By Ahmad Amr
By now, anyone paying attention understands the broad outlines of Israel’s notion of what constitutes an ‘impartial’ inquiry into the murder of nine activists on the Free Gaza Flotilla. Except for Netanyahu and the cabinet ministers who ordered the armed assault on the humanitarian convoy, no other witnesses will be called. The Israelis now say their inquiry will not even take testimony from the IDF commanders who planned and executed the assault or the seven hundred first hand witnesses who survived the carnage. Besides, the activists have already been deported.
So far, the Israelis have tampered with incriminating evidence, propagated doctored pictures and confiscated video tapes and cameras from the reporters who were on board. Just to rub salt in the wound, Netanyahu intends to focus the investigation on whether the organizers of the flotilla had ‘terrorist’ connections. A campaign of slander orchestrated by the Israeli government has prejudiced the outcome by tainting the victims with having ties to Al-Qaeda. Those absurd accusations were later withdrawn but not before the damage had been done.
For the Israelis, the inquiry serves no purpose but to whitewash the crime and rehabilitate their image. To no one’s surprise, the Obama administration has volunteered a helping hand in the cover up. We’re not going to go into Washington’s rationale for bowing before AIPAC and their overlords in Jerusalem. Suffice it to say that the Senate leaders of both parties are passing around a letter condoning the murderous assault on the high seas. I’m not an oracle, but I don’t expect much resistance to Harry Reid’s bipartisan initiative from an administration where the Vice President publicly avows his Zionism and the Chief of Staff boasts of his service with the IDF.
Let Washington and Israel play any game they want to play but let them play alone. The only viable response is an impartial Turkish inquiry with international representation. As a NATO ally, Ankara can extend a formal invitation to the United States, Britain and France to send observers. All three countries approved the UN resolution that called for an impartial and transparent investigation and there’s no plausible reason that Obama can concoct to rebuff a Turkish offer to participate in the proceedings. Observer status should also be accorded to the European Union, the International Court of Justice and Israel. Maybe the Israeli observer will be good enough to show up with the evidence his government confiscated from the 60 reporters who were on the flotilla.
There is no arguing that Turkey has jurisdiction in this case. This act of piracy on the high seas resulted in the death of nine activists, all of them Turkish Citizens. One of the victims was a Turkish-American but the Obama administration has shown little interest in investigating the murder of Furkan Dogan, the 19-year-old high school student who was killed with four bullets to the head at point blank range. One can only speculate on Washington’s indifference to the fate of the young activist. If I was to take a wild guess, I’d start with the victim’s name. It wasn’t Leon Klinghoffer and it wasn’t Daniel Pearl and he wasn’t Christian enough or Jewish enough or white enough or American enough. Case closed.
So while the United States government can also claim jurisdiction and initiate their own inquiry, only the Turkish Republic is likely to exercise its jurisdiction; and that alone should be reason enough for an impartial Turkish inquiry. But there are other reasons that are worth considering starting with the scope of the investigation, the admissibility of evidence, the availability of witnesses, the adherence to international law and the implementation of a Security Council UN resolution that called for a transparent inquiry.
The inquiry Netanyahu has in mind is a podium where he stands up and hails invective at the IHH, one of the many organizations that were involved in organizing the humanitarian convoy. It’s a Kangaroo court where the Israelis get the privilege of lynching their victims a second time. The Israeli verdict is already in – “they had it coming” and “we’d do it again.”
There is an unmistakable stench in the air. It seems to me that the Israelis are trying to cover up for more than just a ‘botched’ raid. They’ve killed tens of thousands of innocents before and gotten away with it. Jerusalem and its proxies in the American mass media didn’t even get this worked up over the Goldstone report that documented their criminal war spree in last year’s carpet bombing of Gaza. What gives? What is it about this single act of mass murder on the high seas that has Netanyahu and the Americans so concerned? Getting the answer to that question should be the focus of the Turkish inquiry. Did the Israeli cabinet give orders to use deadly force on the high seas and did they specifically target Turkish nationals? Was that the reason for the night attack? Is that why they confiscated evidence and kept sixty journalists incommunicado for two days? Is that why they don’t want their own officers to testify?
If a couple of Israeli soldiers had killed one or two passengers, one might buy into the specious argument that they panicked. But they killed nine – with thirty-one bullets at close range. When did they start shooting live ammunition? Does anybody expect straight answers from Netanyahu, Barak or the IDF?
What the Turks should mull over is this question: what if this raid was executed exactly as planned and achieved its stated objectives? What if it was tactically flawless from the point of view of the IDF assassins that carried it out? Anybody who knows Barak’s military record understands that this operation was carried out with meticulous precision. The Israeli Minister of Defense already stands accused of war crimes so he’s not exactly worried about his reputation as a cold blooded killer. What if the assault on the flotilla was meant to be this bloody?
We’ve all seen Israeli Hasbara propaganda campaigns before. But this time they were awfully well prepared for the consequences? Did they know the results a few weeks before the rest of us? Had the damage control media squads already dug their trenches and prepared their operatives for the anticipated international outcry?
One shouldn’t go around raising questions about premeditated murder without establishing motives. So let’s imagine Lieberman, Netanyahu and Barak drawing up the blueprints and assessing the political gains and the potential consequences. What were they rolling the dice for?
It’s fairly obvious that the Israelis wanted to maintain the siege around the world’s largest open air concentration camp and deter other humanitarian flotillas from delivering supplies to the 1.5 million incarcerated Palestinians. But it had to be more than that, because it’s unlikely that Netanyahu and Lieberman would risk such a gambit to prevent a few containers of cargo from being unloaded on the piers of Gaza.
What most observers and analysts seem to ignore is that there were a few other things going on in the background. This most right wing of Israeli Prime Ministers heads a coalition government of extremists and annexationists that are hell bent on derailing the peace process. Any meaningful movement towards a resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would have cut short his term as Prime minister and his coalition partners have told him as much. Netanyahu was on his way to Washington and under pressure to come up with a few concessionary crumbs so Obama wouldn’t lose face after prostrating himself before the Israeli Lobby. The assault on the flotilla allowed Netanyahu to break his date at the White House. Was that the real objective of the raid?
Aside from shelving the Proximity Talks, it made absolute sense to attack Turkish citizens, because Ankara also had a prominent role in the peace process and was mediating talks between the Israelis and the Syrians. So, Netanyahu was going to kill two peace doves by murdering nine Turks. One of the most promising things about this flotilla was seeing Greek and Turkish volunteers on a joint humanitarian mission. I imagine the Israelis don’t like those kinds of peace vibes in the Eastern Mediterranean. They always rant on about being in a dangerous neighborhood; they just forget to tell you their role in making it so dangerous.
There is only one way to find out exactly what happened and why it happened and it’s very unlikely that the right answers are going to emerge from an Israeli inquiry. There’s not even a chance that they’re going to ask the right questions. It’s going to take a Turkish investigation to unravel the political motivation behind this meticulously engineered act of piracy on the high seas. There are just too many eerie parallels between this murderous Israeli operation, the assault on the Liberty and the Lavon Affair. A robust Turkish inquiry might uncover some uncomfortable truths for the derelicts in Washington but it could also make the Eastern Mediterranean a safe neighborhood for one and all.
– Ahmed Amr is an Arab-American. He’s the former editor of NileMedia.com and the author of “The Sheep and the Guardians – Diary of a SEC Sanctioned Swindle.” He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.