UN: Israel Executed Flotilla Activists
Thursday, September 30, 2010
PAUL JAY, SENIOR EDITOR, TRNN: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Paul Jay in Washington. On September 22, a fact-finding mission created by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights on the Israeli attack on the Gaza flotilla was released and showed—according to some, conclusively—who was responsible for the deaths that took place. The fact-finding mission was chaired by Judge Karl T. Hudson-Phillips, QC, a retired judge of the International Criminal Court, former attorney general of Trinidad and Tobago, and included other jurists from around the world. And joining us now is Gareth Porter, investigative journalist and often contributor to The Real News Network. Thanks for joining us.
GARETH PORTER, INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALIST: Thank you, Paul.
JAY: So what did the report conclude?
PORTER: The report concluded that a US citizen, Furkan Dogan, a 19-year-old US citizen, and five Turkish citizens were deliberately murdered by Israeli commandos on board the Mavi Marmara, the ship that was taken over violently by the Israeli commandos. It really provided very specific evidence that both Furkan Dogan and the five Turkish citizens were in fact killed when they were incapacitated, unable to resist, were clearly not a threat to the Israeli commandos. So it’s really the clearest and most convincing evidence that has been published, and obviously from an official source, that this was an execution-style murder.
JAY: Okay. Just to give context for—not perhaps everyone remembers this—there’s an aid flotilla going, trying to get to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. One of the boats—I can’t remember, the six or seven boats, one of the boats is selected, and the commandos actually drop from helicopters down onto the boat, and shooting takes place. And up until now, the Israelis have been saying there were shots fired at them, there were knives and other things used, and the people shot were actually the aggressors, and the commandos were defending themselves.
JAY: So how does this fact-finding mission, how have they determined that’s not true?
PORTER: Well, first of all, they interviewed 121 eyewitnesses to what happened. They tried to interview Israeli officials and IDF personnel, of course, but the Israeli government refused to cooperate, refused to have anything to do with the inquiry, and so they were unable to do that. But most importantly, they had access to the autopsy reports which were carried out by Turkish medical personnel on the dead, as well as, equally important, the medical forensic reports, which were actually tissue studies and detailed forensic reports which were vital in judging exactly what happened. And on the basis of that, they were able to assess the evidence that they were given. They also had their own experts on both the forensics, the medical forensics, and on firearms, so that they would have their own expertise in order to evaluate the evidence [inaudible]
JAY: I’ll read a quote from a piece, your article, about this, which quotes the report. The report says Dogan had apparently been, quote, "’lying on the deck in a conscious or semi-conscious state for some time’ before being shot in his face. The forensic evidence that establishes that fact is ‘tattooing around the wound in his face,’ indicating that the shot was ‘delivered at point blank range.’ The report describes the forensic evidence as showing that ‘the trajectory of the wound, from bottom to top, together with a vital abrasion to the left shoulder that could be consistent with the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back.’"
PORTER: Yes. I think this is the key point in the entire report. That is to say, they found evidence which was really quite incontrovertible that these people, and particularly Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old American citizen, could not have been shot in a situation where they were threatening the Israeli officers.
JAY: Now, you point out in your article that the White House has known this, that the Turkish autopsy report has been available to them, and this is an American citizen, but the White House has not said anything. So, first of all, how do we know in fact that that they did have this autopsy report? And then, why haven’t they said something?
PORTER: I started working on this back in July and was told by a source in the US government, in the Obama administration, that—and this was in early August—I was told that indeed the autopsy report which was held by the Turkish authorities had been turned over to the US Embassy in July, and that it was then passed on to the Justice Department, which was supposed to use this as the basis for a decision as to whether an independent US investigation by the Justice Department was appropriate. And, of course, we’ve heard absolutely nothing. Nothing has happened even after the publication of this report, which provides, again, additional information. By the way, I am convinced that the Justice Department also has the medical forensic reports, not just the autopsy reports. So they have the full set of documentation which was available to the UN fact-finding commission. But what I think is going on here is that the Obama administration had a very firm policy: we are not going to say anything about this matter; we’re going to keep it quiet.
JAY: You suggested in your article that someone from the State Department was actually saying, we’re not going to do anything that might upset the negotiation process.
PORTER: That’s right. The day, two days ago, when I published this story, I called the State Department, tried to get a comment, and what I was told was by somebody who was not able to speak on the record: we believe that this report is biased, not objective in its tone and conclusions, and we think it should not be used to disrupt the talks which are directly going on between the Palestinians and the Israelis or the talks that are going on between Israel and Turkey.
JAY: Now, one of the things you point out in your article is that the fact-finding commission found that the Israeli armed forces had not communicated anything to the ships. What is that about? ‘Cause that’s a complete contradiction of what the Israeli armed forces have said.
PORTER: Absolutely. This is a very key point, because the rationale, of course, on the part of the Israeli government and IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] was that they were there to intercept possible weapons going to Hamas in Gaza. That was the rationale for the interception of the ships and taking them over. However, what the fact-finding mission found, as you suggested, is that the Israeli ships surrounding or approaching the Gaza flotilla never communicated by radio to any of the ships saying, we would like to board peaceably to inspect the cargo.
JAY: Now, in that report, do they explain how they know something like that? ‘Cause presumably they only have one side of the story, ’cause Israel wouldn’t cooperate with their fact-finding mission.
PORTER: Well, I assume that they had access to the ship’s logs and to electronic recordings of the entire ship.
JAY: But in the report itself do they explain?
PORTER: It did not mention that, but that would be my assumption, that they were able to ascertain what sort of communications there were between the ship and any other ships during the voyage.
JAY: The other big issue here is the story broke on September 22. You wrote a piece for Truthout. Most of the media has not even mentioned this.
PORTER: Well, it’s actually worse than that, Paul. Not a single US-based news media, corporate news source, has done a story pointing out that Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old US citizen, was killed under circumstances which clearly indicate that this was an execution. It’s been completely blacked out, in other words, in the United States. Of course, it’s been picked up by the Turkish media. They’ve covered it very extensively. The BBC had a story which talked about the report. It did not mention specifically this evidence about the nature of the killing of Furkan Dogan and the five Turkish citizens. So, otherwise, other than the Turkish media, this has been blacked out across the globe.
JAY: So what’s the next step? What does the UN human rights commissioner do now with this information?
PORTER: Well, I think this is one of those cases where it’s up to alternative media to get the story out and to develop some pressure on institutions in this country to raise this issue, to say to the Obama administration, how can you in good conscience refuse to lift a finger to even carry out your own investigation of the killing of a US citizen on board this ship, when you know that there is very clear and convincing evidence that he was murdered deliberately?
JAY: Thanks very much for joining us.
PORTER: Thank you.
JAY: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.
End of Transcript
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