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Friday, 25 June 2010

Brilliant Hard Talk Interview with Kenneth O'Keefe of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

It is not often that one comes across an interview which merits the adjective 'brilliant'. However Kenneth O'Keefe's interview with the BBC, in 3 parts lives up to the billing as he lays into Israel’s bare-faced lies to justify its attack on the Mavi Marmara and the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. He points out that yes he helped disarm 2 navy commandos and separate them from their weapons, but that they were given medical treatment and not harmed, despite having killed 2 of his brothers.

O’Keefe, who has been a prominent peace activist and tore up his US passport in protest at the Iraq War, was savagely beaten up by the cowards of Israel’s so-called defence forces.

Below is an analysis of Israel’s fake vidoes and other false allegations, such as that their soldiers were shot or knifed or both. All of these allegations have now disappeared as have photos of arms shipments which dated back years.

Tony Greenstein

The Israeli Media’s Flotilla Fail

On 06.22.10, By Max

My summary of the Israeli media’s shambolic performance following the flotilla massacre was originally published here in Hebrew at Dvorit Shargal’s excellent Israeli media blog, Velvet Underground. The English version follows:

If the raid of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was a disaster for the Israel Defense Forces, its aftermath demonstrated an equally bewildering performance by the Israeli media. The IDF Spokesman’s Office churned out one misleading claim after another, each one more implausible than the next, seeking to implant in the public’s mind a version of events that bore little relation to reality. To a degree, this was to be expected; but it was startling to see how some of Israel’s most respected reporters lined up to serve as military stenographers, barely challenging the IDF’s rapidly changing versions of events. IDF claims about the flotilla passengers’ links to Al Qaida, anti-Semitic statements shouted at the Israeli Navy, and their terrorist intentions were eagerly broadcast by the Israeli media without a second thought. When independent reporters forced the IDF to retract or “clarify” all of these claims, Israeli news outlets refused to correct their errors, or covered them up without acknowledgment.

It so happened that I arrived in Israel for a research trip the day after the flotilla raid. As a result, I was able to do something which I always thought to be a very basic journalistic practice, so basic it’s supposed to be applied routinely: Asking an implicated party in a story to produce evidence for its claims. What I found bewildering is that at least judging from Israeli media reports, few, if any, mainstream reporters applied this practice, and when a visiting colleague did their job for them – nobody bothered to correct or withdraw their original report.

On June 2, the IDF disseminated a press release entitled, “Attackers of the IDF soldiers found to be Al Qaeda mercenaries.” The accusation was not accompanied by any conclusive evidence — the IDF reported that Mavi Marmara passengers were equipped with night-vision goggles (gasp!). This did not stop Yedioth’s Ron Ben-Yishai, who was embedded with the Navy commandos, from amplifying the baseless charge. Citing an “interrogation” of Marmara passengers — “lynchers,” he called them — Ben-Yishai wrote the same day, “Some among the [flotilla passengers] are believed to have ties with World Jihad groups, mainly Al Qaeda.” The article made no reference to any efforts on part of Ben Yishai to investigate this claim, nor did he seem to think to ask why the IDF was about to release dangerous operatives of Osama Bin Laden — presumably they would attack again, wouldn’t they?

On June 3, Israeli journalist Lia Tarachansky of the Real News Network and I placed calls to the IDF Spokesman’s Office to demand further evidence of the Marmara’s Al Qaeda ties. We received identical responses from spokespeople from the IDF’s Israel and North America desks: “We don’t have any evidence. The press release was based on information from the National Security Council.” Hours later, the IDF retracted its claim, changing the title of its press release to, “Attackers of IDF Soldiers Found Without Identification Papers.” Despite the official retraction, Ben-Yishai’s article remains uncorrected.

On June 4, the IDF released an audio clip purporting to consist of transmissions between the Mavi Marmara and a Naval warship. “Go back to Aushwitz!” a Marmara passenger shouted, according to the IDF. YNet and Haaretz reported on and reproduced the audio clip without investigating its authenticity. Forget that the voice uttering the anti-Semitic slur sounded like a mentally disturbed teenager; had reporters performed a cursory search of the IDF Spokeman’s Office website, they would have found a longer clip released on May 31 that featured a dramatically different exchange with the Marmara with no mention of Auschwitz. Further, the voice of flotilla organizer Huwaida Arraf was featured in the “Aushwitz” clip, yet Arraf was not aboard the Marmara (she was on the Challenger One). Could the IDF have doctored audio to exploit public hysteria surrounding the issue of anti-Semitism?

On my blog, I pointed out the discrepancies in the IDF’s footage and raised the question of doctoring. The next day, the IDF conceded that it had in fact doctored the footage, releasing a “clarification” and a new clip claiming to consist of the “full” exchange between the Navy and the flotilla. Unfortunately, the authenticity of the new clip was impossible to verify.

Despite the IDF’s admission, YNet and Haaretz have not corrected their original reports, though Haaretz has at least altered its headline. Once the doctoring was exposed, the New York Times covered the episode in detail, directing international attention to the triumph of independent online reporting and the apparent failure of Israel’s parochial press corps.

