Report by Björn Borg, Chairperson of the Swedish Dockworkers Union
Erik Helgeson, Ombudsman, local 4 Gothenburg
Published in translation: 25/06/10
(This article was published before the start of the blockade. Some minor edits have been made during the translation process)
From the 23rd of June, the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union members will no longer load or unload Israeli ships or goods to and from Israel. The time-limited blockade will hopefully stop Swedish sea born trade with Israel until the 29th of June. The action of the Swedish Dockers is not an isolated event. We act in coherence with other dockworkers’ unions around the world in this international effort to promote two self-evident demands to the state of Israel: 1. Lift the siege of Gaza. 2. Allow an independent international investigation of the violent boarding of the Freedom-Flotilla.
The Dockworkers’ action has already made an echo around the world. Thousands have contacted us to show sympathy, at the same time we also receive different forms of criticism and threats. Therefore, as the debate tend to focus on everything but the issue of concern, we wish to clarify the reasons behind the decision made by the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union:
1, 5 million Palestinians inside the small Gaza strip have been effectively cut off from the outside world for over three years. The blockade is maintained partly by the almost complete Egyptian closure of its border to Gaza, but mainly because the state of Israel with military means prevents people as well as goods to enter or exit the area. During the war on Gaza in 2008/09, vital infrastructure war bombed into ruins and Israel’s ban on imports of both construction materials and raw materials for industrial purposes, has prohibited all recovery.
The government of Israel has until today’s date claimed that the policy of isolation is aimed at the elected Hamas government and the movements’ firing of rockets into Israel. Our union does not sympathize with Hamas nor their acts towards Palestinian and Israeli civilians. However, today there can be no question about the actual consequences of the Gaza-siege. The power base of Hamas seems unthreatened, while many of Gaza’s children are living at the brink of malnutrition. Unemployment is estimated at about 80 percent, the ports are wiped out and our dockworker colleagues, just like a whole generation of Palestinian youths, are lacking hope and prospects for the future. Regardless of Israel’s intentions, it is obvious that the policy of the Israeli government is de facto collectively punishing of the civilian population. The siege of Gaza constitutes an ongoing attack on the respect for human rights. Despite that the UN as well as the EU repeatedly have established that the blockade and Israel’s actions are in conflict with international law and depletes the civilian population, the situation still hasn’t changed.
It is in relation to this that the Swedish Dockworkers have now followed the request of the joint Palestinian union movement for support actions amongst dockworkers to make Israel lift the blockade on Gaza. We, as part of the international labour movement, want to do what we can to promote change. Therefore, as a way of contributing to the international pressure on the Israeli government, we will not concern ourselves with Israeli goods during a week of solidarity.
The Swedish Dockworkers Union makes no secret of the fact that we have been inspired by the example set by the Swedish Ship to Gaza. During an intense year following the Gaza-war, hundreds of volunteers organized fundraisers and support events around this country. The organization then managed, together with its’ Greece sister organization, to buy a ship bound to bring long-awaited aid to Gaza. At the final stages, we were in contact with our comrades in Greece, who free of charge loaded the cargo ship “Sofia“ with electric wheelchairs and cement at the port of Pireus. Meanwhile we could see how the eyes of the world were finally turned towards the isolated population of Gaza. Even the night before the Israeli military violently stormed the Freedom Flotilla, this international initiative had done more to bring attention to the catastrophic situation of the people of Gaza, than all the diplomatic moves, declarations and resolutions put forward in the last years. That also inspires us and our colleagues in ports around the world to take action.
Unfortunately it now seems that the attention of the media once again is turning away from the ravaged population of Gaza. Instead, public debate is heavily focused on Israeli governmental and military accusations towards the hundreds of people who were onboard the ship “Mavi Marmara“ of the Freedom Flotilla when Israel boarded and nine people were shot dead. The Swedish Dockworkers Union will not take part in this shift of focus from the main issue and thus ascertain the following:
It is a natural requirement from dockworkers as well as all followers of basic legal principles, that an investigation of the Israeli boarding, the killings and the entire course of events must be conducted by an independent, internationally composed committee.
