Wednesday, June 30, 2010

PA capitulation clears way for 'proximity talks'

Direct Action
Home » Issue 23: June 2010
PA capitulation clears way for 'proximity talks'

By Kim Bullimore

On May 7, US-backed “proximity talks” began two months after US special Mideast envoy George Mitchel, announced that the Fatah-led Palestine Authority (PA) and Israel had agreed to resume “indirect” negotiations. The “proximity talks” have been hailed by the Obama administration as a way of supposedly kick-starting the failed Arab-Israeli “peace process”. The talks have commenced despite the fact that Israel has not adhered to the 10-month “settlement freeze” demanded by the Obama administration.

Under the 1949 Geneva Convention on the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, also known as the “Fourth Geneva Convention”, an occupying power may not transfer parts of its own civilian population into occupied territory. All of the Israeli settlements in the Palestinian territories militarily occupied by Israel since June 1967 are therefore illegal under international law. This has been repeatedly acknowledged by the UN Security Council and reaffirmed by the UN’s International Court of Justice in its December 2003 advisory opinion on Israel’s apartheid wall.

In May 2009, US President Barack Obama told Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas, whose electoral mandate as PA president expired in January 2009, that Washington would press Israel to meet its obligations under a 2003 “road map for peace” endorsed by the UN, the US, the European Union and Russia, which included stopping the construction of new Israeli settlements and the expansion of existing settlements. By that time these settlements housed close to 500,000 Israeli citizens in the West Bank and occupied East Jerusalem.

However, according to an Israeli Peace Now NGO Settlement Watch project report published in February 2010 there have been repeated violations of the supposed settlement freeze announced by Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu last November. The report noted that in response to a parliamentary question, “Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilnai admitted that 29 settlements [had] breached the settlement freeze order”.

PA capitulation

Relying on Washington’s support, Abbas had previously stated that the PA would not engage in negotiations with Israel until the Netanyahu government froze settlement building and expansion. On May 2, however, Abbas sought Arab League approval for the PA’s capitulation to US and Israeli pressure to accept indirect negotiations without an Israeli settlement freeze. At a Cairo meeting of the Arab Peace Initiative Committee, only Syria and Lebanon, both of which have been the victims of Israeli military aggression, opposed giving the green light to the US brokered “proximity” talks.

At a press conference after the meeting, Syrian representative Yousef al-Ahmed said: “This committee has exceeded its authority and given the Palestinians the green light to start indirect talks without the Israelis taking steps on the ground … It was clear that the meeting ... was aimed at providing an Arab cover for an already-taken Palestinian decision to hold indirect negotiations with Israel with no guarantees”.

Nabil Abu Rudeina, a PA spokesperson said: “There is currently no idea to hold direct negotiations. The Palestinian and Arab positions on this matter are clear — there must be a clear reference for negotiations and the complete halt of settlements.” The PA’s engagement in the proximity talks confirms that it has opted to continue to pursue its failed strategy of diplomatic reliance on Washington, while informally abandoning its demand that Israel freeze settlement expansion as a precondition for negotiations.

On May 8, Yasser Abed Rabbo, Abbas’ chief adviser, told Israel’s YNet news website, that the decision to engage in the proximity talks was “mostly premised on pledges and guarantees made by the Americans to the Palestinian side in respect to the issues of settlements and the basis of negotiations — Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338, the Road Map, and the Arab peace initiative”. Rabbo stated that Washington had pledged to ensure all core issues of the conflict would be discussed and that it would supposedly “adopt a very determined stance” against any Israeli provocations to disrupt the talks.

This confirms that the PA leadership continues to view Washington as supposedly a “neutral broker” in the Arab-Israeli conflict. However, Washington is an active participant in the Israeli colonisation of the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT). As British freelance journalist Jonathan Cook reported in a May 15 article in the Abu Dhabi newspaper, The National, that the US government’s US Agency for International Development (USAID) has “helped to build 114 kilometers of Israeli-proposed roads [in the West Bank], despite a pledge from Washington six years ago that it would not assist in implementing what has been widely described as Israel’s ‘apartheid road’ plan”. Cook noted that USAID had “paid for the construction of nearly a quarter of the segregated road network put forward by Israel in 2004”.

