Murders on the Mediterranean

Published: June 13, 2010
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The writer is executive director news and current affairs at Aaj TV (syed.talat@tribune.com.pk).

The writer is executive director news and current affairs at Aaj TV ([email protected]).

The website democracynow.org gives a vivid, and by far the most authentic, video account of Israel’s attack on the main ship of the freedom flotilla carrying over 600 passengers including an eight-month-old baby.

The video is one of the many that are likely to come out in the weeks ahead captured by those who witnessed recent history’s most audacious insult to efforts to highlight the plight of 1.5 million Palestinians stranded in the Gaza Strip. It shows bullets being fired from the boats carrying Israeli commandos as they make a vain attempt to climb up the Mavi Marmara. It depicts passengers, including foreigners and an Arab member of Knesset, (the Israeli parliament), wade through staircases and corridors filled with the injured. As doctors make desperate efforts to revive those shot in the head or in the chest from close range, blood-splattered walls furnish cold testimony to the methods the Israelis used to take control of the ship: anyone who stood in the way to taking over the control room – which they eventually did in a little over an hour – had to be eliminated.

The video is filmed by a journalist who left banking for the electronic media and presently works in New York. For a brief period when we were prison mates he told me about the effort he had to make to preserve the video: at least a one hour video of the attack was transferred on to a chip measuring half an inch, safely tucked in a special slot in his underwear. He took a grave risk: the Israelis would have strung him upside down if they had found what he was up to. They had strip-searched all of us to ensure that we did not carry any pictures on us.  He told me how he wanted to come on this journey because that was good for his budding career but as he saw the devastation caused by  Israeli actions, his motive changed from a mere professional concern to angry defiance against Israeli impunity.

Others were not so lucky with their efforts to slip out of the ship, vital evidence of  Israeli’s criminal conduct on international waters. Among the injured there were two Indonesians, both camera men, one shot near the collar bone and another in the arm he was holding the camera with. I had spent nearly 10 days with them starting from our journey in Istanbul. The Malaysians and the Indonesian combined had a large contingent, over a dozen, which included a female reporter as well. Deeply religious and belonging to the Tablighee side of Islam, some of them, including the one who got shot in the arm, would spend long hours praying and reciting the Quran. Not exactly active in his pursuit of news on the ship, he was standing in the corner filming the attack as it unfolded when he was knocked out by a sniper. On the upper deck, as mayhem spread I saw two men fall to bullets — the sound of which is amply recorded in the democracynow video. I had been in these situations before. I had enough experience to know that these were all sniper shots. No random bullet pierces the forehead’s center or rips through the heart. If there was any doubt about how these passengers had been killed it was removed when a cameraman who was leaning against me as we both attempted to record the events fell back on me with a bullet wound in his arm. Israelis knew who they had to kill to keep the lid on their beastly actions: the journalists topped the list.

Fortunately, the Israeli system is not foolproof and there is enough evidence floating around to pinpoint responsibility. At any rate each individual who was on the ship is an eyewitness who can blow away the pack of lies Israel, its global backers and a patently one-sided western media are churning out. For a change truth is holding the field of public opinion long misled by propaganda.

Published in the Express Tribune, June 14th, 2010.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • malang
    Jun 13, 2010 - 11:50PM

    Finally, the much-awaited first hand account.
    No polemic, no brash hype.
    Facts and journalism. Thank you for this, it is a relief that while the author clarified the situation for us and gave us an insight into the event he did not hype it up or worse, ‘nationalise’ it. The Flotilla disaster happened at the same time as the Ahmedi attacks and our collective national audience seemed to consider it a more significant incident than over a hundred of its own people being slaughtered. It is a relief that the man who personally lived the incident has not glamorized or exoticised it but has presented it as exactly what it was: an international travesty but not one that trumps our local and immediate concerns.Recommend

  • Jun 14, 2010 - 9:13AM

    Good account. Straight forward. But now we wait for a real TH entry, too. Details? Why? Whatever …Recommend

  • Jun 14, 2010 - 9:39AM

    I am an American citizen, a Christian residing in a part of the nation (Southwestern Michigan) with strong ties to the Christian, “compassionate conservative” Republican right. The birthplace of Eric Prince founder of the private militia Blackwater, a man who believes in the elimination of all Muslims and a part of the Christian culture looking forward to Armageddon and the second coming of Christ. I watched the endless bombing of Beirut, the destruction of Gaza, and now the piracy and murder by the Israelis of innocent people whose only mission was to relieve the hardship and suffering of a people who cannot even be provided with water or medicine. The Jewish people are replaying their own history by creating a ghetto mentality for the Palestinians. One of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson, and in recent history, President Eisenhower; both gave warning against becoming an economy based upon the military. We no longer have an industrial base or a strong economy. We do, however, manufacture weapons and sell them to Israel. Those bullets that killed and maimed the people on the Mavi Marmara were sold to Israel by my nation’s government. I could not help but see a strange biblical comparison…David and Goliath. Slingshots against bullets, only this time Israel was Goliath. And my government dared not criticize the actions of our friend Israel. One last comment, Helen Thomas has been a Whitehouse reported for decades with a front row seat. She has had to retire because of a comment made that the Jews should leave Israel and go back to Europe. Because the media on the right coveted her seat, she was vilified as an anti-semitic at the urging of the Press Secretary. Recommend

