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When Warriors Commandeer Freedom Flotillas

9:04 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Flickr Photo by plasmastik

  

I wasn’t one of the Americans who watched a parade of military and civilian officers on Memorial Day one week ago just hours after Israeli commandoes attacked the Freedom Flotilla. I did not go to a march and celebrate the past histories of American wars and the soldiers who had fought in them, but let’s suppose for one moment that I had.

  

A good amount of Americans probably had this experience as they celebrated the men and women who have served in the U.S. armed forces and paid tribute to those who have fought for America. They probably celebrated the right they believe America has to use military force to protect itself (and maybe even the right to use force without having to be questioned by international bodies or coalitions like the United Nations, etc). And, so, let’s suppose that I was part of a celebration of American warriors who had served in past wars one week ago, and that I had been presented with this story of Israeli warriors commandeering a ship, which was supposed to be a part of a peaceful humanitarian convoy delivering aid to Gaza.

 

Like American warriors of past wars, I might presumably think that this act may have been poor judgment but ultimately Israeli warriors did what they had to do. And like past American quagmires like Vietnam or past atrocious invasions like Grenada or past secret military operations like Operation Ajax in Iran, which involved a democratically elected government being overthrown in 1953, I might have found this to be a part of doing what must be done so Israel can maintain its place in the world.

 

I probably would not have had much frame of reference for the activists that were on board. Knowing that they came from the Free Gaza Movement would only have confused me because I would not have known what Gaza needed to be freed from. I would probably have thought, "If Israel is protecting Gaza from terrorism, wouldn’t Gaza be safe?" So, this news of a blockade would be new to me because usually I had heard about Israel defending itself from Hamas or Hezbollah or other Islamists. (And that to me had always been justifiable.)

 

On a larger level, I might have applied my rationale for supporting the troops to the Israeli soldiers. I suppose it would depend on the struggles and threats that I believed Israel had faced and may continue to face. Since several countries that want to blow it off the face of the Earth surround it, supposedly, I would probably have thought Israel has a right to defend and protect its self like America does. I would have thought it even more important that they have the right because they are regularly being shot at with rockets that Hamas fires off because it does not want to recognize Israel’s right to exist (supposedly). Plus, Israel is an American ally.

 

I would probably not have understood exactly why a group of people so often operates in a manner supportive of rocket attacks. The atrocities against Israel would have taken place in a vacuum in much the same way that atrocities against America tend to take place in a vacuum. (And, how great is it that our media help us consume information on atrocities in a nutshell that excludes certain contexts that would blur lines between good and evil, right and wrong and reinforce this vacuum?)

Unless I knew where to go for an alternative viewpoint, I would have seen over and over again footage showing commandoes clearly facing premeditated assault as they dropped on to the ship. White circles that could have been drawn by John Madden singling out Israeli soldiers being brutalized and thrown off the ship would have jumped out in the one sole video that Israel was able to get media organizations all over the world to play. I would not have known there was a Turkish video of the incident showing a different side. And, why would I need that side if all I wanted to do is just know more information on how connected the activists had been to terrorism and how this never was really a peaceful humanitarian convoy seeking to deliver aid?

 

The activists trying to deliver the thousands of tons of goods to the Gaza Strip might have seemed respectable to me until they were found to possibly be connected to terrorists, which news channels I consumed consistently suggested or inferred. Of course, I would have wound up thinking Israel offered to let them go to port, take the aid and deliver the aid to the starving and hungry Palestinians who needed the aid. So, why, did the flotilla have to go through a blockade that was keeping Israel secure and deliver the aid them selves? Did they want credit? Maybe, Israel could have said this is from the Freedom Flotilla that wanted to break the blockade of Gaza.

 

It’s here that logic breaks down. Reason becomes lacking. Thought requires one to doubt the actions of Israel at least a little bit. Role playing and imagining the thought processes of others becomes difficult to continue onward.

 

Of course, Israel would not allow humanitarian aid in; that would admit there was a humanitarian crisis in Gaza, a situation where 80% are now depending on external aid to survive. Yet, you can see that the story and justification of warriors commandeering a ship from the perspective of a citizen of American empire is easy to support and go along with.

 

This mentality to understand other people’s countries from a military perspective and not a humanitarian perspective is part of what allows the stalemate between Israel and the Palestinians to continue. This country has trained its citizens to sympathize with warriors for the nation, warriors trained by military and political interests to go in and take action that may or may not be lawful or unlawful, humane or inhumane. Politicians and foreign policymakers promote support for these questionable actions with commitments to public relations or propaganda campaigns after the actions have taken place. Do first and ask questions later. (And, why not? This country is number one, so I’m told.)

 

The country has trained Americans to believe in the justifications political leaders and foreign policymakers supply to us. Weaved into the narrative and mythology of this country, the impact of military action on civilians and soldiers abroad is of no significance, the legality of no significance, and the effect–the way in which actions radicalize a people to commit what this country regards now as "terrorism"–entirely disregarded.

 

Israel’s warriors will tell this war story, the ambush of the Freedom Flotilla, to their children, who they will be proud of when they serve in the Israeli military, just like America’s warriors have told stories of war to their children, who have now gone on to join the military for pure economic reasons. It will become part of Israel’s military history channel and their history books and placed within the context of a history rife with Israeli hubris just like wars have become glorified, recounted, and immortalized through American history television specials and history books and place within the context of a history rife with American hubris.

 

Many would like to impress upon others the fact that a population is experiencing what they call collective punishment as a result of Israel’s blockade and as a result of military actions that have intermittently taken place and killed Palestinians throughout the past few years. They are shocked when others do not grasp the reality that Israel is punishing a population and so they should be held accountable in addition to any terrorists from Hamas.

 

Those that don’t understand why a number of people do not place the starving Palestinians ahead of the military or political security of a country, however, can be excused for being confused. When one is taught to celebrate the military so often, taught to treat it like the well from which freedom springs forth, the humanitarian becomes hard to understand; in fact, it becomes assumed that the military could have simply done the humanitarian and people ask, "Why did the concerned activists not choose to just ask the military to deliver the aid instead of going and getting killed and wounded like they did?"

 

Israel’s Campaign to Discredit Attacked Humanitarian Convoy

8:20 am in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

Israeli censorship of activists and journalists coupled with what Israeli authorities consider the official story has successfully pushed media organizations in the U.S. and other countries to frame the story in a way exclusively beneficial to Israel. The official story usually includes the story of the Free Gaza Movement at the bottom and frames the attack as a public relations nightmare for Israel instead of a disproportionate attack on a righteous humanitarian aid initiative.

 

Numerous articles have given Israel the benefit of the doubt and published Israel’s description of the Free Gaza Movement especially the IHH, a Turkish humanitarian relief organization Israel claims has ties to al Qaeda, Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups at odds with the country of Israel.

 

FOX News (and other news organizations) published reports on the raid leading with the perspective of the Israeli prime minister who said he gave "full backing to military in deadly raid against aid flotilla sailing to Gaza" and Israel’s Deputy UN Ambassador Daniel Carmon who said, "What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and fire from weapons stolen from soldiers to attack soldiers who board a ship in accordance with international law?"

 

Carmon’s suggestion that Israel’s attack followed international law is very disputable, and the idea that peace activists caught ambushing Israeli commandos severely off guard seems patently absurd. Yet, Fox News provides little additional context to this notion expecting people to believe Israeli forces that landed on board the ship were somewhat impotent and incapable of taking on peace activists despite the fact that they may have received military combat training none of the activists have had.

 

Fox News specifically repeated Carmon’s claim that the activists were with a group with a "radical anti-Western’ orientation that supports terrorist organizations like Hamas and al Qaeda" (in fact, al Qaeda was in the Fox News headline).

 

CNN reported this as well and named the IHH Humanitarian Relief Association claiming the IHH has ties to terrorism and is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. But, there was zero context to this assertion; no explanation of how this piece of information is known except for the fact that Israel is claiming this link exists.

 

The Washington Postpublished a story on June 1st, a day after news of the incident, titled, "Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state; Aid flotilla was run by member charity with alleged ties to Islamists." Of IHH, the article reported, "Israel has been concerned about the participation of IHH, or Humanitarian Relief Fund, a large Turkish charity that raises some of its money from Islamic religious groups." But, despite the fact that the focus is the threat the Free Gaza Movement poses to Israel, there is little hard evidence published in this article to prove that the Muslim Brotherhood, Hamas, or al Qaeda has been using this charity that had members on board the flotilla to effectively carry out terrorism against Israel.

 

Another story published by the Telegraph in the UK titled, "Gaza Flotilla: The Free Gaza Movement and the IHH," repeats the Israeli official story and also cites an analyst with the Carnegie Endowment, who claims the organization has had ties to Hamas for a long time. Unfortunately, Hamas was democratically elected in 2005 and has controlled Palestine since. They have made several attempts to sustain truces with Israel. They are guilty of acts of state-sponsored terrorism but so is Israel.

 

The Jerusalem Post published a story, "What is the IHH?" explaining that the charity "may be linked to jihadist groups." It The story listed the Israeli NGO, the Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center, as a source for its claim that the IHH is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood and the Union for the Good. The Jerusalem Post, however, does not explain that the center is "dedicated to the memory of members of Israel’s intelligence community who fell in the line of duty" and puts out weekly disinformation reports on Hamas, the Palestinian Authority, Hizbullah, and Iran and has close ties to Israel’s military leadership and maintains an office at the Defense Ministry.

 

A published article by Reuters on IHH, "Factbox: Turkish charity group behind Gaza-bound convoy," lists no details suggesting the humanitarian relief organization has terror ties.

  

Finally, BBC News‘ article,"Q&A: Israeli raid on aid flotilla," describes the Free Gaza Movement as:

A group called Free Gaza, an umbrella organisation of activist groups from numerous countries, and a Turkish group called the IHH (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief). The Israeli government says the IHH is closely linked to Hamas, and is a member of another organisation, the Union of the Good, which supports suicide bombings. However, the Turkish government regards the IHH as a legitimate charity, and urged Israel to let the flotilla through.

 

The link to Hamas and the suicide bombing-supporting organization Union of the Good are only listed because the Israeli government has said so. This has to be just another tidbit from Israel’s propagandistic storyline being spread to make people around the world believe the humanitarian convoy aimed to attack or delegitimize Israel.

 

If one conducts a LexisNexis searches for articles published before May 31, 2010 that contain the words "Free Gaza," zero results appear in connection to the Freedom Flotilla. Even though the Free Gaza Movement publicized its intentions and what countries/organizations were participating, there were no alerts put out by any news organizations that this humanitarian aid initiative had terror ties to Hamas, the Muslim Brotherhood or al Qaeda, which one can reasonably presume means no one following this movement considered them to be a threat.

 

Prior to the raid, the Jerusalem Post reported that the Navy was preparing to block the fleet of 9 ships and the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) were awaiting orders from the prime minister. Also, according to YNet, Israel also was preparing a media blitz similar to what the world is witnessing now:

Israel is also preparing for the media blitz certain to follow the flotilla, which many believe will harm the state’s already floundering reputation. Foreign Ministry, IDF, and PR spokespersons are preparing interviews for global news agencies in order to explain Israel’s position, mainly that the flotilla serves the terror organization ruling Gaza and not its residents.

 

Public relations officials said Israel is also attempting to expose the true face of the organization behind the flotilla, and the fact that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Strip.

 

"This is a media-related provocation, and we have made it clear to the organizers that Israel is prepared to convey the supplies to Gaza itself following a security check," a Jerusalem official said.

James Marc Leas dissects Israel’s disinformation campaign against the Freedom Flotilla.

The Intelligence & Terrorism Information Center, with close ties to the Israeli military and an office in the Defense Ministry, is the source of much of the talking points on the Free Gaza Movement’s so-called ties to terrorism. Here is the Center’s complete list.

These talking points are what is being repeated. Their aim is to make the people of the world forget that Israel took this action against the Freedom Flotilla with the intention of deterring future attempts to deliver humanitarian aid to the starving civilians suffering under an Israeli blockade in Gaza.

Israeli Raid Censored: Journalist Ban Gives Israel’s Official Story “Head Start”

3:29 pm in Uncategorized by Kevin Gosztola

 

Immediately following a deadly attack by Israeli commandos on the Freedom Flotilla, a humanitarian aid convoy seeking to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza, Israeli authorities put in place, according to Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), a ban on media preventing any information about the dead and wounded taken to hospitals in Israel from being reported by journalists. Such censorship has made it possible for Israel to promote a claim that the Free Gaza Movement behind the Freedom Flotilla has participants allied with al Qaeda.

The international organization for press freedom released this statement on the attack on the flotilla that was carrying aid, 750 pro-Palestinian activists and several journalists to the Gaza Strip:

"We deplore this assault, which left a heavy toll of dead and wounded. The journalists who were on the flotilla to cover the humanitarian operation were put in harm’s way by this disproportionate reaction. We urge the Israeli authorities to release the detained journalists and allow them unrestricted access to the Gaza Strip. The international community needs accurate information about this Palestinian Territory."

 

Robert Booth with The Guardian, a newspaper based in the United Kingdom, wrote, "Shortly after the assault, all communications with the flotilla were blocked. Mobile phones, satellite phones and Internet access all went down, making it all but impossible to glean any account from the passengers about what happened beyond the few minutes that were captured on film. Israel’s version of events became the only one available in any detail." [Booth's editorial went on to explain what The Guardian thinks has happened based on information they have been able to piece together.]

Israel’s censorship of information has made it possible for authorities and officials to get out in front on this story. Electronic Intifada’s Ali Abunimah appeared on Democracy Now! hosted by Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez and urged those reading stories of the raid to put it into context.

AMY GOODMAN: "Ali Abunimah, can you talk about the videotape? And again, we have to stress, in the brief coverage that we see in US media right now, because we do not even know the names of the dead or the injured, not to mention hundreds of people who are now in jail in Israel, we’re only getting one side here. But the videotape that the Israeli government is showing of what happened on the lead ship, on the Turkish ship, Ali?

ALI ABUNIMAH: Yes. I mean, what we have to do is put all this in the context of Israel’s propaganda strategy. What they’ve done is imposed a total news block-outblackout. Hundreds of people are detained. They’ve had no access to lawyers, certainly no access to media. It was reported there was one Al Jazeera cameraman, of the six Al Jazeera staff who were kidnapped with the ships, who was released. And what he said is that all the passengers were allowed to leave the ships only with their passports, with no other personal belongings. He was personally attacked by Israeli soldiers while he was filming, and his camera smashed. In any case, no journalists were allowed to leave the ships with any film or any recordings whatsoever. We don’t know the names of the dead. The families of all those passengers are anxiously awaiting news of their loved ones. Why is this? So that the Israeli narrative can get a long head start. This is all about the Israeli propaganda strategy to give the Israeli propagandists, like Mark Regev, a free run. They’ve had more than twenty-four hours. And, Amy, it’s working in the mainstream media, because they’re only reporting, you know, the atrocious reporting on National Public Radio and on the BBC, which is taking mostly the Israeli version. [emphasis added]

Reinforcing Abunimah’s comments is a list from RSF recently published which indicates, of the foreign journalists on board the flotilla, at least fourteen are still unable to be reached.

The treatment of foreign press is another reminder that Israel does not adhere to core principles of press freedom. Israel frequently bans foreign journalists from entering Gaza. This is because Danny Seaman, head of Israel’s government press office, believes, "When you have hundreds of journalists coming in, most haven’t the faintest idea about the war or the situation…Take the UN school [where 42 people were killed by an Israeli shell] for example. There’s a lot of questions as to what actually happened. If the foreign media had been there it would have had much more of an impact on the conflict than it has at the moment. For the first time, when Israel raised questions, journalists had to address these issues and not get caught in feeding frenzy of reporting the story."