URGENT: At least 60 journalists were aboard flotilla, most still held (keeping the Israeli Hasbara going for awhile more)

Reporters Without Borders reiterates its urgent appeal to the Israeli authorities to release the journalists who were accompanying the Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla that was intercepted on 31 May. According to the latest information available to the press freedom organisation, at least 60 journalists were aboard.

“We point out that the journalists were there to do their job, which was to cover what happened,” Reporters Without Borders said. “They should not be confused with the activists. Three hundred of the flotilla’s passengers are about to be deported but journalists are still being held. We call on the Israeli authorities to free all the detained journalists and return their equipment, which was seized by the military.”

Three hundred passengers are currently at Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport, from where they are to be deported today. Some journalists are among them.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that the Al Jazeera crew that was aboard the flotilla, including correspondent Abbas Nasser and cameraman Isaam Zaatar, was expelled yesterday.

Reporters Without Borders is aware of 16 journalists being held at Be’er Scheva detention centre. They are Svetoslav Ivanov and Valentin Vassilev of Bulgaria’s BTV, Muna Shester of the Kuwait News Agency, Talat Hussain of Aaj TV, Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mario Damolin of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, David Segarra of teleSUR, Ayse Sarioglu of Taraf, Murat Palavar and Hakan Albayrak of Yeni Safak, Sümeyye Ertekin, Ümit Sönmez and Ersin Esen of TVNET and Ashwad Ismail and Samsul Kamal Abdul Latip of Astro Awani.

Reporters Without Borders has tried repeatedly to get in touch with them, so far without success.

Ref: Reporters without borders

The truth about the war in “Gaza, the Black

Book”

What really happened between 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009 in the Gaza Strip during the Israeli military offensive called Operation Cast Lead? Did the Israeli armed forces use weapons banned by international treaties? Did they deliberately target civilians? Did Hamas use Gaza’s civilian population as human shields?

Valuable information has been published by Israeli and Palestinian human rights organisations and by international NGOs. The media have investigated and so have the United Nations.

The most important extracts from these publications, some of them not previously published in French, have been brought together by Reporters Without Borders in “Gaza, the Black Book.”

Foreign press criticizes Israel for using captured videos

JERUSALEM — The Foreign Press Association attacked Israel’s army on Thursday for using confiscated videos to justify its deadly raid against a Gaza-bound aid flotilla.

The organization, which represents hundreds of journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, said the military seized video and equipment from dozens of reporters on board the main ship.

The FPA demanded Thursday that the military stop using the captured material without permission and identify the source of the video already released. The material appeared Wednesday on the army’s YouTube site labeled as “captured.”

The FPA said the military is now selectively using footage to bolster its claims that commandos opened fire only after being attacked.

Ref: Al Jazeera

Israel’s Attack on Us All

It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged.

How many civilians were killed in Israel’s dawn attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla of aid? We still don’t know. How many wounded? Your guess is as good as mine. Were the aid activists armed with guns? Yes, says Israel. Were they in cahoots with al-Qaeda and Hamas? Certainly, says Israel. Did the soldiers act reasonably? Of course, they faced a lynch, says Israel.

If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.

The passengers on the ships, meanwhile, have been kidnapped by Israel and are unable to provide an alternative version of events. We can guess they will remain in enforced silence until Israel is sure it has set the news agenda.

So before we get swamped by Israeli hasbara let’s reiterate a few simple facts:

* Israeli soldiers invaded these ships in international waters, breaking international law, and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime. The counter-claim by Israeli commanders that their soldiers responded to an imminent “lynch” by civilians should be dismissed with the loud contempt it deserves.

* The Israeli government approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandoes. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby and a Holocaust survivor.

* Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in belligerent occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants. Given that the blockade has put Palestinians there on a starvation diet for the past four years, Israel should long ago have been in the dock for committing a crime against humanity.

Today Israel chose to direct its deadly assault not only at Palestinians under occupation but at the international community itself.

Will our leaders finally be moved to act?

Ref: Counterpunch

Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel’s Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.