Israel’s ‘self-defense’ narrative falls apart

on 66 Comments

On May 31, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu described the actions of IDF soldiers who had conducted the raid on the Mavi Marmara, killing at least nine of its passengers, as “a clear case of self-defense because as our soldiers were inspecting these ships, they were attacked – they were almost lynched. They were attacked with clubs, with knives, perhaps with live gunfire, and they had to defend themselves – they were going to be killed.”

That was before video emerged appearing to show two Israeli soldiers first pummeling with their boots and then shooting one of the victims as he lay at their feet. To stand above an injured man and then finish him off with rounds from an assault rifle can by no one’s estimation be described as an act of self-defense.

[UPDATE: The video has been edited, raising questions about what was left out.]

I have asked the IDF Spokesman’s office for comment on the video and been told that they will get back to me in due course.

An explanation from the IDF is unlikely to be swift because a decision on how to handle this matter is now likely to rise above the military ranks to the highest political level.

The Netanyahu government’s political strategy for grappling with the latest international crisis it has triggered has been rooted from its inception in the outlook that molds the Israeli psyche: whatever happens, Israel is always the victim.

Out of a national unwillingness to rise above this unremitting sense of victimization, Israel’s leaders and its population have rendered themselves incapable of accepting responsibility for their own actions.

Right now, there are at least two Israeli soldiers who could step forward, break their silence and act in the greater interest of the country they have pledged to defend.

But I don’t see that happening. Firstly, this would require an unusual amount of personal courage, but anyone who shoots an injured man who is lying helplessly at his feet seems lacking in courage. And secondly, most individuals who follow military commands do so on the assumption that it’s not for them to determine the national interest. Indeed, the orders these particular soldiers have been instructed to follow almost certainly include that they now maintain their silence.

As soon as it became apparent that some kind of investigation of the massacre would be inevitable, Israel’s minister of defense, Ehud Barak, was quick to say that in any investigation of the massacre, no individual commandos would face questioning. In other words, no one who pulled a trigger would be placed in legal jeopardy by being compelled to explain their own actions. The Israeli government has in effect promised legal immunity for its defense forces, in the hope presumably that the government itself will thereby ensure its own legal and political protection.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, has said: “Israel must pay the price of the blood it shed and the lives of the martyrs. It will do so. We will pursue this within the framework of law.”

So far, the United States, under President Obama’s morally drifting leadership, has maintained its traditional role in acting like Israel’s lawyer. But even the best defense lawyer realizes when the evidence against their client makes a “not guilty” plea untenable. Moreover, every lawyer knows that they can only go so far in loyally defending their client. Past a certain point, a loyal attorney becomes a criminal accomplice.

It’s time for Washington to tell Tel Aviv that it needs to get ready to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about the Mavi Marmara massacre. Israel cannot escape facing legal scrutiny from an international investigation.

(This is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context.)

66 Responses

  1. sky7i
    June 10, 2010, 11:18 am

    Adam/Phillip: please embed the video itself in this post.

  2. kalithea
    June 10, 2010, 11:39 am

    Is the video being censored here?

  3. lobewyper
    June 10, 2010, 11:41 am

    Paul wrote:

    “The Netanyahu government’s political strategy for grappling with the latest international crisis it has triggered has been rooted from its inception in the outlook that molds the Israeli psyche: whatever happens, Israel is always the victim. … Out of a national unwillingness to rise above this unremitting sense of victimization, Israel’s leaders and its population have rendered themselves incapable of accepting responsibility for their own actions.”

    I would be interested to know whether the average Israeli sees Israel as the victim. This victim contention seems to me a transparent and calculated attempt to deflect criticism by non-Zionists.

    • kalithea
      June 10, 2010, 11:54 am

      Of course! Zionists shamelessly play the victim card like an ace!

      But the game is up. I view the flotilla massacre as Israel’s “albatross” moment. Shooting the “albatross” will unleash a boatload of bad karma.

    • lysias
      June 10, 2010, 12:41 pm

      The average German during the Nazi time thought of himself and his country as the victims of the conspiracy of “international finance Jewry” (“das internationale Finanzjudentum” and of encirclement (Einkreisung) by foreign powers.

    • Psychopathic god
      June 10, 2010, 2:49 pm

      George Friedman of Stratfor postulates that Israel knows the press will be bad but really doesn’t care.
      The Limits of Public Opinion

      The most significant threat to Israel would, of course, be military. International criticism is not without significance, but nations do not change direction absent direct threats to their interests. But powers outside the region are unlikely to exert military power against Israel, and even significant economic or political sanctions are unlikely to happen. Apart from the desire of outside powers to limit their involvement, this is rooted in the fact that significant actions are unlikely from inside the region either.

