Turkel Committee 311.
(photo credit: GPO)
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Ankara on Sunday
that the Turkel Commission’s first report on the May 31 interception of the Mavi
Marmara, released here on Sunday, has “no value or credibility” and was “made to
The British Independent, echoing the sentiment, bashed the Turkel
Commission report for “whitewashing the military” and lamented “the apparent
numbing of its moral sensibility.”
Meanwhile, Mark Lagon, former State
Department adviser on efforts to reform the UN Human Rights Council, told Army
Radio Monday that while the Turkel report was reliable and demonstrated that
Israel had conducted an objective investigation, he was skeptical about how it
would be received by the UN panel, led by former New Zealand prime minister
Geoffrey Palmer, appointed to look into the May 31 events. Lagon voiced concern
that the UN panel – which isn’t conducting its own investigation, but is relying
on the inquiries carried out by Israel and Turkey – would not take the report
seriously out of concern that it treated the IDF too leniently.
Erdogan nor The Independent
bothered to muster much proof for the Turkel
report’s purported unreliability. The report’s conclusion that Israel acted
within the bounds of international law when it enforced the blockade on
Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip was evidence enough, it appears, that the
commission’s members were tainted with partiality.
ISRAEL’S SURFEIT of
intractable critics seem unable to come to grips with the fact that what the
commission termed “the regrettable consequences of the loss of human life and
physical injuries” on board the Mavi Marmara
was the unfortunate result of
“extensive and unanticipated violence” launched against a small cadre of naval
commandos by a “hard core of approximately 40 activists” from the Turkish
Islamic “charity” Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH) equipped with “clubs, iron rods,
chains, slingshots and ball bearings.”
Nor are Israel’s detractors
willing to accept that while the relevant Israeli decision-makers, in their
planning process, appeared not to have considered “the scenario of an organized
force armed with lethal weapons actively resisting the boarding attempts,” the
military response of the soldiers who ran into that force, carefully attempting
to differentiate between those on board who posed a threat and those who did
not, was in accordance with international law.
The presumption that the
Turkel Committee’s findings are unreliable due to some sort of imagined
prejudice is deeply dismaying, though entirely predictable.
Appointed in June of last year, the committee has devoted seven months to an exhaustive
inquiry. It was privy to thousands of video and audio clips containing hundreds
of hours of recordings from diverse sources, transcripts of cabinet meetings,
IDF briefings and investigations, and documentations of interrogations of
flotilla participants conducted by Israel Police. The vast majority of its
hearings were open to the public. A website and regular press releases further
The commission would also have availed itself of
eyewitness accounts from Turks and Brits who participated in the Mavi Marmara
voyage, but no responses were received to requests for cooperation even after
the commission arranged to hear testimonies of all kinds via closed-circuit
Representatives of three Israeli human rights organizations and two
Israelis who participated in the flotilla did agree to
Finally, in addition to the five Israeli members, the Turkel
Commission also includes two international observers, Lord David Trimble, a 1998
Nobel Peace Prize winner from Northern Ireland, and Canada’s former military
prosecutor Brig-Gen. (ret.) Ken Watkin, who both endorsed the findings.
Consultations were also made with prominent experts in the field of
international law, including Prof. Dr. Wolff Heintschel von Heinegg of Viadrina
European University in Germany, and Prof.
Michael Schmitt of Durham
University in the United Kingdom, who also agreed with the legal conclusions of
the report. Prof. Ruth Lapidot, recipient of the Israel Prize for international
law, assisted as well.
Are we to believe that all of these respected
scholars and experts put their reputations on the line in a grand Zionist
conspiracy designed to “whitewash the military”? That all those long hours of
investigation and inquiry were a sham? For some, apparently, clinging to such
ludicrous notions is preferable to internalizing that Israel’s military requires
no “whitewashing,” because it should not have been stained in the first place.