Eyewitnesses Say Israelis came in with Guns Blazing

As The Lede points out, the more Mavi Marmara passengers who talk to the press, the more the Israeli official narrative about their landing on the deck of the ship is challenged.

Accounts of Israeli troops shooting passengers between the eyes are particularly chilling.

Aljazeera English broadcast an interview with Jamal ElShayyal , a journalist aboard the Mavi Marmara. In it, he asserted that the Israelis opened fire as they were boarding the vessel, and that one passenger took a bullet through the top of his head. Many passengers have now confirmed that they were fired on even before the commandos had boots on the deck. Presumably it is this suppressive fire that killed or wounded some passengers and which provoked an angry reaction and an attack on the commandos.

The Independent in the UK constructs a timeline for the Israeli attack that has twenty or so passengers attempting to stop the Israeli commandos from boarding their vessel, with some success. With four commandos captured by the aid activists and with boarding the ship now difficult, Israeli commanders appear to have authorized the use brute force.

Cenk Uygur of the Young Turks discusses the controversy around the Israeli killing of an American citizen of Turkish extraction:

He argues that this killing was an execution. As for the victim having lived most his life in Turkey, Cenk wonders if he would have been discounted as a citizen if he had lived most of his life in Israel. See his column here.

29 Responses

  1. Well, Cenk is certainly correct over all. However, in combat handgunning, yes, it is possible to shoot the guy five times, first in the chest (center of mass), then in the head – either because he didn’t immediately collapse or because the shooter simply wasn’t waiting for that to happen.

    Personnel trained in combat handgunning will almost always shoot at least two shots into an adversary (or perceived adversary – we have NO idea what the American or the shooter was doing or not doing at the time) and then follow up with two more depending on whether they need to deal with another adversary who is a more immediate threat.

    Based on the melee that the videos show, I’d say the Israeli troops were probably blasting away at everybody within range without much fire control. So this guy getting hit five times to me does not indicate that somebody just walked up to him standing there and then shot him five times. Nobody doing an execution would bother shooting him five times. They would have shot him once, maybe twice, in the head, with no body shot at all. OR he would have been put down with the body shot and then shot once or twice in the head. Only if someone was significantly PO’d would they bother shooting him two more times in the head. And it is quite possible the Israeli soldiers were either PO’d or simply told to be brutal about it in order to intimidate the other passengers.

    Of course, we don’t WHO shot him, WHAT their motivation was, WHY he was shot, and HOW he was shot. All we know for sure is that he took five hits at close range. And the range doesn’t matter either without knowledge of the circumstances.

    However, none of that matters one whit anyway, because the attack was illegal. And the attack was illegal because the blockade is illegal. And the blockade is illegal because the state of Israel itself is illegal, since the UN’s own Commission set up to study the issue in 1947 as to whether the UNSC had the legal authority to partition Palestine concluded it did NOT have that authority.

    I’m just saying you can’t necessarily take the number of hits this guy took or at what range as proof or even evidence that he was deliberately executed – although he may well have been. That may play well for people who don’t know anything about tactical small arms combat, but it’s not necessarily correct. Had he been shot twice in the BACK or side of the head at close range without a body shot, that would have been much better evidence of execution.

  2. “With four commandos captured by the aid activists and with boarding the ship now difficult, Israeli commanders appear to have authorized the use brute force.”

    The problem with violent resistance, no matter how it may have been provoked, is it muddies the water and gives our oppressors a way to justify their own violence. In this case, the Israeli commanders can argue that they authorized the use of brute force because their commandos had been taken hostage.

    If the activists had been strictly non-violent, if they had chained themselves to the rails and wheels of the ships, for example, Israel’s responsibility for any violence would have been indisputable.

    This in no way excuses the brutality of the Israelis. If American commanders can risk American lives in Afghanistan by following rules designed to protect Afghan civilians, the Israeli commanders should have the courage to follow rules that protect the lives of people protesting Apartheid in Gaza. But, in my opinion, the Palestinians’ best hope for isolating Israel from the West is non-violent resistance.

    It will be interesting to see what happens on the Rachel Corrie this afternoon.

    • ” ‘With four commandos captured by the aid activists and with boarding the ship now difficult, Israeli commanders appear to have authorized the use brute force.’
      The problem with violent resistance, no matter how it may have been provoked, is it muddies the water and gives our oppressors a way to justify their own violence. ”

      Excellent point. If there is a lesson in the past 100 years, it’s that Civil Disobedience works best…maybe only works at all…if it is completely nonviolent. (Ref. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King.) Remember the scene from “Gandhi” when the Indians one-by-one walked to the water and the British soldiers beat each of them. Eventually the British realized how badly they were losing this dispute and gave up, and eventually after many more such campaigns, gave India its independence. If the Indians had fought back, the British would have felt justified in the continued use of force and Indian independence would have been much delayed instead of really being the first nonwhite colony to gain independence.

    • That’s funny, because we see the same brutality and WORSE from US troops in Afghanistan all too often, or rather , we don’t see it, because it’s hidden. But some of it leaks out … but have you forgotten that because it’s OUR evil and not Israel’s evil? Where the hell do you think the evil in Israel’s political world comes from? Do you suppose massive annual support from the US to the hardline establishment in Israel could have anything to do with it?

