SHIP 2 GAZA: As Turkish photographer is buried, other journalists aboard flotilla speak out

Journalists who were aboard the humanitarian flotilla that was intercepted by Israeli naval commandoes on 31 May have been recounting their experiences. At the same time, Turkish journalist Cevdet Kiliçlar, who was fatally shot at the start of the assault of the Mavi Marmara, one of vessels in the flotilla, was buried in Istanbul on 4 June. A news photographer who graduated from Marmara University’s Faculty of Communication, Kiliçlar had worked in the past for such Islamist newspapers as Selam (Salute), Vakit (Time) and Milli Gazete (National Newspaper) and had applied for an official press card while working for Milli Gazete.

For the past year he had worked for the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH), a Turkish NGO, as press officer and website editor. He was killed by a single shot to the head fired at close range by an Israeli soldier.

The Turkish Union of Journalists (TGS) has protested against Kiliçlar’s death, which it says should be treated as a murder, and has called for an investigation to establish the exact circumstances in which he was killed.

All the journalists who were detained by the Israeli authorities have now been deported from Israel and many of them have been talking about what they went through.

Mediha Olgun (Turkish woman journalist with the daily Sabah):

“I was released 72 hours after the start of the military operation. I was forced to go back into my cabin where they gave me a full search. They cut into the heels of my shoes to see if I had hidden anything there. That is how they found the copies of the photos we had kept. They seized my laptop, my camera and mobile phone. They only thing I was able to hold on to was my passport. They also took our photos.”

Ayse Sarioglu (Turkish woman journalist with the daily Taraf):

“I was terrified when I saw Kiliçlar on the ground. That is when I cried… They searched absolutely everything. From the boat, they took us to a large shed in the port of Ashdod, where we were interrogated. I was humiliated by a policeman, although there was a woman officer there who was very polite. While interrogating me, he spat on me and called me an idiot. He even pulled my tongue. I could not believe my eyes, it was so inhuman!

“They accused us of being within 10 miles of Israeli territory. I replied that we were 70 miles away and in international waters. ‘You knew that Gaza was forbidden.’ I replied: ‘Yes, but I did not come here because I wanted to. I am a journalist and it is my job.’ ‘It is of little importance that you are a journalist. You have broken a rule.’ They asked me to sign a statement but I refused, asking for a translator from the Turkish embassy. ‘Whether you sign or not, you will be deported.’ We were searched meticulously, between our toes, in our hair, under our gums, under the tongue and so on. They took us to Beer Sheva prison. I was questioned again. They asked me if I was a member of Hamas or Al Qaeda. They also asked me if there were Palestinians in my family.

“I was able to call and talk to my family for just one minute and in English. On the afternoon of the next day, I was put in contact with Turkish embassy officials. We spent a second night in a prison cell. The next morning, they woke us at 6 a.m., gave us our passports and took us by bus to Ben Gurion airport.”

Erhan Sevenler (Turkish journalist with the semi-official news agency Anatolia-AA):

“When we learned of the presence of military boats and a submarine nearby, we began to take measures. All the journalists gathered at the stern of the boat to be able to film what was going to happen. At around 4 a.m., 15 to 20 zodiacs surrounded the ship. Very quickly, a helicopter lowered commandoes to the bridge. As I rushed towards the bridge, people aboard our ship grabbed a soldier. Until that moment, I thought they were firing rubber bullets. That is when I realised they were firing live rounds. The windows of the bridge exploded under the impact of the bullets. The journalists then sought refuge in the office reserved for the press.”

Yücel Velioglu (Turkish journalist with the AA news agency):

“There were three doors to the journalists’ office, two of which were locked. The soldiers knew how to enter the office because we had given them a clear explanation. But they deliberately broke down one of the locked doors. We had a cameras round our necks and our press cards in our hands, but the soldiers kept aiming the lasers of their guns at our eyes in order to intimidate us… That lasted about 45 minutes.”

