Friday, August 13, 2010

Koutsoukis Recycles Israeli Propaganda

In the context of reporting Israel's judicial inquiry into the handling of its raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla vessel Mavi Marmara on 31/5/10, Fairfax's Middle East correspondent, Jason Koutsoukis, writes that: "Things began to go wrong after several of the commandos who were lowered on to the deck of the... Mavi Marmara, were attacked by a number of passengers. Other commandos were sent aboard the Mavi Marmara with orders to save the lives of their comrades, shooting dead 9 passengers and injuring more than 30 others." (Netanyahu to shift blame over deadly raid on Gaza flotilla, Sydney Morning Herald, 9/8/10)

And here's the official Israeli line: "During the boarding of the Mavi Marmara, the demonstrators on board attacked the IDF naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs." (IDF forces met with pre-planned violence when attempting to board flotilla,, 31/5/10, updated 21/6/10)

In both accounts the aid activists are the attackers. Koutsoukis fails only to mention their 'weapons'.

Even Murdoch's Middle East correspondent, John Lyons, manages a little more objectivity: "Turkey has called the raid 'state-sponsored terrorism' while Israel has said its commandos were attacked as they attempted to board one of the boats and were acting in self-defence." (Israeli PM defends action on Gaza, The Australian, 10/8/10)

To set the record straight, here's what really happened from the first book-length treatment of the massacre to emerge:

"At around 4:25am on May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos attacked the Mavi Marmara while the boat was in international waters. They had been trailing the convoy for hours and harassing them for about 90 minutes prior to this by circling the ship with Zodiac dinghies full of Israeli commandos. Immediately following the morning prayer, the Zodiacs moved quickly along side the Mavi Marmara. They shot at the ship with paintball rifles and attempted to board. The ship then turned, heading away from Gaza at full speed. Israeli helicopters then descended minutes later, and the commandos began firing smoke and percussion grenades on the ship, followed almost immediately by rubber bullets and live ammunition. Meanwhile, those on the ship were not about to be boarded in international waters, and they resisted the attack with slingshots, bare hands, water hoses, and various objects from the ship. Three Israeli commandos who had dropped from helicopters were overpowered, their weapons disabled, and were taken below the fifth deck, where they were searched and then provided with basic first aid. The other commandos continued to fire live ammunition rounds, shooting dozens of unarmed civilians, including an Indonesian doctor.

"By the time the attack was over, nine people - eight Turkish citizens and a dual American-Turkish citizen - were dead. Autopsy results later revealed that those killed in the attack were shot a total of thirty times. The Guardian reported that 61-year-old Ibrahim Bilgen, 'was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back', and that 19-year-old Furkan Dogan, 'was shot five times from less than 45 cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back'. Footage released by Iara Lee and analyzed by Ali Abunimah shows that the Israelis fired indiscriminately into a crowd of unarmed people huddling behind a cabin door, disproving the claim that the commandos were merely defending themselves against an onslaught." (Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla & How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict, ed by Moustafa Bayoumi, 2010, p 3)

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