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‘Lynch’ Mob

IDF video of Israel’s raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla tells a different story

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In the Past

Israel’s mistake is trying to resolve new political problems with outdated military solutions

Israel Bites the Bait

Assessing the fallout from yesterday’s raid on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’

Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Hamas Free Gaza Movement, told the New York Times in a telephone interview from Cyprus today that Israeli soldiers dropped onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara and “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning.” That is undoubtedly the version of events that will be believed throughout the Middle East, where any anti-Israel theory is swallowed whole. But those not merely motivated by ideology might reach a rather different interpretation of what happened, thanks to the videos of the event released yesterday by the Israel Defense Forces.

The least-convincing video came first—a long-shot showing much of the vessel from above, presumably from a camera on one of the helicopters that inserted the commandos. The footage is grainy because the raid occurred in the early morning hours and was filmed with a night-vision lens. The figures are seen from a distance. They’re tiny. The only way you can tell what’s happening is from labels inserted by the IDF—e.g., “The first soldier is injured and thrown to the deck.”

Much better footage was released a few hours later. In a close-up shot you can actually see the troops descending on ropes and being set upon by an angry mob. The “peaceful” passengers wielding chairs and metal rods are clearly visible. So, too, is the horrifying sight of a soldier going head-first overboard.

A third video is almost entirely dark, but the soldiers’ conversation in Hebrew—with English subtitles provided by the IDF, but an accurate translation—tells the story. “It’s coming from all directions,” they shout. “We need to be evacuated now! Real weapons, real weapons! They are firing on us. There is live fire below.” As much as the words the desperate tone of the radio chatter conveys the magnitude of what was occurring.

This is further confirmed in an interview posted by the IDF with one of the commandos, whose arm is in a sling and whose face is obscured. “Every guy that descended was met by three or four people,” he says. “And they just started beating him up, tearing him to pieces. It was a lynch.”

Israel’s enemies long ago realized how potent propaganda warfare could be. They have made ample use of video cameras and Internet postings; Hezbollah even has its own satellite channel. Israel has been late to realize the importance of information warfare, but in its response to the Gaza flotilla dust-up it is finally casting aside the instinctive secretiveness of the military to give the world a view of what actually happened. Of course that won’t change the minds of many who are instinctively anti-Israel. But it’s better than simply ceding the information battlefield as Israel has done too often in the past.

Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today.

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warey says:

You break into my house, with balaclavas and guns, and you then describe my attempts to kick you out as aggressive? You then proceed to shoot my family and have the Gaul to blame me?

Israel stormed an international humanitarian aid convoy, in international waters and proceeded to gun down 19 aid workers in cold blood. Yet Israel is the victim.

i wonder if you would have written a similar article if it was iran that attacked an aid ship and gunned down 19 aid workers?

Strelnikov says:

I think the commandos got the response they did because the crews and activists were afraid that the Zahalniks were going to place explosive charges inside the ships and demolish them….if France can sink a Greenpeace ship, Israel can do the same to a humanitarian flotilla. Whomever approved the assault on the Gaza flotilla should either lose two ranks or be deported, preferrably to Siberia. Also, in respose to this the Turkish Navy is going to escort the next Gaza convoy and Egypt has opened its border with Gaza, so in the broad Israel fails again.

BTW warey, it’s “gall”, not the tribal name of the ancient French. And Max “give `em the” Boot would applaud an Iranian attack of an aid ship as a justification to attack Iran.

The truth says:

Warey; You must be deaf, dumb and blind, or just a raging anti-semite who believes that Jews shouldn’t defend themsleves. It was the terrorist convoy who was breaking into Israel’s house to aid and abet a terrorist group who has murdered thoussands of Jewish women and children. Israel had every right to inspect what was on the ship. The convoy was warned several times that they would be searched. Israel had already searched 5 of the convoys without incident. This convoy was filled with radical Islamists terrorists who chanted “Kill the Jews” as they boarded the boat.

The Israeli soldiers were viciously attacked with knives, axes, and guns as they boarded the boat. One soldier was thrown overboard and critically injured. This wasn’t an aid boat filled with aid workers. It was a terrorist aid boat filled with terrorists. The Israeli soldiers had no choice but to open fire. They were about to be killed which is what you obviously.

samg says:

“the israeli soldiers had no choice but to open fire.” what nonsense.
what stupidity. not on the part of the soldiers, who were in that position, but on the part of the generals and politicians who sent them onto those boats. every now and then, israeli leaders abandon their yiddushe kup, and take on a distinctly goyishe kup. what kind of stupidity was this. it’s unforgiveable. do you really think american jews, who are, after all, the basis for the only allies israel has in this world, are going to buy into this ridiculous argument? not in a million years. benjamin netanyahu the idiot ought to read peter beinart’s article in the ny review of books. so should israel’s supporters among tablet readers. that’s what’s real. and it’s going to get more real as time passes. and israel is going to have to figure out what to do based on it. which is not sending commandos down helicopter ropes to take over ships trying to bring supplies to gaza.
there’s gotta be a better, smarter, jewish way to make sure the wrong stuff doesn’t get in. this idiot incident is more reminiscent of bush and cheney than of ben gurion, golda and rabin. the day we jews switch to goyishe kups is the day we can forget about israel. unfortunately, we’re getting closer to that day.