Marcello Faraggi, an Italian journalist who heads a media production company in Brussels, was aboard the Eleftheri Mesogeios (“Free Mediterranean Sea), one of cargo boats in the Gaza-bound humanitarian flotilla, reporting for the TV station Euronews. He described what he experienced to Reporters Without Borders:

“When we left Athens, I was on the passenger ship, the Sfendoni. Once we reached Rhodes, I switched to the freighter carrying humanitarian aid, the Eleftheri Mesogeios, which was flying the Greek and Swedish flags. There were 29 of us aboard it, including two other journalists, Mario Damolin, who was working for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and Maria Psara, a Greek journalist working for a newspaper that supports the Greek socialist party. There were also some well-known people from Greece and Sweden, including the novelist Henning Mankel.

“The Israeli army intervened at 4:30 a.m. on 31 May, when we were still in international waters. Two helicopters dropped smoke bombs. Several zodiac boats without lights began to circulate among the boats in the flotilla. It seemed like something in a movie but it was real. Real as in war. I heard someone shout: ‘They are firing real bullets. Not just smoke bombs! Real bullets!’ Meanwhile the Marmara just continued on the same course.

“At 6:30 a.m., as the sun was rising, an Israeli army boat circled us. Loudspeakers screamed that we should surrender, that we were putting the boat’s safety in danger. The zodiacs did not stop circling around us. Soldiers climbed on to the cargo. We had gathered in the captain’s cabin. They asked us to surrender. Most of us complied. Those who refused were hit by the soldiers, targeted by the rifle lasers and handcuffed with plastic straps.

“I kept filming all this while. When the soldiers saw me, they grabbed the camera out of my hands, they confiscated it along with the cassettes I had on me. ‘We will give them back to you at the port,’ they said. I told them I was a journalist and showed my international press card but to no avail. It made no difference. After being briefly interrogated in the captain’s office, we three journalists joined the other passengers, who were assembled on the deck. The boat set course for Ashdod. But in we took nearly 10 hours to arrive and in the meantime we were all on the deck like animals.

“When we arrived at the port of Ashdod at around 3:30 p.m. there were masses of people there. Lots of soldiers filmed us as we got off the boat. We felt like animals in a zoo. When I showed my press card, a cassette was returned to me. We were put in a bus and driven to a space where they were lots of tents. Soldiers asked me to undress. They confiscated other material from me. There were five or six or us who had to undress at the same time. It was humiliating. I refused to submit to a medical inspection. I was then asked to sign a document in English. As an Italian, I asked if I could have an Italian translation. They laughed in my face.

“Then they put us in a truck used for transferring prisoners. We waited for more than an hour squeezed against each other inside the truck, under the sun, without air conditioning. Only when night fell did the army transfer us to Beer Sheva, where we were again searched on our arrival. They gave us a few raw vegetables, some water to drink, pieces of soap and shampoo in sachets. We were given no chance to call a lawyer or contact our embassies.

“Embassy representative came on Tuesday afternoon. But that was when we were about to be taken before a judge. Everyone was in the same room, a sort of big hanger. It was really noisy! We were transferred to Ben Gurion airport on Wednesday morning. In the bus, a Czech journalist wanted to go to the toilet. A soldier laughed at him. I tried to intervene because I had my international press card on me, but in vain.

“On the plane, they made us sign a statement in English recognising that we had entered Israeli territory illegally. Then my passport was returned to me. I saw that some people were given only a photocopy of their passport. Although we had boarded the plane at 1:30 p.m., we did not take off until about midnight. Rumours circulated all this while, including one about an Italian journalist being beaten by soldiers. We were finally flown to Istanbul.

“On our arrival at about 2:30 a.m. on Thursday, they told us our bags had arrived. I found that my camera bag was sealed, so I asked airport officials to open it so that they could witness what I found inside. The bag was full of old clothes and rubbish. My camera was not there.

“Yesterday, 8 June, I went to the Brussels police to report that I had been the victim of armed robbery. I lost more than 20,000 euros of equipment on this job. I was aboard that boat as a journalist, not an activist. The Israeli soldiers are guilty of an act of piracy.”

“Today the chief of police called to say that it was wrong on the part of the police officer to have registered my complaint yesterday inasmuch as the Belgian authorities could not do anything. He nonetheless added that, since I had been given a copy of my statement, with a registration number, the police would transfer their report to the prosecutor’s office ‘for information’.”

