Egyptian Media To Flotilla Passenger: Don't Ask, Don't Tell
After participating in clashes aboard the Mavi Marmara, Mohammed Beltagy is now taking a beating of his own in the Egyptian media.
Because he talked about it on TV. YNet News explains:
This admission of employing force against IDF soldiers has evoked a media storm among Egyptian columnists, who claim this was a "public relations gift to Israel."
Under the headline "The Muslim Brotherhood's Gift to Israel," columnist Abdullah Kamal criticized Beltagy's admission. "He said that he and those with him on the ship overtook three Israeli commando soldiers who had broken onto the ship and took control of their weapons. He boasted of this without understanding that he is granting Israel a massive, recorded gift that it will gain benefit from in the commission of inquiry it will carry out following the massacre." . . .
The daily newspaper el-Gomhuriah also did not spare the parliament member. "This is dangerous talk that serves Israel."
It's funny to watch state-controlled media toe the line to prevent eyewitnesses from getting in the way of their storyline.
Before we close the chapter on Helen Thomas, I want to address a lingering point.
Helen Thomas' comments were anti-Semitic, not just anti-Israel.
Everybody has national aspirations of living in its own national homeland. Thomas singled out the Jewish people to essentially say Jewish national aspirations are illegitimate. Read carefully:
David Nesenoff: Where should they go? What should they do?
Helen Thomas: They should go home.
DN: Where's home?
HT: Poland. Germany.
DN: You're saying the Jews should go back to Poland and Germany.
HT: And America. And everywhere else.
Thomas didn't endorse a two-state solution recognizing Jewish and Palestinian aspirations. She didn't even plug a one-state solution that -- on paper at least -- would give Jews and Palestinians shared rights in the Holy Land. (More on that point here.)
Unstated but implicit: the future of the Jewish people is anywhere but Israel.
Doesn't sound like she has any room in her world for a Jewish state.
So why single out Israel? After all, as David Bernstein pointed out in a brilliant piece, nobody questions Japan, Greece or Ireland's rights to exist as a distinctly Japanese, Greek and Irish states.
If you've followed my blogging long enough, you may have noticed that I rarely accuse journalists of being anti-Semitic. It's a loaded charge that makes people less receptive to other important points. So I'm not going to call Thomas an anti-Semite. She already announced her retirement. She's history.
However, the view she expressed -- quietly shared by many others -- that the Jews are somehow singled out as unworthy of having legitimate national aspirations isn't just anti-Israel. That is indeed anti-Semitic.
Israel Considers Launching International News Channel
Israel is considering launching an international news channel, according to cabinet minister Yuli Edelstein. The Jerusalem Post writes:
“We could have our own channel, which would at least broadcast on the Internet. We’re not there now, but we are seriously discussing that,” Edelstein said.
The channel would require a combination of state and private funding, he said, adding that his ministry had secured some state funds toward the project.
In a reference to Al-Jazeera, Edelstein said, “Would it be an Al-Judea satellite TV broadcaster? Or would it broadcast online? Would it have a .gov or .com Web address? We still don’t have the answers.”
A blockade is only as strong as its weakest link. Egypt declared the blockade of Gaza a failure and opened the Rafah crossing indefinitely.
Now, ordinary Gazans have a link to the outside world. But don't think political humanitarian aid flotillas sponsored by the likes of Iran or Hezbollah will necessarily bypass Israel. AP writes:
Egypt will not allow in large cargo shipments or construction material because the terminal is designed primarily as a crossing for travelers, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.
So what does this mean? Off the top of my head:
Gaza's open to grandstanding politicians and activists willing to travel overland via Egypt. Grip-and-grin solidarity photos with Hamas are valuable in Turkey's domestic political arena. And those images will be bad news for Mahmoud Abbas and the peace process.
The smuggling industry and the income Hamas makes off of tunnel license fees will take a hit now that Palestinians are shopping on the Egyptian side of the border.
Oh yeah, it's a lot harder for people to argue that Israel continues to occupy Gaza by virtue of its control over the borders.
A picture's worth a thousand words, but which words?
That often depends on -- among other factors -- how the image is cropped.