      One could add that having the whole world hate Israel is confirmation of perpetual victimhood for the twisted psychological state that seems to prevail in Israel.

  4. kalithea
    June 10, 2010, 11:42 am

    Obama is no better than a mafia lawyer attempting to protect a corrupt client from the law and reduced to defending the indefensible while Turkey is doing cartwheels around U.S. foreign policy disasters.

    I tried to post the video but my post was zapped. Sorry, I didn’t realize it was verboten.

    • hayate
      June 10, 2010, 12:16 pm

      Obama is a mafia lawyer, that’s essentially what one needs to be to get elected in the usa now.

  5. Miss Dee Mena
    June 10, 2010, 12:04 pm

    Is any of this being submitted to the major media outlets???

    • potsherd
      June 10, 2010, 12:30 pm

      If it is, they’ll ignore it. It doesn’t fit the prescribed Israeli line.

  6. annie
    June 10, 2010, 12:20 pm

    shine a light on truth, may the truth prevail. thank you paul and thank you mondoweiss.

  7. potsherd
    June 10, 2010, 12:31 pm

    “inspecting the ships”

    So that’s what they were doing?

    Instead of hijacking the ships, confiscating the cargo and kidnapping the passengers? Israel lives in an alternate world.

  8. annie
    June 10, 2010, 12:43 pm

    may he rest in peace, may the video of his execution bring its own redemption, that he did not die in vain, that his death was an offering to palestine and to all people in bondage. may the truth set them free.

  9. lysias
    June 10, 2010, 12:43 pm

    Is this the video that was discussed this morning on Democracy Now?

    • Sumud
      June 10, 2010, 1:32 pm

      Just started watching Democracy Now, now, and it appears not.

    • melka
      June 10, 2010, 1:46 pm

      The video discussed on Democracy Now was filmed by Iara Lee of Cultures of Resistance. It is apparently 1 hour long of raw footage she smuggled out of the boat. It will be unveiled later in the afternoon, 4PM EST, at a UN Press Conference.
      This might be the video Norman Finkelstein talked about on Russia Today when confronting Daniel Pollack on June 3rd.

      • annie
        June 10, 2010, 2:22 pm

        melka, that norm video just keeps saying ‘an error has occurred please try again.’ i wonder if it’s being censored.

      • annie
        June 10, 2010, 2:32 pm

        never mind, it finally worked for me, 3 times the charm.

      • Philip Munger
        June 10, 2010, 2:58 pm

        Iara Lee’s press conference at the UN is beginning right about now – 4:00 pm Eastern. Is any news org covering it?

      • lysias
        June 10, 2010, 2:59 pm

        I wonder if they’ll cover it later today on Al Jazeera or RT television.

  10. JewishAnarchist
    June 10, 2010, 1:11 pm

    Anyone see Michael Oren on Colbert? I’m not sure he even realized what Colbert did to him. Look at Oren’s face when Colbert says Israel should send the Palestinians back to where they came from.

    • lareineblanche
      June 10, 2010, 1:24 pm

      I like it when Oren says “Gaza is a hostile entity”, as if a piece of land can be “hostile” – it’s been anthropomorphized.
      Why can’t people see that guys like that are talking out of their ass?

      • lysias
        June 10, 2010, 1:25 pm

        The Israelis are mightily offended when the Iranians call Israel the “Zionist entity”.

    • melka
      June 10, 2010, 1:39 pm

      Oh god, just watched the video, this question is just the cherry on the cake. If you take Oren’s answer a bit out of context, answering “I don’t agree with that” is priceless. Reminded me immediately of the Yes Men actions (especially the Bhopal one).

      • ahmed
        June 10, 2010, 4:46 pm

        It was really heartening to hear the audience’s knowing laughter at that question

    • hophmi
      June 10, 2010, 2:55 pm

      Yeah, he didn’t take the bait and provide you with a good soundbite to distort, did he? Instead, in true Nazi fashion, he called for peace between the Palestinians and the Jews and talked about sharing the land.

      What a Nazi, right?

      • melka
        June 10, 2010, 4:55 pm

        Oh, you know, I’ll let all the audio distortion shenanigans to others. Plus I advertise it when I take something out of context and/or modify it.

      • melka
        June 10, 2010, 4:57 pm

        Forgot to mention your use of the word “Nazi” : according to Mike Godwin, we won’t be able to discuss more. Sorry.

