Times Botches Rachel Corrie Incident
Sabrina Tavernise and Michael Slackman reported from Istanbul for Wednesday's A1 on the "Freedom Flotilla" incident in Gaza in which pro-Palestinian "peace activists" attacked Israel Defense Forces who had boarded a cargo ship: "Turkish Funds Helped Group Test Blockade."
Since 2007, a small group of hard-core activists has repeatedly tried to sail cargo-laden ships into Gaza in an effort to thwart Israel's blockade. But when the Free Gaza Movement teamed up with a much wealthier Turkish organization to assemble a flotilla, it became more than a nuisance, supercharged by the group's money, manpower and symbolic resonance into what Israel sees as a serious and growing threat.
After a botched raid that killed nine activists, an international uproar is intensifying pressure on Israel's blockade. And the movement has hit on a strategy that, even when it fails in its aims, succeeds in tactical terms: The world sees Israel use military force against civilians.
The Times let critics of the organization, known by its Turkish initials IHH, get their points out:
Israeli authorities say I.H.H. bolsters Hamas, which runs Gaza and which they see as doctrinally committed to destroy the state of Israel. It also charges that the group has links to Al Qaeda and has bought weapons, charges the group denies.
"This is an Islamist charity, quite fundamentalist, quite close to Hamas," said Henri J. Barkey, a professor of international relations at Lehigh University. "They say they do charity work, but they've been accused of gunrunning and other things, and their rhetoric has been inflammatory against Israel and sometimes against Jews."
But the Times dropped the ball when describing a flashpoint in the Israel-Palestine propaganda wars:
The Free Gaza Movement has its roots in the International Solidarity Movement, another organization that sought to take direct action in defense of Palestinians, using nonviolent strategies to impede Israeli military actions in the occupied territories. Members would often act as human shields.
In 2003, an Israeli Army bulldozer crushed to death an American woman, Rachel Corrie, who had kneeled in the dirt to prevent it from destroying a Palestinian home.
The International Solidarity Movement may claim to use "nonviolent strategies," but it supports "armed struggle," as can be read in the group's own mission statement:
As enshrined in international law and UN resolutions, we recognize the Palestinian right to resist Israeli violence and occupation via legitimate armed struggle. However, we believe that nonviolence can be a powerful weapon in fighting oppression and we are committed to the principles of nonviolent resistance.
The Times left out a lot about the Rachel Corrie incident. House demolitions done in Gaza by Israeli Defense Forces were being undertaken to destroy tunnels used to smuggle weapons and explosives from Egypt into Gaza.