Category Archives: Flotilla raid 2010

Turkel compounds Netanyahu’s problems

When Israeli PM established the internal and powerless commission under retired High Court judge Jacob Turkel to investigate some aspects of the Mavi Marmara raid, he did so only as a way to get President Obama and other western leaders off his back. Those leaders have been under continuing pressure from NATO member Turkey to support the establishment of a robust international commission to investigate the raid, in which Israeli naval commandos killed one American citizen and eight citizens of Turkey.
Obama went along with Netanyahu’s plan that the three-member Turkel Commission should have no teeth, no basis in Israeli legislation regarding such matters, no sub-poena powers, etc. He also went along with the idea that the ‘international’ component of the commission be confined to two observers, one from Britain and one from Canada– both of them well-established partisans of Israel.
Well, Obama went along with it all. But Turkel himself has not; and his demands to be given much more sweeping powers have made the commission into much more of an embarrassment than an asset for Netanyahu as he prepares for his upcoming visit to Washington.
Amos Harel wrote in Haaretz today that,

    The demands of retired justice Jacob Turkel, who is heading the civilian committee investigating the raid, roused some concern from the prime minister and defense minister. Both men agreed to accept most of Turkel’s demands, yet they denied his committee the right to question soldiers and officers, with the exception of IDF chief Ashkenazi and, perhaps, Military Advocate General Brig. Gen. Avichai Mendelblit.

How, I wonder, will former law professor and steadfast defender of the concept of civilian control over the military Barack Obama, refer to the Turkel Commission when he meets with Netanyahu next week? Let’s see.
It would also, of course, be helpful if the representatives of the U.S. media who get a chance to question Netanyahu during his visit remember to ask him about the toothlessness of this commission and how he suggests that Israel can make things right with NATO member Turkey over the deadly flotilla raid…

IHH publishes report on flotilla raid; Tirkel Committee temporarily beached

The IHH has now published a very thorough-looking report on the whole flotilla project and Israel’s raid against it. Kudos to Adam Horowitz and Mondoweiss for publishing it.
I’m reading it now.
IHH was one of six civil-society organizations, all based in different countries, that jointly organized the flotilla. This is a truly international report.
Inside Israel, meanwhile, the “Turkel Committee”, which was appointed by PM Netanyahu in order to appease the Americans though it has no sub-poena powers and no basis in Israel’s legal structure, has already started to challenge its (extremely restricted) mandate. The good people at Gush Shalom tell us that “Judge Tirkel undertook to the Supreme Court that the Committee’s activities will be suspended until July 11, and that it will conduct no activity until the change in its authority is determined.”
They cited this PDF document (in Hebrew.)
Gush Shalom head and former MK Uri Avnery said in a statement,

    It seems that already before our appeal got to any hearing before the court, the State representatives in practice admit Gush Shalom’s main contention – that the Tirkel Committee, with the very narrow authority and mandate given it by the government, was not able to conduct a serious investigation into the circumstances which led to the killing of nine passengers on the Gaza Flotilla, and subsequently to a severe damage of Israel’s international position. I am glad to see that the Prime Minister apparently has also understood this, even if belatedly…
    Nevertheless, we don’t withdraw our demand to form a Judicial Commission of Inquiry, independent and fully empowered, which is the instrument created by Israeli law exactly for sensitive investigations of this kind. A thorough and independent investigation is needed, first of all, not for the Americans, not for the Turks, and not for the U.N. but for ourselves, for the sake of Israel’s future in order to help prevent such grave fiascos from happening again.

To which I’d add merely that yes, actually it would be nice if Avnery admitted that the raid needs to be very thoroughly and credibly investigated precisely for the sake of the many Turkish families left bereaved by Israel’s grisly May 31 assault, and not just for the sake of the claimed “moral purity” of Israel’s long-pampered Jewish citizens.

