Met up with some friends recently who are ardently pro-Israel. They told me that the Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships had contained weapons in its cargo and that Terrorists were among the persons involved. I decided to check up.
When John told me that the Flotilla had weapons in its cargo, I assumed he meant guns. There were no guns. The most offensive weapons found in the flotilla were a number of slingshots which were ‘deployed’, if one can say that of a slingshot, against the Israeli UH-60 Black Hawk Helicopters. The Black Hawks successfully withstood the withering barrage of marble-fire and managed to rapelle their elite Naval Commando Unit onto the decks of the flotilla craft with no casulaties.
The official photos taken by the Israeli Defense Forces of the weapons cache of the flotilla were enough to make me laugh out loud. Again there are no guns. There are however clubs, a machete-like knife, about fifteen knives suitable for a ships kitchen, four or five other switchblade- or penknike-type knives and an assortment of ships equipment like wrenches, screwdrivers, hammers and chain.
The IDF also reported that chairs and dinner plates were used as improvised weapons. While I would not like to be struck by a chair or dinner plate, these are hardly the kind of thing which comes to mind when the IDF says that there were Terrorists and Weapons on board the Freedom Flotilla.
There are no guns at all in the official IDF photographs despite their claim they came under ‘live fire / from all directions’ before boarding and while advancing through the ships, which shows such claims to be lies.
As a weapons-smuggling operation the Gaza Flotilla would not successfully enarmour a Palestinian against against a mildly motivated Bronx Greaser Gang of the 1950’s, let alone the Israeli Army, though it would provide shock and awe value against a Cro-Magnon hunter-gatherer.
The need of the IDF to augment the weapons cache with ordinary ship’s equipment shows them eager to exaggerate their view of the flotilla and its participants. Flotilla participants admit the slingshots and the UN Palmer Report (p.57) confirms the clubs. Everything else is ships equipment or materiel (confirmed here).
By ‘Terrorists’ I assumed John meant something like ‘trained guerillas’. The flotilla participants included no guerillas or combat operatives, trained or otherwise.
The IDF listed the names of five ‘Specific Flotilla Passengers’ it says are Active Terror Operatives’ . The first name listed is Ken O’Keefe, a former US Marine who renounced his US citizenship in March 2001.
The IDF, adducing no evidence, claims:
O’Keefe attempted to enter the Gaza Strip in order to form and train a commando unit for [Hamas]
O’Keefe rejects the baseless charge while freely acknowledging he has met the Hamas Party Leader and Palestinian Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh in the course of his activism for the residents of Gaza. O’Keefe’s web-site offers a very full explication of his ideology which is based firmly in action and activism but not on armed combat which he eschews.
The IDF charge against O’Keefe is a mere smear utilizing guilt-by-association
The terrorist accusation against Fatima Mohammadi is also, in the absence of evidence, quite simply made up.
Vehemently anti-Palestinian blogs have dug for evidence that Ms. Mohammadi has supported terrorism but have found none. Here’s a typical piece, full of smears but providing no evidence of wrong-doing on Mohammadi’s part.
Mohammadi’s non-existent ‘ties to Hamas’ appear to be similar to that of O’Keefe, in that Mohammadi has participated in a delegation to Gaza as part of her activism, in her case on behalf of Viva Palestina, an NGO of which she is a US national organiser.
The other three are baselessly accused by the IDF of providing finacial support to Islamic terror organisations and/or being terror operatives themselves. German newspaper Der Spiegel investigated these accusations and could find no evidence to support them.
IDF Retracts Terrorist Claim
Soon after the impounding of the flotilla, the IDF issued a press release stating that 40 Al-Quaida operatives were amongst the flotilla members. After some simple questions were asked of the IDF in relation to this, the IDF reissued the notice to merely state 40 persons without identification papers were on the flotilla. The IDF was thus caught out in a direct propaganda lie.
As it happens, those 40 were not innocent humanitarian activists, but nor were they terrorists either. Of them, more below.
If the flotilla was truly a gun-running Jihadist-ferrying Trojan Horse the IDF would need only to present the straightforward evidence. Its need to resort to lies about weaponry and flotilla participants shows that the flotilla was not what the IDF portrayed it to be. Such propaganda is then digested uncritically by anti-Palestinian and anti-Islamic commentators and enters the public consciousness as a true record.
