The Gaza Flotilla – some facts blurred by the rhetoric

For the many who condemn first and get the facts later, AIJAC has provided an important fact sheet here on what happened (although of course there is none so blind as they who do not wish to see).

The Blockade

. Israel considers itself to be in a state of war with Hamas-ruled Gaza

. Being at war with Hamas, Israel is within its rights to enforce a maritime blockade on Gaza in order to prevent Hamas from obtaining weapons and other materiel that would aid its war effort.

. Israel allows humanitarian aid to pass through land crossings into Gaza

. Land crossings are used because they facilitate inspection of the goods to ensure that no military materiel is being smuggled through

. In 2009, 738,000 tons of goods went from Israel into Gaza, which is over 2,000 tonnes per day. The flotilla carried 10,000 tonnes (equivalent to what goes into Gaza every five days).

. Egypt shares a land border with Gaza, but does not allow people or goods to cross it.

. The flotilla organisers were offered to oversee the transfer of the 10,000 tonnes of goods to Gaza through the conventional land crossings by Israel. They rejected this offer and refused to cooperate with Egypt, which made a similar proposal to transfer goods through the Egyptian port of El-arish. This indicates the organisers’ goal was not to deliver humanitarian aid, but to force a confrontation with Israel.

Organisers of the Flotilla

. International Humanitaire Hilfsorganization (the IHH) is the main organisation behind the flotilla

. In 1996 the IHH was identified by the CIA as having links to numerous Islamist and terrorist organisations. It has open links to Hamas and has been linked with global jihadi movements in Bosnia, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya.

. In January 2004, the head of the IHH met with Hamas leader Khaled Meshal

. Another of the organisations behind the flotilla, the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), has gone on record saying Palestinians should pursue both violent and non-violent tactics

. A co-founder of ISM, Hawaida Arraf, acknowledged in the Washington Post that the ISM “cooperates with Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine,” all classified as terrorist groups by Australia.

. Arraf co-wrote an article with fellow ISM member Adam Shapiro in which they stated, “Palestinian resistance must take on a variety of characteristics, both violent and non-violent. But most importantly, it must develop a strategy involving both aspects. Non-violent resistance is no less noble than carrying out a suicide operation.”

 The Confrontation

. Israel, being in a state of war with Hamas-ruled Gaza, enforces a maritime blockade

. The ships were attempting to break this maritime blockade

. Israel told the ships they were not allowed to enter, the ships announced their intent to enter, Israel then commandeered the ships

. Five of the six were commandeered without the use of force.

. On the sixth, the Mavi Marmara, flying under the Turkish flag, Israeli naval commandos encountered violence upon boarding. They were attacked with slingshots, knives, steel poles, Molotov cocktails, and live fire, resulting in a number of injured soldiers, two of whom were critically wounded.

. Two guns were taken off Israeli troops and used to fire on those troops

. Israeli troops only responded with lethal force after they felt that their lives were in imminent danger, as specified in the Israeli rules of engagement.

 Video Evidence

. Footage of IDF soldiers being attacked as they land on the Mavi Marmara: and . The Israeli Navy warning the flotilla not to approach Gaza and offering to accompany it to the Israeli port of Ashdod to unload the goods and transfer them to Gaza under the observation of flotilla personnel: Video testimony by Israeli soldier: . IDF soldier being stabbed by flotilla participant: Sailor’s First-Hand Report: We Came to Speak; They Came to Fight

 One of the Naval Special Forces commandoes who sustained a broken arm while under attack by the Mavi Marama ship’s passengers, reports, “Each soldier who descended was taken by three or four men and they simply exploded, beating him up. They lynched us.

“They had metal clubs, knives, slingshots, glass bottles.At one point there was also live fire.

“I was among the last to descend, and I saw that the group was dispersed, everyone in his own corner surrounded by three or four men. I saw a soldier on the floor with two men beating him. I peeled them off of him and they came at me and began beating me with the clubs.

“That’s how I broke my arm. At that moment I had no weapon in my hands, like everyone else who descended on the cables empty-handed. My paintball gun was behind me.

“They came and attacked me, I brought them down to the floor, I took a few steps back, I took out my paintball gun, they came at me, and I shot at their legs. One of the clubs destroyed my paint gun and I moved on to my pistol which was the only thing to hold against them. At this point my arm no longer functioned.

“From the opening of the corridor, they were shooting at us the entire time with live fire”

The naval soldier also described how his unit was shot at from the entrance to the ship’s corridor: “I saw two from my group lying flat on the ground. From the opening of the corridor they were shooting at them the entire time with live fire, bullets. We identified a gun barrel, and one of us shot at the guy holding it. Afterwards we entered and he wasn’t there.

“[They were] about 30 men; they simply came for war. We came to straighten things out, to speak to those who went downstairs, but each of us who descended was simply attacked.

“There were some from my group that were thrown to the lower floor, and the passengers took their equipment. They jumped to the water as a last resort. We were told that if they didn’t listen, we should shoot at their legs with the paintball gun. ‘The pistol is only for if you really feel your life is in danger, which shouldn’t happen. It would be extremely abnormal.’ But in the end, that is what happened.

“We came with the intention of stopping the ship and taking it to Ashdod, and we did not come with the weapons we usually have; we came for something entirely different.”

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