Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Fact Checking MuslimMatters.org

Muslim Matters has a page here, purportedly fact-checking Israel’s defense for its raid on the “Freedom Flotilla” ships that tried to run the Gaza blockade.

Fact checking is good. Propaganda masquerading as fact-checking is bad. Muslim Matters has published the latter.

Let’s go item by item, using their own material:

1. Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon said Monday morning that the pro-Palestinian activists on the flotilla sailing to the Gaza Strip were carrying weapons on board
RESPONSE: Nothing could be further from truth. The ships had discharged from Turkey after the government checked for weapons. Forget the Turkish claims; common sense dictates that symbolism of peaceful resistance that the flotilla mission was engaging in would not allow the presence of weapons. Finally, the video released by the IDF itself shows that those on board were using miscellaneous items to fight off the soldiers (pirates), not any arms.
“Allegations that there were weapons aboard the Turkish ship are baseless,” Fevzi Gulcan, the head of customs at the Mediterranean port city of Antalya, said on Monday. He added that passengers had been allowed to board the Mavi Marmara ship after they were searched and scanned via X-Ray, the Anatolia news agency reported.”

So Muslim Matters says there were no weapons because:
• Turkey says there were no weapons;
• Common sense dictates there were no weapons;
• The videos show miscellaneous items being used;
• Turkey says there were no weapons.

The first and fourth items are identical, and have no credibility – Turkey was the first government to condemn Israel, without so much as a nod to the idea of an investigation.

The “common sense” argument is silly; one could easily counter that people looking to create an international incident, such as a group that is using a sea route rather than the readily available land route specifically “to call attention to the blockade,” certainly will bring weapons.

And the videos show no such thing – they show metal bars, which certainly are weapons when someone is aiming them at your head.

Verdict: FALSE.

“Israel, though, insists its forces fired in self-defense. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says they had to “defend their lives, or they would have been killed.”
RESPONSE: Like all the “self-defense” claims that Israel as one of the world’s mightiest military power makes against kids with stones, this one doesn’t fly either. See the video below released by none other than the IDF. Let’s assume for argument’s sake, that the NGO participants on board the ship started the altercation. As an illustration of the hollowness of the self-defense argument, let’s assume my neighbor comes to my house and kicks and punches me. I am in full military fatigue, I have all the weapons, while my neighbor is employing his boots to the best of his ability. In return, I take him and his family out. What would the court say to my self-defense argument?
Furthermore, there are strict guidelines on the response by military and police in law enforcement situations. Under San Remo Manual on International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea, 12 June 1994, Section II (Armed conflicts and the law of of self-defence)...

So Muslim Matters says that individual IDF soldiers were not defending themselves, since:
• The Israeli army is strong;
• The soldiers were wearing fatigues;
• The soldiers had weapons;
• San Remo requires proportionality.

Again, this is silly. Having a strong army won’t save an individual soldier’s life. Wearing fatigues won’t save a soldier’s life. Having a weapon won’t save a soldier’s life. And proportionality is dictated by circumstance – if you come over to my house and swing a metal bar at my head, “proportionality” means anything I need to do to keep you from crushing my skull.

Verdict: FALSE.

Israel maintains that it has the right to defend its territorial integrity, in accordance with international laws.
RESPONSE: The attack took place in international waters, so in fact, Israel was in full breach of international laws. For instance, Russia’s Foreign Ministry has already come out in asserting that Israel’s attack on aid flotilla violated international law.
Robin Churchill, a professor of international law at the University of Dundee in Scotland, said the Israeli commandos boarded the ship outside of Israel’s territorial waters. “As far as I can see, there is no legal basis for boarding these ships,” Churchill said. Also, a group of lawyers in Israel have petitioned the High Court, charging that Israel had violated the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea by capturing the boats in international waters.
Under the same San Remo manual, Part II, Section I, hostile actions are forbidden on neutral waters, and clearly the Israeli action took place in international waters by all accounts...
Furthermore under Section V, Line 67, Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked. Clearly the flotilla flying the flags of Greece and Turkey fall under this category. The exceptions to this default state include “reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade… engage in belligerent acts on behalf of the enemy” and a bunch of other categories where there is clearly an “enemy” involved. While Israel may state that the ships were breaching a blockade, this argument is patently false, since the blockade itself is illegal and not approved by the international community.
But there is even further qualification, by exemptions for certain type of vessels, under Section IV,
136. The following vessels are exempt from capture:
(ii) vessels engaged in humanitarian missions, including vessels carrying supplies indispensable o the survival of the civilian population, and vessels engaged in relief actions and rescue operations;

According to Muslim Matters, the raid is illegal because:
• They were in international waters;
• Russia (occupiers of Chechnya) and Robin Churchill of Scotland say it’s illegal;
San Remo protocols allow attacking [and not only boarding!] ships that are running a blockade, but Israel’s blockade is not internationally sanctioned

But this is incorrect; as Muslim Matters notes, San Remo states:
67. Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:
(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture;

I don’t know Robin Churchill’s logic, I don’t see why Russia has any credibility on the topic, and San Remo does not require the blockade to be internationally sanctioned. San Remo’s Section II lists the requirements for a legitimate blockade, and Israel’s blockade of Gaza meets all of them.

Verdict: FALSE

Muslim Matters then tries the classic Straw Man, claiming that Israel justifies its actions by citing links between the boat and Al Qaeda. However, they only quote someone named Arthur Avnon, before challenging him that this is only rumor.
In truth, Israel has said nothing of the kind. (Although I will not be stunned if it turns out to be true!)

Verdict: Straw Man.

Try for Truth, folks. Even Mohammed, mass murderer that he was, knew that truth matters.

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