers, and the world media that still relies on Israeli journalism as a vital source of information, need to know.

25 thoughts on “The Israeli Media’s Flotilla Fail

  1. StewartMills

    Nice work Max.

    Also note the tampering of ‘evidence’ as shown on the dock of Ashdod harbour on 3 June.

    This is includes the sling shot which had the words Hamas, Hizbullah and islami Cihat written over it (with the curious addition of blue and red coloured stars). Why a Turkish jihadist would write such things in the first place makes no sense. Secondly, why it was not written in Arabic if the person was such a radical needs to be explained. Thirdly if the ‘jihadist’ did write in Turkish then why the spelling mistake. It is “Islami Cihat” not “islami Cihat”. Islami should have been capitalised.

    Other examples of fabrications or tampering include the bullet proof vest with the red Crescent society symbol and the Turkish flag conveniently placed as further described on the above link.

  2. Marcel

    @Stewart Mills
    With “Islami Cihat” you seem to follow a wrong track. Just do a google, and you find at top “islami Cihad”. Turkish language has in addition to the normal letter “i” a large letter “I” with a dot on top. (Sorry, I can’t give an example here, this blog seems not to support special Turkish letters)

  3. walt kovacs

    great work max

    guess while you were in israel, guess you missed the release of the smuggled out vid, which pretty much proved the idf’s claims

    and it is laughable to think that the leftist rag, haaretz, is a mouthpiece for the idf

    as i noted before, you didnt break the story on who that was in the picture…camera did….what you neglected to note was his ties to the moslem brotherhood.

    if you guys want to see true independent reporting….by people who are not afraid to post entire, unedited video of interviews (unlike max) go to this site

  4. StewartMills

    Thank Marcel,

    I stand corrected on that, unless there are any others with some expertise in Turkish who can look at this photo.

    That said the question remains around the plausibility of an alleged Turkish jihadist writing such bunkum? And what is with the red and blue stars? They seem quite childish? What examples are there of this occurring before? Has any of the passengers acknowledged it is there’s?

    In the greater context eg with the release of the edited audio footage “Go back to Auschwitz” etc the whole thing smells fishy.

    What are people’s thoughts on the Red Crescent symbol on the bullet proof jacket and the Turkish flag?

    The Foreign Press Association in Israel, which represents hundreds of foreign correspondents in Israel, called the use a “clear violation of journalistic ethics and unacceptable” and warned news outlets to “treat the material with appropriate caution” (CPJ). I am not sure if they were directly talking about this incident. But as a general rule while ever a state seizes audio visual recording equipment from journalists and citizens and refuses to release them (except for the state’s own benefit) then I would encourage some serious scepticism. The onus is on the state of Israel to prove beyond reasonable doubt the killings were legitimate and not unlawful. Unless Israel releases all the passengers and journalist possessions it would lead a reasonable person to believe that these were indeed unlawful killings as part of a cover-up.

    The Committee to Protect Journalists, “CPJ denounces Israel’s use of footage seized in flotilla raid raid”, 3 June 2010

  5. walt kovacs

    “The onus is on the state of Israel to prove beyond reasonable doubt the killings were legitimate and not unlawful.”

    so guilty until proven innocent….good one

    hey stewart…the smuggled out vid was not in the hands of the idf or any israeli personnel

    why do you, max or any of the other apologists refuse to comment upon it?

  6. Bandolero

    “They seem quite childish?”
    Yes, it seems to be childish. And that’s probably the answer. I think some people view Hisbollah, Hamas and even the more radical organisation Islamic Jihad of Palestine as heroes, who fight a just islamic battle of good against evil. Of course, that is questionable and objectionable, but the point is: a slingshot is a slingshot, regardless of what’s written on it. It’s not 9mm live ammunition as used by Israeli commandos to kill at least nine people and wound 48 others. Slingshots are usually not deadly force. No one of the organisers would be able to prevent anybody writing “Hamas” on one of his personal belongings.

