The Day In Israel: Thursday June 3rd, 2010

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US Vice President Joe Biden has defended Israel’s interception of the Gaza flotilla.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Biden pointed out that Israel had given pro-Palestinian activists the option of unloading their cargo at the Ashdod port, and offered to bring it to the Gaza Strip on their behalf.

“They’ve said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza,'”, he said. “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping… 3,000 rockets on my people.

“Look, you can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not  — but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in.”

During the interview, Biden also blamed Hamas for the crisis that has wracked the coastal territory and for the ongoing state of conflict with Israel.

“As we put pressure, and the world put pressure on Israel to let material go into Gaza to help those people who are suffering, the ordinary Palestinians there, what happened? Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse [and] sell it.

“So the problem is this would end tomorrow if Hamas agreed to form a government with the Palestinian Authority on the conditions the international community has set up,” Biden told Rose.

Updates (Israel time; most recent at top)?

8:28PM: The Foreign Press Association has a huge problem with Israel fighting back against the lies and slander they are helping disseminate.



Israel’s military is using video confiscated from people on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla to justify opening fire during its deadly raid on the ships, drawing sharp criticism Thursday from foreign correspondents who say some of the footage was shot by journalists.

At least two videos posted to the army spokesperson’s YouTube channel are labeled “captured” from the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship Israeli commandos stormed in a nighttime raid Monday that left nine people dead.

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The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists in Israel and the Palestinian territories, demanded Thursday that the military stop using the captured material without permission and identify the source of the video already released.

“The Foreign Press Association strongly condemns the use of photos and video material shot by foreign journalists, now being put out by the (military) spokesman’s office as ‘captured material’,” the FPA said in a statement. It said the military was selectively using footage to back its claims that commandos opened fire only after being attacked.

7:58PM: Labor MK Einat Wilf does an admirable job on BBC World News discussing the operation.

6:32PM: Misguided move of the day:

George Mitchell kaffiyeh
U.S. Middle East envoy George Mitchell (L) visits the Palestine Investment Conference in the West Bank town of Bethlehem June 3, 2010. Mitchell said on Thursday a lethal Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship must not undermine indirect negotiations he is mediating between Israel and the Palestinians. REUTERS/Awad Awad/Pool (WEST BANK - Tags: POLITICS)

6:25PM: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told US President Barack Obama that Israel is on the verge of losing its best friend in the Middle East.

I think he is referring to Turkey, in which case we lost them a long time ago.

4:28PM: Yesterday, Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said the Gaza-bound ship stormed by his commandos “was no Love Boat — this was a hate boat.”

Which seems to have inspired someone (hat tip: Elder of Ziyon).

4:22PM: Here is a good resource on the flotilla  (hat tip: Oboler).

3:52PM: Photo of the day: Why is it that whenever there is an “anti-Israel” protest, we invariably see antisemitism?

antisemitic protest
AFP PHOTO / ROMEO GACAD (Photo credit should read ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images)
[more on the monkey imagery here]

3:38PM: Please spread the word about the liveblogging here and on Twitter.

1:30PM: Yet more video evidence that the “activists” were not so peaceful.

1:20PM: Al Jazeera has some “eyewitness accounts,” which clearly illustrate that these “activists” are lying their heads off (hat tip: Jonah).

One guy claims they managed to kidnap some Israeli commandos and swap them for medical care!

Andre Abu-Khalil, Al Jazeera cameraman

First they [the Israelis] tried to come by helicopter and tried to come down on the main deck. But the Turkish people were gathering on the rooftop and they managed to grab three of the soldiers, which led to a second helicopter to come and start shooting live bullets on the people.

People [on board] did not have any guns. All what they had were some wooden sticks which is normal.

I was on the Mavi Marmara [the lead ship of the flotilla].

I wasn’t on the rooftop deck. I was on the first deck floor where the Israelis tried to climb by the ropes on the deck.

There were 20 Turkish resistance guys throwing tomatoes, anything that they managed to throw, on the Israelis.

Then one of these Turkish guys got a bullet just in the head. When the Turkish people saw that, they pulled him inside when the Israelis started firing on the deck.

[After the Israelis took over the ship] they kept us tied up, hands behind the back, for nine hours until we reached the Ashdod port and from there they took us for individual interrogation and then shipped us all to Be’er Sheva jail.

The organisers [of the flotilla] swapped the four Israelis kidnapped, or caught, by the people on the ship, and because they were beaten up, because it’s kind of resistance from our side, we swapped the Israeli soldiers to [get] to treat our injured.

Is anyone truly buying this?

Another “eyewitness” repeats the claim that commandos from the second helicopter immediately fired live ammunition (in order to take control of the ship):

Mohamed Vall, Al Jazeera reporter

The Israeli assault took those of us on the ship by complete surprise.

During that hour an half in the early morning everybody on board the ship thought that no-one would survive the Israeli attack because we saw about 30 war vessels surrounding this ship and helicopters attacking with very luminous bombs, the sound of them makes you think you are dead

That was a fear of war, complete war, on a ship that was full of men, women and even children.

The first soldiers on the ship were not killed, they were not shot at, they were captured by the defenders of the ship.

Moments later another bigger helicopter landed more troops and this time they fired immediately at people and killed as many as they could so that they could reach the cabin and take control of the ship.

I saw blood spilt on the ship and everyone knew that there was no weapons. we all knew the Israelis would intercept us and try to stop us, but we didn’t think that they would open fire at the first moment.

I have been shown the picture of a Yemeni man, and this is ridiculous, who was on the ship and most people know that every Yemeni in the world has a Yemeni style knife, that is a cultural thing and does not have anything to do with violence.

I understand now that in Israel they are trying to make a big deal about that, saying that the boat was full of violent people and just because of that one man.

However, another witness contradicts the above testimony that the commandos from the helicopter immediately fired live ammunition:

Othman Battiri, Al Jazeera crew member

At 4:15, tens of Navy boats carrying tens of soldiers tried to board the ships. They were met by resistance. Peaceful resistance. Helicopters came and tried to download soldiers. They could not.

At that moment, they started firing live ammunition.

First, they fired sound and gas bombs and rubber bullets. Some people were injured from the rubber bullets. Then, live bullets were used. I saw several men being wounded. We tried to help some of the wounded. I saw four people who were killed.

Meanwhile, here is the account of another “eyewitness”:

Norman Paech, former member of the German parliament

This was not an act of self-defence [by the Israeli army], but rather it was completely disproportionate – although we were counting on our ship being blocked and maybe checked.

This was a very serious offence, this was a war crime.

I personally saw two and a half wooden sticks which were used [by activists].

We had not prepared in any way to fight. We didn’t even consider it.

No violence, no resistance – because we knew very well that we would have absolutely no chance against soldiers like this.

This directly contradicts the first account above, as well as the account I reported in the 10:50AM update, which includes an admission that the “activists” engaged in violence.

11:35AM: Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc seems to be peddling a new blood libel.

The activists were taken to a state forensic institute to be questioned and undergo medical tests, to ensure the activists were not harmed and to collect evidence for possible legal action against Israel.

“We felt it necessary. Because we may seek justice within international laws and we may need certain evidence in doing so,” Arinc said. “It may be possible that they (the activists) may have been given certain medicines or similar substances while in Israel. The test results will determine this.”

10:50AM: A Turkish flotillarist has admitted to seizing weapons from Israeli soldiers who stormed the boats, as well as beating them.

The new spin is “it was in self-defence.”

Notice the changing strategy as more and more proof appears that these people were not the peaceful crowd they wanted us to believe.

9:40AM: Another example of the kind of arguments being made by the anti-Israel crowd (hat tip: Joe Settler).

Looks like the pictures were mis-dated, which has opened the door for these moonbats to make the claims.

8:28AM: Desperate tactics: In the face of the mounting evidence showing the flotillarist’s use of violence against Israeli naval commandos, the anti-Israel crowd cannot do much else but claim the footage is fake.

Here’s one example:

Fake IDF video emerges of flotilla passengers about to take on the might of the Israeli Navy

The 5th most powerful Navy in the world lets not forget with sling shots and bazaar poles. Where are the Turkish Uzi’s which were added to the suitcases hidden behind the children’s books and neonatal nappies?? This video is nonsense. Look at the body language especially the rally call of the idiot saying “Come on we can win this” with his hands in the air.

Supposedly this is CCTV from the Mavi Marmara copyright actually belongs to them but the IDF uploaded it and their channel can be found here-
http://www.youtube.com/user/idfnadesk

Shame Israel has confiscated all the passengers video cameras and film.

If the public were able to see the original film captured by the passengers you would see the final moments turn into a bloody snuff movie-

8:20AM: When Glenn Beck ran out of time on his Wednesday show, he made this special web “aftershow” in which he breaks down the Gaza terrorist flotilla incident.

He certainly has his detractors – and justifiably – but when he gets it right, he gets it right.

8:06AM: One thing I have been hearing from the anti-Israel crowd after publication of photos and footage of the knives and clubs found on board the Mavi Marmara has been along the lines of “Wow, imagine that! A ship with kitchen knives” and “I have the same ‘weapons’ in my home” (here is one example re-tweeted by the detestable George Galloway).

Let me guess. Their homes also contain night vision equipment and a rifle scopes?

weapons flotilla

7:20AM: More on the Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) – the Turkish “humanitarian relief fund” that played a central role in organizing the flotilla – and its alleged links with terrorist organizations.

7:10AM: Last night, there was a pro-Israel demonstration in one of the world’s foremost Islamic cities.

London.

More here.

7:00AM: What humanitarian crisis? Danish reporter Steffen Jensen visited Gaza, expecting to see real suffering. What he saw was something else entirely (hat tip: Elder of Ziyon via Juvanya).

gaza marketJudging from the media, the situation in Gaza is desperate, everything is about to collapse, and the community is on the brink or at the level of a third world country.

The Palestinian community’s immediate downfall has been prophesied numerous times in the media. People have nothing to eat, we sometimes know. The UN must from time to time to stop food distribution, either because their stocks are running low, or because they can not get diesel for their trucks, and therefore can not carry food in. And so on.

Yesterday I drove into the Gaza Strip. I don’t do this as often as before [because it takes much longer to get through the checkpoints now.]

This time, I had expected to see real suffering, because with all the fuss in recent days about bringing tons of humanitarian relief in – so much that people actually sacrificed their lives for it – there certainly had to really be a deep, desperate situation in the Gaza Strip. No food. Long queues in front of UN food stocks. Hungry children with food bowls.

But this was not the picture that greeted me.

When I yesterday morning drove through Gaza City, I was immediately surprised that there are almost as many traffic jams as there always has been. Is there not a shortage of fuel? Apparently not. Gasoline is not even rationed.

Many shops were closed yesterday, Hamas has declared a general strike in protest against Israel’s brutal and deadly attack on the Turkish flotilla with pro-Palestinian activists on board. So it was difficult to estimate how many products were on the shelves. Therefore I went over to the Shati refugee camp, also known as Beach Camp. Here is one of Gaza’s many vegetable markets that sell much more than just fruits and vegetables.

I will not say whether, in better times has been a larger product range than there was yesterday. But there was certainly no shortage of vegetables, fruits or any other ordinary, basic foods. Tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, watermelons, potatoes – mountains of these items in the many stalls.

I must admit I was a little surprised. Because when I call down here to my Palestinian friends, they tell me about all the problems and deficiencies, so I expected that the crisis was a little more clear.

And the first woman we interviewed in the market confirms this strange, contradictory, negative mindset:

“We have nothing,” she said. We need everything! Food, drinks … everything! ”

It disturbed her not at least that she stood between the mountains of vegetables, fruit, eggs, poultry and fish, while she spun this doomsday scenario.

Yousuf al-Assad Yazgy owns a fruit and vegetable outlet here in the market. All his fruit is imported from Israel.

“Not all fruit and all vegetables come from Israel. Ours does. They come from Israel. But in the Gaza Strip there is not very much fruit cultivated. Mostly tomatoes, potatoes and vegetables. So here with me are the vegetables and watermelon were from Gaza. All the fruit comes across the border from Israel,” he explains, but also says that there can be long periods when the border is closed, and which therefore fruit does not come in.

On the way out of the Shati camp we stop at a small grocery store. Not any fancy, expensive business. Just a small, humble local store. The proprietor Sun Mohammed Abu Nada says they would not be able to do business if it were not for contraband goods from Egypt.

He takes us on a brief tour of the shelves and shows everything that comes from Egypt. It turns out to be much more than half of the goods. 75-80 per cent. I would estimate. Several other products – including long-life UHT milk – comes from Israel, but is also smuggled through tunnels from Egypt.

The products are more expensive, he says. Many people cannot afford to buy them, or only to buy certain things sometimes. But all the while that even such a small, poor-looking grocery store on the outskirts of a refugee camp still has so many relatively expensive smuggled goods on the shelves shows nevertheless that many of the customers at least be able to afford to buy them. Otherwise, the merchant of course could not even afford to invest in unsold inventory.

This story I have written to postulate that there are problems in the Gaza Strip, because that would be untrue. There are problems. Many problems indeed. But it is not lack of food, which primarily concern people down here. The biggest problem is the lack of jobs and a sustainable domestic economy.

6:48AM: The US has proposed Israel announce that an independent Israeli commission of inquiry will look into the events of the flotilla clashes and accept the participation of an American observer, a possible way to avoid an international probe of the events.

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Mihalis Grigoropoulos, Greece

I was steering the ship, we saw them [Israeli soldiers] capture another ship in front of us, which was the Turkish passenger vessel with more than 500 people on board and heard shots fired.

We did not resist at all, we couldn’t even if we had wanted to. What could we have done against the commandos who climbed aboard?

The only thing some people tried was to delay them from getting to the bridge, forming a human shield. They were fired upon with plastic bullets and were stunned with electric devices.

There was great mistreatment after our arrest. We were essentially hostages, like animals on the ground.

They wouldn’t let us use the bathroom, wouldn’t give us food or water and they took video of us despite international conventions banning this.

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