A Question of Emphasis

The special U.N. enquiry led by former New Zealand Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer into the events surrounding the Mavi Marmara incident in May of last year has found that the Israeli blockade of Gaza was (and is) LEGAL and justified, because it aimed at preventing the import of weapons to Gaza by sea.

The committee also found that when Israeli commandos boarded the Mavi Marmara, they were met by “significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” making it necessary for them to use force for their own protection.

The report – and let’s not forget that this was a committee of enquiry mandated by the United Nations, an organization not generally known for pro-Israel sentiment – also found that whereas the  majority of  people aboard the six vessels had no violent intention, that could not be said of the I.H.H. Humanitarian Relief Foundation, the Turkish aid group that primarily organized the flotilla, (and whose members were concentrated on the Mavi Marmara – ed.). It said, “There exist serious questions about the conduct, true nature and objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly I.H.H.”

It is worth remembering, at this point, that the boarding of the other vessels involved in the flotilla was accomplished peacefully, and without bloodshed.

Given that the blockade was legal, that the only violence that occurred took place on the one ship which was carrying the I.H.H. members and that the Palmer Committee basically admitted the violent intentions of the I.H.H. – intentions which they put into practice, leaving the Israeli commandos no alternative other than to meet force with force for their own protection – it is difficult to understand why the Committee should add the rider that the amount of force used by the Israelis was “excessive and unreasonable”. If someone is trying to smash your brains in with an iron crowbar, can the use of deadly force be called “unreasonable”?

However, perhaps it is not, after all, so difficult to understand when one bears in mind two things. One – that this was, after all, a U.N. committee and for such as these, a report which does not find some way to put at least some of the blame on Israel is, quite simply, a no-no.

Secondly, the panel was convened, in part, to try to help mediate and  heal the rift in Turkish-Israeli relations, so maybe the committee members felt that some kind of a show of even-handedness was necessary.

Speaking as an Israeli citizen, I have this to say: I do not agree that my government should apologize, or even express regret, for the killing of 9 terrorist supporters whose motives were crystal clear even to the Palmer Committee and far, far less am I willing that my tax-money should go to pay compensation to the families of people who were killed because they themselves initiated the use of deadly force against Israeli soldiers and had only themselves to blame when Israeli commandos were forced to fire in self-defence.

And now to my second point: the barely-disguised prejudices of the World’s Press. As everyone knows, the choice of a headline is of crucial importance in drawing the reader’s eye and the impression left by the headline influences the way the reader relates to the entire article. Indeed, often the headline is the only thing he or she will read. Despite the fact that the Palmer Committee’s main finding is the legality of the Israeli blockade and that the reckless violation of that blockade by the flotilla organizers is what led to the fatal outcome,  the world’s major newspapers and television stations by and large chose to headline the finding that Israeli forces used excessive force, rather than the conclusion that the blockade itself was legal. Thus we find, in the Daily Telegraph: “UN inquiry calls Israeli flotilla raid ‘excessive“.
The BBC manages to include  criticism of both sides in the headline  but puts the faulting of Israel first: “Gaza ship raid excessive but blockade legal, says UN“.
The Irish Times, never a friend to Israel even at the best of times, doesn’t even mention the legality of the Israeli blockade in its headline (for that, you have to read the article) which tersely informs the reader: “UN says Gaza ship raid ‘excessive“.
The Independent is no better, with a headline informing the public:
UN censures Israel for raid on flotilla that killed nine Turks.
Note the rather sloppy English. It could be read as if the flotilla killed nine Turks (which, I suppose, in a way it did).

Across the Channel, on the other hand, Le Monde headlines the criticism of both Israel and Turkey, but gives first mention to the legality of the blockade.  “Flotille pour Gaza: l’ONU juge le blocus légal mais critique le raid israélien“.

On the other side of the Pond, the Washington Post, under a headline which states baldly: “U.N. calls Israeli raid ‘unreasonable’” barely mentions in passing the fact that the Report found that the Israeli blockade was legal, and, instead, devotes almost the entire article to the negative aspects (from Israel’s point of view). In fact, from the headline, one might think that Israel had conducted a military raid for no reason at all.

The notoriously anti-Israel UK newspaper The Guardian did surprise me, however. Under the banner headline :”UN investigation backs Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza“, we find a secondary headline which is quite astonishingly even-handed:
Report backs Israel’s right to defend itself but says assault on pro-Palestinian flotilla was ‘excessive and unreasonable’“.
And even more surprisingly, the article itself was even-handed. Wonders will never ceaase. This is surely a red-letter day. Not only did we get a more or less fair report from a UN committee, but also an even-handed article from a newspaper which I would have no hesitation in branding as one of the most hostile to Israel in the UK.

Truly we are living in an age of miracles!


About Shimona from the Palace

Born in London, the UK, I came on Aliyah in my teens and now live in Jerusalem, where I practice law. I am a firm believer in the words of Albert Schweitzer: "There are two means of refuge from the sorrows of this world - Music and Cats." To that, you can add Literature. To curl up on the sofa with a good book, a cat at one's feet and another one on one's lap, with a classical symphony or concerto in the background - what more can a person ask for?
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