The U.N. Flotilla Report Goes Down the Media’s Black Hole
By Alex Kane
The return of the Turkish Mavi Marmara to Istanbul and efforts to end the Israeli-Turkish diplomatic chill has produced a number of media reports that mention the May 31 Gaza-bound aid flotilla. But news outlets are continuing to frame the events aboard the flotilla ambivalently, and there is a media blackout of mentioning the one independent report on the Israeli raid that has been released.
“The ship was part of an international flotilla carrying supplies to Gaza in a campaign to breach the blockade on Gaza when Israeli troops intercepted the convoy. Eight Turks and an American-Turkish teenager were killed in the violence that erupted on board the Mavi Marmara….
“Israel insists commandos opened fire in self-defense after meeting what they called unexpected resistance when they boarded the Mavi Marmara.”
The New York Times:
“Israel has refused to apologize, saying that the ship was warned to stay away and that Israeli commandos fired in self-defense after the activists aboard the ship fired first.”
In both of these accounts, media outlets–reflecting their slavish devotion to “objectivity”–have avoided explicitly blaming either Israel or the activists for the 9 people that were killed aboard the Mavi Marmara. But by quoting what Israel says and omitting what the activists and the United Nations report on the raid state, mainstream media has de facto created the impression that Israel bears little blame.
The U.N. report, which has gotten little media attention, was written by three human rights experts who found that the raid was “disproportionate” and “betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality.” It debunked Israel’s claims of “firing in self-defense,” finding that “live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers” onto the ship. Some more excerpts from the U.N. report that you won’t find in corporate media:
“Israeli soldiers continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges (beanbags) and plastic bullets. Forensic analysis demonstrates that two of the passengers killed on the top deck received wounds compatible with being shot at close range while lying on the ground: Furkan Doğan received a bullet in the face and İbrahim Bilgen received a fatal wound from a soft baton round (beanbag) fired at such close proximity to his head that parts such as wadding penetrated his skull and entered his brain. Furthermore, some of the wounded were subjected to further violence, including being hit with the butt of a weapon, being kicked in the head, chest and back and being verbally abused. A number of the wounded passengers were handcuffed and then left unattended for some time before being dragged to the front of the deck by their arms or legs….
“In boarding the Mavi Marmara, both from the sea and from the air, the Israeli forces met a level of resistance from some of the passengers on board that was significant and, it appears, unexpected. However, there is no available evidence to support the claim that any of the passengers had or used firearms at any stage. In the initial phases of fighting with the Israeli soldiers on the top deck, three Israeli soldiers were disarmed and taken inside the ship. At this point, there may have been a justifiable belief of an immediate threat to life or serious injury of certain soldiers which would have justified the use of firearms against specific passengers….
“The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuoğlu were shot on the bridge deck while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”
Extra legal and summary executions, combined with the fact that the U.N. team found that the Israelis fired first, belie the claim that Israel acted in self-defense and with justification. Israel’s willing media partners should, at the very least, include the conclusions of the U.N. report in their articles on the Mavi Marmara.