Remembering the dead and the Rachel Corrie’s mission

on 67 Comments

Humanitarian aid workers, a firefighter, a politician, a taekwondo champion, a photojournalist, a student who hoped to become a doctor nine Turkish men, mostly fathers who leave behind children and wives.

Even while their deaths are at the center of an international crisis that is rocking the state of Israel, these individual lives lost have scarcely gained attention — firstly because the Israeli government resisted revealing any information about who died and in what circumstances, and then, while maintaining a stranglehold on the facts, Israel’s propaganda machine has worked furiously to portray the victims as villains.

The world has largely viewed Israel’s efforts to conceal its brutality with a mixture of skepticism, contempt and outrage. Yet in one regard the hasbara has worked: it has effectively sold the idea that the organizers and participants in the Freedom Flotilla were intent on picking a fight. This was an act of provocation and where opinions differ is on whether the provocation was justified or not.

As MJ Rosenberg wrote:

The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli blockade. Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.

In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to leave until they were served. Their goal was not really to get breakfast. It was to end segregation.

Yes and no.

The Freedom Flotilla is part of a movement that aims to end the siege of Gaza, but delivering humanitarian aid is not incidental.

Israeli officials and the Israeli public who see themselves as victims of a campaign designed to make Israel look bad, fail to recognize that what cements Muslim solidarity and what has turned Gaza into a global issue, is not a global conspiracy against Israel or against Jews; it is a heartfelt response to human suffering.

The Freedom Flotilla carried thousands of tons of aid, not to poke Israel in the eye, but to help those in need. The many thousands of people who engaged in fundraising, made donations, gathered together supplies and readied the ships — a grass roots effort spread mostly across Europe and the Middle East — believed, naively or not, that the fruits of their efforts would be of real and practical assistance to the population in Gaza.

But, the cynics will ask, how could a few hundred people in a small flotilla of boats hope to successfully defy Israel’s military might? Firstly, simply on the basis that other vessels had completed the same mission. But more importantly, because courageous acts are invariably undertaken in defiance of the odds. The heroic imagination is enticed by what seems impossible.

The Freedom Flotilla as David, is not challenging the Goliath of Israel in order to give the mighty Jewish state some bad headlines. This is about defeating an agent of oppression. It is not about destroying Israel, but about challenging and overcoming the injustices which Israel sustains.

As the MV Rachel Corrie now approaches Gaza, Israel’s Foreign Ministry Director-General Yossi Gal says: “We have no desire for a confrontation. We have no desire to board the ship. If the ship decides to sail the port of Ashdod, then we will ensure its safe arrival and will not board it.”

A conciliatory gesture should receive a similar response, should it not?

Don’t be fooled. Israel and the United States are now working hand in glove to try and “moderate” the oppression of the population in Gaza. While the world calls for the siege to be ended, the Obama administration is calling for it to be “new approach.” Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to be “softening” his position.

This is about moving pressure from the heel to the toe, but it still means the Palestinians remain under an Israeli foot. It’s about taking Gaza out of the spotlight in the hope that global outrage can be replaced by global indifference.

For the Rachel Corrie to sail into the Israeli port of Ashdod under its own steam would be to capitulate to the power that claims it withdrew from Gaza even while it persists in maintaining absolute control over its population, its borders, its airspace and its economy.

The Rachel Corrie must reach Gaza, but if it is thwarted, more ships will come. Israel cannot win.

(Note of thanks to Lawrence of Cyberia for compiling information on those who died in the Flotilla Massacre and creating a page where new information is being added.)

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

67 Responses

  1. seafoid
    June 4, 2010, 4:40 pm

    Israel can’t win. The lies take up too much time, too much space, too much energy. Israel can’t stop the compassion that people feel when they see the victims of Israeli injustice. Israel can’t hoodwink its own people indefinitely either. Something has to give. It will be Israel that gives. There can be no other way.

    • annie
      June 4, 2010, 6:39 pm

      lobewyper left this FP link about SA, reminds me of There can be no other way.

      the path to the negotiations became possible once the dominant ruling power in our country realised that it could not achieve its objectives by any other means, including by continuing resort to the considerable means of repression it had at its disposal.

