Monday, May 31st, 2010
While the Israeli government is praising it’s soldiers as heroes and saying they were acting in self defence by firing on unarmed civilians flying a white flag in international waters, one group involved with the Freedom Flotilla has a quite different story.
A spokeswoman for Israel Defence Forces (IDF), Avital Leibovich, claims that Israeli officers gave several warnings before boarding the the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara.
Somehow, according to Leibovich, when the soldiers did board the boat, they were then attacked by unarmed activists and relieved of their guns – a claim that is not backed up by video footage of the ambush.
Leibovich told reporters “We found ourselves in the middle of a lynching,”
“We didn’t look for confrontation but it was a massive attack,” she said. “What happened was a last resort.”
This story is on its face ridiculous.
The following press release came from Freegaza.com , one of the aid groups involved in the flotilla, in the wake of the attack:
Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck.
They fired directly into the crowd of civilians asleep. According to the live video from the ship, two have been killed, and 31 injured. Al Jazeera has just confirmed the numbers.
Streaming video shows the Israeli soldiers shooting at civilians, and our last SPOT beacon said, “HELP, we are being contacted by the Israelis.”
As things currently stand 20 people are thought to have been killed in the attack.
While the IDF and the Israeli government claim that their soldiers were attacked by violent political agitators wielding knives, several videos of those on board the boats and scenes from their voyage reveal that they are peaceful civilians that could not possibly constitute any threat to one of the most powerful armies on the planet.
In the following clip American born pro-Palestinian activist Huwaida Arraf, the Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator for the flotilla, explains the mission of the flotilla noting that “Israel is threatening to attack us, to use force if necessary when it is obvious that we are average civilians, we don’t constitute any threat except for the fact that we want to stand up for the right of the Palestinian people to lead a life with dignity.”
Arraf is also the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), the stated mission of which is to “resist the Israeli occupation of the West Bank using nonviolent tactics”.
Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Arraf stated that: “No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children’s toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters.”
As this Reuters clip from almost two weeks ago highlights, the activists and humanitarian workers were outraged at the fact that the Israeli government openly announced that it would use force against unarmed civilians if they attempted to break the blockade against Gaza:
Here is another video of one of the activists involved with the Freedom Flotilla, Irishman Shane Dillon, Mate on Challenger 1. The scenes aboard the boat clearly show that this was a humanitarian mission, not some kind of dangerous guerilla fleet:
- A d v e r t i s e m e n t
The boat in this clip, in addition to another boat, Challenger II, are are flagged and registered in the United States which means they are U.S. territory.
The Free Gaza movement has stated “Therefore we expect the U.S. government to intervene if U.S. property is wrongly confiscated by Israeli authorities as they have threatened.”
The ships, manned by 700-800 activists and politicians from more than 40 countries, are carrying 10,000 tonnes of cargo including building materials, medical supplies and paper for schools. One boat is carrying a complete dental surgery including drills, another has crayons and chocolate intended for Gazan children. All the cargo has been paid for by public donations.
Other videos and images of the flotilla featured on the Witnessgaza.com website show that the boats were clearly marked as humanitarian vessels:
For elements of the mainstream media to publish, without any challenge, comments by Israeli officials claiming that this mission was violent or dangerous in any way shape or form is utterly reprehensible.
Not content with violating every international humanitarian agreement there is, the Israeli government with its latest actions is now engaged in violation of the UN convention on the Law of The Sea, which provides for “freedom of navigation” and states that “The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes.”
The Palestinian people have been preparing for over a month to receive the aid boats, working on deepening the harbour in Gaza:
Now thanks to the Israeli “heroes” that ambushed and slaughtered sleeping humanitarians in the night, all that hard work will go unrewarded.
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