Israel vindicated in report on flotilla raid – but distorted by WashPo and NYTimes; The U.N. remains despicable; and what an outrage – Flying the Terrorist Flag in D.C.

Posted on January 24, 2011

January 24, 2011

Israel vindicated in report on flotilla raid — but not in the Washington Post

Leo Rennert

On Sunday, Jan. 23, an Israeli blue-ribbon commission rendered its verdict on a battle aboard a Gaza blockade-running vessel that left nine Turkish activists dead.  The key issue was who initiated the violence that led to these fatalities — the Israeli commandos who landed by helicopter and down ropes to the deck of the vessel, or Turkish passengers armed with an array of weapons.

The commission’s verdict was clear-cut.  It was the Turkish provocateurs who started the fight by violently assaulting the commandos with iron bars, axes, clubs, slingshots, knives and other metal objects.  The commandos “acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated  violence,” the commission. concluded.  Its verdict was not merely that the commandos generally acted in accord with international law, but more importantly, that they first ran into a well-organized ambush as they scampered down from their helicopter and responded “proportionately.”   The ambush, planned and executed by the Turkish activists before the commandos fired, thus becomes the central rationale for the vindication of the commandos’ conduct. 
But you would hardly know it reading the Washington Post’s account of the commission’s report, which uses multiple spins, evasions and distortions to befog the main finding — that the commandos acted entirely in self-defense.  (“Israeli inquiry says navy obeyed law in deadly flotilla raid — Turkey ‘appalled’ by findings on incident that left 9 Turks dead” by Janine Zacharia, Jan. 24, page A7)
Here’s how Zacharia beats about the bush to keep from readers that the Turks were to blame for the entire incident.
Her first paragraph mentions only a “deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.”  If anything, this suggests Israel went on the offensive with a “deadly raid” on the flotilla.
The second paragraph is not much better.  It cites the commission as declaring that the Israeli interception and capture of the vessels was in conformity with international law, but leaves hanging the key question of who attacked first. 
The fourth paragraph reports that nine Turks, including one Turkish-American teenager, “were killed in violent clashes with Israeli naval commandos as the commandos boarded the largest ship.”  But who started those clashes?  Zacharia won’t say.
After that, Zacharia switches to Ankara where the Turkish government rejects the Israel report as having “no value or credibility.”
It is not until the 13th paragraph in her 15-paragraph article that Zacharia finally lets the cat out of the bag and reports the key conclusion of the commission — that the Turkish activists aboard the vessels — armed to the gills — organized themselves into groups “as the Israeli commandos prepared to board and then violently assaulted the commandos.  The commission also said the “activists used firearms” and “overall the IDF personnel acted professionally in the face of extensive and unanticipated violence.”
By contrast, the New York Times, in its version, let readers in on the answer to the who-attacked-first-question high up in its second paragraph.
But, with Zacharia’s spin machine in full throttle, it gets even worse.
In her 11th paragraph — before even reporting the heart and guts of the Israeli inquiry report — Zacharia tries mightily to discredit it by reviving a report last September from the UN Human Rights Commission blaming Israel.  “The Israeli commission’s findings,” she writes, contradict those of the United Nations Human Rights Commission’s international fact-finding mission, which concluded that Israel’s interception of the Mavi Marama was ‘clearly unlawful.’  That panel’s report found that the Israeli military had acted with ‘brutality’ that ‘constituted grave violations of human rights law and international law.”’
No mention, of course, that this same UN “human rights” agency has totally discredited itself by targeting Israel more than any other country in the world and is dominated by serial human-rights violators like China, Cuba, Libya, Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
At the Washington Post, any stick to flog Israel will do — even by trotting out a “finding” from a UN group with no credibility whatsoever and giving that “finding” precedence over the key conclusion of an Israeli commission that labored for many months, interviewed scores of witnesses, including Arabs aboard the Marmara, and is composed of eminent personalities with a long track record of objective scholarship and judicious pursuit of the truth.  Plus, of course, there was ample video footage to support the commission’s findings.
At the end of her article, Zacharia acknowledges that the Israeli commission included two international observers, but stresses that they were “non-voting” members who merely found that the commission acted in “independent” fashion.  In fact, there’s far more about these two observers, who remain unidentified in Zacharia’s piece.  They are Lord David Trimble, a Nobel Peace Laureate instrumental in steering Northern Ireland away from decades of sectarian conflict, and Kenneth Watkin, a retired brigadier general and former judge advocate general of the Canadian forces.
In a joint statement, they emphasized that they took an active part in all commission meetings, hearings and deliberations.  They showered fulsome praise on the commission’s thoroughness and objectivity under its chairman, retired Israeli Supreme Court justice, Jacob Turkel. Their comments more than trump expected denials from the Turkish side and the concocted “findings” of the UN Human Rights Commission, which get greater prominence in Zacharia’s article than the far more relevant insiders’ testimony of David Trimble and Kenneth Watkin.
But if you’re out to do a hatchet job, this will be your modus operandi.
January 24, 2011

