The Black Rod

The origin of the Usher of the Black Rod goes back to early fourteenth century England . Today, with no royal duties to perform, the Usher knocks on the doors of the House of Commons with the Black Rod at the start of Parliament to summon the members. The rod is a symbol for the authority of debate in the upper house. We of The Black Rod have adopted the symbol to knock some sense and the right questions into the heads of Legislators, pundits, and other opinion makers.

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Location: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada

We are citizen journalists in Winnipeg. When not breaking exclusive stories, we analyze news coverage by the mainstream media and highlight bias, ignorance, incompetence, flawed logic, missed angles and, where warranted, good work. We serve as the only overall news monitors in the province of Manitoba. We do the same with politicians (who require even more monitoring.) EMAIL: black_rod_usher@yahoo.com

Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Gaza Flotilla: moment by moment, part two

Israeli military sources say the commandos had control of the top deck of the Mavi Marmara within 3 minutes of the first landing, once they got the okay to use live fire.

A second team had been dropped by helicopter and more soldiers were coming aboard on the deck below from the Zodiacs. They began handcuffing passengers.

But when they assessed the situation, they could see they were still far from their objective---to stop the ship and search it. The first problem was that three commandos were missing and presumed captured by the mob. If that wasn't bad enough, their pistols were missing with them.

Ken O'Keefe, former Marine who renounced his U.S. citizenship:"...on the morning of the attack I was directly involved in the disarming of two Israeli Commandos. This was a forcible, non-negotiable, separation of weapons from commandos who had already murdered two brothers that I had seen that day. One brother with a bullet entering dead center in his forehead, in what appeared to be an execution. I knew the commandos were murdering when I removed a 9mm pistol from one of them. I had that gun in my hands and as an ex-US Marine with training in the use of guns it was completely within my power to use that gun on the commando who may have been the murderer of one of my brothers. But that is not what I, nor any other defender of the ship did. I took that weapon away, removed the bullets, proper lead bullets, separated them from the weapon and hid the gun. I did this in the hopes that we would repel the attack and submit this weapon as evidence in a criminal trial against Israeli authorities for mass murder.

I also helped to physically separate one commando from his assault rifle, which another brother apparently threw into the sea."

"But then there was a shout of 'live fire,' and that we had shooting casualties." Once the situation had stabilized - aided by the arrival of reinforcements - the commandos began to treat the wounded." (Ha'aretz)

Two commandos had been shot, one in the knee and one in the stomach, and their colleagues had to assume the shots were fired from the missing handguns.

Civilians aboard the ship said afterward they believe the men were wounded by friendly fire as commandos opened fire to clear the deck. This is a strong possibility and is one of the things an inquiry will determine.

Before the commandos moved off the top deck to take control of the bridge, they began taking fire from a rifle, according to Israeli spokesmen.

“I saw the tip of a rifle sticking out of the stairwell,” one commando said. “He fired at us and we fired back. We didn’t see if we hit him. We looked for him later but couldn’t find him.”

However, this could only have added to the concern that the mob that attacked them with clubs and knives was now armed with guns.

Nevertheless, they had a job to do. They began working their way off the top deck to the bridge below, or rather, they fought their way.

As a military spokesman was quoted in Ha'aretz:

"They would jump on us from doors and windows with batons and knives. At this stage, we all stood with guns and fired at anyone coming at us with means or intent [to harm]."

Here, then, is the possible answer to how a single commando could be responsible for six of the nine men killed aboard the Mavi Marmara, a statistic that has incensed the anti-Israel cabal.

A soldier, walking point, would have been the first to be jumped, and the first to fire at point blank range at his attackers.

Othman Battiri, Al Jazeera:" Most of the fighting took place on the upper level around the room of ship captain, where the activist tried to prevent the soldiers from trying to control the captain’s room. This is where live ammunition were used."

"Sadettin Furkan was another volunteer, up with the captain when the soldiers from the helicopter came to take over the bridge. They shot him three times in one leg and again on the other foot." (Al Jazeera)

Journalist Othman Al-Bteiri (same guy, different spelling): "The real battle... The real massacre took place around the bridge. People tried to prevent the Israeli soldiers from taking over the captain's cabin. That was why live ammunition was used around the bridge. Live ammunition was also used in other parts of the ship, especially on the port side, where most of the martyrs and wounded were hit. Some 35-40 people of various nationalities were wounded."

Interviewer: "How long did the battle last?"

