US Media’s Pro-Israeli Bias: Response to the Freedom Flotilla Slaughter – by Stephen Lendman
In promoting his 2008 book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” Jimmy Carter said one reason for writing it was “to provoke (unbiased) discussion, which is very rarely heard in this country” on the question of Israel. In America, “any sort of debate back and forth, any sort of incisive editorial comment in the major newspapers, is almost completely absent….There are no significant countervailing voices” to deter Israel from getting away with murder, an illegal blockade, aggressive wars, and the most extreme crimes against humanity; its latest, of course, the massacre of peace activists taking aid to besieged Gazans.
Besides coming from officials and their spokespersons, Israel’s propaganda arm, Israel Politik, said “Israel had no choice but to stop the flotilla from breaking the blockade….While Israel was forced to take action in international waters, its actions are supported by international maritime law.”
False. Under international law, interdictions in international waters constitute piracy in the broadest sense of the term, and blockades are acts of war, variously defined as:
— surrounding a nation or objective with hostile forces;
— measures to isolate an enemy;
— encirclement and besieging;
— preventing the passage in or out of supplies, military forces or aid in time of or as an act of war; and
— an act of naval warfare to block access to an enemy’s coastline and deny entry to all vessels and aircraft.
According to international law expert, Professor Francis Boyle, blockades under international law are:
“….belligerent measures taken by a nation (to) prevent passage of vessels or aircraft to and from another country. Customary international law recognizes blockades as an act of war because of the belligerent use of force even against third party nations in enforcing the blockade. Blockades as acts of war have been recognized as such in the Declaration of Paris of 1856 and the Declaration of London of 1909 that delineate the international rules of warfare.”
As an occupying power, Israel is obligated under the Hague Regulations of 1907, Fourth Geneva, and numerous UN resolutions to protect Palestinian rights, including for adequate food, health, education, and housing. The blockade and occupation deny them. According to Amnesty International (AI), “The blockade constitutes collective punishment under international law and must be lifted immediately.” So does the occupation. Israel maintains them both repressively.
Yet Gaza poses no threat to Israel. Blockades are only permissible during war for self-defense or by Security Council authorization under the UN Charter’s Article 42, stating:
Measures “to maintain or restore international peace and security….may include demonstrations, blockade, and other operations by air, sea, or land forces of Members of the United Nations.”
Israel’s siege is belligerent and illegal. Slaughtering unarmed aid activists at sea is cold-blooded murder. Israel Politik falsely claims its “personnel attempting to enforce the blockade were met with violence by the protesters and acted in self defense to fend off such attacks.”
The Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America (CAMERA) is a Boston-based non-governmental Israel Politik equivalent, producing pro-Israel propaganda while claiming to be impartial.
On May 31, it justified Israel’s Flotilla attack saying:
It was “to prevent pro-Palestinian radicals from violating the naval blockade….during which passengers on the Mavi Marmara violently attacked Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and drew fatal Israeli fire” in return. Passengers on board were “inaccurate(ly called) ‘human rights activists,’ (and) ‘peace activists.’ ”
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calls Istanbul-based IHH Humanitarian Relief Foundation “a group of charitable people….extend(ing) humanitarian aid (in) every region hit by wars, disasters, poverty and human rights abuses, and believes that civilian initiatives play a complementary role” to activities of governments and international organizations like UNHCR.
CAMERA claims IHH is linked to “global jihad and Islamic terrorist elements in the Middle East (and) served in the past as a cover for Al-Qaeda, acquiring forged documents, enlisting operatives and transferring weapons.”
It also accused the Mavi Marmara activists of conducting “rampaging….attack(s on) Israeli troops.” So much for impartiality and truth.
US Media Pro-Israeli Propaganda
On June 1, the Washington Post’s editorial page headlined, “The flotilla fiasco,” saying:
“THE ISRAELI commandos who landed on the deck of the Turkish ferry Mavi Marmara off the coast of the Gaza Strip early Monday were totally unprepared for what they encountered: dozens of militants who swarmed around them with knives and iron bars….We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla – a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders and Turkish Islamic activists….some (with) ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda. What’s plain is that the group’s nominal purpose, delivering ‘humanitarian’ supplies to Gaza, was secondary to the aim of provoking a confrontation.”
