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Palmer Report, Though Critical of Israel’s Mavi Marmara Attack, Hopelessly Muddled

The UN will release the Palmer Report about the Mavi Marmara massacre tomorrow.  One of my readers has offered me an advanced copy  (thanks LL).  Though the report is written in extremely guarded, cautious language not meant overly to inflame passions on either side, it is clear that while it is critical of Israeli actions during the incident, it overwhelming endorses the underlying strategy Israel employs in pursuing its blockade.

But before I delve into this I wanted to examine some of the assumptions of the report with which I take strong issue.  It finds that the Israeli blockade of Gaza is legitimate as a measure in self-defense because it supposedly prevents bringing weapons into Gaza which may be used against Israel:

…Freedom of navigation on the high seas is subject to only certain limited exceptions under international law. Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.

This is a specious claim as Hamas imports all the weapons it needs through tunnels from Egypt to Gaza.  Further, Israel could maintain a much looser blockade which allowed all goods into Gaza by ship and provided for inspection of cargo to make sure they do not carry armaments.  I do not accept the premise of any blockade of Gaza, but if one wants to view it from Israel’s perspective it could easily review all incoming cargo and not embargo all shipping into the enclave.

Palmer argues that rockets and missiles from Gaza are a legitimate security threat because militants there “increased their effectiveness,” now being able to reach Tel Aviv. The fact that Gazan weaponry is highly ineffective and that no rocket has ever been launched from there that has reached Tel Aviv, seems lost on the members. Further, the report considers that 25 Israelis have died since 2001 from missiles and an “enormous psychological toll” has been inflicted on those living in southern Israel. There is no countervailing consideration of the thousands of Gazans killed and wounded in the same period and the “psychological toll” this has taken on Gaza’s 1.5 million residents. If the panelists had considered this they would understand more fully the crime that is the siege and why it is legal to protest against it by breaking it.

The Report uses a tortured methodology in considering whether the naval siege is legal. It decides that Israeli policy regarding land crossings is independent of the sea blockade (p.39). It does so by trying to argue that the land blockade predated the sea blockade by a year. What this does, is to allow the panel to treat the latter as a fact in its own right, having no bearing on the overall context of conditions in Gaza. It would be as if the Nazis laid siege to Leningrad by sea and land, and a war crimes investigation attempted to argue that the sea blockade was legal because it had little to do with starving  a million or two  Russians to death.  All that devastation was apparently caused by the land siege alone. I’m not arguing that the Stalingrad siege is of comparable severity to the Gaza siege. But I am arguing that a siege is a siege is a siege. When it has two components those must be taken together in order to understand the full context of the suffering they cause.

free gaza movement ships break siege arrive in Gaza

Free Gaza Movement broke Israeli Gaza siege, successfully sending two ships to Gaza, which arrived on August 24, 2008 (Hatem Moussa/AP)

There is also an inference, in discussing the land crossings, that they are sometimes open to Palestinians, when in truth they almost never are (and they were even more fully sealed during the period of the flotilla massacre). The panel seems to accept the IDF claims that the crossings are open when in fact they aren’t and nothing can cross.

Under international law, in order for a blockade to be legal it must be “effective.” As part of its argument, Palmer makes a telling, and major error:

There is nothing before the Panel that would suggest that Israel did not maintain an effective and impartial blockade. Ever since its imposition on 3 January 2009, Israeli authorities have stopped any vessel attempting to enter the blockaded area.

There seems to be a bit of hocus pocus going on here.  There was a Gaza naval siege before January 3, 2009.  Proof of the matter is that the Free Gaza Movement broke that siege on August 24, 2008 when Ehud Olmert was prime minister (a leader who seemed less inclined to shed the blood of peace activists than Netanyahu).  The news report confirms the existence of such a blockade:

Arriving to a boisterous reception, the international activists aboard the boats said they hope their symbolic breaking of the Israeli blockade on the territory is just the beginning.

Israel’s declaration of a naval blockade during Operation Cast Lead was a mere formality since such a state had existed before the war.  So I’m not sure what is the basis of Palmer’s distinction unless it’s merely to support its finding that the land blockade is separate from the sea, which we’ve already rebutted forcefully.

In fact, Sari Bashi, director of the Israeli human rights NGO Gisha, writes in an excellent critique published in Foreign Policy, that Israel has essentially imposed a naval blockade on Gaza not since 2009, but since 1967 (that is, for 44 years)!  If this information was available to an Israeli human rights professional should it not have been available to “eminent” specialists like Geoffrey Palmer and Alvaro Uribe, compiling a major UN report?

Returning to the 2008 running of the blockade, in that instance, when Israeli determined that political considerations forced it to allow a vessel to break the siege, it did so. The successful voyages then indicate that the siege again was not security in nature.  This invalidates the entire siege regimen under international law.

Further, the Report errs in dismissing the clearly evident claim by human rights activists that the blockade is not a security measure at all, but rather a political one that is meant to punish not just Hamas or Palestinians militants there, but the entire population because it voted in 2006 for Hamas to rule the Territories:

Important humanitarian considerations constrain the imposition of a naval blockade. For one, it would be illegal if its imposition was intended to starve or to collectively punish the civilian population. However, there is no material before the Panel that would permit a finding confirming the allegations that Israel had either of those intentions or that the naval blockade was imposed in retaliation for the take-over of Hamas in Gaza or otherwise.

Palmer proceeds with another specious argument with its claim that the land and sea blockades were independently implemented and hence cannot be considered collective punishment.  The land blockade did commence after Hamas’ 2006 victory in the PA elections.  As such it clearly was a political, and not security motivated act. The commission argues however that the sea blockade, begun a year later was not punitive. In fact, the sea blockade began after Fatah planned a political putsch, which Hamas pre-empted, in the process taking complete control of Gaza. The sea blockade that followed was a direct political and punitive response to the Hamas takeover.

The panel then considers whether the blockade was “proportional” to the danger it prevented to Israel. Here is some more twisted logic used to skirt the issue:

…A more difficult question is whether the naval blockade was proportional. This means to inquire whether any damage to the civilian population in Gaza caused by the naval blockade was excessive when weighed against the concrete and direct military advantage brought by its imposition…The specific impact of the naval blockade on the civilian population in Gaza is difficult to gauge because it is the land crossings policy that primarily determines the amount of goods permitted to reach Gaza. One important consideration is the absence of significant port facilities in Gaza. The only vessels that can be handled in Gaza appear to be small fishing vessels. This means that the prospect of delivering significant supplies to Gaza by sea is very low. Indeed, such supplies were not entering by sea prior to the blockade. So it seems unrealistic to hold the naval blockade disproportionate…

The fact is that Israel prohibited Gaza from building a port.  See this research by B’Tselem on the subject:

In the agreements signed by the parties since the beginning of the Oslo peace process, the sides repeatedly agreed to work toward building and operating a seaport in Gaza. In the summer of 2000, infrastructure work for the port began, but in October of that year, following the outbreak of the second intifada, Israel bombed the seaport construction site. As a result, the donor states ceased funding the project, and no work has been done on the seaport since then. In the AMA of November 2005, mentioned above, Israel agreed to allow renewal of the construction work. Moreover, in order to assure that foreign donors and investors would be willing to invest in the project, Israel promised that it would not strike the port again and would cooperate in establishing the security and other arrangements needed to operate it. To date, no action has been taken in this matter.

If Israel had not refused to allow such a port, Gaza would already have a seaport and airport. Barring that, had there been no sea blockade and only a land blockade, of course Gaza would’ve developed infrastructure necessary to replace the land crossings with port infrastructure. So arguing that a sea blockade is proportional because Israel had prevented Gaza from developing a seaport and Gaza didn’t use its sea coast to import goods, is circular, false reasoning.

There are some extremely awkward locutions which also betray a deep insensitivity to Gaza’s plight. Among them this:

…The Panel emphasizes that if necessary, the civilian population in Gaza must be allowed to receive food and other objects essential to its survival. (p.44)

Last I checked, human beings did indeed find it necessary to receive food and other objects essential to their survival. Is there any question about this in the minds of the Palmer authors?

The UN document is full of these “on the one hand, on the other hand” statements which allow it to claim that it is being fair to both sides when in actuality it is really being fair to one, which means it is being fair to none:

…The Panel emphasizes, however, the fundamental importance of the principle of the freedom of navigation, particularly in areas such as the eastern Mediterranean, and recommends that this be borne in mind by Israel with respect to the ongoing application and enforcement of its naval blockade.

