The UN’s Palmer Report into the events of the first Gaza flotilla in 2010 came to a number of important conclusions that, in the main vindicated Israel’s positions:
- Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is legal and Israel has the right to enforce the blockade, including in international waters.
- The decision to breach the naval blockade was a dangerous and reckless act which needlessly carried the potential for escalation.
- The conduct and true objectives of the flotilla organizers, particularly the IHH, included plans to violently resist any boarding attempt.
The Israeli Government adopted the Report albeit with reservations concerning the characterization of Israel’s decision to board the vessels in the manner it did as “excessive and unreasonable” as well as alleged mistreatment of some flotilla participants following the docking of vessels in Israel.
But what did the media choose to focus on and emphasize with the publication of the Palmer Report? A grudging acknowledgment that Israel did indeed have a valid case?
Not judging by these headlines, which made it clear which way the story was framed:
In addition, this Sky News headline also makes it abundantly clear who the guilty party is considered to be:
A Different Standard for Israel
Joseph Ciechanover, Israel’s representative on the Palmer Panel, stated that:
Their [the Panel members’] efforts should send a message to the international community about the need to engage with all sides to a dispute and to avoid prejudging an incident before all of the facts are known.
This certainly applies to much of the international media that unleashed a maelstrom of vicious reporting, working on the assumption that Israel was the perpetrator and turning Israel into a virtual pariah at the time of the incident.
Think back to the media coverage of the flotilla and the UN’s Goldstone Report, which also generated a wave of anti-Israel sentiment in the media and beyond. So why then is a UN report that, in the main, supports Israeli policies not deemed equally newsworthy? After all, these days, anything positive concerning Israel, particularly from a problematic body such as the UN is news in itself.
No Turkey Shoot
Perhaps Turkish PM Erdogan knew exactly what he was doing when he hijacked the news cycle and turned the media’s attention to the expulsion of Israel’s ambassador to Ankara alongside a downgrading of relations with Israel.
Could it be that he did not want to draw attention to the parts of the Palmer Report where Turkey did not exactly come out smelling of roses? Or could it be the current Turkish bombing campaign against Kurds in northern Iraq that has barely come under any real media spotlight?
In any case, a lazy media preferred to concentrate on Turkish histrionics rather than addressing a certain hypocrisy on the part of the Turks and the substance of the Palmer Report itself.
Missing Context and Underreporting Facts
Some media just couldn’t help but go looking for contradictory voices concerning the Palmer Report. Turkey publicly admonished the findings. But what better than the comments of an Israeli politician to muddy the waters even further as The Times of London (subscription only) concluded its article:
The report’s finding that the blockade is legitimate was rejected by Hanin Zoabi, a member of the Israeli parliament, who called for “those who sent the army to stop the flotilla [to] be brought before international tribunals”.
What The Times failed to mention was that Zoabi, apart from being a member of the radical Balad party with a very large axe to grind against the Israeli state itself, was also a passenger on the Mavi Marmara.
Meanwhile, Sky News only considered it relevant to mention the Palmer findings in the penultimate and tenth paragraph of its report on the Turkish moves against Israel.
The BBC continued its ever so subtle use of strategically placed headings to steer readers in the direction that it would like, as evidenced by this:
The Guardian was probably the most vociferous media outlet at the time of the flotilla and a perrennial cheerleader for the Goldstone Report and UN actions against Israel. This time, however, The Guardian’s support for a UN-sponsored report melts away when it does not like the conclusions:
Where the Mavi Marmara went, Turkey will follow by challenging the Gaza blockade in the international court of justice. And rightly so. The Palmer panel’s finding went against every statement the UN secretary general has made about Gaza, the Goldstone report and a report by the UN human rights council in September. If, as Palmer found, the siege is legal in international law, the occupation is too. This must be challenged in court.
A Game Changing Report?
Jennifer Rubin, writing in the Washington Post, asks what the Palmer Report has to do with the Palestinian statehood effort at the UN this month and notes how the Report clearly acknowledges the necessity of Israel having to defend itself from rocket attacks and terrorism from Gaza. Rubin states:
Not only is this an implicit repudiation of the premises of the Goldstone Report (which, in Operation Cast Lead, portrayed the Israelis as aggressors and Gazans as victims), but it is a powerful argument against granting the Palestinians their request for a declaration of statehood. The government of that new state is co-run by the very terrorists described in the flotilla report as waging war on Israel.
The consequences and implications of Israel being in the right may well go far beyond just the flotilla incident. But then, in the eyes of many, Israel can only ever be in the wrong even when it is found to be in the right.