Obama and Erdogan’s 75-minute talk at G-20

Today’s Zaman has an intriguing description of the 75-minute meeting that Obama held with Turkish PM Rejep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday, the eve of yesterday’s G-20 meeting in Canada.
It’s an election year in the U.S. (as indeed it is every other year… ) and Obama is under a lot of pressure from the powerful pro-Israel lobby AIPAC to distance himself from longtime NATO ally and Afghanistan war contributing nation Turkey. See e.g. this pathetic piece of anti-Turkish propaganda sent around recently by AIPAC media director Josh Block.
So I suppose it’s not totally surprising that, as TZ noted, the Ehite House tried to keep the Obama-Erdogan meeting ” a low-profile event… It released a considerably brief statement after the one-hour, 15-minute meeting and offered no photo opportunities… White House officials who were briefing the press concerning Obama’s bilateral meetings as the Erdoğan-Obama meeting was taking place didn’t mention this meeting at all.”
Too bad Obama doesn’t have more backbone, though, given the completely scurrilous (and often borderline racist and/or Islamophobic) nature of the anti-Turkish campaign and also Turkey’s role– did I mention this yet?– as a long-time NATO ally and weighty, successfully democratizing, majority Muslim nation at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.
TZ parsed the very brief comment the White House did eventually make about the meeting, and the reported contents of the meeting that it gained from participants, very carefully indeed:

    The fact that the adjective “strategic” was not used before the word “allies” in the White House statement was… noteworthy. Yet, the expression “model partnership,” first introduced by Obama during an April 2009 visit to Turkey, was used during the discussions between Erdoğan and Obama, Today’s Zaman learned.

Regarding the crisis in Turkish-Israeli relations provoked by Israel’s extremely lethal May 31 raid against the Turkish aid ship Mavi Marmara, the TZ reporter wrote:

    the US side expressed uneasiness over the recent course of affairs regarding [Turkish-Israeli] relations and said Washington would continue to lend support for the resolution of bilateral problems between the two countries.
    Erdoğan, meanwhile, thanked Obama for his administration’s contribution to Israel’s release of activists on board [the aid flotilla]…

That first point is interesting given that, as I reported here, recent high-level Turkish visitors to Washington were pleading publicly (though in a dignified way) for U.S. help in healing Turkey’s rift with Israel. However, it still doesn’t look as if Obama was promising to do very much to help.
Maybe after the November elections?
The other issue that recently harmed Israel’s formerly fairly robust ties with Turkey was Ankara’s role– along with Brazil– in winning Tehran’s support for a fuel-swap agreement that when implemented would remove 1,200 kg of 19%-enriched uranium from Iran and replace it with medically specific fuel rods that can’t be used in any realistic nuclear weapons program.
On that, TZ reported that during the Obama-Erdogan meeting,

    The US side didn’t offer “any new mission” to Ankara regarding the Iran issue and didn’t encourage the Turkish side to continue its mediation efforts between Tehran and world powers, sources said.
    In [the G-8 meeting that prceded the G-20 meeting in] Toronto, the leading eight industrial democracies praised Brazil and Turkey’s diplomatic overtures to Iran, even though they had been rejected by other members of the international community. Brazil and Turkey were the only two members of the UN Security Council to vote against the most recent set of sanctions on Iran.

TZ quoted an excerpt from the G-8 group’s final communique that included this:

    We… welcome and commend all diplomatic efforts in this regard, including those made recently by Brazil and Turkey on the specific issue of the Tehran Research Reactor,” a final communiqué by the G-8 — the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan and Russia — said.

Boarding the ‘Mavi Marmara’, 1947 edition

    An anonymous friend who served with the Royal (British) Navy in the eastern Mediterranean in 1947-48 sent me some notes about how the Royal Navy set about the mission of boarding blockade-running ships that were heading for the coast of Palestine in the tense period between late 1946 and the implementation of U.N.’s Partition Plan for Palestine in May 1948.
    During those months, the whole of Palestine was still under the control of Britain under the system of ‘mandates’ that the infant U.N. had inherited from the League of Nations. In the eastern Mediterranean, the R.N. was acting to enforce a ruling from the League of Nations/U.N. that restricted Jewish immigration to Palestine. As the author of the following recollection writes, these U.N. restrictions “were being flouted with the tacit support of America, and Britain’s war on ‘terrorism’ in those days was focused on U.S.-funded Jewish terrorism in Palestine.”
    Of greatest note in the account that follows is the sharp contrast between the rules of engagement that the R.N. detachments had (and the training they were given, to enable them to act within them) back in 1947-48, and the ROEs the Israeli naval commandos used during their assault on the Mavi Marmara on May 31.
    In both cases, the boats had many civilian passengers who were determined to repel the boarding-parties. The difference lies in the way the naval units sent to board the boats dealt with that resistance.
    So now, read on…