They’ve just essentially nullified the principle of freedom of navigation related to Gaza and yet somehow believe they can chide Israel by reminding it that they must really learn to be fair and decent about implementing blockades.

To read this report, the motivation of the flotilla organizers to “generate publicity” (Palmer’s language, p.47) on behalf of Gaza’s plight would seem to be entirely treif. But again, this means you accept the contention underlying it, that the only legitimate reason to be breaking the blockade would be bringing humanitarian assistance to Gaza. I’ve made clear that I, and most human rights activists involved on this issue reject this thinking summarily. On the contrary, protesting both the siege, Israel’s Occupation, and Gaza’s humanitarian crisis are political issues tightly bound up with each other.

Another example of Palmer’s circular reasoning is its criticism of the IHH for not specifically warning passengers that they might be subject to violence if they participated in the flotilla. The fact that such a warning was lacking is used by the authors to blame the organizers for putting activists in harm’s way. But the plain fact of the matter is that the violence was caused by Israel and that contrary to the language of the report, violence was in no way predictable:

…There was no indication that violence was a risk despite the fact that the possibility of it was reasonably foreseeable.

Yes, in hindsight now the world understands better that Israel is willing to use lethal force on unarmed humanitarian activists. The world understands that Israel is capable of showing a depraved indifference to human life (more specifically, of Arabs and their supporters). But should the IHH have anticipated that Israel might use live fire on its ships even before they boarded them as the report speculates with some justifying evidence (p.53)?

In this passage (p.50), Palmer again presents the evidence solely from Israel’s point of view, pretending the flotilla was solely a humanitarian, and not political enterprise. It “buys” Israel’s contention that its offer to off-load the ship’s cargo in Ashdod and convey it to Gaza showed a good faith effort to resolve the impasse diplomatically. Nothing could be farther from the truth:

The Panel is satisfied that extensive and genuine efforts were made by Israel to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies from the flotilla to Gaza thus obviating the need to challenge the blockade and thereby avoiding the prospect of violence.

At this point, Palmer has lost its moral bearings and any validity as a credible document.

Returning to the Mavi Marmara activists, in response to Israel’s political act of collective punishment, they took the counter-measure of protesting by engaging in a legitimate political act of their own–attempting to break the siege.  Here Palmer tries to have it both ways, but judges in the end that any political expression should take lower priority to Israel’s “legitimate” security concerns:

Although people are entitled to express their political views, the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.

The problem with this formulation is that those who participated in the Gaza flotilla flatly reject the premises of the argument in terms I noted above.  If the naval blockade is NOT a security measure then attempting to break it is not “reckless” but an expression of protest against an unjust, immoral Israeli policy.

The Report makes it easy on itself by conceiving of the Mavi Marmara flotilla project as a solely humanitarian enterprise.  In doing so, it is able to isolate any political element to the project.  Since the flotilla was, in its view, solely a humanitarian enterprise there is no reason the organizers should have persisted in breaking the siege.  They should have been willing to deliver the aid through Israel-approved channels.  This avoids the issue of the flotilla being a political expression (and a humanitarian one), whose goal was not just to deliver aid, but to subvert an illegal blockade and make the point to the world that Israel was wrong in inflicting it on Gaza.

I understand that writing this Report was incredibly difficult and that compromises had to be made in order to satisfy each side–or at least rile up each side as little as possible.  That is why there will be elements that will anger Israel and Turkey; and other elements that will please them.  But it’s important to understand that just because Palmer accepted certain points as givens, doesn’t mean that the public need do so.

Here are some of the more damning passages concering Israel from the introductory Summary:

Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable:

a. Non-violent options should have been used in the first instance. In particular, clear prior warning that the vessels were to be boarded and a demonstration of dissuading force should have been given to avoid the type of confrontation that occurred;

b. The operation should have reassessed its options when the resistance to the initial boarding attempt became apparent.

…The loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force by Israeli forces during the take-over of the Mavi Marmara was unacceptable. Nine passengers were killed and many others seriously wounded by Israeli forces. 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 through until their deportation. This included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.

…States enforcing a naval blockade against non-military vessels, especially where large numbers of civilian passengers are involved, should be cautious in the use of force. Efforts should first be made to stop the vessels by non-violent means. In particular, they should not use force except when absolutely necessary and then should only use the minimum level of force necessary to achieve the lawful objective of maintaining the blockade. They must provide clear and express warnings so that the vessels are aware if force is to be used against them.

I was greatly disappointed that the recommendations for conciliation were entirely framed from Israel’s point of view and included a request that Israel express “regret” for the incident, pay victims’ families for their suffering, and that in turn Turkey resume full diplomatic relations with Israel.  All these were points accepted by Israel in previous negotiation.  But Turkey has rejected the offer of a message expressing “regret” and demanded a full apology, which Israel has refused.  It has also demanded that Israel end Gaza’s “imprisonment” in order for Turkey to normalize relations.

The Report itself noted a severe limitation that faced it. Nations were not compelled to cooperate or produce specific witnesses or documentation. The panel could not demand such information and so had to make due with what was offered. In fact, it could not approach any organization such as IHH independently, which severely limited the mandate and scope of the findings. Also, the panel relied heavily on the reports produced by Turkey and Israel. In the latter case, this is deeply problematic, as the Israeli findings were made by three heavily-biased individuals inclined to produce a report to maximize benefit to Israel and minimize damage.

In the case of Israel, which is known for attempting to spin virtually every element of its foreign and military policy, this would mean refusing to provide any information that made it look bad and offering any information that would make it look good. While all nations do this to a certain extent, Israel has perfected this to a high art.

Another oddity of the mandate of the panel was that it was not so much supposed to determine who violated the law, but rather how to resolve the dispute in as satisfactory a way as possible allowing the contending parties to move on:

The Panel will not add value for the United Nations by attempting to determine contested facts or by arguing endlessly about the applicable law. Too much legal analysis threatens to produce political paralysis. Whether what occurred here was legally defensible is important but in diplomatic terms it is not dispositive of what has become an important irritant not only in the relationship between two important nations but also in the Middle East generally.

The legal issues, while a necessary element of the Panel’s analysis, alone are not sufficient. We must probe more widely. Were the actions taken prudent? Were there practical alternatives? In the wider context of the situation in the Middle East, are there steps that could be taken to improve the situation that the blockade deals with so that the existence of the blockade is no longer necessary? These are issues of importance to the wider international community.

The Panel has searched for solutions that will allow Israel, Turkey and the international community to put the incident behind them…A new diplomatic paradigm must be developed in order to move on. The Panel is particularly conscious of what the Secretary-General told us at the outset of our task. He told us that he counted on our leadership and commitment to achieve a way forward. Such is the purpose of everything that follows.

It follows therefore that the panel was not one meant to truly plumb the knotty questions presented by the Mavi Marmara attack. Rather, it was meant to give each side as much as it could in the hopes they could move on from there. As such, the mandate is hopelessly flawed. It would be as if South Africa appointed a commission to figure out how to tell each side of the apartheid dispute what it did wrong and what it did right in order to allow each side to move on without assigning any real blame to anyone.

Here are some further comments worth noting that impeach Israel claims regarding its attack:

The Panel questions whether it was reasonable for the Israeli Navy to board the vessels at the time and place that they did…The boarding commenced at approximately 4.30 a.m., before dawn had broken. The distance from the blockade zone was substantial—64 nautical miles. There were several hours steaming before the blockade area would be reached. Then there is the fact that the boarding attempt was made by surprise, without any immediate prior warning. The last radio warning had been transmitted at some point between 12.41 a.m. and 2.00 a.m.—at least two and a half hours prior to the boarding commencing. The vessels were never asked to stop or to permit a boarding party to come on board. No efforts were made to fire warning shells or blanks in an effort to change the conduct of the captains…Nothing was communicated [to the MM] about the immediate intentions of the IDF to board the vessels by force. (p.52)

And further:

The resort to boarding without warning or consent and the use of such substantial force treated the flotilla as if it represented an immediate military threat to Israel. That was far from being the case and is inconsistent with the nature of the vessels and their passengers…

It was foreseeable that boarding in the manner that was done could have provoked physical resistance from those on board the vessels.

…The Panel also concurs with the comment in the Israeli report that the operation should have withdrawn and reassessed its options when the resistance to the initial boarding from the speedboats occurred…

…The Panel is struck by the level of violence that took place during the take-over operation. Many witness statements describe indiscriminate shooting, including of injured, with some referring to shooting even after attempts had been made to surrender. By the IDF’s account, 308 live rounds…were discharged. Seventy-one fully armed naval commandoes were deployed during the take-over, which lasted for over 45 minutes.(p.53 ff.)