It doesn’t get much nastier than that, an account with more holes than swiss cheese, by a pro-Israei editorial staff turning facts on their head.
Also by The New York Times in its June 1 editorial headlined, “Israel and the Blockade,” saying:
“The supporters of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla had more than humanitarian intentions (in mind). The Gaza Freedom March made its motives clear in a statement before Monday’s deadly confrontation: ‘A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade.’ “
In typical New York Times fashion, the editorial suggested that activists provoked violence, and welcomed it when it came, instead of explaining they knew Israel planned a confrontation, but were determined to reach Gaza anyway – a heroic act considering what happened, unmentioned by The Times.
The editorial also referred to Israel’s video suggesting its forces were attacked, and that Hamas “seized control of the Gaza Strip in 2007” – not its legitimacy or that Fatah’s West Bank takeover was illegal.
On June 1, here’s what London Guardian writers Dorian Jones and Helena Smith reported in their article headlined, “Israelis opened fire before boarding Gaza flotilla, say released activists,” stating:
Survivors returning to Greece and Turkey today gave “the first eyewitness accounts of the raid….Turkish activist Milufer Cetin say(ing) Israeli troops opened fire before boarding.”
“It was extremely bad and very tough clashes took place. The Mavi Marmara is filled with blood,” explaining that she and her child hid in their cabin’s bathroom during the attack.
“The operation started immediately with firing. First it was warning shots, but when the (ship) wouldn’t stop these warnings turned into an attack. There were sound and smoke bombs and later they used gas bombs. Following the bombings they started to come on board from helicopters.”
Kutlu Tiryaki, captain of another Flotilla vessel, said:
“The attack on the Mavi Marmara came in an instant: they attacked it with 12 or 13 attack boats and also with commandos from (three or four) helicopters.” Before communications were cut off, “We were told….their crew and civilians were being shot at and windows and doors were being broken by Israelis.”
Greek activist Dimitris Gielalis, aboard the Sfendoni, said:
“Suddenly from everywhere we saw inflatables coming at us, and within seconds fully equipped commandos came up on the boat. They came up and used plastic bullets, we had beatings, we had electric shocks, any method we can think of, they used.”
Michalis Grigoropoulos, on the Free Mediterranean said:
“We were in international waters. The Israelis acted like pirates, completely out of the normal way that they conduct nautical exercises, and seized our ship. They took us hostage, pointing guns at our heads; they descended from helicopters and fired tear gas and bullets. There was absolutely nothing we could do. Those who tried to resist forming a human ring on the bridge were given electric shocks.” They took everything we had.
On June 1, Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) issued a Media Advisory headlined, “Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel’s Eyes,” saying:
“The Attack on humanitarian flotilla prompts little media skepticism,” providing examples of pro-Israeli bias and “little regard to international law.”
For example, New York Times writer Isabel Kershner reported on June 1 that “Despite sporadic rocket fire from the Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid an acute humanitarian crisis.”
In fact, for many months, numerous human rights and aid organizations have reported a grave, growing crisis, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs saying on May 18 that:
“As a consequence of Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, 98 percent of industrial operations have been shut down since 2007 and there are acute shortages of fuel, cash, cooking gas and other basic supplies….Water-related health problems are widespread (after Cast Lead) destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure, including reservoirs, wells, and thousands of kilometres of piping….”
Extreme shortages of everything exist. Vital to life essentials are lacking. Malnutrition is chronic. Illnesses and diseases go untreated for lack of medicines and supplies. Construction materials are prohibited, preventing rebuilding, and poverty and unemployment levels are extremely high among a population desperate for help – facts never reported by the US media.
Many op-eds and editorials “focused on the fallout for Israel and the United States, rather than the civilians killed or the humanitarian crisis they were trying to address.” The Washington Post’s Glenn Kessler, for example, on June 1, lamented how the assault “Complicates Relations with the US,” saying:
“The timing of the incident is remarkably bad for Israel and the United States,” while the Los Angeles Times called it “a public relations nightmare for Israel.”