If the IDF wishes to be respected, let it communicate truthfully.
To summarize: The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was not running weapons to Gaza and there were no terrorists aboard.
In the next sections I will investigate various other accusations made against the flotilla participants.
Islamic War Cry
An anti-flotilla article on the blog ‘Peace With Realism’ entitled ‘Orwell In Gaza’ documents the disturbing truth that flotilla participants chanted an islamic Battle Cry before sailing for Gaza.
The true intentions of this supposed mission of “peace” became evident as the participants shouted this chilling battle cry, on footage taken aboard the flotilla just before its departure:
“Remember Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!” Khaybar is the name of the last Jewish village destroyed by Muhammad in 628, marking the beginning of the end of any Jewish presence in Arabia. It has become a rallying cry for Islamic extremists, threatening death to Jews throughout history. You probably did not see this footage if you live in the West, but it was broadcast on Al-Jazeera.
The accusation that the ‘Khaybar War Cry’ was sung on the Mavi Marmara is true, but Peace With Realism makes the error, following Israeli propaganda, of ascribing the militant Islamist sentiment of the singers to every person on the flotilla. In fact, of the 594 flotilla participants only a sub-group of 42 who embarked seperately to the main flotilla sang this chant.
It was this group of 40 that violently resisted the Israeli Commandos, attacking them with metal bars fashioned from the ship’s railing, knives from the ship’s kitchen, chain and anything else at their disposal. At least one, perhaps as many as seven, expressed a wish to become a martyr.
Serious investigations into the flotilla incident, such as the UN Palmer Report, the BBC Panorama documentary ‘Death In The Med’ and the Israelis themselves when they are being honest (Palmer Report p.30)are consistent in differentiating between the 40 ‘hard-core’ Islamic activists and the majority other 550 or so flotilla participants. Anti-Palestinian, anti-flotilla blogs and Israeli propaganda lazily impugn the entire flotilla membership as Islamists or haters of Israel.
IHH: Not Really A Charity
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was co-organised by the Free Gaza Movement and the Turkish NGO İnsan Hak ve Hürriyetleri Vakfı (Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief) (IHH). The IHH does indeed perform charitable works, but its true purpose is to support Islamist and Jihadist activities.
This article ‘The Gaza Flotilla: Facts and Official Reactions’, by Max Gerstenfeldt of the Jerusalem Centre For Public Affairs contains a detailed analysis of the Islamist/Jihadist motivation of the IHH and its President.
According to a 2006 report by the Danish Institute for International Studies, the IHH had links to Al-Qaeda and global Islamist networks during the 1990s.
The IHH was the subject of a Turkish criminal investigation in 1997, when sources revealed that senior IHH activists were purchasing automatic weapons from other Islamist groups. When they searched the IHH offices, Turkish security services found weapons, explosives, instructions for manufacturing IEDs (improvised explosive devices), and documents indicating that IHH members were planning to participate in terror activities in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.
The report also notes that the current president of the IHH and organizer of the “Freedom Flotilla,” Bulent Yildrim, had galvanized anti-American sentiment, and incitement against U.S. troops, in these areas during the Iraq War.
A report by the Washington Institute for Near East Policy notes that “in the mid-1990s, Yildrim was directly involved in ‘recruit[ing] veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war [jihad]. In particular, some men were sent to war zones in Muslim countries in order to acquire combat experience.'”
In July 2010, a group of Italian lawmakers under the lead of legislator Fiamma Nirenstein proposed that IHH be included in the European Union’s list of terrorist organizations. “The Islamic fundamentalist nature of IHH has been documented by numerous declarations praising martyrdom and Israel’s destruction,” said Nirenstein.
In Germany, the Coordinating Council of German Nongovernmental Organizations against Anti-Semitism likewise called on the government to place the IHH on the EU list of terrorist organizations, because “like Hamas the IHH is an anti-Semitic organization that promotes terrorism.”
Former French judge Jean-Louis Bruguière, who investigated the IHH in the late 1990s, said the group was connected to a 1999 plot by Al-Qaeda to bomb Los Angeles International Airport. He described the IHH as having “clear, long-standing ties to terrorism,” and stated that the group was “basically helping Al-Qaeda when Bin Laden started to want to target U.S. soil.”
