Years of impunity for Israeli leaders may draw to a close in Turkish flotilla trial

As Turkey is now conducting trials of four high level Israeli officials for the attack on the Mavi Marmara on May 31, 2010, the question of who started the violence and who was acting to defend themselves when Israeli forces stormed the flotilla is not in doubt. The trial in Turkey could be the beginning of the end of impunity for those responsible. 

Unedited raw footage taken by Iara Lee, a videographer on the Mavi Marmara provides a minute-by-minute account of events in and around the ship. The footage shows Israeli soldiers firing weapons at the ship at least 5 minutes and 30 seconds before other Israeli soldiers are seen rappelling down to the ship from a helicopter. That is, at least 5 minutes and 30 seconds before anyone on the ship could have been committing violence on those rappelling soldiers. As there are several times when the camera was turned off, the actual time between the first shots at the ship and the time the Israeli soldiers rappelled down to the ship must be longer than the running time of the film. The footage was formally released at a press conference at the UN on June 10, 2010. Following is a detailed minute-by-minute summary of the events recorded on that film. 

The first sound of gunfire is at 36:08 on the film, and it appears to be coming from an Israeli Zodiac boat filled with Israeli soldiers coming alongside the ship. The first explosive device is at 36:13. Different kinds of gunfire sounds and explosions are heard for the next few minutes. There are close ups of Israeli soldiers on the Zodiac firing their weapons at 36:39.

The film shows flashes from guns and an Israeli soldier with a rifle aimed up at the ship. One can hear lots of firing and explosions from 36:08 to at least 37:17. 

Passengers on board start throwing things down from the ship at 37:21. Different kinds of gunfire sounds and explosions are heard for the next few minutes.

The first sound of a helicopter is at around 37:40.  The camera was turned off two times between 37:40 and 38:24

Red dripping on the walls is seen at 38:24 and someone keeps saying blood. Someone else says “I think they are using paintball looking stuff. It is not live ammunition” at 39:12.

The sound of the helicopter hovering over the ship begins at around 39:40 and gets much louder at 40:15.

The red laser light from a rifle on the helicopter is seen flashing around the deck at 39:41

We then see the helicopter directly over the ship at 40:28.

6 or 7 soldiers are seen rappelling down along two different ropes from the helicopter beginning at 41:38 and continuing until 41:58. 

The helicopter lifts away at 42:29 

Noise level from passengers on board begins to rise at 42:40

More gunfire is heard at 42:49, 43:18 and repeatedly at 43:35  and we see wounded carried at 43:29. At 44:18 Kevin, an American shows a booklet obtained from one of the Israeli soldiers showing pictures of who they wanted. We hear from him at 45:45 that they hauled two Israeli soldiers down bleeding and wounded.

The footage shows Israeli soldiers firing weapons and shooting explosive devices beginning at least 5 minutes and 30 seconds before other Israeli soldiers came rappelling down their rope from this helicopter. These facts–that Israeli soldiers were shooting and firing explosive devices onto the ship long before protesters could have struck soldiers who rappelled down to the ship –are contrary to the Israeli government’s self-defense claim. 

Israeli government forces seized electronic devices, including cameras, computers, cell phones, and memory cards from passengers. The footage Israeli authorities released–that was repeatedly shown in major media reports in days following the attack–showed Israeli soldiers being attacked as they rappelled on deck. But that footage entirely omitted mention of the Israeli gunfire and explosive devices that preceded their arrival. 

Israeli officials are now attacking the trial of the four Israeli officials in Turkey as “a cynical political process.” But the weapons Israeli forces are seen firing in Iara Lee’s footage well before Israeli soldiers landed on deck demonstrate that Israeli officials were carrying out their own cynical media spin in the days following their military assault on the Mavi Marmara. If the trial in Turkey is successful at establishing the facts, the long years of impunity for Israeli political and military leaders may finally start drawing to a close.

