Israel, the Lunatic State and a Voice of Reason: Norman Finkelstein
by Michael R. Burch, an editor and publisher of Holocaust
and Nakba poetry
Professor Norman G. Finkelstein has repeatedly criticized the government of
Israel for its unjust, heavy-handed treatment of Palestinians. A son of
Holocaust survivors who has called the situation of the Palestinians a "new
Holocaust," Finkelstein has been barred from Israel for ten years and was denied
tenure at DePaul University because of his stern, often passionately bitter
criticism of Israeli policies. In his book The Holocaust Industry: Reflections
on the Exploitation of Jewish Suffering, Finkelstein argues that the memory of
the Holocaust has been exploited as an "ideological weapon" so that Israel, "one
of the world's most formidable military powers, with a horrendous human rights
record, [can] cast itself as a victim state" in order to garner "immunity to
criticism." While Finkelstein has his share of detractors, Raul Hilberg, widely
regarded as the founder of Holocaust studies, has said that the book expresses
views he subscribes to in substance, as he too finds exploitation of the
In an interview with Nadezhda Kevorkova of Russia Today, Finkelstein said: "What
happened with the Gaza flotilla was not an accident. You have to remember that
the Israeli cabinet met for fully a week. All the cabinet ministers discussed
and deliberated how they would handle the flotilla. There were numerous reports
in the Israeli press, numerous suggestions, numerous recommendations about what
to do. At the end of the day, they decided on a nighttime armed commando raid on
a humanitarian convoy. Israel is now a lunatic state."
(He was speaking about the Israeli raid on a small fleet of vessels
manned by peace activists trying to break Israel's illegal siege and
blockade of Gaza, in order to deliver humanitarian aid.
Israeli commandos ended up killing nine peace activists, including a
young Turkish-American peace activist who seems to have been assassinated while lying on the floor, trying to record the attack with a
small video camera. A UN panel appointed to investigate the matter concluded that the peace
activists possessed no firearms, that the use of
military force against civilians was illegal and completely unwarranted, and that six of
the nine people killed showed evidence of having been summarily executed.) Finkelstein continued:
"It's a lunatic state with between two and three hundred nuclear devices ...
Things are getting out of control. We have to ask ourselves a simple, basic,
fundamental question: can a lunatic state like Israel be trusted with two to
three hundred nuclear devices when it is now threatening its neighbors Iran and
Lebanon with an attack?"
Nadezhda Kevorkova: But Jerusalem said it was just trying to protect its borders
and its citizens and that the flotilla was actually on a mission to discredit
the state of Israel. What do you say to that?
Finkelstein: "I think there are many things that have to
be said and thought given to what has happened. Let’s start from the basics.
Israel was imposing an illegal blockade on Gaza, which was called by Amnesty
International last week ‘a flagrant violation of international law.’ The United
Nations committee of elders, people like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, just
distributed a statement today that called the blockade of Gaza ‘one of the worst
human rights violations in the world today.’ Number two, Israel ... used armed
commandos to attack ... a humanitarian convoy in international waters. I think
everyone can agree there is no ... way to justify using armed force on what was
clearly unarmed humanitarians trying to relieve an illegal siege of Gaza. But to
me, the more important question is this, namely, during Israel’s massacre in
Gaza in December of 2008 and January of 2009, [and] afterwards, Israel officials
were saying that they wanted to show the Arab world that they were capable of
acting like a ‘lunatic state’ and like ‘mad dogs,’ that they wanted to restore
the Arab world’s fear of Israel, and that’s why they acted like a ‘lunatic
state’ and ‘mad dogs.’ But after yesterday’s events, we really have to ask the
question: is Israel acting like a lunatic state or has it become a lunatic
state? And that’s not just rhetoric. It is a very serious issue.
[Moshe Dayan, one of Israel's most celebrated generals, once described Israel’s strategy
for keeping enemies at bay, saying: “Israel must be a like a mad dog, too dangerous to
Here are excerpts from another revealing interview of Norman Finkelstein, this
one with Don Atapattu. It's titled "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People."
