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Palmer proves need for appeal to the World Court

Palmer proves need for appeal to the World Court

The UN Report of the Secretary-General's Panel of Inquiry on the 31 May 2010 Flotilla Incident, known as the The Palmer Report (described by award-winning US journalist Max Blumenthal as “factually challenged”) attempted to justify the blockade of Gaza, in contradiction of a UN Human Rights Council official fact-finding mission last September that found the blockade to be illegal. Turkey certainly rejects the Palmer Report finding and intends to challenge the Israeli siege of Gaza before the International Court of Justice at the Hague. The Palmer Report found that Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip was lawful, taking on trust Israel's claims that its blockade was necessary for security. The Commission failed to take into account evidence that showed Israel's true motive for the blockade was not security but collective punishment. In April 2006, the Guardian newspaper reported Dov Weisglass, an adviser to Ehud Olmert, giving the game away when he summed up Israel’s policy of blockading Gaza thus: “The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger.”

Of the four-member Palmer Report commission besides Chairman Geoffrey Palmer, one member, Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, was chosen by Turkey. Another member, representing Israel, was Joseph Ciechanover Itzhar and tipping the balance in favour of Israel was the invitation to serve as Vice Chairman on the commission extended to the former President of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe. Uribe's loyalty to Israel was warmly recognised in May 2007 when the American Jewish Committee awarded him its "Light Unto The Nations" award, describing him as a good friend of Israel. Uribe has shown no respect for international law; his government used the International Red Cross emblem in a hostage rescue mission in July 2008 in contravention of Geneva Conventions that prohibit improper use of the Red Cross symbol. Uribe's support for paramilitary forces, illegal under Colombian law, further undermines his suitability to serve on the commission, as does his overseeing of the wire-tapping of Supreme Court Justices and opposition leaders.

The Palmer report was certainly no fact-finding mission and it sought no evidence from civilian victims and eyewitnesses on board the Mavi Marmara at the time of the Israeli assault upon an unarmed vessel on the high seas. The Report therefore did not concern itself with the circumstances that led to the aid flotilla's presence and the manifestly illegal collective punishment of the people of Gaza. Without genuine fact-finding, any suggestion of impartiality is both an illusion and an affront to the families of the nine dead civilians (most of those killed had been shot several times, some either in the back or at close range), the injured and the 1.5 million people suffering under belligerent Israeli blockade.

Partiality towards Israel can be the only explanation for the apparent lack of interest by our leaders in the evidence and facts contained in the UN Human Rights Council fact-finding mission report (published last September) of interviews with more than 100 eyewitnesses in Geneva, London, Istanbul and Amman. Besides information provided by governments, the Human Rights Council relied on forensic reports and interviews with medical experts in Turkey, as well as written statements, video film footage and other photographic material relating to the incident. Israel refused to co-operate with the Human Rights Council fact-finding mission. The Palmer panel report claims that the Israeli military that boarded the Mavi Marmara “faced significant, organised and violent resistance from a group of passengers”, forcing the commandos “to use force for their own protection”. The problem is that the Palmer panel did not gather any evidence of its own and simply accepted Israel's version of events. Israel never actually produced independent evidence to support its assertions but, on the other hand, in spite of Israel's best efforts, some video footage escaped that contradicts the Israeli version. The surviving video footage shows indiscriminate live-fire by the Israeli attackers, the apparent execution of a journalist and the targeted assassination of at least one other passenger. The hyperlinks to these videos are available.

At least the Palmer Report admitted that the loss of life and injuries resulting from the Israeli assault was unacceptable but it did accept Israel's propaganda claim that its soldiers were mistreated, even though photographs show passengers giving aid and protection to those Israeli troops who had been disarmed. These photos are also available online. It would be surprising if some passengers had not attempted to defend themselves against a terrifying assault in the dead of night by elite commandos equipped with modern weapons and assault helicopters. Video footage reveals frightened passengers in a companion way stained with blood, attempting to hide or cowering away from Israeli gunfire.

The Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Saturday that Turkey would be applying, as early as next week, for an investigation by the International Court of Justice into the legality of Israel's naval blockade of Gaza. The futile and ineffectual Palmer Report proves that The World Court is the best place for matters of international law and war crimes to be considered. The Court's ruling on the illegality of Israel's annexation Wall, which to hide the facts Israel calls a separation barrier, is encouraging. Turkey will also pursue criminal cases against Israeli officials responsible for the killings of nine Turkish citizens in international waters.

Who is willing to take up the cause of Israel's chief victims, the Palestinian people, whose decades-long daily losses of life, limb, liberty and land are so egregiously overlooked by the world community?

Leslie Bravery, 5 September 2011
Palestine Human Rights Campaign


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