    “What are people’s thoughts on the Red Crescent symbol on the bullet proof jacket and the Turkish flag?”
    Bullet proof jackets are very useful things for medics in Gaza, because Israeli forces oftenly enjoy themselves shooting on Gazan farmers, workers and boarder guards. See here, eg:

    The Gazan medics go there rescueing the wounded Gazans risking their own life. It’s often reported, that Israeli soldiers shoot on medics, too. So it would be very grateful, if Turkish Red Crescent donated them some bullet proof vests, so the risk of loosing their life while rescueing victims of Israeli aggression would become a little lower.

  7. Pingback: Shock and Anger: Some reactions to the Gaza flotilla attack | jeff-goodall

  8. StewartMills

    – Walt –
    1. Burden of proof
    it is by no means unreasonable for a State to bear the higher burden of justifying its action in the taking of human life. Especially when that State does so (1) in international waters; (2) with no immediate threat to Israel; (3) when the attack was done so in the dark at 4am; (4) with no lead-up negotiation (only ultimatums); and (5) with the allegation that 2 passengers were killed before commandos even hit the deck.

    Time and time again the State of Israel uses the ruse of self-defence. But this excuse is wearing thin and the State of Israel’s claims cannot be taken at face value. If Israel has nothing to hide then let us see the evidence. And I mean all of the evidence. Why were journalists recording equipment taken away? Is this the type of democracy that we want to see? One that shuts down the rights of the press to report the news. Israel needs to come clean and return the footage taken from all the journalists and passengers.

    The force used by a small group of passengers on board the Marmara was not unreasonable. Sure it was not in the spirit of Gandhi or King but the IDF has had decades of training in dealing with slingshots and stones. Did we see the IDF respond in a sophisticated 21st century manner? Or was this a colossal tactical error from the IDF? Or a reckless indifference to fatalities?

    Batons as used by some of the passengers are used by police forces around the world as a means for quelling a disturbance or warding off a threat. Yes it is violent. But the legality of the force is relative to the context. We have a number of wrongs here. Israel has closed off 1.5 million fellow human beings from the rest if the world. International civil society after years of waiting for government to act bravely took it upon themselves to help break the siege. Israeli soldiers had a legal choice to disobey the order to board those ships by force given the immorality and illegality of the siege. Sadly, they failed to do ignore their superior orders and boarded the ship.

    Attempting to smear the European parliamentarians and former US diplomats (or the ordinary passengers) amongst the flotilla because of the actions of a few only exposes further the illegitimacy of the claimants. Let us just say that Edward Peck, the former Deputy Director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan Administration does not fit the Al Qaeda mould that Mr Netanyahu is trying to create.

    2. The smuggled out video

    -Walt- can you identify which is the smuggled out video you are talking about? Is it the Iara Lee one? All I found on the site you linked to was witness statements taken by Claire Berlinski and Okan Alt?parmak. I have only had time to look at the Neturai Karta interview. I am familiar with them. I can understand why they made no sense to Claire. My sense is Claire was brought up with a Zionist Jewish perspective so to see religious Jews like Neturai Karta would have weirded her out totally. Her way to explain it was they were crazy. Whilst I am sure there is plenty I could find to disagree with gentlemen like that I could still see they made a lot of sense. I think they bring a fresh (and ancient) perspective which is the best of Judaism ie the humanitarian side of Judaism that focuses on freedom of the captives, protection of the defenceless, kindness to the stranger; eg Micah’s trinity of love, justice and mercy.