On June 7, Haaretz’s Anshel Pfeffer reported on an IDF press release claiming without evidence that five flotilla passengers had links to international terror. The press release was larded with highly implausible claims, including that Ken O’Keefe, who runs an aid organization with Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, was planning to train a Hamas commando unit in the Gaza Strip. When I called the IDF Spokesman’s Office, I learned that once again, no evidence was available to support their press release. “There is very limited intelligence we can give in this specific case,” Sgt. Chen Arad told me. “Obviously I’m unable to give you more information.” Did Pfeffer demand more evidence? If he did and was answered in the same manner as I did, why did Haaretz publish an unsubstantiated spin as fact?

Joined by Haaretz military correspondents Avi Isacharoff and Amos Harel, Pfeffer became a channel for another daytime deception by the IDF. On May 31, the three reporters produced an article based exclusively on testimony from Naval commandos — the flotilla passengers’ side of the story was ignored — claiming they had faced live fire and lynching attempts from Marmara passengers. Since the story was published, the IDF has produced scant evidence to support either accusation. The article was accompanied by a suspicious photo from the IDF Spokesman’s Office depicting a bearded Muslim man brandishing a knife and surrounded by photojournalists. Daylight beamed in from a window behind the man. Haaretz’s caption, which was sourced to the IDF, asserted that the photo was taken “after” the commandos had boarded the Marmara. However, the commandos raided the ship at night, while the photo was taken during the day. Once again, the IDF’s story was fishy.

I called Sgt. Arad at the IDF Spokesman’s Office to investigate. He told me he had no evidence to support the photo’s questionable caption. Soon after our phone conversation, Haaretz quietly altered the caption, removing its claim that the photo was taken “after” the commando raid. For nearly a week, the false photo caption had remained intact. Why did Haaretz suddenly change it? The only plausible explanation is that the paper received a tip from the IDF Spokesman’s Office. If true, the tip-off suggests a scandalous level of coordination between the Israeli military and the country’s media.

In the wake of the flotilla raid, Israeli journalists had a unique opportunity to lead the global media’s investigation into the bloodbath that occurred on the deck of the Mavi Marmara. After all, no one had better access to the military or the eyewitnesses aboard the flotilla. Instead, too many among the Israeli press corps allowed themselves to be conscripted into the IDF’s hapless information war, leaving the important task of investigating the raid to independent reporters who remembered to view claims by any nation’s military with extreme skepticism.

So why do well-connected, experienced reporters follow the IDF baton so willingly, and fail to follow up when IDF claims are retracted? Is it simple bias, a desire to present their military in the best possible light, a desire so strong they abandon their duty to their readers to verify their information? Are they afraid of sanctions, of losing contacts and access to information? Do they fear personal reprisals? Their readers, and the world media that still relies on Israeli journalism as a vital source of information, need to know.

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Anonymous said...

"false allegations, such as that their soldiers were shot or knifed or both."
I'm sad to think that you hate your origins and moreover jews and Israelis so much that you even deny that which is obvious from the pictures published in Hurriyet. A knife and blood on the soldiers is obvious.
You are a pitiful person and your hatred will continue to eat at you.

Anonymous said...

Excellent post. Its amazing how an entire nation is willing to delude itself by regurgitating its own lies over and over again.

It seems that the greed for land can cause cause individuals and entire nations to do ridiculous and immoral things.

if only the lobby had not existed....

Tony Greenstein said...

Our anonymous Zionist believes a knife and blood on the soldiers is obvious. Actually I haven't seen this photo, where is it? Not that one would be able to distinguish between the blood of an Israeli and those they murdered, unless our anonymous Zionist is one of those who believes Jewish blood is a different substance from the non-Jewish variety.

The Israeli military liars have posted demonstrably false video evidence, have shown shots of arms on board that are traceable to 2009and another ship and have simply dubbed voices such as the 'Auschwitz' one. Crude lies in short.

But our anonymous Zionist idiot says he is sad (good!) that I hate my origins. But the origins of Jews in the West lies in the fight against racism and anti-Semitism not in the pathetic display of macho pride in Israeli and Zionist racism.

According to the Zionist fool it is some form of treachery 'self hatred' to oppose racism when perpetrated by Jews but to magnify it when done against Jews. And he calls this loyalty to being Jewish !!

Maybe I am disloyal if loyalty to the Jewish Masterrace idea, the Jewish herrenvolk, is not my idea of loyalty to what made Jews different. Their challenge to the existing order, their pariah status, (B Lazarre!) the Heines and Spinozas, Freuds and Einsteins, these were the real Jews who lasted. Not the messianic madmen in charge of Israel whose military hubris fills inadequates like the anonymous Zionist with some sort of false pride.

Anonymous said...

“Our anonymous Zionist believes a knife and blood on the soldiers is obvious. Actually I haven't seen this photo, where is it? “

Why do you constantly compare people who disagree with you with nazis? I support Palestinians in their wish for their state, and am not happy with the settlements but don't understand Palestinians and your wish to destroy Israel when there is plenty of land there for everyone.

As you haven't seen the Hurriyet photos yet, i'm including a link. Picture number 4 shows a man with a knife in his hand and a soldier lying with blood on him.