These roads are designed to provide alternative routes to connect Palestinian communities, often by upgrading circuitous dirt tracks or by building tunnels under existing routes, while Israeli-only roads are maintained in order to facilitate Israel’s illegal settlements in the West Bank. Cook correctly pointed out that USAID’s “involvement in building a segregated West Bank road infrastructure would run counter to Washington’s oft-stated goal, including as it launched ‘proximity talks’ last week, to establish a viable Palestinian state with territorial contiguity”.
Fayyad plan

While the Abbas and the Fatah leadership have continued to pursue a failed strategy of reliance on the US government as a “neutral broker”, appointed Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Salaam Fayyad has continued to pursue economic policies to entrench and normalise Israel’s illegal occupation of the OPT. Over the past year, with the endorsement of Israel, the US and the EU, Fayyad, who has been hailed by both Israel and the US as “the Palestinian Ben Gurion”, has sought to implement an economic policy in the West Bank which is little different from the one proposed by Netanyahu in his Bar Ilan speech in June 2009.

Melbourne-based Palestinian writer Samah Sabawi, in her March 10 article on the Palestine Chronicle website, notes that, “Contrary to all the hype that surrounds economic peace, it is important to acknowledge the fact that it represents more of the same old policies Israel has pursued in the Occupied Territories for decades”. Sabawi noted that since 1967, Israel has “wanted the land the resources but not the people” of the OPT.

As Sabawi correctly argues, Netanyahu’s economic peace plan is a continuation of Israel’s attempt to economically integrate the natural resources of OPT into the Israeli economy. Fayyad, who initially opposed Netanyahu’s economically peace plan, has since fully embraced it. This is most clearly illustrated by in the way in which the PA continued to engage in monthly Joint Economic Committee meetings throughout the period when the PA had supposedly stopped talking with Israel until there was settlement freeze. The primary task of the JEC meetings is to foster joint Palestinian-Israeli business ventures.

Joseph Massad, a professor of Modern Arab politics at New York City’s Columbia University, noted in an April 14 article on the Electronic Intifada website that Fayyad is a “pioneer in normalisation” and that “Fayyad’s plan to establish a Palestinian state in August 2011 is in effect an acceptance of the Camp David proposals offered to and rejected by the late Palestine Liberation Organization Chairman Yasser Arafat in 2000”.

Given that Fayyad is aggressively promoting an “economic peace” policy which suits Israeli government and business interests, it is not surprising that Zionists around the world have started to be more vocal in their support for Fayyad. On May 13, Harvard law professor Alan Dershowitz, who is described by Jerusalem Post as “one of Israel’s most committed and articulate advocates”, told the Post that Fayyad was “the best [partner] Israel has, and probably the best Israel has ever had”.

Similarly, Bren Carlill an analysis at the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council, in an article in the May 13 Melbourne Age, while admonishing the Palestinian people for “their sense of victimhood”, observed that “There is one Palestinian, however, who is breaking the mould. Prime Minister Salam Fayyad is building Palestinian infrastructure, fighting Palestinian corruption and laying the foundations for a viable Palestinian state.”

In an interview with the April 2 Tel Aviv Haaretz daily, Fayyad indicated that he was prepared to give up the right of return of Palestinian refugees to their homes and properties in what is now the Israeli state. In response to the question of whether or not his plan takes into consideration the need to absorb Palestinian refugees, Fayyad responded, “Of course, Palestinians would have the right to reside within the State of Palestine”. The Palestinian state Fayyad refers to is what many analysts have come to regard as little different to the phony “independent homelands” (Bantustans) that apartheid South Africa tried, unsuccessfully, to get its indigenous African population to accept as a substitute for equal citizen rights.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Israel prepares for more West Bank ethnic cleansing

Dear friends,
I am a little late in posting this up, but please find below my article from the May Direct Action on Israel's preparation for further ethnic cleansing of the Occupied West Bank.

In solidarity,
Home » Issue 22: May 2010
Israel prepares for more West Bank ethnic cleansing

By Kim Bullimore

A new Israeli military order will enable the deportation of tens of thousands of Palestinians from the occupied West Bank or their imprisonment for up to seven years. Military order No. 1650, which was enacted on April 13, amends a 1969 military order known as the Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration. This defined an “infiltrator” as anyone entering Israel from an “enemy state”, such as Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon or Syria.