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  11. walt kovacs


    yes, the lee tape…unless you know of another one…because i dont

    it is important to note that when ms lee chose to first release the tape, either she or democracy now chose to edit it such a way as to not be incriminating to the passengers.

    now lets go back to your points.

    as we now know that the flotilla had nothing to do with bringing aid, and everything to do with breaking the blockade…you are dead wrong in regards to israel seeing this as a measure for self defense. if the blockade is broken, the next step is the unfettered influx of arms into gaza. this is exactly what occurred when israel unilaterally pulled out of the gaza in 2005

    you see…here is the problem you folks have….hamas is now the duly elected reps of the gazan people….they have waged war on israel…in rules of war, a blockade is acceptable in international law…it is not collective punishment

    im sure you support the bds against israel….do you consider that collective punishment? didnt think so

    in regards to your argument concerning the actions taken by the passengers, when did you become an expert in what constitutes reasonable force

    you see, the organizers made it quite clear that they would be using non violent resistance if boarded by the idf…what i saw wasnt none violent…and as i do believe that the idf had every right to board the flotilla, if they feared for their lives, they had the right to defend themselves….by any means necessary.

    i do like how the only part of the interview series you chose to view was that of the nk. it probably was the most entertaining of the interviews.

    i dont know if you are jewish, but i do know you know nothing about the jewish community and where the nk fits in….they dont.

    they are a fringe group of the satmer chasidim. they have been repudiated by every major orthodox jewish group in the world. they make absolutely no sense, because their views are not based on judaism. they have been cut off from all branches…including the satmers (who dont support zionism, but dont believe in actively attempting to destroy the government and thereby place jewish lives at risk)

    but never mind that…the fact that you chose only to watch the clowns, and not the meat of the interview series pretty much shows me what i need to know about you. you dont wish to see anything that may jolt you out of your myopic view of the “truth”

    and the interviewer never identifies herself as a zionist and is partnered with a non jewish turk.

    what she does do is directs the interviews from the devils advocate point of view….normal for an independent journalist.

    watch the other interviews…open your mind

  12. LawPlusTruth

    Indeed, it is time to air out the BS and call out Walt Kovacs on his many false or spun claims above.

    (1) “it is important to note that when ms lee chose to first release the tape, either she or democracy now chose to edit it such a way as to not be incriminating to the passengers.”

    He’s basing this on Democracy Now ANNOUNCING (read: being fully transparent) that they would first release a sneak preview of the unedited footage before releasing the whole thing to the press later the SAME DAY. “In a Democracy Now! exclusive we bring you a sneak preview of previously unseen raw footage from the Mavi Marmara that will be formally released at a press” (see:

    (2) “now lets go back to your points”
    Translation: “Okay, I got my jab in and misrepresented the truth. Now lets move on and accept what I say at face value.”

    (3) “as we now know that the flotilla had nothing to do with bringing aid, and everything to do with breaking the blockade…you are dead wrong in regards to israel seeing this as a measure for self defense. if the blockade is broken, the next step is the unfettered influx of arms into gaza. this is exactly what occurred when israel unilaterally pulled out of the gaza in 2005”

    Israel’s so-called “unilateral withdrawal” is often unjustly framed as a compromise by Israel. But when you look at what happened and when you examine the facts instead of what people like Walt Kovacs simply tell you is true without any evidence, you see an Israel that (a) never really disengaged from Gaza and (b) blockaded Gaza nearly instantly after a US supported democratic election of Hamas, who won for reasons other than the “anti-Western sentiment” that the pro-IPAC media framed it as.
    (a) In an October 6, 2004, interview with Haaretz, Dov Weissglas, Sharon’s chief of staff, declared: “The significance of the disengagement plan is the freezing of the peace process… When you freeze that process, you prevent the establishment of a Palestinian state and you prevent a discussion on the refugees, the borders and Jerusalem. Disengagement supplies the amount of formaldehyde that is necessary so there will not be a political process with the Palestinians” Haaretz, Tel Aviv, 12 April 2001. Further, when examining the controls Israel actually retained over Gaza in the immediate aftermath of the “withdrawal”, such as the naval and land blockade we see today. The Gazans neither had control over their air space nor surrounding waters. In accordance with international norms and laws, this is indicative of a continued occupation only diminished on the surface — the zebra painted over its stripes.