About James Marc Leas

James Marc Leas is a co-chair of the National Lawyers Guild Free Palestine Subcommittee. He collected evidence in the Gaza Strip from November 27 to December 3 as part of a 20 member delegation from the US and Europe. He also participated in the National Lawyers Guild delegation to Gaza after Operation Cast Lead (PDF).
Posted in Activism, Flotilla, Israel/Palestine, Israeli Government

{ 26 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. amigo says:

    Oh how I hope the impunity these war criminals enjoy will soon come to an end.

    Nothing and I mean nothing would please me more than watching Barak/Olmert/Netanyahu/Diskin/Livni/ et al in chains at the Hague answering for their crimes.

    That ought to wipe that smug Zionist grin of their blood stained faces.

  2. pabelmont says:

    How, if anyone can say, did this VIDEO avoid capture, confiscation, destruction, etc.? Glad it did, of course. Was it broadcast, radio’d out before capture was complete?

    • Iara Lee smuggled the material out of Israel inside her body.

      On June 12, 2010, I posted the same raw footage at firedoglake, under the headline “Proof of Murder Aboard the Mavi Marmara.” In the comments, people noted a lot of disturbing events, before and after the vessel was illegally boarded and seized:

      link to my.firedoglake.com

    • tree says:

      If I remember correctly, Lee had a backup satellite system capturing the filming as it was happening that the Israelis didn’t know about and so couldn’t jam.

  3. seafoid says:

    “Israeli officials are now attacking the trial of the four Israeli officials in Turkey as “a cynical political process.”

    Shooting Furkan Dogan 5 times in the back was the ultimate in Ziocynicism.
    Zionism needs hasbara and PR like we need air. And the story doesn’t hold up any more. They got away with Sabra Shatila last generation but they won’t get away with their atrocities with this generation.

  4. just says:

    I pray that the impunity does end & that the lies continue to be exposed, and that the entire world recognizes how very duplicitous the government has been.

    It may help to dispel the carefully crafted image of a “democracy that operates under the rule of law and great restraint”.

    (it may finally stop our– the US– covering up for and excusing Israel @ every turn)

  5. piotr says:

    If I recall, the official Israeli scenario, while offered in self-justifying terms, was pretty murderous. Namely that there was not one but two boarding attempts. The first was with paintball weapons, and a few commandos were overpowered and the attempt was interrupted, and the overpowered commandos brought under the deck. The second was ca. 30 minutes later and used firearms.

    The “self-defense” happened during the first attempt, the killings, during the second. Additionally we know (not from Israeli sources) that most of the killings were by “shots of mercy”, finishing off the wounded.

    My interpretation is that commandos were in the state of hysteria. First they were pumped for days with the characterization that the passengers are terrorists (e.g. by cabinet ministers). Second, IDF always goes full bonkers when soldiers are “kidnapped”

    It is also instructive to compare how “everybody does it”. Some time later there was a violent confrontation between Korean coast guard and Chinese fishermen in international waters. Koreans claimed that the Chinese were fleeing with the fish caught illegally in their waters. The Chinese defended themselves with metal bars. The Koreans used martial arts, suffered a numbered of broken arms but arrested the fishermen without bloodshed. Subsequently there was of course a diplomatic dispute about the incident, but nothing compared with the international crisis that would follow the killings of the Chinese citizens. “Kungfu versus taekwendo” story does not inflame the public like “our innocent citizens were murdered in cold blood”.

    By the way, I wanted to add link to the story, but apparently there is a lot of similar incidents on Yellow Sea and elsewhere. No other country exhibits such murderous arrogance like Israel.

    • Agreed. The sheer, murderous contempt Zionists show for any and all outsiders is frightening to behold.

      What’s even more frightening is that the ‘dopes on a rope’ aboard the Mavi Marmara were not 19 year old conscript grunts, but ‘elite commandos’, supposedly the creme de la creme of ‘the world’s most moral army’. And to think that these dudes believe they can take on Iran? Yeah right.

    • MK_Ultra says:

      While I completely agree with your assessment, I have to respectfully disagree on one minor statement:

      No other country exhibits such murderous arrogance like Israel.

      Let’s not forget ISreal’s Sugar Daddy, mentor, aider and abetter, the USA.