The amended order defines an “infiltrator” as “a person who entered the area unlawfully ... or a person who is present in the area and does not lawfully hold a permit”. “Infiltrators” can either be deported from the West Bank after 72 hours or jailed for seven years. In addition, “infiltrators” who may have legally entered the area but did not have an approved “permit” from the Israeli military commander can still be jailed: “[W]here an infiltrator has proven his entry into the area was lawful — he shall be sentenced to a term of imprisonment of three years”.

Israeli Occupation Force's new "infiltrators" order

According to the Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, one of 10 Israeli human rights organisatios that are challenging the new order, it creates a presumption that every person is an “infiltrator” unless he or she can prove that both his or her entrance to and presence in the West Bank were approved by the military commander or relevant Israeli authorities. A briefing paper issued by Gisha says the amended order “could seemingly apply to everyone: bearers of Palestinian identity cards, residents of east Jerusalem, Israeli citizens and foreigners”. However, Gisha notes that the order most likely will apply to three main groups: Palestinian residents who hold Palestinian ID cards with Gaza addresses; persons “without status” (mainly spouses of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank) and non-Israeli foreign nationals working or living there.

Tens of thousands threatened

According to the Palestinian Office of Civilian Affairs in Ramallah, there are approximately 25,000 people with registered Gaza addresses living in the West Bank. In 2003, Israel began to prohibit Palestinians with Gaza addresses on their IDs from being in the occupied West Bank, even if they had been residents there for many years. It also began arresting Palestinians who had a Gaza address and removing them to Gaza against their will.

Gisha noted that Israel’s removals policy contradicts its obligations under the 1993 Oslo Accords, which recognised the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as a “single territorial unit”, where Palestinians listed in the Israeli-controlled Palestinian Population Registry may lawfully reside. Gisha’s executive director, Sari Bashi, told Aljazeera news agency on April 13 that the order was “part of a series of steps implemented by Israel to empty the West Bank of Palestinians, especially by removing them to Gaza … There are tens of thousands of people at risk, who pose no security threat whatsoever”, but the new order will “mak[e] it criminal for them to be present in their own home”.

A spokesperson for the Israeli government, Mark Regev, tried to present the amended military order as protecting Palestinian rights. Regev told Aljazeera on April 13: “What we’ve done here is we’ve strengthened the rights of people who face such deportation by creating ... an independent judicial oversight mechanism, which makes sure there are checks and balances and that the legal rights of people are protected”. Regev went on to say that, previously, people served with deportation orders could be deported the same day, but under the amended order they had a 72-hour appeal period.

Israeli human rights organisations have disputed Regev’s claims. According to an April 11 media release by the organisations challenging the order, there is a distinct “possibility that some of the deportees will not be given an opportunity for a hearing before being removed from the West Bank as, according to the orders, the deportation may be executed within 72 hours whereas it is possible to delay bringing a person before an appeals committee for up to eight days”.
History of ‘exclusivity’

The new order is the latest step in Israel’s attempt to ethnically cleanse the region of its indigenous population, the Palestinian people. According to the UN, the forcible transfer of a people so as to render an area “ethnically homogeneous” is illegal and constitutes “ethnic cleansing”. Under international law, ethnic cleansing is designated a crime against humanity.

Israeli historian Ilan Pappe notes in his 2006 book The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine that the drive for “Jewish exclusivity” in Palestine has been a central tenet of the Zionism. Now known as “transfer” in Zionist terminology, the ethnic cleansing of Palestine was first advocated by the founder of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl. In 1895, Herzl wrote in his diary: “We shall try to spirit the penniless population across the border by procuring employment for it in the transit countries, while denying it employment in our own.”

Israeli Zionist historian Benny Morris notes in his 2004 book The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited that Herzl and other Zionist leaders of his time did not discuss or write about “transfer” publicly. By 1936, however, Zionists leaders had become more publicly outspoken about the “transfer” or ethnic cleansing of the Palestinian people. Speaking to the British Peel Commission in 1937, David Ben Gurion, head of the Jewish Agency and the Israeli state’s first prime minister, argued that Jordan (then known as Transjordan) should be opened up for the “transfer” of Palestinians in order to make way for Jewish settlement in Palestine. At the 20th Zionist Congress in 1937, he advocated the “transfer” of Palestinians from the Jezreel Valley (near Haifa), the Sharon Coastal Plains and other areas of Palestine, saying “Transfer is what will make possible a comprehensive settlement program”.