DA: While researching your second book (The Rise and Fall of Palestine: The
Intifadah Years), you lived with Palestinian families in the Occupied
Territories. How do you regard this time in retrospect?
NF: First of all, it's not looking back, I still go fairly
frequently. I was there in June and I stay in close touch with the families of
whom I write in the book. When I first went it was a moral test of the values
that are meaningful to me, and I wanted to see if I could bridge the chasm
between a Jew and a Palestinian based upon our common humanity and our shared
commitment to justice and decency. To that extent I would say that it was a
satisfying experience, because I think that we developed close and meaningful
DA: Were conditions in the [Occupied Palestinian] territories as bad as you had
NF: I would say that the situation there is horrible.
Whenever I go I almost literally count the minutes before I leave. I can't stand
it there because you feel that you are watching people endure a living death for
no justifiable reason people are suffering and they're wasting away a life. It's
very hard to bear, because it is impossible to rationalize to oneself why you
should have a meaningful and satisfying life, and these people have to endure a
meaningless and horrifying life. It is impossible to rationalize, unless you
consider yourself a superior human being and deserve better, than maybe it would
be a tolerable situation. When you recognise your common humanity and realise
that for reasons for nothing to do with anything these people have ever done
that they should have to suffer this way.. it's really hard.
DA: Did you ever experience any hostility because of your background (as an American
NF: Quite the contrary. The first couple of years, I was
treated like royalty and people were gracious and wonderful; by the third year
no one could care less that I was Jewish. It was not even a topic of discussion.
Even this summer I spent time in Gaza, where the people knew I was Jewish, and
they didn't care. It's not an issue; the issue is whether you are for or against
DA: Image and Reality of the Israel Palestine Conflict is
a radical reinterpretation of Israeli-Arab history, turning on its head the
standard Western notion of Israel being the constant victim of Arab aggression.
How have historians reacted to the arguments contained within it?
NF: As I said earlier it does get frequently cited. The
chapter on Joan Peters—the hoax about Palestine being empty on the eve of
Jewish colonization—is considered a standard text, everybody cites it. The
chapter on Benny Morris and the Palestinian refugee question [in which
Finkelstein dismisses Morris' claims that there was no overall plan by the
Zionists to expel the Arabs from Palestine], is considered the definitive
critique on the Morris book, and nowadays most scholarship agrees that I'm
closer to the truth than Morris. The last chapters on the `67 and `73
wars ... they're pretty much ignored.
DA: Regarding your most recent work, The Holocaust Industry,
can you explain who the Holocaust Industry (according to your interpretation)
are and what their goals might be?
NF: The Holocaust Industry, is as I conceive [it] in the book, is
institutions, organizations and individuals who have put to use Jewish suffering
for political and financial gain. Throughout the little book, I am not at all
shy of naming names, so large numbers of organizations and individuals are cited
for their activities in the exploitation of the Nazi holocaust. It is hard to
say the main ones, but the mainstream Jewish organizations and individuals such
as Elie Wiesel, they feature prominently in the book.
DA: Do you believe the "Holocaust Industry" were responsible
for the poor sales of the book in the US in comparison with its spectacular
NF: First of all, I do name names and a lot of these
individuals and organizations have a huge vested interest in the Nazi holocaust.
It's a political weapon, but it's also plainly a financial weapon, and it's
unsurprising that the book would die an early death in the United States. Given
those facts, it would be shocking were it otherwise.
According to Finkelstein, Israel, a state built on the ashes of the Holocaust,
is now inflicting a holocaust on Palestinians in Gaza and the Occupied
Territories. In a telephone interview with “Today’s Zaman,” Finkelstein called Israel a “terrorist state”
created by the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians in 1948. Praising Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish people for their courage in supporting
Palestinians, Finkelstein referred to Israel as a “lunatic” state. Finkelstein’s
parents survived the Nazi camps in World War II and then immigrated to the US.
