In his own words: Abbas NOT calling for unconditional lifting of Gaza blockade

After Israel's Gaza flotilla massacre, the Abbas Palestinian Authority (PA) in Ramallah has been claiming that it is calling for "unconditional lifting" of the blockade of Gaza. This is in order to jump on the anti-siege bandwagon, and to conceal the PA's embarrassment about the fact that it has long effectively supported the blockade, along with Egypt.

The PA also denied a report in Haaretz today that Mahmoud Abbas told President Obama Israel should not lift its naval blockade.

When you read between the lines, it is very clear that Abbas continues to support the blockade as a means to exert pressure on Hamas to achieve what the US-PA coup plot of 2007 failed to achieve, the overthrow or surrender of the movement that won the 2006 Palestinian Legislative Council election, and the placement of Gaza under control of PA militias which coordinate all their activities directly with the Israeli occupation, just like in the West Bank today.

In a speech at the Brookings Institution in Washington on 10 June, Abbas made it clear his position has not changed. He believes the Gaza siege should effectively remain in place until his US-trained and Israeli-approved collaborator militias return to Gaza in the context of "reconciliation" with Hamas, it being clear that "reconciliation" means Hamas' capitulation to Abbas' control and authority. Here is the relevant exchange between Abbas, and Israel lobbyist Martin Indyk:

MR. INDYK: Thank you very much, President Abbas. I would like to get into the negotiations issues with you, but first of all I thought perhaps we should focus on Gaza for a moment. What do you envisage the role for your government, the Palestinian Authority, in this process of easing the blockade and the closure? Is there something that you see that you can work with the Israelis on this?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: I think our government is legitimate representative of the Palestinians and the West Bank and Gaza. So any procedures, any efforts from Israeli or from the international community should come through this government, and we are ready to do everything in our capacity.

MR. INDYK: Does that mean you could have Palestinian Authority monitoring of the passages, for instance?

PRESIDENT ABBAS: Concerning the passages in Rafah, okay, but we have to return back to the agreement which had been signed in 2005 between the Palestinians, the Israelis, Americans, [and] Europeans. So one way to turn back, I think we will return with our presidential guard to Rafah. But this needs to talk about reconciliation. We cannot put them -- and the Egyptian part, they should return back to the Gaza Strip through reconciliation, and we are working on the reconciliation.

The rest of the transcript shows that Abbas' idea of "working on reconciliation" is to do nothing and blame Hamas for the impasse because Hamas has not accepted what amount to surrender conditions. Abbas is -- like Israel and the US -- using the siege as a form of political terrorism: making the Gaza population suffer as a way to put political pressure to return Gaza to the control of the Abbas-run Authority in Ramallah which proclaims defiance and resistance by day, but coordinates with the Israelis the arrest and suppression of Palestinians by night.

Misleading Guardian article hides Israel government gaywashing in Madrid parade

A misleading report in The Guardian suggests that an Israeli group has been banned from Madrid's gay pride parade, in protest at Israel's massacre of passengers aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on 31 May, just because the participating group is Israeli. The report says:

A delegation of gay residents of Tel Aviv has been banned from joining a gay pride march in Madrid because authorities in the Israeli city have not condemned the recent attack on the Gaza flotilla.

"After what has happened, and as human rights campaigners, it seemed barbaric to us to have them taking part," explained Antonio Poveda, of Spain's Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Transexuals and Bisexuals. "We don't just defend out [sic] own little patch."

The reaction of the Israeli group is vehement:

The Tel Aviv group have reacted angrily to the decision, claiming that the Madrid activists were getting their priorities wrong by mixing the nine flotilla deaths with gay pride.

"I cannot recall anyone asking the Tel Aviv city hall to either support or condemn in this case. That is not their job. I also don't recall Madrid's gay organisations condemning any of the Palestinian terrorist attacks on cafes or buses," Eytan Schwartz, a spokesman for the city told Spain's El Mundo newspaper.

"Don't they know that Islamist fundamentalists don't just want to finish off Israel, but that they also believe homosexuals should 'cure themselves' or die?"

