The following piece was co-written by myself and the outstanding journalist/blogger Alex Kane and was originally published as: “Zuckerman rag prints bald-faced lies on upcoming flotilla to Gaza.”I have added some more of my own observations on the New York Daily News editorial below.
It comes as no surprise that a newspaper owned by Mort Zuckerman, an ardent Zionist, would be anti-Palestinian and that it would strongly oppose efforts to break the Israeli naval blockade by sending a flotilla of ships to Gaza. But a recent editorial printed by the Zuckerman-owned New York Daily News is a particularly egregious example of U.S. media’s aversion to the facts on Israel/Palestine. The bald-faced lies–which follow recent Israeli pronouncements about the “terrorists” organizing the upcoming international flotilla to break the Israeli blockade–printed would be laughable only if it wasn’t going to be read by thousands of people.
The editorial states:
Sponsors of the flotilla are happily playing with fire, as they did a year ago in sailing into the blockade under the guise of delivering medicines and the like to Gaza. In fact, some of those ships carried suicidal fighters instead of useful goods. Nine of the brigands died when Israeli commandos were forced to board and came under assault.
To claim that those aboard the Mavi Marmara were the aggressors is to completely invert reality. The attack was conducted in international waters after Israel cut off all communications from the ships and surrounded the flotilla with over 20 naval vessels and warships, along with multiple helicopters. In addition to the 45 highly-trained and heavily-armed commandos who rappelled onto the largest ship, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, murdering 9 civilians and wounding about 60 more, about 650 other Israeli troops, including surveillance and support troops alongside those who actually boarded the ships, took part in the illegal assault on the flotilla.
And then there’s these howlers:
No one of any credibility disputes that Israel’s blockade is legal under international law. In coordination with Egypt, Israel barred sea-going shipments into Gaza in 2009 after years of Palestinian mortar and rocket attacks on Jewish soil.
As a board of inquiry put it:
“Israel imposed the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip for military-security reasons, which mainly concerned the need to prevent weapons, terrorists and money” from entering.
The UN has recognized the blockade’s legitimacy under international law. Now, it must prevent this perilous propaganda ploy.
First of all, the naval blockade has been in place since 2007, along with the land and air blockade–not 2009 as the editorial claims. The “board of inquiry” the Daily News refers to is the Turkel Commission, the name for the Israeli investigation into the flotilla events–hardly a neutral source of facts about the blockade of Gaza.
And finally, it appears that Zuckerman’s newspaper likes to make up facts. The UN has not “recognized the blockade’s legitimacy under international law.” In fact, various UN reports have labeled the blockade illegal. The UN fact-finding mission on the 2008-09 Gaza conflict, known as the Goldstone report, stated that the blockade was a form of collective punishment and that it was therefore in “violation of the provisions of article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention.” The UN report on the Israeli attack on the Mavi Marmara also clearly states that the blockade is illegal. In 2009, the Associated Press reported that “U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay has accused Israel of violating the rules of war with its blockade stopping people and goods from moving in and out of the Gaza Strip.”
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In addition to the points made above, the Daily News editorial is littered with deliberate falsehoods, absurd implications, and libelous accusations. Even the most cursory research reveals the shameful ignorance and heavy propaganda of the authors and their despicable intent.
Among the errors is the claim that the “only goal” of the 2011 flotilla “is to deliver humanitarian supplies to residents of Gaza,” which the editorial authoritatively declares “is a lie.”
Clearly, the editors who wrote this piece of garbage know nothing of the actual goals of the flotilla organizers. For instance, the Free Gaza movement, which has sent numerous boats to Gaza in the past few years, states on their website that their intention is “to break Israel’s illegal stranglehold on1.5 million Palestinian civilians.” Furthermore, they continue that, along with their “coalition partners, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza; IHH — the Turkish Foundation for Human Rights, Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief; the International Committee to End the Siege on Gaza; Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Greece,” they seek to defy “Israel’s criminal closure of the Gaza Strip” and “sail as an expression of citizen nonviolent, direct action, confronting Israel’s ongoing abuses of Palestinian human and political rights.”
Free Gaza’s mission statement reveals, contrary to what the Daily Newsignorantly claims, the actual goals set forth by the movement. Here is what they state:
We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine’s right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, or otherwise.
We have not and will not ask for Israel’s permission. It is our intent to overcome this brutal siege through civil resistance and non-violent direct action, and establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world.
Doesn’t sound much like their “only goal is to deliver humanitarian supplies.”
Likewise, the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, which “advocates the fundamental right of the Palestinian people in Gaza to live in peace and dignity without being subjected to any form of collective punishment such as the cutting of supplies of food, fuel and medicine or their denial of free access to travel outside Gaza Strip,” declaresits own goals this way:
[The ECESG] urges the participation of politicians and non-politicians alike to honor their duty to stop the suffering of one and a half million people trapped in Gaza under the most inhumane conditions. Supported by international and humanitarian law, the ECESG encourages all peoples of conscience and human rights advocates to intensify their efforts to highlight this life-threatening issue and end the catastrophe.