      • J Crow
        June 4, 2010, 9:09 pm

        South Africa was not the forward base of a globe bestriding military behemoth.

  2. sherbrsi
    June 4, 2010, 4:56 pm

    The first thing you need to know about the Gaza flotilla disaster is that the intention of the activists on board the ships was to break the Israeli blockade. Delivering the embargoed goods was incidental.

    In other words, the activists were like the civil rights demonstrators who sat down at segregated lunch counters throughout the South and refused to leave until they were served. Their goal was not really to get breakfast. It was to end segregation.

    Rosenberg makes the fundamental flaw of separating the provision of aid with the intent of breaking the blockade, when the former act entails the latter.

    The analogy with segregation doesn’t work at all since segregation was predicated on not a single policy or authority, but a number of social inequalities and biases in law and jurisdiction. The blockade, on the other hand, rests entirely on Israel’s exercise of its military authority over an area where it has no lawful jurisdiction (Gaza). And that authority would be broken by the simple act of disobeyed its illegal imposition through the provision of humanitarian relief.

    It’s also important to note, that while the cause for ending racial segregation was based on moral grounds, it still challenged the legal authority of the government, while the Gaza flotilla had the support of UN agencies and was in full accordance with international law in fulfilling their journey and its objectives.

    • potsherd
      June 4, 2010, 7:59 pm

      I like Rosenberg’s analogy. Breaking the blockade is what will make it possible to deliver the goods that Gaza needs.

  3. yonira
    June 4, 2010, 5:16 pm

    The Freedom Flotilla is part of a movement that aims to end the siege of Gaza

    Thank you Mr. Woodward, I for one can appreciate their motives, I want the siege ended just as much as any of you do. What drives me crazy is those who claim this was entirely a humanitarian mission, with no political motivations.

    The aid is an afterthought, if it weren’t an afterthought they wouldn’t have filled the ship with rubbish, expired medicine and non-working medical supplies. If the aid was actually need and wanted, Hamas wouldn’t have denied it’s entry into Gaza.

    I read a report where the cement was even offered to be transferred to Israel if the Corrie were to dock @ Ashdod, but now it will be boarded and the cement won’t make it to Gaza.

    I expect to see a much different outcome on the Corrie, I don’t believe you guys will get your bloodbath like you did on the Mavi Marmara.

    • sherbrsi
      June 4, 2010, 7:24 pm

      Never stop being a Zionazi, yonira.

      Your post proves me to again that Zionists are reprehensible creatures utterly lacking any belief in the humanity of anyone but their own.

      • yonira
        June 4, 2010, 7:25 pm

        can anyone ever argue something I have to say instead of just vile comments?

      • James Bradley
        June 4, 2010, 10:06 pm

        Do you even realize how vile your comment was?

        How is anyone supposed to respond to something so low?

      • sherbrsi
        June 4, 2010, 10:16 pm

        What’s unfortunate is that he doesn’t, and he probably never will.

        I thought maybe the people here, the usual defenders of Zionism, would learn something from this incident. Scale back their advocacy, re-assess it within realistic parameters and actually give credible thought to the other side.

        But no, the idiot is full-on pushing the Israeli propaganda justifying the massacre in the most vilest terms. (“YOU wanted the bloodbath.”)

    • potsherd
      June 4, 2010, 8:00 pm

      You have a link to that report about the cement, yonira?

    • VR
      June 4, 2010, 8:10 pm

      No, here is why the same thing will not happen yonira, I posted it earlier:

      I can almost guarantee that the Israelis will not do the same thing to the Irish ship that they did to the Turkish. What the Israelis wanted to do to those “Muslims,” those so called “terrorists, Hamas, Al-Qaeda types,” sort of really confront them and slap them in the face. “How dare those Turkish scum do this?” They are trying to tried to cement it to the so-called “war on terror,” to show that Israel is the “master” of those inferior people. The other boats which had more anglo saxon white as the driven snow activists did not fit into that frame, so they just disabled the boats.

      This is why they will do nothing of the sort to the Irish boat, maybe they will disable it, there will be no confrontation – because the Irish do not fit into same false paradigm. I don’t care what they say, they will not do the same thing – no blazing guns, nothing close to the foul murderous treatment delved out to the Turkish. With the Turkish they want to show who wears the pants in the region, with the Irish who represent that bloc of trade they want to accomplish with Europe.