Earlier today, Turkey's largest daily, Hurriyet, published photos of Israeli soldiers briefly captured by "peace activists" aboard the Mavi Marmara. The photos were taken by the activists themselves.
In the lower right corner of one particular image, a knife is clearly seen in the hands of one of the so-called "activists."
Reuters distributed the image to its papers, but not before cropping out the knife -- an important piece of context.
Now why would Reuters do that? In 2006, the news wire won a Dishonest Reporter Award when "fauxtography" became synonymous with Adnan Hajj's doctored images from Beirut during the war. Is it vying for another award?
"People who are not in with Hamas don't see any of the relief goods or the gifts of money," Khadar says. On the sand dune where his house once perched, there is now an emergency shelter. The shelter is made of concrete blocks that Khadar dug from the rubble, and the roof is the canvas of a tent that provided the family with shelter for the first summer after the war. "Hamas supporters get prefabricated housing, furnishings and paid work. We get nothing," Khadar complains.
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa says that Qatari Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Hamid bin Jassem announced during the closed June 2 meeting of Arab foreign ministers that Qatar undertakes to fund all expenses of legal and media anti-Israel activity in the international arena aimed at punishing Israel and exposing the scope of its crime against the Gaza flotilla.
The flotilla also managed to change the subject globally. The world has just concluded that Iran may have enough nuclear fuel for two crude nuclear explosive devices. This should be, and until last week was, the No 1 issue on the international agenda. But now everyone is focused on Gaza. From Tehran's point of view, this is gold, delivered free from heaven.
Facts Beyond the Spin: Israel Delivers Massive Aid to Gaza
The Canada-Israel Committee did a fascinating analysis of the humanitarian aid to delivered to Gaza - and what it means in real terms for Gazans. Here's what the CIC concluded:
Over one million tons of humanitarian supplies were delivered by Israel to the people of Gaza in the past 18 months – that’s equal to nearly one ton of aid for every man, woman and child in Gaza.
In the first quarter of 2010 alone (January-March), Israel delivered 94,500 tons of supplies to Gaza. It’s very easy to miss what that actually means for the people of Gaza. The breakdown includes:
40,000 tons of wheat – which is equal to 53 million loaves of bread;
2,760 tons of rice – which equals 69 million servings;
1,987 tons of clothes and footwear – the equivalent weight of 3.6 million pairs of jeans; and
553 tons of milk powder and baby food – equivalent to over 3.1 million days of formula for an average six-month-old baby.
This reflects a long-term effort on the part of Israel to deliver a massive and comprehensive supply of aid to Gaza’s civilians, while restricting the ability of Hamas to import missiles that have been launched at the cities of southern Israel. In 2009 alone:
During the Muslim holy days of Ramadan and Eid al-Adha, Israel shipped some 11,000 head of cattle into Gaza – enough to provide 8.8 million meals of beef;
More than 3,000 tons of hypochlorite were delivered by Israel to Gaza for water purification purposes – that’s 60 billion gallons of purified water; and
Israel brought some 4,883 tons of medical equipment and medicine into Gaza – a weight equivalent to over 360,000 260-piece mobile trauma first aid kits.
Looks like Ambassador Michael Oren tips Israel's hand. The IDF apparently has some damning evidence against the Free Gaza movement. He writes in this NY Times op-ed:
What the videos don’t show, however, are several curious aspects Israeli authorities are now investigating. First, about 100 of those detained from the boats were carrying immense sums in their pockets — nearly a million euros in total. Second, Israel discovered spent bullet cartridges on the Mavi Marmara that are of a caliber not used by the Israeli commandos, some of whom suffered gunshot wounds. Also found on the boat were propaganda clips showing passengers “injured” by Israeli forces; these videos, however, were filmed during daylight, hours before the nighttime operation occurred.
Large amounts of cash, bullet cartridges, and phony videos? Sounds like Pallywood on the high seas. I can't wait for the army to release these findings.
The Jerusalem Post also notes other items found on the boat -- in addition to the wheelchairs, toys, and clothes, etc. which Gazans already receive:
Other items that won’t be transferred to Gaza are the weapons and military equipment found aboard the Mavi Marmara. These include knives, clubs, slingshots, bulletproof vests, gas masks and night vision goggles.