The U.S. Boat to Gaza describes the upcoming flotilla as an “international effort to break the blockade of Gaza and to end the occupation of Palestine.” Additionally, as an American delegation, the US Boat believes that “from the deck of The Audacity of Hope, we will be in a powerful and unique position to challenge U.S. foreign policy and affirm the universal obligation to uphold international law and human rights.”
In their mission statement, the U.S. Boat organizers declare that they “are taking action to help break the blockade which is suffocating the lives of the people of Gaza and denying them their liberty” and are joining “others from across the world to support an end to the collective punishment of 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza.”
All flotilla organizers stress, as the U.S. Boat does, that “we agree to adhere to the principles of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance in word and deed at all times.” Naturally, the editors of the Daily News are uninterested in these inconvenient facts, labeling the flotilla vessels “warships in disguise” and describe flotilla organizers as “terrorists…disguised as humanitarians.” Without providing any evidence, the article presents as fact the outrageous suggestion that the “ships carried suicidal fighters instead of useful goods.” Not only is the assertion that Hamas and al Qaeda operatives were aboard the flotilla ships untrue, it has been repeatedly proven false by journalists such as Max Blumenthal.
While the editorial describes the flotilla organizers as “Islamic extremists” seeking to smuggle weapons “under the guise of delivering medicines and the like to Gaza,” such allegations are absurd. The “brigands” it refers to are the nine unarmed Turkish citizens (including one Turkish-American) who were executed by Israeli soldiers in international waters.
The writers also state, without hyperbole, that the nine activists “died when Israeli commandos were forced to board and came under assault.” Died? Forced to board? Came under assault? The nine passengers killed during the Israeli assault didn’t just “die,” they were shot to death by Israeli troops who illegally boarded their ship. To claim that the Israeli commandos “came under assault” is to outrageously invert the roles of aggressors and victims.
Last year, an UN reporton the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre found, not only that the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza is illegal under international law and constitutes collective punishment (which is a war crime), but also:
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”
The report also found “clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention: willful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health,” and stated that Israel had seriously violated its obligations under the United Nations International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, including the “right to life…torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment…right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention…right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person…[and] freedom of expression.”
Additionally, in July 2010, domestic Israeli policy and its occupation conduct had been found to violate these very same statutes (among others) by the United Nations Human Rights Committee.
Based on both “forensic and firearm evidence,” the fact-finding panel concluded that the killing of Turkish-American citizen Furkan Doğan and five other Turkish citizens by the Israeli troops on the Mavi Marmara “can be characterized as extra-legal, arbitrary and summary executions.”
Furthermore, even propagandistic Zionists such as New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief Ethan Bronner has admitted that all 10,000 tons of aid goods aboard the
Mavi Marmara flotilla‘s cargo ships was “unquestionably humanitarian in nature.” The aid included 6,000 tons of cement, more than 2,000 tons of iron, 100 prefabricated houses, 500 wheelchairs, crutches, medical equipment, wood and glass for building, electric generators, water purifiers, a mobile dental care facility, and food. The cargo had also been confirmed not to be transporting any weaponry by authorities before its departure.
Another aid ship, the MV Rachel Corrie which carried 550 tons of cement, 20 tons of paper for printing school books, 25 tons of school supplies, 12 tons of sports equipment and 150 tons of medical supplies, was also illegally seized by the Israeli Navy a few days after the Mavi Marmara massacre.
The need for medicine and health care supplies in Gaza is very real, despite what the editors of the Daily News may want their readers to believe. Since June 2007, “the number of Palestine refugees unable to access food and lacking the means to purchase even the most basic items, such as soap, school stationery and safe drinking water, has tripled” and over 80 UN and aid agencies agree that “the formal economy in Gaza has collapsed.” At the end of 2009, a UN report found that “insufficient food and medicine is reaching Gazans, producing a further deterioration of the mental and physical health of the entire civilian population since Israel launched Operation Cast Lead against the territory,” and “blamed the blockade for continued breakdowns of the electricity and sanitation systems due to the Israeli refusal to let spare parts needed for repair get through the crossings.” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has “called on Israel to end the blockade of Gaza,” stating, “In particular, the Government of Israel should allow unimpeded access to Gaza for humanitarian aid and the non-humanitarian goods needed for the reconstruction of properties and infrastructure.”
The United Nations – which the Daily News calls upon to stop the upcoming flotilla –reported in January 2010 that Gaza is in “socio-economic crisis” and is suffering from the “severe deterioration of the already precarious living conditions of the people in Gaza and have further eroded a weakened health system.” The UN’s World Health Organization warns specifically that the brutal Israeli blockade – a clear example of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law – and the 2008-2009 winter massacre of Gaza “have led to on-going deterioration in the social, economic and environmental determinants of health.” The report notes that “many specialized treatments, for example for complex heart surgery and certain types of cancer, are not available in Gaza and patients are therefore referred for treatment to hospitals outside Gaza” continuing that “many patients have had their applications for exit permits denied or delayed by the Israeli Authorities and have missed their appointments. Some have died while waiting for referral.”