Othman Al-Bteiri: "The battle started at about 4:15. People were praying their dawn prayers, when there were cries of 'Allah Akbar,' and we knew that we were under attack. The attack lasted until 5:15 or 5:30. Then the Turks said that the Israelis had taken over the ship, and that everybody should sit down. Even so, we kept hearing gunfire."

The nine dead and their wounds:

Cengiz Alquyz, 42: Four gunshot wounds: back of head, right side of face, back, left leg.

Ibrahim Bilgen, 60: Four gunshot wounds: right chest, back, right hip, right temple.

Cegdet Kiliclar, 38: One gunshot wound: middle of forehead.

Furkan Dogan, 19: Five gunshot wounds: nose, back, back of head, left leg, left ankle.

Sahri Yaldiz: Four gunshot wounds: left chest, left leg, right leg twice.

Aliheyder Bengi, 39: Six gunshot wounds: left chest, belly, right arm, right leg, left hand twice.

Cetin Topcuoglu, 54: Three gunshot wounds: back of head, left side, right belly.

Cengiz Songur, 47: One gunshot wound: front of neck.

Necdet Yildirim, 32: Two gunshot wounds: right shoulder, left back.

All together they suffered 30 gunshot wounds, which, at first, seems excesssive, until you realize that they could have been hit in 3- or 4-round bursts from the Israeli guns.

"About 10 minutes after leaving the upper deck, they captured the bridge. It was 25 minutes after the boarding began..." (For the commandos, no fiasco and relatively few casualties, By Anshel Pfeffer , Ha'aretz)

(Operation Calamity, London Times, Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Avi and Gareth Jenkins in Istanbul, July 6, 2010) "The Israeli commandos stormed the control room of the ship. “The door was closed and I opened it with a strong kick,” said their captain. “The skipper was standing there talking to me, I think in Turkish. I ordered him in English to turn off the engine. He refused. I put the handgun to his throat. He got the hint. The engine was switched off. I informed the command that we controlled the ship.”

Turkish photographer Kursat Bayhan: “While hurrying to the press room, I saw someone on the floor; he had been wounded in the shoulder. Then, while passing by Room Two, there was a woman giving her husband a heart massage while yelling, ‘Please don’t die, please don’t die.’ Then the captain made an announcement, saying: ‘Our ship has been taken over. There are many dead and wounded people. Everyone stay calm and do not show resistance.’

Sara Colborne Palestine Solidarity Campaign's director of campaigns and operations: "The captain announced that live ammunition was being used and to stop resisting this act of piracy, and to go downstairs and sit down."

Knesset member Haneen Zoabi: "There was no provocation…the Israeli story talks about provocation, but there were people who were afraid for the safety of the passengers, and the organizers gave the passengers instructions to move to the lower levels [of the ship] and stay in their rooms for their own safety."

With the ship stopped, the job of the commandos was not over. They still had three men missing.

Their captors tried to bargain with the commandos for the release of their colleagues.

"One activist used a loudhailer to tell the Israelis the four captive soldiers were well and would be released if they provided medical help for the wounded activists. With an Israeli Arab lawmaker acting as mediator, the Israelis agreed." Reuters, June 4, 2010

Andre Abu-Khalil, Al Jazeera cameraman:

"The organisers [of the flotilla] swapped the four Israelis kidnapped, or caught, by the people on the ship, and because they were beaten up, because it's kind of resistance from our side, we swapped the Israeli soldiers to [get] to treat our injured."

Recai Kaya, a representative of the Enderun Association, said one of the activists on the ship was shot by a soldier when they were returning one of the injured Israeli soldiers to the raiding force.

http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/06/07/photographs-of-battered-israeli-commandos-show-new-side-of-raid/

What exactly transpired when the captured commandos were returned is still unclear, perhaps deliberately so. One of the men gave an interview to reporters and did little to clear it up.

Captain R., captured Israeli commando: "(The unit had seized control of the ship by that point, save for the lower-most level.) "Another soldier and I managed to get out of there and jump into the water."

Alon Ben David, channel 10 military correspondent, gave an unofficial account of events from army sources: attack on the ship started on 4:30 AM, with 15 soldiers going down the ropes to the upper deck. The first three were captured in the lower deck. After one minute the soldiers opened fire and took control of the upper deck.

At 4:35 another team arrives by helicopter. At 4:50 the army starts taking over the ship. At 5:00 the army announces it has control over the ship’s bridge. The soldiers in the lower deck escape from their captives: two jump to the water, and the third reach the front of the ship and awaits there for the other commandos to rescue him.

