Magnes Zionist on the Turkish doctor who treated the commandos on the Marmara
Jeremiah Haber, 9 June 2010
In my last post I featured a picture of an Israeli commando being treated by a passenger of the Marmara (you know, the ship where the passengers intended to kill the commandos, according to the IDF Spokesperson office.) I took that picture from Ali Abunimah’s blog, and he had it from a Flickr site.
So when I saw that Robert Mackey of the Lede NY Times blog had not posted the picture with other pictures released to news agencies, I called him on it, as did others. At first he said he wasn’t sure the picture was genuine, and he referred me to doubts expressed by Noam Sheizaf in his Promised Land blog. But all Noam had said was that he didn’t know whether it was genuine or not, not that he doubted its authenticity.
In the meantime, Mackey did some important leg work, and tracked down the passenger, a Dr. Hasan Huseyin Uysal. He and Sebnem Arsu conducted an interview with Dr. Uysal here.
Some excerpts from the interview:
In a telephone interview conducted in Turkish, Dr. Uysal said that he had treated three Israeli commandos and argued that this proved that the passengers had no intention of killing them:
First of all it’s against logic that these soldiers would not be killed but instead be taken to the medical center if the intention of the activists was to kill them. If people on board were so eager to hurt them, why would they not just shoot them to death once they had taken their guns? Why bother carting them inside for treatment? It just doesn’t add up.
I am a doctor, and the Israeli soldiers were brought to me to check their medical situation and treat them properly. I had our dead bodies and injured people lying in front of me and I was treating the soldiers that actually killed and wounded them. None of our friends in the center approached to harm or hurt them. Our injured people were lying on the ground, but I rested the soldiers on our chairs.
Asked about the wounds the commandos suffered, the doctor said:
None of the soldiers had any fatal wounds that would cause organ loss or defects. There were scratches on their faces, but since facial skin is sensitive and very likely to bleed in any trauma, there was blood on their faces — which I cleaned carefully to see what kind of injuries they had. In the end, they happened to be only scratches.
The third soldier, however, suffered a cut in his stomach that reached his stomach membrane but not the organ itself. It was nothing fatal. As a doctor, I wouldn’t want to guess the nature of this injury but it could have been caused by either landing on a sharp pole from the helicopter or a blow from a pipe with a sharp edge. I couldn’t tell.
In either case, it was not fatal but it had to be stitched. However, since we did not ever expect such a confrontation, we had not brought any stitching equipment on board. All we had was simple medical material to dress simple wounds, or drops to ease burning in case tear gas was used. If I had stitching material with me, although I am an eye doctor, I would have treated the boy properly in accordance with my general medical knowledge. I couldn’t.
Dr. Uysal said the commandos “were very startled and very scared.” He added:
With my broken English I tried to tell them that I was a doctor and there was no need to be afraid and that nobody was going to hurt them. They relaxed after a while and watched us running around, jumping from one patient to another in tears, faced with our friends bathed in blood. I also asked our assistants to keep an eye on them so that they would not be threatened.
We could have as well left them to their fate, but this is not the humanity that we act with. We asked photographers not to film in the medical center and I have no idea how and when that picture was taken but God never leaves good deeds unheard. That picture shows the difference between the Israelis and us.
Asked if he could tell how long after sound grenades were thrown at the ship, at the start of the raid, that the gunshots were fired, Dr. Uysal said: “I was in the lower deck, but could hear all the explosions and gunfire. There was no way I can differentiate the gunshots or other sounds — I am only a doctor, after all.”
After the Israeli military took control of the ship, the doctor said that he was treated no differently from the other passengers:
They handcuffed all of us with plastic bands so tightly that they could easily cause irreversible damage to our shoulder tissues. They made us kneel on our knees with hands handcuffed as the helicopters caused sea water to splash on us for three hours. I was shouting that I was a doctor and that my shoulder hurt in a very serious way. They pretended not to hear me. I wanted to go to the toilet; they didn’t let me. After I kept yelling about my shoulder they let my hands loose but not those of my friends.
According to Mackey, the other man in the picture was also interviewed in the Turkish media
On Tuesday, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet published an interview with Murat Akinan, the man seen standing next to Dr. Uysal in the photographs of him treating a commando, and bringing the Israeli inside the ship in another photograph.
Mr. Akinan said that the captured soldier had been entrusted to him by Bulent Yildirim, the director of the Turkish aid organization I.H.H., who said: “Murat, take him and make sure that he’ll be safe. Be careful, don’t allow anyone to touch him.”
So, Mr. Akinan said, “I took him downstairs yelling, ‘Stop! No one will touch this man entrusted to me.’ “
He added: “I called the doctor on board and asked him for treatment. Two more soldiers came. People were reacting. I had all three treated. I said to two to three wise people around me that we would not allow anyone to touch them.”
According to Mr. Akinan, during his subsequent interrogation in Israeli custody, he was shown a photograph in which the soldier he was leading inside the ship was hit despite his efforts.
“I told them that I couldn’t stop everyone,” he said. He also claimed that the interrogator admitted that photographs showed that he had acted “with goodwill” toward the Israeli captive in his care.
Back to Jerry. Cynics will say that the commandos were more valuable to the Turks alive (as hostages) than dead. But that flies again in the face of the IDF Spokesperson remarks above.
And according to Haaretz, an Israeli intelligence and terrorism NGO reporting that according to intelligence reports, the troublemakers on the deck were about 40 Turkish “security guards” associated with the IHH, and that the rest of the passengers were not involved. That’s a bit less than 10% of the boat. The report said while most of the Mavi Marmara’s 500 passengers were humanitarian volunteers who underwent security checks before boarding the ship at Antalya in Turkey, a group of 40 IHH activists had boarded the ship in an Istanbul port beforehand, keeping apart from the rest of the passengers throughout the journey. If these reports are correct (and they have all sorts of problems with them, which I won’t go into now), then that would not conflict with the behavior of good people like Dr. Uysal.But once again, how can we believe Israel until an independent investigation is launched?