David Ben Gurion

In 1940, Yossef Weitz, the head of the “settlement department” of the Jewish National Fund in Palestine, wrote in his diary, which was published in 1965, that the “transfer” of the indigenous Palestinian population “does not serve only one aim — to reduce the Arab population — it also serves a second purpose by no means less important, which is: to evict land now cultivated by the Arabs and to free it for Jewish settlement”. According to Weitz, “the only solution is to transfer the Arabs from here to neighbouring countries. Not a single village or a single tribe must be let off.”

Plan Dalet

In 1948, in the months before the UN partition plan for Palestine was to be implemented, Plan Dalet was drawn up by Ben-Gurion and other Zionist leaders. According to Ilan Pappe, Plan Dalet was the “blueprint for ethnic cleansing”. It resulted in more than 500 Palestinian towns and villages being either destroyed or depopulated, in what became known to the Palestinian people as al Nakba (the Catastrophe). More than 1 million Palestinians were forced to flee their homes, with at least 750,000 being forcibly expelled to other countries (such as Lebanon and Jordan), while another 150,000 became internal refugees inside the borders of the newly formed Israeli state.

In a 2004 interview with Haaretz newspaper, Morris noted: “A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.”

In 1954, Israel enacted the Prevention of Infiltration Law, in order to prevent the Palestinian refugees in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria from re-entering Israel. The law allowed their re-expulsion, as well as the expulsion of the 150,000 internally displaced Palestinian refugees if they attempted to return to their villages or towns. The 1969 Order Regarding Prevention of Infiltration was an extension of the 1954 law. It was designed to prevent the return of Palestinians who had fled the West Bank at the time of its June 1967 conquest by Israel.

The new military order is a further indication that the Israeli rulers have no real intention of agreeing to an independent Palestinian state, that their ultimate objective remains Zionist control over the whole of historic Palestine, with the indigenous Palestinian population reduced to living in a series of isolated cantons surrounded by large-scale Israeli settlements and under continued Israeli military control.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

New footage from the Mavi Marmara show Israel's brutal attack on human rights activists

Dear friends,

Film maker Iara Lee was aboard the Mavi Marmara and filming prior and during the attack by the Israeli military on the Gaza Flotilla. She was able to retain the footage, despite attempts by the Israeli military to confiscate all footage.

Below is a 14 minute version of her footage she shot on the Mavi Marmara, as well as the full 1 hour unedited footage. You can also visit her website for more information on the film footage and what happened on the Mavi Marmara (

Please be aware the footage contains upsetting images.

I have also inlcuded a link below to the Democracy Now interview with Lee, where she discusses what happened on the boat, as well the op-ed article written by Lee for the San Fransciso Chronical

in solidarity,

Edited version of footage shoot by Iara Lee (14 minutes)

Israeli Attack on the Mavi Marmara, May 31st 2010 // 15 min. from Cultures of Resistance on Vimeo.

1 Hour Unedited Footage by Iara Lee

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Israel's narrative of "self-defense" falls apart

Dear friends,
new footage has emerged from the attack on the Gaza Flotilla. Turkish television has aired footage of two Israeli commandos kicking and then apparently executing one of the activists.

The activist was identified by Turkish television as 19 year old Furkan Dogan, a Turkish activist, who held American citizenship. The autopsy carried out on Furkan revealed he was shot five times from less that 45cm in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.

The video footage clearly and sickeningly shows that Israel's claim to a "lynch" and "self defense" is an outright lie.

Please find below the article by Paul Woodward from War in Context on the footage. Woodward's article on War in Context includes an embedded copy of the footage, however, I have also included the footage below.

in solidarity,


Footage aired on Turkish television of apparent execution of one of the Mavi Marmara activists by Israeli commandos.

Israel’s “self-defense” narrative falls apart — Updated

by Paul Woodward on June 10, 2010

(See this post to read an important update on the video that appears below.)

On May 31, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the actions of IDF soldiers who had conducted the raid on the Mavi Marmara, killing at least nine of its passengers, as “a clear case of self-defense because as our soldiers were inspecting these ships, they were attacked – they were almost lynched. They were attacked with clubs, with knives, perhaps with live gunfire, and they had to defend themselves – they were going to be killed.”

That was before video emerged appearing to show two Israeli soldiers first pummeling with their boots and then shooting one of the victims as he lay at their feet. To stand above an injured man and then finish him off with rounds from an assault rifle can by no ones estimation be described as an act of self-defense.