Harrowing testimony of Israeli commandos aboard Gaza-bound ship — ‘Armed Mob lynched us’– Unreported by NYT, WaPo

Leo Rennert

As part of its inquiry into Israel’s interception of a Gaza-bound flotilla last May, an Israeli blue-ribbon commission interviewed the commandos who clambered down from a helicopter above one of the vessels, where a heavily armed mob viciously attacked and injured them, some within an inch of their lives.  When the commandos finally opened fire in self-defense, nine Turkish attackers were left dead.

Mainstream media have devoted extensive coverage to the dead Turks, but virtually none to the attacks on the Israeli commandos and to their extensive injuries.
Here are some of the accounts given by the first commandos to reach the vessel.  None of their testimony, included in the commission’s report, has appeared in either the New York Times or the Washington Post.
“Upon landing on the middle deck, a mob of dozens of people attacked me and basically lynched me,” the first commando, who fast-roped down to the deck, told the commission.  “They were strangling me, sticking fingers into my eyes to gouge them out of their sockets, pulling my limbs in every direction, striking me in an extremely harsh manner with clubs and metal rods, mostly on my head.  I truly felt that I was about to die, way beyond what we define as life-threatening.”
After he was thrown to a lower deck, the commando said he felt “blood began streaming down my face from the wounds to my head.  The mob continued to hit me.”
The second commando to rappel form the helicopter was shot in his stomach with a 9 mm. bullet.  He was operated on twice, and had to undergo physio-therapy rehabilitation.
The third commando, who commanded the Israeli forces, testified about being pulled down from the roof onto the deck and attacked — “I was lying on the deck, there are many people above me, one of the peopele jumped on me and I felt a sharp pain in the lower abdomen.  I put my hand there and I felt a knife, and I realized that I’d been stabbed.  I instinctively pulled the knife out of my abdomen.
“I found myself facing all of the people surrounding me.  They have axes, knives, metal ples and clubs.  It’s a matter of a second or two before they reach me.  I manage to cock my weapon (a mini-Uzi) and release two bullets.  People immediately reach me, grab the weapon from me, and hit me with full force with poles and clubs.”
The fourth commando testified that “four terrorists jumped onto me while one of them wrapped the chain around my neck and strangled me.  I lost consciousness, I saw stars.”  When he awoke, he was airborne — the assailants had thrown him from the roof to the bridge deck.
The fifth commando was shot in the right knee.  Prior to that, he testified, he was surrounded and beaten all over his body by the Turkish activists, one of whom used a large camera tripod to hit him.  He later underwent operations to treat the bullet wound and head and stomach trauma.
The captain of the Marmara, Mehmut Torel, testified that he had been surprised by large number of weapons the activists had succeeded in creating and that he repeatedly asked them to “behave civilly.  I thought that because there were civilians on board nothing would happen.”
None of this, however, is news that’s fit to print in the New York Times and the Washington Post.
January 20, 2011