What are Palestinian families supposed to do with those?
HonestReporting's social media editor, Alex Margolin, contributes occasional posts on social media issues. He oversees HonestReporting on Facebook.
It is difficult to overstate how much impact the IDF’s videos have had on swaying public opinion on the Flotilla of Violence. Even journalists who assumed the worst about the IDF when they first heard about the incident admitted that the army's footage changed their minds.
Previous IDF videos, often released long after the media finished reporting on an incident, tended to be grainy and difficult to follow. But these videos were different, as Jerusalem Post editor David Horovitz put it:
This footage is also far from perfect, but it is conclusive. The clarity with which it shows the commandos coming down onto the deck and being pounced upon and thrashed is sufficient to render the footage nauseating. The clubs and the irons bars rise and fall with sickening force and frequency.
Those images of “peace workers” with batons over their heads as they pound IDF soldiers – reminiscent of Rodney King being beaten by police in Los Angeles – may well develop into iconic images of the battle.
And they may come to represent the truth about organizations such as the IHH, which have ties with Hamas.
We have seen that images have power. The iconic image of Mohammed al-Dura inflamed the whole Palestinian population during the Second Intifada. Photos of Iranian protestor Neda Agha-Soltan lying dead after a clash with police energized the anti-government movement in that country.
Now, the Flotilla of Violence has revealed the true face of the Free Gaza Movement, and the IDF has captured it. It is no longer be possible for the group to claim that it is against the use of violence.
9:35 p.m: I think Jeffrey Goldberg captures the nuances of Israeli feeling about the flotilla clash.
9:16 p.m: CNN's Martin Chance interviews "Capt. R," the Israeli soldier thrown overboard during the Mavi Marmara clash.
9:07 p.m: Somebody please enlighten me. What message is Tony Auth trying to convey?
8:55 p.m: Add the Chicago Tribune to my list of no-nonsense staff-eds from 3:07 p.m:
The more we learn about this incident, though, the more it looks like a setup designed to provoke or embarrass Israel.
6:36 p.m: Turns out one of the "humanitarian activists" released by Israel is the head of Hamas in the Netherlands. Europe News fills in more about Amin Abou Rashed:
"Rashed is the leader of Hamas in the Netherlands," says an intelligence service source. "He appears by an alias, mainly Amin Abou Ibrahim, in several intelligence reports. He worked for the notorious Dutch foundation al-Aksa, which was suspected of collecting funds for the Hamas terror organization. He is also very active in the Palestinian Platform and Human Rights and Solidarity Foundation (PPMS)," says the intelligence agent.
Big yawn. At least she didn't accuse Israel of cloning her passport or stealing her organs . . .
6:20 p.m: I guess Gaza's not in such desparate shape after all. How else to explain the Islamists' ridiculous conditions for deigning to receive the Free Gaza aid? According to Xinhua:
Hamas authorities on Tuesday refused to receive aid and supplies to the Gaza Strip through Israel, stressing that Israel must first free pro-Palestinian campaigners who were onboard an aid flotilla.
Israel can send aid that Gaza flotilla had carried to the coastal enclave "only if the shipments are complete and when Israel release all activists who were onboard the ships, Ziad Al- Zaza, Hamas' Minister of Economy, told Xinhua.
I don't enjoy that Turkish soldiers were killed. But the irony is striking. Rocket attacks are what prompted the Gaza blockade Turkey's taking the lead against. Will Turkey's response to Kurdish terror meet the standards it demands of Israel?
4:52 p.m: My podcast partner, Yarden Frankl, discussed the flotilla, HonestReporting's work, and more on Rusty Mike Radio.
4:39 p.m: Amid the finger-pointing and calls for an investigation, this Baltimore Sun staff-ed raises a point worth pondering:
Even if Israel had successfully stopped these ships without bloodshed, it would not have stopped the attempts to bring supplies to Gaza, and it would have been confronted again and again until something like this happened.
Let me ask you one final question that's been troubling me, as sympathy for those apparently fragile Israeli commandos continues to pour in. If you were on a boat in the Mediterranean and hundreds of the world's most notoriously violent soldiers started falling from the sky, wouldn't you defend yourself? The brave human beings on the Mavi Marmara were acting in self-defence. And because of this many died.
