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Mavi Marmara report shows how Israel investigates itself

Today’s state comptroller’s report on the deadly 2010 flotilla raid treats it as a bureaucratic issue with no moral dimension.

There’s so much to say about the raid on the Turkish flotilla bound for Gaza two years ago, so much that has been said, and what’s the big, long-awaited, explosive indictment in today’s state comptroller’s report on the event?

“The prime minister’s decision-making was made without proper coordination, documentation, or preparation…” He didn’t hold enough meetings, or he didn’t hold the right kind of meetings.  He didn’t “internalize’ the defense establishment’s warnings that there would be violent resistance on board. Would it have changed anything if Bibi had “internalized” them? Ynet: “The comptroller noted that while his assertions are not enough to conclusively indicate that the unfortunate outcome of the flotilla could have been prevented had the decision-making protocols been followed, the incident should serve as a lesson for the future.”


Israel blockaded Gaza, preventing spices, toys, newspapers and anything else considered “luxury items” from going in; then a flotilla led by a Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, sailed for Gaza carrying medical supplies and other humanitarian aid; on May 31, 2010 the navy tried to commandeer the ship in international waters; a few dozen Islamists and other activists swinging clubs and metal rods attacked the unarmed commandos who were sliding down ropes onto the ship, capturing three of them; then a team of armed commandos boarded the ship, killing eight Turks and one Turkish-American, and took it over.

The Palmer Commission, appointed by Ban Ki-moon, wrote an investigative report on the raid that Israel waves around as vindication because it determined (unfortunately) that the blockade of Gaza was justified. Here’s a passage from the Palmer report that the Prime Minister’s Office doesn’t publicize:

No satisfactory explanation has been provided to the Panel by Israel for any of the nine deaths. 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.

There was significant mistreatment of passengers by Israeli authorities after the take-over of the vessels had been completed until their deportation. This included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.

Prior to the Palmer report, the United Nations Human Rights Council appointed an investigative panel, which Israel treated like it treated the Goldstone Commission. The UNHRC panel, which interviewed 112 activists on board the Mavi Marmara, wrote things like this:

None of the four passengers who were killed [on the ship’s top deck and bridge deck], including a photographer who at the time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces. There was considerable live fire from Israeli soldiers on the top deck and a number of passengers were injured or killed whilst trying to take refuge inside the door or assisting others to do so.

When the detained activists were taken to Ben-Gurion Airport to be flown home, they were mauled by Israeli security forces, they told the UNHCR panel, which was headed by a former International Criminal Court judge from Trinidad and Tobago, who was joined by a British war crimes prosecutor and a women’s rights activist from Malaysia. An anecdote:

Some passengers in the passport checking area saw an older passenger being roughly treated after receiving what appeared to be a beating. When other passengers, including Irish and Turkish, protested at this treatment, they were charged by soldiers using batons. In the foray, around 30 passengers were beaten to the ground, kicked and punched in a sustained attack by soldiers. One Irish passenger was seen being particularly badly beaten around the head and held in a choke position to the point of near suffocation.

The actions of the navy commandos during the raid, the actions of the soldiers, cops and prison guards after the raid – none of this was mentioned in the state comptroller’s report. But why should it have been? Israel’s internal “investigations” already determined that everything was as it should have been, it was self-defense from start to finish.

The lesson learned here from the raid is that the navy should have met the Mavi Marmara with shock and awe, not ropes and paintball guns like they did. The tragedy was not the nine deaths – let them rot in hell – but that they gave the anti-Semites ammunition for another blood libel against Israel. Moral of the story: It’s not enough to be right, you have to be smart, too.

So now the state comptroller, Micha Lindenstrauss, says Netanyahu didn’t follow protocol, he didn’t listen – not that it would have made any difference, but still.

Bibi can skate past this “scandal” in leg irons. This one will be forgotten by tomorrow. The weekend news round-ups may have a little fun with him, but the dogs bark and the caravan moves on. When it comes to ramming it to the Gazans, or the Turks, or anybody, really, the only way to cause a scandal in this country is by not doing it hard enough.

Haaretz story on state comptroller’s report
Palmer report on Mavi Marmara raid
UN Human Rights Council panel report on raid


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    1. Richard Witty

      Like everything associated with Israel directly, and with dissent against Israel, everyone screwed up, and in most regards.

      While you characterize the ship as a humanitarian vessel, that was clearly secondary motive, and barely that. The primary motives were to break the blockade, and mostly to embarass Israel, more than to open paths to trade.

