Five years on, Guardian continues to mislead over Mavi Marmara incident

The Guardian’s obsessive and completely one-sided coverage of the May 31, 2010 incident on board the Mavi Marmara – in which ‘activists’ (many of whom were associated with the terrorist-affiliated group IHH) attempted to break Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza – included more than 70 separate reports and commentaries in the first four days alone.

Of course, the overwhelming consensus of Guardian contributors, editors and reporters was that Israel was guilty of something akin to ‘piracy’ or even “state terrorism“, a narrative illustrated by this cartoon published on June 1st, 2010 by Steve Bell.


However, the cartoon villainy ascribed to Israel over the incident turned out to be erroneous, based in large measure on the findings of a 2011 UN report (The Palmer Commission).  Though the report claimed that Israel used “excessive force”, the Israeli commandos, the report also concluded, facedorganized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to defend  themselves. The report also criticized the vessel’s passengers for “acting recklessly” in attempting to breach Israel’s “legal” naval blockade.

Fast forward to 2016, to an article by David Smith (Gaza activists’ lawsuit argues Israel attacked US territory in raid on ship, Jan. 12th) about three Americans and a Belgian who are suing Israel in a Washington, DC court, arguing that the raid on the US-registered aid ship “violated US sovereignty”.

Whilst the merits of the suit are the beyond the scope of this post, Smith’s article includes two false claims, and one serious omission.

Here’s the opening sentence of the article:

Four activists are attempting to make legal history by arguing that Israel attacked American territory when it raided a US-registered ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza six years ago

However, as noted by our colleague Tamar Sternthal in a post about a recent Los Angeles Times piece, the Mavi Marmara was not in fact carrying any “humanitarian supplies”.

As Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported at the time:

Of the seven flotilla ships, only four were freight ships. The Challenger 1 (small yacht), the Sfendonh (small passenger boat) and the Mavi Marmara (passenger ship) did not carry any humanitarian aid, except for the passengers’ personal belongings. (Emphasis added.)

The UN Palmer Report appeared to back up this conclusion, when they questioned the intentions of the pro-Gaza activists on board by noting that what little aid was on the Mavi Marmara was merely “intended for the voyage itself”.

Additionally, the Guardian reporter fails to question the claim of one of the plaintiffs in the suit, who alleges that the passengers were “unarmed”.  In fact, in Sept, 2012, the Press Complaints Commission (PCC) ruled against Guardian contributor Conal Urquhart, who had similarly claimed, in a story earlier that year, that the pro-Gaza ‘activists’ on the Mavi Marmara were “unarmed”.

Finally, the Guardian article includes a serious omission in the penultimate paragraph:

Israel has said it maintains the maritime blockade of Gaza and its 1.8 million residents as a security measure against militant attacks and smuggling. A report on the attack released by the UN Human Rights Council in September 2010 found that “the force used by the Israeli soldiers in intercepting the Challenger 1 … was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate, and amounted to violations of the right to physical integrity”.

Whilst citing the initial UNHRC report – which was released before the Israeli and Turkish reports on the incident – the Guardian’s Smith neglected to note the UN Palmer Report noted above.  Indeed, the conclusions of the Palmer report were reported by the Guardian at the time of its release (UN investigation backs Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza, Sept. 1, 2011) and subsequently by other contributors throughout the years.

We’ve contacted Guardian editors seeking a correction, and will update you when we receive a reply.

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