How Israel got away with murder on the Mavi Marmara

The long-delayed and long-awaited UN report [PDF] on the Mavi Marmara massacre has finally been released by the New York Times.

I guess the newspaper feels a responsibility that it should spin this as much in Israel’s favor as possible before the report get’s officially released.

“Report Finds Naval Blockade by Israel Legal but Faults Raid,” says the headline. The siege is OK. Executing unarmed activists is not OK.

“Israel considers the report to be a rare vindication for it in the United Nations,” we are told.

There are a few unpleasant pesky detail however. Go all the way down to paragraph seventeen of the Times article and we learn:

The report assailed Israel for the way in which the nine were killed and others injured. “Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel,” it says. The report does, however, acknowledge that once on board the commandos had to defend themselves against violent attack. The report also criticizes Israel’s subsequent treatment of passengers, saying it “included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.”

Like so many elements of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the events on the Mavi Marmara produced two fiercely competing narratives, each full of self-justification and contempt for the other.

And couldn’t we move forward so much more easily if it wasn’t for those fiercely competing narratives.

But just a minute. The panel — even if it’s conclusion amounted to saying, can’t you all just learn to get along — did actually note that Israel provided no information whatsoever on the circumstances in which nine men were killed. And had those deaths not occurred, there would have been no inquiry.

Let’s repeat that. After nine men were killed on board the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, and the United Nations conducted a commission of inquiry into this incident, Israel provided no information whatsoever on the circumstances in which each of these deaths occurred.

The Israeli Point of Contact sought to explain to the Panel that the chaotic circumstances of the situation, made it “difficult to identify specific incidents described by soldiers as related to a specific casualty from among the nine activists who died during the takeover.” This is greatly to be regretted.

Indeed — especially since the evidence — bullets shot between the eyes or in the back of the head — strongly suggests that several of these deaths involved cool calculation. In other words, these were execution-style killings.

These are the descriptions of deaths about which the UN panel regrets Israel could offer no further information:

In the Panel’s view the following facts are of particular concern and have not been adequately answered in the material provided by Israel. Although the Israeli Point of Contact provided a general response to these points, he was unable to provide the Panel with more detailed information, particularly with respect to the death of the passenger described below:

  • Seven of the nine persons killed received multiple gunshot wounds to critical regions of the body: Ali Bengi, Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Fahri Yaldız, Furkan Doğan, İbrahim Bilgen and Necdet Yıldırım.
  • Five of those killed had bullet wounds indicating they had been shot from behind: Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Necdet Yıldırım, Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen. This last group included three with bullet wounds to the back of the head: Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu and Furkan Doğan. İbrahim Bilgen was killed by a shot to the right temple.
  • Two people were killed by a single bullet wound: Cevdet Kılıçlar was killed by a single shot between the eyes; and Cengiz Songür was killed by a shot to the base of the throat.
  • At least one of those killed, Furkan Doğan, was shot at extremely close range. Mr. Doğan sustained wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect.
  • No evidence has been provided to establish that any of the deceased were armed with lethal weapons. Video footage shows one passenger holding only an open fire hose being killed by a single shot to the head or throat fired from a speedboat.
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  1. Ian Arbuckle says:

    As far as I see it and I believe the law in Israel and internationally reflect the same view, that if you determine that you have the authority to take over a situation or an area like this ship by the use of force, from the point that you deploy that force you are responsible for the lives that are within that area. If a killing is made then it is made under the rules of combat, ie the man was armed, he had this or that weapon, and therefore the IDF used fatal force….. The heat heat of battle is no excuse. Especially in the situation where the world is clearly going to say that these were unarmed peace activists.

    What is so stupid is that the Israeli government thinks that they can “get away with murder”, that somehow they are immunised by their special relationship and the USA’s veto power at the UNSC. It has been obvious from day one that they got away with nothing and the ghosts of these and all the other martyrs will come back and undermine Israel and its myopic tyranny in a hundred different ways and in a thousand fold. Every day this country based on a racist myth and its use of violence, terror and intrigue takes another step backwards and goes ever deeper into the quick sands of a lawless fascist abyss.

