PMO: UN flotilla panel blamed Israel before probe began

Human Rights Council report accuses IDF of "incredible violence" in 'Mavi Marmara' raid; Turkey demands "formal apology and compensation."

Netanyahu Headshot 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Netanyahu Headshot 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
The Prime Minister Office on Thursday night slammed as “biased” and “distorted” a UN report that condemns Israeli actions regarding the Gaza protest flotilla last May.
The office said that the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, which issued the report on Wednesday based on the work of a panel of three experts, has “obsessively” pursued Israel.
RELATED:PM to quit UN panel if soldiers probedAnalysis: 2 blockades of Gaza exist‘Our minarets are our lances’Although Israel has released video footage showing that its sailors were attacked aboard the Turkish vessel the Mavi Marmara before they shot and killed nine activists on board, the panel said that Israel’s actions that morning were brutal and illegal.
The 56-page document listed a series of alleged crimes committed by Israeli forces during and after the raid, including what the panel called willful killing and torture. It claimed there is “clear evidence to support prosecutions.”
It further stated that “A series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces during the interception of the flotilla and during the detention of passengers in Israel prior to deportation.”
Examining the circumstances of the raid, the panel concluded that a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza on the day of the incident off the Strip’s coast.
“The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel toward the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence.
It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality,” the report said.
The Prime Minister’s Office said in response, “The whole world saw the video shots of Israeli soldiers descending into violent ambush by thugs who support terror and who tried to kill them with pipes and knives. All this did not prevent the panel from ignoring the evidence and arriving at a false conclusion that was predetermined from the start.”
Addressing the US General Assembly in New York on Thursday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul demanded both a formal apology from Israel and compensation for the casualties’ families.
Calling the deaths on the Mavi Marmara an “unacceptable act in international law,” Gul said Turkey is owed “a formal apology and compensation for the aggrieved families of the victims and the injured people” by Israel.
Gul referenced the flotilla incident during his remarks on the political component of the General Assembly’s agenda, noting that there is “no shortage of regional issues” to be discussed.
“Peace in the Middle East holds the key to a peaceful and stable future in the world,” Gul said, speaking in English.
“Unfortunately, the absence of peace there has had serious and adverse consequences for the rest of the world.”
It would be difficult to make progress toward permanent peace, he said, “unless we put an end to the humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.”
Gul attached significance to UN Secretary General Ban Kimoon’s Panel of Inquiry into the May 31 Flotilla Incident, as well as the fact-finding mission of the Geneva-based Human Rights Council.
Gul said he is “pleased” with the Human Rights Council report, which offered “a solid legal framework for establishing the facts about the incident.”
In Israel, however, one of the few people to applaud the Human Rights Council findings was MK Haneen Zoabi (Balad), who was on the Mavi Marmara.
Zoabi was keen to praise the “professionalism and fairness in [the Human Rights Council’s fact-finding mission’s] efforts to reveal the truth.”
She called on Israel to move forward with the findings of the panel and to indict those responsible for the Mavi Marmara boarding operation.
“We must not settle for declarations of condemnation, but we must work to bring the criminals to justice, those who ordered and those who carried out the orders,” Zoabi said.
She added, “All attempts at character assassination will fail to make Israel appear innocent.”
In contrast, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon (Israel Beiteinu) harshly criticized the Human Rights Council’s report and called the findings “a big lie,” Israel Radio reported on Thursday.
Israel did not cooperate with the probe because it conclusions were determined in advance, and the report establishes the Human Rights Council as an irrelevant body, Ayalon said.
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman instructed Israel’s embassies around the world to begin a campaign to disprove the report’s conclusions.
The Foreign Ministry said late on Wednesday that the Human Rights Council had a “biased, politicized and extremist approach.”
“The Human Rights Council blamed Israel prior to the investigation and it is no surprise that they condemn afterward,” said Andy David, a spokesman for the ministry, referring to the 47-member body’s resolution in early June condemning the raid.
Israel refused to cooperate with the panel, preferring instead to work with a separate UN group under New Zealand’s former prime minister Geoffrey Palmer and Colombia’s former president Alvaro Uribe that is also examining the incident but has yet to publish its findings.
“Israel is a democratic and law-abiding country that carefully observes international law and, when need be, knows how to investigate itself,” the Foreign Ministry statement said. “That is how Israel has always acted, and that is the way in which investigations were conducted following Operation Cast Lead [in December 2008 and January 2009], launched to protect the inhabitants of southern Israel from rockets and terror attacks carried out by Hamas from Gaza.”
AP and Jerusalem Post staff contributed to this report.