Flotillas after breaking Gaza siege not delivering aid
On May 31, 2010, Israeli forces attacked the Gaza-bound humanitarian Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea, killing nine Turkish nationals aboard Turkey’s Mavi Marmara and injuring about 50 other activists who were part of the six-ship convoy.
Press TV has conducted an interview with Hassan Ghani, an independent journalist and documentary maker. Ghani is joined by two other guests: Greta Berlin, a co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement from Paris, and Dror Feiler, Spokesman of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition from Sweden.
Press TV: Hassan, one of the things the Israelis claim is that actually there is no aid on these ships. From your perspective as a journalist, you’ve been on many flotillas, is there any aid on these ships?
Ghani Well, as Greta just mentioned, the primary objective of these flotillas isn’t about taking aid through.
The idea is to break the siege, so that the Palestinians can trade with the world, access the international waters and then through commerce, lift themselves out of the situation they are in.
And no Palestinian that I’ve met wants to be dependent on aid; that’s not a long-term solution. But most of the boats that I have gone through have carried aid in some form, whether symbolic, or whether it’s tens of thousands of tons of aid, as we saw on the Freedom flotilla which had several ships.
Some of them simply carried aid only, no activists, just aid, you know, whether it’s concrete, or whether it’s wheelchairs or whether it’s toys for children.
So, they do carry aid, but I don’t think that’s the main point. When Israel says these boats aren’t carrying aid, usually it’s actually a lie.
In the initial moments after the attack [on] these boats, they put out press releases and put out the information, trying to dominate the agenda and later on it emerges that there was some form of aid, but that’s not really the point; whether there is aid, or there isn’t.
The point is that the Palestinians have a right to access their own waters and they have a right to reach international waters and trade with the world.
Press TV: I mean, these boats have been going since 2006 -sorry, 2010, as Greta corrected me.
But I mean, we see here every six month we talk about these flotillas getting intercepted, it’s the headlines for a few days and then it kind of goes away. Do you see an intrinsic value in continuing these flotillas?
Ghani Well, I think it keeps it in the news agenda, because what’s happening in Gaza, as I’ve seen and as you’ve seen yourself, is a slow collective punishment of the Palestinian people.
They are not at the point of starvation, but they’re slowly being dragged to that point by the Israelis. And what they’re doing in the sea, is extending that siege which is implemented by land, whether it is the Rafah border, or whether it is the border with Israel. But they are extending it into the sea where they have no legal right to do so.
So, the point of the flotillas is this wave upon wave of boats which keep bring it back into the headlines and then they set a precedent, like we are seeing next week in Turkey when the Israelis attacked the Freedom flotilla, they killed nine people on board. The Mavi Marmara, one of them was a US national as well, we should remember.
Press TV: Hassan, I’m actually interested in your perspective as a journalist. How do you think generally the media has covered the story?
Ghani Well, it depends on the media. When I was in the Mavi Marmara, when I came back and saw the way the BBC portrayed what happened, it was as if the situation had been completely reversed.
And it actually gone too great efforts to avoid looking at the forensic evidence of what happened, the eyewitness testimony and what the UN report, which went into great detail said and instead took interviews with the soldiers, took their word as Gospel almost and gave a small amount of time to the actual victims of the Israeli soldiers and portrayed the Israeli military as victims.
So, if you look at it from that way, most of the British public would have seen that documentary as quite infamous now, and they will have seen this as a conflict between two equal sides at best, or if they took the Israeli the BBC’s line to heart, then they will have seen the Israeli soldiers as the victims who were trying to enforce a siege which is legitimate and came under attack from these -you know- poor wielding activists.
Press TV: I remember interviewing you shortly after you were arrested and kind of deported on one of these siege-breaking trips. You told me that the Israelis were keen to take away all your footage, the footage that you’d accumulated in a trip, and not distributed to other journalists as well.
I mean, do they just want to destroy all evidence today or…?
Ghani Well, there is two points to that. I mean, one is that they’re waking to set news agenda, which is why they keep activists in prison, for at least a couple of days. The last time I was in prison was for a week.
So that while that news cycle is going on, while that story is in the agenda, they can dominate, they can put their version of events across and they film as well, when the soldiers come on they are wearing video cameras and they select bits of footage that collaborate their version of events.
The second thing is of course, as you mentioned, to eliminate any evidence of what happened in the Mavi Marmara. Two of the people they killed were holding cameras. And if the footage that were filmed in the Mavi Marmara all came out, it would be of quite damning for the Israeli military because it would show how they killed people while there were some of them lying on the floor. There is actually a video that exists of that which did come out because of the satellite connection.
Press TV: And briefly Hassan, what about the activists themselves. Did they try and distort the news agenda?
Ghani I was never censored at any point when I was covering these boats but what they did try and keep under wraps was the logistics of things, the dates, the locations of the boats and so on, which is understandable because they want to keep things under wraps to prevent any sabotage and so on.
That was the only time when I was censured. Generally, they didn’t try to influence what we said.
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