Friday, June 04, 2010

Mavi Marmara Incident: more questions than answers

The evidence emerging from autopsies conducted in Turkey is making it more difficult to maintain a balanced perspective on this week's Gaza aid boat incident. CNN reports that the autopsy results reveal five of the nine shooting victims on the Mavi Marmara died with bullet wounds to the head. One casualty had bullet wounds to the head and multiple bullets throughout his body. Another appeared to be shot in the head at a range of two to fourteen cm.
The story also gives details concerning the Humanitarian Relief Foundation's side of the story, one which is at least partially and indirectly confirmed by Israel, concerning the treatment of captured Israeli soldiers on the boat.
In remarks to the press, [IHH chair Bulent] Yildirim said his colleagues fought Israeli troops in self-defense aboard the Mavi Marmara. He added that in the early stages of the clashes, his activists captured several Israel commandoes, as well as their weapons, and took them below decks. The Israeli troops were given water, Yildirim said. He insisted none of the activists fired the captured Israeli guns.
Now, Israel legitimately responds with video evidence of an IDF commando being beaten with a chair, and evidence the ship contained small weapons; the former argument is more convincing than the latter; it can be argued that even if the objects in question were fully intended to be weapons, they were weak defensive weapons at best, and if the craft was truly a terrorist transport, wouldn't Israel have found guns on board?

In fact, some of the participating activists made no qualms about the crew and passengers being prepared to defend the ship.
"The defense of the boat was quite well organized," said Espen Goffeng, a 38-year-old activist from Norway who sailed aboard the Mavi Marmara. "There was a plan to keep soldiers off the boat." Goffeng said passengers aboard the lead ship Mavi Marmara at first successfully repelled Israeli troops on boats. Then, he said, soldiers began their helicopters assault on the vessel. "They started off with some kind of paintball bullets with glass in them that left terrible soft tissue wounds. And then rubber bullets. And then live ammunition afterwards. And that's when things started to get really dangerous," Goffeng added.
So, if you're still trying to be objective and fair like I am (and therefore willing to incur the wrath of folks on both sides form whom the issue is always already cut-and-dried), the questions that remain are: 1. What did international law require of the Mavi Marmara? Is there an expectation or requirement that a vessel carrying humanitarian aid through a blockade passively allow itself to be boarded?  2. Why the heavy-handedness of the IDF? There were choices made at every juncture that were unduly aggressive rather than practicing a rationality and willingness to use force tempered by calculated restraint. Why the shots to the head? Conceding the possibility that Turkish Medical Examiner Haluk Ince is deliberately describing his evidence to sound like the IDF executed nine men, why did the IDF make it relatively easy for him to do so? 3. How much does Israel get to defend its actions in the first place if the blockade itself is morally dubious and illegal under international law? This is a question whose answers are likely to rapidly degenerate into each side's remaining in their respective trenches. But sometimes it's possible to learn things from listening carefully to what each side says from within those trenches.

Other news, courtesy of Al Jazeera: Israel is releasing the remaining activists detained from the Mavi Mamara by the IDF. Why? Aren't they terrorists?  Also, a Greek activist said that he saw Israeli troops using laser-guided weapons to shoot people aboard the Mavi Marmara.

Haretz reports that PM Netanyahu is "prepared to consider" easing the naval blockade. The same article reports Israel's assertion that "International law permits defensive operations on the high seas" (a partially accurate and partially question-begging position), and this interesting argument:
...the use of force was reasonable and proportionate. Had the soldiers not been attacked by the Mavi Marmara's passengers, no casualties would have occurred ¬ just as none occurred on the other five ships.
The use of sticks and rocks by the Mavi crew and passengers may have justified their detention and some shooting. I am not convinced it justified the things revealed in the autopsy. The argument that the other ships' passivity demonstrates that the use of force against the Mavi was reasonable and proportionate is fallacious; at best it demonstrates that the other ships were being prudent (I concede that) while the Mavi was acting belligerently. That doesn't establish justification for the actions of the IDF.

Finally, the U.S. ruling class and intelligentsia is clearly irritated by the blockade and this week's events, and is pressuring Israel to make concessions.
Anthony Cordesman, from the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, suggested that Israel could now be a "strategic liability" for the US. Officials in the Obama administration stressed that they had called for Israel to exercise "restraint" before the raid on the flotilla. The aftermath has complicated the US drive to secure approval from the UN Security Council for new sanctions on Iran.
Those interested in the right-wing Israeli take on this should read Jonathan Spyer's scathing attack on the IHH in the Jerusalem Post:
IHH is openly and unambiguously opposed to the existence of Israel, and is keen to assist Islamist organizations seeking to destroy it. IHH has read the zeitgeist of the early 21st century well. It seeks to combine a superficial commitment to “human rights” and the mantle of victimhood, with support for Islamist militancy against the West. These aspects, and the contradiction between them, have been very much in evidence this week.
I particularly noted Spyer's observation about the relationship between "hardcore" Turkish "militants" and naive Western activists. The latter, Spyer reports, were "afraid and depressed" by the presence of people openly committed to violence against Israel. At the very least, I have to concede that those are some pretty unlikely and unwilling bedfellows, and this entire episode highlights the fact that "peace" is not necessarily a shared goal, particularly when the leaders of militant anti-Israeli groups have the same power-based stake as the Israeli right, and international arms merchants, in perpetuating the conflict.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

it sounds odd that the Israel commandos were beaten by activist. with no military training whatsoever. from what i know, the Commandos from the Israel military are among those that are feared due to the intensity and extent of their training..some sort of 'super-commando' is what i heard...i strongly believe that the videos released by their Navy was tampered with. you can do anything with technology nowadays...right?

think about it, they already confiscated all the records of their boarding of the ship and the incident from press members on board. all their doing is releasing their version of the 'truth' to save themselves cause there is no other version left to show what actually happened.

We all know about the holocaust..we read about it. we studied it. We felt sorry for the Jewish people for what had happened during World War II. But it does not justify their cause; justify for such aggression towards the Palestinians and efforts to help these people. I felt sorry for Anne Frank. But not anymore. Because now, the Zionist are the modern day Nazis...Their the modern day Anti-Semites..Forgetting about what happened during the war. Forgetting their suffering; where they should be the most understanding of all the people in the world.