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Monday, 27 September 2010

UN Fact Finding Mission’ Devastating Report on Israel’s Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Israel Guilty of Murder and Torture

The Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission, established on 2nd June by the UN Human Rights Council into the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, is a devastating critique of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and its aftermath, in particular regarding the Mavi Marmara. That Israel has dismissed its findings as 'biased' etc. is no surprise. Any independent fact finding report, such as the Goldstone Report which they have since quietly admitted is true, is always rubbished by Israel.

At 56 pages, the Report is at once both devastating in its factual conclusions and in its concise legal summary of the implications of those facts. It should be used by activists to nail the Israeli lies and the BBC’s continued peddling of those lies, in particular the Panorama programme, Death on the Med which was broadcast from the viewpoint of the killers.

It is extremely interesting that the BBC was given, according to its own boast, ‘unique access’ to the killers whilst it has refused to supply any evidence to the UN Inquiry. One wonders why it is that the Israeli state thought it could trust the BBC so much. Possibly because it knows that these days the BBC, and its wretched Director General, Mark Thompson, can always be trusted to put out a propaganda line on their behalf.

The Report begins (all numbers in square brackets are paragraph numbers [16] by expressing ‘its profound regret’ at Israel’s ‘non-recognition of and non-cooperation with the Mission.’

Unlike the BBC, the Committee made what was an obviously sensible decision regarding Israeli video footage. [20]
In light of seizure of cameras, CCTV footage and digital media storage devices and of the suppression of that material with the disclosure only of a selected and minute quantity of it, the Mission was obliged to treat with extreme caution the versions released by the Israeli authorities where those versions did not coincide with the evidence of eyewitnesses who appeared before us.’
Legally the position is quite clear. ‘According to applicable international law, unless an exception applies, a vessel on the high seas is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of its flag State.’ Therefore
the only lawful basis for intercepting the vessel would be a reasonable suspicion that it was making an effective contribution to the opposing forces’ war effort, such as by carrying weaponry or was otherwise closely integrated into the enemy war effort (belligerent right of capture); or posed an imminent and overwhelming threat to Israel and there was no alternative but to use force to prevent it (self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter). In view of the information available, the Mission is satisfied that the interception of the flotilla and related preparatory planning by Israel was not purely motivated by concerns as to the vessels’ contribution to the war effort.
Indeed ‘The evidence of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Turkel Committee indicates that the decision to stop the flotilla was not taken because the vessels in themselves posed any immediate security threat.’ [56]

The attack on the flotilla ‘was motivated by concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organizers of the flotilla.’ Those who are powerful are also usually idiots. The propaganda victory they feared was magnified thousands of time by the murders on the MM.

The Report is quite clear that there was no military threat posed by the flotilla: [58]
Given the evidence at the Turkel Committee, it is clear that there was no reasonable suspicion that the Flotilla posed any military risk of itself. As a result, no case could be made to intercept the vessels in the exercise of belligerent rights or Article 51 self-defence. Thus, no case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.
The Report found that [61] ‘the enforcement of an illegal blockade does not only constitute a violation of the laws of war, but also a violation of the laws of neutrality giving rise to State responsibility.’

There was therefore no justification for the armed attack on the MM: [66] ‘In a situation of armed conflict, military force can only be used against a combatant or against civilians participating actively and directly in combat activities, which cannot be said of the civilians on the Mavi Marmara.’

And in respect of the killing list booklet the Report found that [97]
Advanced identification and surveillance of specific passengers by Israeli intelligence forces took place, as indicated by a laminated booklet, recovered from the possessions of one of the captured Israeli soldiers which contained the names and photographs of specific high profile individuals on each of the six vessels as well as photographs of each vessel. … Advance surveillance is confirmed by evidence attributed to Defence Minister Ehud Barak before the Turkel Committee…
The Report also finds that no weapons were ever brought on board the MM. [101]
‘Furthermore, the fact that some passengers engaged in last minute efforts to fashion rudimentary weapons shortly prior to the interception confirms the findings of the Mission that no weapons were brought on board the ship.’
When radio contact was first made by the Israeli navy, the flotilla was asked to switch from Channel 16 which could be heard by other ships. One wonders why? [108]

And again contrary to the BBC, which uncritically broadcast the fake Israeli tapes of someone saying ‘Go Back to Auschwitz’ and praising 9/11, the Report is quite specific: [110]
However, the Mission is not satisfied that these recordings are authentic, nor has the Israeli government made this material available to the Mission for appropriate examination. The Mission was given positive evidence that no such statements were made by anyone involved in communications on the flotilla.
The Report finds that the passengers attempted to repel the boarders with the ship’s water hoses. [113] but also sites the International Maritime Organization’s circular ‘Guidance to ship owners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships’ June 2009, recommending the use of water hoses ‘as a means to prevent an attempted boarding by pirates and armed robbers.’ both of which the Israeli forces were.