"It is shameful that they should join with pro-Palestinian and fundamentalist groups which are not exactly tolerant with homosexuality," he said.

And a spokesperson for the Israeli group claims:

"Why do they mix politics with a gay pride procession? We were invited as an apolitical association and we do not represent the government," Mike Hamel, one of the Israeli invitees, said.

The Guardian does not challenge this claim, but it appears to be false. The Israeli group is sponsored both by Tel Aviv municipality and the Israeli foreign ministry, headed by racist Avigdor Lieberman. In its own report on the matter on 8 June, Ynet revealed that the Israeli pride contingent is in fact directly government-sponsored:

Organizers of Madrid's pride parade, scheduled for the beginning of next month, have announced that they are cancelling the invitation of Israeli representatives slated to appear there, Ynet learned Monday.
The Israeli delegation, made up of members of the LGBT association and the Foreign Ministry, was scheduled to run an Israeli "bus" in the parade, for the first time since its establishment.

Another Ynet article from earlier this year lays out that official sponsorship of Israeli gay groups' participation in pride parades around Europe is part of a deliberate hasbara strategy to whitewash -- or gaywash -- Israel's image:

The Tel Aviv Municipality together with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the gay center are working on a plan to purchase a bus which will shuttle between gay festivals in Europe and promote Israel's international image.

According to the plan, the bus will transport Israeli dancers, play Israeli music and serve as a marketing platform for Israel and the branding of Tel Aviv as its national gay city. Festival goers will be offered Israeli food and will get a chance to watch Israeli films on board the vehicle. [...]

Since the project is estimated to cost several hundred thousand dollars, the municipality has turned to the Foreign Ministry for funding support.

The use of gaywashing to try to make Israel appeal to Western liberal audiences and cover up war crimes in Gaza, including the war crime of collective punishment, and elsewhere has become part of the official campaign to rebrand Israel. It involves a specifically civilizational discourse contrasting a supposedly open, tolerant Israel with what is portrayed as a barbaric Palestinian, Muslim society that essentially deserves whatever it gets. Indeed Tel Aviv municipality spokesperson Eytan Schwartz explains to The Guardian how the propaganda strategy works:

Schwartz said that Tel Aviv had also extended an invitation to Madrid to send a gay delegation to the city.

Among other things, Tel Aviv had planned to take the Spanish organisers of the march to Gaza so they could witness a place "that is controlled by the fundamentalists of Hamas, who do not respect any human rights and believe that homosexuals should be killed," Schwartz said.

It's hard to imagine how such a propaganda tour to gawk at and mock imprisoned refugees for their "inferior" values could even be contemplated let alone actually pulled off. Nevertheless, the idea appears to be that gay people are supposed to come away feeling great that men can kiss on beaches in Tel Aviv, while 1.5 million "intolerant" people in Gaza are incarcerated, frequently bombed, deliberately deprived of basic necessities leading to growing child malnutrition and widespread food insecurity, and are blocked from entering or leaving what amounts to a giant concentration camp.

Its also notable that at least in the media coverage it is only Israeli gay men who are heard speaking. Where are the women and transgender people and what do they think?

Israeli government-sponsored cultural delegations of any sort are completely boycottable according to the Palestinian BDS campaign.

The idea that Israel's mainstream government-sponsored gay movement represents any sort of progressive element is further exposed by the fact that Tzipi Livni, former foreign minister, who bears direct personal responsibility for Israel's war crimes in Gaza spoke at Tel Aviv's official pride parade to a rapturous welcome.

Meanwhile in Toronto, the group Queers Against Israeli Apartheid has been banned from using its name if it wishes to participate in Toronto's official gay pride parade, leading many past and present honorees to withdraw their support of the parade in protest at this censorship.

Israel FM Lieberman admits Gaza blockade intended as collective punishment: a war crime

Following its criminal hijacking in international waters of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and murder of at least 9 passengers, Israel has tried to justify its cruel blockade of the Gaza Strip on the grounds of "security." To anyone familiar with Israeli policy and the situation in Gaza, this excuse is absurd.