  • talha
    Jun 14, 2010 - 11:20AM

    Thanks for all the stuff, but I believe that now its time to work on the unity of Muslims and to develop a new leadership in Pakistan through media campaign.

    The on slot commercial program on news channels just for humor and entertainment must work on some direction that leads us to a strong country.

    Do not fool yourself by relying on the foreign front, because they will never be yours in any circumstances; the only door open is now the new leadership that can bring prosperity in the next decade. Let us go for it before it closes and someone comes to rule you.

    I request the anchor persons to sincerely develop a leadership among us to better understand the need of the day.Recommend

  • Shahid
    Jun 14, 2010 - 12:23PM

    I wonder why these “activists” are unable to see the IDPs in terrible situation under their very nose in Pakistan, and travel to Gaza to help the people there? We need to put a stop to this dangerous trend which is responsible for Pakistan’s “Descent into Chaos”.Recommend

  • Ali
    Jun 14, 2010 - 1:51PM

    Brave and excellent journalistic transcript of events. Kudos!

    @Shahid: Activists ‘do’ notice plight of IDPs and people are out there to help them (if you happen to visit the place, you would know this). Now what is the rationale behind thinking that helping people in other parts of world would make Pakistan descend into chaos. If this rationale goes, then probably all western NGOs should first eradicate drugs, AIDS, illegal human trafficking in their own lands before going out to Africa and other places. And actually why have UNICEF, WHO etc. – just focus on cleaning and improving situation in own home while let others die?

    Last but not the least (actually most important): What about the Last Prophet’s (peace be upon him) saying of resembling all Muslims to one human body!

    What is required is that; we should focus on plights of humans – both on domestic and international fronts – with equal enthusiasm, bravery and zeal. Recommend

  • tayyab jan
    Jun 14, 2010 - 5:27PM

    All the non-muslims are unite why not we?we should think over this.Recommend

  • Jun 14, 2010 - 6:29PM

    A good matter-of-fact account but it seems strangely incomplete.

    The Israelis had accused the peace activists of firing guns and beating up the invaders with iron bars. The democracynow.org video only records the pitiable sight of men using catapults to try to hit the Israelis’ military helicopter! A comment or two from Syed Talat Hussain to counter the lies spun by Israel would have been helpful.

    It is ironic that the Israeli Jews today have metamorphosed into a close reflection of Hitler’s Nazis while the hapless Palestinians are in a similar position to that the Jews occupied in the Europe of nineteen thirties and forties!Recommend

  • Arif Jamal
    Jun 14, 2010 - 7:54PM

    This article gives birth to many questions but I will ask only two.

    First, Why is there no freedom flotilla to Darfur (Sudan) where around 400,000 Muslims have been killed by fellow Muslims? Are they children of a lesser god? Why Palestine is more important than Darfur?

    Second, why the Turkish freedom flotilla not head to Turkish Kurdistan, instead of Gaza, which the Turkish forces keep bombing? Why the Palestinian Muslims are more important than the Turkish Kurd Muslims? Why no Muslim raises his voice and a flotilla while the Turkish Kurds are dying?Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    Jun 14, 2010 - 8:07PM

    Shahid is very correct in pointing out that Pakistan is in a very bad shape internally and has no authentic and potent voice on international forums.Ghaza is a complex and big phenomenon much beyond the purview of Pakistan and Pakistanis.We are a country leased out to the very powers who are maintaining and running the Ghaza prison.While we in Pakistan have all the sympathies with our brothers in Ghaza but it is more important that we attend to our own prison first.Talat has been a very brave journalist on our domestic front and we can overlook this small digression of his venture on Ghaza.But we must remind him that things are rapidly deteriorating in Pakistani Ghaza.Recommend

  • Rehman F
    Jun 15, 2010 - 12:33AM

    Arif Jamal made some excellent points. I wonder why a Pakistani journalist make a trip with a fragmented fraternity to Israel despite warnings? They did what is right for their country and its defense. Why could this not be done through peaceful manner by handing the supplies to Israel. Israel is fighting for her survival in a very hostile neighbor-hood surrounded by sworn enemies of its existence.