In an important finding the Report concludes that live ammunition was fired at passengers from the helicopter above the MM. [114]

‘The Mission does not find it plausible that soldiers were holding their weapons and firing as they descended on the rope. However, it has concluded that live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers.’

Likewise the Report found that weapons seized from the soldiers was thrown into the sea [115]. There was [116]:
‘no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship. Despite requests, the Mission has not received any medical records or other substantiated information from the Israeli authorities regarding any firearm injuries sustained by soldiers participating in the raid. Doctors examined the three soldiers taken below decks and no firearm injuries were noted. Further, the Mission finds that the Israeli accounts so inconsistent and contradictory with regard to evidence of alleged firearms injuries to Israeli soldiers that it has to reject it.’
That’s pretty clear then and [p.27, fn. 70] made it quite clear why it rejected the Israeli attempt to suggest otherwise:
‘In his testimony to the Turkel Committee on 11 August 2010, Chief of General Staff Ashkenazi refers to one soldier being “shot in his abdomen by one of the activists” and that “in the course of the battle, five soldiers are wounded by stabbings, blows and shooting.” However, at the Special Sitting of the Human Rights Council on 1 June 2010 Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Geneva stated that passengers “shot two Israeli soldiers”. In contrast, in the State’s Response at the Habeas Corpus hearing on 2 June 2010, no specific reference is made to any Israeli soldiers being shot.’
In respect of those killed, the Report finds that [117] in view of the small number of people on the top deck, the vast majority were in receipt of gunshot wounds. Further more that the naval commandos: [118]
‘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 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.’
And even when securing the boat [120]
‘Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition both from the top deck at passengers on the bridge deck below and after they had moved down to the bridge deck. At least four passengers were killed and at least nine injured (five with firearms injuries) during this phase. None of the four passengers who were killed, including a photographer who at the time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces. There was considerable live fire from Israeli soldiers on the top deck and a number of passengers were injured or killed whilst trying to take refuge inside the door or assisting other to do so.’
Despite Bulent Yildirim, the President of IHH displaying a white flag [123] ‘This does not appear to have had any effect and live firing continued on the ship.’

And again it makes a finding that the BBC has continued to ignore, [125] viz. that ‘While some passengers wished to harm the soldiers, other passengers ensured that they were protected and able to receive rudimentary medical treatment from doctors on board.’

The Report makes a number of findings of fact re those killed. Furkan Doğan a US/Turkish citizen
received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range…. the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back.
İbrahim Bilgen a 60 year old Turkish citizen, from Siirt in Turkey,
‘received a bullet wound to the chest, the trajectory of which was from above and not at close range. … Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire bean bag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. … The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.’
Ali Heyder Bengi, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Diyarbakir, received six bullet wounds … None of the wounds would have been instantly fatal, but damage to the liver caused bleeding which would have been fatal if not stemmed. There are several witness accounts which suggest that Israeli soldiers shot the deceased in the back and chest at close range while he was lying on the deck as a consequence of initial bullet wounds.
Cevdet Kiliçlar a 38 year old Turkish citizen was on the Mavi Marmara, in his capacity as a photographer employed by IHH. … he was standing on the bridge deck on the port side of the ship near to the door leading to the main stairwell and was attempting to photograph Israeli soldiers on the top deck. According to the pathology reports, he received a single bullet to his forehead between the eyes.
Likewise the Report finds that the Israeli military delayed for 2-3 hours providing any medical treatment and that the wounded were themselves subject to abuse [130-1]
‘The flotilla organisers and other passengers engaged in efforts to request the Israeli forces to provide the necessary treatment to the wounded persons…. These attempts proved unsuccessful and it was up to two hours before the Israeli forces took out the wounded persons. However, the wounded were required to leave the cabins themselves, or taken outside in a rough manner, without apparent concern for the nature of their injuries and the discomfort that this would cause.’
‘Wounded passengers, including persons seriously injured with live fire wounds, were handcuffed with plastic cord handcuffs, which were often tied very tightly causing some of the injured to lose sensitivity in their hands…. Many were also stripped naked and then had to wait some time, possibly as long as twothree hours, before receiving medical treatment.
It is noteworthy that people from ‘western countries’ [130] ‘were not handcuffed, or were temporarily handcuffed and then uncuffed after a relatively short period of time and were then permitted to sit on the benches.’ However other passengers were exposed on the open decks and ‘received serious sun-burn to their skin as a result of many hours exposure: medical reports show that at least thirteen passengers received first degree burns as a consequence.’