Photos by Marcello Faraggi:

Ref: Reporters without borders

ISRAHELL: Israeli butchery at sea

As I write this piece the scale of the Israeli lethal slaughter at sea is yet to be clear. However we already know that at around 4am Gaza time, hundreds of IDF commandos stormed the Free Gaza international humanitarian fleet. We learn from the Arab press that at least 16 peace activists have been murdered and more than 50 were injured. Once again it is devastatingly obvious that Israel is not trying to hide its true nature: an inhuman murderous collective fuelled by a psychosis and driven by paranoia.

For days the Israeli government prepared the Israeli society for the massacre at sea. It said that the Flotilla carried weapons, it had ‘terrorists’ on board. Only yesterday evening it occurred to me that this Israeli malicious media spin was there to prepare the Israeli public for a full scale Israeli deadly military operation in international waters.

Make no mistake. If I knew exactly where Israel was heading and the possible consequences, the Israeli cabinet and military elite were fully aware of it all the way along. What happened yesterday wasn’t just a pirate terrorist attack. It was actually murder in broad day light even though it happened in the dark.

Yesterday at 10 pm I contacted Free Gaza and shared with them everything I knew. I obviously grasped that hundreds of peace activists most of them elders, had very little chance against the Israeli killing machine. I was praying all night for our brothers and sisters. At 5am GMT the news broke to the world. In international waters Israel raided an innocent international convoy of boats carrying cement, paper and medical aid to the besieged Gazans. The Israelis were using live ammunition murdering and injuring everything around them.

Today we will see demonstrations around the world; we will see many events mourning our dead. We may even see some of Israel’s friends ‘posturing’ against the slaughter. Clearly this is not enough.

The massacre that took place was a premeditated Israeli operation. Israel wanted blood because it believes that its ‘power of deterrence’ expands with the more dead it leaves behind.

The Israeli decision to use hundreds of commando soldiers against civilians was taken by the Israeli cabinet together with the Israeli top military commanders. What we saw yesterday wasn’t just a failure on the ground. It was actually an institutional failure of a morbid society.

It is no secret that Palestinians are living in a siege for years. But it is now down to the nations to move on and mount the ultimate pressure on Israel and its citizens. The massacre was committed by a popular army that followed instructions given by a ‘democratically elected’ government.

Considering the fact that Israel stormed naval vessels sailing under Irish, Turkish and Greek flags, both NATO members and EU countries must immediately cease their relationships with Israel and close their airspace to Israeli airplanes.

Considering yesterday’s news about Israeli nuclear submarines being stationed in the Gulf, the world must react quickly and severely. Israel is now officially mad and deadly. The Jewish State is not just careless about human life, as we have been following the Israeli press campaign leading to the slaughter; Israel actually seeks pleasure in inflicting pain and devastation on others.

REf: Al jazeera

— Gilad Atzmon (gilad.co.uk) is an Israeli-born writer and jazz musician living in London. He had previously served in the Israeli military but he is currently an anti-racism campaigner. His latest CD is In Loving Memory of America.

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.


VIDEO: IDF Boarding Gaza Aid Flotilla (slowly the Israeli propaganda is breaking)

A word on the legal position, which is very plain.  To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal.  It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission.  It is rather an act of illegal warfare.

Because the incident took place on the high seas does not mean however that international law is the only applicable law.  The Law of the Sea is quite plain that, when an incident takes place on a ship on the high seas (outside anybody’s territorial waters), the applicable law is that of the flag state of the ship on which the incident occurred.  In legal terms, the Turkish ship was Turkish territory.

There are therefore two clear legal possibilities.

Possibility one is that the Israeli commandos were acting on behalf of the government of Israel in killing the activists on the ships.  In that case Israel is in a position of war with Turkey, and the act falls under international jurisdiction as a war crime.

Possibility two is that, if the killings were not authorised Israeli military action, they were acts of murder under Turkish jurisdiction.  If Israel does not consider itself in a position of war with Turkey, then it must hand over the commandos involved for trial in Turkey under Turkish law.

In brief, if Israel and Turkey are not at war, then it is Turkish law which is applicable to what happened on the ship.  It is for Turkey, not Israel, to carry out any inquiry or investigation into events and to initiate any prosecutions.  Israel is obliged to hand over indicted personnel for prosecution.