Israel today claims that it has support in international law for the boarding of ships carrying humanitarian aid on international waters. They also claim that “Mavi Marmara“ carried terrorist-sympathizers that illegally provoked violence and tried to kill Israeli soldiers. If that is the case, all the films, pictures and sound materials that Israel has confiscated from journalists and human right activists onboard should be made public to support that claim. An independent international investigation would be able to confirm the official Israeli story, and bring criminals amongst the passengers to justice.
However, If the boarding in fact constitutes a flagrant Israeli crime against international law and at least nine unarmed activists were killed during an illegal act of piracy against an aid convoy, then an international independent investigation would be able to prove that and bring the ones responsible to justice.
The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union have previously acted as pioneers in Swedish boycotts against the military dictatorship in Chile and the apartheid regime of South Africa. From the 23rd of June we will no longer handle containers with Israeli wines, vegetables och fruits by the brands of Jaffa, Carmel or Top, vegetarian pre-fabricated foods from Tivall or the carbonation-machine Soda Stream. Neither will we contribute to the Swedish export of Volvo buses, which were used by Israel to transport the hundreds of human right activists from the Freedom Flotilla to Israeli prisons.
The demands of this international dockworkers action is in line with the ones put forward by the UN, the International Red Cross and many world leaders. But we move from words to action. Power should never be confused with right, regardless of Israel’s history or military force. Therefore we take a stand against the siege of Gaza, demanding that all air, land, and most importantly, seaways into the area must be opened.
Björn Borg, Chairperson of the Swedish Dockworkers Union
Erik Helgeson, Ombudsman, local 4 Gothenburg
About the authors
Björn Borg is president of The Swedish Dockworkers’ Union. Erik Helgeson is ombudsman for the Swedish Dockworkers’ Union local 4 in Gothenburg. Soon after the founding of the Swedish Ship to Gaza project, the dockers discussed collaboration with the organizers. The dockers have also been preparing voluntary interventions as to load ships headed for Gaza free of charge from Swedish ports.
Report by www.sendika.orgFirst Published: 23/06/10
June 23, 2010
The working class movement in Turkey is starting to join the Boycott Against Israel Campaign. While the working class movements around the world has escalated the campaign against Israel by refusing to unload Israeli cargo ships, the Dock Workers Union “Liman-Is“ is the latest union in Turkey joining the anti apartheid, anti racist campaign against the state of Israel.
The recent campaign against Israel started by the left and progressive organizations is beginning to get support from the workers’ unions as well. The movement against Israeli apartheid was successful in bringing the entire spectrum of the left against Israel’s racist and imperialist regime. However now, the movement is starting to gain support within the working class organizations as well.
The Boycott Against Israel/movement aims to cut all ties, military, economic, diplomatic, academic and cultural, with the state of Israel.
Following the Physicians’ Association of Turkey which had endorsed the campaign from the very beginning, the dock workers’ union Liman- Is is now also calling for a comprehensive boycott against the reactionary state of Israel. The movement had organized a successful symposium for Palestinian rights and against Israel where the representatives from the world had gathered to discuss the the strategy of such a boycott. During the discussions, the Chamber of Agricultural Engineers of Turkey, a participant in the symposium, announced it was joining the boycott against Israel.
The statement from Liman-Is union is below:
“Humanity is once again confronted with the bloody face of Israel when it attacked, murdered, and wounded many innocent civilians who were on their way to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza.
“This attack by Israel, which had for years displayed the most brutal and barbaric terror in Palestine, is now aimed towards the third party civilians. This must be taken as an assault against all of humanity.
“The attack that was protested throughout the world and condemned harshly by the UN also brought people out to the streets in Turkey. The government’s announcements indicate that further sanctions against Israel is to be expected.
However, Israel needs to be replied not only through the channels of the government, but through all institutions and organizations that direct societies, most of all, through NGO’s and unions.
“Our union Liman-Is, has decided to boycott the ships from Israel which has become a machine of death and torture. In the framework, no member of our union will give service to Israel in any docks that we are organized at.
“Liman-Is union invites all unions and NGO’s organized in our country and throughout the world to join this boycott and protest campaign.