After the publication of his book The Holocaust Industry, in which he accused
many prominent Jewish leaders of using the Holocaust to excuse the Nakba
("Catastrophe") of the Palestinian people, Finkelstein was declared a persona
non grata by Israel and American Zionists.
Interviewed by SELÇUK GÜLTASLI
for "Today's Zaman" (Turkey) Jan. 19, 2009
Zaman: What does Israel want to achieve with this operation?
Finkelstein: Basically, Israel wants to achieve two
goals: to restore what it calls its deterrence capacity — that means to spread
fear among Arab states about itself. This is a core principle of Israeli
strategic doctrine. Arab states have to be afraid of Israel, afraid of its
military might, and Arabs should do what Israelis want. They shall follow
Israel’s military deterrence suffered a setback in May
2000, when Hezbullah succeeded to expel Israeli occupying forces from south
Lebanon. Almost immediately in the aftermath of the failure, Israel planned
another war with Hezbullah to re-establish its deterrence capacity. In 2006,
after long preparation and using its air force, Israel suffered another
ignominious defeat in Lebanon against Hezbullah.
The second goal was to defeat the Palestinian peace
offensive. This has been another basic principle of Israeli doctrine: You do not
negotiate with Arabs. You give them orders. The Palestinian organization Hamas
was becoming too moderate; it was transmitting, giving the signal that it was
ready to go along with the two-state settlement based on pre-1967 borders. The
leadership of Syria and the West Bank have also been making statements like
this. So Israel started to get worried that it would be obliged to negotiate a
settlement which the international community has been supporting for the last 30
Those who are against this settlement are the US or
Israel, backed by the US. So when Hamas was becoming moderate and holding to the
cease-fire it agreed in June 2008, it was showing [itself] to be a credible
negotiating partner. Hamas was standing by its word. In the meantime, Israel has
neglected another core principle of cease-fire, namely easing the blockade. So
Israel had to defeat this Palestinian peace offensive. It always does this. It
provokes Palestinians into reacting, and it wants to either destroy Hamas or
inflicts so much damage that Hamas will have to say it will never negotiate with
Israel. That is exactly what Israel wants. Israel never wants a moderate
negotiating partner because if there is one, pressure on Israel will grow. Hamas
is willing for a settlement; Hamas stands by its word. But Israel does not want
Zaman: What you are basically saying is that Israel is
not interested in peace at all.
Finkelstein: Israel wants peace in its terms, and its
terms are that West Bank should belong to their state.
Zaman: Will the operation be successful?
Finkelstein: First of all, we have to use proper
language. There is no operation, and there is no war. What is happening is a
slaughter, a massacre. When you have 200 to 300 kids killed, that is not a war.
When you have a strong military going in against a defenseless population, that
is not a war. When you shoot a fish in a barrel, we do not call it a war. As an
Israeli columnist put it, it does [require] too much courage to send jets and
helicopter gunships to shoot inside a prison. What just happened was not a war.
One-third of the casualties were children. It was not a war; it was a just a
In terms of the Israelis’ goals, you have to say it was
successful. It inspired fear among Palestinians and Arabs generally that Israel
is a lunatic state and that you have to follow its orders. Number two, it
destroys Hamas as a negotiating partner. You now hear from Hamas that it will
not negotiate peace. That is what Israel wanted.
Zaman: On your Web site, there is an argument that the
grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are doing to the Palestinians exactly what
was done to them by the Nazis. Do you agree with that?
Finkelstein: I think Israel, as a number of commentators
pointed out, is becoming an insane state. And we have to be honest about that.
While the rest of the world wants peace, Europe wants peace, the US wants peace,
but this state wants war, war and war. In the first week of the massacres, there
were reports in the Israeli press that Israel did not want to put all its ground
forces in Gaza because it was preparing attacks on Iran. Then there were reports
it was planning attacks on Lebanon. It is a lunatic state.
Zaman: But do you agree with the characterization?
Finkelstein: Look at the pictures and decide for
yourself. I am not going to tell people what they should think about it. But
what I say is they should look at the
pictures and decide for themselves.