      Now you might say, they had a lot going with the Turkish – that means nothing to the racist mentality, they might trade with them but in comparison to their “image and false story,” they would just as soon spit in their face. It is similar to the Apartheid regime in South Africa, that would use the black population as workers, but keep them on their bantustan’s when they are done using them.

      I think that about wraps it up.

  4. Avi
    June 4, 2010, 5:19 pm

    May they rest in peace. I can’t imagine what their families are going through at the moment. They have risked their lives, like a firefighter risks his life everytime he or she go into a blazing inferno to put out the fire or rescue those trapped inside.

    Is there a fund we can send donations to for the families of the victims or for a memorial in their names?

    • Bumblebye
      June 4, 2010, 7:38 pm

      Avi, one of the men was a firefighter. Perhaps he was the one described by the al-Jazeera reporter in a previous article as hosing the Israelis when he was shot. Would they claim he was attempting to drown them in their defense?

  5. Bumblebye
    June 4, 2010, 5:45 pm

    More on how these people died:
    link to
    There are apparently 6 people still unaccounted for. Where are they (or their bodies)?

    • lysias
      June 4, 2010, 5:58 pm

      Shooting in the back of the head was a favorite means of execution of Stalin’s NKVD.

    • Avi
      June 4, 2010, 5:58 pm

      The media blackout imposed by Israel is a clear indication that the facts and the hard evidence would be in direct contradiction to the official narrative had they been made public.

      We still don’t know how many were killed. We still don’t know how many were wounded. We still don’t know the nationalities of all those who were murdered or those who were injured. And we certainly don’t know the fate of those who may OR may NOT be in Israeli detention? In other words, in the coming weeks or months, how many will still be missing and unaccounted for?

      • sherbrsi
        June 4, 2010, 6:04 pm

        Is it possible that Israel is withholding the information precisely because it has to “deal” with the MV Rachel Corrie, and is waiting to release numbers once and for all based on how well Israel “defends itself” in that interaction?

      • eGuard
        June 4, 2010, 6:37 pm

        I don’t think so. For sure, they postponed the publication because of the American link with Furkan Dogan (what could or would Obama say when that were known from hour 1?).

        Further, in general, it’s “good” for Israel when the wind lies down. Then they can drop like “and, by the way, 12 were thrown overboard (because these tewwsts made us do so)”.

      • eGuard
        June 4, 2010, 6:44 pm

        What I still don’t understand is why nor the Turkish government nor the organizing <a href="" has produced a (missing) passenger list yet.

        I really don’t get it.

      • sherbrsi
        June 4, 2010, 7:46 pm

        For sure, they postponed the publication because of the American link with Furkan Dogan (what could or would Obama say when that were known from hour 1?).

        I don’t believe timing has anything to do with it. Even after news of his death was confirmed by Clinton, she went to state that the administration still hadn’t decided what step to take with the news.

        They also shelved any plans of FBI involvement.

        The US really had no intention of doing anything else but defending Israel.

        This says it all.
        link to

      • eGuard
        June 4, 2010, 7:58 pm

        Still, Sherbrsi, wasn’t the Israel-defending more difficult when the message on Monday 31 May included: “Israel killed a US citizen”?

      • sherbrsi
        June 4, 2010, 8:13 pm


        The point is that the if America was to be moved by the death of its citizen by the Israeli attack, it would have done so regardless of when news confirming that incident was published.

        Sure, when it comes to condemnations, Obama would’ve been given more leeway to press for stronger statements on Israel. But the fact remains, even now the sentiment is that Obama didn’t defend Israel more vigorously, or did it halfheartedly. In the the UN, Obama would’ve still assumed America’s prescribed role as Israel’s de-facto defender, from criticism AND accountability. Most damning of all, when news of Furkan’s death was finally acknowledged, the US administration kept its tepid response instated, issuing perfunctory remarks and hinting at further steps, rather than being inclined to act as a government in America’s position should have.