But....according to a report from Al-Jessira the third soldier didn’t escape; IDF commandos broke into the room he was held in and shot the passengers surrounding him.

So what really happened? We may never know unless an inquiry uncovers the truth. And even then some details may be withheld.

The takeover of the Mavi Marmara was followed by a raft of wild, obviously invented propaganda statements that were printed unchallenged in the anti-Israel press.

Ibrahim Musaji, "a 26-year-old activist from England who was also on the Mavi Marmara, was asleep during the raid. He says he rushed to the deck immediately after being woken up by gunfire to see his friends lying in a pool of blood. He said the soldiers threatened to kill him if he attempted to help them. “They hate people, all they want was to shed Muslim blood.” He also claimed that there was poison in the food fed to prisoners."

Al-Jazeera TV, June 2, 2010:

Muhammad Ghulam from Mauritania: "Then we saw them (the Israedlis) rip out all the metal rods from all over the ship, and they put them at the bow of the ship, before we arrived at the Hebrew port. Then they brought all the Zionist journalists, who – instead of showing how we were not allowed to go to the restroom, how we were denied food and water and not allowed to pray for 24 hours – they started filming those metal rods, which they themselves had ripped off the ship."

Erol Demir, "another activist on the Mavi Marmara, said they had footage of the chaos and the carnage on the ship, emphasizing that the footage will show the real face of Israeli solders to the entire world. “They even shot those who surrendered. Many of our friends saw this. They told me that there were handcuffed people who were shot.”

Mohammed Omar Satlah, "a Syrian who said he was part of the ship's medical team, said he counted 16 bodies. He said the bodies of two activists fell into the sea and weren't recovered."

But there was one Israeli account of the release of the hostage commandos, purportedly an eyewitness account by one of the soldiers on the ship, which is so inflammatory that we initially dismissed it as an Internet hoax. Which, we stress, it may be. It tells how Capt. R was released---after being deliberately disembowelled. In an ordinary world, this would be unthinkable, but when dealing with Islamic jihadists, we've seen worse. So here is that account, allegedly from Commando Y (who was quoted in part one of this reconstruction):

“Dear Aunt X:

This is Y writing you. As you know, it was my unit and my friends who were on the ship. My commander was injured badly as a result of the “pacifists’” violence. I want to tell you how he was injured so you can tell the story. It shows just how horrible and inhuman were the activists. My commander was the first soldier that rappelled down from the helicopter to the ship. When he touched ground, he got hit in the head with a pole and stabbed in the stomach with a knife. When he drew out his secondary weapon–a handgun, (his primary weapon was a regular paintball gun- “tippman 98 custom”), he was shot in the leg.

He managed to fire a single shot before he was tossed from the balcony by 4 Arab activists, to the lower deck (a 12 feet fall). He was then dragged by other activists to a room in the lower deck were he was stripped down by 2 activists. They took off his vest, helmet, and shirt, leaving him with only his pants and shoes on. When they finished they took a knife and expanded the wound he already had in his stomach. They cut his ab muscles horizontally and by hand spilled his guts out.

When they finished, they raised him up and walked him on the deck outside. He was conscious the whole time. If you are asking your self why they did all that here comes the reason. They wanted to show the soldiers their commanders’ body so they will be demoralized and scared. Luckily, when they walked him on the deck, a soldier saw him and managed to shoot the activist that was walking him down the outside corridor. He shot him with a special non lethal bullet that didn’t kill him. My commander managed to jump from the deck to the water and swim to an army rescue boat (his guts still out of his body and now in salty sea water). That was how he was saved. The activists that did this to him are alive and now in Turkey and treated as heroes.

I’m sorry if I described this with too many details, but I thought it was necessary for the credibility. Please tell this story to anyone who will listen. “

What gives this even a glimmer of credibility is confirmation of two small details by other, non-Israeli sources. The fact that the soldier was "stripped down" was confirmed by a witness, quoted in Part One. And the shooting of one of the men escorting the commando was also cited by an activist.

For the record, here's the official Turkish account of Capt.R's injury:

Dr. Hasan Huseyin Uysal, a Turkish doctor: "The third soldier, however, suffered a cut in his stomach that reached his stomach membrane but not the organ itself. It was nothing fatal. As a doctor, I wouldn’t want to guess the nature of this injury but it could have been caused by either landing on a sharp pole from the helicopter or a blow from a pipe with a sharp edge. I couldn’t tell."

