By Rifat Audeh
In an outstanding article entitled ‘How Israeli propaganda shaped U.S. media coverage of the flotilla attack’, Glenn Greenwald makes the argument that is self-evident in the title. As someone who was on the Mavi Marmara ship and interviewed frequently after the Israeli crime, I can attest to the accuracy of his findings, which are also applicable to the Canadian media and other global media outlets as well, albeit to a lesser extent.
After international pressure forced my kidnappers to release me and the other activists, Canadian media outlets kept asking me if it was we – the passengers of the ship – who had attacked the Israeli commandos! These questions were based solely on the footage released by the Israeli military and the Israeli narrative of what took place. Accordingly, it is worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture and the facts that have become common knowledge to everyone.
Amnesty International has called the siege of Gaza a “flagrant violation of international law” as have many other international organizations. The humanitarian aid ships and passengers were inspected and cleared from their points of departure, including Turkey, a NATO ally. The Israeli navy attacked the ship in the dead of the night with fully armed commandos in international waters, and even Israel does not dispute this fact. In reports from Bloomberg News, the Associated Press and Israeli papers in the days prior to the attack, Israel threatened to use force and any means necessary to stop the ships, a fact affirmed by Israeli ambassador to the USA Michael Oren in an interview after the attack on June 2nd.
And indeed they did. The Israeli military was firing at us from their vessels which approached the sides of our ship and the helicopters from above as well, even before a single soldier landed on deck. Here we had fully armed Israeli commandos firing live rounds, tear gas, sound grenades and other types of ammunition at unarmed activists of a humanitarian ship at night in international waters, and once again the media has criminalized us and victimized the perpetrators. Let me be clear: we had every right to defend ourselves and our ship against this illegal barbaric assault as our brothers were being wounded and killed. The reader must ask himself/herself: If someone attacked, invaded, burglarized my home with the latest weaponry in the middle of the night to hurt and kill, do I have the right to defend myself and would I? This was the situation for us on the ship, and hence the attempt at self-defense with sticks and slingshots on the one hand against warships, military vessels, helicopters, guns, tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition on the other.
After the Israeli military took control of our ship, one of the first things it did was confiscate all cameras, footage, flash drives, media equipment and suspended any broadcasts from the ship. As I was thrown on the deck by four commandos and blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back and what seemed to be a soldier’s knee digging into my soon to be fractured ribs, this commando –who the Israelis would undoubtedly claim was acting in self-defense – demanded to know where my mobile phone was after inspecting my empty pockets. It is obvious that there were orders from the start of their operation to control the narrative and what the world sees – or rather doesn’t see. (Note: they never did get my mobile phone). On June 3rd , the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced Israel’s editing and distribution of footage confiscated from foreign journalists, stating “Israel has confiscated journalistic material and then manipulated it to serve its interests”. While this manipulated material was being broadcast to news outlets around the world, we were still under abduction and being held incommunicado by Israel. The few photos and videos that were smuggled out by the activists portray a very different picture of the events, even showing Israeli commandos -who were disarmed by the passengers- being treated for their wounds by the ship’s doctors.
Yet despite all this, Israel has refused an impartial inquiry into the incident, which speaks volumes in itself. If Israel has nothing to hide, why not let such inquiry take its course? Instead, a complete farce is occurring with Israel forming its own inquiry committee to investigate itself, acting as judge, jury and executioner. It has added two internationals – including a Canadian- to this committee, in a pathetic attempt to legitimize something illegitimate.
Just as Israel stated it was not using white phosphorous on the civilians of Gaza last year, claimed that murdered activist Thomas Hurndall was armed and just as it refused a UN investigation into the Jenin massacre in 2003, the pattern of Israeli lies and intransigence continues. And, as with the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty which killed 34 American sailors and wounded 171, the media in the USA covered it up and never investigated. It seems some things never change.
– Rifat Audeh was one of three Canadians on the Mavi Marmara ship when it was attacked in international waters by Israel. He is co-founder of Michigan Media Watch and former member of the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s Process Committee. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.