November 14, 2012 | 9:30 am
Posted by Noga Gur-Arieh
A Turkish court began a trial in absentia for four Israeli military commanders responsible for the raid on the Marmara ship. On May 31st, 2010, a ship named Mavi Marmara sailed from Turkey in the direction of Israel, Their intention was to anchor in Gaza Strip, to which they claimed to have brought humanitarian aid. The Gaza Strip was and still is under a legal Israeli blockade, due to terror activity there, led by the Hamas, and the people on board of the Marmara knew that very well. When they came near the Strip, the IDF sent them a warning not to sail into waters near Gaza, and directed them to Haifa port, yet they kept on going. When they got even closer, Israeli Navy commandos boarded the ship, and in this encounter, nine Turkish citizens died and ten Israeli soldiers were injured.
This story got wide media coverage, while the IDF and the activists on the ship both presented two very different versions of the story. The United Nations’ Palmer Committee found the blockade to be legal but said Israel used excessive force while boarding the vessel. A special committee was founded in Israel, with the participation of seven foreign, neutral observers. The committee found nothing illegal or immoral in the IDF's actions, yet claimed that the activists on the ship did use excessive violence. None of those findings helped Israel's image in the public eye. The activists on the ship managed to sell their innocent image to the public, and with the smart use of Photoshop, released fabricated pictures of the struggle to the press, where their weapons were removed. Even though there was no humanitarian aid found on board, their image in the public and media eyes was of humanitarian activists being brutally attacked while trying to help.
This incident caused an irreconcilable fracture between Israel and Turkey, and was followed by a row of diplomatic incidents and feuds. It wasn't long before Israelis were officially recommended to stay away from their number one vacation destination. It took the two states two years to try and rebuild their friendship, and lately, it seems as if things are starting to look better. That is until last week, when the absentia trial for the Marmara incident started. This 'show trial' accuses Chief of Staff Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi, as well as former navy Vice Adm. Eliezer Marom, ex-military intelligence chief Amos Yadlin and former air force Brig. Gen. Avishai Levi of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter, causing bodily harm, deprivation of freedom, plundering, damage to property and illegal confiscation of property. Some 490 people who were aboard the ship during the raid, including activists and journalists, are scheduled to testify. The prosecution demands 18 thousand years in prison for the defendants.
It is almost redundant to say that Israel tends to take no part in this trial. Moreover, it was publicly condemned and cleverly ridiculed. Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Agence France Presse, "This is not a trial but a show trial and has nothing to do with law and justice. The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel. The so-called accused have not been notified or informed in any way that they are going to face charges or what the nature of the charges is. They haven't been given even a symbolic chance to have legal representation." Foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told Agence France Presse, "This is not a trial but a show trial and has nothing to do with law and justice." He added, "The government of Turkey, if it really wanted to do something about this issue, would engage with Israel." The detail that really attracted my attention in this whole story was the small fact that the trial will be officially recorded by television cameras, and will later be broadcast. This, along with Palmor's statements, really proves the real intention behind this not-so-innocent scheme: This whole story, from beginning to end, is a show meant to hurt Israel's image in the world. Unfortunately, this scheme is going well. Very well. The anti-Israel activists that were on the ship, along with the government of Turkey, are doing a damn good job in crushing Israel's image to dust. This is not a question of justice, because justice is on our side. Everyone who read the story carefully could have noticed the truth. They did not do a very good job in proving logically the IDF attacked innocent people. All they did was to address the media first and provide the next day's headlines. While Israel did everything right in handling the activists on the ship, it did everything wrong in dealing with the media.
This story proves, maybe more than anything, that what runs our world today is the media. Whoever got his hand on top in media coverage will be on top in the public eye, and therefore- on the winning side. Nowadays, we don't care about looking carefully into things. We need information fast and in short sentences. We need rely on headlines to provide us with all the information we need, and most of the time it doesn't match the content, which does not always match the truth. The way we get our information in the 21st century, gets us very far from the truth. While justice was on Israel’s side in the Marmara case, our lack of media awareness, combined with their initial intention to get the media attention, painted the world in their colors and shades. Some say it is too late now to try and change the public opinion on this story, but I say it is never too late. This "show trial" brought this story back to life, and it gives us the opportunity to bring our side of the story to the surface. Be on the side of justice and reach the media. Share the truth.
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