Regarding the bruhaha about the brutal Israeli boarding of a blocade-runner to Gaza, you might be interested in how we (Royal Navy) dealt with (US-funded) illegal immigration to Israel in 1947-48. Every ship on the “Palestine Patrol” (frigates, destroyers) had two designated ‘boarding parties’ (1 officer and 14 men) drawn from the existing ship’s-company, all of whom received two weeks ‘training’ in “boarding” – i.e. jumping from the deck of one’s own ship onto the deck of another ship, while underway in all kinds of weather (we had make-shift hinged boarding ramps) and then (if necessary) engaging in hand-to-hand combat. The only kind of weapon carried by the sailors was a two-foot, weighted ‘crowd-control’ truncheon, which they were trained to use as a ‘prod’ (and not as baton – which could do serious harm), and we were taught how to proceed as a ‘phalanx’. The officer (and he alone) carried a service revolver for use if a life was at risk (e.g. decapitation – a real case) The ships were crammed full (over-full) with Jewish refugees who (understandably) did their best to ‘repel borders’, including lying on the deck and thrusting upwards with knitting needles, or just throwing boarders over the side. There was usually a third ship astern, picking up such castaways.
Once aboard the ‘illegal’, the aim was not to beat up on the migrants but to gain control of the wheelhouse and the tiller flat (hence the ‘phalanx’) and thus gain ‘navigational’ control. One then had effective control of the ship, if not its occupants. Control of the engine room would come later. Depending on the circumstances, several boarding parties might have to be put aboard. I had been the boarding officer of our ship (one of four frigates redeployed from the Pacific for this mission), but I was recalled to UK for courses in August ’47, so I have no direct knowledge of the Exodus foray. which involved five RN ships or more. It was, however, said that of the many sailors who attempted to board (jumped), a significant number were thrown overboard by the migrants, and the 50 or so who did manage to retain a foothold, had to fight for five hours to finally gain navigational control of the ship.

Swedish dockworkers follow Oakland’s BDS lead

Following the amazing lead given by citizen activists and dockworkers/longshoremen in Oakland, California at 5 a.m. on Sunday, today dockworkers in Sweden announced they will try to institute a week-long ban on loading or unloading Israeli ships and cargoes coming to or from Israel. (HT: Ray J.)
The statement from the head of the Swedish port workers union linked to above, said (in Google translation):

    The Swedish port workers’ position is not an isolated incident. We are acting in parallel with the dockers unions in South Africa and Norway, in a first international action for two obvious requirements against the State of Israel: 1. Raise the blockade of Gaza. 2. [The establishment of] an independent international inquiry into the violent and the boarding of Freedom [Flotilla].

It is true that the Oakland stoppage lasted only 24 hours, and this one is planned to last only seven days. So these actions will not bring Israel’s international trade (which is distorted heavily toward the export of military goods) grinding to a halt. But the symbolism itself is immensely important. It shows that the BDS call has moved significantly beyond the few college campuses where it started, and into much broader reaches of western society.
It also shows that the strong support Israel nearly always enjoyed among the left and labor movements in the west has eroded a lot.

Turkey, Israel, the U.S.

