In the early morning hours of 31 May 2010, Israeli forces carried out a violent, unprovoked assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as it sailed in international waters in the eastern Mediterranean.
Israeli commandos in speed boats and helicopters commandeered the six ships killing nine people and injuring dozens more aboard the largest vessel, the Mavi Marmara.
Amid intense Israeli efforts to jam communications, any picture, such as this one showing a person with blood on their life vest, gave vital clues to the seriousness and violence of the Israeli assault.
Countering Israel’s propaganda
Israel not only attacked the ships but commandeered them with all their passengers and crew to the port of Ashdod, where they were held incommunicado for many days. All video and photographic footage was confiscated, and media were not allowed to speak to the hundreds of kidnapped passengers. Israel has still not returned the footage and other evidence it stole.
In the first hours and days, Israel’s propaganda – or hasbara – machine went into full swing, publishing false and distorted reports and images – such as the infamous ‘man with a dagger’ photo, and heavily edited and misleading video.
Independent reporting, using information from sources ignored by mainstream media, was key to countering Israel’s propaganda.
Lubna Masarwa, one of the first Mavi Marmara passengers to be released from Israeli custody provided a harrowing eyewitness account, published by The Electronic Intifada on 8 June.
And despite Israeli censorship, independent filmmaker Iara Lee who was aboard the Mavi Marmara managed to smuggle an hour of footage off the ship and past her Israeli kidnappers.
Analysis of this footage has provided vital corroboration of what happened during the Israeli assault, including: the use of European and American weapons and indiscriminate live fire by the Israeli attackers. Iara Lee’s footage also provided a poignant glimpse of the last moments of Turkish journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar, one of the nine people killed.
The flotilla was attacked even as it tried to flee
The Electronic Intifada was able to plot the known positions of the Mavi Marmara on a map and by comparing with other evidence demonstrate that the flotilla was not only in international waters, but heading away from the Israeli coast when it was attacked.
Here is a selection of some of the reporting on my posthaven blog, and other coverage, in the days and weeks after the attack:
- 1 June 2010
- Video: Adam Shapiro, Amira Hass, Ali Abunimah, Richard Falk on Democracy Now.
- 3 June 2010
- “The day the world became Gaza” - op-ed on Aljazeera.net
- 3 June 2010
- Did Israel try to assassinate Sheikh Raed Salah on Mavi Marmara but kill a Turkish engineer instead?
- 4 June 2010
- Proof emerges IDF audio of radio communication with Mavi Marmara is fabricated
- 6 June 2010
- Israel hasbara fails again: Photos show Mavi Marmara passengers protecting, aiding Israeli soldiers
- Hasbara comedy video further exposes IDF “knife-attacker” photo fraud
- 7 June 2011
- Did Israel press on with bloody attack on Mavi Marmara even as ship fled at full-speed?
- 8 June 2011:
- “The crimes I saw on the Mavi Marmara,” Lubna Masarwa
- 13 June 2010
- Video reveals European, American weapons used in Israeli attack on Gaza Flotilla
- Footage proves indiscriminate Israeli live fire at Mavi Marmara passengers in Gaza Flotilla
- 14 June 2010
- The last moments of Cevdet Kılıçlar, a working journalist murdered on the Mavi Marmara
- 15 June 2010
- “Independent journalists dismantling Israel’s hold on media narrative,” Abraham Greenhouse and Nora Barrows-Friedman.
Israel’s propaganda and the efforts to counter it were immortalized in Minor Demographic Threat’s brilliant Internet Killed Israeli PR, a parody of the 1979 hit Video Killed the Radio Star by The Buggles.
Finally, as a new flotilla prepares to head to Gaza this summer, Israel’s propaganda campaign against it is already in full swing.