Israel's deceptive spin over the killing of nine activists aboard the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara is being increasingly exposed.
The admirable Glenn Greenwald has spent the last few days cutting through US media bias and Israel's massive hasbara exercise:
"It was clear from the moment news of the flotilla attack emerged that Israel was taking extreme steps to suppress all evidence about what happened other than its own official version. They detained all passengers on the ship and barred the media from speaking with them, thus, as The NYT put it, "refusing to permit journalists access to witnesses who might contradict Israel's version of events." They detained the journalists who were on the ship for days and seized their film, video and cameras. And worst of all, the IDF -- while still refusing to disclose the full, unedited, raw footage of the incident -- quickly released an extremely edited video of their commandos landing on the ship, which failed even to address, let alone refute, the claim of the passengers: that the Israelis were shooting at the ship before the commandos were on board."
However, notes Greenwald, with numerous passenger accounts coming to light, Tel Aviv's selected and edited version of events is now looking untenable:
"But now that the passengers and journalists have been released from Israeli detention and are speaking out, a much different story is emerging. As I noted yesterday, numerous witnesses and journalists are describing Israeli acts of aggression, including the shooting of live ammunition, before the commandos landed. The New York Times blogger Robert Mackey today commendably compiles that evidence -- I recommend it highly -- and he writes: "now that the accounts of activists and journalists who were detained by Israel after the raid are starting to be heard, it is clear that their stories and that of the Israeli military do not match in many ways." As Juan Cole says: "Many passengers have now confirmed that they were fired on even before the commandos had boots on the deck. Presumably it is this suppressive fire that killed or wounded some passengers and which provoked an angry reaction and an attack on the commandos." "
Evidence obtained by the Guardian further undermines Israel's fabrications of 'self-defence':
"Israel was tonight under pressure to allow an independent inquiry into its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after autopsy results on the bodies of those killed, obtained by the Guardian, revealed they were peppered with 9mm bullets, many fired at close range.
Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, which carried out the autopsies for the Turkish ministry of justice today.
The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, 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, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.
The findings emerged as more survivors gave their accounts of the raids. Ismail Patel, the chairman of Leicester-based pro-Palestinian group Friends of al-Aqsa, who returned to Britain today, told how he witnessed some of the fatal shootings and claimed that Israel had operated a "shoot to kill policy".
He calculated that during the bloodiest part of the assault, Israeli commandos shot one person every minute. One man was fatally shot in the back of the head just two feet in front him and another was shot once between the eyes. He added that as well as the fatally wounded, 48 others were suffering from gunshot wounds and six activists remained missing, suggesting the death toll may increase.
The new information about the manner and intensity of the killings undermines Israel's insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self defence and in response to attacks by the activists."
Perhaps most damningly for Israel, Al-Jazeera reporter Jamal ElShayyal who was covering the story from the ship during the attack has stated categorically that there was firing from the air and sea before the commandos boarded. He recounts that tear gas rounds, rubber-coated bullets and then live bullets were fired from the helicopter above "almost indiscriminately". Contradicting Israeli claims, he states that "live ammunition was fired before any Israeli soldier was on deck."
The soldiers, he reported, also refused medical assistance for a least three dying passengers. He further states that some of the passengers used railing bars extracted from the ship to defend themselves, but only after the initial shooting. And he records how he himself was humiliated and treated with contempt by the arresting soldiers.
While important to establish the veracity of what took place on the Mavi Marmara and other flotilla boats, it's also important to stay with the basic fundamentals of why this atrocity took place: namely, Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine and, in humanitarian response, the flotilla's core mission to break the siege.
Even in the course of arguing over the circumstances of the killings, it's easy to be drawn solely into the diversionary 'language of dispute' favoured by Israel and a placatory media.
The point is neatly articulated in this attention-restoring Herald piece:
"Let’s just park the war of words and trading of accusations over the flotilla for a moment. Instead, let’s remember what the real problem is here, what this is actually all about: the military occupation of Palestinian land and the denial of their basic human rights. Maybe the real reason Israel finds it so easy to disregard international opinion is because that’s all it is – opinion. Where is the political will and determination, the direct action needed to find a just solution to the Palestinians’ plight. I’m talking of the kind with sufficient political teeth to give even the most resolute of Israeli leaders a sleepless night. Asked by his BBC anchorman in London the other night about Israel’s attitude to international criticism over its raid on the Gaza flotilla, and you could almost hear the trepidation in correspondent Jeremy Bowen’s voice when he replied: “Israel does not respond well to pressure.” Frankly, who cares if it responds well or not, just because it doesn’t like pressure or disregards persuasion does not mean the world should shirk from its responsibility in trying to ensure Israel behaves in a way worthy of a nation calling itself a democracy."
In short, let's not play to Israel's agenda. The principal aim of the flotilla was, and still is, to end the blockade and highlight Israel's brutality in the process, not to negotiate on whether, or how, that action should take place.
Having again demonstrated its capacity for ruthless, unrestrained violence, a growing mood of disgust and non-appeasement is prompting new pressures on Israel's paymaster and allies. Despite Washington's shameful avoidance of an outright condemnation over the killings, Obama/Clinton are now being forced to question and condemn the blockade. Whatever Washington's continuing support for Israel and non-actions of other governments like Britain, the siege of Gaza now carries no international legitimacy.
Calling on reliable contacts, Craig Murray has also revealed some of the seriously growing disenchantment inside NATO over the blockade and Israel's wider actions.
With gathering political disquiet among the diplomatic elite and massing public opinion supporting an end to the siege, Israel's flat-out hasbara machine is now being tested to its fanatical limits.