Saturday, June 05, 2010

Rachel Corrie Boarded

The Irish aid ship MV Rachel Corrie, named after the young American idealist who was killed by Israeli forces in 2003 (Rachel Corrie was crushed by a bulldozer operated by the IDF which was destroying homes in Gaza), was boarded by Israel's military and taken over at 9am GMT this morning. As reported by the International Solidarity Network:
Just before 9am GMT this morning, the Israeli military forcibly seized the Irish-owned humanitarian relief ship, the MV Rachel Corrie, from delivering over 1000 tons of medical and construction supplies to besieged Gaza. For the second time in less then a week, Israeli naval commandos stormed an unarmed aid ship, brutally taking its passengers hostage and towing the ship toward Ashdod port in Southern Israel.

05-Jun-2010. International Solidarity Network (ISN)
Helen Thomas, 89 year hold White House correspondent for the UPI, and apparently the only main-stream American journalist with balls, had this exchange with Robert Gibbs in relation to the massacre of civilians by Israeli forces earlier in the week aboard the Mavi Marmara:
ROBERT GIBBS: The Security Council deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries resulting from the use of force during the Israeli military operation in international waters against the convoy sailing to Gaza. The Council, in this context, condemns those acts which resulted in the loss of at least ten civilians and many wounded, and expresses its condolences to their families. The Security Council requests the immediate release of the ships as well as civilians held by Israel.

REPORTER: So that would seem to cover President Obama’s personal feelings, while some of the allies are looking for a stronger statement from him directly.

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, again, I—this is supported not just by the United States but by the international community.

REPORTER: In light of what happened with the Gaza aid flotilla, is the President considering at least backing international calls to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip by the Israeli forces?

ROBERT GIBBS: No. Well, look, obviously, as we have said before, we are concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and continue to work with the Israelis and international partners in order to improve those conditions. And as the UN Security Council statement says, obviously it’s an untenable situation.

HELEN THOMAS: Our initial reaction to this flotilla massacre, deliberate massacre, an international crime, was pitiful. What do you mean you regret when something should be so strongly condemned? And if any other nation in the world had done it, we would have been up in arms. What is this sacrosanct, iron-clad relationship, where a country that deliberately kills people—

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, again, Helen, I—

HELEN THOMAS: —and boycotts, and we aid and abet the boycott?

ROBERT GIBBS: Well, look, I think the initial reaction, regretted the loss of life, as we tried and still continue to try to gather the relevant—

HELEN THOMAS: Regret won’t bring them back.

ROBERT GIBBS: Nothing can bring them back, Helen. We know that for sure, because I think if you could, that wouldn’t be up for debate. We are—we believe that a credible and transparent investigation has to look into the facts. And as I said earlier, we’re open to international participation in that investigation.

HELEN THOMAS: Why did you think of it so late?

ROBERT GIBBS: Why did we think of...?

HELEN THOMAS: Why didn’t you initially condemn it?

ROBERT GIBBS: Again, I think the statements that we released speak directly to that.
Hurray for Helen Thomas. Gibbs on the other hand, as is usual for him, stumbled and mumbled through this conversation with the backbone of a jellyfish. Ridiculously enough, he even made a policy point saying that, if we could resurrect the slain civilians, "that wouldn't be up for debate"; bold stuff...

Meanwhile, eyewitness accounts from civilians on board the attacked ship are supporting the early reports, broadcast by satellite from the Mavi Marmara. The basic storyline is as follows:
  1. The nighttime assault began with helicopters firing into a crowd on the deck
  2. At least one civilian was killed and many others wounded
  3. Passengers on the Mavi Marmara raised a white flag
  4. The helicopters continued firing upon the people
  5. Panic stricken, the people began picking up pipes and sticks
  6. Commandos began to descend from the helicopters, firing upon the people with impunity
  7. Ultimately the people were subdued and the violence ceased
  8. No weapons were found on board
Estimates are now that one person was killed per minute. From an eye witness account:
Israeli commandos shot passengers at the rate of one a minute during the bloody raid on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza, a Briton on board the main vessel has said.

Ismail Patel, chairman of Leicester-based Palestinian rights group Friends of Al Aqsa, said one of the nine people killed during the assault was shot just two feet in front of him.

He said the commandos had a "shoot to kill" policy during the initial phase of the attack on the Mavi Marmara, with live rounds being fired on the vessel from a helicopter hovering above.

Mr Patel, who has now returned to Briton after attending the funerals of his shipmates in Turkey, told a press conference in Westminster the gunfire on the vessel lasted around an hour.

Despite Israeli claims of armed resistance, Mr Patel said those on board acted in self-defence using whatever was at hand.

His voice choked with emotion, Mr Patel said: "We now can calculate that they shot one person every minute.

"One person was shot every minute. There were nine fatalities, over 48 people with gunshot wounds, six are unaccounted for."

04-Jun-2010. Roberts, Adrian. One killed every minute Morning Star.
Israel is now claiming the peaceful boarding of the Rachel Corrie was executed in the same manner, with far different results, as the Mavi Marmara. However, there are many differences.

First and foremost, the ship was detained and boarded in broad daylight. Secondly, there were far fewer passengers aboard, and third, no shots were fired during the assault.

Similar to the previous incident, Israeli naval commandos did storm the ship and physically brutalize the passengers in international waters, an act of piracy under international law.

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