Zaman: Why have you been barred from entering Israel for ten years? As the son
of Holocaust survivors, you cannot enter Israel.
Finkelstein: Let’s be clear on a certain point. I was
not entering Israel; I have no interest in going to Israel. I was going to see
my friends in the occupied Palestinian territories. And Israel blocked me [from
going to] see my friends in the West Bank. Under international law, I do not
think they have any right to do that. I was not posing any security threat to
Israel. The day after I was denied entry to Israel, the editorial of Haaretz
was asking, “Who is afraid of Norman Finkelstein?” They were also saying that I
was not a security threat. I do not have any particular interest to go and visit
that lunatic state.
Zaman: There are Jewish intellectuals who now call
Israel a “terrorist state.” Is that a correct description?
Finkelstein: I am not sure how you cannot agree with
that. The goal of the operation was to terrorize the civilian population so that
Palestinians would be afraid of Israel. This is the dictionary definition of
terrorism. The dictionary definition of terrorism is targeting a civilian
population to achieve a political goal. The goal of this operation or rather
massacre was to terrorize the civilian population and to wreck and destroy as
much civilian infrastructure [as possible] such that the Palestinians would
submit. When you attack schools, mosques, ambulances, hospitals, UN relief
organizations, what is that? If this is not terrorism, then what is terrorism?
Zaman: In your famous book The Holocaust Industry you
argue that the state of Israel, one of the world’s most formidable military
powers, with a horrendous human rights record, cast itself as a victim state in
order to garner immunity to criticism. Have we seen this during the Gaza
Finkelstein: They tried to use the Holocaust; it was
funny in a very sick way. The leader of the American Jewish Committee, David
Harris, wrote an article, and he said it is no coincidence that this war in Gaza
is occurring around Jan. 27, which is Holocaust Remembrance Day. He wants to
pretend some connection. In fact there is a connection, and the connection is
Israel is committing a holocaust in Gaza. But that is not the connection he had
in mind. He wanted to play the Holocaust card; I think that it is not working
very much anymore. It was clear that during this last massacre in Gaza, liberal
Jewish public opinion turned against Israel. If you look at the petitions,
demonstrations, letters, support to Israel, not only in the international
community but also among the Jewish community, is diminishing. So the Holocaust
card, the anti-Semitic card, is not working as efficiently as it was working
Zaman: You will probably be called anti-Semitic as well.
Finkelstein: I do not think this propaganda is
Zaman: In your book Beyond Chutzpah you argue that
Israel was created after the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians, but the question
whether it was premeditated remains to be answered. If it is premeditated, then
can it be called genocide?
Finkelstein: Well, it was premeditated, and I think the
record is pretty clear. Even Israel’s former minister of foreign affairs, Shlomo
Ben-Ami, in his book published several years ago called Scars of War said that
it was quite clear that it was a premeditated expulsion in 1948 and it was
anchored in the Zionist philosophy of transfer. Ethnic cleansings are ethnic
cleansings, and they are war crimes.
Zaman: Why do you think US media is so one-sided and so
Finkelstein: I think it has two components. First of
all, Israel serves American interests in the region and American media always
give a free pass to those states that serve American interests. That is the
overall picture and not much different from other parts of the world. The
horrendous governments like Saudi Arabia, Egypt, they also get free passes in
the American media. This is the larger context.
And there is, of course, the secondary factor, which is
the ethnic element. In many of these newspapers and the media in general, there
is a large Jewish presence, and there is a sense of Jewish ethnic solidarity,
which plays a role. But I think we have to qualify the secondary factor in two
ways. We should not lose sight of the primary factor, which is Israel is the
client state of US.
Number two, in this past war, the liberal Jewish
population mostly under the age of 40 completely defected from the war, the
massacre. They have been opposed to the massacres from the first day.
Zaman: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has
been very critical of Israel on Gaza, and some American circles lambasted him in
return. What do you think about his stance?