It is plain, in my opinion, that IHH intended to engineer a confrontation with Israel using humanitarian activists as pawns. No firearms were bought on to the Flotilla, but the hard-core IHH sub-group premeditated to use dangerous ships materiel as improvised weapons against the Israeli Commandos. The IHH members fully expected they would be killed in the operation, but hoped to kill some Commandos in the process. This intention was kept secret to the wider Flotilla community which numbered 718 at the outset of the voyage, reducing to 594 due to mechanical problems in one or two flotilla craft.
In view the above it is true to say that the Gaza Flotilla was organized with a Jihadist purpose. That purpose was only known to a small minority (42/718) of the flotilla participants. The vast majority were humanitarian activists.
The Jihadist purpose was to apply pressure to Israel to end the Gaza blockade so that rockets and other weapons could once again freely enter Gaza. That pressure was intended to come by provoking Israel into a violent conflict which would disgrace Israel in the eyes of the international community. The 40 IHH Jihadis chose to enter the confrontation with virtually no arms beyond found items on the ship augmented by some wooden clubs and metal poles which they cut from the ships railing. By this they hoped to disgace Israel which they calculated would use deadly force to overcome opponents with approximations of Bronze Age armaments.
The IHH has made some headway towards its goals, acheiving this by deceitfully tricking sincere humanitarians into participation into an operation IHH calculates as helping to bring about increased Rocket attacks on the Israeli civilian populations with a view to the ultimate destruction of the state of Israel.
Neither the IHH, nor its co-coordinator, the Free Gaza Movement have been honest about the Islamist and Jihadist nature of the IHH. The statements of FGM and IHH to the effect that they are motivated purely by humanitarianism are shameless lies and propaganda.
The Israeli naval blockade of Gaza was directed at preventing Rockets and other weaponry entering Gaza. The Palmer Report (pp. 39-40) succintly describes how militants in Gaza fired approx. 5,000 rockets between 2005 and Jan 2009 into an area heavily populated by Israeli citizens. The naval blockade, which was a response to this, has contributed to a reduction in attacks.
The IHH did not achieve an annulment of the naval blockade, but considerable criticism has been levied against Israel and both the naval blockade and restricted land crossings into Gaza are viewed with jaundice by a significant sector of educated opinion as well as centrist and left-leaning political parties in the Western Hemisphere.
As a consequence of the impoundment of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, the publicity surrounding its actions and the killing of nine flotilla participants (and wounding of fifty-three) by the IDF the Palmer Report notes (p. 69)
- The Government of Israel has taken significant steps to ease the restrictions on goods entering Gaza
- On 5 July 2010, in a step which was welcomed by the Secretary-General, the Government of Israel switched from a positive list of goods allowed into Gaza to a negative list of goods whose entry is prohibited or restricted.
- On 8 December 2010, Israel decided to allow exports from Gaza, consistent with security conditions.
Gaza Humanitarian Crisis
The allieviation of economic conditions in Gaza as a consequence of relaxation of import controls via land is a temporary impediment to the US-Israel objective of removing Hamas by economic immiseration of the Gazan civilian population.
The Israeli policy, endorsed by the US is to keep Gaza on the verge of humanitarian crisis in order to make Hamas unpopular and engineer a change of government.
According to Reuters, via Wikileaks, a cable from the U.S. Embassy in Tel Aviv says Israeli officials have confirmed on multiple occasions that they want Gaza’s economy
‘functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis.’
Notes the blog ‘Moral Low Ground’
The blockade of Gaza banned, at one time or another, all of the following items– and this is just a partial list: canned goods; plastic sheeting; toys; books; electric appliances; auto parts; fabrics; threads; needles; light bulbs; candles; matches; books; musical instruments; crayons; clothing; shoes; mattresses; sheets; blankets; cutlery; crockery; cups; glasses; animals; pasta; tea; coffee; sausages; chocolate; sesame seeds; nuts; margarine; salt; artificial sweetener; legumes; yeast; diapers; sanitary napkins and toilet paper.