In the following passage, the report documents what can only be described by a reasonable observer as assassinations, noting that Israel at no point provided a satisfactory explanation as to how or why these people were killed in the manner that they were:

Seven of the nine persons killed received multiple gunshot wounds to critical regions of the body…

Five of those killed had bullet wounds indicating they had been shot from behind: Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu, Necdet Yıldırım, Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen. This last group included three with bullet wounds to the back of the head: Cengiz Akyüz, Çetin Topçuoğlu and Furkan Doğan. İbrahim Bilgen was killed by a shot to the right temple.

Two people were killed by a single bullet wound: Cevdet Kılıçlar was killed by a single shot between the eyes; and Cengiz Songür was killed by a shot to the base of the throat.

At least one of those killed, Furkan Doğan, was shot at extremely close range. Mr. Doğan sustained wounds to the face, back of the skull, back and left leg. That suggests he may already have been lying wounded when the fatal shot was delivered, as suggested by witness accounts to that effect.

No evidence has been provided to establish that any of the deceased were armed with lethal weapons. Video footage shows one passenger holding only an open fire hose being killed by a single shot to the head or throat fired from a speedboat

Tell me honestly, do you think Israel even wants to know which of its commandos killed which of these passengers? Do you think they even tried to investigate this? And if they didn’t, how can they claim to have done a proper, thorough and independent investigation?

Upon completing this Report the main conclusion that I had is that the international human rights community needs to protest its contents by planning more Gaza flotillas until either Israel relents on its cruel policy or the world forces Israel to relent. There can be only one answer to nonsense like this:

There is no right within those rules to breach a lawful blockade as a right of protest. (p.71)

The response must be: yes, there is such a right and if you deny it to us we will take it anyway. As some of the truly great human rights heroes have said, if you don’t stake out your rights then someone will take them away from to you.

{ 83 comments… add one }
  • yankel September 1, 2011, 11:13 PM

    In the immediate aftermath of the massacre, Israeli media reported that Israeli Islamist leader Raed Salah was among the casualties, invoking quite a bit of jubilation at having managed to get rid of this pernicious thorn in Israel’s side in seemingly justifiable circumstances.
    Some time later it’s been revealed that, oops, it was a Turkish lookalike who bore the brunt of Israeli wrath.

    Given Salah’s relative immunity from “targeted assassination” (him being an Israeli citizen), it’s hard to avoid the speculation that there might’ve been some premeditated motivation to take such advantage the would be mayhem onboard.

    Conspiratorial as this may sound, those familiar with Ehud Barak’s lifelong trickydick tactics should find it hard to be dismissed offhand.

    • Richard Silverstein September 1, 2011, 11:21 PM

      Ehud Barak’s lifelong trickydick tactics

      Well, at least Barak didn’t dress the commandos up in women’s clothing before putting bullets in the Turks’ brains as he did in Lebanon.

      • Oron September 7, 2011, 9:42 PM

        Few facts:
        1. The people on the Marmara were armed and trained. You can see videos where they wear gas masks. As far as I know regular citizens don’t know how to wear masks and for sure don’t carry weapon as everyone can see on the videos from the ship.
        2. Israel and Egypt said many times that every good that will be shipped to either countries will be inspected and delivered into Gaza.
        3. Missiles are being fired to Israel on a daily basis from Gaza. There was no blockage on Gaza when Israel left Gaza in 2005, only after the Hamas took over Gaza and started shooting at innocent citizens who live around Gaza.

        But Mr Silverstein, you do not let the facts confuse you. Good for you.

        • Richard Silverstein September 7, 2011, 10:05 PM

          The people on the Marmara were armed and trained. You can see videos where they wear gas masks

          You’re amazing. Because the passengers were frightened that the IDF would use tear gas & so donned gas masks means they were “armed??” In what universe is yr logic considered reasonable?

          As far as I know regular citizens don’t know how to wear masks

          You’ve never been in an Israeli air raid shelter in Sderot or Kiryat Shmonah, have you?

          You, of course have neglected to read the comment rules which require that you NOT repeat arguments offered by others before you (& in yr case yrs have been offered tens if not scores of times before). Do us a favor, don’t waste our time. Go back somewhere else where you can score points for the “good guys:” Israel. Point scoring is boring. Repeating the same old tired arguments as you do is boring. Tell us something new.

        • Mary Hughes-Thompson September 7, 2011, 10:19 PM

          Having had the dubious pleasure of being tear gassed by Israeli forces several times — and knowing they are now using a kind of teargas that has proved on occasion to be lethal — I am not surprised that unarmed passengers on the MAVI MARMARA might have felt safer with gas masks. Before leaving to join this year’s flotilla I checked on eBay to see what kind of gas masks were available (most of them were Israeli so I wasn’t interested) but in the end settled for watertight goggles to protect my eyes, and a bandana for my mouth and nose. We always carry raw onion to help mitigate the pain and lung damage we know we will experience when teargassed.

          As for your claim that regular civilians don’t know how to use gas masks, you don’t know what you are talking about. As a child in England during World War II, I can tell you every Briton of every age was issued a gas mask and we were trained in their use. We carried them with us everywhere.

          And if the passengers on the MAVI MARMARA had any weapons they wouldn’t have needed to carry gas masks.

  • colindale london September 2, 2011, 12:02 AM

    The United Nations has now reported that the killings of eight Turkish passengers and one American by Israeli commandos on the Mavi Marmara flotilla sailing to Gaza, were abusive and brutal. Israel were the attackers and their killings could not be claimed to be in self-defence. The Turkish government has cut all ties with Israel as a result. So should the EU. Where there is no justice and where morality is replaced by brutality, then democracy is dead and society is corrupted. It is a tragedy of the 21st century that a state born out of war should have so lost its compass and its humanity.

  • mary September 2, 2011, 12:32 AM

    What the report is doing is consistent with the past handling of Israel’s atrocious misdeeds – it is a shaking finger in their collective face but it does nothing. It’s reminiscent of the USS Liberty incident (we know what you did, but we will change our language so as not to create or support the imperative of prosecuting you for it).

    Nine people were killed on the Mavi Marmara because the world has a habit of overlooking the egregious acts of a country that is a danger to the civilized world. This is the bottom line, and anyone reading the report should bear this in mind.

    The idiotic conclusion made by the report stating the blockade of Gaza is legal is also guaranteed to keep that blockade in place, regardless of it being so transparently clear that this conclusion is merely the UN saving face, covering its years of ignoring this blatant violation of the Geneva Conventions.

    • GilGamish September 2, 2011, 10:45 AM

      other then the fact that both incidents have to do with boats there is nothing similar between the USS Liberty and the Mari Marmara. First of all there was no UN investigation of the Liberty incident. Secondly there is no dispute about what happened with the Liberty only whether Israel did it on purpose. So please tell me what language was changed to exonerate Israel with respect to the Liberty. Every US investigation, and there were many, have agreed it was friendly fire.

      • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2011, 4:51 PM

        I really don’t want to get into a debate about the U.S.S. Liberty here.

        • mary September 2, 2011, 5:13 PM

          Neither do I. I merely used it as a glaring example of one of the many unpunished crimes of Israel. We could look at so many of them, and re-argue them, but there would be no point in it.

          Despite what any report may say (whether it is Goldstone or Palmer or whatever), Israel will not apologize, take responsibility or make any reparations, nor will there be any action taken against the Israeli government. The US will use its power within the UN to protect Israel no matter what crimes it commits.

          This report was an attempt to force the issue of “putting everything in the past where it belongs,” which is the height of insensitivity and disregard for moral and legal standards which should be protected under international laws (but clearly are not).

    • Daniel F. September 3, 2011, 6:13 PM

      “….a country that is a danger to the civilized world.”

      Could you please explain to me how Israel is a danger to the civilized world.

      Thank you

      • mary September 4, 2011, 1:07 AM

        It’s traveling over old ground, Daniel, but I’ll be brief. Israel’s behavior over the past 64 years has been horrifically violent and irrational. Its thuggery is legendary. It drops bombs on whomever it pleases, acts unilaterally and secretly against its neighbors and even spies on its big ally, the US.

        Operation Cast Lead was one of its largest rampages, resulting in the murder of almost 1,500 people, the vast majority of whom were defenseless civilians.

        Need I remind you of the subject of this article? Israel murdered 9 people, and please, if you haven’t already done so, read the descriptions of the wounds they suffered.

        Israel has been stumping for war with Iran for many years and at times has caused diplomatic crises that could have escalated into violence.