The israelis don't say they are better than anyone else, nor do they claim to part of any master race. Any such ideas are the figment of anti-semites' imaginations over the millenia. Do you really wish to be identified with such people Mr Greenstein?

Maybe you will one day wake up to the only state in the middle east where arab citizens, gays and women and other religions have full rights in law.
In case you're interested a woman is about to be stoned to death in Iran for having been raped. Why don't you have some balance rather than attack the only democratic state in the region. Do you have anything to say about that poor woman or gays often hanged in Iran even though according to Ahmadinejad they don't exist?

Of course Israel has flaws, but maybe you yourself, like myself and everyone else, have flaws in your own personality. Are you as hard on yourself as you are on Israel? Why do you only select Israel for demonisation? Ask yourself this please.

Tony Greenstein said...

I am asked why do I constantly compare people I disagree with to Nazis. I don't. But if people use Nazi-style arguments then of course I do use such arguments.

Why do Zionists say things like 'I'm sad to think that you hate your origins and moreover Jews.' Is it necessary to accuse critics of Israel and Zionism of anti-Semitism when historically the main supporters of Zionism were Nazis and anti-Semites?

What have my 'origins' got to do with the argument? Isn't this obsession with how Jewish one is a little bit, well err Nazi? Weren't they concerned with one's percentage of Jewishness as it were?

To return to more mundane arguments the photo in Hurriyet shows someone with a kitchen knife and a soldier on the floor. He has blood on him it would appear but there is no suggestion as to how he was injured. It is clear that he wasn't being attacked and the original lies of Israel's propagandists that soldiers had been shot has been quietly dropped, as have the accusations that anyone was stabbed with a knife, though to be quite honest when pirates board your boat with guns and fire live ammunition then there is no legal reason why a knife cannot be used in self-defence. Certainly in English law if you tackled a burglar with a knife and injured or killed him and he had a gun you would not be prosecuted, let alone convicted.

I don't accept that Palestinians want their own state if that means leaving the status quo in Israel unchanged. In any case such a 'state' could only be a hideous caricature of a state. Partition builds it doesn't eradicate sectarianism and confessionalism.

Anon. says he 'isn't happy' with the settlements. Well that is one way of putting it. Like I'm not happy with the Inquisition or Torquemada! And the theft of land, destruction of Palestinian agriculture, stealing of water, pogroms against Palestinians. Not happy? well quite.

Yes there's plenty of land but that is not the point. The question is why have a separate Jewish state replete with its demographic fears. That is about racial purity not simply land.

Actually Israelis do say they are better than Arabs. Opinion polls constantly show that a majority of Israels want Israeli Arabs to move out, for the Palestinians to be transferred as well as things like not wanting to live next door to an Arab or have one in one's house (something like 80%). Or the recent poll that showed a majority of Israeli high school students oppose arabs voting or being elected. What else is that if not an example of racial supremacy.

Tony Greenstein said...

Or the defence of David Bukay by the University of Haifa, which is adept at punishing Arab students and dreaming up disciplinary infringements. When Bukay was criticised for naked racism by the leader of the arab students at Haifa it was the student who was charged. Bukay is author of a number of racist tracts such as the Arab Personality.

When Israel says it wants to Judaify a particular area or demolishes Arab homes in Jerusalem or the Negev to make way for Jewish settlement then it does so on the basis that the Arab natives are not equal to those who are supplanting them.

Since Arabs don't have equal rights in Israel, hence why there is no constitution which would have had to enact the Declaration of Independence. Instead Israel is a Jewish state. At a time when Arabs are the subject of repeated bills and acts in the Knesset targeting them for loyalty oaths, outlawing commemoration of the Nakba, viciously attacking and stripping of her parliamentary privileges Haneen Zoabi, where mobs call for 'death to the Arabs' and march through Jerusalem doing the same whilst being escorted by the same police who regularly tear gas palestinian demonstrations including western observers and particpants then this recycled piece of hasbara is just that. Repetition of a canard.

The plight of gays, which Israel uses to bolster its own credentials, would be a damn sight better in the Middle East if imperialism hadn't bolstered and reinforced Political islam, to which many Arabs have turned out of frustration and the failures of the leftist parties. And of course Israel did its best in the 1980's to support and indeed create Hamas as a counterweight to their secular Palestinian opponents.

I am asked about gays who have been hanged in Iran or women who have been stoned. It goes without question that I condemn it but who is responsible for the existence of the bloody Iranian regime but western imperialism which overthrew Mossadegh in 1953 and replaced him with the Shah of Iran? Just as the Taliban were effectively put there by the USA so the regime of mullahs owes its origins to western duplicity. Without imperialism in the Middle East, Islam would have done the same as Christianity and adapted to captalism with its own Reformation.

I think I've made my position on the Iranian regime very clear in:

Anonymous said...

It is as if the media just don't get it. Attacking a humanitarian aid convoy in International waters in a nightly commando raid simply cannot be considered selfdefense. I have seen the video's released by the Israeli press office so many times now, BUT WHERE ARE THE VIDEO SEQUENCES OF HOW THE 9 PEOPLE WERE KILLED?