With the recovery of the captured men, the commandos converged on the nursing station on the third deck. It was, by then, full of wounded passengers. Two dead bodies were in the women's washroom.

The passengers expected the Israelis to immediately attend to the injured. Instead, they refused to enter the room., despite the pleas of those inside.

"Canadian Farooq Burney, director of a Qatari educational initiative, said the commandos waited more than an hour before treating the wounded, even though activists had made a makeshift sign reading: "S.O.S. .. Please provide medical assistance."

Sara Colborne: "At 5.15, we started to broadcast out of the tannoy (PA system) for help for the injured. We asked the Israelis to stop the attacks and to help the injured. Instead, the saloon remained surrounded by soldiers targeting individuals with laser sights. I could see the red of the laser sights sweeping over people's heads.

We wrote 'SOS Need medical assistance, people are dying, urgent', and the Palestininan-Israeli Knesset member took that to the back of the boat, where soliders were pointing guns at her and told her to go back. The message was brought up again, to the back, by a British citizen, and she was also told to go back."

Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter, Gulf News: "After about half an hour, Knesset member Haneen Zoubi, armed with a white handkerchief, a message on a large piece of cardboard and her parliamentary immunity, risked her life to walk straight to the window. The soldier nervously raised his weapon and gestured for her to stop. She went ahead, stood there for a few seconds to ensure that the message was read, and walked back.

No response. The sun was up by then.

The announcements by Masarwa continued. Then, a British woman

wrapped herself in the Union Jack and made the same move."

Canadian Farooq Burney: said he witnessed one elderly man bleed to death before his eyes after being shot.

"He just passed out in front of us and we couldn't see where he was hit so we

opened up his lifejacket and we could clearly see that he was hit in the

chest,"

Burney said. "He was losing a lot of blood. It was on ... the right, just

close to his chest and there was blood coming out from there. He passed away."

Jamal Elshayyal al-Jazeera journalist who was on board the lead ship, the Mavi Marmara:

“At least three critically injured people died who could have been saved. They were killed twice – the second time by the failure to come to their aid.”

Abbas Al Lawati, Staff Reporter Gulf News: "Lubna Masarwa, an official

from the Free Gaza Movement, addressed the Israeli soldiers, saying the

ship had surrendered and its passengers would not confront the army. "You

have blood on your hands. Four have died and we have many more critically

injured. They need help," she shouted."

"She must have repeated the message at least ten times in English, then a few times in Hebrew. No response."

"Approximately an hour and a half after the first call for help, a soldier shouted through the window in a heavy Hebrew accent: "Injured only! One by one!"

People were allowed out, but the rule "one by one" was strictly enforced,

with the wounded expected to walk, hobble, or crawl out by themselves to be searched before being treated by a medic.

'At 7am, the first critical person was allowed out, and he was delivered into

Israeli hands. An attempt was made to send medics with the critically injured people. Instead, they were cuffed and put on deck and they weren't allowed to accompany those critically injured people to hospital. I saw four dead bodies laid out on the floor of the saloon." (Guardian, June 4, 2010)

Why did the Israelis refuse to help the wounded, some of whom died in the

room waiting for treatment of their gunshots?

The answer is obvious. The passengers still possessed the pistols seized from the captured commandos. They couldn't take the chance they were being lured into a trap.

And as it turns out, they were right. At least one of the guns was in the room where the nursing station was set up.

Osama Qashoo, activist, says in an address posted on Youtube “I saw one of the soldiers’ pistols had fallen to the ground. The soldiers got very excited when they saw it." This happened, he says, after most of the people in the room had been taken out.

And Sarah Colborne, of the PSC, one of the most vocal critics of the Israelis must have forgotten this comment she gave to one reporter:

"Sarah Colborne of the PSC and another passenger negotiated with soldiers for the evacuation of some at least of the mounting injured. Many of the bleeding would not go with the Israeli’s. Fearing they would be less safe getting ‘treatment’ from the troops, than below decks being operated on without anaesthetic." (Shocking Testimonials From The Mavi Marmara Survivors, By Lauren Booth, 11 June, 2010, Gilad.co.uk)

Conclusions:

The Israelis did everything possible to avoid bloodshed. They tried diplomacy. They confronted the blockade runners in strength to intimidate them to stop. They used non-violent crowd-control measures such as stun grenades, tear gas and rubber bullets when trying to board. Their soldiers were armed with paintball guns. Even after the commandos received permission to use their handguns, they shot people in the legs, something civilian police are taught never to do. Only when they knew the ships' passengers were armed with captured handguns, did they begin using their weapons to kill, and even then, only a bare minimum of people were killed, and we now know they were jihadists who were determined to die and become religious martyrs---in another context it would be called suicide by cop.