If you break into my ship in international waters, armed and ready for conflict, then it defies credibility to say you were surprised by the reaction you got. Seems clear (and sad) that the Israeli version of events is being uncritically reported by Max Boot. How about a more critical look at the way Israel blockades and starves the people of Gaza and why these flotillas exist in the first place? This kind of reporting was the same baloney that was served up during the Gaza war — 9 people dead on the ship, and the IDF is the victim. C’mon! Try not to be instinctively pro-Israel if you critique other people for being instinctively anti-Israel.

David44 says:

A couple of questions about these videos. First, what happened immediately prior to them? The people on board the ship have claimed that the deck came under attack from the Israeli helicopters and gunships _before_ the commandos descended. _If_ that is so (and I’ve no idea whether it is), it changes the context considerably – but the videos don’t show whether or not that is true. The second question is at what stage the commandos actually opened fire and killed people, and what their situation was at that point. Again, the videos don’t show that – and again, that is the crucial context that matters if we are assessing whether the killings were justified.

The bottom line is that these videos have been heavily edited so as to present Israel in the best possible light. Anyone who forms their judgement on the basis of them is either a propagandist or an idiot (and I include Mr Boot in that).

Sam says:

This is from Ha’aretz. Seems like the IDF is either stupid or murderous or maybe both.

Also unclear is why the soldiers were not given clear orders not to open fire with live ammunition under any circumstances. The IDF has sufficient means for gaining control over rioting mobs using non-lethal force. And if the navy brass informed the decision-makers that there was a reasonable chance that firearms and other weapons would be used and civilians killed, then there is room for doubting the judgment of the policy makers who approved this mission.

Either way, the inefficiency and the panic that overwhelmed the commandos, leading to the deaths of so many, raises worrying questions about their skillfulness and operational capability.

benjamin says:

This really isn’t difficult. The flotilla was illegal. Those on board initiated the violence and are solely responsible for it. Israel is completely in the right and anyone who says otherwise is lying.

Strelnikov says:

Ben, they were in international waters. Such an attack falls under the definition of “piracy” in international law (because there is no definition for “seagoing police riot” in the books just yet.)

BTW, there would have been no violence if the commandos had not boarded the ship. Also, by your definition the ships sailing to Dunkirk in 1940 would be “illegal.”

Happy and Proud says:

Steinlnikov: You are completely wrong. There was no “piracy” involved. Under international law, nations may enforce blockades within international waters. Look it up. You have no idea what you’re talking about.

The U.S. and every other nation in the world enforces its borders. That’s exactly what Israel did. The dead and injured were terrorists who attempted to murder lawfully acting representatives of Israel.

If you don’t like the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

benjamin says:

By your definition every navel war ever fought would be illegal. Why are you lying?

Sam Stein says:

Benjamin — For you Israel can do no wrong. So it’s useless arguing. For all those of us not steeped in romantic love for Israel, its clear the flotilla was attacked with maximum force to provoke a violent reaction and cause casualties — in order to teach others a lesson. This was the Gaza War strategy; this is the Gaza siege strategy. Israeli politicians have openly talked about this — “put the Palestinians on a diet;” “teach them a lesson;” “show them we are masters.” Disgusting. Not the peace and justice Judaism I know.

Old Rockin' Dave says:

Let’s be clear on a couple of things. Niceties of language aside, Hamas is at war with Israel, and a blockade is a legitimate tool of war. There is no legal requirement that a blockade runner be in any specified territorial waters. The government of Israel was not required to pretend this was an innocent pleasure cruise until the ships ran into Gazan waters. Israel warned the ships that they would be stopped and they chose to continue.
Let us also question the wisdom of those who attacked the Israeli troops. No one can believe they came intending to kill. However much you believe in the rightness of your actions, it is just burning stupid to attack armed people with crowbars, chains or their own guns. If someone swinging a crowbar was shot by a cop in Des Moines or Dublin or Diyarbakir, few would call him a victim; most would call him a fool. Dispute the rights and wrongs how you will, the troops had a right to defend their own lives and the attackers who provoked the deadly response share in the blame.

Ralph says:

The propaganda purpose of this heavily edited video is clear. Those who treat it as dispositive are fooling only themselves. Where is the footage from the moments BEFORE the commandos landed when the passengers agree the shooting began? And where is the footage afterward when the commandos killed civilians with multiple close range shots to the head?

All this footage shows is that the passengers did not maintain Ghandian non-violent discipline while their fellows were being shot. This is not, BTW, a requirement under the law of the sea.

Does anybody doubt for a second that if this action had been carried out by Iran what the response of Israel’s apologists would have been?

The brutality of this attack is, of course, an outgrowth of the brutality of the blockade of Gaza. The whole world knows that Israel had agreed to lift that blockade in 2008 in exchange for an end to Hamas rocket attacks. When Hamas actually stopped those attacks, everybody knows that Israel did not fulfill its responsibilities and that on Nov. 4 Israel attacked Gaza, breaking the ceasefire and paving the way for Cast Lead.

Israel’s recent conduct is more and more that of a rogue state. Those unwilling to face up to this reality will no doubt find in this video all the confirmation they need of their previously established view of the world. The rest of us, however, aren’t buying it anymore.

shmuel says:

all you haters of the jewish state, why don’t you post on an antisemtic website. That’s were you belong, not here.

reginald tanalisan says:

Like football, somebody trying bringing ball to enter penalty area and otherwise back guard tackle but IN FACT , no touch no hard tackle but he pretend and provocate and then the jury confuse, which one the truth.
The propaganda opini must be answered with the fact and big fact again and again.
I’m sorry my english no good, I,m indonesia live in manado. I believe YAH Adonai Yisrael bringing victory.

Old Rockin' Dave says:

Sorry, but further evidence has been coming out. The Turkish captain of the ferry says that arms were thrown overboard when it was clear the Israelis had control. Hamas’ own news organ claims that at least three of the dead were “seeking martyrdom,” and several of them left behind videos of the same kind suicide bombers do. An Al Jazeera cameraman aboard reported that three injured commandos were dragged below decks to use as hostages. At least two of the Israelis were shot, one in the thigh, which is a potentially fatal wound. That the dead were shot in the head testifies to nothing but well-trained troops defending their lives. Several sets of ceramic body armor were seized and ammunition that did not match the Israeli weapons was found.
Had the Israeli troops come meaning to kill, there would have been many more dead.
I repeat, if you attack an armed man with a deadly weapon and he shoots you dead, you bear the blame. Israeli diplomats should be screaming themselves blue at the Turks for allowing this situation to develop.

Happy and Proud says:

Funny, I don’t recall those so outraged and heartbroken over the deaths of nine terrorists being outraged over the murder of scores of civilians in Haifa and Tel Aviv.

“Funny, I don’t recall those so outraged and heartbroken over the deaths of nine terrorists being outraged over the murder of scores of civilians in Haifa and Tel Aviv.”

Which one of the nine was a proven “terrorist”–the US citizen on a NATO flagged ship in Intl waters? Your comment sums up the warped and idiotic course that Israel is on.

I really like that. You touched my heart!

I saw this really great post today.

It was Friday night and like old collage days was the night to be out Jon“Kooshy, I can’t agree that a US-Iranian cnaibomtion or condominium would be a “kiss of death” for Iran, as you aver. If we fantasize for a moment that the two states (US and Iran) perceive their common interests and choose to work together in partnership, there is no possible power cnaibomtion that could challenge them. Saudi Arabia, or any cnaibomtion of Sunni states, would basically be helpless before a US-Iranian alliance.”Yes Jon that can happen but only if we were living in a Utopia. But the real facts on the ground are that after Iran, Iraq war the Saudi state or for fact any other state in the region doesn’t poses a military threat to Iran, and certainly Iran is not threaten by the Arab Shih street, actually the region’s Shih seek and need Iran’s support and Iran dutifully has to provide but that is as long as Iran is not also subverting their Arab nationalism in an overt way.I believe the biggest threat to Iran’s national security from its immediate region, can currently come from Sunni Muslim Arab street vs. Iran/Persian/Shih and this can happen if Iran is complacent to US without a just and fair resolution of I/P/ issue in regular Muslim/Arab street eye (see I used Muslim and not Shih or Sunni), I think this is why Iran needs and is insisting on Muslim unity, this is why you never hear any Iranian statesman promoting or empowering shih but they consistently emphasis on Muslim unity a good example is the current events in Yemen. Currently the biggest threat for Iran is a Sunni vs. Shih inflammation in the region caused by an Iranian/Persian wrong move.Alan I agree with your last post, the essence of the problem is that Iran doesn’t need the US to solve its political problem in the region, Iran actually sees that a condominium with US will add to its current regional political problem since it will need to carry the heavy weight of US, this is will be similar with US’s current regional

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‘Lynch’ Mob

IDF video of Israel’s raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla tells a different story

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