    (b) Ali Abunimah, co-founder of Electronic Infitada, writes accurately: “…[I]f the first duty of a government is to protect its people’s lives, liberty and property, then the Palestinian Authority has never deserved to be called a government. Since its inception, it has not been able to protect Palestinians from lethal daily attacks by the Israeli army in the heart of their towns and refugee camps, or to prevent a single dunum of land being seized for settlements, nor to save a single sapling of the more than one million trees uprooted by Israel in the past ten years.” (this link is a great analysis of WHY the Palestinians REALLY voted for Hamas, straight from the heart of the Palestinian mainstream, not second hand through Israeli tabloid media…I mean news). Indeed, Walt Kovac conveniently ignores any incendiary behavior by Israel, putting the Palestinians at risk of genocide, that would force Hamas’ into a position any other democratically elected government naturally would have been in themselves. Indeed, Ehud Barak, Israel’s current Defense Minister, inadvertently let it slip to Haaretz that, “If [he] were a young Palestinian, [he’d] fight the Jews fiercely, even by means of terror. Anyone who says anything different is telling you lies.” Mind you, Barak’s statement is also untrue. Young Palestinians, by the super-majority, do not resort to terrorism against Israel. For Walt Kovac and other Israeli supporters who have resorted to anything BUT the truth in defending Israel, it is inconvenient that other Israeli leaders have come out and said that Hamas’ and the Palestinian reaction is well-warranted and natural (if the positions were reversed, they’d do the same).

    (4) “in rules of war, a blockade is acceptable in international law…it is not collective punishment”

    The Law: “No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.” Laws and Customs of War on Land (Hague IV); October 18, 1907, Article 50. “No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.”; “Pillage is prohibited.”; “Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
    Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, Geneva, 12 August 1949, Part III : Status and treatment of protected persons, Section I : Provisions common to the territories of the parties to the conflict and to occupied territories, Article 33.

    The list goes on and on. It’s curious as to why Israel even had a shred of credibility prior to this Flotilla fiasco considering that it has, by a large number, the most UN resolutions against it than any other member country in the entire history of the UN. It should be noted that resolutions like these are indicative of deviations by Israel from international norms and laws… and there are MANY.

    (5) “in regards to your argument concerning the actions taken by the passengers, when did you become an expert in what constitutes reasonable force you see, the organizers made it quite clear that they would be using non violent resistance if boarded by the idf…what i saw wasnt none violent…and as i do believe that the idf had every right to board the flotilla, if they feared for their lives, they had the right to defend themselves….by any means necessary.”
    Translation: “You’re not an expert! But I’m going to go ahead and make my own judgments without being an expert either and pass them off as truth!” Walt Kovac then engages in the typical hasbara modus operandi for the latter part of his post: (1) to unjustly discredit the proponent of the argument that is damning to Israel without addressing the argument itself, and (2) to disseminate his own opinion as fact without any supporting evidence. Indeed, the boarding of a stated humanitarian vessel, with cargo checked by several respected nations, in international waters is a crime. This is evident in nearly all of the judicial opinions, legislative histories, and panel/committee discussions concerning this exact topic. Israel had no reasonable basis to board that humanitarian vessel, and further, no right to do so in militaristic fashion. The execution of an American citizen and 8 Turkish nationals, as well as the raid itself which caused the other international civilians severe wounds, emotional distress, and more, is a crime deserving of punishment.

    It is shameful that out of the worldwide Jewry, only a few are moral enough to recognize human importance over religious or ideological value. I would not be making this statement if it simply weren’t true. In essence, this shallow and easily-picked-apart defensive posture feels like Israel and its supporters have not only committed murder in cold blood, but also followed it up by spitting in the face of the victims and the outraged international community with slander and lies.

    If the punishment were to fit the crime, the cover-up must be taken into perspective as well.

