More odds and ends re the flotilla fallout:
– In contrast to the Israeli characterization of flotilla participants as jihadist thugs, pictures released by Turkish newspaper Hürriyet show activists actually protecting and aiding injured Israeli Navy commandos. (H/T to Ali Abunimah for the link).
– Flotilla participant Jamal Elshayyal (a British citizen and producer for Al Jazeera English) has written an extensive account of his experiences on the night of the raid. While there no way to verify his testimony, it does square with numerous other eyewitness reports. At the very least, it underscores the need for a credible international investigation to get to the bottom of what actually happened aboard the Mavi Marmara:
After spotting the warships at a distance, (at roughly 11pm) the organisers called for passengers to wear their life vests and remain indoors as they monitored the situation. The naval warships together with helicopters remained at a distance for several hours.
At 2am local time the organisers informed me that they had re-routed the ship, as far away from Israel as possible, as deep into international waters as they could. They did not want a confrontation with the Israeli military, at least not by night.
Just after 4am local time, the Israeli military attacked the ship, in international waters. It was an unprovoked attack. Tear gas was used, sound grenades were launched, and rubber coated steel bullets were fired from almost every direction.
Dozens of speed boats carrying about 15-20 masked Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth surrounded the Mavi Marmara which was carrying 600 or so unarmed civilians. Two helicopters at a time hovered above the vessel. Commandos on board the choppers joined the firing, using live ammunition, before any of the soldiers had descended onto the ship.
Two unarmed civilians were killed just metres away from me. Dozens of unarmed civilians were injured right before my eyes.
One Israeli soldier, armed with a large automatic gun and a side pistol, was overpowered by several passengers. They disarmed him. They did not use his weapons or fire them; instead they threw his weapons over board and into the sea.
After what seemed at the time as roughly 30 minutes, passengers on board the ship raised a white flag. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition. The ships organisers made a loud speaker announcement saying they have surrendered the ship. The Israeli army continued to fire live ammunition.
– Finally, click above for a deeply disturbing clip of journalist Max Blumenthal interviewing participants at a recent Israeli rally in front of the Turkish embassy. I’m not sure what made me sadder: the callous celebration of an incident that led to the deaths of nine civilians or the “us against the world” siege mentality expressed by so many Israelis on the street.