Several strongly pro-Israeli members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives have stepped up their campaigns against NATO ally Turkey over the past week, in a campaign that has been quietly orchestrated by the big pro-Israel organization AIPAC. (See, for example, the ‘Related Materials’ linked to on this page of the AIPAC website.)
First prize for anti-Turkish rabble-rousing has to go to Rep. Shelley Berkley (D- Nevada), who told a press conference convened Tuesday to discuss the recent flotilla murders incident that “Turkey is responsible for the nine deaths aboard that ship. It is not Israel that’s responsible.”
The Jerusalem Post reported that Berkley also “pointed to Turkish funding and support for the expedition.”
The always-excellent M.J. Rosenberg has more details about the anti-Turkey campaignhere. He also notes that, “The bash-Turkey movement did not start with the flotilla incident. It began when Turkey spoke out against Israel’s bloody invasion of Gaza in 2009.”
Luckily, however, Turkey’s currently-ruling AKP (Justice and Development Party) sent a high-powered delegation over to Washington for most of the past week, where they worked hard to get Turkey’s side of the story heard. Some details about their meetings are here. The Middle East Institute conference that I live-blogged Friday morning (here and the next four posts) was just one of the team’s engagements.
During the morning, as reported in those live-blog posts, conference participants heard from Adana deputy Ömer Çelik, the AK Party’s chairperson for external affairs, İbrahim Kalın, the chief foreign policy adviser to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Turkey’s ambassador in Washington, Namik Tan. The three men went to great lengths to refute some of the most damaging accusations that AIPAC and others have launched against the Turkish government, and to explain its position.
As they all noted, the current disagreements are not only over the flotilla murders incident, but also over Turkey’s role, along with Brazil’s President Lula Da Silva, in brokering the May 17 enriched uranium exchange agreement with Iran, and in voting against the latest round of sanctions that the Security Council imposed on Iran.
Here are some of the crucial points the three men made– both in the open session of the conference and in a smaller press gaggle held in conjunction with it:
1. The men strongly denied that the Turkish government had played any role in organizing the aid flotilla. Kalin told the press gaggle: “We advised them not to go but this was an international NGO initiative and we couldn’t prevent them.”
2. Like many of the other governments from whose ports boats sailed to join the aid flotilla, the Turkish government gave a thorough pre-sailing inspection to the passengers and freight on the Mavi Marmara and the other two boats that sailed from Turkish ports, to ascertain that no weapons were on board and to register the names of passengers.
3. In an additional attempt to forestall violence, the Turkish government also coordinated directly with the governments of the U.S. and Israel while the boats were preparing to sail. In the press gaggle, Kalin said, “We discussed it with the U.S. and the Israelis. Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak was on the phone with our foreign minister many times before sailing and we understood they would act very differently from way they did act with the boat.”
Celik said of the Mavi Marmara:

    It had been thoroughly checked before it sailed. If Israel had concerns about the ship it could have informed Turkey and Turkey would have taken necessary measures.
    Before the ship sailed Israel didn’t say anything. The Israeli forces could have disabled the steering and towed the ship to Israel.

4. On allegations that the Turkish government favors Hamas over the (western-supported) Fateh Party and its leader Mahmoud Abbas, Celik told the press gaggle:

    I’m not here to defend Hamas but all the parties do need to be at the table. We have excellent relations with all parties inside Palestine. [Hamas head] Khaled Meshaal has visited Turkey only once, right after the 2006 elections, which Hamas won, while Mahmoud Abbas has been to Ankara God knows how many times including very recently and stretching back to the time that he and Israeli President Shimon Peres visited Ankara together in the lead-up to the Annapolis Peace conference and they addressed our parliament together.
    The reason we insist Hamas needs to be at table is we don’t want anyone pushed out of the table when they represent half of the Palestinian people.

He also said that Turkey has used its relationship with Hamas to continue pushing Hamas towards support for the two-state solution. “It took the Hamas people a long time to come to the idea of the two-state solution, but they did,” he said. He cited Meshaal’s recent interview with Charlie Rose as evidence for this.
5. On claims that Turkey’s current policies are motivated by anti-semitism or anti-Israeli feelings, Celik said,

    We always want to have good relations with the American Jewish community. But if the Jewish community wants to change our behavior on issues of importance to us we can’t accept that. We have a long history of good relations. We invited all the Jewish community representatives here in DC to come and meet with us. Some came and some didn’t come. Those who didn’t come made a mistake.
    .. Remember that we gave our support to Israel’s OECD membership. Turkey is Israel’s only true friend in region.
    Friends do not threaten each other. If they threaten each other, then they’re not friends.
    Israel’s friends should ask “What is the cost to Israel to lose Turkey’s friendship?”