Finkelstein: I wish he had gone further. I wish he had
gone as far as Qatar, Mauritania, Bolivia and Venezuela in breaking diplomatic
relations with that lunatic state. But as far as he has gone, the point on which
he stands, has been terrific. And I was glad to see Hamas respected the gestures
of the Turkish government and said they would be willing to have Turkish troops
stationed on “our border.” That is a very high praise for the Turkish
Turks are showing Palestinians compassion, decency and
justice. All the Turkish people should take pride in this stance, as was the
case on the eve of the American invasion of Iraq in 2003. It was the Turkish
people and government who showed courage. Ninety-six percent of the Turkish
people opposed the war in Iraq. The Turkish government refused to give Americans
use of their land to attack Iraq. Now Turkish people and the Turkish government
are redeeming themselves again by standing on what is right, what is decent and
what is just. I say the highest praise for Erdogan and the Turkish people.
Zaman: How do you feel about Israel’s operation in Gaza
personally as the son of Holocaust survivors?
Finkelstein: It has been a long time since I felt any
emotional connection with the state of Israel, which relentlessly and brutally
and inhumanly keeps [prosecuting] these vicious, murderous wars. It is a vandal state. There
is a Russian writer who once described [modern] vandal states as Genghis Khan
with a telegraph. Israel is Genghis Khan with a computer. I feel no emotion of
affinity with that state. I have some good friends and their families there, and
of course I would not want any of them to be hurt. That said, sometimes I feel
that Israel has come out of the boils of the hell, a satanic state. Ninety
percent of the population continues to cheer, to exalt and feel proud and
heroic. They send a Sherman tank to a playground and torch children. Is this
heroism? Is this courage?
Zaman: You were not allowed to teach at DePaul
University despite a very good academic record and also had some problems in
getting your Ph.D. from Princeton. Why?
Finkelstein: Well, I had some problems. I really cannot
discuss my problems in the face of what is going on in Gaza. It will be so
silly, trivial and stupid. Three hundred or so children — they were incinerated
to death; phosphorus bombs were thrown indiscriminately over Gaza. Everything
these people wanted to rebuild was destroyed again. This Israeli state invaded
in 1978, again in 1982, again in 1993, again in 1996, again in 2006, and 2008,
and it always destroys, destroys and destroys. And then these satanic
narcissistic people throw their hands up in the air and ask, “Why doesn’t
anybody love us? Why don’t our neighbors want us to be here?” Why would they?
Is Professor Finkelstein right or wrong about the lunacy and "darkness" at the
heart of Israel's policies and actions? Perhaps the way Israel treats peace activists might
confirm what he said above. Please consider the following report by an
independent international fact-finding panel created to investigate the Israeli
attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. This panel included a retired Judge of the
International Criminal Court and former Chief Prosecutor of a UN-backed Special
Criminal Court. The panel (which Israel refused to recognize or cooperate with)
took direct evidence from 112 eyewitnesses, reviewed forensic evidence,
inspected the Mavi Marmara, the ship where most of the violence occurred, and
reviewed numerous written statements. Its report issued on 22 September 2010,
• Based on an “overwhelming preponderance of evidence
from impeccable sources ... a humanitarian crisis existed in Gaza” on the date
the flotilla was attacked by Israeli forces. The Israeli blockade is a matter of
increasing concern to the international community, including the UN Security
Council, which characterized the situation in Gaza as “not sustainable” and
called for the “unimpeded distribution throughout of humanitarian assistance.”
The deplorable situation existing in Gaza “is totally intolerable and
unacceptable in the 21st century.”
• Because a humanitarian crisis exists in Gaza, Israel’s blockade is unlawful
and “cannot be sustained in law ... regardless of the grounds” used as
justification. Israel’s blockade is collective punishment, in violation of
article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention (IV GC) and inflicts civilian damage
disproportionate to any military advantage. Since the Freedom Flotilla neither
presented an imminent threat to Israel nor was designed to contribute to a war
effort against Israel, intercepting the flotilla “was clearly unlawful” and
cannot be justified” as self-defence.