      The assertions that the action was a non-violent one was absurd. No matter what provocation occurred, or what was feared to have occurred (paint gun fire misinterpreted as live ammunition) by the individuals on the boat, the obvious filmed beating of Israeli soldiers conflicted with the contention of non-violent action.

      My criticism of the Israeli defense forces was of amateurish selection of confrontation, as if they wanted a direct confrontation as well.

      The political backdrop is also what I call Rohrschach, that those that believe that the shelling of civilians in southern Israel is not that big a deal, tend to think of the Mari Mavmara as a big deal. While those that believe that Operation Cast Lead was not that big a deal, believe that the IDF acted perfectly in the Mavi Marmara.

      The flotillas lost all credibility when that one resulted in obviously mutual violent conflict. What would have been a compelling form of civil disobedience, devolved to useless.

      The answer still wouldn’t have been to unilaterally open Gazan ports to a renegade faction with somehow unhindered protections of the law of the seas (rights, without responsibilities is the problem). But, it might have opened discussions towards an international solution to Gazan port access, say along the lines of the Meshal proposal to Charlie Rose, of internationally mediated port.

      But, instead we have name-calling, posed as non-violence.

      Reply to Comment
    2. Y-Man

      @Richard It must be hard to spin the Israeli army attacking a flotilla full of civilian aid trying to break a collective punishment siege on a giant refugee camp of Israel’s own creation as something where both sides are at fault. I look forward to a time when “opening discussions” have ever, ever worked with getting Israel to do anything, but that has never happened.

      Reply to Comment
    3. Richard Witty

      And you seeing those films of soldiers being beaten and then dragged, filled you with admiration for the moral commitment to non-violence?

      What did you think the purpose of the flotilla was, to deliver humanitarian aid, or to point to the presence of the blockade?

      Reply to Comment
    4. straightline

      Witty at his best – you cannot fault him for backing the Zionist regime under any circumstances. Yes of course the flotilla was to bring attention to Israel’s treatment of the people of Gaza. That would seem to me to be an entirely humanitarian enterprise.

      Reply to Comment
    5. Richard Witty

      Its just that its a bait and switch to emphasize its humanitarian mission as to bring medical supplies.

      Dishonest in a word. If the intent was to break the blockade, then that should be front and center.

      No comments on the “non-violence” of the Mavi Marmara participants?

      Reply to Comment
    6. max

      straightline, now that you agree – as the inventory of the ‘aid’ and the recorded statements of the organizers and some participants have proven – that the humanitarian aspect of the flotilla wasn’t in what it brings but in its message – breaking the Israeli naval blockade, we can move to the next step.
      The blockade is legal, humanitarian aid can be provided in different ways so the IHH knowingly confronted violently an army that was following legal procedures.
      So what’s the problem that you see?

      Reply to Comment
    7. Richard Witty

      Its also a deception to avoid tracing the causes and motivations of the blockade itself.

      Larry’s caricature of prohibiting cinnamon is an apt absurdity.

      “The New York Times described the report as Israeli Watchdog Criticizes Government Over Gaza Flotilla Raid

      A government watchdog issued a report harshly criticizing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s handling of a raid on a Turkish ship in 2010.”

      Different terms than Larry’s.

      When I say that “everyone screwed up”, that includes Israel. But, it does NOT give carte-blanche cause celebre status to the Mari Mavmara participants, nor to solidarity that applauded the embarrassment of a professed non-violent movement beating Israeli soldiers, seen.

      Reply to Comment
    8. Jack

      Its says alot about a regime who is more keen to upheld a polished image than to deal with its obvious human rights violations and killing of civilians. Thats why Israel is loosing supporters world wide. People dont want do defend that.

      Reply to Comment
    9. caden

      It must be great to have 20-20 hindsight and sit in judgement of combat soldiers.

      Reply to Comment
    10. Rehmat

      If Judge Micha Lindenstrauss is a smart Jew – he should do ‘Teshuvah’ immediately. Remember, how his fellow Zionist Jew judge Goldstone was forced to do ‘Teshuvah’ one year ago – but poor Golstone is still an ‘outcast’ among the Zionist Jewish crowd.


      Reply to Comment
    11. Jenny

      This brought back some bad memories. I read the autopsy reports – amongst other classified-ish documents – and I still have nightmares about them. They have not been published, acknowledged or explained – and they were crystal clear and utterly damning. I still occasionally have nightmares about them.

