Ongoing since its May 14, 1948 "Declaration of Independence," Israel systematically reigned terror against Palestinians and neighboring states, always claiming self-defense - bogus then, bogus now, historian Ilan Pappe describing Israel as a "settler Prussian state: a combination of colonialist policies....manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural and economic life," then adding:
"You probably have to be born in Israel, as I was, and go through the whole process of socialisation (sic) and education - including serving in the army - to grasp the power of this militarist mentality and its dire consequences. And you need such a background to understand why the whole premise on which the international community's approach to the Middle East is based, is utterly and disastrously wrong," so much so that Israel is slowly self-destructing, preventable only by an entirely new mindset.
Public discourse won't admit it or that Palestinians "lost 80% of their homeland" in a few short months, about 800,000 of them either dispossessed or massacred. Then in 1967, "they lost the remaining 20%," not recovered after 43 years, nor have they received any measure of justice, Cast Lead and Gaza's siege the most extreme recent examples.
On May 31, no wonder Israeli commandos attacked peaceful activists trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gazans. Defense Minister Ehud Barak once commanded a similar unit, and Benjamin Netanyahu's eldest brother, Yonatan (a martyr and national hero), led 100 commandos in Operation Entebbe, the July 4, 1976 hostage rescue mission at Uganda's Entebbe Airport.
That was heroic, not murdering unarmed, peaceful activists in international waters, an unconscionable crime, one the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) calls a premeditated terrorist attack in a newly issued report titled, "Palestine Our Route, Humanitarian Aid Our Load Flotilla Campaign Summary Report," saying:
"While Israel continues to distort the truth....this report provides information about (the flotilla's) purpose and content," its humanitarian mission, and "the Israeli attack it was subjected to, the way in which the attack took place and the losses" as a result.
Under embargo since Hamas' January 2006 election and a suffocating three year siege, 1.5 million Gazans (900,000 in eight refugee camps), have suffered months under a humanitarian nightmare, slow-motion genocide, acknowledged by Pappe and international law expert Francis Boyle, citing the provisions of the 1948 Genocide Convention, saying prior to the siege:
"Israel has indeed perpetrated the international crime of genocide against the Palestinian people (and a) lawsuit would....demonstrate that undeniable fact to the entire world," more than ever today after Cast Lead and Gaza's strangulation under siege.
Why a Humanitarian Aid Flotilla?
It tried "to pierce the blockade....with 9 ships full of humanitarian aid....to bring some (relief) to the people of Gaza, who have lived for many years in such deprivation....People from South America, Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East....the Far East (and North America) came together, people with different languages, religions and races, all came together to bring (desperately needed) aid...."
Items included were 10,000 tons of:
-- clothes, towels, bedding, shoes, fabrics, carpets, kitchenware, quilts, blankets, couches and beds;
-- ultrasound scan devices, x-ray equipment, electric patient beds, dentistry units and gear, doppler echocardiography devices, regular and electric wheelchairs, electric scooters for the disabled, stretchers, deambulators, autoclaves, mammography devices, microscopes, blood circulating and hemodialysis machines, radiology monitors, crutches, ENT units, cat scan machines, operating beds, gynecological couches, and various medical supplies;
-- 750 tons of iron;
-- 100 precast home units;
-- tiles, timber, fiberboard, cage, plumbing supplies, electric equipment, plastic window frames, glass, steel cables, measuring tools, hand carts, nails, mountings, bathroom fittings, paint, power distribution units, ladders, insolation materials, and other construction supplies;
-- 3,500 tons of cement;
-- 50 tons of ceramic tile adhesive;
-- units compromising 16 children's playgrounds;
-- two truckloads of wood;
-- two electrical power generators;
-- electric hand tools, machines, ovens, and other hardware supplies;
-- power units (one of 35 kws, five of 85 kws, one of 100 kws, two of 145 kws, six of 150 kws, and three of 165 kws;
-- another 80 one, two and five kws power units;
-- an ETC;
-- two desalination units; and
-- 20 tons of paper.
Israel confiscated the entire cargo, claiming it would deliver select items through the UN, meaning only permitted foods, fabric items, and some medicines, most everything in all categories strictly prohibited - thousands of non-military items in total.
Summary of Events - the Mavi Marmarra Mother Ship
Its 600 passengers were attacked in international waters after its Turksat satellite frequency and satellite telephone communications were blocked to prevent massacre reports getting out and connections to other ships.
Late at night, Israeli ships surrounded the Mavi Marmarra, including one or two submarines, after which helicopters circled overhead. After warning passengers, "masked, armed soldiers....tr(ied) to grab onto the boat with heavy grappling irons," at the same time live fire began, including high frequency sounds, machine guns, and loud noises resembling gas bombs, after which soldiers descended from helicopters, shooting before landing on deck.
There was no provocation, and no warning was given. Unarmed civilians were attacked, some at point blank range, at least nine of them murdered in cold blood, some shot in the head multiple times, perhaps more as bodies were dumped overboard, and some passengers remain missing. Dozens more were injured, at least 20 seriously. Everyone was taken prisoner.
The few Israeli soldiers hurt were treated by the ship's doctor. Confirming video showed it. On board, after hearing about civilian deaths, IHH President, Bulent Yildirim, told passengers over a loud speaker to sit in the lounge and not resist, except for medical workers continuing their work. He, in turn, removed his white shirt, waved it at soldiers, asking for a ceasefire. He was ignored.