There are repeated references in the Report to [134]
‘physical abuse of passengers by the Israeli forces, including kicking and punching and being hit with the butts of rifles. … The passengers were not allowed to speak or to move and there were frequent instances of verbal abuse, including derogatory sexual remarks about the female passengers. Passengers were denied access to toilet facilities or made to wait for lengthy periods before being escorted to the toilet and then forced to use the toilet with Israeli soldiers watching and while handcuffed.’
One can only assume that the Israeli soldiers forgot that they weren’t dealing with Palestinians under occupation. The use of plastic handcuffs which cause extreme pain is also dealt with at length.
‘The manner in which plastic handcuffs were attached to the wrists of passengers caused severe pain and discomfort. There was widespread misuse of the handcuffs by the Israeli soldiers who tightened the plastic handcuffs to an extent that caused pain, swelling, a loss of blood circulation in the hands and the loss of sensitivity in their hands and fingers. Most passengers who requested that the handcuffs be loosened were ignored or it resulted in the handcuffs being further tightened. A number of passengers are still experiencing medical problems related to the handcuffing three months later and forensic reports confirm that at least fifty-four passengers had received injuries, transversal abrasions and bruises, as a result of handcuffing on board the Mavi Mamara.’ [135]
The Zionist propaganda brigade argues that it was only those on the MM who were subject to aggressive tactics because only they resisted. This is not true. Referring to the Challenger the Report finds that [137-139]
‘Soldiers opened fire with paintballs and rubber bullets as they boarded, hitting and injuring one woman in the face with either a plastic bullet or a paintball. Another woman was bruised on her back by from rubber bullets…. the soldiers were met with no resistance, but a female journalist sustained burns on her arms from an electroshock weapon fired by an Israeli soldier. Witnesses said that the primary concern of the soldiers seemed to be the confiscation of photographic equipment and media. … The passive resistance offered by the passengers was met with force. One woman’s head was hit against the deck of the boat and then stepped on by an Israeli soldier.’
Likewise violence was used on the Sfendoni and here there was an actual attempt to prevent a doctor giving medical treatment. [143, 146]
‘Prior to boarding a number of stun grenades, plastic bullets and paint balls were fired at the boat from soldiers on the zodiacs: at least two passengers were hit, one on the back of the head. According to a medical doctor on board, one of stun grenades landed in the confined space of the bridge, injuring a number of people and causing damage to the hearing of one man…. The soldiers attempted to stop a medical doctor from treating the passengers’ injuries, saying that the army medical officer on board would treat them. … The doctor said that they would have to shoot him to prevent him doing his job.
So too with the Eleftheri Mesogios. [149-150]:
‘The passengers did not engage in any pro-active resistance to the take-over of the ship but used passive resistance methods, blocking access to the bridge with their bodies. The Israeli forces used physical force, electroshock weapons, plastic bullets and paint balls to clear the area. A number of passengers were injured, including one passenger whose leg was fractured leg…. Those who refused to cooperate were roughly treated. According to a number of witnesses, some people who refused to surrender their passports were assaulted, including one woman who was punched in the stomach and one man who was wrestled to the ground by two soldiers, kicked and beaten. One passenger said that the hand ties were too tight and when he asked for them to be loosened they were instead tightened further.’
The Report finds that [167-8]
‘throughout the operation to seize control of the Mavi Marmara, including before the live fire restriction was eased, lethal force was employed by the Israeli soldiers in a widespread and arbitrary manner which caused an unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously injured. Less extreme means could have been employed in nearly all instances of the Israeli operation, since there was no imminent threat to soldiers; for example in relation to the operation to move down to the bridge deck and seize control of the ship and the firing of live ammunition at passengers on the bow deck of the ship. … A well-trained force such as the Israeli Defence Force should have been able to successfully contain a relatively small group of passengers armed with sticks and knives and secure control of the ship without the loss of life or serious injury to either passengers or soldiers.
