Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Bertrand Russell Tribunal petition, Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel's Eyes

From: FAIR
Sent: Tuesday, June 01, 2010 1:46 PM

Media Advisory

Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel's Eyes
Attack on humanitarian flotilla prompts little media skepticism


On May 31, the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of boats full of
civilians attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip.
Reports indicate that at least nine and as many as 16 of the activists on
board were killed, though details remain sketchy due to Israel's censorious
limitations on media coverage. Much of the U.S. media coverage has been
remarkably unskeptical of Israel's account of events and their context, and
has paid little regard to international law.

The New York Times (6/1/10) glossed over the facts of the devastating
Israeli siege of Gaza, where 1.5 million people live in extreme poverty. As
reporter Isabel Kershner wrote, "Despite sporadic rocket fire from the
Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough
basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute humanitarian

Asking Israel to explain the effects of its embargo on the people of Gaza
makes little sense, especially when there are plenty of other resources
available. The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
reported (IRIN, 5/18/10):

As a consequence of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, 98 percent of
industrial operations have been shut down since 2007 and there are acute
shortages of fuel, cash, cooking gas and other basic supplies....

Water-related health problems are widespread in the Strip because of the
blockade and Israel's military operation in Gaza, which destroyed water and
sanitation infrastructure, including reservoirs, wells, and thousands of
kilometres of piping....

Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2

In Gaza, Israel's blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting
medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing
serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized

Israel's 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip's 27 hospitals
and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary healthcare facilities, none
of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials
ban. Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and
there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical

Those facts, though, aren't persuasive to everyone. The Washington Post's
June 1 editorial page had one of the most appalling takes on the killings:
"We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla--a
motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian
cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists."

Many of the analysis pieces in major papers focused on the fallout for
Israel and the United States, rather than the civilians killed or the
humanitarian crisis they were trying to address. The Post's Glenn Kessler
(6/1/10) framed the U.S. response, not the Israeli attack, as the
complicating factor: "Condemnation of Israeli Assault Complicates Relations
With U.S." Kessler lamented, "The timing of the incident is remarkably bad
for Israel and the United States," while a Los Angeles Times account
(6/1/10) called the raid "a public relations nightmare for Israel." The New
York Times' Kershner wrote (, 5/31/10) that "the criticism [of
Israel over the attack] offered a propaganda coup to Israel's foes,
particularly the Hamas group that holds sway in Gaza."

Other news accounts presented misleading context about the circumstances
leading to Israel's blockade. Kershner (New York Times, 6/1/10) stressed
that "Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza,
where Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel's destruction, took over by
force in 2007." The Associated Press (6/1/10) reported that "Israel and
Egypt sealed Gaza's borders after Hamas overran the territory in 2007,
wresting control from Abbas-loyal forces"--the latter a reference to Fatah
forces affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas.

Both accounts ignore the fact that Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006,
which led the United States and Israel to step up existing economic
restrictions on Gaza. An attempt to stoke a civil war in Gaza by arming
Fatah militants--reported extensively by David Rose in Vanity Fair
(4/08)--backfired, and Hamas prevailed (Extra!, 9-10/07).

Much of the U.S. press coverage takes Israeli government claims at face
value, and is based largely on footage made available by Israeli
authorities--while Israel keeps the detained activists away from the media
(not to mention from lawyers and worried family members). The Washington
Post (6/1/10) reported the attack this way:

Upon touching down, the Israeli commandos, who were equipped with paint guns
and pistols, were assaulted with steel poles, knives and pepper spray. Video
showed at least one commando being lifted up and dumped from the ship's
upper deck to the lower deck. Some commandos later said they jumped into the
water to escape being beaten. The Israeli military said some of the
demonstrators fired live ammunition. Israeli officials said the activists
had fired two guns stolen from the troops.

As's Glenn Greenwald wrote (5/31/10): "Just ponder what we'd be
hearing if Iran had raided a humanitarian ship in international waters and
killed 15 or so civilians aboard."

The Times' June 1 report included seven paragraphs of Israel's account of
what happened on board the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, where the
civilians were killed; the paper reported that "There were no immediate
accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship" because the
Israeli based they were taken to "was off limits to the news media and
declared a closed military zone."

The Times piece also showed little interest in international law, mentioning
Israel's claim regarding the legality of their actions but providing no
analysis from any international law experts to support or debunk the claim:
"Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of
naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a

According to Craig Murray (5/31/10), former British ambassador and
specialist on maritime law, the legal position "is very plain": "To attack a
foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal. It is not piracy,
as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission. It is rather an act of
illegal warfare."