The list of items banned from Gaza has famously included such things as cilantro, cinnamon, jam, paper, musical instruments, potato chips and other snack foods, toys, canned foods, among thousands of others. Israel's blockade has been widely recognized and condemned not as a necessary security measure but as illegal collective punishment. And the siege -- which severely restricts or bans basic necessities from foodstuffs to clothes to building supplies -- has caused real harm, economic and human devastation, including growing malnutrition among children, and persistent food insecurity for the vast majority of the population. 

Collective punishment, put very simply, is punishing one person for something done by someone else. The Fourth Geneva Convention -- which as the UN Security Council, General Assembly and numerous governments have repeatedly affirmed, governs Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, states in Article 33: 

No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited.

Yet this is precisely what Israeli foreign minister Avigdor Lieberman says Israel should -- and is doing -- by maintaning the blockade of Gaza. As Haaretz reported today,

Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Thursday that Israel should not lift its blockade on the Gaza Strip unless Hamas agreed to goodwill gestures such as allowing representatives of the Red Cross to visit captive Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit.

Lieberman told Amir Oren and Gabriela Shalev, Israel's ambassadors to the United States and the United Nations, that there was no reason to change the status quo with that regard until Hamas acceded to that minimum request.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of Palestinians holding an Israeli prisoner of war, captured while he was enforcing the illegal blockade on Gaza, Israel has no right to collectively punish and terrorize 1.5 million people in Gaza. This action is another war crime, for which, we must hope -- and work -- for Lieberman and his accomplices to be brought to justice. (Another form of collective punishment Israel has adopted is to deprive the families of the thousands of Palestinian prisoners it holds of the right to visit their loved ones).

Lieberman's words are prima facie evidence of the crime and its motivation. But more corroborating evidence has emerged. McClatchy Newspapers reported today:
As Israel ordered a slight easing of its blockade of the Gaza Strip Wednesday, McClatchy obtained an Israeli government document that describes the blockade not as a security measure but as "economic warfare" against the Islamist group Hamas, which rules the Palestinian territory.

There is so much more evidence of actual criminality and criminal intent by Israeli officials -- this is why they need the might of the United States to shield them from accountability for the crimes documented in the Goldstone Report, in countless human rights reports, and witnessed by the survivors of the flotilla massacre.

Despite Israel's best efforts to conceal its crimes aboard the Mavi Marmara evidence continues to break Israel's information blockade. Watch the exclusive footage filmmaker Iara Lee managed to smuggle past the Israeli hijackers and censors, and read Lubna Masarwa's eyewitness account.

Turkish Doctor Describes Treating Israeli Commandos During Raid - The Lede Blog -

Ali Abunimah, a founder of the Electronic Intifada, argued in a post on his blog that images of the commando being treated by Dr. Uysal, along with other photographs apparently taken during the raid that show bloodied and disarmed commandos in the custody of passengers inside the ship, contradict Israeli suggestions that the aim of the passengers was to kill the soldiers.

In a telephone interview conducted in Turkish, Dr. Uysal said that he had treated three Israeli commandos and argued that this proved that the passengers had no intention of killing them:

Activists libeled as "terrorist operatives" by @IDFSpokesperson set record straight in @nytimes blog #flotilla

Two Activists Describe Raid and Deny Israeli Claim They Are ‘Terrorist Operatives’

Two pro-Palestinian activists who were raised in the United States, and who were on board the main ship in the flotilla challenging Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza last week when it was raided by Israeli commandos, have denied a claim by Israel’s military that they are “involved in terrorist activity.”

Fatima Mohammadi, an American lawyer from Chicago, and Ken O’Keefe, a former American marine, were both on a list of “Active Terror Operatives,” posted on the official blog of the Israel Defense Forces on Sunday. The I.D.F. statement, which named five passengers on board the Mavi Marmara “known to be involved in terrorist activity,” included factual errors about both Ms. Mohammadi and Mr. O’Keefe.


Did Israel press on with bloody attack on Mavi Marmara even as ship fled at full-speed?

UPDATED: Mavi Marmara was fleeing west at full-speed at time Israel claims "rioters initiate confrontation with IDF soldiers," and had already been under sustained attack for some time.