  11. melka
    June 10, 2010, 1:25 pm

    What bothers me on this video is the big white-on-red “FURKAN’S DEATH”, the music and the commentary added (the circled zones and text, not the actual audio commentary, but I’m not sure this audio track is the good one, I think I heard it on the other video where the 3 reporters are talking in english, turkish, etc… and taking turns). If people want to prove something, they shouldn’t take the same course as the IDF and MFA by pointing zones and saying “look, that’s what’s happening, we are right”. Using the same methods as the ennemy won’t help the cause.
    I’m not a big weapon connoisseur, but if it’s live ammo, shouldn’t we see a flare at the tip of the cannon ?
    Once again, I’m just raising these points but don’t worry, I just want the truth, I’m no hasbaratista :)

    • Colin Murray
      June 10, 2010, 2:03 pm

      I’m not a big weapon connoisseur, but if it’s live ammo, shouldn’t we see a flare at the tip of the cannon ?

      I haven’t kept up with firearms for a very long time, but not necessarily. The rifle could have a flash suppressor and they could have used flash-reducing ammunition, i.e. the powder included flash reducing chemicals. I believe the trade-off is less-flash/more-smoke. It would make sense to use this kind of ammunition for a night operation.

      Digital analysis of the original imagery should be able to easily tell. I doubt that any flash reducing system could get rid of enough visible light for a flash to be undetectable in original unaltered imagery using simple image contrasting software. If I have time tonight, I might take a look.

  12. lysias
    June 10, 2010, 1:34 pm

    Lead Financial Times editorial today, No alternative but to sanction Iran, basically confesses that Israel is blackmailing the world with its threats to attack Iran:

    If the world is not to drift towards a military conflict involving Iran and Israel that would spell disaster for the region and the world, a way forward still needs to be found. The best hope is that some variant of the Franco-Russian or Turkish-Brazilian proposals for uranium transfer can be revived. The west has left open the door to further discussions on the latter plan. And by voting against the sanctions, the Turks and Brazilians have potentially presented themselves as honest brokers.

  13. Debonnaire
    June 10, 2010, 1:53 pm

    Amazing. This shit makes the Waffen SS look like choir boys. Has this video aired anywhere on any station?

  14. Susan Johnson
    June 10, 2010, 1:55 pm

    Back to the Mavi Maranara, Israeli soldiers, passengers, truth and unanswered questions…..what ever happened to the six missing passengers? Did they drown, become Israeli hostages, miss boarding at the beginning? Why no answers…apologies if explanations were provided and I missed them. My take is someone must be hiding something, probably Israel. If they never made it aboard the ships I don’t think the freedom flotilla wpold have remained silent.
    Does anyone have information?

    • lysias
      June 10, 2010, 2:00 pm

      I wonder if the Israelis might have had agents on board, who have since chosen to disappear.

      • melka
        June 10, 2010, 2:02 pm

        Iara Lee talked on Democracy Now this morning, she said that it’s possible those people were undercover agents but as she has not enough information, she truly don’t know where those missing persons are.

      • Colin Murray
        June 10, 2010, 3:20 pm

        I remember reading a passenger account of seeing a Malaysian doctor and an Indonesian being shot, and IIRC, killed. I don’t think that either nation has diplomatic relations with Israel, and don’t know if there if anyone acting for them (as the Swiss do between Iran and the US).

        Perhaps the account was completely wrong or they were wounded, but the organizers really need to get this squared away. Leaving prisoners or slain behind with the Israelis would be abominable.

      • potsherd
        June 10, 2010, 2:27 pm

        Ostrovsky thinks the snake in the garden of Eden was a Mossad agent.

        Not that I doubt the Mossad would do this, but I’d rather see it from someone but Ostrovsky.

      • Shmuel
        June 10, 2010, 3:09 pm

        Ostrovsky thinks the snake in the garden of Eden was a Mossad agent.

        My money’s on Eve.

      • Colin Murray
        June 10, 2010, 3:37 pm

        I agree, but think it highly likely that Mossad had people keeping tabs on the ships in port to supplement other surveillance. I also think it almost certain that we shared intelligence with them. The Navy tries to keep tabs on every seagoing ship in the world, and tracking a high profile flotilla in the Eastern Med would be less than trivial.