Think about it. What we have here is that so-called peace activists A) squared off with the IDF B) the army gets some sympathy, and C) the peace activists claim they have a right to self-defense against D) terrorist thugs.
I take staff editorials more seriously than commentaries written by columnists or contributors. A staff-ed reflects the consensus views of the editors, sheds light on the editorial staff's thought processes (although sometimes, it only reveals something about whoever got stuck with the task of writing the editorial).
Ideally, a staff-ed carries the most weight on the opinions page. All this is why a lot of the commentaries I've blogged today are specifically staff-eds.
2:28 p.m: Here's new video footage from the Mavi Marmara. How does Free Gaza explain the stun grenade thrown seven seconds into the video?
2:10 p.m: According to the logic of this LA Times staff-ed, Israel's damned if the IDF is too heavy-handed.
And damned if it's not heavy-handed enough either:
In the days ahead, we need to learn what intelligence Israeli officials relied on in planning Operation Sea Breeze, why the operation was carried out in international waters, and what preparations were made for the obvious possibility that the commandos might meet resistance. We need to understand why a military that possesses tear gas and rubber bullets and other crowd-control tools couldn't find a way of defusing the situation short of shooting civilians dead with live ammunition.
The reason the situation came to gunfire was because the IDF didn't board the ship with overwhelming force. Commandos boarded the ship lightly armed because they weren't expecting violence. The problem was that the soldiers made themselves more vulnerable to a well-organized lynch.
If all you expect to encounter are unarmed, passive civilian passengers, why start with tear gas and rubber bullets from the very outset and risk the ire of the LA Times?
12:45 p.m:Michael Ramirez turns the tables on "why do they hate us" question:
12:27 p.m: A discouraging post from Point of No Return about the precarious position of Turkey's Jewish community:
In time-honoured fashion, the good dhimmi Jews of Yemen and Iran - in the wake of the deaths of nine activists on board the Mavi Marmara - are being forced to buy their own security with words condemning Israel. Will Turkey's Jews be next? In the past, Jews have felt under pressure to back Turkey's policy on the Armenian genocide. So far, Prime Minister Erdogan has echoed efforts to protect Turkish Jews from the wrath of the mob. But his rabble-rousing pro-Islamism has already created so much insecurity that 600 Jews were ready to pack their bags for Israel before the incident took place.
12:19 p.m: Before sailing, so-called peace activists anticipated martyrdom, wrote wills. This from Memri's survey of Arab coverage:
At a press conference in Antalya, Turkey, the flotilla organizers asked all the participants to "write their wills." Following the press conference, Kuwaiti Salafist MP Walid Al-Tabtabai reportedly "did not hesitate to write his will, in defiance of the Israeli threats."
The father of Kuwaiti activist Abd Al-Rahman Al-Filkawi told the Kuwaiti Al-Watan daily that his son had told him that the flotilla participants' morale was high, and that they "would sacrifice themselves for the sake of Allah. He added that his son had "told them before embarking that he would be a martyr for the sake of Allah." Likewise, on the various Internet forums, it was reported that the mother of one of the Turkish participants had said that her son had bade her farewell and told her that he was going to lay down his life.
11:46 a.m: It wasn't about the humanitarian aid. This is the kind of development Free Gaza, the IHH and Hamas were looking for:
11:35 a.m: "Peace activists" firing on Israeli soldiers caught on video. I think Turkey needs to launch a credible, comprehensive transparent and vigorous investigation into this ship of sham peace activists.
11:22 a.m: New meaning to dueling spin. I like how cartoonists Arend van Dam and Steve Bell respectively cross swords, er, pens.
11:15 a.m:David Makovsky explains the necessity of Israel's blockade of Gaza.