  13. StewartMills


    1. The Iera Lee Tape

    Yes, it is quite instructive. It does show certain passengers with batons and 2 passengers with slingshots. Watching the two firing the slingshots at the helicopter was the perfect juxtaposition and only affirmed the supreme military power of Israel verse an adversary with Biblical technology. The irony is stark. Yes the video affirmed there was no AK47s, no RPGs, no suicide bombers, no snipers. Merely a group of men with testosterone who were not willing to let the ship be taken without some form of resistance. Did these men have the green light to do these acts from the Flotilla organizers like Huwaida Arraf, Adam Shapiro and Greta Berlin. I don’t think so. But does resistance by people with sticks, stones and bars necessarily have to end in death? The sticks and stones were not hidden by those passengers who chose to use them. The Israeli military could see from their helicopters and zodiacs that there were people on board that would resist. What should have happened is military commanders should have made the decision not to deploy their troops in the dark as the likelihood of casualties would be much greater. They should have waited until light and then gone through a negotiation and slowly escalated their responses. Instead this decision was not made. And Israeli commanders skipped multiple stages in possible ways to resolve noncompliance and headed straight for the kill button. Which leaves you wonder. Was this merely another honest military mistake? Or had the military already trained for such resistance and were prepared to kill despite the lack of an immediate threat to Israel?

    Would the opening of Gaza to the outside world bring with it further stability or less? Walt you are concerned that an open Gaza would lead to unfettered influx of arms? But how does closing Gaza help bring about peace? The people of Gaza have proved that they will not submit to their natural right to be free despite whatever Israel throws at it. Has this not been the lesson of the last 43/62 years? Why should they live in submission to another people for doing nothing wrong except by being born as a baby to Palestinian parents in the historic home of Palestinian and Jewish people?

    Israel knew there were no weapons on board. There was no security threat. Putting soldiers on that boat in the middle of the night was a recipe for disaster. There was no negotiation (just ultimatums as I said previously). Did Israeli military planners make a serious blunder or was this a calculated decision? Was this an act to spread terror and fear amongst international civil society from sticking their noses into Israel’s private dungeon (population 1.5 million fellow human beings)? Was this Israel’s cold reminder to the international civil society ‘remember the fate of Rachel Corrie…remember Tom Hurndall’? And soon remember what happened to Emily Henochowicz who sadly lost her eye after being shot in the head with a tear gas canister that was (as witnesses state) was directly fired at Emily.

    Walt there is a lot we don’t see from the film. For example what was happening on the 5th deck when the commandos rappelled onto the boat. And this is a critical reason why the Free Gaza oragnisers call fro Israel to return all the film and recordings that were stolen. For example did passengers or journalists have video evidence that showed live fire being used before the commandos even landed; as the passengers claim two Turkish citizens were killed beforehand.

    Yes we see paintball guns, but how do we know that this was not just another ploy of the Israeli PR machine to say look how ethical we are? A PR ploy like the leaflets on Gaza.

    – On terminology – in this discussion I referred to Israeli commandos but I also could have referred to them as pirates. This is the way, Edward Peck, the former Deputy Director of the White House Task Force on Terrorism in the Reagan Administration referred to them during a radio interview.

    2. Collective punishment
    Walt I am not sure if you have read the Fourth Geneva Convention. May I recommend Jean Pictet’s 1958 Commentary.
    [This is a large file – 28.36MB]

    Look at article 33 – the prohibition on collective penalties; of intimidation or terrorism [this is derived from Article 50 of the Hague Convention p. 225]

    Then look at the 1907 Hague Convention
    Art 50 No general penalty, pecuniary or otherwise, shall be inflicted upon the population on account of the acts of individuals for which they cannot be regarded as jointly and severally responsible.

    Israel’s more than 3 year closure would constitute such a war crime, especially when politicians use the kidnapping of Gilad Shalit as a further reason for the closure (in addition to the rockets/mortars argument]. Just as Hamas allowance of the firing of rockets into Israel is a war crime. This was the conclusion of Richard Goldstone’s admirable report.

    3. BDS

    Walt, I would agree that all BDS actions need to operate within ethical limits. So if it meant that children were being born malnourished; or children were dying because the right medical equipment was being intentionally kept from entering the country (as in the case of Gaza or 1990s Iraq), then that element of the boycott should be eased.