        This kind of sharing could have been authorized at a far lower level than President Obama, based on DoD experience with a different kind of data. He probably wouldn’t even know about it if he didn’t ask Gen. Jones or Admiral Mullen to look into it, and its not as if he doesn’t have the Gulf of Mexico, North Korea, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and a deteriorating economy to distract him from keeping close tabs on every Israel temper tantrum. In fact, I bet it’s institutionalized and we regularly feed Israel ship data for them to keep tabs on potential arms shipments to Syria, Hamas, and Hizbullah.

      • Avi
        June 10, 2010, 6:01 pm

        Ostrovsky is a Zionist. He may disagree with some of Israel’s policies or the politics that led to his leaving the Mossad, but at the end of the day he’s a Zionist.

        The claim that the missing 6 were agents, seems like disinformation. The organizers of the flotilla should have a manifest of all the passengers on the ship. Why is there so much confusion?

      • melka
        June 10, 2010, 6:12 pm

        Why is there so much confusion?
        You see, that’s where Israel will be stronger than all the activists and good-willing people : they are a little bit organized. They are all telling the same lie and using the same source, and marketing professionals know that well, repeat the same thing all over again, people will believe it. Plus the media bias/lazyness.

      • MRW
        June 10, 2010, 8:23 pm

        but I’d rather see it from someone but Ostrovsky

        Why? You dont think he’s credible?

        In case I dont make it back to this thread, I find Ostrovsky highly credible. Claire Hoy, who wrote his first book for him, has impeccable Canadian parliamentarian journalistic credentials. Impeccable. He had a 30-year reputation to protect. And he demanded original source material, and the right to double and triple check every inch of Ostrovsky’s story, which he says in the intro, he did. Also said it on the radio. Why do you think Israel went to the US Supreme Court in 1990 or 1991 to stop publication of the book?

        Hoy was such a pain-in-the-ass about research and evidence and proof that Ostrovsky did his second book on his own.

      • potsherd
        June 10, 2010, 8:55 pm

        What is also possible is that that people on the ship suspected others of being Israeli agents.

    • Miss Dee Mena
      June 10, 2010, 2:05 pm

      Have the flotilla organisers, who presumably would have had full lists and details of all those who boarded, accounted for all on board?

  15. robin
    June 10, 2010, 1:56 pm

    I agree with Melka here. It’s possible that the video shows an execution. But it is not at all definitive to my eyes. Couldn’t that be a paintball gun? Knowing that soldiers had them, I would guess that that’s what it is, given that the soldier seems to be pumping it. And weren’t almost all the dead killed by ammunition that would have been fired from a handgun? And what’s more, we cannot even see the victim.

    Not trying to be an apologist here. It certainly seems like passengers were executed based on the autopsy results. But let’s not overstate our evidence and hurt our credibility.

    • Colin Murray
      June 10, 2010, 2:06 pm

      You make very good points.

    • MRW
      June 10, 2010, 2:15 pm

      I thought the paintball guns were on the other ships. You can hear shots.

    • potsherd
      June 10, 2010, 2:27 pm

      Paintball guns don’t do muzzle flashes.

    • ddi
      June 10, 2010, 2:34 pm

      I think this is a riot shotgun, most likely using less than lethal “bean bag” type shotgun shells.

      • ddi
        June 10, 2010, 2:46 pm

        OK, I’ve found something VERY interesting

        link to

        “He said all but one of the bullets retrieved from the bodies came from 9mm rounds. Of the other round, Ince said: “It was the first time we have seen this kind of material used in firearms. It was just a container including many types of pellets usually used in shotguns. It penetrated the head region in the temple and we found it intact in the brain.”

        In light of this, I think it’s very likely that this video shows an actual execution.

    • melka
      June 10, 2010, 2:39 pm

      I haven’t found any source about the type of weapons used. What I only know is that they’ve found 30 bullet wounds (not sure they found the bullets) in the bodies of the 9 dead people, but I don’t know if they are 9mm or other caliber.
      This might be a paintball gun but, and I state it once again I’m not an expert with firearms, the weapon might be an AK47 or a sniper rifle like a Remington M24. According to, the Israeli special forces uses this kind of weapon (and a whole lot more). I don’t see the bullet magazine on the video, but maybe the IDF “soldier” was just loading one bullet in the chamber ? In the case of the sniper rifle, it’s often manually reloaded + we can see some sort of scope on the top of the weapon…
      All of this is just thought thrown in the wild so that maybe we can get closer to the truth, but as long as we don’t have full footage, nobody can know for sure.

      • ddi
        June 10, 2010, 2:54 pm

        I’m 100% certain that the weapon used is a pump-action shotgun.