Again, from The New York Times Kershner, saying that Israeli criticism “offered a propaganda coup to (its) foes, particularly the Hamas group that holds sway in Gaza.” No mention of its democratic election, its false label as a terrorist organization sworn to Israel’s destruction, Mahmoud Abbas’ US-financed and supported Fatah West Bank takeover and control, or that his term of office expired in January 2009, but he refused to call a new election or step down.
Nothing either about daily Israeli violence and belligerency, the suffocating siege, 43 years of repressive occupation, or true facts about the Flotilla attack – Mavi Marmara passengers saying Israeli vessels surrounded the ship, firing on it before storming aboard by helicopter.
According to Knesset Member Haneen Zoubi’s first hand account:
This well-planned operation “wanted many deaths to terrorize us and to send a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza.” She also explained that commandos took control of the ship, searched it and found no weapons or munitions.
Quoting Israel, US media accounts falsely claim otherwise, then lament about the subsequent PR nightmare, not cold-blooded murder at sea. For example on June 1, the Washington Post reported the assault as follows:
“Upon touching down, the Israeli commandos, who were equipped with paint guns and pistols, were assaulted with steel poles, knives and pepper spray. Video showed at least one commando being lifted up and dumped from the ship’s upper deck to the lower deck. Some commandos later said they jumped into the water to escape being beaten. The Israeli military said some of the demonstrators fired live ammunition. The Israeli officials said the activists had fired two guns stolen from the troops.”
Sadly, this is what passes for journalism in America, especially on television and talk radio – disinformation, distortion and suppression of the truth that can’t pass the smell test – why Project Censored alerts about a “truth emergency,” glaringly in reporting about Israel.
What Passes for TV News in America – All Propaganda All the Time
Especially in reports about Israel, a nation that can do no wrong on cable or broadcast news and talk shows, leaving viewers hopelessly misinformed.
Never are guests like Noam Chomsky invited on or are comments like his aired in response to the Flotilla massacre, saying:
“It is worth bearing in mind that the crime is nothing new. For decades, Israel has been hijacking boats in international waters between Cyprus and Lebanon, killing or kidnapping passengers, sometimes bringing them to prisons in Israel including secret prison/torture chambers, sometimes holding them as hostages for many years.”
Israel has been out-of-control for decades, now more than ever under the extremist Netanyahu government, threatening anyone that dares challenge it, including its own citizens. Try hearing that on corporate TV, National Public Radio, Public Broadcasting or the BBC, all one-sidedly pro-Israeli.
On June 1, CNN highlighted Israel’s side of the Flotilla attack, airing, among its other officials, its UN deputy ambassador saying the passengers “are not peace activists. They were not messengers of goodwill.” It then reported the IDF saying their troops “were met with premeditated violence, evident by the activists’ use of clubs, metal rods, and knives, as well as the firing of two weapons stolen from the the soldiers.” Israeli forces then responded with “defensive action (fearing) their lives were endangered,” and seven were wounded.
CNN aired Israeli video, not what activists shot that showed a true version of what happened, then reported the following:
“A senior Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity in an account cleared by military censors, displayed a box containing switchblade knives, slingshots with metal balls and bats he said had been confiscated from one of the boats. ‘This was not spontaneous,’ he said. ‘This was planned.’ “
On May 31, CNN’s national security commentator and former Bush administration advisor for Homeland Security and Counterterrorism said the following:
“….imagine for a moment if you had videotape of a US Navy Seal being thrown by civilians off the side of a ship. We would be surprised if not everybody on that ship was killed as a result of that.”
In other words, murdering civilians is standard US policy, being implemented, of course in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere, either directly or by proxies. Israel follows the same practice, longstanding by both countries.
Other CNN reports were similar, leaving viewers to believe the activists were terrorists, Israel merely responding in self-defense – outrageous disinformation typical of CNN and the other networks.
As always, Fox News viewers get a daily diet of irresponsible truth-free reporting, so extreme at times it’s unmatched.
On May 31, its online Flotilla attack account headlined, “Israeli Officials Claim Aid Flotilla Had Ties to Al Qaeda, PM Gives Military ‘Full Support,’ ” saying Prime Minister Netanyahu claimed Israeli soldiers were attacked and responded in self-defense.