Ref: MR

Craig Murray is a human rights activist, writer, former British Ambassador, and an Honorary Research Fellow at the University of Lancaster School of Law.  The text above is an excerpt from the 31 May 2010 entry in his blog; it is reproduced here for non-profit educational purposes.


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The Sixth Annual Israeli Apartheid Week 2010

Solidarity in Action: Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions
March 2010

Mark your calendars – the 6th International Israeli Apartheid Week (IAW) will take place across the globe from from the 1st to the 14th of March 2010!

Since it was first launched in 2005, IAW has grown to become one of the most important global events in the Palestine solidarity calendar. Last year, more than 40 cities around the world participated in the week’s activities, which took place in the wake of Israel’s brutal assault against Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. IAW continues to grow with new cities joining this year.

IAW 2010 takes place following a year of incredible successes for the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement on the global level. Lectures, films, and actions will highlight some of theses successes along with the many injustices that continue to make BDS so crucial in the battle to end Israeli Apartheid. Speakers and full programme for each city will be available soon.

If you are planning to organize IAW in your city in 2010, please contact: iawinfo@apartheidweek.org

Visit Apartheidweek.org

Congratulations to Nidal El Khairy for winning the first international Israeli Apartheid Week poster competition.

A Conservative Estimate of Total Direct U.S. Aid to Israel: Almost $114 Billion

WANTED: Israeli war crime ministers! + Israel’s culture of impunity

Israel’s culture of impunity

A Spanish court attempted to open a criminal investigation under international law into the killing of a Hamas leader in Gaza City. But the Spanish government backed off under US and Israeli pressure. Israel won’t investigate. Who can?
by Sharon Weill

An Israeli Air Force plane dropped a one-tonne bomb on the al-Daraj district of Gaza City, one of the most densely populated areas in the world, around midnight on 22 July 2002. It was meant to kill Salah Shehadeh, the former military leader of Hamas in the Gaza Strip, who was at home with his family. It succeeded; Shehadeh and 14 civilians, most of them children, were killed, 150 people were injured, many severely. Nearby houses were damaged or destroyed.

In Madrid on 29 January this year, Judge Fernando Andreu Merelles decided, on the basis of universal jurisdiction (1), to open a criminal investigation against seven Israeli political and military officials for allegedly committing a war crime (2). The court claimed that the facts pointed even to crimes against humanity, and so lawyers said they would do their utmost to demonstrate that the bombing was part of a policy of systematic attacks against a civilian population.

The Spanish proceedings had been initiated by six Palestinian victims since it was “impossible to bring the relevant prosecution before the Israeli judicial authorities”. In August 2008 the court asked Israel for information on judicial proceedings; this January it ruled that “the facts can and must be investigated by the Spanish jurisdiction… since no response whatsoever has been received to the request made by this Court… nor is there any evidence that any proceedings have been brought to investigate the facts” (3).

Just as this ruling was made, Israel sent a 400-page file claiming that proceedings were under way in Israel and that the Spanish court should desist. However, even if the Shehadeh affair has been reviewed by legal authorities in Israel including the High Court of Justice (HCJ), no decision has been taken as to whether to initiate criminal proceedings. In September 2002, the pacifist movement Yesh Gvul requested the military advocate general, and then the state advocate general, to open a criminal investigation against those who had planned and executed the operation. An internal investigation within the army found that the collateral damage was the result of an intelligence failure and had not been anticipated by the decision-makers. The attorney general adopted this version of the facts, ruling out a criminal investigation.
Implicit recognition

Yesh Gvul and five Israeli authors then filed a petition to the HCJ demanding that it review the authorities’ decision not to open a criminal investigation. The petition, on 30 September 2003, ended: “There is no intention to disguise the fact that appellants are guided by the desire that the investigation and indictment (if evidence is found) remain within the confines of the State of Israel. The High Court of Justice is the last stop of the law enforcement train before it crosses the borders of the State of Israel and we find ourselves giving the nations of the world the justification to conduct criminal proceedings… according to international law.”