I have asked the IDF Spokesman’s office for comment on the video and been told that they will get back to me in due course.

An explanation from the IDF is unlikely to be swift because a decision on how to handle this matter is now likely to rise above the military ranks to the highest political level.

The Netanyahu government’s political strategy for grappling with the latest international crisis it has triggered has been rooted from its inception in the outlook that molds the Israeli psyche: whatever happens, Israel is always the victim.

Out of a national unwillingness to rise above this unremitting sense of victimization, Israel’s leaders and its population have rendered themselves incapable of accepting responsibility for their own actions.

Right now, there are at least two Israeli soldiers who could step forward, break their silence and act in the greater interest of the country they have pledged to defend.

But I don’t see that happening. Firstly, this would require an unusual amount of personal courage, but anyone who shoots an injured man who is lying helplessly at his feet seems lacking in courage. And secondly, most individuals who follow military commands do so on the assumption that it’s not for them to determine the national interest. Indeed, the orders these particular soldiers have been instructed to follow almost certainly include that they now maintain their silence.

As soon as it became apparent that some kind of investigation of the massacre would be inevitable, Israel’s minister of defense, Ehud Barak, was quick to say that in any investigation of the massacre, no individual commandos would face questioning. In other words, no one who pulled a trigger would be placed in legal jeopardy by being compelled to explain their own actions. The Israeli government has in effect promised legal immunity for its defense forces, in the hope presumably that the government itself will thereby ensure its own legal and political protection.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, has said: “Israel must pay the price of the blood it shed and the lives of the martyrs. It will do so. We will pursue this within the framework of law.”

So far, the United States, under President Obama’s morally drifting leadership, has maintained its traditional role in acting like Israel’s lawyer. But even the best defense lawyer realizes when the evidence against their client makes a “not guilty” plea untenable. Moreover, every lawyer knows that they can only go so far in loyally defending their client. Past a certain point, a loyal attorney becomes a criminal accomplice.

It’s time for Washington to tell Tel Aviv that it needs to get ready to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the Mavi Marmara massacre. Israel cannot escape facing legal scrutiny from an international investigation.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Israel's out of control hasbara and replusive youtube "spoof" of Gaza Flotilla

Dear friends,
if you have been following the Israeli government and Israeli Occupation Force's hasbara (propaganda) since the attack on the Gaza flotilla, you will have noticed each day an even more hystical and ridiculous claim has been made in order to try and justify the attack on the flotilla and the murder of the 9 activists.

The Guardian article below higlights not only Israel's forced retreat from a replusive youtube video making fun of the Gaza flotilla and the murder of the 9 activists, but also a number of other forced retreats by the Israel state and Israeli Occupation Forces from some of their more hysterical and absurd claims, including retreats on the accusations of activists supposedly linked to al Qaida and retreat around doctored footage, which supposedly showed an activist telling a soldier to "go back to Auschwitz"

in solidarity,

Israel forced to apologise for YouTube spoof of Gaza flotilla

Israeli government press office distributed video link featuring Arabs and activists singing

* Rachel Shabi in Jerusalem
*, Sunday 6 June 2010 22.44 BST

The Israeli government has been forced to apologise for circulating a spoof video mocking activists aboard the Gaza flotilla, nine of who were shot dead by Israeli forces last week.

The YouTube clip, set to the tune of the 1985 charity single We Are the World, features Israelis dressed as Arabs and activists, waving weapons while singing: "We con the world, we con the people. We'll make them all believe the IDF (Israel Defence Force) is Jack the Ripper."

It continues: "There's no people dying, so the best that we can do is create the biggest bluff of all."

The Israeli government press office distributed the video link to foreign journalists at the weekend, but within hours emailed them an apology, saying it had been an error. Press office director Danny Seaman said the video did not reflect official state opinion, but in his personal capacity he thought it was "fantastic".

Government spokesman Mark Regev said the video reflected how Israelis felt about the incident. "I called my kids in to watch it because I thought it was funny," he said. "It is what Israelis feel. But the government has nothing to do with it."

The clip features a group led by the Jerusalem Post's deputy managing editor Caroline Glick, wearing keffiyehs and calling themselves the Flotilla Choir. The footage is interspersed with clips from the recent Israeli raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship, the Mavi Marmara.

The clip has been praised in Israel, where the mass-circulation daily Yediot Aharonot said the singers "defended Israel better than any of the experts".

