Netanyahu faces criticism of Turkish flotilla raid, and NY Times piles on

Israel's state comptroller has released a lengthy report that is highly critical of Israel's decision-making in the run-up to a 2010 Turkish flotilla raid that ended in bloodshed on both sides.  Nine Turkish provocateurs aboard the Mavi Marmara, the largest of six ships that sought to breach Israel's blockade of Hamas-ruled Gaza, were killed; nine Israeli commandos were wounded.

The comptroller's report faults Prime Minister Netanyahu for failing to include more cabinet members and security officials in the planning of the raid and for underestimating warnings that the encounter could turn violent.  At the same time, it acknowledges that, even if there had been more thorough and wider consultations among Israeli security officials, the outcome would not have been different.

In a June 13 dispatch posted on the NY Times website, Jerusalem correspondent Isabel Kershner lays out in detail conclusions of the comptroller's report, but then proceeds to  provide historical context with some glaring anti-Israel spin.

Kershner tells readers that "when the (Israeli) commandos reached the deck of the ship, they met with resistance and killed nine pro-Palestinian activists."   Israel, she later adds, maintained that they acted in "self-defense and as a last resort."

The commandos met with unspecified "resistance."?  Really, was that all?  And what about their need to act in "self-defense" - why would that be necessary?  But that's all Kershner deigns put in her article.  She leaves readers completely in the dark about what sort of resistance the commandos encountered.

For what really happened when the commandos rappelled down on the top deck, the Associated Press sheds a more informative light.  Its dispatch doesn't mince words about what kind of "resistance" was met by the commandos.

According to the AP, Israeli "naval commandos opened fire in self-defense after pro-Palestinian activists attacked them.  When the commandos stormed the ship, they were attacked with clubs and metal rods, and opened fire in response."  Quite a different set of circumstances from what Kershner buries with a few puzzling allusions to "resistance" and "self-defense"

Unlike the Times, the AP clearly shows that Turkish provocateurs aboard the ship initiated the violence.  Kershner's article hides this crucial fact -- and thus blanks out the source of culpability for the violence.

In another anti-Israel spin, Kershner reports that a UN report had  criticized Israel for using "excessive and unreasonable force" aboard the Mavi Marmara.  To round out the picture, however, the AP again supplies an important component about the encounter, which  Kershner omits  -- namely, that "flotilla participants acted recklessly" in initiating the violence.


The AP doesn't spare the flaws and shortcomings of Israel's raid on the Turkish flotilla.  But neither does it hide the Turkish provocateurs' critical role in initiating what turned into a bloody melee aboard the vessel.  A balanced AP report versus a one-sided Times dispatch.

Not for the first time that history takes a beating in the pages of the New York Times.

Leo Rennert is a former White House correspondent and Washington bureau chief of McClatchy Newspapers