And confirming what has been said repeatedly since then and denied by Israel’s paid liars like Mark Regev, a particular favourite of the BBC, [169] Indeed it remarks that it was purely a matter of chance that more people weren’t killed:
‘It is apparent that no effort was made to minimise injuries at certain stages of the operation and that the use of live fire was done in an extensive and arbitrary manner. It is difficult not to conclude that, once the order to use live fire had been given, no one was safe. Under the circumstances, it seems a matter of pure chance that there were not more fatalities as a result.’
And in a devastating conclusion the Report finds that 6 of the 9 killed were in effect executed by the Israeli military. [170]
‘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.’
That is quite clear to all but the wilfully blind. And the Report goes on to elaborate on the mistreatment of those who had already been injured: [171]
‘It is apparent that a number of the passengers on the top deck were subjected to further mistreatment while lying injured. This included physical and verbal abuse some time after the operation to secure control of the deck had concluded. Furthermore these passengers were not … Other passengers suffering from chronic medical conditions were also denied access to their required essential medicines. The Israeli forces failed to meet the requirement to provide proper medical treatment to all those injured as rapidly as possible.
Unsurprisingly the Report [172]
‘is satisfied that much of the force used by the Israeli soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara and from the helicopters was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers. … As such, the conduct of the Israeli forces amounted to violations of the right to life and of the right to physical integrity, as stipulated in articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’
The Report goes on to find that the treatment of those detained on board the MM was ‘cruel and inhuman in nature’. [178]
‘This included a large number of persons being forced to kneel on the outer decks in harsh conditions for many hours, the physical mistreatment and verbal abuse inflicted on many of those detained, the widespread unnecessarily tight handcuffing and the denial of access to basic human needs such as the use of toilet facilities and provision of food. In addition there was a prevailing climate of fear of violence that had a dehumanizing effect on all those detained on board. On other vessels in the flotilla there was additional instances of persons being subjected to similar severe pain and suffering, including a person being seriously physically abused for refusing to provide his passport without a receipt.
The Report expresses particular concern over the way that plastic handcuffs were used and their deliberate tightening to cause more pain to be inflicted. [179]
‘Numerous passengers described the pain and suffering caused by being shackled by plastic handcuffs (also known as ‘plasticuffs’) in an overly tight manner, frequently behind their backs, causing further suffering. Many were experiencing neurological damage up to three months after the events of the flotilla.’
And in what is a devastating conclusion, the Report finds that [180] ‘the treatment tended towards torture.’ and that this treatment[181]
‘in certain instances on board the Challenger 1, Sfendoni and the Eleftheri Mesogios, by the Israeli forces amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and, insofar as the treatment was additionally applied as a form of punishment, torture. This represents a violation of articles 7 and 10 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.’
And just in case the passengers hadn’t suffered enough for wishing to break Israel’s starvation blockade of Gaza, they were publicly paraded in front of hostile crowds when disembarking [185].
‘The vessels were greeted by crowds of soldiers and sometimes civilians, including school children, at the quayside, waving flags and cheering the return of the Israeli forces. Some passengers said that they were jeered or taunted by the people on the quay. There were also television camera crews and journalists recording the disembarkation of the passengers. Many passengers said that they found the experience of being “paraded” before the media and the sometimes hostile crowds unsettling and humiliating. ‘
And in disregard of all international obligations [186]
‘Some passengers with serious injuries were made to walk off the Mavi Marmara unaided. Due to the delay in disembarking and processing all passengers, some injured passengers had to wait for considerable periods before they were diagnosed and sent to hospital. Others were not diagnosed until they arrived at the prison later.’
The Israeli forces attempted to get all passengers to sign official papers in which they admitted to having entered Israel illegally and consented to deportation and be banned from re-entering Israel for a 10-year period.