        If anything, America should have been emboldened to hold Israel by the neck after news of Furkan’s death, as the initial response from Obama was to gain an understanding of “all facts,” and most certainly when the news was finally revealed, not much was left to be investigated or “understood” by America vis-a-vis the massacre.

      • Taxi
        June 4, 2010, 6:38 pm

        There are rumours that several activists were thrown overboard.

    • lysias
      June 4, 2010, 6:08 pm

      So Dogan was indeed shot five times, but only two of the shots were to the head.

      • eGuard
        June 4, 2010, 6:31 pm

        You see lysias: only two times in the head. It’s not as bad as in these first sensational releases. Only two times in the head.

      • RoHa
        June 4, 2010, 8:15 pm

        So that’s all right, then.

    • tree
      July 19, 2010, 3:02 pm

      Thanks for that. The autopsy report of Cegdet Kiliclar, the HHH webmaster, being shot once in the forehead from a distance matches the eyewitness accounts that describe him as being shot in the head from an IDF soldier on the helicopter as he was filming the beginning of the assault by the IDF.

      See here: Osama Qashoo

      link to

  6. lysias
    June 4, 2010, 5:52 pm

    Furkan Dogan, the student who wanted to be a doctor, was seen assisting a wounded passenger shortly before he was himself shot.

  7. Judy
    June 4, 2010, 5:59 pm

    Expect more ships!

    (This was a sign at the Philly protest on Tuesday and I think it sums up the steadfastness and morality of this movement to end the siege!)

  8. eGuard
    June 4, 2010, 6:26 pm

    Please allow me this OT: a BDS marking.
    Haaretz reports: canceled without explanation are this week performances by Klaxons (UK, see Wiki) and Gorillaz Sound System (UK, better YouTube it).

    Placebo is in Israel, probably to perform.

    • Taxi
      June 4, 2010, 6:40 pm

      They’re big UK acts – glad they cancelled.

      No explanation necessary wot?!

    • J Crow
      June 4, 2010, 9:15 pm

      “While Placebo have already landed in Israel and are scheduled to perform as planned, the cancellation will do doubt come as a hard blow to concertgoers who paid a high price for an evening of performances by international acts who will headline Europe’s top festivals this summer.
      Shocked fans expressed their disappointment Friday as others spoke out in outrage over the unchanged entrance fee. The production team, however, announced that fans wishing to be reimbursed for their tickets would be able to do so at the venue on Saturday afternoon.”

      link to

      Fans outraged – outraged! – that a band didn’t show up.

      Outraged that innocents murdered?


      Explains much about the colonial mentality. (And that also explain a lot about the United States, where the same consumerist attitude would probably have followed a similar cancellation.)

  9. Saleema
    June 4, 2010, 6:28 pm

    Has the Turkish press put out individual stories about these heroic men? I want to know the details, what moved them, motivated them, interviews of their families and friends. Where are the stories?

    • eGuard
      June 4, 2010, 7:03 pm

      You’re right. I’ve not seen enough stories, translated Turkish -> English. The source should speak English then. We have no translators from Turkish in New York.

      I recall seeing a pro

      • eGuard
        June 4, 2010, 7:05 pm

        (oops adding:)
        I recall seeing a returning proud Turkish man say like “They were afraid of us, especially they were afraid of muslims”.

    • Bumblebye
      June 4, 2010, 7:05 pm

      I followed a link at the top of the piece, but google translate didn’t do a particularly good job. ;-)

      • Bumblebye
        June 4, 2010, 7:06 pm

        No, I’m a dummy, it was a link from the Lawrence of Cyberia link.

  10. annie
    June 4, 2010, 6:50 pm

    god bless these free men who gave their lives for the liberation of others. my heart goes out to their families and their community for their loss. they will not be forgotten.

  11. Taxi
    June 4, 2010, 6:54 pm

    Autopsy details:

    link to

    • eGuard
      June 4, 2010, 8:01 pm

      Thank you for having me reading this, Taxi (my bolds): In only one case was there only one entrance wound. The other eight have multiple entrance wounds. [The man killed by a single shot] was shot just in the middle of the forehead with a distant shot.”

      • eGuard
        June 4, 2010, 8:06 pm

        My “Thank you for having me reading this” = cynical. To be clear. Sorry, shouldn’t do no subtleties these days.

