Israeli Report Absolves IDF in Flotilla Incident


Published January 26, 2011, issue of February 04, 2011.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The response was predictable when Israel released the findings of its commission of inquiry into the fatal Turkish flotilla incident in May: Israel’s defenders heralded it as absolving Israel of wrongdoing, Turkish critics of Israel dismissed it as not credible.

Now, the question is how the international community will view the report, which found that the Israeli Navy was not at fault in the May 31 confrontation aboard one of a flotilla of Gaza-bound ships that left nine Turkish passengers dead.

“We think that this is an independent report, credible and impartial and transparent investigation that has been undertaken by Israel,” U.S. State Department spokesman Phillip Crowley said on January 24. “It will contribute to the broader process that continues through the secretary-general” of the United Nations.

It’s not clear that other countries will be as receptive to the Turkel Commission’s findings released on January 23.

“The Turkel committee was established mostly for external consumption, and even if the United Nations gives some weight to the panel’s findings, it’s hard to believe that the international community will accept them as is,” Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz.

Israel’s land and naval blockade of Gaza does not break international law, the report found, and Israeli soldiers acted in self-defense while intercepting and boarding the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish ship in the flotilla whose passengers attacked Israeli naval commandos when they tried to board the ship.

The report concluded that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, “in view of the security circumstances and Israel’s efforts to comply with its humanitarian obligations, was legal pursuant to the rules of international law.” But the report also suggested that Israel should find ways to focus its sanctions on Hamas while not harming the civilian population of Gaza.

The commission, which was chaired by former Israeli Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel, also called on Israel to find ways to improve the delivery of medical care to Palestinians in Gaza.

It included four appointed members from Israel – one died during the proceedings – as well as two foreign observers: Nobel Peace Prize Laureate David Trimble from Ireland and retired general Kenneth Watkin of Canada.

Twenty-seven witnesses over 15 days testified before the committee in open proceedings, while 12 witnesses offered their accounts behind closed doors.

Only the first part of the report was released on January 23. The second part will deal with whether Israel’s examination and investigation system regarding infringements of the laws of warfare comport with international law.

“I hope that all those who rushed to judgment against Israel and against its soldiers will read these reports and learn the truth about what happened,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “The truth is that our soldiers were defending our country and defending their very lives. This is not only their right; it is their duty.”

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on January 23 that the Turkel Commission’s findings have “no value or credibility.”

A Turkish report on the incident submitted last September to a U.N. panel investigating the incident said that Israeli commandos used “totally unnecessary violence” and withheld medical care to passengers injured in the raid. It found Israel’s blockade of Gaza and subsequent interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla to be in violation of international law.

“We expected the Turkel report to say that mistakes were made and disproportionate force was used, but instead the report’s attitude almost renders the Israeli soldiers heroes,” a Turkish Foreign Ministry official told reporters on January 24.

The Tel Aviv-based nonprofit Gisha: Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which advocates for Palestinian rights, criticized Israel’s ongoing blockade of Gaza.

“No commission of inquiry can authorize the collective punishment of a civilian population by restricting its movement and access, as Israel did in its closure of Gaza,” the organization said in a statement.

Meanwhile, the Free Gaza movement and the Turkish pro-Palestinian organization IHH, which organized the May 2010 flotilla, said that two new Gaza-bound convoys — dubbed the Freedom Flotilla 2 — will sail for Gaza in the spring.

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Find us on Facebook!
  • You wouldn't think that a Soviet-Jewish immigrant would find much in common with Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But the famed novelist once helped one man find his first love.
  • Can you relate?
  • The Forverts' "Bintel Brief" advice column ran for more than 65 years. Now it's getting a second life — as a cartoon.
  • Half of this Hillel's members believe Jesus was the Messiah.
  • Vinyl isn't just for hipsters and hippies. Israeli photographer Eilan Paz documents the most astonishing record collections from around the world:
  • Could Spider-Man be Jewish? Andrew Garfield thinks so.
  • Most tasteless video ever? A new video shows Jesus Christ dying at Auschwitz.
  • "It’s the smell that hits me first — musty, almost sweet, emanating from the green felt that cradles each piece of silver cutlery in its own place." Only one week left to submit! Tell us the story of your family's Jewish heirloom.
  • Mazel tov to Chelsea Clinton and Marc Mezvinsky!
  • If it's true, it's pretty terrifying news.
  • “My mom went to cook at the White House and all I got was this tiny piece of leftover raspberry ganache."
  • Planning on catching "Fading Gigolo" this weekend? Read our review.
  • A new initiative will spend $300 million a year towards strengthening Israel's relationship with the Diaspora. Is this money spent wisely?
  • Lusia Horowitz left pre-state Israel to fight fascism in Spain — and wound up being captured by the Nazis and sent to die at Auschwitz. Share her remarkable story — told in her letters.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?

We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.