      Reply to Comment
    12. ginger

      Netanyahu made Israeli as well as NYT headlines by saying he didn’t think Israel could psychologically take it to apologize to Turkey for murdering Turkish civilians aboard the Gaza Flotilla. He’s quoted as saying ‘apologizing would demoralize his citizens’.

      If Bibi’s right about Israelis getting demoralized over something that can’t begin to hold a candle to an excruciatingly long and drawn out dismantling of Apartheid – Israel is in for some extraordinarily difficult passages ahead

      The wheels are falling off the Israeli triumphalism of the Apartheid period. The Israelis seem stunned or caught in the headlights – as if they never anticipated the unravelling of their scam

      Could it get any weaker than that? We’re too narcissitic and neurotic to do anything other than just deny, deny, deny – because otherwise it will be too DEMORALIZING for us?

      Reply to Comment
    13. Dov

      Did the activists attack “unarmed commandos”? Seriously? I’m afraid you’ve bought the Hasbara claims.

      Reply to Comment
    14. anna

      Wasn’t the boat in international waters? Ie Israelis had no business trying to board the ship, or anything else. Please correct me if I’m wrong but from what I remember the boat was not actually breaking the blockade at the time? If that’s the case then why would it anything else even matter if they had no business playing Tarzan from a helicopter, to get onboard.

      This wasn’t the first attempt to break the blockade. Others had been “allowed” to make it to Gaza. So why was it suddenly necessary to stop this one while it was still in international waters? I don’t get it… Does anyone know?

      The fact that all electronics were confiscated (without ever being returned, I believe) as well as all of the footage belonging to the many journalists that were on board – also seems pretty suspect to me. Weren’t the IDF actually caught having used old audio (from previous flotillas) and busted having doctored with the footage??

      Reply to Comment
    15. Rehmat

      Early this month – Erdogan and Lieberman settled their scores on this issue. Erdogan in an interview with Israeli newspaper said: “Darling you can have Turkish love back”.

      However, Lieberman’s response was: “Sometimes, even to best friends, you must say NO. Otherwise, no one will respect you”.


      Reply to Comment
    16. Richard Witty


      The poisonous aftereffects of the Marmara affair on Israel’s psyche and soul
      The Comptroller’s Report dealt with the faulty decision-making process in the Gaza flotilla incident, not with the Israeli public’s unbridled outburst of righteous indignation.

      “The State Comptroller’s damning report on the Israeli government’s maladroit handling of the MV Mavi Marmara affair came as no surprise. It seemed obvious at the time that the killing of nine Turkish nationals taking part in the so-called “Gaza Freedom Flotilla” was a mishap that would not have occurred if preparations and planning had been better considered and more judiciously applied. ”

      “Damning report” is different than a whitewash.

      Reply to Comment
    17. Modechai Ben Yosef

      Sailors shoot and ram Somali pirates when they attempt to take a ship. No one gets upset. Why do some find a defense against Israeli piracy on the high seas so objectionable? No one claimed the ships were a military threat. They were supposedly a political threat. What is truly astonishing is that the Israelis would attack a ship of the one friendly country in the region that has influence in the Arab and Muslim sphere. Israeli policy and actions are suicidal. Israel is sick with fear and power, and the government administers increasing doses of morphine. You don’t need a doctor to tell you the prognosis.

      Reply to Comment
    18. RichardL

      I’m late home on this one and probably everyone has gone to bed. But there are some important points to make.
      @Richard Witty. The IDF videos that you prattle on about are incomplete. As it so happens one of the missing pieces coincides with when people on the Mavi Marmara (including the captain , who had the best seat in the house) allege that the commandos used live fire from the first helicopter BEFORE any commando landed on the ship. If you can provide that piece of video that has been missing for two years you can put your claims. Until then you ain’t got a case. The selective release of infrared footage is propaganda, pure and simple. It is intended to give ammunition to apologists like you to help you try to fool the rest of us.
      @Max – Jeez – you again! Don’t you ever get tire of spouting hasbara? “The blockade is legal”. Says who? Palmer! Sir Geoffrey Palmer is a specialist in constitutional law. He has no expertise in international law and still less in the law of the sea. As such he had no business pontificating on subjects on which he is a rank amateur. He should have stayed where he probably is now: writing his pathetic memoirs. As Larry says, two of the members of the UNHRC committee were specialists in international law and they had specialist(s) on maritime law on hand to advise them. And they said the blockade IS NOT LEGAL. And if you don’t believe them try Douglas Guilfoyle, or Iain Scobbie, or Richard Falk or anyone with expertise other than that old fart on the Turkel Commission whose colleagues quoted him on a 1945 opinion written before Geneva Convention IV was even adopted, but just happened to totally repudiate him when it was adopted (AND signed, AND ratified by Israel).