View Mavi Marmara route May 30-31, 2010 in a larger map

The ship Mavi Marmara was not heading toward Israel or Israeli territorial waters when it was attacked, boarded and comandeered by Israeli forces in the early hours of 31 May in the international waters of the Mediterranean Sea approximately 85 miles west of Haifa. Had it stayed on its heading at that time it would not even have approached Gaza's waters.

Once the attack began, Mavi Marmara apparently attempted to take evasive action, but Israel pressed on with its violent takeover of the ship nevertheless. Nine people were killed and dozens wounded when Israeli forces in fast patrol boats and helicopters attacked and boarded the Mavi Marmara, which was part of the six-ship Freedom Flotilla that had set out to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Israel commandeered all six ships in the flotilla and forced them to sail to the port of Ashdod where the approximately 700 passengers from dozens of nationalities were held, and their property including images and video seized, until the vast majority were expelled from Israel. The ships, including the Mavi Marmara, and all their navigational equipment and logs, remain in Israeli possession.

At a certain point during the Israeli attack, the Mavi Marmara turned sharply west and sped up significantly, directly away from Israel and the Gaza Strip. It is unclear whether the Israelis already controlled the ship at that time or whether its change of course was an attempt by the crew to escape the Israeli attack. If the Israelis controlled the ship already it seems more likely that they would have turned east, toward Ashdod, rather than west.

Automatic Identification System (AIS) data transmitted by the Mavi Marmara and captured on the web site Marine Traffic indicates that prior to the Israeli attack, the Mavi Marmara, and presumably the rest of the flotilla in close formation, were traveling due south, parallel to the coast of Israel at a distance of more than 80 miles -- well outside Israel's 12-mile territorial limit. At 00:56:46 UTC (Coordinated Universal Time), or 3:56 am local time (UTC+3), according to the AIS data, Mavi Marmara was at coordinates N 32° 47' 37.3518", E 33° 31' 34.14" and moving south southwest on heading 184 at 7.4 knots.

The exact moment the Israeli assault on the Mavi Marmara began is difficult to pinpoint, but most eyewitnesses have said it occurred roughly between 4 and 4:30 am local time (01:00 to 01:30 UTC) and coincided with the performance of fajr (dawn) prayers by a number of the ship's Muslim passengers.

It is not yet clear how long it took for the Israelis to gain full control of the ship. It was been widely reported there was a considerable struggle. Israel has so far released only highly selective video clips with time stamps obscured.

Australian journalist Paul McGeough, who was on one of the smaller ships, reported:

The Israeli attack was timed for dawn prayers -– when a good number of the men aboard the Mavi Marmara were praying on the aft deck of the big Turkish passenger ferry, as it motored steadily through international waters in the eastern Mediterranean Sea.

McGeough adds:

Jerry Campbell awoke at 4 am [01:00 UTC] to attend dawn prayers but she had hardly bowed her head before she was dragged off to a nursing station to help treat four gunshot victims.

Similarly, Norazma Abdullah, a Malaysian national, told Reuters, "The Israelis just attacked us without warning after dawn prayer," adding, "They fired with some rubber bullets but after some time they used live ammunition. Five were dead on the spot and after that we surrendered." ("Israel attacked ships 'without warning,' freed activists say," Reuters, 2 June 2010).

Dawn prayers are usually performed at or shortly after the start of astronomical twilight, the period when the center of the sun is between 12° and 18° below the horizon -- when it is still dark. Passengers on the ships were observing Eastern European Summer Time.

Aljazeera correspondent Jamal Elshayyal who was on the Mavi Marmara wrote, "Just after 4 am local time, the Israeli military attacked the ship, in international waters. It was an unprovoked attack. Tear gas was used, sound grenades were launched, and rubber coated steel bullets were fired from almost every direction."

At 01:35:20 UTC, or 4:35 am local time, the ship had apparently accelerated to 11 knots and begun to turn west, directly away from Israel. At that point it was located at N 32° 42' 52.848", E 33° 31' 0.2604" and moving southwest on heading 195.

