The New York Times has a post up now at its “The Lede” blog, written by Robert Mackey, about the interview with Al Jazeera journalist Jamal ElShayyal that I blogged about earlier today.
Here is the video:
I won’t repeat Mackey’s description of what ElShayyal told the Al-Jazeera anchor because I did that in my earlier piece, and it’s all in the video above anyway. But I do want to note the additional information Mackey provides, based on reports starting to come out from other journalists, and some of the activists, who were on the ship, and who are just now starting to report what they witnessed after being released from 24 hours or more of detention by Israeli authorities:
On Thursday, Today’s Zaman, an English-language newspaper in Turkey, reported that the president of the Turkish aid group that helped to organize the flotilla said that a photographer working for the group “was shot in the forehead by a soldier one meter away from him.” Bulent Yildirimhe, the president of the aid organization Insani Yardim Vakfi (known in English as the I.H.H.), told the newspaper on Thursday after he returned from Israel: “Our Cevdet [Kiliclar], he is a press member. He has become a martyr. All he was doing was taking pictures. They smashed his skull into pieces.” The newspaper added:
Kevin Ovenden of Britain, an activist on the ship that arrived in ?stanbul on Thursday, also said a man who had pointed a camera at the soldiers was shot directly through the forehead with live ammunition, with the exit wound blowing away back of his skull.
In another report, the newspaper said that Israeli officials had confiscated images taken by one of its photographers in the flotilla:
A photojournalist from Today’s Zaman Kursat Bayhan who was on board an international aid convoy for Gaza said he tried to hide a flash disk which included the photos from the moments of Israeli attack on the convoy under his tongue to prevent Israeli authorities from seizing it but his effort failed during a medical examination.
The report added, “Bayhan said the journalists in the ship including him tried to protect the video footage and photos they took,” after the ships were seized by Israeli commandos, but “all the materials of the press members, including their passports and identity cards, were taken away.”
The way these accounts diverge from that of Israel’s military would seem to make an independent investigation into the events crucial. That is particularly true since, as The Lede noted on Wednesday, Israel is apparently in possession of much more video evidence than it has yet released.
Exit commentary: a blistering critique of Israel’s assault on the flotilla from a surprising source (this is just a small quote relative to the entire piece, and it does need to be read in full):
Israel does not need enemies: it has itself. Or more precisely: it has its government. The Netanyahu-Barak government has somehow found a way to lose the moral high ground, the all-important war for symbols and meanings, to Hamas. That is quite an accomplishment. Operation Make the World Hate Us, it might have been called.
I leave it to others to make the operational criticisms of the Israeli action, and will say only that even my amateurish understanding of the tactical challenge posed by the interdiction of the boats suffices to suggest that there were other ways to do this. I also will not pretend to a perfect grasp of what happened on board the Mavi Marmara. I have pondered the videos that both sides have released, and concluded that the Israeli soldiers sliding down that rope had no intention of attacking the people on board and that the people on board had no way of being confident of this. I cannot expect Palestinians and their supporters to believe the best about the Israeli army. (This is what Israeli hardliners call “the restoration of deterrence.”) I do not doubt that some of the activists on the ship welcomed a confrontation with Israel, but the Israelis should not have obliged them. In any event, what took place on that deck looks to me like a tragic misunderstanding. Yet there was no reason to think that anything else would have transpired.
The important point is that the killing of civilians on the Mavi Marmara—I understand that they were “armed” with metal bars and a knife, but still they were civilians, and soldiers are trained to respond unlethally to the recklessness of a mob—cannot be extenuated by reference to “asymmetrical warfare” and Israel’s right to defend itself. This was not warfare, at least of the physical sort. Israel was not under attack. A headline in The Washington Post yesterday reported that “Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state.” Such a claim is absurd. It is true that the movement has grown in recent years, and is now troublesome to Israel’s policy in Gaza; and it is also true that the Turkish charity that sponsored the “Freedom Flotilla” has ties to Islamicist groups. But this is hardly what Israel likes to call, in the Iranian context, and there quite plausibly, an “existential threat.” The extension of the definition of a security threat to include hostile activities that have little or no bearing upon security is an ominous development.
Nobody in their right mind is going to accuse Leon Wieseltier of anti-Semitism or of supporting Israel’s enemies. Which of course I realize leaves quite a few who might try.