Yesterday, President Obama held a joint press conference with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Although the focus was on Syria, and the myriad scandals overtaking the White House in the past week, Israel/Palestine came up as well. Here Erdoğan discusses his upcoming trip to Gaza and the ongoing negotiation over reparations for the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara (at 12:20 in the video above):
With respect to the Middle East peace process, we discussed with the President this important issue, which is very important for regional peace. In the attack against Mavi Marmara, which was taking humanitarian aid to Gaza, Turkish citizens and one Turkish-American citizen were killed. And as you know, we are working with the Israeli government for compensation for those who lost their lives. And the visit that I will pay to Gaza will contribute to the peace in Gaza and to unity in Palestine, in my opinion.
The Center for Constitutional Rights timed yesterday’s visit with the release of a letter to Obama urging an U.S. investigation into the killing of 18-year-old U.S. citizen Furkan Doğan on the Mavi Marmara.
The letter signed by CCR’s Executive Director Vince Warren reads (PDF):
Dear President Obama,
In recent months, you have commendably offered condolences to families who have lost their children to gun violence. However, one family has been excluded from your offers of sympathy for the past three years: that of Furkan Doğan, an 18 year old American citizen, killed in May 2010, when he was shot five times at close range during the Israeli attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla in international waters. On the occasion of the visit of Prime Minister Erdoğan to the United States, and his mention today at your joint press conference of the flotilla attack and killings, we call upon you to finally publically acknowledge the killing of Furkan Doğan by Israel and support a U.S. investigation into his death.
Like many other young Americans, Furkan had high ambitions for his future and was deeply concerned for the suffering of others, especially children. In 2010, the summer before he planned to start medical school, Furkan asked his parents for permission to participate in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza in an effort to alleviate the suffering of Palestinians due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza. His parents, proud of their son’s conviction, reluctantly allowed him to make the journey, never imagining the violence that he would encounter and believing that the U.S. would protect him if anything were to happen. On May 31, 2010, however, Israeli commandos attacked the flotilla and shot Furkan four times from behind and once in his face. According to forensic analysis, the wound to Furkan’s face was from a bullet shot at point blank range and was compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on his back on the ground.
Despite this disturbing evidence, the U.S. has yet to launch an investigation into Furkan’s death. Indeed, records released as a result of CCR’s litigation of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests reveal the U.S. government’s position that it would not investigate Furkan’s death. Disturbingly, the government’s own internal documents show that it engaged in diplomatic efforts with particular attention to preventing a fully independent, credible investigation into the attack that cost the life of a U.S. citizen, and eight other civilians. Instead, the U.S. effectively deferred to Israel‘s investigation, which exonerated all of the Israeli soldiers involved in the attack and failed to provide any details regarding Furkan’s killing. Moreover, despite the United Nations Human Rights Council (HRC)’s report concluding that Furkan’s death amounted to extra-legal summary execution, the U.S. has never acknowledged these specific findings, let alone pursued accountability for Furkan’s death; instead the U.S. opposed the HRC resolution welcoming the report.
Recently, the Israeli government apologized to Turkey, acknowledging “a number of operational mistakes” that might have led to the loss of life or injury. Despite these admissions, the U.S. still has not publically called upon Israel to provide any detailed information on Furkan’s death or made any public call for accountability regarding his killing. The silence from the U.S. in relation to the killing of its citizen and eight other civilians effectively results in impunity. Furthermore, it sends a message that the government will tolerate the killing of U.S. human rights defenders by Israel.
CCR calls upon you to publically acknowledge the killing of Furkan Doğan by Israel and support genuine accountability for the attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla that took Furkan’s life and the lives of eight others. Specifically, we call for a U.S. investigation into Furkan’s killing.
(h/t Josh Ruebner)