Liman-Is Union Central Committee
Throughout our research around the West Bank it has become obvious that one of the most common ways for international companies to profit from the occupation market is through secondary involvements, such as operating franchises, in Israel’s illegal settlements. Companies such as Blockbuster, Tower Records and Lee Cooper have franchises of their businesses in settlements, Western Union trade in settlements automatically through their deal with the Israeli Post Office.
International companies like these accept royalties from their franchisee’s for the right to use the brand, boost their brand recognition and open a maket for their goods. However, by operating in a less direct way, they hope to be held less accountable for their actions.
For the BDS movement to let this happen would be a mistake.
One good example of how a seemingly distant involvement by a company can have a huge impact on the ground is the agreement by the mobile phone company Orange, which is owned by France Télécom, to license the Israeli Partner Communications Company to use its name and logo. Orange now has a shop or kiosk in many of the larger settlements in both the West Bank and the occupied Golan and advertises very heavily in them. Orange mobile phone masts (operated by Partner Communications) are located both inside the settlements themselves and on land specifically confiscated for the masts. The masts are situated to benefit the settlements and the Israeli army. The Palestinian Authority, in its crack down on settlements and enforcement of the boycott, recently called for all Israeli mobile phone networks, including Orange, to be banned in Palestinian cities. Orange is entirely separate from the Partner Communications Company, but this does not mean that they are innocents in the situation.
When Partner launched Orange Israel the brandname was registered by Hutchison Whampoa, who were a major shareholder in Partner. The success of the new network when it was launched in 1999 is generally considered one of the best advertising efforts undertaken in Israel, largely due to the brandname. Hutchison Whampoa divested their shares from Partner in 2009. Since France Télécom took over Orange PLC in 2000 they have made a conscious decision to keep supporting the activities of the Israeli company, whose success relies heavily on Orange brand recognition. By withdrawing the licence for their name and logo Orange could take a very visible stance against the occupation rather that silently aiding it.
Partner Communications (Orange Israel) has kiosks in the settlements of Pisgat Ze’ev and Modi’in Illit and has erected over 160 antennas and telecommunication infrastructure facilities on occupied territory.
For Who Profits’ page on the Partner Communications Company see: http://www.whoprofits.org/Company%20Info.php?id=713
Partner Communications Company is now controlled by Ilan Ben-Dov’s company Scailex Corporation which owns 51% of its shares.
France Telecom (www.francetelecom.com) is based in Paris. The company has offices and franchises worldwide
The nation-wide blockade of all goods to and from Israel is under way.
– Tens of containers were put under blockade tonight.
By midnight at 00:00 on the 23rd June the Swedish Dock-workers union week-long blockade of goods to and from Israel started. The ongoing nation-wide blockade in Swedish harbors, that is based on the request of the united Palestinian union-movement, is The Swedish Dockworkers Union’s attempt to contribute to pressure Israel into:
1. Lifting the blockade on Gaza
2. Allowing an independent, international investigation of what happened at the Israeli boarding of the so called Freedom Flottilla when nine people were shot to death.
In the harbor of Gothenburg the blockade were initiated without any complications. About ten containers, both Israeli imports and exports were immediately identified in the container terminal. All of which have been separated and will stand untouched in the harbor of Gothenburg until the end of the blockade at 24:00 the 29th of June.
– Everything has passed very calmly and I believe it will continue to do so until next Wednesday, says Peter Annerback, chairperson of the Swedish Dockworkers Union section 4 (Hamn4an) and member of the unions executive committee in a late comment.
– Since we are not in a conflict with our employers a “conflict-contained” container that carries any medical equipment will be allowed exemption, continues Annerback.
– We have identified more goods on its way to or from Israel than we had expected. We thought the flow of goods would be much lower considering the blockade has been announced for twenty days, says Hamn4ans trustee Erik Helgeson.
– Our ambition is of course that our action can be one of many grassroots initiatives that will keep the eyes of the world focused on the 800.000 children that lives isolated in Gaza. The Palestinian civilian population must be allowed to rebuild their economy, their infrastructure and freely integrate with the rest of the world. The war on Gaza and Israel’s brutal blockade have made all this impossible for over three years now, Helgeson ends.