  6. seafoid says:

    Haneen Zoabi is there at 15 seconds. What a legend.

  7. seafoid says:

    I always get the feeling watching videos of volunteers bringing supplies to Gaza whether by land or sea that the Palestinians are like Rapunzel, locked away from the rest of the world by the people who stole their balad. And that the Zionist space they have declared in its place is poisoned by their hatred of the people they dispossessed.

  8. seafoid says:

    The arrival of the bots at 36 minutes with their customary welcome and the finest American machines of death.
    They are so paranoid in their “eternal homeland”

  9. W.Jones says:

    By the way, why do they call it a “Zodiac boat”?

    • Avi_G. says:

      W.Jones says:
      February 26, 2013 at 9:18 pm

      By the way, why do they call it a “Zodiac boat”?

      I believe it’s a brand, kind of like Kleenex. “Could you pass me the Kleenex box? Thanks.”

      However, I would like to think that it was borrowed from the Zodiac killer, given that Zodiac boats are used by serial war criminals. Well, it was a nice theory, anyway.

    • phacepalm says:

      W. Jones: ZODIAC is the name of the company that pioneered the construction of rigid-hulled inflatable boats. Over the years the Zodiac name became associated with the acual product, much the same as Kleenex nowadays refers to paper tissues.

    • Hostage says:

      By the way, why do they call it a “Zodiac boat”?

      That was the original trademark for a line of rigid-hulled inflatable boats. It has taken on wider, more generic meaning in popular usage.

  10. sardelapasti says:

    For those who are interested in the materials concerning the act of piracy and murder aboard the Mavi Marmara, there is a website maintained by the Mavi Marmara Association of the survivors and victim families, at:
    link to mavimarmara.org

    There are a number of picture and video galleries, etc. that don’t need knowledge of the language. The donation link is in the top row at the right.

    As a feeble consolation for those who cannot read Turkish, I am adding a translation of their report from the trial on 2/20, (original at:
    link to mavimarmara.org )

    Second Hearing Closed in the Mavi Marmara Trial

    Hearings continued in the cause related to the assault in international waters on the boat “Mavi Marmara” while it was carrying humanitarian help to Gaza, against Rau Aluf Gabiel Ashknazi [sic], at the time Israeli Chief of Staff, Eliezer Alfred Marom, commanding the Navy, Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin and Avishay Levi, commanding the Air Force.

    The defendants were not present at the trial, which took place in the 7th Assize Court in Istanbul. At the session, attended by some of the victims and plaintiffs and the attorneys for the parties, the defendants were represented by an attorney appointed by the Istanbul Bar. The hearings continued the deposition of plaintiffs and victims.

    “The room is too small; victims who were out of the country missed the session because it only lasted one day”

    Gülden Sönmez, Esq., Chairperson of the Legal Committee of IHH Humanitarian Aid Trust, who is also the attorney for some victims and plaintiffs, read a statement in front of the Courts Building. She indicated that part of the ship personnel had been deposed and the victims had also told about the taking of the boat to the port of Ashdod by armed force, the armed interventions, and what they had experienced in jail and at the airport. Sönmez said that the trial took place in the own rooms of 7th Assize Court, adding: “This is essentially an inadequate facility, and only one day of hearings was scheduled. As you know, there are upwards of 700 victims. Part of them are in foreign countries. Unfortunately, these victims cannot come to depose due to the fact that the courtroom is too small and only one day has been scheduled for these hearings”. Sönmez observed that the next hearing should take place in a appropriate courtroom.

    Victims’ Statements

    Şahin İbrahim Güleryüz, a victim who made a statement to members of the Press, told what he had experienced and concluded: “Even if the trial does not result in a sentence, Israel will not be as free to act as before. The trial will create at least some amount of pressure.” Güleryüz added: “This is not just our problem or only the Palestinians’ problem”, as long as such tyrants exist on the face of the earth, all human beings have the duty to fight them.