New York Times
Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
Phone: (212) 556-7652

Washington Post
Andy Alexander, Ombud
Phone: (202) 334-7582

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.


From: "Sid Shniad"

*Please circulate widely and show your solidarity with the people of Gaza
and the victims of Israeli killings by signing this appeal at*

Appeal of the B*Russell*s Tribunal *(31 May 2010)**

*Dead: 19. Injured: 60.*

*This is Israel*

*Israel's killing of 19 innocents with 60 more injured must have maximal

*Israel impunity is a threat to all***

Even for eyes burnt witnessing human suffering, there is something shocking,
something impossible, about watching Israeli soldiers, armed and in gas
masks, fast-roping from helicopters onto an aid ship filled with
civilians —journalists, parliamentarians, human rights activists,
mothers, doctors
— headed to Gaza to break the inhuman siege that keeps 1.5 million people
somewhere between life and death.

The Mavi Marmara, carrying 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid, was flying a
white flag: a universal symbol of non-violence. It was also flying the
Turkish flag, in international waters, giving it status as a sovereign
extension of Turkey. Regardless, Israel attacked. For what does Israel
fight? Its existence, or the continuance of a regime of collective
punishment calculated to destroy the Palestinians? Or are these the same
thing? Dead: 19. Injured: 60. Who gave the order? Will NATO react to an
attack on one of its members?**

*Simple public murder*

The right to exist cannot be asserted through murder. The very acceptance of
Israel into the United Nations System was — in 1948 — conditioned on the
former recognising the equal rights of Arabs, in particular the right of
return of Palestinians. Not only has Israel prevented the return of
refugees, it took over by force and occupied in 1967 the rest of historic
Palestine. From founding until now we have witnessed an unending catalogue
of Israeli atrocities. By these countless atrocities, Israel has forfeited
any claim to legality — it is moreover a state that refuses to join the
Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty or consider giving up its nuclear weapons.

Gaza is both the world's largest open-air prison and the 21st century's
undeclared concentration camp. Everybody knows it. The UN knows it. The US
president knows it. Tens of thousands of civil servants in countries across
the world know it. The siege is a way of sealing the exits, and of slow
killing. It is an atrocity on the same level as genocide. Here every man and
woman has a moral duty: inaction is complicity and a betrayal of humanity.
All legal rights are with those who attempt to end this situation by
whatever means.

The Freedom Flotilla is such an attempt: it is a refusal of inhuman
suffering. Its symbolism is more powerful than any navy. As such, it remains
what it was as it embarked on its journey: a signal of the collapse of the
blockade. Where earlier lone vessels tried to reach Gaza, now they go in
groups. More will follow. When a thousand ships set sail, what would Israel

*Israel on trial*

Israel lost the battle for international public opinion a long time ago.
None can forget the relentless strafing of a captive civilian population in
Israel's last war on Gaza. Who can Israel hope to persuade now?

— We condemn the illegal, immoral and inhuman blockade on Gaza, and all
who uphold it

— We condemn Israel

— We condemn Israel's brutal attack on peace activists in international
waters. We declare that 700 brave souls, from 50 nations, represent
something real that Israeli propaganda cannot erase

— We mourn the 19 murdered and express hope and solidarity with the 60
injured. We demand of Israel the release of all activists detained

— We call on all international institutions — including the UN, the EU
and human rights agencies and organisations — to declare themselves
unequivocally on this latest Israeli atrocity and to work towards ending
Israeli impunity

— We demand an international tribunal to judge all Israeli crimes, past
and present. We call on the UN General Assembly to request of the
International Court of Justice an advisory opinion on the legality of Israel
within the United Nations System given its systematic and gross disrespect
of international law and moral authority

— We support all efforts by all means to free the people of Gaza from
their prison and their suffering, including sanctions and divestment against
Israel, a general boycott, and the boycott — by workers federations — of all
ships going to and from Israel

— We call upon people everywhere to express their solidarity with the
dead and injured, and with Palestinians under occupation, in local
expressions of outrage wherever it is deemed useful.

We call on all associations, unions, parliaments, professionals and others
to endorse this appeal and its demands. Please distribute and act upon it.

The B*Russell*s Tribunal Committee

*Please circulate this appeal widely and **show your solidarity with the
people of Gaza and the victims of Israeli killings by signing this appeal at

** * *****

For information contact:<>

URL for this webpage:

No comments:

Post a Comment