      Reply to Comment
    19. Richard Witty


      You are confusing the statement “they all screwed up” with “only the demonstrators screwed up”.

      “Non-violent” demonstrators don’t use clubs on anyone.

      Reply to Comment
    20. Mordechai ben Yosef

      Richard W. “Non-violent demonstrators don’t use clubs on anyone.” So you have become the ultimate judge of nonviolent reistance. This was not a demonstration in Tel Aviv or the West Bank where Israeli Authority prevails. The actions of the ship passengers were a defense against an act of piracy. Their goals were non-violent. They carried no firearms, and announced it prior to sailing, which they had every legal right to use when boarded.Nonviolent actions have every right to defend against attack. Yes Ghandi and King also advocated “no defense” as a tactic. This approach actually divided the US civil rights movement. However, one can defend against attack and still be a practitioner of nonviolent responses to injustice.

      Reply to Comment
    21. RichardL

      Richard Witty. I am confusing nothing. You wrote of dishonesty but selectively used it against the members of a humanitarian flotilla (the context of which is Israel’s illegal collective punishment of 1.6 million people, which you find unworthy of comment and appear to assume is perfectly reasonable).

      You wrote “whatever provocation occurred”. The allegation is that the provocation was live fire from a helicopter against civilians on a ship that was in international waters (and at the time of the shooting had turned to go due west and was accelerating to full speed to get away from the attackers). And this is the precise moment of the video that Israel continues to withhold form the world. That is dishonest, as it is dishonest for you, Richard Witty, to not acknowledge it.
      You whinge about the “obvious filmed beating of Israeli soldiers”. Is that so unreasonable given that by that time that melee began it appears that one aid worker was already dead from gun shots wounds and another critically injured? The aid workers on the top deck were, for all they knew, possibly fighting for their lives along with the lives of those on the decks below like Mr Kiliclar who was subsequently executed by a shot to the forehead while taking a photograph.
      If you want to disprove what I say, get the IDF to release the footage they have kept concealed for two years, because I for one would be particularly interested to see it. In the meantime please stop peddling propaganda while hypocritically making allegations of dishonesty at other people.

      Reply to Comment
    22. Richard Witty

      I get that you both want the Mari Mavmara to be an unequivocal cause celebre. But, it just isn’t.

      It is clearly a qualified cause celebre, a tarnished cause celebre, a cause celebre that a humane person has to also bear a bit of nausea associated.

      There is no question that the demonstrators were courageous, risking their lives for their understanding of the good of another.

      Its possible that there was live ammunition used prior to attempted boarding. I don’t know, you don’t know. I don’t think anyone knows.

      I guess if you repeat it enough, that it will become true.

      Anyone have a conclusive basis to determine?

      That still does correct the false declaration that the demonstrators were non-violent. They clearly were violent.

      I stated, with great reluctance, early, that I felt that a truly non-violent series (one after another after another after another) would make a very compelling form of civil disobedience, as the imagery would parallel the imagery of the illegal pre 1948 Zionist immigrations.

      To liberal Zionists, that would comprise a compelling image, an invocation of compassion.

      To those that regard the original Zionist immigration as a crime, those very compelling juxtaposition of images though would validate Zionism in some form, and hence was rejected.

      Compared to the threat that terror is, hypocrisy is not that big a deal.

      When Hamas accepts Israel, and participates in international relations through official Palestine that accepts Israel, then the story will be very very different.

      More pressure in a pressure cooker though, is not change, its just more pressure in a pressure cooker.

      When change is needed.

      Reply to Comment
    23. RichardL

      You are prattling Witty. IDF commandos stand accused of murdering civilians from a helicopter and Israel withholds the evidence that will clarify this: indicating that they have something for sure to hide, OK we can only guess what. And you are worrying yourself sick as to whether the aid workers who attacked soldiers (who for sure killed 10 civilians) were non-violent or not. You care not one jot about the misery of 1.6 million in Gaza nor about Cevdet Kiliclar who was executed for pointing a camera at the commandos. You are peddling dishonest, hypocritical propaganda in support of state terrorism carried out by a rogue state, and now you can’t even do that coherently.

      Reply to Comment
    24. Richard Witty

      Again, RichardL.

      Your only comment is “they are cause celebre” stated in multiple different language.

      My comment is that they are at best qualified cause celebre, which is little.

      “Peddling propaganda”

      Reply to Comment
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