[tweetmeme] It seems pretty clear that the modern day war is as much a military effort as a PR effort. This was clearly on display during the recent confrontation between the Israeli navy and the activists on board the Mavi Marmara last week. The true timeline of events remains blurry. The activists maintain that the IDF fired live rounds before descending to the boats from helicopters while Israel claims that the soldiers resorted to live ammunition only after being attacked by the activists. After the attack, Israel has failed to release all of the video, audio and pictures taken by activists and has admitted to doctoring some of the audio and using heavily edited versions of video.
Considering the importance of video in deciphering what actually occurred, it is amazing that filmmaker and activist Lara Lee was able to smuggle her video out of Israel. The video (posted below) shows the atmosphere on the ship before and during the raid. Because Lee was not on the top deck, she was unable to capture any of the violence, but was able to produce important evidence.
To me, the video shows four important facts that distort both activist and Israeli claims:
- Before the commandos repelled onto the ship, the IDF was clearly shooting paint balls at activists from boats alongside the Mavi. While this does not contradict the Israeli claim, there are two distinguishable sounds coming from the boat. One is obviously the paint ball guns. The second is louder and could be live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, some kind of sound grenade or something else. I am not a weapons expert, but it is clear the IDF was using something else in addition to paint balls. Furthermore, the IDF was shooting down from the helicopter before the commandos boarded the ship. The sound was, again, distinguishable from the paint ball gun sounds – evidence that is supported by reports that a man was shot in the top of his head from his helicopter.
- Man activists were in very clear defense mode. Before the commandos came aboard, young men are shown throwing objects at Israeli boats, holding sticks and clubs and shooting pebbles at the helicopter with slingshots. It seems obvious that many on the ship were intent on defending the ship from the IDF from the moment Israeli ships were first seen.
- Included in the video are shots of activists giving medical care to injured IDF soldiers. This would seem to directly contradict the claim that the activists were a ‘lynch mob’ – a charge that has been thrown around by the Israeli government. You can hear, over the loudspeaker, pleas from the activists calling for an end to the violence, saying that there are injured people in need of serious medical attention and that the soldiers are fine and being tended to. Both the video and the audio prove that the activists were not intent on murdering any of the IDF soldiers, but that they simply wanted to protect their ship.
- Finally, the video shows a list of passengers on various ships of the flotilla that was confiscated from an IDF soldier. The people on the list were reportedly those that the IDF wanted to assassinate. While it is difficult to tell is this was the purpose of the list that is shown in the video, it provides more support for the assassination claim. If this can be proven, it would be particularly damning for Israel.
There is still way too much mystery surrounding the whole event and it is unlikely to be sorted out soon. Reports that the US is backing an international investigation under the auspices of the UN were false. Instead, Israel will hold an internal investigation – but refuse to allow the soldiers that participated in the attack to testify. Because the internal investigation of the Cast Lead invasion was deemed to be insufficient, one has to wonder if this probe will provide any clarification.
Although the truth of what happened is buried somewhere in the pool of one-sided reporting (from both sides), Lee is hoping that her video can provide some explanations. Specifically, she hopes that the audio can prove that live shots were fired by Israel before the commandos boarded the ship. As for the rest of the truth, we can only keep watching as more information is released.