Monday, June 7, 2010

Gaza Flotilla: Martyrdom by Proxy

Two articles, one in the June 4 New York Times and the other in today's (June 7) Der Spiegel, shed a great deal of new light on what really happened aboard the Mavi Marmara. These articles are based on eyewitness accounts from passengers on the ship, that is, volunteer participants in the flotilla.

Here is an excerpt from the Der Spiegel article describing the mood and the intentions of those on the ship:
El Sakka describes the atmosphere on board [the Mavi Marmara] as "euphoric," almost as if "we were on a pleasant cruise," he says. The ship was linked via satellite with the Internet and a number of TV stations and continuously sent out images and interviews to the world. A reporter from the Arab news channel Al-Jazeera filed a report on Sunday afternoon that made headlines a number of days later. A group of Arab activists could be seen chanting: "Remember Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! Muhammad's army is returning!"

This is an intifada battle cry, a fighting slogan that recalls a victorious battle fought by the Prophet Muhammad's army against the Jews. El Sakka, a veteran of many pro-Palestinian demonstrations, knows the words well -- and he disapproves of them. "We avoid such slogans at our rallies," he says. "I didn't personally see this group on the ship. But I recognize the reporter. He was definitely there." The other footage in the report also stems from the Mavi Marmara, he says -- including a woman standing on deck and saying in Arabic: "Right now we face one of two happy endings: either martyrdom or reaching Gaza."
And here is an excerpt from the NYT article describing what happened:
It was just getting light when the Turkish boat, packed with 546 activists, descended into chaos, and Mahmut Coskun, a Turkish doctor on board, was in the middle of it.

The crack of an Israeli sound grenade and a hail of rubber bullets from above were supposed to disperse activists, but instead set them in motion. And when three Israeli commandos slid down ropes out of helicopters to take over the ship, a crowd set upon them.

“They ran at them without pause or hesitation,” Dr. Coskun recalled.

One soldier was stabbed and two were beaten. From that moment on, the attempted takeover turned into an armed assault, with angry Israeli commandos opening fire. Within an hour, the commandos had taken control of the ship, and nine Turks, including one who also had American citizenship, were dead.
The Der Spiegel article also claims that as yet unreleased video footage reveals that the ship's passengers also fought among themselves, as some of them, including one "Arab-looking woman" and "a number of leftist European actitivsts" tried to protect the Israeli soldiers from their fellow "peace activists"!