• Israelis were already told they would be more secure if they stopped occupying Gaza, hence the disengagement. • Israel absorbed 3,335 rockets fired between the disengagement and Operation Cast Lead. • Some rockets fired were Iranian-made Grads and Fajr-3s • Israel no-longer controls the Gaza-Egypt border, where all weapons smuggling takes place. • The UN Security Council never met to discuss the rocket attacks. And forget about policing the Israel-Gaza border: the EU couldn't monitor the Rafah crossing without fleeing from trouble. The key point:
That’s why Israel insisted on a naval blockade of the Gaza Strip: It was the only way to curb the Palestinian rocket attacks on its people.
While critics like to say that Israel retains forms of air and sea control, it ceded the area that counted in the withdrawal and exposed its citizens to rocket attacks. The lessons from that pullout will make a potential withdrawal from the West Bank much harder. There will be those who say, “If you didn’t like the book, why would you see the movie?”
10:50 a.m: A NY Times staff-ed adds its voice to the choir calling for an international investigation.
10:38 a.m:Haaretz picks up on the social media war:
When Queen Noor of Jordan tweeted to her 8,500 followers, "Time for Israelis to choose betwn life in a rogue pariah state defying international &humanitarian law or to commit to a future of peace," Tishby tweeted a rebuttal: "@QueenNoor We are trying! We are really trying! Please tell me what we should do about this [link] we need to do something!" The link was to a video clip showing an attack on Israeli soldiers.
10:09 a.m: If there's any doubt as to the agenda of the flotilla's organizers, the NY Times and the IHH put them to rest:
On Tuesday in a bustling neighborhood in Istanbul, the Turkish organization was celebrating a strange success. “We became famous,” said Omar Faruk, a board member of the group, Insani Yardim Vakfi, known by its Turkish initials, I.H.H. “We are very thankful to the Israeli authorities.”
The IHH and its allies in the International Solidarity Movement preferred publicity and provocation. Shouldn't their primary benchmark for success be the efficient delivery of supplies to Gaza?
9:52 a.m: Totally awesome video of Channel 4's Jon Snow discussing footage of the Mavi Marmara clash with maritime security expert Peter Cook. Cook analyzes what's happened on board and what the soldiers and activists were trying to accomplish.
9:44 a.m: Kids in school - check. Today's groceries purchased and put away - check. Coffee brewed - check. Computer fully operational - check. Let's get busy.
9:49 p.m: More on IHH, the dubious Turkish charity which spearheaded the flotilla. Andrew Bolt nails their modus operandi:
In 2001, Jean-Louis Bruguiere, the prominent French counter-terrorism magistrate, testified in the trial of the "Millennium bomber" that IHH had played "an important role" in the plot to blow up Los Angeles airport.
He said the charity was "a type of cover-up" to infiltrate mujahidin into combat, get forged documents and smuggle weapons.
In 2006, the Danish Institute for International Studies reported that Turkish security forces had raided the IHH's Istanbul bureau and found firearms, explosives and bomb-making instructions.
The Turkish investigators concluded this "charity" was sending jihadists to Bosnia, Chechnya and Afghanistan.
8:58 p.m: Australian journalist Paul McGeough, who was aboard one of the boats, plans to fight deportation. The Sydney Morning Herald elaborates:
Israel has begun legal proceedings to deport the journalists and they have 72 hours to lodge a legal challenge.
Israeli officials have offered them the alternative of signing an agreement to waive their legal right to appeal and be deported immediately. If they are deported, both McGeough and Geraghty would face a 10-year ban on re-entering Israel.
Israeli authorities are seeking to deport the pair on the grounds that they tried to enter the blockaded maritime area surrounding Gaza without permission.
It is believed that McGeough advised consular officials of his intention to fight moves to deport him. If McGeough mounts a legal challenge, he could face several weeks in detention.
I don't have any reason to believe McGeough had an agenda in joining the convoy. (Australian Jewish media watchdogs, correct me if I'm wrong.) If he stays in prison fighting the deportation, I could see this getting messy. McGeough's an Irish national -- and the Irish Foreign Ministry's especially shrill about the naval intercept.
8:48 p.m: 124 Arab "activists" to return to their countries of origin via Jordan.
2:13 p.m. My day ain't complete without Stephen Walt's wisdom. Out with it, professor!
This incident will harm our relations with other Middle Eastern countries, lend additional credence to jihadi narratives about the "Zionist-Crusader alliance," and complicate efforts to deal with Iran.
