Israel barbarously attacks Gaza aid fleet


Al Jazeera’s report on board the Mavi Marmara before communications were cut

Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country’s siege on Gaza.

At least 15 people were killed and dozens injured when troops intercepted the convoy of ships dubbed the Freedom Flotilla early on Monday, the Israeli military said.

The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Gaza coast.

Israeli Military spokeswoman, Avital Leibovich, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: “This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves.”

Footage from the flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on board the Mavi Marmara, said Israeli troops had used live ammunition during the operation.

Live blogging
Aftermath of Israel’s attack on Gaza flotilla

The Israeli military said four soldiers had been wounded and claimed troops opened fire after “demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs”.

Free Gaza Movement, the organisers of the flotilla, however, said the troops opened fire as soon as they stormed the convoy.

Our correspondent said that a white surrender flag was raised from the ship and there was no live fire coming from the passengers.

Before losing communication with our correspondent, a voice in Hebrew was clearly heard saying: “Everyone shut up”.

Israeli intervention

Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.

Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels had flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance.

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Organisers of the flotilla carrying 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.

They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.

Al Jazeera’s Ayman Mohyeldin, reporting from Jerusalem, said the Israeli action was surprising.

“All the images being shown from the activists on board those ships show clearly that they were civilians and peaceful in nature, with medical supplies on board. So it will surprise many in the international community to learn what could have possibly led to this type of confrontation,” he said.

Meanwhile, Israeli police have been put on a heightened state of alert across the country to prevent any civil disturbances.

Sheikh Raed Salah,a leading member of the Islamic Movement who was on board the ship, was reported to have been seriously injured. He was being treated in Israel’s Tal Hasharon hospital.

In Um Al Faham, the stronghold of the Islamic movement in Israel and the birth place of Salah, preparations for mass demonstrations were under way.

Protests

Condemnation has been quick to pour in after the Israeli action.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, officially declared a three-day state of mourning over Monday’s deaths.

Turkey, Spain, Greece, Denmark and Sweden have all summoned the Israeli ambassador’s in their respective countries to protest against the deadly assault.

Worldwide outrage has followed the deadly Israeli attack of Gaza aid convoy [AFP]

Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke. The protesters shouted “Damn Israel” as police blocked them.

“(The interception on the convoy) is unacceptable … Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behaviour,” the Turkish foreign ministry said in a statement.

Ismail Haniya, the Hamas leader in Gaza, has also dubbed the Israeli action as “barbaric”.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, were with the flotilla, aiming to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo.

But Israel had said it would not allow the flotilla to reach the Gaza Strip and vowed to stop the six ships from reaching the coastal Palestinian territory.

The flotilla had set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach Gaza by Monday morning.

Israel said the boats were embarking on “an act of provocation” against the Israeli military, rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.

It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers rejected.

Un-Worthy victims, even Un-Worthy to report

At a time when media and spin are arguably as powerful as armies, the outcomes of battles for hearts and minds often shape the world we live in.

This is truest when it comes to the Palestinian struggle for liberation. As a journalist I’m aware of the simple nuances that can, and are, often used which ultimately affect the lives of millions of people. For example,  a “war” can be described as a “conflict”, or civilians “killed” in an air strike could also be referred to as civilians who “died” in an attack etc.

Whoever said words were just words was lying.

From Mark Regev, to Press TV, as spin doctors and media outlets decide how to react and report on the Freedom Flotilla in the coming days, it’s important that one scrutinises their words (or lack of) in every way possible.

For starters, one must ask why such a big story is not being covered by many of the large international news networks. Surely one of the biggest demonstrations of collective international civil resistance, involving 50 nationalities, more than 30 parliamentarians, and costing millions of dollars is news worthy.

This Flotilla directly affects the lives of 1.5 million Gazans who have been living under siege for over 3 years; in fact it also affects the lives of many Israelis too, as they struggle to cling onto a two faced fallacy of democratic colonisation. It baffles me how some news outlets think the European launch of Apple’s i-Pad is more of a story.

When it comes to Arab media, the case is similar. In Egypt for example, there is little mention that were it not for Cairo’s collaboration with Israel, the siege on Gaza would never have succeeded, and this Flotilla would probably not be necessary.

Instead, newspapers and talk shows alike, label the Flotilla organisers as disingenuous for refusing the benevolent offer by the Egyptian government to allow the ships through Alarish and into Gaza.

And Egypt is not alone, even those in the Arab world who have commended the passengers on board the Flotilla in their attempt at breaking Israel’s inhumane and illegal siege on Gaza, have failed to question why their governments have not done more.

Why have a few hundred individuals taken it upon themselves to relieve a besieged people, whilst their “brother” nations with all their wealth and military might do nothing?

In the coming days, as journalists and politicians alike ponder on what words to use (or not to use) let us not forget that beyond all this, 1.5 million people remain besieged.

Un spin the spin and you will find that a territory ravaged by 23 days of Israeli bombardment remains crippled.

Read between the lines and you will see that this Flotilla is nothing more than a flame of hope, for people who possess little more than just that. Hope. Just a word.

The Role of the Media in Politics

The Role of Media in Contemporary politics forces us to ask what kind of a world and what kind of a society we want to live in , and in particular in what sense of democracy do we want this to be a democratic society ? Let me begin by counter-posing two different conceptions of democracy .

One conception of democracy has it that a democratic society is one in which the public has the means to participate in some meaningful way in the management of their own affairs and the means of information are open and free. If you lookup democracy in the dictionary you’ll get a definition something like that.

An alternative conception of democracy is that the publich must be barred from managing of their own affairs and the means of information must be kept narrowly and rigidly controlled. That may sound like an odd conception of democracy, but it’s important to understand that it is the prevailing conception . In fact, it has long been, not  just in operation , but even in theory .

There’s a long history that goes back to the earliest modern democratic revolutions in seventeenth century England which largely expresses this point of view. I’m just going to keep to the modern period and say a few words about how that notion of democracy develops and why and how the problem of media and disinformation enters within that context.