Of course the soldiers could be forgiven. Wringing a confession out of a prisoner through torture and violence is standard practice before presenting someone to a military court [188]
‘… There were concerted efforts by some Israeli officers to coerce passengers into signing the forms. … Some passengers were threatened with physical violence for refusing to sign; others were beaten or physically abused for refusing to sign or for advising others not to sign. Efforts to persuade passengers to sign the forms continued at the airport almost up to the moment of departure.’
The Report describes one incident when a Greek national
‘was severely beaten for refusing to provide his fingerprints to the Israeli authorities. The passenger was dragged along the ground for some distance and then surrounded by a large group of Israeli officials who proceeded to beat him severely, including the deliberate fracture of his leg. His cries for help were ignored, and one witness noted uniformed officials, both male and female, laughing at him. The passenger’s broken leg was not treated until after he had left Israel.’ [190]
“You are in Israel now; you have no rights”.
One passenger who protested [192]‘ was told by an Israeli officer: “You are in Israel now; you have no rights”.

And the wife of one of the deceased passengers was treated with complete insensitivity to her bereavement. She was not allowed to make a phone call to inform her family of her loss. [194].

And of those passengers who were detained at Ella prison near Beersheva: [198]
‘Many passengers were subjected to further interrogations while in detention; some said that this was done repeatedly. There were a number of allegations of beatings during these interrogations.’
And in a section entitled ‘Ill-treatment of passengers at the airport and repatriation’ the Report expresses its astonishment that the Israeli forces orgy of violence continued right up to the point of departure: [202]
‘Perhaps the most shocking testimony, after that relating to the violence on the Mavi Marmara, provided to the Mission was the consistent accounts of a number of incidents of extreme and unprovoked violence perpetrated by uniformed Israeli personnel upon certain passengers during the processing procedures inside the terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport on the day of deportation. These accounts were so consistent and vivid as to be beyond question. An intimidating number of armed soldiers and police were present inside the terminal building. Some passengers said that these officers were “spoiling for a fight”.’
‘Some passengers in the passport checking area saw an older passenger being roughly treated after receiving what appeared to be a beating. When other passengers, including Irish and Turkish, protested at this treatment, they were charged by soldiers using batons. In the foray, around 30 passengers were beaten to the ground, kicked and punched in a sustained attack by soldiers. One Irish passenger was seen being particularly badly beaten around the head and held in a choke position to the point of near suffocation. He identified his attackers as police officers. He was taken to a holding cell.’
There are a number of such attacks detailed in the report. [204] [207] Even those injured and in hospital [214] ‘were handcuffed to their beds using standard metal handcuffs throughout their stay. Some were also restrained at their ankles. These were seriously injured people and the cuffing was done with no apparent regard to their injuries.’

What is important is that the witnesses, from a number of different countries reported the same things, leading the Report to conclude [219]-220 that
Passengers’ testimony included a number of credible allegations of physical violence and abuse perpetrated by Israeli officers, soldiers and policemen at the processing centre in Ashdod, at the prison and at the airport. In some cases, this violence seemed gratuitous; in other cases, it seemed aimed specifically at forcing compliance with particular procedures… The Mission considers that acts of torture were committed by Israeli officials against passengers during their period of detention in Israel in violation of article 1 of the Convention against Torture and articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
There were other instances of behaviour by Israeli officials which was aimed at humiliating individuals which, if not torture, would constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under the terms of article 16 of the Convention against Torture… The Mission would like to draw particular attention to the treatment received by some women by female Israeli officers at the processing centre that fell well short of acceptable behaviour.
In a further reference to the parading of detainees [221] the Report notes that
‘the scene at the quayside described by those interviewed carries the hallmarks of a ‘triumph’ at which captured prisoners of war are paraded in front of flag-waving crowds. Prisoners of war would have been protected against this humiliating spectacle by article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention which protects them from “insults and public curiosity”.’
Likewise the Report is quite clear that [225] ‘Regardless of the pretended claim to legality of the detention of the flotilla participants inside Israel, the State of Israel was bound to afford the detainees certain basic rights whilst in detention.’ (my emphasis)