1:25 p.m: The IDF found smoke torches on board the Mavi Marmara.
A smoke torch is a pyrotechnic device creating a smoke cloud in order to conceal something. What humanitarian purpose does this serve Gaza families? Click on the image to enlarge.
1:12 p.m: If this IBN report (via Israel Matzav) is true, any discussion of salvaging Israel-Turkey relations -- or its role as a possible mediator in peace talks -- is simply dead.
Ankara warned that further supply vessels will be sent to Gaza, escorted by the Turkish Navy, a development with unpredictable consequences.
12:58 p.m:Sydney Morning Herald journalist Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty declined deportation and are currently in a Beersheba prison while diplomatic officials sort out their status. McGeough was travelling on an Irish passport.
He and Geraghty were aboard the MV Samoud.
12:40 p.m: What has Israel gained from the blockade of Gaza? Here's Dan Ephron's answer, then I'll share mine:
Mostly a public-relations headache.
The Newsweek reporter is correct, but only partly so. If nothing else, containing Hamas also means fewer rockets fired at Israelis like me.
12:26 p.m:CNN raises an important point about the casualties. Israel hasn't released the names of the dead activists, while Free Gaza hasn't offered an exact number of its own.
Information needs to be carefully confirmed before being released, but I hope the numbers get cleared up soon.
But Israel didn’t wait for the ships to reach Israeli territory; launching a military raid in international waters was a disproportionate response. Israel bears responsbility for the loss of life. It is reasonable to inquire whether Israeli soldiers feared for their lives before firing. But the Israeli army, in ordering the raid, had to know that bloodshed was a possible outcome.
If Globe editors were attacked with knives and crowbars, would an inquiry really be necessary to determine if they feared for their lives? Maybe the Globe should watch this video:
What's plain is that the group's nominal purpose, delivering "humanitarian" supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation. The flotilla turned down an Israeli offer to unload the six boats and deliver the goods to Gaza by truck; it ignored repeated warnings that it would not be allowed to reach Gaza. Its spokesmen said they would insist on "breaking Israel's siege," as one of them put it.
11:29 a.m: Good grief, Chris McGreal throws everything but the kitchen sink at Israel.
11:24 a.m: Twitter users cried censorship when discussions on the flotilla failed to turn up in search results. In case you missed it, TechCrunch concluded:
So the most likely explanation is that Twitter’s recently updated trending topics algorithm mistakes #gaza and #flotilla for older news unrelated to current events.
An update to the post adds:
. . . it became clear Twitter users had switched to different terms, namely “Gaza flotilla” and #freedomflotilla which are working and trending just fine, so there is clearly no “censorship” going on. As we say, it may well have been down to technical problems with the original hashtags people were using.
11:03 a.m: The Daily Telegraph points a finger at Turkey for yesterday's fiasco:
As the man responsible for Turkish security, Mr Erdogan knows that the government in Jerusalem has to vet goods brought into the Strip. A secular, non-Arab country, Turkey is in a unique position to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians. Its prime minister appears instead to have chosen a more biased role designed to appeal to his domestic Islamic constituency.
10:51 a.m: A staff-ed in The Independent blames disproportionate tactics, but doesn't offer any suggestions on what steps Israel could've taken that would A) be effective and B) meet the editorial staff's self-righteous standards:
Above all, it is Israel's abject failure to devise ways of defending itself other than by overwhelming military force. Faced with mass demonstrations or aid shipments that are cast by their organisers as peaceful, Israel still has no answer beyond a call to arms. It cannot, therefore, be surprised when most of the rest of the world then judges the means to be excessive and disproportionate to the ends.
10:45 a.m: A staff-ed in The Guardian compares the Israeli navy to Somali pirates:
If an armed group of Somali pirates had yesterday boarded six vessels on the high seas, killing at least 10 passengers and injuring many more, a Nato taskforce would today be heading for the Somali coast. What happened yesterday in international waters off the coast of Gaza was the work of Israeli commandos, not pirates, and no Nato warships will in fact be heading for Israel. Perhaps they should be.
I'm sure the Somali pirates are still waiting for Turkey to organize a "Free Darfur" aid convoy.