Israel flip-flopping on the detention of commandos aboard Mavi Marmara

by Yaniv Reich on June 3, 2010

Yesterday Yuli Edelstein at the Israel Consulate in New York fielded questions via Twitter about the flotilla massacre.

I asked directly: “Were IDF commandos detained by flotilla activists? If so, for how long? How were they released?”

The Israeli Consulate responded: “Not true. Its a rumor.”

About 30 hours later the world is informed that flotilla activists did in fact detain three commandos, who were disarmed and taken below deck with the other passengers.

Ignore the sensationalistic kidnapping language. The activists did manage to overwhelm and subdue the commandos. But this fact does not sit well with Israel’s hasbara that the activists were intent on killing the soldiers. If the soldiers were captives for a number of minutes, and the activists wanted them dead, they would be dead. Period.

More importantly, I believe, are the implications of this detention on the subsequent killings that Israel committed. While the details are just starting to emerge, my speculation is that a panicky Israeli commander ordered overwhelming, disproportionate force to free these detained soldiers rather than finding a way to negotiate their release. In the process, 9+ almost surely innocent people, whose faces and biographical sketches can be seen here, were murdered.

In fact, the Israeli Navy basically admits this already:

They realized that three commandos were missing and they began looking for them. A short while later the naval commando chief landed along with dozens more soldiers, some of whom climbed from boats. Others landed from a third helicopter.

The search involved limited shooting, in the bridge and on the lower deck, until the three men were recovered.

This report strongly suggests that the large majority—if not all—of the murders were committed not in the heat of battle as self-defense, but rather as part of a search-and-destroy mission to regain soldiers who were being held without further harm.

Israel must explain and provide all video documentation from the ship’s security cameras the circumstances surrounding the release of these detained pirates.

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 lauraontheleftcoast June 3, 2010 at 11:23 pm

This would certainly fit with the IDF combat doctrine of “zero casualties” that emerged after Cast Lead, which operates on the principle that IDF soldiers’ lives–even when they are engaged in aggressive combat that they initiated–are worth far, far more than the lives of anyone else, including civilians, and that IDF soldiers are therefore justified in deploying overwhelming, lethal force without hesitation against anyone remotely considered a threat. See for more details.

2 Yaniv Reich June 3, 2010 at 11:31 pm

I think that’s exactly right. I would add that the IDF operates under very strict orders to prevent capture of its soldiers at all costs, so there is little reason from their perspective to concern oneself with some unarmed activists if trying to regain one’s troops.

It sounds to me, though, like the actions of the activists, even those inclined to physical resistance, were far more peaceable than is currently being suggested. Disarming and detaining violent people is about the most nonviolent thing someone can do.

3 45charleston October 26, 2010 at 7:21 pm

Wow some real dumb comments !!
Evidence shows IDF being stabbed and beat by IHH militants. That is lethal force and the IDF responded in kind !!
Under the law those arming themselves are considered combatants.
In hind site don’t you feel foolish ?
blockade still there, and no legal action because Israel acted within SRM 1994 and the Law of War .

4 Yaniv Reich October 27, 2010 at 11:00 pm


You seem to have missed the point of the post, which was about glaring contradictions in the IDF’s account of what happened. But you also seem to miss an understanding of the the circumstances surrounding the murders of 9 humanitarian activists, some of whom were shot in the back at point blank range. Before you decide that it was fine the IDF commandos shoot up the ship, I encourage you to study up on the principle of proportionality as well as the autopsy reports on the victims.

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