Richard Silverstein: video evidence suggests IDF executed people on the Mavi Marmara

June 11, 2010
Richard Kuper

tikun-olamIDF Executed Mavi Marmara Victims

But see also Richard Silverstein’s subsequent post raising other possible interpretations of the evidence
Mavi Marmara: Video as Ammunition in the Battle for World’s Hearts and Minds

marmara-videogo here to see video

In my earlier posts about the killings aboard the Mavi Marmara, I used terms like “kill shot” and “execution-style” to describe these events. I based my judgment on the narratives told by eyewitnesses and the Turkish autopsy reports. Some readers were taken aback and accused me of overstatement, exaggeration and worse. But this video vividly confirms my strong suspicions.

It shows IDF commandos executing a passenger on the Mavi Marmara with one and possibly two point blank shots from above into the victim who lies on the boat deck. In truth, one cannot distinguish the face of the victim since it is blocked by a boat railing. But from the muzzle flashes and weapon recoils and the downward direction in which the shooter looks at his victim, it is clear this is an execution just as I described earlier.

The video caption claims this is the murder of 19 year-old Turkish-American high school student Furkan Dogan. While it is possible there is earlier footage not shown in this video that displayed the victim’s face and enabled one to identify him, I won’t vouch for Dogan as being the specific victim. But what is incontrovertible is that this is A Mavi Marmara passenger being murdered.

This changes everything. Here for the first time is evidence that the IDF was not just engaged in a defensive operation, but that it had determined to murder passengers. Gone are the hasbara rationales which defended Israel and blamed the victims for their own deaths.

I am ashamed of Israel. I am ashamed of my president’s response to Israel.

We must get all those governments like our own who were trying to finesse this crisis, trying to put the genie back in the bottle, to stop and take stock. Sending fixers like Dan Shapiro to Israel to hondle about the the least damaging way to repair this mess simply won’t work. Shapiro is trying to figure out Israel can give up the least and gain the most. He and his boss, the president, want to figure out how Israel can ease the humanitarian crisis with a nip and a tuck–allow in more foods for example–while getting the UN to dismiss its international investigation.

The Telegraph published a similar report claiming the new Tory-led government had a deal with Israel on similar terms. The report missed a few things though. Nowhere did it say what Turkey thought about any of this. And that country, after all, is the injured party since 9 (more likely 15) of its citizens were murdered by the IDF. Do the U.S., Britain and Israel think they can work their way out of this mess without Turkey’s acquiescence?

Does Israel truly believe that its sham proposals for a two part domestic investigation will pass muster? It proposes a military panel under the leadership of an ex-general who will examine the failure without placing blame on any specific individuals. Then Netanyahu proposes a panel composed of Israeli judges to be joined by up to two foreign “observers.” This commission will not be permitted to question the actual commando killers. Which in effect renders the proceedings toothless before they even begin.

If I were Prime Minister Erdogan I’d do pretty much what he’s done so far. Put out my demands for a deal and then let everyone else scheme and manipulate in order to avoid my terms. Once they’ve exhausted themselves and come up empty, perhaps they’ll realize there is only one way to resolve the matter. Israel must apologize, pay reparations to victim’s families and all the passengers, and end the siege.

There is a simmering rage within Turkey about the way its citizens were brutalized. A Turkish-American journalist told me a poll said 60% believe their government has not done enough to express its outrage. So Israelis may express their shock at Erdogan’s obstreperousness. But they should know that behind Erdogan are 80 million very angry Turks. Is Israel prepared to face them down? And I don’t mean this only in a diplomatic sense. I mean this in a very real, tangible sense. Until now, Turks cared little for Palestine in the way that more devout Muslim nations do. Their form of Islam is fairly tolerant and laid back. That’s why they could forge an alliance with Israel for so many years. But now I can imagine Turkish shahids waging jihad on Israel. This would be an unprecedented development both for Israel and Turkey.

Today, Barack Obama showed that he’s still spinning his wheels. He had Fatah’s rump West Bank president, Mahmoud Abbas to the White House for a photo-op and offered $400 million for Gaza. He offered this money to a man who has absolutely no sway in Gaza. A man who hates the government that rules Gaza and who is hated in return. Hell, Obama hates Hamas too. So what kind of charade were the two of them playing earlier today? How will this money ever get to its destination if no one will talk to the only party who can spend it?