        Israel freely engages in assassinations of individuals on foreign soil.

        And of course, this has not escaped the notice of the UN, ironic as it may be:

        link to en.wikipedia.org

        Israel is a loose cannon. Chances are excellent that if World War III ever occurs, Israel will be the one to start it.

        • Daniel F. September 4, 2011, 2:55 AM

          United Nations General Assembly Resolution 3379, adopted on November 10, 1975 by a vote of 72 to 35 (with 32 abstentions), “determine[d] that Zionism is a form of racism and racial discrimination”. The resolution was revoked by Resolution 46/86 on December 16, 1991. In the history of the UN, this is the only resolution that has ever been revoked.

          link to en.wikipedia.org

          Mary, If the U.N. could ever pass a resolution determining that Zionism is a form of racism then it is very obvious to me that the U.N. has failed in its mission and is heavily influenced by racist member states.
          The fact that such a disproportionate number of it’s resolutions are about Israel speaks for itself.Is Israel really the epicenter of all that is wrong in the world or simply a convenient whipping boy.

          “Operation Cast Lead was one of its largest rampages, resulting in the murder of almost 1,500 people, the vast majority of whom were defenseless civilians.”

          The IDF tallied 709 Hamas and affiliated militant deaths, which is supported by statements from Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad

          link to google.com

          link to maannews.net

          “Need I remind you of the subject of this article? Israel murdered 9 people”

          Yes Israel’s response to the Mavi Marmara was inappropriate and an indication of
          Israel’s poor planning even though the Mavi Marmara’s arrival was not a surprise.
          By escalating directly to boarding the ship and by doing so in insufficient numbers
          those in command exposed Israeli soldiers to unnecessary dangers which unfortunately required those soldiers to defend themselves.
          As to the reports that some of the nine were shot in the back, I cannot answer but what I can say is that when somebody uses a small caliber back up weapon it will be ineffective in neutralizing an assailant with the first shot and there will be a strong temptation to shoot again (possibly in the back) before the assailant can partially recover from the first shot.
          Remember the soldiers were greatly outnumbered when they boarded the ship and the reception given to them was particularly violent. In such a situation it is very difficult to adhere to the principle of only using sufficient force to subdue an assailant.

          Israel is a loose cannon. Chances are excellent that if World War III ever occurs, Israel will be the one to start it.

          Typically, wars are started by nations wishing to expand their power and influence beyond their borders. An example of a regional aggressor is Iran whose disruptive meddling throughout the middle east is a problem not only for Israel.
          Turkey also wishes to assume the role of regional leader once held by Egypt and what better way to start that by picking a fight with Israel.
          Israel is indeed a loose cannon in her own defense and in light of Jewish history it can be understood.
          In conclusion,Israel needs to relinquish the notion that by attempting to control or influence Palestinian destiny she improves her own security more that she harms it.

          • Richard Silverstein September 4, 2011, 9:42 PM

            The IDF tallied 709 Hamas and affiliated militant deaths, which is supported by statements from Hamas Interior Minister Fathi Hamad

            No, no, no, no, my friend. This is way off topic. Second, we’ve been over this ground more than once & earlier commenters have raised precisely these spurious claims. Third, if you think I’m going to allow a mendacious IDF casualty claim to pass for credible evidence there you must be joking. Fourth, any casualty rpt that reaches that high a number included the Gaza police cadets as militants. Since they were unarmed & not engaging in any military act whatsoever when killed, those 250 don’t count in my book. Again, I’ve written this here before & if you know me you know how I HATE repeating myself.

            So take a tip fr me: drop this. It’s irrelevant, off topic & hasbarist propaganda & does nothing to advance any debate or discussion on the issues.

            As for the nine murdered passengers. Some were shot in the back, Palmer even concedes it likely that some were shot after being wounded & while lying on the ground. Another was shot point blank bet. the eyes. All were shot kill shot style which indicates an execution. This is a style of fighting for which the IDF is known unfortunately. Of course, the passenger resistance may have enraged the commandos plus the fact that some of their number were captured & wounded. All of which led to a wildly undisciplined melee in which the IDF commandos essentially went beserk. This too unfortunately has been known to happen in IDF operations (& U.S. operations in Iraq & Afghanistan as well).

            Contrary to yr claim, wars are started by bellicose, defensive, paranoid states which cannot properly assess threats to determine which are real and which imagined. Israel is such a danger to the region.

            Turkey “picked a fight” with Israel? Do you mean that when Erdogan was in the midst of resolving the Syria Israel dispute & Israel started a war with Gaza, that this was picking a fight with Israel? And that the 1,400 killed in Gaza, 1,100 civilians & 300 of those children, that this war was picking a fight with Israel? And that the 9 Turkish citizens murdered by Israel, that this was actually Turkey picking a fight with Israel? Now we know who you are & how credible yr views & claims are.

          • Hans-Peter September 6, 2011, 12:19 PM

            Typically, wars are started by nations wishing to expand their power and influence beyond their borders.

            Isn’t that, what Israel has been doing all the time?

          • Richard Silverstein September 6, 2011, 11:32 PM

            That depends how you define what Israel’s borders are! But yes, generally you’re correct.

  • Michael September 2, 2011, 3:58 AM

    The committee is a body constituted for political NOT legal purposes and carries no legal standing.

    It readily admits this.

    The diplomatic purpose was to forge a rapprochement between Turkey and Israel and in this it has manifestly failed.

    But the true purpose from Israel’s POV is to provide “Hasbara” – i.e. the impression to uninformed outsiders that “the UN has found the siege to be legal”. This is actually not the case at all – although it will be reported as such.

    I am quoting the following extract and commentary from the poster “Hostage” at Mondoweiss, which seems to succinctly describe the legal weight (i.e. NONE) that the report carries.


    The report of the committee explicitly states that its sources of information were strictly limited to reports obtained through diplomatic channels from Turkey and Israel. So, it completely ignored the evidence gathered by other international organizations and formal UN fact finding missions. The Committee further admits that it had no mandate or means to gather the information required to make legal determinations concerning either the facts or the law:

    5. It needs to be understood from the outset that this Panel is unique. Its methods of inquiry are similarly unique. The Panel is not a court. It was not asked to make determinations of the legal issues or to adjudicate on liability.

    6. In particular, the Panel’s means of obtaining information were through diplomatic channels. The Panel enjoyed no coercive powers to compel witnesses to provide evidence. It could not conduct criminal investigations. The Panel was required to obtain its information from the two nations primarily involved in its inquiry, Turkey and Israel, and other affected States. The position is thoroughly understandable in the context of the Panel’s inquiry but the limitation is important. It means that the Panel cannot make definitive findings either of fact or law. But it can give its [uninformed] view.” — See pages 7-8

    The inclusion of the statement that the blockade was legitimate and the implementation complied with the requirements of international law is neither a definitive finding of fact nor law and it is contradicted by official fact finding reports from other Secretariat officials.


    • Haver September 2, 2011, 3:29 PM

      Mondoweiss-Hostage is Tikun Olam-Haver. I occasionally contribute comments on the articles and issues over here too.

      • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2011, 10:55 PM

        Mondoweiss-Hostage is Tikun Olam-Haver.

        I smell a conspiracy. Are you leading a double life? (That’s a joke)

  • Grendal September 2, 2011, 7:05 AM

    “The fundamental principle of the freedom of navigation on the high seas is subject to only certain limited exceptions under international law. Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law.”

    Obviously true despite what the progressive left tries to peddle. Israel has a right to protect it’s citizens.

    • Vicky September 2, 2011, 1:55 PM

      The right to self-protection is not in dispute.

      The dispute concerns whether placing a population of 1.7 million people under siege is an effective, a legitimate, and a moral means of self-protection – three separate questions.

      In February 2009, Senator John Kerry personally intervened so that pasta would be added to the list of goods Israel permitted to enter Gaza. At the time pasta was forbidden, along with coriander and children’s crayons. These and the many other everyday objects that are barred from the Strip can’t possibly constitute a security threat to anyone. It’s clear that the purpose of the siege is not simply to prevent the receipt of arms, but to make life intolerable for the population as a whole – a situation that is more likely to increase rocket attacks than to decrease them.

  • GilGamish September 2, 2011, 10:39 AM

    “This is a specious claim as Hamas imports all the weapons it needs through tunnels from Egypt to Gaza. ”

    Sorry but that’s wrong. Number one the tunnels go through Egypt. Even with a change of gov’t there is no chance that the military of Egypt will allow large amounts of arms to travel through their country. Plenty get through but nothing as large as Hamas wants. Think about it smuggling arms through a tunnel is not like smuggling a car in pieces and then reassembling it on the other side. Modern sophisticated arms require expertise for reassembly. Secondly you seem to have forgotten that large shipments of arms have been intercepted on ships headed for Gaza the most recent was just last March.