6. At points throughout the conference, the three men noted that not only is Turkey a longstanding member of NATO, and its only majority-Muslim member, but also that it currently has troops deployed alongside American troops in Afghanistan and in the waters off Somalia. I can note (which the three Turkish speakers graciously did not) that Israel is not a NATO ally, and has no troops risking their lives in risky, US-led NATO deployments anywhere in the world.
7. One last note came in the panel discussion that I missed a lot of, due to the press gaggle. There was a question near the end that I did hear, as to whether Turkey is now seeing an intensification of the years-long struggle between its secularizers and its Islamists (of whom, the AKP are a politically moderate but very politically successful part)– with the suggestion that the current uproar among Turkey’s 74 million people over the flotilla murders is somehow being manipulated by the AKP and other Islamists.
The answer was given by Cengiz Candar, a very pro-American Turkish journo whom I’ve known a bit for decades, who is also extremely secularist in his views. His answer was, basically, that the “secular-Islamist struggle story” inside Turkey is old news, and no longer particularly intense; and that Turkish people’s feelings about the flotilla murders have nothing to do with that divide. That was interesting. It reminded me of some conversations Bill and I had when we were in Turkey last summer, when several people who are strongly associated with the secularizing stream in Turkish society said they thought the AKP was doing a generally excellent job in governing the country– including on issues of minority rights for ethnic and religious minorities, women’s rights, and so on.
… Bottom line: Turkey, which is an important and “emerging” power in the Middle East in its own right, as well as a crucial U.S. ally, looks as though it is not about to back down in the face of attacks and intimidation from the rabidly nationalist Netanyahu-Barak government in Israel or their politically powerful backers in the U.S. political system.
What I also heard from the Turkish leaders and representatives who spoke at the conference, though, was that they were eager to overcome the current, sharp disagreement with Israel; that they recognized that, given the strong emotions aroused among the peoples of both Turkey and Israel by the flotilla raids, it would be hard for the Erdogan government and the Netanyahu government to overcome this agreement on their own– and that therefore they strongly wanted help from the U.S. administration in mediating and de-escalating this conflict.
The three men repeatedly made the case that (presumably in comparison with what some political forces inside Turkey are urging them to do) the demands they are making of Israel with respect to the flotilla are modest. “Israel must apologize for those killings, and accept the international inquiry as called for by the U.N. Secretary General,” said Amb. Tan.
Of course, in any kind of a similar case of a civilian vessel being attacked by the military forces of another state while on the high seas, many much weightier demands could also be made.
We could also note that one of those killed in the Israeli raid was a Turkish-U.S. dual national, Furkan Dogan. Ibrahim Kalin confirmed at the conference that the Turkish autopsy found that Dogan received four bullet wounds in his head and one in his chest. “This was not shooting in self defense, this was unjustified killing,” he said.
Thus far, however, the U.S. government has done nothing to try to bring Dogan’s killer to any form of account. (Are some U.S. citizens more equal than others, I wonder? Especially, if some of them happen to be Muslims?) And at a broader level, there are no signs at all that the Obama administration is prepared to do anything at all to help Turkey’s anguished government and people win the apology from Israel and the “credible, international inquiry” that they say they so urgently need.
Last Sunday, as we recall, the Obama administration came out with strong support for the (navel-gazing) Israeli-dominated whitewash body constituted by the Israeli government.
No word of any U.S. support for Turkey’s request for an Israeli apology for the killing of nine of its citizens and the wounding of many more.
I am ashamed of my government.

Quietly charismatic Mavi Marmara survivor speaks out

Go to the website of Fakhoora.org and see this short video of Fakhoora director Farooq Burney describing his experiences aboard the Mavi Marmara during the raid.
Burney was on the boat to embody the solidarity that Fakhoora has with the besieged people of Gaza and also take 65 computers to Gaza for the use of students there, and perhaps “to establish a computer lab in one of the institutions in Gaza.”
He talks about having someone close to him shot by the Israelis during the raid– and his sense of helplessness at being unable to prevent him from bleeding to death. He also talks about the humiliations he suffered while in Israeli custody, and about how upsetting it was for his family, including his children, to be left so long in the dark about whether he had survived, or not.
This page on Fakhoora’s website tells us,

