Flotilla 2: NY Times Sinks the Truth

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According to a New York Times report, a second flotilla of vessels led by the Turkish Mavi Marmara is due to sail for Gaza within the next few months. Last time, the real motives and agenda of those involved in the flotilla only became clear after Israeli commandos were attacked by extremists brandishing weapons.

Last time, the flotilla organizers were allowed to sell a false narrative of so-called “peace activists” delivering humanitarian aid to Gazans suffering a humanitarian crisis as a result of an Israeli blockade.

This time, there is no excuse for the media not to question the agenda behind a second flotilla and to include the relevant context. The New York Times, however, has published such a shoddy piece of journalism that it is difficult to believe how such an article was allowed in the newspaper of record.

Where is the context?

According to the NY Times:

Almost a year ago, Israeli naval commandos stormed a previous flotilla sailing to Gaza, killing nine pro-Palestinian activists on the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships in the fleet.

Only this January, The Turkel Commisssion of inquiry into the events surrounding the May 31, 2010 Gaza flotilla concluded that Israeli soldiers only took action in self-defense after being violently attacked by the ship’s passengers and their actions complied with international law.

Having adopted the simple narrative over the events of May 2010, the article continues by describing the owners of the Mavi Marmara as the “Humanitarian Relief Foundation“, a “Turkish nongovernmental organization“.

Why does the NY Times use such a benign description, particularly when the organization is best known by its acronym the IHH, which the article does not refer to? It is no secret that the IHH has a radical Islamic anti-Western orientation, supports radical Islamic networks, including Hamas, and at least in the past, even global jihad elements.

Having interviewed someone from the IHH, did Susanne Gusten, the NY Times journalist not consider this background information on the IHH to be relevant to the story?

Where is the Israeli view?

Nowhere in the article are any Israelis interviewed by Gusten. Instead, for a counter-view, she relies heavily on a Turkish academic. However, this only puts the framework of the story within a solely Turkish context. Why did she not interview an Israeli government or military representative or academic?

This is particularly unprofessional given that Gusten presents the flotilla as a purely bilateral issue between Turkey and Israel. In fact, Israel has been in constant contact with many other states whose citizens intend to sail with the latest flotilla. Members of the US Congress have urged Turkey to prevent the flotilla. France has warned its citizens not to join the flotilla, which has also come in for criticism from Members of the European Parliament as well as EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton who said: “I don’t consider a flotilla to be the right response.

Gusten also quotes a UN Human Rights Council report on the flotilla, which criticizes Israel. This is the same UNHRC that includes such pillars of virtue and human rights as Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Pakistan, China, Qatar, Russia and, until recently Libya. Why then is this discredited UN organ deemed more credible than the detailed results of Israel’s Turkel Commission?

HonestReporting CEO Joe Hyams said the New York Times article failed the test of proper journalism. “The ABC’s of good journalism demand equal reference and citations for all sides of any story,” he said. “In the process, the New York Times is fueling a false narrative that cheapens the concept of true humanitarian aid.”

A blatant provocation

Those behind the flotilla claim that it is transporting humanitarian aid to Gaza. However, even the deputy director of the Red Cross in Gaza has stated that “there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza,” adding: “If you go to the supermarket, there are products. There are restaurants and a nice beach.”

Life in Gaza is by no means easy. However, Gazans are certainly not starving and Israel constantly facilitates thousands of tonnes of humanitarian aid into Gaza.

There is no other reason for this latest flotilla other than to provoke yet another confrontation with Israel and the IDF with the express intent of creating similar headlines and political problems for Israel as the first Mavi Marmara flotilla provided.

Why should Israel prevent the flotilla from reaching Gaza unchecked?

Over the past decade, there have been numerous attempts to smuggle weaponry by sea to terrorists groups in Gaza. As recently as March 15, 2011, the Israeli Navy seized an Iranian arms shipment bound for Gazan terror groups. On board the Victoria were some 50 tonnes of weapons. Missiles of increasing range continue to be fired against Israeli cities while, in April, Hamas fired an anti-tank missile at a school bus, killing a 16 year old Israeli.

Given this, it is obvious why Israel considers it vital to check the cargo of any vessels heading for Gaza – something it is entitled to do under international law. Israel has also made it clear that it is fully prepared to transfer humanitarian aid once it has undergone security checks.

The New York Times report on the latest flotilla is a shoddy piece of journalism, lacking in vital context, missing any Israeli comment and adopting the false narrative provided by anti-Israel activists well versed in manipulating the media for their cause.

Please send your considered comments to the New York Times and keep an eye out for any further coverage in the media that fails to present the reality behind the latest flotilla – letters@nytimes.com. Remember – letters for publication should be no longer than 150 words and must include the writer’s address and phone numbers.

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