• Gaza remains occupied territory. Under the IV GC, the
flotilla passengers, being civilians, were protected persons and Israel cannot
use military force against them. Protected persons may not be killed, tortured,
ill-treated, suffer degrading treatment or have their property destroyed, unless
absolutely necessary for a military operation.
• Since Israeli interception of the flotilla was
unlawful, the use of force by the Israeli military in seizing control of the
vessels was also unlawful. Regardless of whether the operation was legal or not,
Israeli forces were obliged to take control in accordance with international
human rights law.
• The stated aims of the Freedom Flotilla were to: (1)
draw international attention to the situation in Gaza and the effect of the
blockade on the people living there; (2) break the illegal blockade; and (3)
deliver humanitarian and construction supplies.
• Some people on board the Mavi Marmara were prepared to
defend the ship against any boarding attempt. The fact that they engaged in
last-minute efforts to fashion rudimentary weapons prior to the Israeli military
boarding confirms the Mission’s finding that no weapons were brought on board
the ship, certainly no firearms. [Obviously if there were any real weapons of
any magnitude on board the ship, Israel would have produced them to prove that
its use of extreme violence was necessary. Since Israel did not produce such
evidence, it makes no sense to call the people on board "terrorists." What sort
of "terrorists" deliberately enter a planned military encounter unarmed?]
• After unsuccessful attempts to board the Mavi Marmara
from the sea, which were repelled by passengers using water hoses and throwing
various items at the Israeli vessels, the Israeli forces should have
re-evaluated their plans, as it became obvious that putting soldiers on board
might lead to civilian casualties. The use of water hoses is in accordance with
the recommendations of the International Maritime Organization’s circular to
ship operators on preventing acts of piracy. (Circular Msc.1/Circ.1334, date 23
• Instead, Israeli helicopters were brought in and there
was live firing from three helicopters onto the top deck prior to the soldiers’
decent. In addition to live fire, Israeli forces used paintballs, plastic
bullets, stun grenades and tear gas. A fight ensued between some passengers and
soldiers to descend, during which three soldiers were
captured. They were protected from those who wanted to harm them and received
rudimentary medical treatment from doctors on board.
• Israeli soldiers continued shooting live ammunition,
beanbags and plastic bullets at passengers who had already been wounded.
Soldiers fired live ammunition from the top deck at passengers on the bridge
deck below, none of whom posed any threat to Israeli forces, some who were
trying to take refuge or assisting others to do so. The shooting continued even
after a white shirt was raised to indicate surrender.
• During the 45-50 minute operation, nine passengers
were killed, more than 24 seriously injured by live ammunition and a large
number of others were wounded by plastic-coated steel bullets, beanbags and
paint balls. “The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers
were consistent with extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution.” Forensic
analysis shows that two passengers killed on the top deck were shot at close
range while lying on the ground. Furkan Dugan, a 19-year-old US citizen, was
filming with a small video camera when he was shot five times in the back of his
body, except for the face wound, which forensic analysis indicates was delivered
at point blank range while he was lying on his back.
• More than 30 passengers needed immediate medical
attention. Pleas in Hebrew and English to Israeli forces to provide necessary
treatment were ignored, and it was two hours before they were treated. Wounded
passengers, including those injured by live fire, were handcuffed.
