Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Flotilla Mistakes... But Not What They Think

According to retired general Giora Eiland, the IDF investigation into the Gaza flotilla incident found that:
"Mistakes were made in the various decisions taken, including within relatively senior ranks, which contributed to the result not being as we would have wished... In this inquiry we found that there were some professional mistakes regarding both the intelligence and the decision-making process".
At this point, some people will be thinking, 'go on... get to the war crimes bit', but sadly for them the mistakes that the IDF made weren't that juicy. For myself and a lot of other people though, the mistakes were glaringly obvious from within hours of the incident, once the commandos' accounts started to come out, reinforced by the IDF's video evidence. 
So what mistakes does the report accuse the navy of? Only this:
"Failing to sufficiently consider the possibility that the commandos would encounter violent resistance when attempting to keep the ships out of Gaza... [and] not cooperating sufficiently with the Mossad in gathering information ahead of the flotilla's arrival".
The commandos were not expecting, did not want, and were not prepared for a violent battle. And they certainly didn't initiate it. As we've seen from the videos, the IDF boats alongside the Mavi Marmara were attacked even before the soldiers were able to board. In fact the report explains that the only reason the soldiers had to be lowered on board from helicopters was because the boats came under attack and the ladder was cut.
They had barely landed on the ship before they were overcome, their anti-riot paintball guns useless against the mob of activists armed with knives and other weapons. Not only were the soldiers shot at first by the activists, and with their own guns that the activists took from them - starrting with only the second soldier to descend, who was shot in the stomach - but a gun and bullets were found on board that were not Israeli weapons. Eiland said the commandos "only used force when they were under immediate danger to their lives", as they were instructed, and all the evidence confirms this.
If the IDF soldiers had been more prepared from the start, more aggressive even, if they had boarded with a more offensive mentality, then perhaps the nine activists may not have died. The soldiers may have found a way to take over the ship by force, but without their own lives being endangered so that they had no choice but to shoot.
Apart from those mistakes though - made by senior officials, not the soldiers themselves - the report concludes that:
"the Navy Commando soldiers operated properly, with professionalism, bravery and resourcefulness and that the commanders exhibited correct decision making... the use of live fire was justified".
So we know that the IDF's actions on the flotilla were justified. Last week we saw Hezbollah's preparations for war: stockpiling weapons in civilian areas. And now, in an amazing CNN report, we can see Israel's preparations for war: how to minimize civilian casualties.
The report is amazing for two reasons: first, how much effort Israel puts in to minimize civilian casualties, when the enemy are so determined to do the opposite, deliberately using their people as human shields, and second, the fact that CNN reported this at all; it is very rare to get such an insight into the evil tactics of Israel's enemies, and into the morality of the IDF in having to fight these people under such difficult conditions.
The question is whether this will count for anything when the next war comes.
UPDATE: Just Journalism analysis of the way the media reported the IDF investigation. Unsurprisingly, it seems that for the Guardian and Independent, the main findings of the investigation - namely that the activists were armed and attacked first - were just side points.

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