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September 3, 2011
Wash. Post inverts UN report on flotilla raid to blacken Israel
Let's start with the actual conclusions of the UN report on last year's Israeli commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, the lead Turkish vessel in a flotilla attempting to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza . To wit:
--Israel was within its legal rights to blockade Gaza because of persistent attacks from this Palestinian territory on Israeli towns. "Israel faces a real threat to its security from militants in Gaza," the report declares. It calls the blockade a "legitimate security measure." In this respect, the UN panel -- personally appointed by Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon -- completely repudiates an earlier finding by the discredited, anti-Israel UN Human Rights Council that the blockade was illegal.
--Violence-bent activists aboard the Mavi Marvara engaged in "reckless" attacks on the commandos descending from a hovering helicopter to the top deck.
--Israel was justified in using force to repel this assault on the commandos.
--Turkey should have done more to screen passengers on the ship before departure to weed out dangerous characters.
--Israel need not issue a formal apology to Turkey, but should come up with an expression of "regret" and pay compensation to families of the nine Turks killed in the battle with the commandos. This is exactly what Israel has offered to do all along, except that Turkey has kept insisting that it would not be satisfied with anything less than an apology.
--Israel's own investigation, which cleared the commandos, was the work of professional and independent investigators, while Turkey's investigation was "tendentious" -- i.e. propagandistic.
--The commandos, when screening other passengers, were sometimes abusive.
-- While the commandos were perfectly entitled to use force to protect themselves from getting killed, they nevertheless used "excessive" force under the circumstances.
All in all, a UN report that tilts heavily in favor of Israel and doesn't let Turkey off the hook. No wonder that Israeli officials view it as a rare vindication of Israel at the UN, while the Turkish government went ballistic in repudiating nearly all its major findings and conclusions.
But now guess which part of the report gets to play in the Washington Post. Yup, the main headline in big type on page A6 of the Sept. 2 edition blares: "Israel's use of force in raid called 'excessive.''
A smaller-type sub-head reads: "U.N panel calls blockade of Gaza legal but decries deaths in flotilla assault."
The article, by Colum Lynch, the Post's UN correspondent, is similarly selective in playing up the charge of excessive force, while downplaying the events, provocations and the violence against the commandos aboard the Mavi Marmara that triggered the fatal clash in the first place.
High up in the article, for example, Lynch devotes two paragraphs to details in the report about what its authors deemed excessive force, while hiding much farther down in his story -- in the second sentence of the eighth paragraph -- the conclusion that the commandos "faced significant, organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers when they boarded the Mavi Marmara, requiring them to use force for their own protection."
In contrast, the New York Times reported this crucial conclusion high up in the second paragraph of its report. The Times didn't hide the UN panel's approbation of the commandos' resort to force; the Post did.
In a similar vein as he' tilts the scales against Israel, Lynch plays up the report's recommendation that Israel issue an expression of "regret" and pay compensation to the families of the dead -- while omitting the crucial fact that this jibes with Israel's own position and is totally contrary to Turkish insistence that it won't accept anything short of a formal apology. In the political/diplomatic strains between Israel and Turkey, this UN report, in the vast majority of its findings, sides with Jerusalem and against Ankara..
Far down in the article, Lynch quotes an unnamed Israeli official as satisfied that the report "endorses our position" and acknowledging Israel's acceptance of it, while the Turkish member of the panel filed multiple dissents from its conclusions. But perusing Lynch's piece and the headline, Washington Post readers could be forgiven for wondering why in the world the two nations would take such positions if they only read the headline and the top half of the article.
Very few readers. of course, go beyond that -- as is well known to Lynch and Post editors. What counts is the main headline and the first few paragraphs. And those stack the deck against Israel.
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