Despite good faith efforts, "the Israeli soldiers, who had surrounded the lounge, continued" firing live rounds - even at medical workers treating their own injured comrades. A doctor providing aid was shot in the arm.
More soldiers boarded the ship with specially trained K9 dogs. Passengers were searched and handcuffed. Their possessions, including passports were confiscated. Women were seated on benches, men forced to kneel uncomfortably on deck. No one was allowed "to fulfill their most basic needs." It became a "long war of nerves...."
Throughout the ordeal, soldiers were hostile and abusive, "trying to agitate (passengers) to create problems." In control of the ship, they took it (and the others) to Israel's Ashdod Port, a trip taking 10 hours, passengers not knowing their destination or fate once they arrived.
En route, "Some of the wounded were purposefully mistreated, kicked and hit with weapons, while others were shot at, despite being wounded. Some wounded people" weren't taken to the hospital. Although bleeding and needing treatment, they were kept on board, doctors not allowed to help them.
At Ashdod, passengers were taken off in handcuffs, accompanied by policemen. Interrogations and security checks followed, including strip searches down to underwear, fingerprinting, and photographing. Then a health check, after which participants were told told to sign "certain documents," to be released. Otherwise, they faced prison and confinement for at least two months for entering Israel illegally despite being taken there forcibly.
Most refused, were put on freezing cold buses, taken to Beer Sheva prison, and placed in two to four-person cells, separated from others, given no information about them or allowed to make phone calls. Instead they were told: "This is now your home, forget going back."
Requests to meet consular officials were refused. Sleep was denied for two nights. Harassment was punishing, including repeated (day and night) interrogations to state their names, and explain where they came from, and why - besides being forced to "carry out every type duty," including "carrying things, distributing things, (and) cleaning up after dinner, etc."
After nearly a day, consular officials got in. Then by noon the next day, passengers began being released to be deported. Others waited an extra day, some longer. The entire procedure was made as arduous, demeaning, and degrading as possible, the slightest reaction met by blows.
Some participants "who had left the prison unharmed arrived at the airport with injuries." Others before and during detention were seriously beaten, some tortured. Five stayed behind hospitalized too injured to leave. The whereabouts of six or more remains unknown. Likely they're dead, murdered in cold blood.
Events on Other Ships
On May 30 evening and throughout the early morning May 31 hours, before the Mavi Marmarra massacre, the Defne was harassed, told to change course, and abandon its mission, what it and other vessels refused to do.
At 6:10 AM, commandos stormed the ship, took it to Ashdod, imprisoned its passengers, confiscated their possessions and the cargo. No one on board was killed, nor on other vessels who were treated like Defne's, all personal property and aid items seized, the entire ordeal (from boarding to imprisonment to deportation) made as uncomfortable and painful as possible, a lesson Israelis hoped would intimidate others from coming, an experience emboldening participants to come back, undaunted by their intimidating experience.
Eight of the nine known dead were Turks. The ninth was a Turkish American. Most of those wounded were also Turks or of Turkish or Arabic origin. Clearly they were identified in advance. Commandos had names and photos of assassination targets, ordered by top Israeli officials, including IDF commanders to commit cold-blooded murder.
A Final Comment
Besides violating maritime law in international waters, Israel massacred as many as 15 or more passengers in cold blood, injured dozens more, some seriously. In addition, ship communications were cut off, participants illegally arrested, repeatedly interrogated, initially denied consular contact, intimidated, imprisoned, and treated horrifically for two - three days, including harassment, humiliation, and physical abuse involving beatings, in some cases torture.
Further, their passports and personal possessions were stolen. Permission "to fulfill their basic needs" was denied. Humanitarian aid cargo was confiscated. Individual testimonies bore witness to Israel's lawless, callous, and degrading treatment.
Mevlut Yurtseven, the Mavi Marmarra's doctor, said dozens were wounded, at least 20 seriously. "They forced the wounded to stand up and tried to make them walk. They did not bring stretchers. Because I protested (I) was handcuffed."
Press TV - UK's Hassan al Banna Ghani said "They set attack dogs against me and another (UK) volunteer. They gave us nothing to eat for 20 hours on the ship. They stole our personal belongings and damaged them." Volunteers were treated violently.
UK emergency aid worker Nur Choodhury explained "We were physically abused: kicked, slapped, pinched, and elbowed. Our hands were tied tightly with cables; this was extremely painful and caused us to lose feeling in our hands." They were prevented from using toilets or phoning families.
Sema Islek, a Turkish nurse, called their "psychological oppression and physical torture....very great." Turks and other Muslims were treated the worst, former German MP Norman Paech said "Israeli soldiers displayed openly raci(st) behavior....treat(ing) us much better than the Turkish and Arab passengers."
Those waging war on peace will lose, the report concluded, legal professionals already enlisted to represent families of those killed, the injured, and everyone imprisoned, tortured, abused, robbed, and subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment - crimes against humanity by a nation mocking democratic freedoms, defiling the rule of law, affording rights solely to Jews, and endorsing racism, extremism, violence and torture as official state policies, including against peaceful activists bringing essential humanitarian aid to Gazans in desperate need.
The report's final comment wondered what kind of a world they'd be "if other countries....follow(ed) the path of Israel....? What kind also when leaders committing these crimes aren't held accountable, world leaders turning a blind eye, some providing active support, making them culpable - complicit in crimes of war and against humanity, including against activists bringing humanitarian aid.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.