      • Taxi
        June 4, 2010, 8:29 pm

        I got you eGuard.

        Really you should thank the murderers for making possible the facts of this list :-)

        But seriously, I was sick to my stomach to read it – the pattern is clear: they targeted backs of heads, faces and backs: all at frighteningly super close range.

        The swat team and their commanders should be hunted down like nazis.

    • VR
      June 4, 2010, 8:44 pm

      “According to the scientists at the ATK, Dogan, who held US and Turkish citizenship was shot five times – from close range in the right side of his nose, in the back of the head, in the back and twice in the left leg.

      The oldest victim was 60-year-old Ibrahim Bilgen, a Turkish politician, engineer and activist who was married with six children. He had been shot once in the right temple, once in the right side of his chest, once in the back and once in the hip.

      Cetin Topcuotlu, a 54-year old former Taekwondo champion who worked as a coach for the Turkish national team, was shot three times – once in the back of his head, once in his hip and once in his belly.”

      This is a familiar refrain, shooting in the extremities and than deadly shots. What this is, specifically, is a first disabling shot (hip, leg, arm, etc.) this is meant to make the victim still or unable to move due to shock. The second (and others) shots are what is know as the “kill shot(s).” So this was well planned, with the intent of murdering the victims, it is a common assassination pattern – the extremity shot makes the victim still, so that the kill shots can be done with proficiency.

      Yes that is right you murderers, it can be found in instruction manuals. I hope you are reading this.

      • VR
        June 4, 2010, 8:49 pm

        Many times this is done with mixed missions, where some are not aware of the true nature of the mission, so they disable. The others that are informed that it is a kill goal follow up with the deadly shots. At other times it is done by the same party.

        During the testimonials (if there are any in a so-called investigation) the murderers will claim “we tried to disable them, but they were rabid and suicidal and kept coming after us.” Watch, see if this does not happen during a so-called inquiry.

    • robin
      June 4, 2010, 10:26 pm

      It seems like several of the victims were shot from both the back and the front. What would explain that?

      • VR
        June 4, 2010, 10:43 pm

        It is snipers which explain the shots from both directions, it is another case scenario, where the disabling comes from some of the shooters and the sniping comes from several directions – triangulation.

  12. ahmed
    June 4, 2010, 8:11 pm

    Is it me, or does it seem like Bengli and Kiliclar (2 and 3), Yildirim and Yildiz (5, 6) and Songyur and Akyuz (7,8) look like each other. We’ve already noted that Bilgen might have been mistaken for Sheik Salah. Were these other men unfortunate enough to look like someone on their hit list.

    • Taxi
      June 4, 2010, 8:31 pm

      My impression too is that most men looked like brothers/cousins/relatives.

    • Diane Mason
      June 4, 2010, 10:20 pm

      Bulent Yildirim said today that the Israelis were looking for 16 people, and he was one of them, and that Bengi and Kiliçlar both resemble him.

  13. RoHa
    June 4, 2010, 8:18 pm

    You can tell they are all vicious Al Qaeda terrorists just by looking at them.

    Especially the girl next to Cengiz Akyuz.

  14. thankgodimatheist
    June 4, 2010, 8:21 pm

    The booklet containing photos of the leaders on the ship which was dropped by a commando and kept by an activist is in The Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul McGeouf’s account :

    “The Israeli troops had come prepared. The Canadian activist Kevin Neish found a booklet which he believed had been dropped by one of the Israelis – it contained images of the key leaders, including Yildirim and the nerves-of-steel Palestinian woman who headed the Free Gaza Movement, Huwaida Arraf, a 34-year-old lawyer.”
    link to

    • thankgodimatheist
      June 4, 2010, 8:24 pm

      BTW, Paul’s article is a must read. Horrifying account!
      (The “paintballs” often talked about contained glass. They caused nasty wounds!)
      link to

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 4, 2010, 8:27 pm

        There was an infectious camaraderie among the protesters on the flotilla – bound by politics, prayer and song, it was a finishing school for almost 700 new and articulate ambassadors from dozens of countries for the Palestinian cause. And the Netanyahu government has given them a story to tell. As with Mossad’s assassination of a Hamas operative in Dubai in January, halting the Free Gaza Flotilla was regarded as a tactical success that, in hindsight, appears to have been a strategic disaster. The cost to Israel’s international credibility and legitimacy is great.