      • JewishAnarchist
        June 10, 2010, 2:59 pm

        This Reuters report on the autopsy results claimed…

        …all but one of the bullets retrieved from the bodies came from 9mm rounds. Of the other round, Ince said: “It was the first time we have seen this kind of material used in firearms. It was just a container including many types of pellets usually used in shotguns. It penetrated the head region in the temple and we found it intact in the brain.”

        There is also this interview with former US Marine, Kenneth O’Keefe but, then again, he is a “terrorist”.

      • melka
        June 10, 2010, 3:31 pm

        Interesting, he says they disarmed one who had a pistol with live ammo and another with an assault rifle. He did not use the words “paintball” or whatever (that doesn’t mean they didn’t have paintball weapons, just that Ken did not touch one). Coming from an ex-marine, I think that’s important to note.

      • Colin Murray
        June 10, 2010, 3:44 pm

        Also, we don’t know that whoever is being shot in this video, by paintgun or firearm, is one of the already accounted for wounded and dead. If it’s one of the wounded, they might have memory enough of the incident to be sure that it was them.

      • Colin Murray
        June 10, 2010, 3:48 pm

        arg didnt’ past last sentence
        Incongruities with Turkish autopsy data, i.e.. all but one bullet were 9mm and the rifle in the video probably isn’t, could be because the victim’s body has not yet been releasedd.

    • Ael
      June 10, 2010, 3:09 pm

      Submachinegun ammo is often the same as pistol ammo (e.g. 9mm)

      Submachineguns are often favored in close quarter fighting (such as urban warfare) where a longer weapon such as an M16 would be clumsy.

      • potsherd
        June 10, 2010, 8:57 pm

        The original name for them was “machine pistol.”

  16. Julian
    June 10, 2010, 2:44 pm

    According to reports I read, but can’t find now, all the deaths were from 9mm bullets.

  17. sam
    June 10, 2010, 4:14 pm

    I am totally against any investigation that would find these soldiers guilty. It is even worse if the Israelis conduct a “free, fair and independent” investigation to find them guilty, but just as bad if the international community does it. To be sure, the soldiers are guilty. But it is not them that should be judged but Israel and its government. And even that is not enough. it is not enough to impeach Netenyahu or jail a few ministers. Because they alone are not guilty. The occupation should be on trial, it is guilty, and everyone who supports it. To punish any single individual without ending the occupation, giving the Palestinians the right to return, etc. would simply be strengthening Israel’s stature. “See,” the pundits will say, “Israel respects international law, they have independent investigations, they submit their criminals to our courts, etc.” All the while the occupation, the siege, the dispossession will continue.
    There should be an investigation but not one whose sole aim is to find guilt in individuals and shift blame from the occupation. An investigation that leads to Israel being guilty should recommend sanctions and boycott – this is what Goldstone should have recommended, and not a trial.

    • MRW
      June 10, 2010, 8:27 pm

      The international “Law of the Sea” takes legal precedence.

  18. Menachem
    June 10, 2010, 10:12 pm


    the gun isn’t even being discharged!!!!! hahaahahahaa

    you guys are awesome, LOL!!! the moment of death!!! all that is missing is something leaving the barrel of the gun!

    • Shingo
      June 10, 2010, 10:21 pm

      “the gun isn’t even being discharged!!!!! hahaahahahaa”

      And you know this because?????

      “you guys are awesome, LOL!!!”

      Not as awesome as the IDF, who’ve already been caught doctoring audio and confiscating video, lying about Al Qaeda links, lying abotu guns being ion the ship.

      HJey Menachem.  Why do you supposed the chicken shit IDF aren’t returniung the video footage?

      “all that is missing is something leaving the barrel of the gun!”

      The next thing you’ll argue is that the marking on the rounds are not standard IDF issue.  What a flatulent little troll you are?

  19. Rumpel
    June 11, 2010, 4:31 am

    Wearing my ex-Army hat, I have to say that doesn’t look like a shooting.

    I don’t recognise the weapon, but it looks like the soldier’s either clearing a stoppage or cocking it after reloading (NSPs, or safety drills, for both are identical, depending on the nature of the stoppage). That doesn’t preclude him having shot the victim immediately beforehand, but if he did, it’s off-camera.

  20. Rowan
    June 11, 2010, 5:34 am

    Have you seen Ostrovsky’s paintings? Some of them can only be described as pornographic fantasies about Mossad girls. You may recall the improbable claim in one of his books that at the end of their training the new Mossad inductees come to a great big sex orgy at HQ.

    Still, you know, the guy has to make a living, somehow.

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