    There is much more to criticize but I’ll start there and see if you provide a response.

    • Zam September 3, 2011, 2:08 AM

      “Secondly you seem to have forgotten that large shipments of arms have been intercepted on ships headed for Gaza the most recent was just last March.”


      That ship was to dock in a Egyptian port and the arms would have been smuggled through the tunnels. Try again.

      • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:52 PM

        Not to mention that if Israel gave up the siege & just inspected all shipments headed for Gaza it would’ve caught the weapons anyway even w/o a siege.

        • Zam September 4, 2011, 1:04 AM

          The only reason that this ship was stopped ” the Victoria” is that Israel had intelligence reports about it’s hidden cargo, without that intel the ship would have reached Egypt and the blockade on Gaza wouldn’t have done anything to stop it.

          • mary September 4, 2011, 1:09 AM

            Is this similar to its “intelligence reports” claiming members of al Qaeda were aboard the Mavi Marmara?

  • Mary Hughes-Thompson September 2, 2011, 10:44 AM

    The Palmer Report is a disgrace. Israel has always known our boats carry no weapons. I assure you every single passenger on every boat is searched upon boarding, and anything found that could be used as a weapon, including a Swiss Army Knife keychain, is confiscated. We all know we will most likely be intercepted and searched, and in addition to being sworn to non-violence, we know how the Israelis will scream to the world if they find anything more threatening than a nail file (or maybe even a nail file)

    Thanks, Richard, for the photo of our FREE GAZA which sailed successfully to Gaza three years ago. That was a momentous day for all of us, and as I see myself there on the deck waving to that little fishing boat, I can feel once again the sheer euphoria we experienced on that day.

    • GilGamish September 2, 2011, 11:01 AM

      Ms. Hughes-Thompson. Please tell me specifically what claims the Palmer report makes that are not true. It seems you are creating a strawman here. According the account in the NY Times the report does not claim weapons were brought aboard only that the IHH members acted violently and it questions their intent. Given the statements by IHH leaders before and after the the incident I would have to agree with the reports assessment. I’m curious whether your group has had any second thoughts about aligning themselves with an organization that in no way claims to be non-violent and indeed has proven themselves not to be.

      • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2011, 4:53 PM

        The report does not say that IHH is violent. The report questions the motives of some of the passengers but not IHH. If you wish to advance claims about IHH you’ll have to support them.

        As for the inadquacies of Palmer, I just wrote 3,500 words tearing the Rpt. to shreds & you ask Mary to tell you what isn’t true in it? Did you read what I wrote? Or did you somehow miss it?

        • GilGamish September 2, 2011, 6:07 PM

          I didn’t write that the report said the IHH is non-violent. Not sure where you are getting that from. Mary wrote that every passenger on the boat is sworn to non-violence. I’ll be happy to support my claims about the IHH. for starters look at this.
          link to youtube.com

          I read what you wrote and responded to the one of your first claims. You have yet to respond. Please respond and then I will gladly discuss the rest. As for Mary she made the comment that the boats carried no weapons. The report made no such claim. Thus her strawman argument and why I asked her to cite what in the report she disagreed with. Mary seems to be arguing against claims the report did not make.

          • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2011, 10:39 PM

            Sorry, that was a typo. I meant to write that the report does not say that IHH is VIOLENT, as you claim it is. And you’ve offered no proof whatsoever that the rpt says what you claim.

            And no, I’m not interested in propaganda videos produced by anti-Arab groups. You claimed Palmer said IHH was violent as an organization. So support what you wrote fr. within Palmer itself.

            As for weapons, the rpt did indeed claim it was likely that passengers had weapons & mentions knife wounds on the IDF victims as an example. You might want to read the actual rpt instead of Debka or MEMRI or CAMERA’s version of it.

          • Izik September 3, 2011, 2:51 AM

            “And no, I’m not interested in propaganda videos produced by anti-Arab groups. ”

            The video shows IHH members calling for violence against IDF soldiers. If you have issues with the veracity of the video, you can try and disprove it. However, ignoring the video by saying that it was produced by “anti-Arab” groups is not serious.

          • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:55 PM

            Who says they were IHH members? There were 700 passengers on that boat. Were they all IHH members? Can you prove IHH as an organization organized & coordinated the violence by the passengers? If so, I’d like to see yr proof. Until then, stop whistiling in the wind.

          • Izik September 3, 2011, 2:52 AM

            Incidentally, the video was produced by the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs – hardly an “anti-Arab” group. If the video is unreliable in anyway, people would have been all over it.

            The truth is that while the Marmara was largely populated by non-violent activists, the IHH was not such a group.

          • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:58 PM

            The truth is that while the Marmara was largely populated by non-violent activists, the IHH was not such a group.

            You’ve just completely contradicted yrself. The IHH OWNED the Marmara and sponsored its trip. So what you’re saying is that most of the passengers on this boat owned by IHH on a trip sponsored by IHH were non violent. But that there may’ve (emphasis on MAY) been a small minority of passengers intent on a defense of the ship that involved violence is possible (though by no means proven). But this in no way means IHH was responsible for their actions. The IHH was not a group within a larger body of passengers on the ship. The IHH was the overall sponsor of the entire journey.

          • GilGamish September 3, 2011, 2:56 AM

            I think you really need to read my post again. I said the report said ” the IHH members acted violently and it questions their intent. “. I direct you to the section of the report entitled Facts, Circumstances and Context of the Incident section iv.

            Are you trying to claim the IHH members did not act violently.

            ps I based my original statement on the NY Times article. I say that in my post. Not sure why you want to write that I got it from Debka or the others. I’m beginning to think I may have stumbled into the wrong place.

          • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 9:04 PM

            the IHH members acted violently and it questions their intent

            And once again, that’s NOT what the Report says. The Report questions the intent of IHH but does so in totally vague & unspecific terms. It doesn’t say the IHH was violent, the IHH intended to resist the boarding or anything of the kind. It merely questions IHH’s intent. Frankly I don’t even know what this means. It could mean anything. No proof of any kind is offered to support even this vague claim. What the Report DOES say is that individual passengers MAY HAVE (not DID, but may have) acted violently. Individual passengers, not IHH members and not the IHH as a group. Now, if you have evidence or proof fr. the REport itself that says differently offer it. Thus far you haven’t offered any proof or quotations directly fr. the Report which makes yr claims nigh unto worthless. I have read the Rpt & quoted it extensively to support my arguments. You ought to do the same.

          • Elisabeth September 3, 2011, 4:49 PM

            “the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs – hardly an “anti-Arab” group”


  • Arie Brand September 2, 2011, 4:36 PM

    The Palemr commission argues:

    “The specific impact of the naval blockade on the civilian population in Gaza is difficult to gauge because it is the land crossings policy that primarily determines the amount of goods permitted to reach Gaza. One important consideration is the absence of significant port facilities in Gaza. The only vessels that can be handled in Gaza appear to be small fishing vessels. This means that the prospect of delivering significant supplies to Gaza by sea is very low.”

    So, according to the logic of the commission, the naval blockade is not disproportionate because there are no significant port facilities in Gaza and the prospect of delivering significant supplies there is very low. Why then is there a naval blockade in the first place? Would this logic not apply also to the significant supply of WEAPONS, the prospect of which is the alleged cause for the blockade?

    • Richard Silverstein September 2, 2011, 4:54 PM

      Excellent point. Palmer gets itself twisted upon its own false logic.

    • Violet Crumble September 2, 2011, 11:22 PM

      Damn. I’d noticed that same thing and was going to pop in and post it, but you beat me to the punch!

    • yarony September 3, 2011, 10:44 PM

      Well Hamas and Fatah, managed to smuggle weapons to Gaza by sea without a port.

      link to idfspokesperson.com

      Also, I remember quotes from the newspaper (I do not have a reference), referring to successful attempts to send weaponry to Gaza via sea wrapped in some floating mechanism.

  • dickerson3870 September 2, 2011, 8:16 PM

    Thanks for this excellent critique of the the Palmer Report. It is by far the most comprehensive analysis of the report that I have seen thus far. Needless to say, it puts the coverage by the New York Times to shame. But then, they do have that big, new skyscraper designed by Renzo Piano!

  • youk September 3, 2011, 12:47 AM

    richard, when we will see on a flotilla?