So any news story or commentary that fails to highlight the extraordinary measures the Israelis took to stop the Mavi Marmara without killing anyone is biased.

*****************************

What about the complaints against the Israelis?

The ship passengers had no weapons.

Wrong. The activists actually mean to say they had no firearms.

They had weapons. Steak knives are sharp implements used to cut meat into bite-sized pieces---until they're used to stab a living person to death. Then they're weapons. And the passengers had knives. They had axes. They had clubs and they deliberately cut up railings to make steel bars which are deadly weapons if used to strike people in the head.

The activists were defending themselves. They have that right.

Wrong. They prepared their weapons well in advance of any attempt to board the ship. And when the commandos, using non-lethal crowd-control measures such as tear gas reached the ship's deck they were attacked by dozens of weapons-wielding men who tried to kill them by beating them to death or stabbing them to death. To say the passengers were defending themselves and had the right to kill the commandos is like saying the knife-wielding idiots who get shot by police because they won't drop the weapon are actually defending themselves and have a right to kill cops.

The Israelis fired first. They opened fire even before the first commando landed by helicopter.

The Israelis did fire first---tear gas and stun grenades, followed by rubber bullets. Non-lethal measures. And they did so after warning the ships by radio that force would be used to stop the ships if they continued to run the blockade. The use of these measures came as a surprise only to those passengers who were sleeping when the confrontation started. Many woke up to find people had already been killed and wounded by live fire, and to them, this was an unprovoked attack. Their hatred of Israel did the rest and fuelled their "eyewitness" statements that the Israelis came in shooting.

The Israelis had no authority to stop a ship in international waters and that gave the activists the right to use lethal force to stop them.

Wrong. The various laws of the sea acknowledge the legitimacy of blockades under certain conditions and the Gaza blockade meets those conditions. Canada engages in stopping ships in the open seas to search for
Al Quaeda terrorists and even has websites bragging about the training of their sailors in such boarding actions.

The Israeli commandos were wounded by friendly fire and the activists did not try to kill the boarding party.

It's possible that the two shot commandos were, indeed, shot accidentally by their own side. However the commandos didn't start shooting to kill in revenge. They asked for and received the okay to use their guns only after watching one commander thrown over the side of the ship and as they faced the real possibility of being overrun by a mob armed with knives and metal clubs. The fact that the first use of live fire was to shoot people in the legs to clear the deck demonstrates that they did not want to kill passengers randomly, even those making up the lethal mob. In fact, even the activists use this argument to paint themselves as peaceful; they could have, but didn't kill their commando hostages, they say.

Final thoughts

For the Israelis:
www.haaretz.com/print-edition/news/navy-activists-tried-to-kidnap-3-commandos-during-gaza-aid-flotilla-raid-1.294114

According to a senior officer, "Under the circumstances, and I do not like
the result, I think we did the best we could. We took care of five ships
without injuries. On the sixth ship, we faced a harsh attack and killed nine
saboteurs.

"No real peace activist was injured. No soldier was killed, even though it
came pretty close. In the end the ships are docked at Ashdod. It was very
complicated and the result is near perfect."

For the activists:

http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2010/mcnaught050610.html

A peace-loving, wounded activist was videotaped in his hospital bed in Turkey and sends a message you can see for yourself on Youtube:

"Greetings to Hamas -- On with the Resistance."

The future

http://www.jpost.com/International/Article.aspx?ID=178935

Yasser Kashla is a Syrian businessman of Palestinian descent who heads the “Free Palestine Organization.” He is funding another two ships to run the Gaza blockade, one of which will carry carry journalists and parliamentarians including 12 former American diplomats.

Last weekend he was interviewed on Al-Manar, Hezbollah's television station when he expressed optimism " that one day these same boats would take “Europe’s refuse [the Jews]" that came to my homeland back to their homelands."

"I hope that when the day comes, those ships will be able to take the European refugees [the Israelis] back to their homelands. I am calling out to the Israelis to do that....[Captured Israeli soldier] Gilad Shalit needs to return to Paris, and the rest of the murderers need to return to Poland."

He added: Do not "believe in the illusion of peace created by modern Arab leaders....Even if our leaders sign peace agreements, we will not respect them. Our children will return to Palestine."

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