Israel’s deputy UN ambassador, Daniel Carmon was quoted saying: “What kind of peace activists use knives, clubs and fire from weapons stolen from soldiers to attack (them) board(ing) a ship in accordance with international law?” The Flotilla was organized by a “group with a radical anti-western orientation that supports terrorist organizations like Hamas and Al Qaeda.”
Bill O’Reilly aired Israeli video showing “its troops were attacked.” Sean Hannity complained about the Obama administration’s “lack of support” for Israel. Glenn Beck asked if “anyone questioned the hatred that socialists have for Israel or the Jews?”
Reporter Dana Lewis said the Flotilla was organized by a group with “links to Al Qaeda,” and that the IDF “says it’s identified 50 passengers on the ship with terrorist links.” He also repeated the lie that Israeli commandos were “armed mainly with paintball guns,” and were “met (by) a violent mob armed with bats, steel bars, knives….and even guns ripped from Israeli troops who were beaten to the point they feared for their lives.”
On his June 1 radio show, Rush Limbaugh raged against Obama for having “strong personal and political ties to anti-Israeli leftists….The Israelis (were) out there playing by the rules….This was not some innocent bunch of people going in. This (was) an arms mission.”
“Not one shred of truth is being reported about this flotilla, who the people on (it) were or what their purpose was. Their purpose was to get this provocation, (and) their PR campaign (was) ready to go before the flotilla even set sail.” That’s how “Islamists” operate. “What we’re looking at here is another all-out assault on an Israel-free Middle East.”
Most worrisome is that people believe this, leaving them hopelessly misinformed in support of the wrong side.
Some Final Comments
On June 2, Netanyahu, a common street thug serving as prime minister, told an interviewer that the activists attacked “are extremist supporters of terror and violence….I have to make clear that the Israeli soldiers protected their lives bravely and also I’m very proud of what they did.” Proud of cold-blooded murder he means, Israel’s longstanding policy.
On June 1, Israel rejected international calls for an independent investigation and end to the Gaza siege, Netanyahu blaming the victims, then adding:
“It’s important to understand that the (blockade) is essential to protect Israel’s security and its right to defend itself. (Gaza is an) Iranian-sponsored terrorist state,” so it’s vital to prevent weapons from entering.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton supports an Israeli probe, stressing it must be “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent” – knowing full well it’ll be a whitewash like Israel’s Cast Lead investigation, absolving its forces of any responsibility.
Members of Congress praised the Israeli raid, including Senators Joe Lieberman (I. CT) and Charles Schumer (D. NY) – the senators from AIPAC. Also Senator John McCain (R. AZ), who like many in Congress equate Muslims with terrorists. House members were just as supportive, including Anthony Weiner (who advocated universal coverage, then surrendered to Obamacare – D. NY), Gary Ackerman (D. NY), and numerous others.
On June 1, a top IDF navy commander told the Jerusalem Post that Israel will use more aggressive force in the future to prevent ships from breaking the blockade. “We boarded the ship and were attacked as if it was a war. That will mean that we will have to come prepared in the future as if it was war.”
On June 4, 2009 in Cairo, Barack Obama called violence “a dead end,” in “seek(ing) a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world, one based on mutual interest and mutual respect” without one religion competing with the other. They “share common principles….of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”
— intensified the Iraq occupation;
— expanded war in Afghanistan;
— wages it in Pakistan’s Northwest Waziristan;
— targets Yemen and the Horn of Africa;
— backed the Honduran coup;
— occupied and militarized Haiti for profit;
— threatens Venezuela and other nations;
— most recently heightened tensions with North Korea over a suspicious false flag incident; and
— backs Israel’s most egregious crimes of war and against humanity, saying only, through a White House spokesman, that he deeply “regrets the loss of lives and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy,” when it’s perfectly clear what happened and who’s at fault. Something neither he or America’s media can admit, despite worldwide condemnation.
A conclusion so clear it got one commentator to denounce the pro-Israeli chorus, saying their version is like a carjacker telling police that the driver bashed him on the head with a tire iron under his seat.
On June 3, Haaretz’s Gideon Levy called Netanyahu “a blind captain in the cockpit, flying his blindfolded passengers with exemplary precision” enough to get “the whole world against us.”
In a June 2, Asia Times op-ed, Pepe Escobar spoke for many when he said: “We are all Gazans now.”
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.