    • youk September 3, 2011, 2:39 AM

      *see YOU on a flotilla

      • Mary Hughes-Thompson September 3, 2011, 3:05 AM

        Youk, you can certainly expect to see ME on the next flotilla. And I assure you there will be hundreds of thousands of people standing in line to join me as there were this summer.

        • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 9:05 PM

          HE won’t see you unless he joins you, a sight I’d pay $100 to see.

          • mary September 4, 2011, 1:13 AM

            I am hoping to travel to Gaza in November, to see friends and hopefully to launch a project.

            I’m in Egypt now, so anyone who passes this way is always welcome for dinner and conversation :)

      • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:53 PM

        Does that mean you’re going? If so, let me know. I might go just allow you to say something truthful for a change. Because unless you did go you wouldn’t see me if I did.

    • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:51 PM

      Unfortunately, my children need a father and not a potential corpse if the IDF were to attack another flotilla. It’s more important to me that I continue to live for them than that I die in a blaze of glory or end up in an Israeli prison interrogated by Shabak for a week or so. But if you can elect a pragmatic gov’t which commits not to killing any further flotilla activists then I’d join. Until then, I’ll continue doing my job as I see fit.

      If I heard you say you’d join me on the next flotilla I might change my mind. What do you say?

      • youk September 4, 2011, 3:28 AM

        so let me get this straight, you call for more flotillas when you think it’s deadly but you won’t join in? reminds me of gaddafi calling for his supporters to fight or die when he hides in a bunker or something of that sort. (i get this feeling you will moderate me for “violating” the rules by lying – you are not gaddafi!)

        as for me joining on a flotilla, i have one question – why?

        • Richard Silverstein September 4, 2011, 9:04 PM

          If you’re willing to pay for a life insurance policy in case I’m killed, I might consider it. Let me know.

          The next time you publish snark of this sort here you’ll be moderated. If I want to be insulted there are far more talented people who can do it than you, I assure you.

  • Mary Hughes-Thompson September 3, 2011, 3:06 AM

    “Incidentally, the video was produced by the Israeli ministry of foreign affairs – hardly an “anti-Arab” group.”

    Are you serious?

    • Izik September 3, 2011, 3:59 AM

      Do you have anything to say about the contents of the video?

      Are you claiming that the IHH did not incite violence and did not eventually attack the soldiers with knives and iron bars?

      • Mary Hughes-Thompson September 3, 2011, 5:52 AM

        The passengers did not incite violence. The passengers did not attack the soldiers. The passengers, who were unarmed, watched in horror as masked and heavily armed pirates dressed as commandos fired at them from helicopters. As fellow passengers were assassinated in cold blood, a few picked up whatever was available with which they tried valiantly to defend themselves and others against an obviously murderous force.

        • Izik September 3, 2011, 6:59 AM

          Interesting description, but it does not coincide with the footage or with the Palmer report – which specifically says that the activists on the top deck attacked the soldiers.

          link to youtube.com

          In the video, it seems like the “horrified peace activists” are attacking the “pirates” as soon as they are coming off the chopper. One is seen stabbing a soldier with a knife. On top of that, weapons captured from the Marmara (link to youtube.com) show that the activists were preparing to assault the troops with assault knives, iron bars, slingshots, molotov cocktails, shock grenades and more. Certainly not the sort of arsenal you’d find on “peace activists”. Furthermore, there is footage (linked above) which shows the IHH leader agitating IHH members to act violently against soldiers and throw them overboard. On the way to the Gaza, some the IHH activists were heard chanting “khaybar khaybar ya yahud” (link to youtube.com), referencing the massacre Mohammed committed against a Jewish tribe. On top of that, the IHH activists were given a heroes welcome in Iran, where they avowed their desire to destroy Israel (link to terrorism-info.org.il). Furthermore, the IHH is considered to have ties with groups such as Hamas and other terrorist organizations.

          I have no doubt that 99% of the activists on board the Marmara were like you – silly non-violent activists. The IHH, however, were not like the rest of you, in the sense that they sought violence and “martyrdom” from the get go. By allying yourself with such violent and racist organization, you are making a mockery of the values which are you allegedly fighting for – humanity, justice and equality.

          While you’re here talking about your silly flotillas to Gaza, which is fully accessible from Egypt and has no humantarian issues, people who are actually fighting for their freedom in Syria are being murdered in the dozens. But that doesn’t seem to bother you. As long as it’s “just” Arabs killing Arabs, then it’s OK.

          • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 9:33 PM

            weapons captured from the Marmara show that the activists were preparing to assault the troops with assault knives, iron bars, slingshots, molotov cocktails, shock grenades and more

            That’s in fact NOT borne out by Palmer at all, which states that a few passengers had bars and chains. It says that one of the commandos MAY have been stabbed, which implies a passenger had a knife. It says nothing at all about any of the other weapons you describe. And in fact the Report does credit the possibility that live fire ammunition was shot at the passengers BEFORE the actual physical assuault began, which would certainly explain the intensity of ship board resistance.

            Not to mention if there were 40 passengers resisting (as Palmer indicates) in a relatively confined area, why did it take a full 45 minutes to subdue them?

            act violently against soldiers and throw them overboard

            Gee, is throwing an armed to the teeth commando prepared to use lethal force against you overboard a violent act? I don’t know. Killing the commando would be a violent act. But none were killed.

            Look all this is turning into an MFA sponsored propaganda exercise. I’m really not interested in hearing theories or claims offered by the Israeli gov’t & amplified by you to justify blood curdling murder. So this will be yr last comment in this thread. If you do publish further here you may lose yr comment privileges since you’ve been previously warned about following the comment rules.

            like you – silly non-violent activists

            That is a big comment no-no. Unprovoked insults are asur here. Do you understand?

            The IHH, however…sought violence and “martyrdom” from the get go…

            You are on the verge of oblivion here as you’ve offered no evidence whatsoever that IHH sought violence.

            Terrorism-info.org is precisely the sort of website which comment rules here indicate are unacceptable as credible sources of evidence. Do not waste our time with pro Israel propaganda such as that offered by this website. If you do so again, it will be grounds for losing yr comment privileges.

            such violent and racist organization

            Palmer only vaguely hints that IHH may have questionable motives but certainly says nothing whatsoever to support the notion that it is racist. I’m warning you yet again that you dance on the thinnest sliver & could fall off into oblivion.

            Gaza…has no humantarian issues

            Are you for real? No humanitarian issues? And how would you know this? Have you visited? Have you read any UN or NGO rpts about conditions there? Have you even read anything fr a credible source based in Gaza about conditions there? Or are you relying on Israeli sources for yr info, source btw which have not visited the place themselves but rather rely on IDF rpts.

            people who are actually fighting for their freedom in Syria are being murdered in the dozens

            Off topic. WAY off topic. If you want to debate about Syria there are several hundred other blogs or forums you can choose from. You’ll restrict your comments to the subjects under discussion here. If you don’t like those, start yr own blog & say whatever you wish there & watch people flock to you in their tens, if not twenties.

        • youk September 3, 2011, 8:03 AM

          so the famous video of the FIRST soldier sliding on board and getting hit with metal rods is fabricated?

          i really would like to hear how do you explain that all of the fighting was on the mavi marmara and not on the other 2 boats. the soldiers came down from the helicopter with paintball guns, why do you think that they switched to hand guns?

          i’m not going to argue with you with, i just would like to hear your answers to my questions and i really appreciate you answering and not avoiding the question like you did to Izik’s question (if you could also address Itzik’s question in the reply, that would be great).

          • Mary Hughes-Thompson September 3, 2011, 8:58 AM

            None of the video released by the Israelis is reliable. Passengers were shot FROM ABOVE before they landed on the boat. Since even the IDF didn’t claim the passengers used missiles, how could the commandos have been attacked? And are you suggesting passengers were shot in the head and killed from above with paintball guns?

            As for why there was fighting only on the MAVI MARMARA, again I guess it’s because passengers on the other boats didn’t find themselves in the middle of a bloodbath with people dead and dying all around them BEFORE the soldiers landed. There was certainly violence committed by IDF on all the boats. Stun guns, paint ball guns fired directly in passengers’ faces, handcuffs, kicking, beating, blindfolds… all this without any resistance at all.
            My opinion is that the MAVI MARMARA was targeted because most of the passengers were Muslim. Many of them were praying when the attack began.

            When we prepared for this year’s flotilla (which Israel cleverly outsourced to Greece) we all expressed our hope that if pirates boarded our little boat and began shooting wildly at us, and even if some of us fell bleeding to our deaths, those of us remaining would be able to just stand meekly there waiting for the bullet that would kill us too.