At 01:51 UTC (4:51 am local), the Twitter account @ShipToGazaGr, which was in direct contact with the two Greek-flagged flotilla ships Eleftheri Mesogeios and Sfendoni tweeted, "we have lost comms with ship, last contact was mentioning attack, we are in alert mode."

At that moment, 01:51:00 UTC, Mavi Marmara was already due almost straight west on heading 247 away from Israel and the Gaza Strip and had sped up to 12.6 knots.

At 01:59 UTC ( 4:59 am local time) the Mavi Marmara was located, according to AIS data, at N 32° 41' 5.7834", E 33° 26' 15.975" and was due west on heading 276, at 12.7 knots.

Fifteen minutes later, at 02:14:06 UTC (5.14 local time) Mavi Marmara had slowed down sharply to 2.4 knots and had begun making a sharp turn to the north. At 02:21:40 UTC, Mavi Marmara was headed straight north.

By that time, it is clear the Israeli attack had already been well underway. Turkish television carrying a live video feed from the ship was already reporting at least two people dead and 30 injured based on statements by passengers heard over the live video feed from the ship.

I was watching Turkish television over the internet and at 02:21 UTC, I tweeted, "URGENT: Turkish TV: Israel attacks Mavi Marmari, 2 Dead, 30 injured #Flotilla #Gaza," and posted a screen capture of the TV screen. The TV shot carries Turkish local time of 5:17 am (UTC+3) which was 02:17 UTC.

The Mavi Marmara continued to slow almost to a halt, and by 02:51:58 UTC (5:51 am local time), at a reported speed of just 0.2 knots, it had begun to turn east. It then began to gather speed slightly, and its last reported position at 03:17:34 UTC (6:17 am local time) was at N 32° 41' 43.5768", E 33° 23' 5.1678" and it was on an eastbound heading of 74 at a speed of 0.7 knots.

After this, there is no more AIS data. Presumably the ship was then under full Israeli control and had begun to head toward Ashdod.

These data -- if corroborated -- raise even more troubling questions about Israel's attack on the flotilla. At the time of the attack, the ships were definitely not headed toward Israel and not, at the time of the attack, on a direct track to Gaza.

Israeli warships had been shadowing the flotilla for some time. According to Aljazeera's Elshayyal, they had been spotted at approximately 11 pm local time (20:00 UTC) and passengers had been ordered to don life vests. Elshayyal reported that, "At 2 am local time [23:00 UTC] the organisers informed me that they had re-routed the ship, as far away from Israel as possible, as deep into international waters as they could. They did not want a confrontation with the Israeli military, at least not by night."

Gulf News reporter Abbas Al-Lawati (@allawati on Twitter), who was aboard the ship, told me by telephone today that he too was told by flotilla organizers that the ships would re-route slightly to "buy-time" and avoid any confrontation with the Israelis.

The AIS data does not show that the Mavi Marmara changed course around that time, but rather remained on a southerly track that was taking it gradually further west, deeper into international waters.

The Israeli account, as given by the office of the IDF Spokesperson was as follows:

Early this morning, IDF Naval Forces boarded six ships attempting to break the maritime closure of the Gaza Strip. This happened after numerous warnings from Israel and the Israeli Navy that were issued prior to the action. The Israel Navy requested the ships to redirect toward Ashdod where they would be able to unload their aid supplies which would then be transferred over land after undergoing security inspections.

The Israeli account added,

The interception of the flotilla followed numerous warnings given to the organizers of the flotilla before leaving their ports as well as while sailing towards the Gaza Strip.

Yet the navigation data indicate the ships weren't actually headed "towards" Gaza at the time they were attacked. An independent investigation -- which Israel has so far refused -- must address the following questions:

  • Where was the flotilla and which direction was it heading when Israel attacked it?
  • Why did Israel choose to attack when it did? Did the Israelis take a strategic decision to hijack the flotilla under any circumstances as a show of force? If so, for tactical reasons, the Israelis might have wanted to do this under cover of darkness and may have planned the attack to take place at a specific hour regardless of where the ships were actually located and heading at that time. The time the attack took place would indeed have been the last opportunity for Israel to move during darkness.
  • Who caused the Mavi Marmara to turn sharply west and accelerate in the midst of the Israeli attack? If this was an evasive action, why did Israel press on with a bloody military attack on a civilian passenger ship that was fleeing at full speed, especially when passengers aboard were pleading for the attack to stop, saying that the ship had surrendered, and that there were wounded on board who needed treatment? (Denis Healey, captain of one of the smaller Greek-flagged boats, told me by telephone from Cyprus that the normal cruising speed of the flotilla was 7-8 knots because the cargo ships could not go much faster).
  • Who decided and why did they decide to carry out a military operation against civilian ships when there were any number of alternatives including allowing the ships to proceed to Gaza following inspection? Did Israel decide to make an example of the Free Gaza Flotilla?

Israel's attack on the flotilla was an illegal act that resulted in the deaths of at least nine people: Ibrahim Bilgen (61), Ali Haydar Bengi (39), Cevdet Kiliçlar (38), Çetin Topçuoglu (54), Necdet Yildirim (32), Fahri Yaldiz (43), Cengiz Songür (47), Cengiz Akyüz (41) and Furkan Dogan (19).

The possibility that Israel initiated the attack on the ships when they were heading away from its shores, and pressed on with it when at least one of them, the largest, Mavi Marmara tried to flee at full speed, only compounds the crime. There must be a full, independent investigation. There must be justice for the victims and their families.

Update 1: Mavi Marmara was fleeing at high speed when IDF claims passengers "initiate confrontation with IDF soldiers"

View Mavi Marmara route May 30-31, 2010 in a larger map

In order to bolster its claim that its soldiers killed passengers aboard the Mavi Marmara in self-defense, amid a brutal and pre-planned attack by "rioters," the Israeli army released a video on 2 June apparently taken from the ship's closed circuit TV cameras. The IDF statement accompanying the video claims 

The passengers of the Gaza flotilla are seen here preparing for confrontation with the IDF soldiers. The rioters put on gas masks and arm themselves with rods, slingshots, broken bottles, metal objects, and water hoses. As the IDF soldiers approach the ship the rioters immediately attack the forces by hurling these objects at them.

On the video, the Israeli army has placed a caption stating "Rioters initiate confrontation with IDF soldiers."

The video shows passengers wearing life vests, some carrying sticks or other makeshift weapons and looking over the sides of the ship as if in anticipation of boarding attempts by Israeli soldiers.

But the time stamp indicates the video was taken at 5:03 am (02:03 UTC). If this is accurate then the ship had already been under attack for almost an hour, and at this time was located at position N 32° 41' 7.8714", E 33° 25' 10.0164"  and was due directly west on heading 271 at speed 12.7 knots. In other words, far from preparing to "initiate confrontation," the passengers were attempting desperately to defend a fleeing ship that had already come under a lethal and sustained attack from the sea and from the air.

Once again, it is clear that nothing the IDF or Israeli government says can be taken at face value -- especially when they are withholding video and other media confiscated from passengers, while releasing highly selective and manipulated materials in order to offer a narrative that has proven time and again to be falsified.

Hasbara comedy video further exposes IDF "knife-attacker" photo fraud. #flotilla

A recent video mocking the humanitarian aid flotilla attacked and hijacked by Israeli naval forces includes a litany of stock and specific "enemies" of Israel. The video includes the discredited photo of the random bearded "angry" brown man with ceremonial dagger that continues to appear in Israeli media. A cropped version of this photo appeared in Haaretz and The Jerusalem Post with the claim -- attributed to the IDF spokesperson's office -- that the man was attacking Israeli forces as they boarded the Mavi Marmara.

(Jerusalem Post)


The propaganda video however shows more of the image and it is clear the man is seated:

Either sitting, standing or levitating on a magic carpet, the man in the photo is clearly not attacking anyone, but engaged in a performance for an audience. Who keeps the original photo? The IDF Spokesperson's office. If the IDF distributed a cropped version of the photo and only they have the original, does that suggest that they also put out this crude propaganda video? If they did does that mean Sheikh Raed Salah and Recep Tayyip Erdogan are now declared as enemies for Israel? If the IDF didn't crop the photo itself, are Israeli media cropping it in a deliberately manipulative manner to conceal the context and boost the claim that the man himself or others were lunging at Israeli soldiers with knives? 