A petition questioning the legality of the targeted killings policy had been pending before the same court since January 2002: the HCJ decided to suspend the Shehadeh petition. On 14 December 2006 it ruled that the policy could not be defined as legal or illegal, and should be determined on a case-by-case basis on the principle of proportionality. Judge Aharon Barak, then HCJ president, emphasised the difficulty of establishing the principle: “Take the usual case of a combatant, or of a terrorist sniper shooting at soldiers or civilians from his porch. Shooting at him is proportionate even if as a result, an innocent civilian neighbour or passer-by is harmed. That is not the case if the building is bombed from the air and scores of its residents and passers-by are harmed.”

By using facts similar to the elimination of Shehadeh, Barak was implicitly acknowledging that a war crime had been committed. After this decision, the HCJ recommended that the Shehadeh affair be examined by an independent body (rather than by the court). On 23 January 2008 the Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert appointed a commission of inquiry with three members: two former generals and an ex-security services officer. The structure, nature and mandate of the commission were determined by the state – the very body whose actions were to be investigated. The commission was to function as a military inquiry: all the procedure, testimonies and final report remain confidential and inadmissible before a court of law, and the commission can only provide non-binding recommendations to the army. It has yet to complete its mandate.

The Spanish public prosecutor submitted a request, on 2 April, for the Spanish court to decline competence over the case since parallel proceedings had been taking place in Israel: but Israel would only have the priority if it were willing and able to prosecute. On 4 May the Spanish court rejected the prosecutor’s request to decline competence. The Spanish court found that the Israeli prosecution authorities’ endorsements of an internal military probe, and the fact that the commission of inquiry had been appointed by the prime minister, meant that the case was neither independent nor impartial.

Politicised reactions in Israel show how states perceive the separation of powers doctrine in reaction to accountability for international crimes. The procedure in Spain was described in the media as a “cynical attempt by the Palestinian plaintiffs to exploit the Spanish judicial system to advance a political agenda against Israel”, using diplomatic channels. Ehud Barak, leader of the Labour Party, said: “I intend to appeal to the Spanish foreign minister, the Spanish minister of defence and, if need be, the Spanish prime minister, who is a colleague of mine in the Socialist International, to override the decision” (4).

Under political pressure from Israel, China and the US, the Spanish Congress agreed to amend the law on universal jurisdiction, limiting it to cases with Spanish victims, or suspects present on Spanish soil. On 30 June the Court of Appeal ordered the closure of the investigation.

This is not the first such case. In 2003 Belgium was bullied into changing its law and procedure, following Israeli and US pressure about complaints brought against the former Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon and ex-US Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld. (The US threatened Belgium with moving Nato headquarters out of Brussels.) Since then, victims have been unable to initiate any judicial investigation; that is now the prerogative solely of the prosecution, which normally reflects government policy. This is a major obstacle to accountability under international law.
Unwilling or unable

Israeli state practice demonstrates the existence of a culture of impunity. According to the Israeli non-governmental organisation Yesh Din, criminal prosecutions are conducted only in exceptional cases – soldiers who act wrongly on their own account – and military inquiries are used to avoid criminal investigation (5). In 2003 the human rights organisation B’tselem filed a petition that challenged the policy not to open criminal investigations in cases in which bystanding Palestinians were killed by the Israeli army. The petition is still pending.

Israel is well aware of the possibility of accountability abroad: it did not allow the publication of photos or names of soldiers in Operation Cast Lead (the Gaza war). Officers who travel abroad have first to get approval for their trip. Israel has even declared it will pay all legal expenses for trials abroad.

Yet awareness in Israel of the possibility of being held accountable abroad does not seem to influence the treatment of war crimes allegations, as was demonstrated by the Shehadeh case, or recent war crimes committed in Gaza. If Israel does not change its practice of impunity, this indicates its unwillingness, or inability, to prosecute war crimes allegations. If Israel is not able to prosecute its own war criminals and if the International Criminal Court has no jurisdiction, the only way to get justice is through the exercise of universal jurisdiction, an obligation for all states set in the 1949 Geneva Conventions.

Ref: Le Monde

VIDEO: How Good People Turn Evil, From Stanford to Abu GhraibC

Abu Ghraib – Iraq


Welcome to the land of greed, imperialism and colonialism.
Oh, and twisted sexual upbringing…

/A