    Fakhoora.org is an international campaign which aims to secure the freedom to learn for Palestinian students in Gaza and the West Bank.
    Access to education is a basic human right, recognized by Article 26 of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Today, school children and university students in Gaza and the West Bank are not able to fully exercise their right to an education. During Operation Cast Lead, schools were bombed and destroyed. Many of those schools remain damaged or destroyed. And the current blockade deprives students and teachers of some of the basic necessities that no school can do without. It is an emotionally challenging environment in which to learn.
    … The campaign gets its name from a United Nations school in Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp that was the scene of an attack by Israeli tank shells on January 6, 2009. The attack resulted in at least 43 fatalities, including children, and 100 injuries. The school was being used as a shelter for those fleeing hostilities.

It sounds like a fabulous campaign.

Flotilla: Obama backs Israel’s self-‘investigation’

The White House yesterday expressed support for the Israeli government’s plan to launch its own self-‘investigation’ into the violent IDF commando raid in international waters that two weeks ago today killed eight Turkish citizens and one Turkish-US joint national, and wounded many tens more aid-bearing flotilla participants from dozens of countries around the world.
Washington rushed to express its support for a formula under which an all-Israeli body would conduct the investigation, aided by two “international” observers who would not have voting rights within the investigatory body (and whose access to all the documents it works with is by no means assured, either.)
The White House statement– which was distributed to officers of pro-Israeli organizations by the Office of VP Joe Biden but is not yet available on the main White House website– said in part,

    We believe that Israel, like any other nation, should be allowed to undertake an investigation into events that involve its national security. … [T]he structure and terms of reference of Israel’s proposed independent public commission can meet the standard of a prompt, impartial, credible, and transparent investigation. But we will not prejudge the process or its outcome, and will await the conduct and findings of the investigation before drawing further conclusions.
    While Israel should be afforded the time to complete its process, we expect Israel’s commission and military investigation will be carried out promptly.

In other words, Israel’s creation of this whitewash self-investigation meets the goal of the White House that it further postpone the day when the Obama administration feels it needs to do anything concrete about the May 31 incident, in which non-NATO member Israel attacked a peaceful convoy of boats and killed one US citizen and eight citizens of NATO ally Turkey…
The two international observers on the body include one Canadian and one UK (Northern Ireland) citizen. Interestingly, the Obamaites seemed to back away from the idea that having an American on the body would be a good idea.
Anyway, the Israeli-US plan on the investigation has already come in for some strong criticism, including from Turkey and Mahmoud Abbas. Further criticisms can be expected in the days ahead.

81 great questions from Avnery on the flotilla ”Inquiry’

Veteran peace activist Uri Avnery has compiled a great list of 81 questions that any credible Israeli commission of inquiry should fearlessly answer.
Don’t hold your breath that any of these questions actually will get asked– by any Israeli-dominated investigative body, such as the one the Obama administration has reportedly signed off on.
The flotilla killings: The whole world still needs answers.
See this Le Monde interview with Turkish president Abdullah Gul, and this Der Spiegel interview with flotilla raid survivor (and distinguished Swedish novelist) Henning Mankell.

Flotilla: NYT criticizes Israel-US investigation plan

An editorial in today’s NYT criticizes the agreement that Washington and Israel reportedly reached a couple of days ago under which Israel would run the allegedly ‘international’ investigation into its own actions in the May 31 Mavi Marmara raid, while the US and the EU would have ‘observers’ on the investigatory panel.
The editorial says this:

    The international outcry over this episode is unlikely to subside until there is an “impartial, credible and transparent investigation” as called for by the United Nations Security Council. That means a full investigation — in both Israel and Turkey.
    Israel stubbornly keeps insisting that it can do the inquiry itself. Israeli news media on Friday said that the government planned to appoint an investigatory committee led by a former Supreme Court judge with American and European observers. Turkey’s government wants an international investigation — and insists ruptured relations with Israel will not improve without it. It has yet to acknowledge that its role needs to be part of it.
    A panel under the auspices of the so-called Middle East peace quartet — the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations — would have a far better chance at delivering credible findings. Israeli and Turkish representation would have to be included.
    That is in Israel’s clear interest. And it is in Turkey’s clear interest. The Obama administration should be pressing both its allies to embrace the idea.