But Didi Remez, an Israeli who runs the liberal-left news analysis blog Coteret, said the clip was "repulsive" and reflected how out of touch Israeli opinion was with the rest of the world. "It shows a complete lack of understanding of how the incident is being perceived abroad," he said. Award-winning Israeli journalist Meron Rapoport said the clip demonstrated prejudice against Muslims. "It's roughly done, not very sophisticated, anti-Muslim – and childish for the government to be behind such a clip," he said.

A similar press office email was sent to foreign journalists two weeks ago, recommending a gourmet restaurant and Olympic-sized swimming pool in Gaza to highlight Israel's claim there is no humanitarian crisis there. Journalists who complained the email was in poor taste were told they had "no sense of humour".

Last week, the Israel Defence Force had to issue a retraction over an audio clip it had claimed was a conversation between Israeli naval officials and people on the Mavi Marmara, in which an activist told soldiers to "go back to Auschwitz". The clip was carried by Israeli and international press, but today the army released a "clarification/correction", explaining that it had edited the footage and that it was not clear who had made the comment.

The Israeli army also backed down last week from an earlier claim that soldiers were attacked by al-Qaida "mercenaries" aboard the Gaza flotilla. An article appearing on the IDF spokesperson's website with the headline: "Attackers of the IDF soldiers found to be al-Qaida mercenaries", was later changed to "Attackers of the IDF Soldiers found without identification papers," with the information about al-Qaida removed from the main article. An army spokesperson told the Guardian there was no evidence proving such a link to the terror organisation.

While the debate over accounts of the flotilla raid continues, Israel is facing more boycotting. In the past week, three international acts, including the US rock band the Pixies, have cancelled concerts in Tel Aviv.

Best-settling authors Alice Walker and Iain Banks have backed the boycott campaign, with Banks announcing his books won't be translated into Hebrew. Dockworker unions in Sweden and South Africa have refused to handle Israeli ships, while the UK's Unite union just passed a motion to boycott Israeli companies.

• This article was amended on 7 June 2010. The original referred to Didi Remez as a female. This has been corrected.

Friday, June 4, 2010

The Flotilla Raid Was Not “Bungled.” The IDF Detailed Its Violent Strategy In Advance.

Dear friends,
American Jewish activist and independent film maker and journalist, Max Blumenthal debunks the claims in the mainstream media that Israel's murderous attack on the Gaza Flotilla, which resulted in 9 dead and many more injured, was a result of a "bungled raid". Blumenthal outlines in detail, the Israeli Occupation Forces intent to use violence against the Flotilla of unarmed humanitarian activists attempting to break Israel's illegal blockade and deliver 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to Gaza.

In solidarity, Kim


The Flotilla Raid Was Not “Bungled.” The IDF Detailed Its Violent Strategy In Advance.

by Max Bluementhal
On 06.03.10

Tel Aviv-Israel Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior ministers have attempted to blame army commanders for “the bungled raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla,” according to the UK’s Daily Telegraph. The AP reported that “Israel’s bloody, bungled takeover of a Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessel is complicating US-led Mideast peace efforts.” And according to Reuters, “Israeli military admits errors in bungled boarding.”

But was the raid really bungled? Did the Israeli military command and Netanyahu government have no clear strategy going in? Or was the violence they meted out against the flotilla activists deliberate and methodically planned?

Statements by senior Israeli military commanders made in the Hebrew media days before the massacre revealed that the raid was planned over a week in advance by the Israeli military and was personally approved by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak. The elite Israeli commando unit known as Unit 13 was tasked with carrying out the mission and its role was known by the Israeli public well before the raid took place. Details of the plan show that the use of deadly force was authorized and calculated. The massacre of activists should not have been unexpected.

On May 28, three days before the raid, top Israeli military officials revealed details of their strategy to Maariv, Israel’s most widely circulated paper. The caption of the Maariv article reflected the military command’s plan to use force: “On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way.”

Here is a translation of relevant portions of the article:

Maariv, 5/28/10 P. 4

Title: Head to Head in the Heart of the Sea

Caption: On the way to violence; one of the boats is on its way.”

Subhead: The sea encounter that will occur at the end of the weekend is already planned detail by detail. From the moment that the ships will pass the “red line” on their way to Gaza, the fighters of Unit 13 will take control and transfer 800 passengers from their boats back to where they came from. And special arrest units were set up.