The Swedish Dockworkers Union have explained the motives behind the unions blockade of Israeli goods in two articles:
By David Cronin
BRUSSELS, Jun 18, 2010 (IPS) – A leading Israeli supplier of warplanes used to kill and maim civilians in Gaza is in the running for two new scientific research grants from the European Union.
Israel’s attacks on Gaza in late 2008 and 2009 provided its air force with an opportunity to experiment with state-of-the-art pilotless drones such as the Heron. Although human rights groups have calculated that the Heron and other drones killed at least 87 civilians during that three-week war, EU officials have tentatively approved the release of fresh finance to the Heron’s manufacturer, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
Two projects involving IAI have recently passed the evaluation stages of a call for proposals under the EU’s multi-annual programme for research, which has been allocated 53 billion euros (65.4 billion dollars) for the 2007-13 period.
The Union’s executive arm, the European Commission, has confirmed that IAI is one of 34 Israeli “partners” involved in 26 EU-funded projects for information technology which are under preparation.
Among the other Israeli firms being considered for such funding are Afcon, a supplier of metal detectors to military checkpoints in the occupied Palestinian territories, including the Erez crossing between southern Israel and Gaza. Afcon was also awarded a contract in 2008 for installing a security system in a light rail project designed to connect illegal Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem with the city centre.
Mark English, a Commission spokesman, said that the procedures relating to the projects have not yet been completed. But the Israeli business publication Globes reported last month that Israeli firms stand to gain 17 million euros from the latest batch of EU grants for information technology. According to Globes, this will bring the amount that Israel has drawn from the EU’s research programme since 2007 to 290 million euros.
Israel is the main foreign participant in the EU’s science programme. Officials in Tel Aviv say they expect Israeli firms and research institutes will have received around 500 million euros from the programme by the time of its conclusion.
Chris Davies, a British Liberal Democrat member of the European Parliament (MEP), expressed anger at how the Commission’s research department appears willing to rubber-stamp new grants for Israeli companies. Such a “business-as-usual” approach is at odds with tacit assurances from officials handling the EU’s more general relations with Israel, he said.
In late 2008, the EU’s 27 governments agreed to an Israeli request that the relationship should be “upgraded” so that Israel could have a deeper involvement in a wide range of the Union’s activities. But work on giving formal effect to that agreement has stalled because of the subsequent invasion of Gaza.
Approving EU finance for Israel Aerospace Industries “should be regarded as utterly unacceptable, incoherent and outrageously naive,” Davies told IPS. He argued that there appears to be “no communication” between different sets of EU representatives on how Israel should be handled. “Where’s the joined-up thinking?” he asked.
While the European Commission claims that all of its scientific research cooperation with Israel is civilian in nature, the Israeli government has been eager to publicise the almost umbilical links between the country’s thriving technology sector and its military. A brochure titled ‘Communications in Israel’ published by its industry ministry earlier this year refers to a “symbiosis” between the security and technology sectors in Israel. Several technology breakthroughs – such as the invention of voice recognition devices for computers by the Israeli army in the 1980s – have resulted from this “convergence”, the brochure claims.
Other likely Israeli beneficiaries of the new round of EU funding do not conceal how they have benefited from this convergence either. The Israeli subsidiary of SAP, the software manufacturer, has issued publications about how it has provided specialist equipment for the Israeli army. And both Emza and LiveU, two “start-up” companies, are examples of the numerous makers of surveillance equipment in Israel that have seen their order books fill up since the country tried to position itself as an indispensable part of the “war on terror” declared by former U.S. president George W. Bush.
Marcel Shaton, head of the Israel-Europe Research and Development Directorate (ISERD) in Tel Aviv, said that EU citizens should not have any qualms about financing Israeli arms companies. “All research supports the arms industry,” he said. “Non-military technology is used for military purposes all over the world.”
But Yasmin Khan, a specialist on the arms trade with the anti-poverty group War on Want, said that the EU has been complicit in the occupation of Palestine through its support for Israel’s military industry.