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 4, 2010, 8:47 pm

        Israelis racist? No way!

        “Several Europeans were distressed by the clear distinction the Israelis made between their ”white” and ”brown” prisoners.
        “Palestinians and Arabs were treated very differently to Europeans or Westerners. Palestinians who asked for anything were belted, pushed around or treated with contempt. People warned me of the hatred I would see – but still, I was shocked.”
        Paul McGeough, link above..

    • VR
      June 5, 2010, 10:17 am

      “Several Europeans were distressed by the clear distinction the Israelis made between their ”white” and ”brown” prisoners.

      The Norwegian activist Randi Kjos, a woman of some refinement, was genuinely shocked by what she observed. “They treated us with hatred – the old were made to kneel for long periods and women had to sit with their arms crossed. Some of the wounded were naked to the waist … many were in shock.

      “Palestinians and Arabs were treated very differently to Europeans or Westerners. Palestinians who asked for anything were belted, pushed around or treated with contempt. People warned me of the hatred I would see – but still, I was shocked.””

      I bet there is no more shock soon, as the real nature of these atrocities becomes apparent. The racism is inbred into many Israelis, and the evidence regarding it is glaring in comparison to the treatment at the point of assault and the aftermath.

  15. maximalistNarrative
    June 4, 2010, 8:39 pm

    “You are approaching an area which is under a naval blockade,” said the radio operator, to which one passenger on the ship replied, “Shut up, go back to Auschwitz.”

    Another voice then addressed the Navy, saying the ship had permission from the Gaza Port Authority to enter the blockaded area.

    “We’re helping Arabs go against the US,” added another voice. “Don’t forget 9/11, guys.”

    • Chaos4700
      June 4, 2010, 9:39 pm

      Wow, a Zionist cutting and pasting lies. What a shocking turn of events.

    • ahmed
      June 4, 2010, 10:00 pm

      Already debunked as fabricated.
      link to

      I personally remember listening to that second video, within an hour or so of the flotilla attack. They have some gall to doctor it and present it. And who made this utter garbage. Who talks like that?

      • thankgodimatheist
        June 4, 2010, 10:04 pm

        You beat me to it, Ahmed! I was just about to post it! An outrageous fabrication, a la julian! Geez the fukkers are monsters of dishonesty.. Hard to believe..

      • Taxi
        June 4, 2010, 10:07 pm

        Killers and swindlers, always. Don’t ever forget it and you’ll never be shocked.

    • spuxx
      June 4, 2010, 10:04 pm

      I heard that tape too and it sounds fake to me, especially when compared to an earlier recording audio youtube clip that was released by the IDF desk.

      It seems rather transparent: antisemetic remark – check, anti american remark – check, and all in crystal clear audio, unlike the audio on the original far less damming tape which was pimped out.

  16. rachel
    June 4, 2010, 9:50 pm

    This is from your link, TGIA

    ” It was not clear whether any of them were among three commandos who the activists on board the Mavi Marmara have said were beaten, then sheltered and given medical treatment.”

    I stopped reading after that.

  17. spuxx
    June 4, 2010, 10:00 pm

    This website has been set up which is collating the survivors testimonies:
    link to

    A shorter summary of witness accounts appears here:
    link to

    And the NYT’s Ethan Bronner has a piece that starts off by saying that shots were fired from the helicopter prior to the commando’s descent:
    link to

  18. LanceThruster
    June 5, 2010, 2:13 pm

    I was hoping to see something along these lines. Had the situation been reversed, the personal stories of the dead would have been in heavy rotation. My condolences to the families, friends, and loved ones…and my gratitude to those individuals and organizations that risked their safety and very lives, and continue to do so, in the service of those the world has largely abandoned.

    I feel I would have been proud and honored to personally know any them. I am sure it is particularly painful for their activist mates.

  19. rachelgolem
    July 19, 2010, 2:15 pm

    9 X 72 = 648 black eyed virgins

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