It borders on sheer idiocy. And I say this knowing that Obama is neither an idiot not badly-intentioned. All one can say about the president’s policy is that with George Bush you knew you were getting someone who didn’t give a whit for the Palestinians and who wouldn’t lift a finger for them. With Obama, you get the illusion of a leader who cares, but who doesn’t. Or at least doesn’t care enough to do anything substantive. There are times when ineffectual leaders with good intentions can do even more damage than those like Bush who never had any good intentions to begin with.

The question is how long will Obama continue this masquerade. How long before he faces the music and comes to the realization there is only one way to do the right thing. The longer he delays the more chance there is for a deterioration in the status quo. And I’m not talking about incremental deterioration. I’m talking about catastrophic deterioration, about a situation in which Israel attacks its neighbors or is attacked in return.

Is Israel prepared for the next Gaza flotilla to be escorted by Turkish warships to its destination? Is it prepared for Turkey not just as an enemy but possibly a military enemy as well?

Today, brings distressing news of a Rasmussen survey finding that 49% of Americans blame the victims for their death on the Mavi Marmara. But when I read such a poll I always examine the questions, since subtleties of wording can lead to tipping the respondents in a certain direction. Indeed, the question asked in this poll which brought that result betrayed a “tell” as they say in poker:

Who is primarily to blame for the deadly outcome of the raid on the aid-carrying ships – Israel or the pro-Palestinian activists on the ships?

While I agree that in actuality those on the ship were “pro-Palestinian activists,” this wording helped lead to an unreliable poll result. Those three words, when suggested to the average American conjure up an unflattering image just as the phrase “pro-Israeli activist” would in a similar context (though the revulsion would be less pronounced). It would’ve been much better had the pollsters come up with a less leading, less judgmental, less emotional phrase to describe those on the Mavi Marmara. Why not just “passengers?” Or “humanitarians” or “peace activists?” Or “anti-blockade activists?”

While I dispute the wording of the question, there is no doubt that Americans have bought the hasbara campaign about this tragedy. They do not know what really happened. That’s why it’s important that video like this be seen as widely as possible. For a time, hasbara may prevail. But in the longer term the real facts and enormity of this tragedy will sink in.

In the interests of such education, I’m planning a conference here in Seattle at St. Mark’s Cathedral on Friday, June 25th on the Gaza crisis. Evergreen College Prof. Steve Niva will speak about the failure of U.S. policy in this crisis. I will speak about the current political currents inside Israel and the assault on democracy and human rights that has accompanied external attacks like the one on the Gaza flotilla. Dave Schermerhorn will speak about his experience as a Mavi Marmara survivor. We will also present a Palestinian speaker who will address the humanitarian crisis inside Gaza. So far, the conference is co-sponsored by SABEEL of the Puget Sound and the Mideast Focus Ministry. New co-sponsors will be added including Jewish and Muslim organizations.

In order to bring one speaker to Seattle, we need to raise funds for her airfare and accommodations. If you’re so moved, please click the Paypal button in my sidebar or the Donate link also in the sidebar. Your donation will defray these costs. Anything exceeding them will go to Gaza humanitarian relief.

Mavi Marmara: Video as Ammunition in the Battle for World’s Hearts and Minds

10 June 2010

This is a follow-up on last night’s post and video which appears to show (at least according to those who edited and captioned the video) the murder of a ship passenger by an IDF commando. Thanks to new video footage Paul Woodward has discovered, I’m going to backtrack somewhat on the claims I made last night. Above you’ll see an expanded version of the same video. In addition, I’ll relay new information I solicited from Prof. Scott MacEachern, a Bowdoin anthropologist who has some weapons expertise and with whom I’ve consulted periodically on such issues, who attempted to piece together what weapon was used and what the commando was actually doing with it.

Before I start and in order to quiet the cheers of the hasbara crowd, nothing I’m about to say conclusively refutes the possibility that the conclusions I drew yesterday are wrong. But there other possibilities that should be considered as well.