    While telling what he experienced aboard the Humanitarian Aid flotilla, cameraman Abdullah Camioğlu reported that while all his belongings were confiscated, only two tee-shirts were sent back to him –soaked with urine. The words of the Israeli soldiers who took him to jail were: “If you like the Gazans so much, take them to your country. We can be friends. Don’t make enemies of us by putting the Gazans in the middle. Our greetings to Turkey.” Camioğlu told that all his electronic devices were confiscated; “only to of my tee-shirts were returned after having been urinated on”.

    İsmail Songur, who lost his father Cengiz Songur in the assault on the boat Mavi Marmara, explained: “The Mavi Marmara did absolutely not sail to support a terrorist organization or to intervene in the political system there. The aim of the Mavi Marmara was merely to relieve the people in Palestine who are suffering tyranny. My father was on that boat. The main feature of the boat was the rule of fraternity aboard. I saw my father on television five to six hours after the assault; he was undergoing a chest massage during his last moments. He was wounded. That’s when I experienced shock. What I remembered from our last discussion was that they would at the very worst be arrested and jailed for a few months, then expelled. What we see, however, is that Israel planned what happened days ahead. Like a terrorist group, it acted according to a plan. It had already prepared hospitals, toilets and interrogation rooms”.

    Songur expressed the thought that the lawsuit represented a worldwide first occurrence, and continued: “Now the whole world, especially Europe, has seen this. They have seen the massacre on the Mavi Marmara. They have seen Israel practicing blockade. In fact, this lawsuit is worldwide a first; until now Israel was known, in people’s minds, as a state immune to trials. They thought that Israel was greater than the USA. We happen to know, however, that God is greater than both Israel and the USA. The process has started now, and the rest will have much less importance”.

    He also said: “Israel must finally see that the system cannot continue to function with tyranny, it cannot run on blood. This has to end, one way or the other. We are not asking for apologies or reparations of any kind. We want the lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

    Witness Hüseyin Çelebi said: “Zodiacs, submarines, frigates and helicopters were firing at us. We lost four martyrs with the first fire to the upper deck and 16 people were wounded then. When they found on me my Cyprus Veteran card and my weapons license, they left two soldiers to keep me for 16 hours. The Israeli soldiers descended on the boat from military helicopters and started firing there, taking aim.”

    Requested Sentences

    The indictment prepared by the Istanbul Chief Prosecutor requests a total of 18,032 years of penal detention for Rau Aluf Gabiel Ashknazi [sic], at the time Israeli Chief of Staff, Eliezer Alfred Marom, commanding the Navy, Intelligence Chief Amos Yadlin and Avishay Levi, commanding the Air Force; including a ninefold aggravated life sentence, for “incitement to murder heinously or with torture”, “incitement to pillage”, “incitement to torture”, “incitement to interrupt communications”, “incitement to deprive people of liberty”, “incitement to inflict bodily harm” and “incitement to inflict injury by use of armed force”.

    Trial Adjourned to May 21

    The attorneys in the Mavi Marmara trial, who spoke to the cameras late in the evening, stated that the judges had adjourned the trial to May 20-21.

  11. yourstruly says:

    the zionist’s greatest lament?

    that it’s the 21st instead of the 19th century?

    the helicopter attack on the mavi marmara rather than the cavalry charge at washita river?

    4 israelis now on trial for their attack on innocent civilians whereas general george custer, despite killing at least as many innocents, getting off scot-free?

    oh for the days of yesteryear?

    keep pushing the world towards the abyss, israel?

    that’ll do it?

  12. jon s says:

    W. Jones
    It’s the boat manufacturer:
    link to zodiacmarineusa.com

    There are reports of renewed cooperation between the Israeli and Turkish defense establishments and of discreet , behind-the- scenes talks aimed at resolving the Marmara affair:
    link to strategypage.com
    link to forward.com

    • sardelapasti says:

      jon s – “reports of renewed cooperation between the Israeli and Turkish defense establishments”

      What delicious euphemisms you always use! No “reports” are needed. The Turkish military dictatorship, one of the most murderous in history (but not altogether in the same class of butchers as the Zi) has always been the best ally of the Zionist entity. The Zi are still helping with the war on the Kurdish population and the Turkish attacks on Iraq and Syria. They have, however, gradually lost the support of the Turkish army, because the latter has been distanced from power by the moderate government (something like a tepidly Moslem version of the Christian-Democrats more to the West.) The military hasn’t lost all of its teeth, though, and some degree of collaboration between Turkish and Zionists fascists can’t be kept secret.
      Anyway, the main thing is that popular pressure has been so intense, in a Turkey that has partially come back to democracy, that open collaboration with the Zionists is guaranteed to bring down the government.

