The IDF delayed releasing the footage from the Navy’s takeover of the Mavi
Marmara Turkish passenger ship due to concerns that images of commandos being
beaten would damage the elite unit’s reputation, State Comptroller Micha
Lindenstrauss revealed Wednesday in his report on the 2010 flotilla.
comptroller’s conclusion is basically a rejection of the IDF’s claim that a
helicopter – allocated to transport the video footage from the sea – was
diverted to evacuate the wounded instead, and therefore delaying the video’s
“Technical problems were not the only reasons that the release
of the video was delayed,” Lindenstrauss wrote.
The footage was released
at around 3 p.m., close to 10 hours after the takeover of the Mavi Marmara
where the clashes took place and nine activists were killed.
of the ship – which began at 4:30 a.m. – was completed by around 7
One government official told The Jerusalem Post
at the time that the
footage was already available at the IDF’s underground central command-
and-control center – called the Bor (the Pit) – located in the Kirya military
headquarters in Tel Aviv.
Lindenstrauss backed up the official’s claims.
He revealed testimony from Lt.- Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, IDF chief of staff
during the operation, that he watched the video in “real time” in Tel Aviv and
“I debated whether to release it.”
In the end, Ashkenazi said he decided
to release the footage “to tell our story and show that the soldiers were really
Defense Minister Ehud Barak told the comptroller that the
decision to delay the release of the footage was made to “spare the public the
embarrassment and humiliation” of seeing the Navy commandos beaten by the
The comptroller quoted Yigal Caspi, a Foreign Ministry deputy
director-general, who claimed that the IDF refused to release the footage or
even a statement about the wounded soldiers.
Once the IDF decided to
release the information, Caspi claimed, “it was too late.”
“The fact that
Israel did not immediately release the information about the attack and wounding
of the commandos was a critical blow to our ability to explain from the
beginning why the soldiers used live fire to protect themselves,” Caspi
Brig.-Gen. Avi Benayahu served as IDF spokesman at the time of the
flotilla. The current IDF Spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai was not in the
unit at the time.
Technical problems did however play a role in the
delay. The video footage was viewed in Tel Aviv, but could not record.
the time the footage was obtained at about 10 a.m., it still took five hours for
it to be released.
The IDF has made significant improvements since then
and recently established its own command center where it can hookup in real time
to cameras in the field, at sea or in the air, and obtain footage without
needing to go through the Operations Directorate. In addition, the IDF
Spokesman’s Office would not wait in a future case to inform parents of the
wounded in similar circumstances if it can ensure that the footage does not
reveal the soldiers’ identities.
“We would not want parents to learn that
their child is injured from the TV, but we also are prepared to release footage
immediately if we know that won’t happen,” one officer explained on Wednesday.
The officer said that with today’s new command center, the IDF would have been
able to release the footage from the flotilla within 30 minutes of the
Lindenstrauss wrote in his report that the IDF’s calculations
were also fueled by a misunderstanding of the importance of the international
media. He called on the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office and the
IDF Spokesman’s Office to clarify the division of responsibilities in handling
the media in such cases. Lindenstrauss specifically criticized the IDF for its
involvement in events like the flotilla that have political and diplomatic
“Alongside some improvements in recent years, the flotilla
incident shows that there still are problems and some have even increased and
have not yet been corrected,” Lindenstrauss wrote in his report.
MK Nachman Shai, a former IDF Spokesman who has a doctorate in public diplomacy,
said Wednesday that the footage should have come out earlier and that the
decision to delay its release contributed to the breakdown in ties with Turkey
following the flotilla incident.
“Morale of soldiers and the public is a
consideration, but I think that opposite this is what we saw happen later in the
breakdown in ties with Turkey and other countries,” Shai said. “This should have
overcome the morale considerations, since without the footage it would have been
extremely difficult to explain why people were killed on the ship.”
the flotilla, the Defense Ministry has established a media and public affairs
bureau. It issued a statement on Wednesday saying that it plans to reorganize
the division of responsibilities within the defense establishment and will
assume responsibility for handling media affairs for security-military events.