Update (1) on 6/2/10 3AM EST on Israel’s charge that Turkey’s support for the flotilla is due to Turkey’s move from secularism to radical Islam
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For some background, when I started putting this post together, I had a very difficult time cobbling the facts together. They are spread out far and thin, and make it very difficult to respond to the organized Israeli propaganda machine. So, do your bit. Share, forward and discuss!
With the cold-blooded killings of several passengers (reported casualties in the range of 9 to 19, but as this Wiki entry shows, no one really knows exact count due to Israel’s media blackout!) on one of the Freedom Flotilla ships, Israel cannot escape the public relations disaster that this is turning out to be. There is little doubt that brand “Israel” is now probably one that most loathed and hated brands in the world. While brand “Islam” has been taking a beating due to a combination of the actions of some of its adherents and more so by the systematic campaign by the Israeli Lobby and its right-wing allies in the West, brand Israel has been given the proverbial shot in its arm by this curiously botched action.
Indeed, there is little doubt, both among the supporters and detractors that this murderous spree is a public-relations disaster for the Netanyahu government. The Elders, a group of past and present world leaders, including former South African president Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, on Monday condemned as “completely inexcusable” the deadly Israeli attack on a flotilla carrying aid for Gaza. See also STRATFOR: Flotillas and the Wars of Public Opinion.
Thus, the massive Israel PR machine is in full-swing: media manipulation and lies will be spread by Israel via a massive blitz, not necessarily coordinated, but well thought-out and played out (practice makes perfect). This will result from a combination of speeches by Israeli government officials, government lobbyists and other arms of the Israel Lobby especially AIPAC and ADL, op-ed pieces and letters to the editor in newspapers, as well as a multitude of online foot-soldiers that will patrol (troll) blogs, news sites and every online hole where they can deposit misinformation. In order to remind us again of how this sophisticated media operation plays out, please revisit the video below that has no equals in terms of objectivity and professionalism. Remember, everything that the Israel Lobby is doing in its PR efforts is perfectly legal and constitutionally protected. The Lobby is doing what it is designed to do, protecting its interests. What we need to do is to learn from their ways, and promote ours, especially in this case where the high moral ground lies with the Flotilla and the people of Gaza. Let’s not lose our ground this time!
In order to counter the myths and half-truths that will be spread by the Lobby’s minions, we will be collecting Israeli falsehoods and their responses in a list here. Feel free to offer more in the comments, and I’ll keep updating this list:
Weapons On Board the Flotilla
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Monday morning that the pro-Palestinian activists on the flotilla sailing to the Gaza Strip were carrying weapons on board [Source]
RESPONSE: Nothing could be further from truth. The ships had discharged from Turkey after the government checked for weapons. Forget the Turkish claims; common sense dictates that symbolism of peaceful resistance that the flotilla mission was engaging in would not allow the presence of weapons. Finally, the video released by the IDF itself shows that those on board were using miscellaneous items to fight off the soldiers (pirates), not any arms.
“Allegations that there were weapons aboard the Turkish ship are baseless,” Fevzi Gulcan, the head of customs at the Mediterranean port city of Antalya, said on Monday. He added that passengers had been allowed to board the Mavi Marmara ship after they were searched and scanned via X-Ray, the Anatolia news agency reported.” [Source]
Israel Acted in Self-Defense
“Israel, though, insists its forces fired in self-defense. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they had to “defend their lives, or they would have been killed.” [Source]
RESPONSE: Like all the “self-defense” claims that Israel as one of the world’s mightiest military power makes against kids with stones, this one doesn’t fly either. See the video below released by none other than the IDF. Let’s assume for argument’s sake, that the NGO participants on board the ship started the altercation. As an illustration of the hollowness of the self-defense argument, let’s assume my neighbor comes to my house and kicks and punches me. I am in full military fatigue, I have all the weapons, while my neighbor is employing his boots to the best of his ability. In return, I take him and his family out. What would the court say to my self-defense argument?
Furthermore, there are strict guidelines on the response by military and police in law enforcement situations. Under San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, Section II (Armed conflicts and the law of of self-defence). Note the condition of proportionality mentioned twice for emphasis:
3. The exercise of the right of individual or collective self-defence recognized in Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations is subject to the conditions and limitations laid down in the Charter, and arising from general international law, including in particular the principles of necessity and proportionality.
4. The principles of necessity and proportionality apply equally to armed conflict at sea and require that the conduct of hostilities by a State should not exceed the degree and kind of force, not otherwise prohibited by the law of armed conflict, required to repel an armed attack against it and to restore its security.
Israel’s “Proof” of Self-Defense — the Proverbial Foot in its own Mouth:
Israel’s Interception of Flotilla was in Accordance with International Laws
Israel maintains that it has the right to defend its territorial integrity, in accordance with international laws.
RESPONSE: The attack took place in international waters, so in fact, Israel was in full breach of international laws. For instance, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has already come out in asserting that Israel’s attack on aid flotilla violated international law.
Robin Churchill, a professor of international law at the University of Dundee in Scotland, said the Israeli commandos boarded the ship outside of Israel’s territorial waters. “As far as I can see, there is no legal basis for boarding these ships,” Churchill said. Also, a group of lawyers in Israel have petitioned the High Court, charging that Israel had violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by capturing the boats in international waters.
