Update – 15 February 2013

Posted by Zionist Council of Victoria on 15 February 2013 at 9:15am:


Israel is no stranger to stories that make front-page news around the world. The general formula is that there is an incident, there is much media fury and speculation, and by the time the full story comes out, most journalists have already moved on to the next story.

Such was the case with the flotilla incident in late May of 2010, which was followed by extensive media coverage with a number of those in the international media quick to play the judge and the jury in casting the IDF as the villains. By the time all of the evidence came to light, such as videos and testimonies, the public had moved on. Even further in the background, two independent inquiries were formed, one by the United Nations which produced the Palmer Report (released in September 2011). The other was established by Israel and headed by retired Supreme Court Justice Jacob Turkel but it also included two international observers. The result was the Turkel Report.

The first part of the Turkel Report was released in January 2011 and concluded: “the naval blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip – in view of the security circumstances and Israel’s effort to comply with its humanitarian obligations – was legal pursuant to the rules of international law”. This was based on a thorough inquiry by the eminent judge, quite unlike the verdict delivered by much of the international media.

The commission looked at evidence which many in the media sought to airbrush out of existence even though a substantial amount of visual evidence existed of IDF soldiers boarding one of the flotilla ships being attacked and beaten by members of the IHH, armed with a wide array of weapons including iron bars, axes, slingshots, knives and other metal objects (for just a few examples – Video of the cache of weapons including knives, slingshots, rocks, smoke bombs, metal rods, improvised sharp metal objects, sticks and clubs, 5kg hammers and firebombs, * Close up video of “peace activists” attacking the metal batons, *Video taken by the IDF showing passengers of the Mavi Marmara violently attacking IDF officers trying to board the ship, *Video of the radio exchange between the soldiers on their way to the bridge and the IDF ship. The soldiers are reporting their encounter with live fire and serious violence., *Video of Israeli Navy officer describing the violent mob aboard the Mavi Marmara, *Video of the Mavi Marmara passengers attacking the IDF before the soldiers boarded the ship, *Video of the flotilla rioters as they prepared rods, slingshots, broken bottles and metal objects to attack IDF soldiers, *Video of Israeli naval officers addressing the ship )

The United Nations’ Palmer Report, released a few months later, returned similar findings i.e. that the blockade of Gaza was legal, that the IHH was looking for trouble and that IDF commandos rightfully defended themselves against pre-mediated violence.

The second part of the Turkel Commission has now been released and it is in its findings that we can see the openness and transparency of the Israeli justice system. This part of the report was designed to ensure that in the future, Israel takes the correct and proper action in accordance with International Law.

Turkel stated that, “the Committee determined that the examination and investigation mechanisms for complaints and allegations of violations regarding the existing laws of armed conflict in Israel are, generally, in keeping with the obligations of the State of Israel and are in accordance with the rules of international law. However the Commission believes that in certain areas there is room for improvement vis-à-vis the examination and investigation mechanisms. In some areas, there is room for changes in the accepted policy. The view of the Commission is that the implementation of the recommendations will contribute to improved efficiency in the examination and investigation mechanisms as per the norms of enlightened nations.”

Two of the observers on the Commission, Professor Tim McCormack of the University of Melbourne and Lord David Trimble of the UK, both praised the outcomes of the Committee.

Professor McCormack declared, “I know that no other study is [as] comprehensive as this on the international legal obligations relating to investigation on accountability for alleged violation of international humanitarian law. I’ve learned a great deal myself from being involved in the process of the commission and preparation of the report and I think the State of Israel should be very proud of this contribution to the study of a very important area of the law”.

Meanwhile, Lord Trimble stated, “when taken as a whole, looking at the Israeli legal system, it will pass muster with the best in the world. Not to say that there are things that can’t be improved, that’s the case in all systems”.

Lord Trimble has raised an important point. Every country should be able to look internally and work out ways to improve itself and its practices.

Israel exists in a hostile region and is often forced to play out situations that other countries can only imagine as hypothetical. That it can face these outside threats and still successfully comply with international humanitarian law as acknowledged by the Palmer and Turkel Reports, brings credit upon the country’s democratic processes.

I am off to Israel for the next three weeks, but watch this space for some exciting guest pieces in the weeks ahead!

Best wishes,

Emily Gian