      If you live in the US, you are living in the belly of the beast. What you are seeing in Israel’s actions is the fire the beast breaths out. More of that fire can be seen in Afghanistan.

  3. Turkey is a member of NATO. Israel is not.

    NATO members pledge to defend each other.

    The US has an obligation, therefore, to use force against Israel to defend ships flying the Turkish flag.

  4. THIS is why the “young turk army” is so strong, particularly among the 30-and-under crowd. Setting aside his lechery and a few other biases, Cenk Uygur makes more sense than anyone on television, including Olbermann, Maddow, and the other liberal opinion journalists. Only Bill Moyers is more important as a television presenter, and as of May 2010 he is retired from the medium.

    “Eternal immunity” is a pretty good summation.

  5. Gulfnews Dubai/Cairo: “According to a report in The Guardian, an Algerian activist, who gave her name as Sabrina,” provides a particular gruesome account of the massacre aboard the Mavi Marmara : “Israelis subdued captain by pointing gun at a child including… “They handcuffed us, pushed us around and humiliated us,” Egyptian MP Hazem Farouq, who was also on the boat, said and added what he witnessed on the ship “defied his imagination” e.g… “It was hell on the sea. I saw Israeli soldiers killing activists in cold blood and then walking on their bodies” … “Israelis left some of the injured activists bleeding without treatment until death.” According to him, the blood was so copious on the ship that some Israeli soldiers slipped while on board.

    • Israel’s strategy vis-a-vis the Palestinians is always one of provocation followed by brutality.

  6. On a good note the tide seems to be running towards outrage today on the Have Your Say board at the BBC. I can’t believe that the gate keepers allowed the honest expression of revulsion at the acts of Israel. I could find very few apologists to these criminal acts, this I hope is the pulling away of the curtain. I also read at CNN that the autopsies performed on the victims indicate the the distance that these men where shot at is 2 to 14 centimeters. link at sig

  7. It was a military assault in international waters against a peaceful ship, and a US citizen was killed, apparently execution style.

    … and virtually the entire American media and political establishment is either defending Israel on this, or singing praises.

    That means we are as brutal and vicious a society as Israel has become.

  8. The Jews I know are more horrified by the Israeli actions than my non-Jew friends. Israel is hammering a wedge between itself and younger Jews, who increasingly not only do not identify with Israel but see it as a vicious renegade nation that needs to be forced to follow the rules. I don’t have any Jewish friends left who support Israel. This more than anything else will change the relationship between Israel and the American government and media. A generational change is happening.

  9. Prof. Cole, I’m Brazilian (living in NYC) and I subscribe to the TV Globo channel thru satellite TV. I’ve been watching Globo’s coverage of this incident (not a helluva lot better than US coverage, just a little less sycophantic to Israel). On their nightly Jornal Nacional yesterday they had an interview with a Brazilian citizen who was on the ship. She’s a Brazilian of Japanese descent. She too testified that the Israeli soldiers started shooting even before they came on the ship and were in full combat mode before anyone on the ship had reacted.

  10. I’ll amend my comment above based on the autopsies. Dogan WAS shot twice in the leg and once in the face – probably the first shots. THEN he was shot in the back AND the back of the head.

    That means he was shot, brought down, then executed as he lay there. That was way out of line of any reasonable rules of engagement under the circumstances.

  11. Guardian report on autopsy results: a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back.

    (In the same paper: a brief, sensible account of the recent evolution of Turkey’s foreign policy.)

    In an aerial video released by the Israelis (with yellow Hebrew text and a circle to draw people’s attention to another incident – something being thrown, I think), I remember seeing a blurry figure approach another – who appeared to be stationary, perhaps already lying stunned or wounded on the deck – and, arm extended, discharge two shots at close range. Given that Israel had released the video, I thought I must be mistaken (was I?) – forgetting that the propagandists assume, sadly often correctly, that video so absorbs and befuddles us that we will see what we are told we are seeing, or at least forget to ask even the most basic questions (“Who is holding the camera?”, “When were the images recorded?”, “Why are we not seeing footage of the other things we are told happened?”). Remember how during its last war on Lebanon Israel released aerial footage of a mobile rocket launcher firing from near a house and then immediately leaving the scene? Anyone who wanted a justification for the Israeli destruction of the house some time later, killing many civilians sheltering inside, was inexplicably quite satisfied by these pictures. It seemed TV-treated brains couldn’t accomodate more than one idea at a time, so that “Did Hezbollah fire any rockets from the vicinity of civilian buildings?” completely eclipsed “So if the Israelis had these images then why the hell did they bomb the house?!” People even believed that these large rockets were launched from inside houses, never wondering whether such a weapon could be fired out of a window, let alone manoeuvred into a room, or if it could, whether the blowback in a confined space might kill the person firing it, or if it didn’t whether the house would afford any protection from Israeli bombs and missiles.

    When it comes to Israeli propaganda, we can believe none of what we hear and half of what we see. Part of the reason for the Mavi Marmara atrocity may be that, while we tend to assume Israel’s more hysterical propaganda is directed at sustaining the stupidest, most reflexively Islamophobic constituency abroad, many Israelis believe their own lines about “humanitarian terrorists”, etc.

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