She noted that drones made by IAI and other Israeli companies have been bought by several European countries taking part in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan. “The military industry is a central point of the Israeli economy,” she said. “The equipment it makes is sold as ‘battle-tested’, which is a dark way of describing its use in the occupied (Palestinian) territories.” (END
Almost two weeks after Israel’s attack on the humanitarian aid ships bound for Gaza, there still remain a lot of questions. This is partly due to the fact that while the deadly assault unfolded in open seas, the journalists and observers on board the ships were prevented from sending accurate reports of the brutal massacre that left nine people dead and many injured. President Obama, in a joint press conference with Mahmoud Abbas, supported the idea of initiating an investigation that “met international standards”: “We saw the tragedy with the flotillas, something that I think has drawn attention all around the world to the ongoing problems in Gaza. As part of the United Nations Security Council, we were very clear in condemning the acts that led to this crisis and have called for a full investigation. And it is important that we get all the facts out. But what we also know is that the situation in Gaza is unsustainable.”
Israel bluntly refused to allow an international investigation. The Free Gaza Movement, designed to deliver aid to besieged Gaza and “to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip” was described as “The armada of hate and violence in support of the Hamas terror organization” by Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Daniel Ayalon, who called the Movement a “premeditated and outrageous provocation” and accused the organizers of having “ties to global Jihad, Al-Qaeda and Hamas.” The outrageous accusations completely ignore the fact that according to the UN statistics, almost 70% of Gazans live on less than $US1a day, 75% rely on food aid and 60% have no daily access to water.
Mr. Ayalon’s contemptible comments attempt to hide the true purpose of Israel’s blockade of Gaza – to subject Gazans to collective punishment for electing Hamas in democratic elections and to weaken its popular support by creating unliveable conditions in Gaza. Accusing parliamentarians, international observers, aid workers, journalists, does not deflect the attention of the world from Israel’s “goal to bring down Hamas,” as much as it highlights the need to rethink the Western bias against a legitimately elected government of the Gaza Strip Israel calls a terrorist organization. In light of Israel’s latest massacre of unarmed civilians aboard Mavi Marmara, the West must not only rethink its attitude towards Hamas, but also must question the credibility of all of Israel’s claims – past and present.
While committing despicable acts of violence against the passengers of the humanitarian aid ships, Israel “tightly controlled the images of its naval raid on the flotilla, seized almost all of the photographic and video equipment of the passengers aboard the ship, also jammed all communications as they were raiding the ships.” A few managed to smuggle out videos and photographs that show the activities on board the ships prior to the Israeli assault and the reaction of the passengers during the attack as well as footage that includes the injured and the dead. New York filmmaker and activist Iara Lee’s hour-long unedited video and Australian photographer Kate Geraghty’s photos provide a glimpse of what actually happened on board the ships.
During her interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Iara Lee said that the activists on board “were prepared for a confrontation,” but did not think it was going to be so violent. “When we saw commandos coming down the helicopter and all these Zodiacs full of navy soldiers coming just around, it was just – we had no words.” ” … The Zodiacs came and surrounded, and the helicopters had their commandos coming down. And it was chaos, total chaos. The women were told to go downstairs and stay quiet and calm. And, you know, I was very concerned about my cameraman, my friends, so I went up. And by the time I went up just to see what was going on, I already saw many injured and dead bodies. It was terrifying … At the end of the operation we had all our equipment confiscated.” According to Ms. Lee, people had their cameras and video equipment during the raid and “everybody was documenting.” However, they could not get their footage or photographs out because “everything got confiscated.”
Soon after the attack, the megaphones in every room of the ship announced: “Stay quiet and calm. They’re using live ammunition. There is no way we can resist. They are taking over the ship. Just stay calm and don’t resist at all.” Indeed, apart from rubber bullets and tear gas, Israelis used live ammunition on Mavi Marmara. This statement is corroborated by the eyewitness accounts of two Australian Journalists on board Challenger One – Paul McGeough, the author of Kill Khalid: The Failed Mossad Assassination of Khalid Mishal and the Rise of Hamas, who is the chief correspondent of Sydney Morning Herald, and Kate Geraghty, photographer with the Sydney Morning Herald. In an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now, Paul McGeough said: “We were about … 150 meters off to the port side of the ship when the Israelis started lobbing sound grenades, tear-gas canisters onto the rear deck of the boat, where there was a big crowd. You could see them in their lifejackets. You could see the flashes of the incendiary devices. You could hear the noise of them exploding, and a panicked, angry reaction to that.”