Under the same San Remo manual, Part II, Section I, hostile actions are forbidden on neutral waters, and clearly the Israeli action took place in international waters by all accounts:
14. Neutral waters consist of the internal waters, territorial sea, and, where applicable, the archipelagic waters, of neutral States. Neutral airspace consists of the airspace over neutral waters and the land territory of neutral States.
15. Within and over neutral waters, including neutral waters comprising an international strait and waters in which the right of archipelagic sea lanes passage may be exercised, hostile actions by belligerent forces are forbidden. A neutral State must take such measures as are consistent with Section II of this Part, including the exercise of surveillance, as the means at its disposal allow, to prevent the violation of its neutrality by belligerent forces.
Furthermore under Section V, Line 67, Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked. Clearly the flotilla flying the flags of Greece and Turkey fall under this category. The exceptions to this default state include “reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade… engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy” and a bunch of other categories where there is clearly an “enemy” involved. While Israel may state that the ships were breaching a blockade, this argument is patently false, since the blockade itself is illegal and not approved by the international community.
But there is even further qualification, by exemptions for certain type of vessels, under Section IV,
136. The following vessels are exempt from capture:
(ii) vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable o the survival of the civilian population, and vessels engaged in relief actions and rescue operations;
Flotilla Organizers Have Ties to Al Qaeda
“Before the flotilla entered Israeli waters, rumor had it that the organizers [of the aid initiative] had links with the al Qaeda terrorist network,” Arthur Avnon was quoted as saying on the website of public broadcaster DR. [Source]
RESPONSE: “Rumor has it”… Rumor? Are we now going to depend on rumors? Desperation? Here Israel is using, once again, the Islam vs. the West “clash of civilization” fear-mongering approach. Increasing Islamophobia has been a strategic goal of the Israel Lobby. As long as Westerners are afraid of Muslims (=Palestinians), Israel will always be justified in all its ruthless actions to subdue the uncivilized Muslim populace. Ever since 9/11, Israel has made great pains in equating the terrorists with Palestinians fighting occupation. The great differences between the two situations conveniently escapes Israel, but it has still been effective at making this case. No surprise when many Americans still think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.
The response is actually quite simple. Al-Qaeda is a caustic entity, besides being a terrorist outfit. No cause would want connections to this organization as it will instantly digress from any positive message. Thus, not only is it unreasonable, but it would be foolish to include Al-Qaeda. Furthermore, since when did Al-Qaeda tactics shift from terrorism to unarmed humanitarian efforts? Let’s review the list of notable personalities on board. Would they even remotely risk being tied to Al-Qaeda? The list includes newspaper journalists, members and former members of EU states governments, a member of the Israeli Knesset (!), Swedish historians and artists, actors, a survivor of the USS Liberty, former United States Ambassador and more. See the entire “Al-Qaeda’s Who’s Who List” on Wikipedia.
[NEW!] Turkey’s Support is Motivated by the Nation’s Move to Radical Islam
But it is part of a broader trend in which Erdogan has been gradually steering his country away from a secular-based democracy toward radical Islam. [Source]
RESPONSE: Here Israel is again using the “radical Islam”/ “clash of civilization” bogeyman to paint Turkey’s action as motivated by radical Islam. The truth is actually quite the opposite. If being ruled by a few generals is what Israel considers democracy and a government elected by people is not, then that highlights what the real issue Israel has with Turkey. Just like Israel didn’t quite like the democratic elections in Palestine that produced a Gaza government, it similarly doesn’t like a Turkish government because Turkey to keep Israel honest to its international responsibilities; no longer can few generals overrule the will of the people and toe Israel’s line. There can be no doubt that Turkey’s government is far more democratic than ever before. As EU Term President Spain’s Ambassador to Ankara Joan Clos stated, “Turkey is now going through a process of adaptation to the new reality of a prevalence of the civilian government over the military authorities”.
Not only did Israel get the democracy spin wrong, it also deliberately ignores the fact that support for Gaza has widespread support among ALL sectors of the Turkish population, even the ardent secularists:
“I don’t know what kind of relationship can remain after this,” said Mustafa Akyol, a prominent Turkish columnist and author. “This is every Turk I know — Islamists, secularists, nationalists, everybody. People are enraged.” [Source]
Suna notes that anti-Israeli feeling is not at all unique to religious Turks. Even completely secularist, Islamist-hating Turks have a real problem with Israel, she says, and tend to believe Israelis and the Jewish lobby in the US to be at the bottom of most world ills. [Source]
No Humanitarian Crisis in Gaza
On a related note, since this flotilla was after all meant to highlight the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Avigdor Lieberman, Israel’s foreign minister reminded reporters recently “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” [Source].
RESPONSE: This is a lie (=disinformation) in so many ways that it boggles the mind that someone can even make this claim:
- Amnesty International’s Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israeli’s siege on Gaza has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
- “Carter calls Gaza blockade ‘a crime and atrocity,” Haaretz
- The graph (courtesy Gisha) here illustrates required supplies vs. allowed supplies. As you will notice, they don’t quite match.
- 80% of Gaza is supported by international aid, and 35% Gazans are unemployed.
Sophisticated Approach to Media by the Israeli Lobby: