UN Report on Israel's Flotilla Massacre: Facts and Fallacies

Al-Akhbar is currently going through a transitional phase whereby the English website is available for Archival purposes only. All new content will be published in Arabic on the main website (www.al-akhbar.com).

Al-Akhbar Management

The much anticipated United Nations Report of the Secretary-General’s Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident was published today. The investigative committee that produced the report, known as the Palmer commission, had no power to subpoena documents or witnesses -- it relied mostly on the public record and had to contend with Israeli intransigence. Thus the report, which faulted Israel but was marred by factual inaccuracies, was not factually or legally binding.

Headed by New Zealand's former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer, an expert in international law, the commission also included an Israeli and a Turkish member. The Vice Chairman of the commission, former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, was an aggressive pro-Israel partisan who has received awards from numerous Zionist organizations including B'nai Brith's "Presidential Gold Medallion for Humanitarianism." The title of that award is ironic considering Uribe's propensity for demonizing human rights activists as terrorist sympathizers and praising military units accused of massacring Colombian civilians while he served as prime minister. Uribe's legacy as prime minister also included striking up record level arms deals with Israel. Over a year ago, writers Jose Antonio Gutierrez and David Landy predicted that "there will be no objectivity whatsoever with regard to Uribe’s role in the commission." And it appears they were right. As The New York Times reported yesterday, "Israel considers the report to be a rare vindication for it in the United Nations."

The report did criticize Israel for essentially assassinating nine activists on board the Mavi Marmara. In one section, the report detailed the killing of Furkan Dogan, a 19 year old American citizen of Turkish descent: "Furkan Doğan received five gunshot wounds in the back of his head, nose, left leg, left ankle and in the back, all from close range. A citizen of the United States, Mr. Doğan was a 19-year-old high school student with ambitions of becoming a medical doctor. Mr. Doğan’s motionless, wounded body was kicked and shot upon, execution-style by two Israeli soldiers." The report goes on: "At least one of those killed, Furkan Doğan, was shot at extremely close range. Mr. Doğan sustained wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect. No evidence has been provided to establish that any of the deceased were armed with lethal weapons."

What's more, the commission found that, "There was significant mistreatment of passengers by Israeli authorities after the take-over of the vessels had been completed through until their deportation. This included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance." On Page 52 of the report, the commission went on to question the very necessity of Israel's boarding of the flotilla vessels in international waters without warning. "The vessels were never asked to stop or to permit a boarding party to come on board. No efforts were made to fire warning shells or blanks in an effort to change the conduct of the captains," the commissioners wrote. This finding contradicted Israel's claims to have attempted to peacefully halt the flotilla before attacking it with waves of commando assaults.

There is a lot that Israel might find objectionable within the report, but the commissioners' most consequential assertion -- and their most baseless one -- will undoubtedly be celebrated by the Israeli government. According to the commissioners, Israel's blockade of Gaza is not only legal under international law but necessary for the country's security concerns.

Pro-Israel partisans like to say that Israel's blockade of Gaza is legal according to the rules of the San Remo Manual, which lays out the basis for establishing a legal naval blockade during wartime. They hope that no one bothers reading the details of the manual, however, because if they did, they would find nothing to support Israeli claims. For instance. Part V Section II of the manual states that blockades must be "effective" and cannot let some ships in while forbidding others from entering. The Palmer commission based much of its argument on the notion that the Israeli blockade complied with this provision. "There is nothing before the Panel that would suggest that Israel did not maintain an effective and impartial blockade. Ever since its imposition on 3 January 2009, Israeli authorities have stopped any vessel attempting to enter the blockaded area," the commissioners wrote.

But as the blogger Richard Silverstein demonstrated in his excellent analysis of the UN report, that statement is completely false. There was a naval siege on Gaza well before January 3, 2009. Further, Israel allowed a boat affiliated with the Free Gaza organization to penetrate the siege and enter Gaza on August 24, 2008. According the international law, these facts demonstrate the blockade's illegitimacy.

The commission continued with its flights of fancy, writing, "Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law." But how did the commissioners know that the blockade was imposed for that reason? Did they bother to research anything Israeli officials have said on the record about their motivations for imposing the siege? Apparently not.

In April 2006, the Guardian reported: "Israel's policy [of blockading Gaza] was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, the Israeli Prime Minister, earlier this year. 'The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger,' he said. The hunger pangs are supposed to encourage the Palestinians to force Hamas to change its attitude towards Israel or force Hamas out of government."

Weisglass's remarks sounded like a sadistic political justification for the siege. Indeed, they had nothing to do with security. But the commissioners overlooked inconvenient statements like his. Even more damning was the 2007 Israeli military document obtained by the Israeli human rights group Gisha which declared that the siege of Gaza was "economic warfare," and not part of any security strategy. "A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare,'" the government document stated. This too was studiously ignored by the commissioners.

In the end, the Palmer commission essentially conceded that it was not as concerned with factual legal analysis as it was with patching things up between Israel and Turkey. "Too much legal analysis threatens to produce political paralysis. Whether what occurred here was legally defensible is important but in diplomatic terms it is not dispositive of what has become an important irritant not only in the relationship between two important nations but also in the Middle East generally…The legal issues, while a necessary element of the Panel’s analysis, alone are not sufficient."

By the Palmer commission's own admission, its investigation into Israel's flotilla massacre was not as much a matter of determining right and wrong based on international legal conventions as it was about determining the best path for repairing Israel's damaged relations with its only Muslim ally. This may help explain the commission's sloppiness, but it will not do anything to resolve the unconscionable situation of those living inside Gaza. And as long as their torment persists, Israel's crisis of legitimacy will deepen.

Comments

The Flotilla was going about its' legal business of delivering humanitarian aid and to breach the zionists' illegal blockade of over 1.6 million human beings. The aim is to end the inhumane, illegal occupation in Gaza and the occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Flotilla was 65-70 miles away from the Gaza shore line when it was militarily assaulted by the self-admitted 2nd or 3rd largest military in the world.

Comparison between the best weaponry USA can provide the whining zionists and a few sticks & marbles & scarves available for the humanitarians' self defense should cause the zionists to cringe with shame. You can plainly see in the meager, zionist selected footage made available from confiscated footage, that these commandoes were stunned by their lack of familiarity with physical resistance. They weren't dealing with ten year olds, pregnant women, the elderly nor those maimed by dense inert metal explosives that causes painful forms of cancer down the road.

The world will remember Furkan Dogan but not the zionist pawns who stole his young life, I challenge anyone who reads this to name any of the anonomous executioners, can't do it b/c they're being kept secret by their masters to protect them from international law.

You need to correct Uribe's position in office, there is no such thing as a prime minister in Colombia, he was the president.

When most legal jurisdictions allow for the application of deadly force to prevent a kidnapping, why is Israel castigated for using deadly force after armed IHH Turks kidnapped Israeli commandos?

If the Turks used close quarter weapons like knives and staves, why should it come as a surprise that the Turks were shot at close range (below decks)?

If an Israeli commando sees his kidnapped comrade being pummeled or stabbed, why shouldn't the commando shoot the attackers in the back?

J.J.
New York

RE: "When most legal jurisdictions allow for the application of deadly force to prevent a kidnapping, why is Israel castigated for using deadly force after armed IHH Turks kidnapped Israeli commandos? ~ J.J., New York (obviously not a lawyer)

ANSWER: Israel is being "castigated" because the deceased were not executed "to prevent a kidnapping"! In fact, the "kidnappers" had already released the Israeli "commando" terrorists by the time most (if not all) of these nine people were murdered by the Israelis. In particular, when the Israeli "commando" terrorists "double tapped" the 19-year-old American Furkan Doğan, the "commandos" could not have possibly been trying "to prevent a kidnapping" because Mr. Doğan’s motionless, wounded body was lying on the deck.
Better luck with your hasbara next time.

Prove your timeline and I'll retract what I said.

BTW. Double tapping' is a standard military procedure whether you're in the I.D.F., the Navy Seals or the SAS.
You 'double tap' to ensure that a fallen enemy isn't faking death so he can later jump up and shoot you or your comrades in the back. You 'double tap' regardless of whether the fallen enemy is moving or not. It may seem brutal to civilians, but any commando who doesn't 'double tap' is risking his own life and lives of the men in his unit. Probable grounds for dismissal.

Timeline please.

The aggressor is the one that boards the ship in international waters, this is called piracy, not the one that tries to defend it from being boarded with sticks, not knives, this is a basic fact that you are omitting.

I believe that in most American jurisdictions, deadly force may be applied in order to prevent a kidnapping. So why is Israel being castigated for using deadly force to end the kidnapping of her commandos by the Turks?

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd><img><h1><h2><h3><h4><h5><h6><blockquote><span><aside>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.

More information about formatting options

^ Back to Top