As Challenger One was taken over, Kate Geraghty, who was photographing at the time, “took a jolt as she was tasered and thrown across the deck”: “I was photographing, standing right next to Paul. And I was looking over the side of the boat, as the commando came – an Israeli commando came up towards us. … [I] basically got hit on the arm just above my elbow, which knocked me about a meter, about a meter and a half. And then, I was immediately sick.” At the moment Kate started to throw up, the commando came towards her and “wrestled” her camera off. There could be no argument with these armed men, whose accomplishments are measured not in combat, but on high seas, in an act of piracy against tasered photographers and other unarmed civilians. What a sorry addition to a Military Résumé! What a poor use of military might! What an inglorious victory!
Sending military units specially trained to make dangerous raids against unarmed civilians was not “the result of an intelligence rift” as the group of top Israeli Naval reserve officers acknowledged in their denouncement of the raid. Israel has the capacity to intercept all radio communications, and knew in advance that the humanitarian ships carried no militants and no guns. Besides, six activists originally onboard Mavi Marmara, remain unaccounted for: “… They are not hurt, they are not injured, they are not killed. They disappeared … some people … speculate that we had spies, so maybe some of these missing people were … Mossad agents.” The assumption is quite reasonable and it helps answer the question as to why Israel used commandos in camouflage and masked faces to storm a humanitarian ship.
Just as Palestinians in Gaza feel the deadly force of the Israeli military for voting the wrong way, so too, must all supporters of Palestine. The attack was designed to intimidate and punish all those that feel compassion towards besieged Gaza – a collective punishment of sorts, imposed on parliamentarians, aid workers, activists, international observers, and journalists. Ironically, the best support for this statement comes from the Israeli commandos themselves who called Mavi Marmara a “hate boat,” despite the fact that some of their injured soldiers were given medical treatment by the passengers of the so called hate boat: “They [the passengers] managed to get hold of some Israeli soldiers, but obviously we were so brainwashed about nonviolence as our methodology that we didn’t kill any of the Israeli soldiers.”
Measuring their actions against their words leaves one puzzled: “Don’t the Israelis have any sense of Right and Wrong? In the middle of international waters, Israelis came onboard a humanitarian ship and “used live ammunition.” They didn’t “come to play ball … they came to kill.” Nine civilians died and forty-eight others suffered gunshot wounds. Yet, they dare call the ship a “hate boat.” The autopsy results for the nine dead confirmed the use of thirty bullets in each case. Five of the victims had gunshot wounds to the head. The nineteen-year-old Furkan Dogan that also held U.S. citizenship “was shot five times from less than 45 cm […], in the face, the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.” Yet, Israel’s deputy foreign minister Daniel Ayalon dares call the Free Gaza Movement “the armada of hate and violence.” Shooting a human being at “a point-blank range” five times is not “hate and violence” but bringing aid to Gaza is! One has to question not only Israel’s comprehension of International Law, but also its sense of morality that expresses itself in brutal acts of violence.
While constructing a whole new prison facility to accommodate over 600 kidnapped activists of the Freedom Flotilla at Ashdod port of Israel, the architects of the premeditated attack also came up with an ingenious plan of blinding, silencing, obscuring all sources of information. Kate Geraghty’s camera was wrestled away, while she was vomiting – she suffered bruises, minor burns and nausea. Challenger One’s first mate, Shane Dillon witnessed the attack on Kate Geraghty and the “ripping” of equipment from Paul McGeough: “She was just doing her journalistic duties … She advised them she was a bona fide photographer.”