The UN also points out that “there are often shortages” of drugs and disposables “on the ground mainly because of shortfalls in deliveries” and that “[d]elays of up to 2-3 months occur on the importation of certain types of medical equipment, such as x-ray machines and electronic devices. Clinical staff frequently lack the medical equipment they need. Medical devices are often broken, missing spare parts or out of date.”
Furthermore, the report notes that sixteen health workers were killed and twenty-five injured while on duty by Israeli strikes. Also, fifteen of Gaza’s twenty-seven hospitals, forty-five of its 110 Primary Health Care services, and twenty-nine of its 148 ambulances were either damaged or destroyed in the Israeli assault. None of these facilities have been able to be repaired in the past two years due to the fact that Israel refuses to allow building materials into Gaza.
In June 2010, the WHO said that medical equipment valued at $20 million, including “CT scanners, X-ray machines, fluoroscopes, infusion pumps, medical sterilization gases, laboratory equipment, UPS (uninterrupted power supply) batteries and spare parts for support systems such as elevators” and which were “urgently needed in Gaza had been piling up for a year waiting for clearance from Israel.”
The WHO also renewed its call “to allow for the unimpeded access into the Gaza Strip of life-saving medical supplies, including equipment and medicines, as well as more effective movement of people in and out of the territory for medical training and the repair of devices needed to deliver appropriate healthcare.” The statementcontinued:
“It is impossible to maintain a safe and effective health care system under the conditions of siege that have been in place now since June 2007,” Tony Laurance, the head of the WHO’s office for Gaza and the West Bank, said in the statement. “It is not enough to simply ensure supplies like drugs and consumables. Medical equipment and spare parts must be available and be properly maintained.”
By December 2010, the Ministry of Health in Gaza was warning that “137 types of medicine and 150 of essential medical supplies are out of stock in Gaza, among those supplies are drugs used to treat cancer and kidney patients” and that a mere “37% of required medical supplies reached the Strip this year so far.”
Thankfully, the Daily News didn’t burden its readers with these annoying facts.
The Daily News editors claim that “the true aim is to provoke a confrontation that serves as a rallying point in a drive to portray Israel as an amoral, oppressive force.” Anyone familiar with Israel history knows full well that no artificial provocation is required for Israel to be portrayed as “amoral” and “oppressive.” The actions of the Israeli government and military over the past six decades prove that such a depiction is accurate, if not woefully inadequate to describe the war crimes, ethnic cleansing, and institutionalized discrimination necessary to continue Zionist domination of Palestine.
It should also be pointed out that, when mentioning mortars and rockets shot from Gaza into Israel, the Daily News states that the Palestinians were attacking “Jewish soil.” Jewish soil? Describing the State of Israel, which was established after years of massive (and illegal) Jewish immigration and months of deliberate and violent ethnic cleansing to eliminate the majority of native Muslim and Christian inhabitants from the area, as “Jewish soil” is disgusting. What does the Daily News think about the 20% of the Israeli population who are Palestinian Arabs and whose ancestors have owned and lived on the land for centuries if not longer? Whose “soil” are they living on?
Lastly, the photograph accompanying the Daily News piece shows a young Palestinian boy stocking shelves in a Gaza grocery store. The obvious implication is that there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza and that the 1.5 million Palestinians there are in no need of humanitarian aid, let alone human rights solidarity.
Naturally, this suggestion ignores the fact that, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 61% of Gazans are “food insecure,” of which “65% are children under 18 years;” the level of anemia in infants is as high as 65.5%, about 70% of Gazans live on less than $1 a day, 75% rely on food aid, and 60% have no daily access to water. It also sidesteps the fact that, as Rebecca Sargent of the Peace and Collaborative Development Network has noted, “Much of the population remains unemployed and thus have no money to buy supplies for themselves. U.N. Resolution 1860 calls for the unfettered access of aid and commercial goods to Gaza, although it would appear this call has been mostly ignored by the Israeli government’s blockade.”
The photo of the Gaza grocery store is clearly another piece of propaganda meant to signify to the reader, “hey, with stores like these, can we really believe that Gaza’s inhabitants are victims of deliberate deprivation, discrimination, and occupation?”
Apparently, according to Zuckerman’s Daily News editors, where there’s a market, there’s no suffering, right? To answer this question, one need only look at these pictures of the Warsaw Ghetto marketplace in the 1940’s:
While the Daily News ends its piece by urging the UN to prevent the upcoming flotilla from sailing to Gaza this June, it is clear that the “perilous propaganda ploy” it warns against is actually its own unadulterated hasbara.