IDF video of Israel’s raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla tells a different story
Greta Berlin, a leader of the pro-Hamas Free Gaza Movement, told the New York Times in a telephone interview from Cyprus today that Israeli soldiers dropped onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara and “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning.” That is undoubtedly the version of events that will be believed throughout the Middle East, where any anti-Israel theory is swallowed whole. But those not merely motivated by ideology might reach a rather different interpretation of what happened, thanks to the videos of the event released yesterday by the Israel Defense Forces.
The least-convincing video came first—a long-shot showing much of the vessel from above, presumably from a camera on one of the helicopters that inserted the commandos. The footage is grainy because the raid occurred in the early morning hours and was filmed with a night-vision lens. The figures are seen from a distance. They’re tiny. The only way you can tell what’s happening is from labels inserted by the IDF—e.g., “The first soldier is injured and thrown to the deck.”
Much better footage was released a few hours later. In a close-up shot you can actually see the troops descending on ropes and being set upon by an angry mob. The “peaceful” passengers wielding chairs and metal rods are clearly visible. So, too, is the horrifying sight of a soldier going head-first overboard.
A third video is almost entirely dark, but the soldiers’ conversation in Hebrew—with English subtitles provided by the IDF, but an accurate translation—tells the story. “It’s coming from all directions,” they shout. “We need to be evacuated now! Real weapons, real weapons! They are firing on us. There is live fire below.” As much as the words the desperate tone of the radio chatter conveys the magnitude of what was occurring.
This is further confirmed in an interview posted by the IDF with one of the commandos, whose arm is in a sling and whose face is obscured. “Every guy that descended was met by three or four people,” he says. “And they just started beating him up, tearing him to pieces. It was a lynch.”
Israel’s enemies long ago realized how potent propaganda warfare could be. They have made ample use of video cameras and Internet postings; Hezbollah even has its own satellite channel. Israel has been late to realize the importance of information warfare, but in its response to the Gaza flotilla dust-up it is finally casting aside the instinctive secretiveness of the military to give the world a view of what actually happened. Of course that won’t change the minds of many who are instinctively anti-Israel. But it’s better than simply ceding the information battlefield as Israel has done too often in the past.
Max Boot is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and the author of War Made New: Technology, Warfare, and the Course of History, 1500 to Today.
Israel’s mistake is trying to resolve new political problems with outdated military solutions
Daily rate: $2
Monthly rate: $18
Yearly rate: $180
WAIT, WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY TO COMMENT?
Tablet is committed to bringing you the best, smartest, most enlightening and entertaining reporting and writing on Jewish life, all free of charge. We take pride in our community of readers, and are thrilled that you choose to engage with us in a way that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. But the Internet, for all of its wonders, poses challenges to civilized and constructive discussion, allowing vocal—and, often, anonymous—minorities to drag it down with invective (and worse). Starting today, then, we are asking people who'd like to post comments on the site to pay a nominal fee—less a paywall than a gesture of your own commitment to the cause of great conversation. All proceeds go to helping us bring you the ambitious journalism that brought you here in the first place.
I NEED TO BE HEARD! BUT I DONT WANT TO PAY.
Readers can still interact with us free of charge via Facebook, Twitter, and our other social media channels, or write to us at email@example.com. Each week, we’ll select the best letters and publish them in a new letters to the editor feature on the Scroll.
We hope this new largely symbolic measure will help us create a more pleasant and cultivated environment for all of our readers, and, as always, we thank you deeply for your support.