Despite the letter sent on May 24, 2010 by Sydney Morning Herald’s editor, Peter Fray, to Israeli authorities – “In the event that Israel apprehends the vessel on which they are travelling, I urge you to allow McGeough and Geraghty the freedom to pursue their journalistic duty …” – and despite the fact that the letter was received by the Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, before the Flotilla set sail, both journalist were prohibited from doing their job. “… Before they came on the ship, we were able to do our jobs as our contracts require of us. We were filing regular reports. We had satellites. We had handheld sat phones. We had computers that linked into those satellite phones. We had Kate’s very expensive cameras. Anywhere between $60,000 and $80,000 worth of equipment was confiscated from us, and we have not seen it. We were not given receipts for it.”
A similar sentiment was expressed by Iara Lee of Cultures of Resistance, whose hard drives and camera equipment were seized by invading commandos. Despite her demands – “… We demand our footage back … We could reconstruct the events, if we were given our footage back, and not … [in] a manipulative fashion. They [the Israelis] are extracting things for their stories and putting on the YouTube … This is like complete violation of respect for media” – in all likelihood she will not get her equipment. It would beat the purpose of Israel’s censorship.
Fully aware of the illegality of the attack, the Israelis mounted a disproportionate offensive against people repelling them with chairs, broomsticks, pieces of the boat and rubbish. Israeli authorities claimed that the “commandos were attacked by the protesters,” that there were, according to IDF, “hostile weapons on board.” Eyewitness accounts dismiss Israeli claims, reporting that the commandos used “stun grenades, tasers, high velocity paint ball guns,” rubber bullets, tear gas and live ammunition on unarmed civilians.
Israeli lies would have probably been swallowed wholesale, if there were no records of the raid. By confiscating “every recording and communication device it could find,” Israeli government “selected, edited and released footage they wanted the world to see.” Paul McGeough evaluates Israel’s attempt to censor the raid: “… The thing that – talking to people who were on all of the boats, while we were in detention – the systematic attempt and very deliberate first priority for the Israeli soldiers, as they came on the ships, was to shut down the story, to confiscate all cameras, to shut down satellites, to smash the CCTV cameras that were on the Mavi Marmara, to make sure that nothing was going out. They were hell-bent on controlling the story. If you go back to the Dubai disaster, where the story played so badly for the Israelis in January with the murder of the Hamas operative, they are so concerned and so aware of the importance of controlling the narrative at any volatile point in the crisis that their first priority was, as I said, to shut down any other story.”
While Israel “controlled the narrative,” civilians bled to death. The narrative control was not successful either. Iara Lee describes: “I think the miscalculation was that the Israelis thought, by jamming our satellite system, the world would not have any access to information. And they didn’t know that we had a backup system that was able to transmit live some of the events. And obviously it was dark in the middle of the ocean, so they thought they had it all taken care [of] as far as … no information would come out. They would be the only ones holding the information, because they were obviously filming. And we were hundreds of people, so some of us did manage to get … photographs and video footage out. And today we are showing raw, uncensored footage, and everybody can take the clue. And we’ll make it available to the world for investigations.”
Investigation or not, the world did see the raw footage of Israel’s brutality and it formed an opinion. Israeli commandos that were “captured and briefly detained during initial stages of the raid” were given back to the military. Iara Lee rightly observes: “[This] basically proves that we were not there to lynch anybody, because we had the opportunity of killing or really … mistreating these soldiers, and we didn’t … because we are humanitarian[s]. Despite the chaos, we knew we were supposed to stay nonviolent.” And non-violent they remained! One might ask how does Israel’s deputy foreign minister, Daniel Ayalon’s “armada of hate and violence” or the commandos’ branding of Mavi Marmara as “hate boat,” fit into the uncensored narrative. If there are violence and hatred – the attack on Freedom Flotilla certainly proves that there are – both are aimed at Humanity that hasn’t lost the capacity to care for the oppressed, despite Israeli lies, misrepresentations, distortions and censorship.
* Anait Brutian (B. Mus. with Honours in Theory, McGill University; M. A. in Music Theory, McGill University) is a student in the Faculty of Religious Studies at McGill. Her previous research includes a self-published book entitled: Reconciling Geometry, Rhetoric and Harmony: A Fresh Look at C. P. E. Bach. She is currently working on another book on mathematical paradigms in literature (Old and New Testaments), art, architecture, and music. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.orgYou might also like: