The official Israeli story as of June 3, 2010 (sure to change as more evidence comes to light) argues that three soldiers were captured when they were unconscious. You got that? Only because they were beaten into the utter docility of unconsciousness could such elite commandos be taken captive.
Contradictions abound, however. Here I list some of them for quick reference:
- Haaretz reports that three commandos “were nearly taken hostage”. If the soldiers were truly unconscious and under complete control of activists, then they were, in fact, already taken hostage, not nearly so.
- Haaretz reports further that the commandos then regained consciousness and “managed to rejoin their comrades.” Oh really? That simple huh? So we are to believe that 60–100 “hard-core” Islamic militants captured commandos only because they were unconscious, but then they just managed to wake up and return to their heavily armed co-pirates? This bland statement obscures, surely, a much more sinister sequence of events.
- The navy officer interviewed in this report, like Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren in his pathetic NYT op-ed, calls the humanitarian activists “terrorists – hired killers who came to murder soldiers, not to assist the residents of the Gaza Strip.” Let us be perfectly clear on this issue: If the goal of the activists was to “murder soldiers”, they would be murdered, because the activists had at least 10 minutes (by the IDF’s recollection of events, which should be treated with caution) in which they could have smashed the captive soldiers into a bloody death. That they didn’t, despite the opportunity, speaks volumes—indeed, everything one needs to know—about their true intentions and the credibility of Oren’s and the navy officer’s remarks.
- Eyewitness testimony by journalists aboard the ship, which is only now coming out now that they have been released from Israeli prison, paints a very different picture of events. Abbas Al Lawati, for example, watched and filmed one of the detained soldiers being dragged below deck:
“I saw angry activists drag one of the Israeli soldiers down the stairs and punch him, I lost my journalistic objectivity and found myself urging the activist to stop hitting the soldier.
Seeing the anger in the activist’s eyes, I thought that he would kill him. I had images of the wars that Israel has waged over its captive soldiers, and the number of people that have died as a result of them. My thought was that if an Israeli soldier was to die on that ship, the entire flotilla would be bombed until it sank.
That was, of course, before I saw the bloodshed. The activists’ anger was suddenly put in context when I saw a number of people carrying a dying man down the stairs. His face was unrecognisable, covered in blood. He was apparently one of the first to go down, after an Israeli gun targeted the centre of his forehead from a helicopter, spilling his brains into the hands of another activist who was trying to look after him.
I took a few deep breaths and went back to get some footage on my tiny HD camera. Still indoors, I remained by the staircase where, by now, the organisers of the flotilla had pushed aside activists and forbade them to hurt the soldiers.
I took a few steps down to film the other captive soldier, struggling to keep my balance with so much blood under my feet. He stood in a corner being attended by two medics onboard, in shock, crying.
It was surreal. I knew that that soldier could destroy the entire flotilla, and thought I would get some close up footage of him. I took my camera as close as possible to his face and asked his name twice. He was too traumatised to answer. I could see fear of death in his eyes. He was petrified. Then I heard women screaming. “They are coming!”
This version of events could be proven directly if the Israel were to release Al Lawati’s footage, something they are unlikely to do because it would contradict their official line that the soldiers were unconsciousness. The Israeli political and military brass would surely be devastated to see one of their best and brightest sobbing like a child after being disarmed. And the image of two medical personnel attending to him would undermine every bit of professional, well-orchestrated yet still feeble hasbara that Israel has spent the last four days propagating around the globe.
The final line in Al Lawati’s account, though, carries with it the ominous foreshadowing of the massacre that was to come. As the Israeli navy concedes, “The search involved limited shooting, in the bridge and on the lower deck, until the three men were recovered. The head of the naval commandos [had given] orders by radio to use live fire.” And then, as we know, the soldiers “managed to rejoin their comrades.” And at least nine people, none of them appearing to be the sort of “hard-core” activists that were defending the ship, were murdered, the majority of which shot in the head (some repeatedly, like 19 year-old Turkish-American Furkan Dogan, who was shot four times in the head and one in the chest; some from the close range of “2–14cm”, indicating an execution-like murder).
Other eyewitnesses report that white flags had already been raised and an offer via megaphone to return the soldiers in return for medical assistance for the wounded activists was ignored.
Increasingly, it seems these crucial moments are those in which the majority of murders took place, and will form the crux of any investigation into the matter, if anyone ever gets the courage to stand up to the Israelis a bit and challenge their decreasingly credible account.