      Important, of course, that the Zionists are conducting a furious campaign themselves to bring down the democratic government (slandered as religious fanatics, terrorists, etc.) and get the military back in power.

  13. MK_Ultra says:

    There’s much that can be said here, for example, that it’s been known all along by those who have been paying attention to ISreal’s mad dash that it wasn’t self-defense. They operated no different with the Mavi Marmara than they do with the Palestinians in Gaza or the West Bank or Iranian scientists for that matter. Also, while the trial is encouraging, nothing will happen in the end even if the murderers are convicted. After that, it will be up to Interpol to arrest the criminals and we know who they work for and represent. It will never happen!

    And here’s a tidbit that caught my attention:

    Israeli government forces seized electronic devices, including cameras, computers, cell phones, and memory cards from passengers.

    They didn’t only “seize” electronic devices, cameras, computers and cell phones. They flat out stole them, along with all the cash in the pockets of those they arrested and their credit cards. After the fact, there was a big scandal as the murdering mercenaries were caught red handed not only with the goods they had stolen but also using the credit cards all over Tel Aviv. Once a rat, always a rat.

    • sardelapasti says:

      MKUltra – “…even if the murderers are convicted… ” Don’t hold your breath. The usual subtle signs (usual for politicized Turkish trials) are there: assignment of an insufficient facility, peripheral court, refusal to allow testimony on the wider context, lack of consistency in international prosecution to secure the accused, absence of the usual rhetoric re defendants escaping justice, intensified military collaboration with the Zionists, etc. They all say that just enough of a sentence to avoid disturbingly large mass protests is being contemplated.

  14. Neish says:

    Dear Marc. I was on board the Mavi and have done a fair bit of research on Iara Lee’s film of the attack, which you are using for your time line. (see my May 25th 2012 http://www.kevinneish.ca blog) Unfortunately I believe you or your researcher have made a number of important errors in estimating the timing. For example that is the 3rd helicopter attacking us in her film, not the first and there is 10 minute gap in the film after the Zodiac attack footage. It’s a long story but by using the time/date stamps from the photos I smuggled off the Mavi and cross referencing them to Iara’s film and IDF information I was able to fairly accurately set the times for much of Iara Lee’s film. I’ve produced a 30 minute, 2GB film using Iara’s footage with an added onscreen time clock. I have also set the timing for all my photos of the captured commandos and wounded activists. When I testified at the Nov 2012 Turkish trial of the Israeli generals I submitted this film and my photos as evidence. If you wanted to see them perhaps try to check out any one of the Turkish TV and print media from mid Nov that republished them. I have a copies with me on my laptop but I am in Gaza City doing some solidarity work and 2 GB is too large to email. Contact me if you want me to somehow send them to you.
    Bye the way I am a Canadian not an American as your article suggests.
    Kevin Neish from Gaza City.

  15. Neish says:

    Hello Mr. Leas,
    If you were interested in seeing the version of Iara Lee’s Mavi assault film, which I produced for the Turkish trial, with the on screen clock, I can send it too you via my Drop Box, just send me an email address. I can also send you some detailed information and evidence as to how I set the timing of Iara’s film, as well as my photos, via a Power Point presentation, which I also submitted as evidence to the Turkish trial of the Israeli generals. As I mentioned in my earlier email I am a little handicapped at present, as I am in Gaza City and so away from my home computer in Victoria B.C. Canada. I’ll hopefully be back in Victoria on March 10th.
    Bye for now.
    Kevin Neish