• Initially, when the soldiers met significant
resistance, they may have believed in an immediate threat to life or serious
injury. This might have justified the use of firearms against specific
passengers. However, the Israeli soldiers throughout the operation used lethal
force “in a
widespread and arbitrary manner which caused an
unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously wounded.” A
well-trained force, such as the Israeli military, should have successfully
contained a relatively small group of passengers armed with sticks and knives,
and secured the ship without the loss of life or serious injury to either
passengers or soldiers. “Once the order to use live fire had been given, no one
• After the Mavi Marmara was seized, the vast majority
of passengers and crew were handcuffed and forced to kneel on the various decks
for hours in harsh conditions, some enduring physical abuse, including kicking,
punching and hitting with rifle butts. There was widespread misuse of handcuffs
by the soldiers who tightened the plastic handcuffs, causing pain, swelling and
loss of feeling and sometimes long-lasting neurological damage. “The handcuffs
were deliberately used to cause pain and suffering.” The manner in which
passengers were treated “was cruel and inhuman in nature ... “Insofar as these
abuses amounted to deliberate punishment or were an attempt to intimidate them
for participation in the flotilla and/or activities to prevent the
interception of the flotilla, the treatment tended
• Passengers on the other five boats in the flotilla
engaged in passive resistance. Israeli soldiers fired stun grenades, paintballs
and rubber bullets as they boarded, hitting several passengers and tasering
others. The force used by the Israeli soldiers in intercepting the boats “was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate ...” Since the Israeli interception
of the flotilla was unlawful, detaining over 700 passengers and crew, first on
board the vessels, then at Ella prison, was also unlawful; it had “no basis in
law [and] was arbitrary
in nature.” In taking control of the various boats, the
Israeli forces committed grave violations of international human rights law,
including willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment and causing great
suffering or serious injury to body or health ...”
• None of the foreign nationals was ever charged with
any offense or brought before a judge. While the detention phase purported to
proceed within a framework of legality, pervasive hostility towards the
passengers was shown, allowing abuse to take place at the port of Ashdod, at the
prison and at the airport, which “violated basic standards of civilized
treatment of detainees.” [Why was no one charged with a crime, if the people on
board included terrorists? Can anyone actually believe that Israel would take
terrorists into custody, then set them free?]
• “Extreme and unprovoked violence perpetrated by uniformed Israeli personnel”
was evident at Ben Gurion Airport, as passengers protested their deportation.
“None of the violence [which included beatings, chokings and baton charges]
seems to have been justified ... Military and police
personnel at the airport exhibited serious and
unprofessional lapses of military discipline while commanding officers failed to
intervene promptly. Much of the behaviour was surely criminal under domestic
Israeli law.” Overall, “[t]he conduct of the Israeli personnel toward flotilla
passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels
of unnecessary and incredible violence, constituting grave violations of human
rights law and international humanitarian law.”
• The Israeli authorities confiscated large amounts of
cash and personal belongings, including hundreds of laptop computers, mobile
phones, and much photographic and video recording equipment, and clothing. There
was no system in place to properly record items confiscated or identify personal
effects in order to return them to the rightful owners.
• Among the items confiscated and not returned by the
Israeli authorities is massive video and photographic footage recorded by
passengers, including many professional journalists on the flotilla who
documented the Israel assault. The Israeli authorities have released a very
limited amount of this footage for public access, in an edited form, but the
vast majority has remained in the private control of the Israeli authorities.
“[T]his represents a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress
or destroy evidence ... Retaining unlawfully seized property remains a
continuing offense, and Israel is called upon to return such property now.” The
facts establish that the victims have a right to an effective remedy, including
compensation. The grave breaches of the Fourth GC “may
give rise to individual criminal responsibility.” “[T]here is clear evidence to
support prosecutions of the following crimes ... willful killing, torture or
inhuman treatment, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body
or health.” Finally, the Fact-Finding Mission (FFM) considered humanitarian
organizations that wish to intervene in situations of long-standing humanitarian
crisis where the international community is unwilling to take positive action.
While it distinguished between activities taken to alleviate the crises and
action to address the causes creating the crisis (i.e., political action), the
FFM classified both activities as forms of humanitarianism and called for
recognition of “an agreed form of intervention” by civil society in humanitarian
NOTE: The Uribe Panel of Inquiry, established by the UN
Secretary-General, is tasked merely to receive and review the reports of the
national investigations by Turkey and Israel (the Turkel Committee). Its mandate
is not to review possible violations of international law, but “to recommend
ways of avoiding similar incidents in the future.” Rather than concern itself
with investigating possible criminal behaviour and justice for the victims, the
ultimate goal of the Uribe Panel is to “positively affect the relationship
between Turkey and Israel...” As the Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission
observed, “public confidence in any investigative process ... is not enhanced
when the subject of the investigation either investigates himself or plays a
pivotal role in the process.”