  2. As the truth sees the light of day here, one has to wonder why the U.S. continues to back the Israeli position, especially as they are doing the very same things that is happening in Bahrain, that was /is happening in Libya, as well as the other countries that the U.S. went to war in? How about “blackmail” ? That seems to fit nicely into the scheme of things. Certain influential Israeli companies have been exposed with dealings in Iran, but the really important dealings are with the Chinese, which I would say are the military hardware innovations produced by the U.S. Military/industrial complex. Simply put, if we don’t get immunity, we’ll trade away your secrets. Unfortunately for the U.S. the Israelis have been doing this for a very long time.

    When the U.S. wises up, then the full extent of the betrayal will become evident. I might add that the Chinese have been at this game longer than Israel has been, sort of like the new kid on the block, fresh, but only an imitation, still wet behind the ears. The only ace in the hole that Israel really has if the U.S. pulls its support, is to incinerate the Middle East with Nukes. Considering the actions that are being employed by Israels IDF & the Government, it’s not that far out of the whelm of possibility.

  3. Ian Arbuckle says:

    Norman, I enjoy your comments. I think things are not always what they appear on the surface. So, if you look behind you may find that defence as they call the game has very little to do with keeping safe and healthy the USA or its people and has a great deal more to do with fattening the accounts of a few mega-corporations with contracts provided by friends on the Hill in Washington and in the Pentagon. So, when “secrets” go to China via Israel, you can more or less bet that they are selected. The “upgrade”of the China’s military equipment, which is being quoted as a growing threat to the US’s domination of the west Pacific has a primary and secondary benefit. It is in effect a way for the US MIC to recycle old technology so as to create demand for a whole new line of useless yet expensive contracts for the next 20 years. Not that any of the crap actually works or even needs to. It’s just expensive show biz that takes up 40% plus of government expenditure. The war on drugs, the war on terror, and the national defence, are really just a war on the common sense of the dumbed down masses.

    Also I wouldn’t worry too much about Israel turning the ME into crispy carbon, although I’d be much happier if the IEAE would concentrate a little more on Israel’s obvious illegal weapons stocks, but what can you expect from a Japanese directer appointed by American power broking. It is all about money and power. The Israelis might be crazy but they are not totally stupid, in the sense that such an action or even the threat of it would mean “game over” for all the power players including the family of Saud and they carry a lot of weight behind the curtain with money, debt, stocks, share, weapons contracts, and of course the oil. Not to mention a list of wicked dirty secrets that would make WikiLeaks’ revalations look like a kids bedtime story.

  4. Those who think that the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara had no right to defend themselves need to remember the SS Exodus. As I wrote on June 1, 2010:
    The defense of the Mavi Marmara, which Israeli officials have shamelessly been describing as an “ambush” on its elite commandos, is not without historical precedent. Indeed, as Robert Mackey points out at the New York Times, there is a parallel that some Israelis now find impossible to ignore: the resistance to the British naval assault on the SS Exodus in July 1947, as Jewish refugees used every makeshift weapon they could lay their hands on in their effort to repel British soldiers.

    The overcrowded passenger ship carried Jewish refugees fleeing from war-decimated Europe who hoped to become settlers in Palestine — then under British control — but the British were intent on blocking their entry.

    In international waters off Palestine the British Royal Navy intercepted the Exodus and British troops attempted to board.

    Several hours of fighting followed, with the ship’s passengers spraying fuel oil and throwing smoke bombs, life rafts and whatever else came to hand, down on the British sailors trying to board, The Times reported at the time. Soon the British opened fire. Two immigrants and a crewman on the Exodus were killed; scores more were wounded, many seriously. The ship was towed to Haifa, and from there its passengers were deported, first to France and eventually to Germany, where they were placed in camps near Lübeck.

    International outrage at the treatment of the passengers of the Exodus was instrumental in turning the tide of opinion in favor of the creation of a Jewish state. Who on board that ship would have anticipated that decades later it would be Jews themselves who became as callous as the British in their rejection of a humanitarian cause?