The Report likewise deals with the theft of the passengers’ possessions. [235]
‘The Mission estimates that many hundreds of expensive electronic items remain in the possession of the Israeli authorities. Many passengers were carrying considerable amounts of cash donations to be distributed in Gaza, in some cases amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.’
And naturally Israel likes foreign passports in particular! No doubt when Israel assassinates another victim in someone else’s country it will be discovered that the person responsible was from the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, given Israel’s ability to clone passports: [236] and that some passengers have still not received their passports nearly four months after the incident. The Report notes [239] that
‘On 20 August 2010 it was reported in the Israeli media that “at least four” Israeli soldiers had been detained on suspicion of stealing and selling laptops belonging to passengers that were on board the flotilla. Furthermore, at least four passengers have stated that their personal items, including credit cards and mobile telephones, have been subsequently used in Israel. There is an account of a particular witness, a journalist, who was on board the Svendoni and alleged that his credit card was used to purchase items in Israel, both while he was detained at the Beersheva prison and after he had been released.5 There is another specific account where more than $1,000 was spent on a confiscated credit card in Israel.’
This is, of course, the ‘most moral army in the world’!! Naturally Israel confiscated
‘a large amount of video and photographic footage that was recorded on electronic and other media by passengers, including many professional journalists, on board the vessels of the flotilla. This includes a large number of photographic and video material of the Israeli assault and interception on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels. The Israeli authorities have subsequently released a very limited amount of this for public access, in an edited form, but the vast majority has remained in the private control of the Israeli authorities.’
Only an institutionally stupid organisation, such as the BBC, could not draw the obvious conclusions from such behaviour. However not being so stupid or cowardly the Report drew the only conclusion possible: [241] ‘The Mission is satisfied that this represents a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence and other information related to the events of 31 May on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels of the flotilla.’
In an important part, the Report deals with the ‘Consequences for Israeli Citizens of participation in the Flotilla’ finding [251] that Israeli citizens
‘were separated from other passengers on arrival in Ashdod. After interrogation, they were informed that they would be detained and face charges under Israeli law, including attempting to kill a soldier, seizing arms, shooting from a soldier’s gun, organizing violence and being present in a military zone. Although taken to a different prison, they had similar experiences as the other passengers including sleep deprivation and denial of access to a lawyer.’
The Report has a sub-section on ‘Reprisals against an elected member of the Knesset’. Haneen Zouabi, who was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara. As the Report notes [255] the Knesset voted on 7 June 2010 to remove three parliamentary privileges available to Ms. Zouabi
‘The Knesset held several sessions on the issue of her participation in the Flotilla during which there were racist and sexist remarks and physical threats made against her… Since her participation in the Gaza Flotilla, Ms. Zouabi has received many death threats.’
The Report cites, [256] and this is important, given that the ability of Israeli Arabs to elect members to the Knesset is one of the few democratic rights left to them, the decision of The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, in July 2010, that ‘the punishment of Ms. Zouabi for exercising her freedom of speech by expressing her political position to be unacceptable and calling on the Knesset to reconsider its decision.’
And the Report dismisses Israel’s self-serving justifications: [261-262]
‘The Mission has come to the firm conclusion that a humanitarian crisis existed on the 31 May 2010 in Gaza. The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is far too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion. Any denial that this is so cannot be supported on any rational grounds. One of the consequences flowing from this is that for this reason alone the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law. This is so regardless of the grounds on which it is sought to justify the legality of the blockade.’
… the action of the IDF in intercepting the Mavi Marmara in the circumstances and for the reasons given on the high sea was clearly unlawful. Specifically, the action cannot be justified in the circumstances even under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.
Equally the Report is clear that the conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was ‘not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.’ [264]

The Report, in a decision which may have major reverberations, states [265] that ‘there is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:’ including wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.’

‘The Mission also considers that a series of violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law have taken place, including: • right to life (article 6, ICCPR); • torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7, ICCPR; CAT);

• right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (article 9, ICCPR); • right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (article 10, ICCPR); • freedom of expression (article 19, ICCPR).

In what is clearly ironic humour the Report notes [268] that it is:
‘aware that this is not the first time that the Government of Israel has declined to cooperate with an inquiry into events in which its military personnel were involved. … It is nonetheless regrettable that, on yet another occasion of an enquiry into events involving loss of life at the hands of the Israeli military, the Government of Israel has declined to cooperate in an enquiry not appointed by it or on which it was significantly represented.’
One might think there is a touch of naivety here. Does one really expect murderers to co-operate with an inquiry into their behaviour?

And importantly the Report concludes, regarding the witnesses [273] that:
‘All the passengers on board the ships comprising the flotilla who appeared before the Mission impressed the members as persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism and imbued with a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.’
See also

All in all this is a Report which should and will come to haunt Israel. If the Israeli state inflicts this level of violence on internationals sailing in international water, then what does it do on a routine basis to Palestinian prisoners?

Is it any wonder that the Jerusalem Post reports that ‘Israel threatened Monday to pull out of a UN inquiry into a raid on a Turkish flotilla heading for Gaza, after the UN chief said there is no agreement that the panel will refrain from calling Israeli soldiers to testify. What else can it do in the circumstances apart from have Panorama ‘interview’ them again?

Tony Greenstein

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