The situation in Gaza is awful. In Gaza City, many houses have running water only once a week. Sanitation services are inadequate for the population such that untreated sewage was entering the water processing system and food chain at points likely to compromise health.
From the Palmer Report (p. 69)
Furthermore, socio-economic conditions in Gaza have deteriorated badly in the aftermath
of […] the Israeli-imposed restrictions on goods entering Gaza via the land crossings. Since these restrictions began in 2007, most private businesses have closed. The functioning of hospitals has been severely affected. The provision of electricity has been reduced and is intermittent. There has been a deterioration of water supply and sanitation services. Israel’s report admits Israel’s land crossings policies […]were designed to weaken the economy […]
Given that Israel has created the shocking living conditions in Gaza as a matter of deliberate policy, it can hardly be surprised that humanitarian activists may wish to participate in actions designed to change that policy of deliberate immiseration of local populations; nor should it complain or cry foul when the inhuman consequences of that policy are loudly and publicly pointed out.
Illegitimate And/Or Stupid
The strangulation of Gaza in order to delegitimize Hamas takes many forms including coercing Banks to deny services to Hamas members.
Hamas, lest we forget, is the democratically elected administration within Gaza. The people of Gaza voted for Hamas to be their government. For many ardent pro-Israelis and anti-Palestinians, the decision of Gazans to elect Hamas was an act of collective stupidity, proving that Palestinians are not responsible enough or too much in the grip of irrational hatred to know how to vote properly. Thus whatever Israel or the USA should decide to do to Gaza and Gazans is justified.
There is no justification for electing Jihadist government, so the deprivations visited upon Gaza by Israel are the fault of Gazans themselves. For this reason they shall be denied adequate sanitation, water and electricity. They shall endure sewage in their food and water; be deprived of sanitary napkins, vegetables and shoes; they shall be denied adequate medical supplies and otherwise flogged until they learn better.
Of course the mirrored Islamic view that the governments of Israel and the USA are illegitimate because they are non-Islamic or have committed war crimes against Muslim non-combatants is not regarded as sane. Osama Bin Laden may be assasinated by a crack Commando team and his body dumped in the ocean, but GW Bush may not be kidnapped, beheaded then incinerated. That would merely prove the blood-lust of Islam.
Who’s To Blame ?
There’s more than enough blame to share around. The IHH engineered a violent confrontation. The Israelis, for public-relations purposes, prefer the effects and intention of their blockade of Gaza not to be publicized and hence would have preferred no confrontation. But when it came they did not resile from shooting dead a few of its enemies. The pattern of gunshot wounds indicates that IHH Jihadists were shot from speedboats, helicopters, from behind, when wounded and defenceless and in general mercilessly executed.
In addition, the treatment of flotilla passengers by the IDF on the boats and in Israel was disgusting. It is apparent from reading the IDF submissions to the Palmer Report that the Israelis had exact knowledge of where the 40 dangerous IHH activists were, and while they disciminated their use of deadly force on this basis, they did not much differentiate in degrading, beating and robbing the remainder of the flotilla participants. (See Palmer Report pp.51-66).
The non-Jihadist flotillans, on the other hand, provided protection and first aid for the Israeli Commandos, eschewed the use of firearms confiscated from them and otherwise conducted themselves in a manner superior to that which they received from the IDF.
What To Do ?
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla incident is a manifestation of the wider issue of the intractable Israel/Muslim State animosity, a problem which appears truly unsolvable, but…
- Israel is entitled to defend itself. The number of rocket attacks on Israel increased dramatically after Hamas assumed control of Gaza. These attacks are timed to coincide with Israeli school start times, so Hamas are obviously targeting children. The land crossing and naval blockades should continue.
- Import restrictions on Gaza should be lifted in toto except for non-police weapons
As to future ‘Freedom Flotillas’, I don’t think the IDF will kill you if you’re not Islamist, but they will probably taser, beat, and degrade you. Go with a Western charity and not one that’s associated with Islamism like the IHH.
And if you do decide to go on a little boat trip with the IHH or another Islamic ‘Charity’ be aware that Islamic humanitarianism includes the concept of beating Jews with metal poles and promoting activities calculated to contribute to the demise of the State Of Israel.