Turkel’s credibility

Are we to believe that all these experts put their reputations on the line in a grand conspiracy designed to “whitewash the military”?

January 24, 2011 23:46
3 minute read.
TURKEL. Probing the flotilla fiasco.

Turkel Committee 311. (photo credit: GPO)


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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 order.”

The British Independent, echoing the sentiment, bashed the Turkel Commission report for “whitewashing the military” and lamented “the apparent numbing of its moral sensibility.”

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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.

Neither 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 enhanced transparency.

The commission would also have availed itself of eyewitness accounts from Turks and Brits who participated in the Mavi Marmara’s voyage, but no responses were received to requests for cooperation even after the commission arranged to hear testimonies of all kinds via closed-circuit TV.

Representatives of three Israeli human rights organizations and two Israelis who participated in the flotilla did agree to cooperate.

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.

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