From the body of article: This operation was approved by Prime Minister Netanyahu and Defense Minister Barak and will be led by the commander of the Navy, Lieutenant Colonel Eliezer Maron, who is nicknamed “Cheney.” If the people aboard the boats will not agree to turn around, the operation will transfer to the stage of force. “We are afraid that there will be a terror attack by the boats,” said a high ranking officer. “If terrorists have gotten on the boats or if there is an intention to use hot weapons against our forces, we will use full seriousness and caution. We want to avoid using force but as soon as there will be danger to the life of our forces we will be forced to use live fire as a last resort.


After our fighters take over the boats, OKETZ unit dogs and forces of the IHLM unit corps of engineers will inspect them looking for sabotage materials and fighting tools.

So the Israeli military broadcast its plan for violence, inciting the Israeli public and the soldiers of Unit 13 with fevered visions of a kill-or-be-killed encounter with a group of Arab “terrorists.” The stated conditions for using live fire were arbitrary and poorly defined, giving the commandos little direction and lots of leeway to kill — at the very least the plan demanded force in some form.

After the initial violent stages, the plan called for the gathering of the activists’ “fighting tools,” an acknowledgment by the Israeli military that the activists might try to repel its commandos once they forced their way on the ships. The plan to search for “sabotage materials” also foreshadowed the IDF’s post-raid propaganda campaign.

An alternative plan that would have been likely to avert violence could have been set into motion. The Israeli Navy could have done what it had in the past and hijacked the aid ships without boarding them, then towed them to shore. However, the Rambo-style plan concocted by Netanyahu, his top aides and the Naval commander with the unfortunate nickname of “Cheney” made the killing of activists likely, if not inevitable.

Why didn’t Israel’s leaders choose to deal with the flotilla in a more judicious fashion? Were they that stupid, or just crazy? From the details of the plan it appears that Netanyahu and his cohorts had envisioned Entebbe Part Deux, a daring anti-terror raid that would lift the sinking morale of the Israeli public while intimidating Iran and the Arab world. Though Israel may be more isolated than ever as a result of the massacre, the Netanyahu administration is reaping considerable political benefits at home.

The day after the massacre, spontaneous celebrations broke out in Ashdod, Tel Aviv, and throughout the country, bringing together right-wing elements with everyday Israelis. Over a thousand Israelis gathered tonight outside the Turkish embassy in Tel Aviv to rally against the Turkish government and express their support for the raid. Multiple demonstrators including one man who has lived in Israel for 60 years told me, “What Turkey [the sponsor of the Mavi Marmara boat] has done is great. I have never seen this country more united in my entire life. We are all standing together now.” (Video coming soon).

Israeli newscasters are routinely using the term “mechabel,” or terrorist, to refer to the flotilla activists, while the violence that broke out on the deck of the Mavi Marmara is called “the lynch.” (Nevermind that zero commandos were hung and nine activists were killed, including an American citizen who was shot in the head four times.) No evidence is required to support claims in the Israeli media. The public desperately wants to believe that its government is right, so much so that Israel’s media is not even making a token effort to challenge the increasingly hysterical press releases disseminated by the IDF press office every few hours.

Hanin Zoabi, a Palestinian-Israeli member of the Knesset who was on the Mavi Marmara, was physically accosted in the Knesset by fellow legislators for attempting to relate her experience aboard the flotilla. MK Miri Regev of Likud called her a “traitor,” while Yoel Hasson of Kadima, a supposedly centrist party, denounced Zoabi as a “terrorist.” An Israeli Facebook group devoted to inciting Zoabi’s assassination has gathered 600 members in just a day and a half. In the meantime, Israel’s Interior Minster Eli Yishai is “looking into” means of stripping Zoabi of her citizenship.

This Friday, anti-occupation activists expect to encounter intense violence from the Israeli Army and Border Police at the weekly demonstrations in Sheikh Jarrah and Nebi Salah. “In this atmosphere, you can expect with pretty reasonable certainty that the soldiers will go crazy,” a veteran of the Sheikh Jarrah protest movement told me.

With two more ships on their way towards Gaza with aid for the besieged civilian population, the Israeli military and Netanyahu administration are not wasting time in hatching a new strategy to stop them. Once again, the plan calls for violence and possibly more death. “Next time we’ll use more force,” a top Naval commander told the Jerusalem Post. “We will have to come prepared in the future as if it was a war.”