    There is a lot more suffering in the world right now e.g in Haiti and lets not forget in Frontier province and Baluchistan. What an easy way of showing Muslim brother-hood! Forget Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan etc and focus on home front folks and not to mention the Islamists love for India. Islamists need a cause celeb re and they get it from time to time.Recommend

  • Hasan
    Jun 15, 2010 - 4:35AM

    Talat, every heard of Lahore? yeah yeah that one. Around a hundred people died there recently but you keep bragging about lands far away. Somehow 100 Pakistani souls don’t matter to you. Wonder why. Get people in Pakistan freedom before going elsewhere.Recommend

  • Jaffar Khan
    Jun 15, 2010 - 7:54AM

    Talat,instead of going to Gaza, you should have taken a relief convoy to TANK,BANNU,DIkhan Jallozai to help own IDPs.Why are we so obsessed with ISRAEL?Our IDPs are living in worse condition than people of Gaza.Was your trip for personnel glory or to satisfy your Jihadi instincts?You should have taken Zahid Hamid with you.Recommend

  • Monkey
    Jun 15, 2010 - 1:05PM

    I wonder how many of the people who have criticised TH for going to Gaza have actually gone to the frontier regions and Gaza themselves. Sitting at home, and criticising someone else who is going at least somewhere is a good policy to satisfy yourself that you feel the pain of those suffering. The man has risked his life and returned home under much threat, it’s time to appreciate his guts. It is completely his choice to support whichever cause he wants. You support the cause you want and organise a trip to FR, the people who want to support you will come.

    Humans everywhere in the world – Muslims and otherwise – are in need of relief. It is completely an activist’s choice which group of humans he chooses. Those criticising have clearly not done anything themselves – except criticising.

    Kudos TH. I hope you go on another flotilla to Gaza whenever you get the chance, ignore these naysayers who only sit in their ACs and point fingers.Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 3:03PM

    I’m waiting for the book to be written and the movie to be made. Recommend

  • rosysblue
    Jun 15, 2010 - 3:37PM

    respect..inspirational indeedRecommend

  • z.f.
    Jun 15, 2010 - 3:46PM

    The video is filmed by a journalist
    who left banking for the electronic
    media and presently works in New York.
    For a brief period when we were prison
    mates he told me about the effort he
    had to make to preserve the video: at
    least a one hour video of the attack
    was transferred on to a chip measuring
    half an inch, safely tucked in a
    special slot in his underwear. He took
    a grave risk: the Israelis would have
    strung him upside down if they had
    found what he was up to. They had
    strip-searched all of us to ensure
    that we did not carry any pictures on
    us. He told me how he wanted to come
    on this journey because that was good
    for his budding career but as he saw
    the devastation caused by Israeli
    actions, his motive changed from a
    mere professional concern to angry
    defiance against Israeli impunity.

    HE? Are you sure, Talat? Isn’t the videomaker Iara Lee, a SHE? A woman?Recommend

  • Jun 15, 2010 - 5:04PM

    I am amazed at the number of comments in favour of Hitler’s successors in Israel. Are these Mossad’s agents masquerading as Pakistanis here? Or, could it be that some of these are genuine Pakistanis who are making such horrid comments for money?Recommend

  • Hasan
    Jun 15, 2010 - 5:23PM

    Talat, 50% of Pakistani population (almost 80 million) are affected by malnutrition. Hundreds of Pakistanis get killed or die every week for reasons they should not; terrorism, poverty, lack of medicine or even clean water. Anything we miss here that you had to go to Gaza for?

    Give us a break.Recommend

  • Nadia A
    Jun 15, 2010 - 8:03PM

    The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was carrying more than 650 people from over 35 countries – it was definitely an international show of support for the Palestinians who have been suffering the blockade of Gaza for three years now.

    This is why I’m glad Talat Hussain was there as a representative of Pakistan and of Pakistani media; that he has a first-hand account of what happened there and that through accounts like these we will build up a more credible and balanced picture of what happened on that Flotilla.

    This piece seems ‘strangely incomplete’ (as a commenter above noted) because, I think, it’s more about the video footage and its importance given the Israeli lock-down on all recordings of the event.

    However, I do look forward to a more detailed retelling so that the event itself has some context, some kind of timeline from the time the Flotilla neared Gaza to the time the journalists were let go. It would help to bring the vividness and reality of that entire situation home to people here.Recommend

  • Noshin
    Jun 15, 2010 - 8:51PM

    I agree with Jaffer Khan’s comment above. Talat is milking this story to the hilt, which, I guess, is legitimate for a journalist. But I don’t understand all this hype about the flotilla when 100s of people are being routinely killed by the Taliban and their associates in Pakistan. Why not flotillas for them as well?Recommend

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