Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu responded to the Turkel Commission report by
saying it showed that the blockade of Gaza, as well as the enforcement of the
blockade, was legal.
Furthermore, he said, the report showed that the
soldiers “who boarded the [Mavi
acted legally and in
Netanyahu’s comments came at a ceremony in the Prime
Minister’s Office where he was selecting posters for International Holocaust
Against the backdrop of those posters, he said there
were those today who would deprive Israel of the right and power of self
“This is what happened last May,” he said, “when Israel enforced
a naval blockade to prevent weapons and war material from infiltrating the
terror organizations in Gaza.”
Netanyahu said the Turkel Commission was
“independent, “ “transparent” and “impartial.”
“I hope that all those who
rushed to judgment against Israel and against its soldiers will read these
reports and learn the truth about what happened,” he said. “The truth is that
our soldiers were defending our country and defending their very lives. This is
not only their right; it is their duty. The State of Israel stands behind them
and thanks them for their courage.”
The findings will now be passed on to
the UN panel established to review the May 31 flotilla incident. The panel is
being led by former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, an expert on
maritime law, and outgoing president of Colombia Alvaro Uribe. Israel is
represented on the panel by Yosef Ciechanover, and Turkey by Ozdem
This committee is expected to review both the Turkel Report and
a report put together by the Turkish government, and release a statement of its
own on the incident.
The Prime Minister’s Office released a graph
comparing the two committees, and pointing out glaring differences.
instance, while the Turkel committee was established two weeks after the
incident and conducted its work over a period of seven months, the Turkish
committee was established on August 11 and finished its work in some three
weeks. Furthermore, while the Israeli committee’s hearings were, for the most
part, held in public, and the Turkel Commission had a website open to all on
which the report appears in English and Hebrew, the Turkish report was never
published, and the public had no access to the committee.
Also, while the
composition of the Turkel committee was well known, the makeup of the Turkish
committee was never made public.
Two of the human rights organizations
that appeared before the Turkel Commission during its public hearings blasted
the report’s findings on Sunday.
“No commission of inquiry can authorize
the collective punishment of a civilian population by restricting its movement
and access, as Israel did in its closure of Gaza, of which the maritime closure
was an integral part,” asserted Gisha – Legal Center for Freedom of
“International law permits restricting movement for purposes of
security so long as Israel protects the rights of residents in Gaza to engage in
However, imposing a closure for purposes of punishment is
forbidden, as the International Committee of the Red Cross stated in reference
to the maritime incident,” it continued.
Meanwhile, Physicians for Human
Rights issued a statement saying that “if holding one-and-a-half million people
in conditions of prison for years, where they cannot buy food or earn a living
on their own, [and] without being able to receive proper and timely medical
attention, appears to the commission members to be protecting human rights, they
are suffering from moral and judgmental blindness.”
According to the
group, “61% of Gaza’s citizens (973,600 people) suffer from nutritional
insecurity, and about 80% are dependent upon humanitarian aid from various UN
Some 95% of the water in Gaza is unworthy of drinking, and
unemployment rose in the three years before the flotilla by 40%.
result, the percentage of children suffering from growth problems (underweight,
shortness, or the relationship between height, weight and age) increased by 79%
between 2007 and 2009. These figures, however, make no impression on the members
of the committee.”
Eliezer Sherman contributed to this report.