Flying the Terrorist Flag in Washington

By Mark Cantora

Sometimes a flag is not just a flag.  In the current era of postmodern “whatever-ism,” symbolic gestures are largely understood as just that — a meaningless symbolic gesture.  A low Presidential bow to a foreign sovereign is just a bow.  The gift of an iPod to an allied sovereign is just a kitschy gift.  And on January 18, 2011, a raised Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C. is just a flag — a little wink and nod to the Arab residents of the disputed territories.
But in the Middle East, a symbol is never just a symbol.  Even the smallest of gestures is packed with diplomatic meaning, and the policy ramifications of that gesture are almost always far-reaching.
For example, in the Old City of Jerusalem, a rickety old ladder placed outside a window in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre since sometime around 1852 has remained in the exact same location for 159 years.  Why?  Because in 1853, the Church’s numerous religious sects and factions decided that the use OF and control over the different portions of the Church should stay the same in perpetuity.  Any change in the control over the Church since that time is considered by all parties to be a severe provocation.
To the Western mind, this entire situation seems to involve a substantial measure of absurdity.  “Surely,” most Westerners think “the removal of a five-stepped ladder would not have any practical effects on the division of control over the Church.  It’s just a ladder.”  But in the historical-minded culture of the Middle East, this ladder is not just a ladder.  It’s an important symbol of the region’s — of the world’s — recognition of the power and prestige of different religious sects.  Thus, the positioning of this ladder is considered so important that a metal grate has been erected over the window in order to keep anyone from changing the physical position of the ladder — and the metaphysical positioning of the Church’s sects.
A similarly significant issue arises from the unfurling of the Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C.
The Palestinian flag was informally adopted by the PLO terrorist organization after its creation in the 1960s.  By the 1970s, the flag had been “officially” adopted as the flag of the PLO.  Until the Madrid “Peace Conference” in 1991, the PLO was recognized by the United States as a terrorist organization.  However, in 1993, the PLO “officially” renounced terrorism and violence and claimed to be a legitimate representative of the Palestinians and a partner for peace with the Israelis.
Lest anyone be mistaken in believing that the PLO’s official renunciation of violence was worth more than the paper it was written on, the PLO commenced the Second Intifada in the year 2000, resulting in the deaths and injuries of thousands of Israelis.  The PLO, all public statements aside, today remains very much a terrorist organization dedicated to violent attacks against Israelis and brutal repression against its own population.  Just last month, the PLO imprisoned an atheist in the city of Qalqilya, simply because he wrote a blog supporting atheism.  The Al-Aqsa Martyr’s Brigade, an armed paramilitary sub-faction of al-Fatah, itself an organization of the PLO, continues to attack Israeli citizens on a regular basis.
Thus, the Palestinian flag remains the flag of a terrorist organization, albeit a terrorist organization with more media savvy than its earlier incarnations.
So while numerous public places around the country (rightfully) ban the flying of the Confederate flag, and the courts have interpreted the Constitution as prohibiting most displays of the Ten Commandments, the raising in the nation’s capital of a terrorist flag symbolizing the often murderous “struggle” of the Palestinians has now become acceptable.
The current administration has put much emphasis on the so-called “peace process” between the Israelis and the Palestinians.  The president has declared that this peace process requires “patience,” and his secretary of state has proclaimed that “there is no substitute for face-to-face discussion” between the Israelis and Palestinians.  But despite these empty platitudes, the current administration has decided to charge full steam ahead, in lockstep with the Palestinians’ new strategy of getting the world to unilaterally recognize a Palestinian state in all of the disputed territories.
In the Middle East, symbols matter.  The waving of the Palestinian flag in Washington, D.C. sends a loud and clear message to Israel and the world: The United States is now one very big step closer to recognizing a Palestinian state, with or without security for the State of Israel.
And the United States is willing to fly a terrorist flag in Washington to send this profound and unfortunate message.

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