            Finally, since you have so many questions and apparently very few answers, here’s one for you. Why do you think the Israelis confiscated all the video footage and still photographs taken by passengers as the killers descended upon the MAVI MARMARA? And of course from the other “peaceful” boats? Cameras, computers, cell phones — everything that could possibly reveal the truth about the attack. (Not to mention money, cash, credit cards — none of which was returned. Credit cards and cell phones were used later by the pirates, and at least one soldier tried to sell stolen laptops.)

            If Israel has nothing to hide, why do you think it worked so hard to hide all the evidence that incriminated its thugs? Hmmm…… Makes you think don’t it?

            This is one reason the Palmer report is meaningless. It was a ridiculous attempt to encourage Israel and Turkey kiss and make up. Apparently it missed that mark pretty widely, and now Turkey announces it will send its navy to protect other humanitarian boats in the Mediterranean from Israeli bullies. I am glad to know that when next I sail to Gaza there will a force ready to take on the Pirates of the Mediterranean who prowl international waters looking for bodies and booty.

          • Elisabeth September 3, 2011, 9:56 AM

            How on earth do you know it was the FIRST soldier?

            No definite conclusions as to what happened on the Mavi Marmara can be made until Israel releases ALL the material on laptops, cameras, etc. etc that they confiscated from the passengers and NEVER RETURNED to the rightful owners.

            Now WHY would that be?


            If Israel is right these materials will contain numerous images of armed to the teeth violent Turks. They have been in Israel’s posession for ages now, and yet all we have been presented so far are a few muddles shots that do not prove anything.

            Where are the images that the cameraman made when he was executed by a bullet between the eyes?

            Where are all the other images shot by the passengers?

            This whole ‘investigation’ is a joke as long as Israel is not forced to hand over the evidence. And if that day ever comes, I bet certain parts of the recordings will be missing.

          • youk September 3, 2011, 10:15 AM

            i’m trying to keep to my word and not get into an argument with you so i will only say this: you dismiss the video releases because it’s easier for you. instead of confronting them you just say “it’s not reliable”. these footage and other WERE taken ON the mavi marmara. everything is a out of context? a lie? a conspiracy? challenging your beliefs can be a stressful thing, i understand that, but come on..

            as for your question for me, why did the IDF confiscated the footage, video and etc’. you are right, it does make me think, unlike you i’m not afraid of challenging my beliefs.
            i think it was done because Israel didnt was the footage to be used in a propaganda against her. even though the raid was justified it doesn’t look too good. it doesnt look good when it happened without resistance and you can imagine how it looked like on the mavi marmara. after some of mavi marmara’s passengers attacked the soldiers, the soldiers had to defend their lives with guns. yes, they had to shoot people. you and i both know how those footage would be used by people like you and richard.
            could it be because of a terrible massacre on the marmara? it’s always a possibility. but not all of the footage were confiscated, from the footage that were released by the passengers there is not proof of it. but there are videos, both from the passengers and the IDF, showing soldiers getting hit. so why would i believe the second option?

            as for the soldiers that tried to sell the laptops and used the credit card, that’s disgusting and i’m ashamed that they are soldiers in the IDF. i hope they will be punished. btw, do you ever ask yourself, if israel lies and cover up everything to make itself look better, as you believe, how do reports like these are being released?

          • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 10:05 PM

            i’m trying to keep to my word and not get into an argument with you

            Your intent here is to provoke arguments. Why deny the obvious? You want to reopen the entire can of worms & try to reargue the case & defend the indefensible.

            This is the end of the arguments about video & what they say or don’t say. Go watch the video yourself, break out a beer, invite the guys, have a party. Gei gesunt. But you’re done with videos here. Is that clear?

            Finally, several hundred thousand dollars worth of equipment, cash, and other personal items were stolen from passengers. Virtually every passenger was stripped clean of personal belongings. This was not a case of individual soldiers decided to pilfer & steal. This was an IDF decision. The IDF decided to steal these items & not return them. So don’t tell me you favor prosecuting a few individual soldiers. The entire IDF should be flayed for pillaging as policy in this case.

          • Haver September 3, 2011, 1:37 PM

            Do you have anything to say about the contents of the video?

            Yes, the Palmer Committee was allowed to review any information available through diplomatic channels from the Government of Israel, i.e. from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

            According to the Palmer report none of the material presented by the government of Israel adequately accounted for the fact that forensic evidence showed that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range. The Committee also said the use of force by the IDF was unacceptable and excessive.

            You, GilGamish, and Youk ought drop this whole line of irrelevant (non-)argument.

          • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 9:51 PM

            so the famous video of the FIRST soldier sliding on board and getting hit with metal rods is fabricated?

            Palmer says firing of live fire ammunition preceded that soldier sliding down the ropes. Plus Palmer concedes it’s possible that Israeli helicopters fired down on the ship before that soldier rappeled. So given that possibility, I can understand why some might’ve defended the ship in the way they did.

            The fact of the matter is Palmer says the IDF planned & executed the attack disastrously. And that is true. It says further, that once the IDF saw there was violent resistance it should’ve suspended the boarding plans & conceived of a diff. method of stopping the ship. Instead, commanders blithely proceeded w. their plan which hadn’t anticipated any serious resistance. This is a mark of an incompetent commander. Such incompetence leads to precisely the sort of disaster that happened.

            the soldiers came down from the helicopter with paintball guns

            ONce again, Palmer makes clear that whatever the soldiers had in the way of weapons doesn’t have any bearing on other weaponry brought to bear fr. Israeli forces. In addition, Palmer makes clear that over 300 live rounds were fired during the attack with many less paint ball rounds fired. Why is that? Did it take 300 rounds to subdue 40 violent passengers & kill ten of them?

            i’m not going to argue with you

            Sure you are. That’s the only reason you’re here. Don’t be disingenuous.

            I remind you that the comment threads for this post are NOT a forum to rehash Israeli gov’t claims in defense of the murders committed on the MM. So if that’s your goal let me quickly disabuse you of that notion. If you have comments specifically about Palmer or the direct issues it raises, by all means. But that’s NOT what you’re doing. So stay directly on topic.

            I would also ask other commenters not to be dragged into the trap offered by our friendly hasbarists. We’re not going to reargue the massacre. I think we & most of the rest of the world have already determined what happened. Let me handle the hasbarists if they persist in their propaganda efforts.

          • youk September 4, 2011, 3:41 AM

            on one hand you dismiss Palmer’s report, on the other you use to prove your point. you need to choose, do you accept the report as is or do you dismiss it? you can’t pick and choose what ever you like in the report and ignore the parts you don’t like.

            btw, calling me an “hasbaratist” is like calling you a propagandist for hamas. i’ll accept it if you will, deal?

          • Richard Silverstein September 4, 2011, 9:07 PM

            you need to choose,

            No. I don’t need to do anything esp. anything you insist that I must do. You must be of the school that can’t walk & chew gum at the same time. I’ve got news for you: there are UN reports that are garbage but which do contain some truthful information or statements. Palmer is such a one.

            calling you a propagandist for hamas

            Don’t be an idiot. Would a propagandist for Hamas have published information confirming Hamas detained Abusisi & threatened his life & family & leaked information that led to his kidnapping. Not only is yr comment idiotic, it violates a major comment rule. I don’t allow anyone to lie about my views. Since you’ve come very close to doing so you are on warning. Yr next violation will bring moderation & any violations that follow will lead to a fond farewell. Your choice. Read the rules.

          • Elisabeth September 4, 2011, 4:13 AM

            I don’t see why you cannot pick and choose. I disagree with a lot you say, but if I happen to agree with something, would I have to deny that?

          • Richard Silverstein September 4, 2011, 9:08 PM

            It would be a miracle if you could find anything he says that you could agree with. But miracles do happen.

        • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:46 PM

          To be fair, the Report does say that it seems likely from video footage that some passengers were already prepared before the Israelis attacked with chains & bars torn fr. the ship’s railings. This of course doesn’t justify the Israeli boarding or the casualties or the horrible treatment captured passengers received. But it does seem possible that a small number of passengers had their hearts set on resistance fr an early stage. While I don’t credit much of the information put forward in this document, and the claim above may be false as well, it does seem like a claim worth considering & debating.

          • mary September 4, 2011, 1:20 AM

            I agree with your assessment, Richard, which is why it is so unfortunate (and mystifying) that the panel did not interview passengers or soldiers. There is still so much that needs clarification, but of course we know this entire “investigation” was aimed at quickly slamming the book shut on the whole incident, not on seeking justice.

      • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:30 PM

        Yes, I’m claiming that IHH as an organization did none of the things you claim and that you have no proof whatsoever of this. IHH did not attack soldiers. Passengers attacked soldiers, soldiers I might add who even Palmer credits as possibly having shot live ammunition at them even before the soldiers boarded the boat. Further Palmer says it should not be at all surprising if this was the fact that those same passenger would react quite angrily once the commandos did get aboard.

        So let me ask you–if you & your best friend were on a humanitarian aid mission and you saw your best friend murdered by a bullet from an enemy force even before that force boarded yr until that moment entirely peaceful boat, would you offer soldiers flowers once they did board your boat? Or would you perhaps offer them an entirely diff. sort of welcome??

    • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:47 PM

      Didn’t you know, Mary, that the MFA is an affiliate of the Girl Scouts and Arab League??

  • shmuel September 3, 2011, 5:18 AM

    A story is told of a famous lawyer who delivered his summing up for the jury and brought together a masterpiece of eloquence and eruditeness, citing all the precedents and facts involved in the case in hand. His assistant who sat next to him began to fidget in his chair as he realised that the learned lawyer had in fact prepared and was delivering summing up for the wrong side in the case. As the lawyer sat down his assistant politely informed his copanion that he had erred, but the famous lawyer was completely un-ruffled, stood up and continued: “thus far is the case that my learned friend for the defence will put to you” and immediately began to dismantle the case he put forward just a minute ago with equal if not better eloquence and eruditeness, citing counter precedents and seeing the facts in opposite light.

    In any court case, legislation, inquiry or committee lawyers will always be able to argue and counter argue with all the best of the highly expensive and extensive education they received. The arbiters – judges, bloggers, journalists and laymen – are each as good as the rest, and ultimately will each shoot the arrow and then draw the target around the mark.

    My point is that if there were not at least two sides to the arguement there would not be any need for the commission or panel to be convened in the first place.

    Courts of law, commissions, International law, etc are all conventions created by man for men in order to help society function. Any court case or finding can be ripped apart or accepted at face value, the ultimate question is whether we respect the system and accept the conventions, including the inbuilt failings, or pick and choose as we see fit to suit our personal ideologies.

    Vis-a-vis the UN – it seems that Richard on this blog, and both Turkish and Israeli governments have chosen to choose when to respect the UN and when to forward its impotence, each according to his own point of view.

    • Richard Silverstein September 3, 2011, 8:41 PM

      Well put, up to a point. What you’ve omitted is that there have been numerous courts, commission, and panels of inquiry which have taken for themselves broader parameters of inquiry and have actually attempted to attribute blame and guilt to the various sides and have also delved deeply into the issues in order to do so. Palmer did none of that. It deliberately chose to delve into the issues only as deeply as it needed in order to come up with a report which it (erroneously) felt blamed ea. side equally and allowed ea. side to save face & reconcile with its opponent. As Haaretz wrote yesterday, the report has done precisely the opposite of its intent. It has made things worse than they were before it was issued. And that’s quite an achievement.

      The reason Palmer has failed so miserably is that it is completely out of touch with both international law as understood by most of the rest of the world & sentiment of almost everyone outside of Israel & the U.S. gov’t. Palmer left Turkey w. no other option than to declare the report null & void. It was such because it was a piece of crap plain & simple. A cut & paste job convincing no one.

      When you look at the Mavi Marmara attack, no one in the world except Israel & its supporters accepted Israel’s pt of view. So now that Palmer comes along & says Israel was essentially in the right, what would you expect? That the rest of the world is going to say: “Gee, we had it all wrong all along. Israel was right. Why didn’t we see that before?” Or would it be more expected for Turkey & the rest of the world to turn their backs & say Palmer is useless because it so divorces itself fr prevailing opinion in the rest of the world, not to mention actual international law as interpreted by most other experts than the ones it relied on?

      • mary September 4, 2011, 1:38 AM

        Bravo, Richard. That comment alone is worth repeating as a new blog post. It’s a sharp and articulate description of Palmer.

  • Jerry September 4, 2011, 7:00 AM

    Shmuel provides a very good point in that pros and cons can be batted around to no end other than to make those who express their “opinions” feel right and just. Let’s take a look at the facts and only the facts.
    The occupants aboard the Mavi Marmara were trying to make a political statement and knew there would be a good chance of violence when they set out.
    The IDF boarded the Marmara 64 nautical miles BEFORE the area of blockade.
    Both parties must have expected the other to react to the circumstances in a “boisterous” way.
    The Israeli force were severely outnumbered, making them more prone to resort to deadly force. Fear promotes violence.
    The IHH or passengers had no firearms. Possibly some knives, if that.
    The IDF were agitated by the time they boarded from the pelting from thrown objects and high pressure water being sprayed upon them.
    Past violence of the IDF does always seem to be vindicated by the UN, no matter the circumstances.
    Hamas, the Gaza, as a whole would like to see Israel obliterated.
    Although no one wants to die, some will sacrifice themselves to propagate an ideology.
    Lastly, to quote an old but true saying, Violence begets violence. It is impossible to make someone like you by killing their relatives and friends.

    I could go on and on, but neither side would be free of blame. Although the Palmer report was anything but efficacious it did make one important statement, “Israel’s decision to board the vessels with such substantial force at a great distance from the blockade zone and with no final warning immediately prior to the boarding was excessive and unreasonable”. This should outweigh all other areas of the report and compel the UN to insist that Israel, at the very least, apologize for the incident.

    • Richard Silverstein September 4, 2011, 9:22 PM

      I agree with you on virtually all pts. but the following one:

      Hamas, the Gaza, as a whole would like to see Israel obliterated.

      I would agree that this is what Israelis believe & that such thinking might’ve been what informed the IDF attack at least in part. But I don’t think that most Gazans are in favor of destroying Israel. And even those who are foolish enough to believe this, aren’t stupid enough to think that they can do it.

      • mary September 4, 2011, 11:27 PM

        The old “Hamas wants to destroy Israel” argument is dog-eared and tired, and it’s bullhooey. Hamas is more pragmatic and realistic than that. On the other hand, I’ve got no problem with believing that Israel would like to see Gaza obliterated.

        Discussing this point is useless, and I do wish hasbarists would drop it because it really is just plain silly.

      • mary September 6, 2011, 6:16 AM

        I forgot to add that the IDF was not “agitated” by the protestors prior to boarding the ship – live fire was shot downward from helicopters on to the deck, meaning that lethally aggressive action was initiated by Israel.

  • Johnboy September 5, 2011, 9:43 PM

    I find it beyond bizarre that nobody points out the obvious i.e. Israeli declared a “naval blockade” in January 3 2009 BECAUSE Israel had just launched an armed attack on Gaza.

    That is: in January 3 2009 Israel and Hamas were engaged in an “armed conflict”, one that the Israelis called “Operation Cast Lead.”

    Think about that….
    Think about that….

    No? Penny hasn’t dropped?

    If Israel declared a naval blockade DURING Operation Cast Lead then it is axiomatic that the moment Israel called an END to Operation Cast Lead then – poof! – there goes the legal underpinning for continuing that blockade.

    Or, put another way: the moment that Ehud Olmert declared a ceasefire then he was also ended the “armed conflict”, and you can’t blockade ANYONE unless you are in an “armed conflict”.

    This is not a hypothetical claim i.e. Olmert did **exactly** that in 2006 i.e. when UNSC Res 1701 came into effect then he immediately recalled the IDF’s super-duper corvette’s to Haifa, thereby ending the naval blockade of Tyre and Tripoli.

    No Lebanon War = no legitimacy to a blockade of Tripoli.
    No Operation Cast Lead = no legitimacy to a blockade of Gaza

    It Really Is As Simple As That.

    • Richard Silverstein September 5, 2011, 10:25 PM

      That’s a terrific pt. I hadn’t considered.

      • mary September 6, 2011, 6:13 AM

        It’s impossible to find a legal underpinning for either blockade because none actually exists. What is appalling now is that, as anticipated, pro-Israel pundits are crowing that the UN has determined the blockade to be legal, despite the Palmer Report’s own assertion that it has no power to make a legal determination. It states clearly that the subject of the blockade is under maritime law, names San Remo specifically, but Palmer’s function was not to examine maritime law. So it stands to reason that the statement in the report calling the blockade “legal” should have been stricken.

    • Hans-Peter September 6, 2011, 12:57 PM


      Thank you for making it worth reading this lengthy discussion down to the far end :o)

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