There is much to speculate about concerning the timing of the Guardian and Al Jazeera’s leaking of the ‘Palestine papers’, but whatever their reasons for apparently hanging on to them for six months before deciding to publish, one of the effects of that timing was the partial eclipse of the Turkel Commission Report into the incidents aboard the Mavi Marmara – part one of which was released on January 23rd.
The long awaited report, which makes for very interesting reading indeed, was covered in an article by Harriet Sherwood on January 24th . Already in her second and third paragraphs, and before properly addressing the report’s findings, Sherwood began casting doubts upon its veracity and legitimacy by quoting some rather partisan sources to say the least.
“Witnesses on board the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, on which nine Turkish activists were killed, vigorously contested the Israeli accounts.”
“Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister of Turkey whose relations with Israel reached breaking point after the raid, today rejected the conclusions of the commission, saying it had “no value or credibility”.”
By paragraph four Sherwood was whitewashing the IHH which instigated the violence aboard the ship, defining it only as “a Turkish organisation that Israel accuses of having links to Hamas”. The next three paragraphs contain information from the report, but by the eighth Sherwood is back to presenting ‘alternative versions’.
“Activists on board the vessels said the Israeli military initiated the violence and used disproportionate force in the ensuing battle.”
Paragraphs nine and ten give more details of the report, but paragraphs eleven to fourteen are once more dedicated to the presentation of conflicting viewpoints.
“Gisha, an (sic) Tel Aviv-based rights organisation, said in a statement that “a primary goal of the restrictions, as declared by Israel, was to paralyse the economy in Gaza and prevent its residents from leading normal lives”. It challenged the commission’s conclusion that restrictions were justified for military reasons.”
“Israel eased its blockade on Gaza under international pressure in the aftermath of the flotilla raid. However there are still severe restrictions on the import of construction materials, exports and freedom of movement.”
“After the report’s publication, the Turkish foreign ministry said: “Israel’s attack against the humanitarian aid convoy, which violated both wartime and peacetime international law, has also trampled all international principles, rules and norms with the manner in which it was conducted.””
“Sarah Colbourne, of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who was on the Marvi Marmara, said: “The facts are simple, the Marvi Marmara was carrying essential humanitarian aid like baby milk to the besieged people of Gaza. There were no guns or weapons on board the boat, we were in international waters, when over 300 bullets rained down on us.”
All the evidence, including video footage and the testimonies and accounts included in the Turkel report itself, point to the fact that at least some of the sources Harriet Sherwood quotes in her article are engaged in bare-faced lying. That fact, however, does not prevent Sherwood from presenting their dubious quotes as ‘counter-balance’ to a serious professional report. Out of the 21 paragraphs in her article, nine are dedicated to discrediting the Turkel report.
Below the article, a summary was given of other reports, existing or yet to come, on the subject of the incidents aboard the Mavi Marmara. Not only was it apparently difficult to get the name of the second half of the Turkel report right (it is referred to as ‘Kurkel’), but the summary places the Turkish report and the highly compromised UN Human Rights Council report in the same category as other serious attempts to investigate the incident.
Of course, the Guardian had already pronounced the Turkel Commission to be a ‘kangaroo court’ back in June of last year, even before it convened. Personally, I doubt very much whether Harriet Sherwood has even bothered to read the Turkel report in full as much of her article on the subject appears to be nothing more than a round-up of various other press reports, but even if she did invest the time to actually find out what did happen aboard that ship, I doubt very much that she would be capable of writing an objective account.
To those of us who still base our opinions upon empirical evidence, the Guardian’s ‘new age’ approach can be infuriating and frustrating. Its abandonment of intellectual rigour in favour of a more populist approach makes it a victim of its own journalistic evangelism and means that too often it is incapable of producing reports of worth.
Harriet Sherwood’s report on the findings of the Turkel Commission is precisely such a case in point.