The editorial based its argument in good part on the claim that, while Israel has many questions to answer, “so does Turkey.” Yes, maybe. But it was not Turkey that attacked a peaceful ship in international waters, murdered at least nine of the civilian passengers and wounded many more, took all the passengers of the Mavi Marmara and five other boats hostage to Israel where many were mistreated and all had their personal possessions taken from them, etc.
Ah well. It is still good that the NYT is arguing against Israel being given a green light– by the US and the rest of the UN– to investigate itself.
The NYT’s editors do not, however, come straight out and make the case, which surely is an excellent one to be made, that no-one in their right minds should be expected to deem an Israeli-dominated ‘investigation’ of the Mavi Marmara raid to be in the least bit credible.
Aside from the inevitable credibility problems inherent in any plan for a self-investigation, the Israeli government has also grossly undermined its credibility over the past two weeks by, among other things, putting out clearly doctored media accounts of what happened aboard the ship (at least one of which it was subsequently forced to retract), and by confiscating/stealing all the electronic records that it could, that had been kept by flotilla participants of the events that had led up to the raid.
The fact of that act of robbery/confiscation means that both (1) The flotilla participants are strongly hampered in being able to present their own documentary evidence of what happened before and during the raid, and (2) The Israelis have now had 12 days to scrutinize and, where they want, alter those records; and we still see no sign that the records will be either returned to their rightful owners or surrendered to any impartial international body.
I argued here yesterday that Washington’s reported stance of giving support to Israel’s plan to establish its own ‘investigation’– and to give that Israeli body some apparent international cover by including US and EU ‘observers’ in its work– seemed quite crazy and actively harmful to our country’s true interests. In the international system, an Israeli-dominated ‘investigation’ of the flotilla murders will have zero credibility; and for the US to want to have any association with such a scheme will bring an absolute torrent of future problems for the US government.
But the Obama administration, with its eyes only on the November Congressional elections in the US, shows no understanding of the continuing global implications of its stance, at all. Just yesterday, an un-named White House official strongly denied an earlier report that it was considering supporting a U.N.-led investigation:

    The White House official said the administration continues to support “an Israeli-led investigation into the flotilla incident that is prompt, credible, impartial, and transparent.”

Well, an Israeli-led investigation that has these properties might be a fine thing. But no-one outside Washington DC and Israel has any reason to expect that the Israeli government would deliver such an investigation!
Another important aspect to the whole investigation issue is that the need for an investigation, “because we don’t yet know all the facts”, has frequently been cited by Obama administration officials as a reason to postpone issuing any firm U.S. judgment on the raid in its own name. Its function in Washington’s diplomacy is therefore, first and foremost, one of delaying any further U.S. action regarding the raid– in which, remember, Israeli commandos killed one U.S. citizen, beat and wounded a number of others, kidnapped around a dozen U.S. citizens, and stole their personal possessions.
For his part, Turkey’s PM, Rejep Tayyip Erdogan, has roundly rejected the idea of any Israeli-dominated investigation into the raid. He has called for a full-fledged UN investigation, and has stressed that it needs to complete its work within two months so all the issues arising from the raid can be dealt with in timely fashion. Many of the other governments whose citizens were assaulted and harmed in the raid are likely to join their voices to his.
The flotilla murders issue is definitely not going to go away as a continuing issue in international politics, however desperately Washington might wish it would do so. (But could someone please tell Iran’s Pres. Ahmedinejad that him sending two Iranian boats to try to break the blockade, as he apparently plans to do, is about the least helpful thing he can do right now?)
By comparison with that clear position, the NYT editors’ calls for a “Quartet”-headed investigation, with Israeli and Turkish representation, is still somewhat US-centric and diluted. (It’s not as if the US-led “Quartet” actually has any achievements or global credibility to its name, at this point.) But still, it is an excellent sign that even those traditionally strong supporters of Israel in the NYT editorial board are now saying that the Israeli-US proposal is inadequate.