As the MV Rachel Corrie, the last boat in the Free Gaza Movement’s
Flotilla, is being dragged to Israel’s Ashdod port after being boarded and
taken over in the early hours of Saturday, Israel continues to react to its
Flotilla attack. Protests have been taking place throughout Israel and the
occupied Palestinian Territories. In the meantime, The Real News’ Lia
Tarachansky investigates how Israel prepared for the Flotilla attack, and
how the media repeatedly portrayed a connection between the activists
and terrorism. After the attack, Israel went on the offensive to prove there
was indeed a connection to terrorism. The IDF published a press release
saying the activists on board the Mavi Marmara ship that was the site of at
least 9 deaths on Monday morning were actually al Qaeda mercenaries.
When Tarachansky and journalist Max Blumenthaul questioned the IDF
for evidence of this allegation, the IDF said it didn’t have any and changed
the title of the press release to “attackers of the IDF soldiers found without
LIA TARACHANSKY, PRODUCER, TRNN: As the MV Rachel Corrie approaches the Gaza shore, Israel is still reacting to the attack that took place on Monday morning. Protests have been taking place all over Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories. In the Israeli parliament, tension broke out when legislators staged a walkout while verbally and physically attacking parliamentarian Haneen Zoubi. Zoubi is an Israeli-Palestinian Knesset member of the Balad Party. She participated in the aid flotilla and attempted to speak about it after her return.
HANEEN ZOUBI, KNESSET MEMBER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Why did you confiscate the journalists’ cameras? Why did you silence theï¿½?
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Enough already! Enough!
ZOUBI: Why did you publishï¿½?
HOUSE SPEAKER (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Get him out of here.
ZOUBI: So answer me: why did you publishï¿½?
TARACHANSKY: Protests in solidarity with victims on the flotilla and against the siege of Gaza, such as this one in Jaffa, have faced violence throughout the country.
PROTESTERS (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Pirates should not be in control of the country.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): I came here and I stopped to see if there are protesters here who are Jaffa residents whom I know. So I just wanted to see what kind of people would protest against the country. I support the security forces. I think that our actions were just, the judgments were right, everything was perfectly fine. The soldiers did well, and I support the orders they received.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Is there any situation you can imagine that the Israeli army could do something you disagree with?
UNIDENTIFIED: No. Of course I have doubts here and there on some actions, but generally I’m always for the army and for security, and I always welcome everything the IDF wants to do and our soldiers want to do for the country.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Here, come take this.
TARACHANSKY: Don’t touch the camera.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The boats should have been sunk. We shouldn’t have gotten in there. Just sink them.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Are you filming me? Don’t film me.
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): But massive rallies have also taken place in support of the IDF operation that left at least nine dead. On Thursday, thousands of Israelis gathered outside the Turkish Embassy to protest the country’s involvement in the aid convoy.
UNIDENTIFIED (ENGLISH): If a ship that is loaded with provocateurs that come to give I don’t know what to people in Gaza that fire missiles on us, we have the right to defend ourselves and to take over the ship.
TARACHANSKY: Why are you isolating the Turkish people?
UNIDENTIFIED: Because they are the provocateurs that brought weapons with them. Once they bring weapons to attack Israeli soldiers, they are guilty.
TARACHANSKY: The people who organized the shipsï¿½
TARACHANSKY: ï¿½the media asked them, why did you bring knives? And they explained: on the ship they cooked food for 600 people, so they needed knives.
UNIDENTIFIED: I see. They cooked soldiers with the knives. Yeah, these are the peace activators [sic]. Yeah.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Turkey used to be secular. Today Turkey is far more Islamic. ErdoÄŸan represents this Islamic power. ErdoÄŸan’s government is a radical Islamic government with a jihadist agenda, probably, that wants Muslim control here without Jews.
TARACHANSKY (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Just because they’re Muslim?
UNIDENTIFIED: Of course. And the world needs to understand this. The war is between the radical Muslim world and the civilized, the Western civilization.
TARACHANSKY (ENGLISH): Do you think Israel has a right to attack anyone anywhere?
UNIDENTIFIED (ENGLISH): We have the right to defend ourselves. That’s a defensive democracy.
UNIDENTIFIED: That’s the best example I could ever give.
TARACHANSKY: The whole idea was organized, orchestrated, and fundraised by Americans and Europeans. Only this time, only one of the boats is Turkish. Why are you not protesting outside the American embassy?
UNIDENTIFIED: Maybe we had a good excuse to go to the Turkish ship. Look what happened.
UNIDENTIFIED (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Even the policemen are on our side! Because they are part of our nation.
TARACHANSKY: For a week before the attack ever took place, the Israeli army and security cabinet that advises the prime minister debated what action to take. During this time, the Israeli Navy ran scenario exercises with the Israeli Air Force. On Friday, May 29, three days prior to the attack, the Israeli daily Maariv published this article. It outlines stage by stage how the operation was to take place: stage 1, warning; stage 2, taking control; stage 3, deboarding the ship; stage 4, arrest; and Stage 5, inspection. Under stage 2, taking control, the operation prescribes that “If the ships will not answer the officers’ call to turn around, the operation will continue by force.” Unnamed army officials also engaged in an information offensive linking the Free Gaza Movement to terrorist organizations. “’We have very good reason to suspect an act of terrorism from the boats ,’ said one senior officer. ‘It is impossible to know at this stage whether terrorists boarded the ship or whether there is intent to use live ammunition against our forces. Therefore we will act with full seriousness and caution.” The article continues, “’After taking control of the ship, [unit 13 of] the Corps of Engineers and the Army’s canine unit will search the ships for terrorist materials and weapons.’” In spite of the fact that the IDF is yet to present any evidence for its terrorism claims, and that the only weapons the army found on board were its own, many people in Israel continue to see the attack as a fight against terrorism. Even Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who spoke against the convoy before it took place, said it is “violent propaganda against the state of Israel.” He then addedï¿½like many senior members of the Israeli governmentï¿½there is no humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. On Wednesday, after the attack, the Israeli army’s press office published this press release. It alleges that the activists on board the Turkish ship were Al-Qaeda mercenaries. Referring to a Security Council meeting, it says, “according to intelligence disclosed during the meeting, the terrorists wore bulletproof vests and carried with them night vision goggles, weapons, and large sums of cash.” Throughout the day, journalist Max Blumenthal and I called the army spokesperson, requesting evidence for such accusation. The army replied, saying there is none, and changed the headline of the press release to “Attackers of the IDF Soldiers Found without Identification Papers”. The wording of the press release itself also changed the term “terrorist” to “protester”. Regardless, the accusation stuck. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, one of the commandos involved in the attack spoke about having killed six protesters himself. His commanding lieutenant colonel spoke of the soldier’s performance, referring to him simply as Sergeant S. “S. did a remarkable job. He stabilized the situation and succeeded in hitting six of the terrorists.” The Freedom Flotilla intended to breach the Israeli blockade of Gaza and bring attention to the suffering of the Palestinians there. The MV Rachel Corrie, an Irish ship that is part of the convoy, is still on its way and is scheduled to reach Gaza on Saturday afternoon. It is only a matter of time before the world will see whether Israel will express restraint in the face of international outcry over its attack on Monday or whether, as Israeli press suggests, it will use even bigger force.
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