Israel hasbara fails again: Photos show Mavi Marmara passengers protecting, aiding Israeli soldiers

Captured, disarmed hijackers did not face "lynching" as Israel claimed

The website of Turkish newspaper Hürriyet published a gallery of photos showing Israeli soldiers captured after their attack on the Mavi Marmara in international waters in the early hours of 31 May.

The predictable response of the Israeli army, as quoted in Haaretz, was that the "published pictures serve as clear and unequivocal proof of Israel's repeated arguments that aboard [the Mavi Marmara] were mercenaries who intended to kill Israeli soldiers." Israeli spokespersons and media in recent days have also claimed the soldiers faced "lynching," a provocative term which originated to describe the deliberate mob murders of African Americans by white supremacists in the United States.

The photos indicate nothing of the sort; if anything they show the opposite. First, it is clear that the passengers would have had ample time and opportunity to seriously harm or kill the Israeli soldiers if that had been their intention. While at least 9 flotilla passengers were killed by the Israelis, no Israeli was killed even though it appears at least two and up to four were disarmed and captured as they carried out an illegal, unprovoked armed attack on a civilian ship in international waters.

In some of the Hürriyet photos passengers or medics appear to be protecting and aiding the Israeli soldiers. Below we see a passenger taking a clearly wounded Israeli attacker and protecting him -- not from any violent attack -- but merely from being photographed.

An additional photo, not included in the Hürriyet gallery, but posted on the Facebook fan page of The Economist shows the same soldier, and the person who was holding him, while a third person administers medical care. (Thanks to for tracking down this picture)

Another photo from the Hürriyet gallery, below, again shows a soldier who appears to be getting assistance to stop bleeding on his face with a bandage or white cloth. Of course it is possible to give a lurid, sensational and imaginative, explanation to this photo -- as the Israeli army is trying to do -- and claim that someone is trying to suffocate the soldier! But given the fact that he wasn't suffocated and all the Israeli soldiers came home alive, the most likely explanation, that fits with all the other evidence, is that he was being cared for.

Finally, the fact that passengers were giving aid to captured Israeli hijackers even as the ship was still under full scale assault by the Israeli military is bolstered by video which has recently emerged of the first moments of the attack. In the video, passengers are appealing for help and one says clearly that several soldiers were injured in their descent from the choppers, that they had been taken by the passengers and were receiving medical care. This is in the thick of the action, so it seems entirely credible that the passenger is reporting what he had just witnessed.

At about 3:34 in this video, a man speaking Turkish appears, and according to the french subtitles on the video, says that Israeli helicopters dropped about 10 soldiers onto the ship, that passengers had subdued two, and two others had been injured during their drop. He then says, "our friends are trying to come to their aid right now," and adds, "What we say to the Israelis is that no one should be injured, neither them nor us. Their soldiers who fell onto the bridge are in good hands. Our friends are looking after them, no one is doing them any harm. This operation must be stopped!"

Update 1: More photos of Israeli soldiers being cared for not, hurt

The following photos, which appear on the Turkish news website also clearly show Israeli soldiers being cared for, not hurt by Mavi Marmara passengers. (The same gallery shows injured passengers as well. This also appears to the source of the photo above found on The Economist's facebook fan page. h/t )

Video: Amid violent Israeli attack on Marmara, passengers aid soldiers injured in descent from choppers #flotilla

This raw video of the first moments of Israel's attack on the Mavi Marmara in the early hours of 31 May suggests a number of things, according to what contemporaneous eyewitnesses are saying in the thick of the action. The video is in English, Turkish and Arabic with French subtitles.

-Israel launched an unprovoked attack on the ship in international waters, firing tear gas and live ammunition onto a ship carrying 600 civilian passengers.

-Israeli commandos were injured while descending onto the ship from helicopters.

-Passengers on the ship said they were aiding the injured commandos, who were safe, even as Israel pressed on with a military attack on a civilian ship.

-Passengers were stunned by the sheer violence of the Israeli attack, reported many injured people, collected live ammunition casings.