Two days away from the restart of Turkey’s trial on Thursday in absentia of top
Israeli military commanders regarding the May 2010 Marvi Marmara flotilla
incident, The Jerusalem Post recently spoke to a top government legal official
who said that the entire process is “political, not really judicial. It
looks judicial, but it’s really not.”
The first set of hearings for the
trial of four former Israeli military commanders, charged with the deaths of
nine Turks aboard the Mavi Marmara, started in November 2012, but recessed after
a few days.
The commanders charged are former chief of staff Lt.-Gen.
(res.) Gabi Ashkenazi, former OC Navy V.-Adm. (res.) Eliezer Marom, former OC
Military Intelligence Maj.-Gen. (res.) Amos Yadlin and former Air Force
Intelligence chief Brig.-Gen. (res.) Avishai Levy.
indictment in the case seeks more than 18,000 years of life sentences in a trial
expecting around 490 witnesses.
Speaking on condition of anonymity due to
the sensitivity of the issue, the official asked, “What does Turkey want with
this? Maybe they’re waiting to [see] what the next government looks
The government to date has boycotted the proceedings, referring to
the trial as a “kangaroo court.” But Israel has faced biased audiences before
and has found ways to indirectly present its point of view, such as when former
Israeli government officials presented what would have been many of Israel’s
arguments to the UN’s Goldstone Commission that investigated the 2008-2009 Gaza
War, even though the government itself boycotted the hearings.
any similar behind the scenes efforts were under way, the official demurred,
saying “this is nothing like Goldstone. The case is not against a state, it’s
against four individuals,” implying that it was not even clear what kind of
standing Israel as a country would have had to appear before the Turkish
The official said that the decision not to attempt even behind the
scenes presenting of Israel’s position was made in light of an estimation that
“I don’t think the Turkish judge will go against the Turkish government’s”
agenda of harming Israel’s image – “there is no chance,” he said.
said, “I don’t think any legal arguments could impact the process, because it is
not a judicial process at all. The trial is being used for cynical
What objective factors brought the official to
these conclusions? The official said the court was completely ignoring the
neutral and authoritative UN-sponsored Palmer Report on the incident, which held
that Israel’s blockade was legal under international law and that to the extent
that there were Israeli violations of the law of armed conflict in the
altercations on the vessel, their severity was mitigated by the context of the
Israel Navy sailors being under attack.
The “judge can look at the Palmer
Report which is not like the actions discussed in the trial,” the official
He said unlike the Turkish trial, the Palmer Report makes no
mention of “murder” allegations, at most describing certain actions as
“mistakes” and problematic “planning issues in the context of
The official said that Israel was not afraid of defending
itself in cases in countries where it believed it had a shot at a fair trial and
that to date “no universal jurisdiction case has gotten past the first round of
procedures” to go to trial.
Ties between Jerusalem and what was once its
only Muslim ally crumbled after the incident, in which some of the sailors who
tried to commandeer the ship were wounded in clashes with those on board that
left nine of the passengers dead.
Turkish media reports and various
Twitter accounts of the case in November indicated that the witnesses included
statements from the families of the nine dead passengers and people from other
ships in the protest flotilla as well as surviving activists from the Mavi
Ahmed Dogan – the father of 19- year-old Furkan Dogan, the
youngest of the dead passengers – said he saw evidence showing that his son had
been “shot in the face,” according to the reports.
Mary Ann Wright, a
65-year-old former US Army colonel who was aboard the nearby Challenger 1 ship,
testified about the scale of the military force involved in stopping the
flotilla as well as the sailors’ conduct vis-a-vis the firing of paintballs and
tossing of stun grenades.
According to the reports, Wright said she
believed that such a force could only have been meant to attack.
reports could not be confirmed and no Israeli officials are present at the trial
to make objections or cross-examine the witnesses.