The week in brief, 31st May-6th June – a summary of recent postings
JfJfP responded almost immediately the news of the assault came in with a strong statement, as did Scottish Jews for a Just Peace. We condemned Israel’s aggressive military interception of the flotilla, and held Israel responsible for the tragic deaths and injuries that the action caused. We called on Israel to end the siege of Gaza and on Her Majesty’s Government to condemn this act of piracy
JNews kept up a steady flow of information during the week, trying to update us on the fate of the detainees and the security clampdown in Israel. Noam Sheizaf carried comprehensive updates about the Flotilla attack on the Promised Land blog. It was clear very early on that Israel was preventing any of those on the boats from giving their own versions of what had happened. This was nothing whatever to do with security but was rather a blatant mix of censorship and media manipulation with attempted intimidation of witnesses. It took quite a while before any of those detained were able to tell their own stories and the early days were taken up with attempts to find out who was injured or dead, and where they and the others kidnapped by the Israelis were being held. Organisations like Adalah did their best to collate the relevant information. But it was to take the better part of the week before even the names of all those killed were known…
Later in the week we carried some reports from detainees as these started to become available. First eyewitness accounts of raid contradict version put out by Israeli officials by Dorian Jones in Istanbul and Helena Smith, for the Guardian, set the trend. Osama Qashoo’s story was also available on 2nd June and others followed. It immediately became clear how Israel was manipulating and controlling access to news and information and how, by and large, Western media were in the main failing to question the credibility of this manipulated drip-drip release of pseudo information. On this see links to a variety of relevant articles below.
We tried to keep up with events as best we could, publishing almost immediate responses from the EU, Adalah, Tikkun, Richard Falk, The Palestinian Association in Britain, Pravda, the UN, Amnesty International, Medical Aid for Palestinians and the Nobel-winning Elders deplore Gaza flotilla attack as well as later statements from the Coalition of Women for Peace, the Palestinian Human Rights Council (a particularly effective statement) and others.
The Middle East Report Online’s statement Outlaws of the Mediterranean was an early serious attempt at an overview, and it recognized, among other things, that “Spin doctors in Israel have been working fast and furious to mold the metanarrative of what happened aboard the Mavi Marmara, a theme we returned to time and again with our postings.
The Guardian’s editorial on 1st June was precise and to the point: “Nothing has done more to establish Israel’s status as a pariah state among its neighbours than the actions of its armed forces.
Lawyers for Palestinian Human Rights responded rapidly too, with a very helpful document on “The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and International Law”. Daniel Machover, Chair of LPHR, in a Comment is Free contribution, International law and the attack on the flotilla asked, perhaps rhetorically, whether the rule of law will be applied to Israel this time… Later we carried the Washington Report on Middle-East Affairs statement as to Why Israel’s flotilla attack was illegal by Israeli human-rights lawyer Lynda Brayer.
Our posting “What actually happened – and Israeli manipulation of the evidence” contains links to extracts from Henning Mankell’s diary, Robert Booth’s Guardian report on the autopsies revealing that many were shot at close range in the head, Scottish campaigner Theresa McDermott’s personal account, and stories suggesting that film evidence was doctored or destroyed.
Tony Lerman in Israel’s media dominance showed how: “In an operation reminiscent of the first week or so of the Israeli offensive against Gaza in winter 2008-2009, the Israeli PR machine succeeded in getting the major news outlets to focus on its version of events and to use the Israeli authorities’ discourse for a crucial 48 hours…” Siraj Wahab of Arab News produced an interesting very early (1st June) analysis of media coverage, comparing the BBC and Al Jazeera in particular. And MJ Rosenberg’s Lying About The Gaza Flotilla Disaster was as sharp analysis of the approach taken by the dominant media in the US – and the commonplace lying in their reports.
Noam Sheizaf’s Promised Land blog carried an important story: “Gaza flotilla: Things the IDF doesn’t want us to know” about how the Israelis have been conducting the propaganda war.
A new website, delegitimize.com, has started up plans for a series of both topic-specific and current event-focused archive websites, with the help of the pro-Palestinian community and beyond. The first is on the Gaza flotilla.
Barak Ravid reported in Haaretz that “The Foreign Ministry is planning to use front groups to transmit hasbara (public relations ) messages in order to influence senior politicians, opinion shapers and journalists in Europe, ministry sources said…”
Responses to the assault, trying to place it in a wider context were already appearing the day after. Some have been mentioned above and, in “A selection of postings on the flotilla that we missed earlier”, we included Peter Beinart’s, Israel’s Indefensible Behavior, Reza Aslan’s A Blunder No PR Can Fix, Gershom Gorenberg’s A Brief History of the Gaza Folly, Ofer Shelah “This is what happens to those whose entire world is Entebbe,” and more.
Later there were attempts to assess the wider implications of Israel’s attackand we linked to reflections by Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur & Michael Ratner, president of the Centre for Constitutional Rights; Paul Rogers; Phyllis Bennis and others. In assessing the wider emotional impact, Uri Avnery, Linda Grant and Richard Irvine deployed the Exodus analogy to some effect.
Many writers responded to the crisis: there is Alice Walker’s impassioned plea for action, and Margaret Attwood’s sharp report on The Shadow over Israel. And Israeli writer Etgar Keret, Haaretz’s diplomatic correspondent for a day, found no government or army officials willing to be interviewed!
The atmosphere within Israel has been venomous: largely uncritical support for the government coupled with strong racist sentiment towards Palestinian citizens of Israel and hostility to dissenters (MK Hanin Zoaby who was on board one of the ships, was shouted down when she tried to speak in the Knesset; and as we write this summary, news has just come in that Uri Avnery was attacked by a dozen thugs after a rally in Tel Aviv but fortunately was not injured).
And there is yet more on the website: Gideon Levy on how Netanyahu was right: “He always said the whole world was against us – now he is right…; Dr Eyad el-Sarraj on how Israeli is the victim of its own pathology; Merav Michaeli writing early on that there was nothing to investigate as ‘everyone knows what was wrong about the flotilla attack’; Americans for Peace Now offering 10 reasons for ending the Gaza blockade; and more.
News has just came in of a rift between Navy reserve officers and the Israeli government over the way they had been blamed for the flotilla fiasco. They want an external enquiry…