    BDS is not intended to be punitive like the military closure of Gaza. BDS is intended to be restorative. To restore fair and equal relations between communities that have been marginalised and oppressed. BDS works by withdrawing international support only until the country in question puts in place measures that demonstrate an end to the human rights abuses in question.

    4. Judaism and Zionism

    By and large the Jewish community is atheist or agnostic a not to uncommon feature in European Western societies. Being Jewish has connotations with family heritage, with the Holocaust and with Israel; and not religion. However, Neturai Karta argues that Judaism has been hijacked by political Zionism. Judaism has become an idolatry of a state and not of God. Many in the Jewish community will be offended by statements like this. But that does not mean it should not be said. Within the history of Judaism time and time again the prophets call the people of Israel back to account for their behaviour that has deviated from God’s way. Every generation must ask that same question. How are we living out the best that Judaism has taught? About “love for neighbour” (Leviticus 19:18); about being our brother/sister’s keeper (Gen 4:8-9); about showing love, justice and mercy (Mic 6:8). Walt, Neturai Karta may not make sense to you but within the greater spectrum of the Jewish community they play a part amongst many various parts that continue to question the community which is the best way forward in the interests of all humanity.

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  15. walt kovacs

    1. you chose not to watch the entire lee vid…so there is no point in my discussing it with you.

    2. you know that israel knew there were no weapons on board? how did you come to this conclusion?

    3. yes, the terrorists (and ihh is a terrorist org and the ism and free gaza are terrorist front groups) did make sure to not use live fire weapons…just as the arab palestinians have learned….david vs goliath works well with the msm….and as the ism has learned, the injury or death of an international, gets more press than the injury or death of an arab palestinian

    4. eff peck….all of a sudden that idiot is a hero to progressives?

    5. the idf’s version of events has remained consistent since the incident. the versions (and there are many) told by passengers are the ones that have changed….that is no reason to have an international investigation…in fact, that is reason not to. i suggest watching the interviews of kevin neish and kenneth o’keefe post flotilla. (oh and since you chose not to watch the full lee vid, you missed neish…its important to see him on that vid)

    6. the gazans have a natural right to be free…that is true…they dont have a natural right to commit acts of violence on civillians, which they have been doing since 2001. they elected a terror org as their reps…they have made their choice of what they want to do very clear. also, because hamas is their legal reps, article 50 doesnt apply.

    7. no children are dying in gaza as a result of the blockade (maybe due to hamas not allowing them out for medical treatment) but not because of the blockade. there is no org that supports this statement, and therefore according to your understanding of what bds is…the blockade is just as humane. and it is also set up to accomplish change. regime change.

    8. you are wrong about world jewry. the majority are not athiest or agnostic. they majority may not be religious, but it doesnt make them athiests. there is no polling evidence to back up your claim….you simply made that up. as you did with why jews identify with being jewish and identify with israel.

    what has been shown is that a majority of jews, whether religious or not, have at least one passover seder…at the end of that seder, they say what jews have said for the past 2000 years….next year in jerusalem…nothing to do with the holocaust. family heritage, sure….but it is most definitely a real religion

    as for the nk….not one rabbinic authority….not one orthodox organization supports their views….so honestly, i dont care what they think….they play to you, the ignorant (pardon me for saying that, but if you see them as any sort of authority, you are ignorant) you see, i understand quite well what the nk are saying. and at the time of the creation of the state, most other rabbinic authorities held the same way (except for rav cook and a few others) however, once the state came into being and many jews moved there, that changed….and now jews cannot actively fight against the state, as doing so could cause the death of other jews…the nk dont really care about that….and because of that, and because they have embraced enemies of the jews, they were all put into cherem (google that)

    oh, and when you gain smicha (rabbinic ordination) or g-d comes down from the heavens and makes you a prophet, you can be sure that i will listen to your understanding of phrases from the torah…till then….dont think so.

  16. StewartMills


    1. Iara Lee video- I have watched the whole video. Again where were the AK47s, the RPGs, the suicide bombers?
    2. Knowledge of weapons – I have faith in Mossad, the US and British secret services.
    3. So which if the flotilla members were killing civilians or soldiers on the boat? So why were soldiers being taken to the medical room?
    4. So why is Edward Peck only to be judged on his past behaviour? Are we all condemned for past misdeeds or mistakes?
    5. IDF version of events and consistency….hmm.Kevin Neish – have seen the vids..and….
    6. I agree the rocket and mortar fire is a war crime and possible crime against humanity as the Goldstone Report identifies. But quantitative and qualitatively the terror inflicted by Israel is incomparable.
    7. UNICEF and WHO will identify that Israel’s blockade is having tragic consequences of the children of Gaza.
    8. And what are your figures to say the majority of Jewry are not agnostic or atheist?


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  20. poyani

    walt kovacs said “a blockade is acceptable in international law…it is not collective punishment”

    In 2009, Lawyer representing Israeli Ministry of Justice argued in the Israeli Supreme Court that “The State of Israel is at war with the Palestinian people, people against people, collective against collective.”

    Hmmmm, I wonder who is right!

    walt kovaks said “so guilty until proven innocent….good one”

    walt, you are clearly unfamiliar with the “innocent until proven guilty” concept. The Israeli army is PROVEN to have killed these people. They openly admit that they killed these people. But they claim they did it in self defense. In this case, they are already proven guilty, and the onus is on them to prove their innocence.

    This is the case in every country in the world. If in the US you are PROVEN to have murdered someone and you claim you did it in self-defense, the onus is on you to prove you did it in self-defense.

    The IDF has been proven guilty, so far it has produced little to no evidence that it is innocent. In fact, it has blocked any credible investigations (insisting that murder suspects have the right to investigate themselves), it has tempered with and doctored evidence, and it has repeatedly changed its official story.

    The case looks bleak!

  21. walt kovacs


    when anyone chooses to quote an israeli official, that always leads me to use google. lo and behold, i can only find that quote listed on anti israel, and jew hate websites. if you could, please post a link to the official quote made in context. until then, i wont even comment.

    in regards to your assertion that israel must prove they acted in self defense, your idea of innocent till proven guilty is rather skewed by your outright animus towards israel.

    you say that israel has produced little to no evidence that it is innocent. well, then you know little to nothing about the ihh, ism and free gaza movements.

    israel has not doctored evidence…the only thing they have done is again show that they have little grasp on how 21st century pr works. if you are referring to the audio tape…yes, they should have released the entire tape of the conversations from the other ships, and not condensed them. they should also make the raw tape available for analysis.

    none of the video tapes that they have released have been proven to be doctored, and the lee tape supports their version of events, which unlike you state, has never changed.

    and you say that the idf has been proven to have killed these people because they admitted to it…yet, we have yet to see an independent coroners report….what has been released by the official coroner of the turkish government…who now apparently includes a hunting rifle as one of the weapons used….probelm with that is, the idf doesnt use hunting rifles.

    the case only looks bleak to one who has judged israel guilty…which you did the moment you heard about the events.

  22. Pingback: Filmmaker Iara Lee: Mavi Marmara raid was a bloodbath « Jared Malsin

  23. StewartMills


    The great thing about this site is Max continues in the line of journalism that holds our governments to account. Blind acceptance of government media statements is dangerous for democracy, peace and justice. See here:

    Again we should be proactive in critiquing government statements. Not blindly accepting them.

    Truth is the basis for peace. Lies from either side only perpetuate conflict.

  24. StewartMills


    Also see here the problem where mainstream journalists blindly accept statements by ‘Ministers for Misinformation’ like Donald Rumsfeld and Mark Regev.

    Michael Brull decisively demolishes Mark Regev’s assertion that there have been 1000 rockets fired on Israel since last year. He did this by using the Israeli Foreign Affairs own website which alleges since January 2009 “164 rockets and 74 mortars have been fired into Israel.”

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