First, Paul notes that the longer video featured here, which appears to be one generation closer to the raw footage than the video featured yesterday, shows the action differently than the earlier video. In other words, the video claiming to show the murder of Furkan Dogan, shows commandos kicking a victim and then apparently shooting him. The video above shows these actions in reverse order. The IDF Seals first point a weapon down at the victim and possibly fire it, and later kick him.

What does all this mean? It means that the video footage may’ve been edited or manipulated to make it appear to show something it doesn’t. But again, since all of this represents the battle of dueling videos between Israel and supporters of the flotilla activists, its very hard to say anything definitively other than that both videos show commandos beating, menacing and possibly shooting victims. Even if the order of events was manipulated, that does not mean that in the original (possibly raw) video we watch above that a victim was not shot, possibly with a .22 caliber bullet (see below).

Israel’s supporters attempt to minimize the damage represented by the video’s contents by claiming the weapon held by the commando is a paintball gun and not one meant to kill. Many people who want you to believe they know what they’re talking about have vociferously stated this. But Prof. MacEachern offers some food for thought:

The weapon used…has the following characteristics:

(a) the stock is quite thin, indicating something with low recoil;
(b) there’s no large magazine visible (including a top-mounted paintball magazine, which is pretty easy to identify);
(c) the operator seems to be working a slide on the bottom of the weapon, and ejects at least one cartridge (indicating it’s not CO2 powered like a paintball gun);
(d) he works it four times at least, maybe five, while the weapon is pointing at the area they were kicking at before;
(e) the barrel is long and thin (could be the barrel itself or a sound suppressor); and
(f) he has a flashlight mounted on the left side of the receiver.

There appears to be no muzzle-flash, indicating (a) that’s it’s not a conventional pistol/rifle cartridge or (b) less likely, that a suppressor has eliminated all of the flash from a pistol cartridge.

So, there are two possibilities:

(1) these commandos are abusing some lying on the ground by firing some sort of crowd-control weapon, a kind of paintball gun on steroids (e.g. An FN303, although I don’t think that’s what this is), at him at a range of a foot or so, or

(2) this is an assassination weapon, an updated De Lisle carbine or some equivalent silenced, single-shot pistol-calibre weapon, and they have killed him.

My money is somewhat on the former, but no firm conclusions at this point.

ruger  rifleRuger rifle of the type possibly use by IDF on board Mavi Marmara
Video screengrab of IDF commando holding weapon aboard Mavi Marmara

In a later message to me, Scott added the following in an attempt to identify the weapon brandished:

I think he’s shooting whoever is on the ground with a silenced Ruger 10/22 .22-calibre bolt-action rifle with a modified stock. The Israelis bought some and used them for ‘crowd control’ for a while, until they were prohibited legally from using it – except they still did. They also use it to kill guard dogs – a so-called ‘hush-puppy’ weapon – in the Special Forces, so Sayeret 13 might be using it. This would kill you.

He offers evidence via B’Tselem of the gun’s use by the IDF in the Occupied Territories in riot control situations in which it is fired into demonstrators limbs, producing serious but usually not lethal injuries:

Ha’aretz reported the comments of an “IDF official”, who said that the Ruger causes less harm, and is less lethal, than “rubber bullets.”

Several children, however, were killed by it.

Some may note that the Turkish autopsies revealed that most of the dead were killed by 9mm bullets. This does not mean that others were not shot with .22 caliber ammunition, nor that a victim may not’ve died of such bullets. If Scott is right and this victim is being shot by a Ruger, the chances of causing death at point blank range rises greatly as he notes above.

Given the duelling videos offered by both sides, and the tendency of both sides to be willing to manipulate documentary evidence to their advantage, it’s hard to say precisely what went on aboard the ship that night. Which is all the more reason it is absolutely necessary for there to be a credible international probe of this tragedy. Such an inquiry must hear from every member of the Israel team that assaulted the Marmara as well as every passenger who may’ve engaged in resistance/violence and every passenger who may’ve witnessed such actions. This is the only way to ascertain with any reliability what happened and who is at fault, or most at fault.

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