Israel to Release Flotilla Incident report on July 4th

You gotta hand it to the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the IDF for their well coordinated PR campaigns — they really know how to read a U.S. calendar!

The findings of Israel’s internal inquiry of the Free Gaza Flotilla incident will be released right as Americans across the country will all be sidling up to their barbecues on — you guessed it! — July 4th, the U.S.’s Independence Day.

You’ll also remember, of course — or perhaps you won’t — the oft-overlooked Israeli incursion into Gaza in Nov. 2009,  a violation of the Israeli-Hamas ceasefire and prelude to the brutal Gaza War of December and January. As Jim and I reported at the time, the U.S. media — and, therefore, public — was eyeless in Gaza, so to speak, when the IDF launched a ground and air attack on Nov. 4, killing 7 alleged militants as Americans cast a historic vote for Barack Obama.

July 4th, when the IDF flotilla report is due, falls on a Sunday this year. I wonder who will be subbing on the talk shows? Oh yeah, and read the paper carefully through your groggy Monday morning breakfast. By that afternoon, when the cable news shows have come on, there will be something else to chatter about.

What kind of reaction will it get on Capitol Hill? I wouldn’t expect many flotilla-related fireworks (perhaps, though a daunting thought, in the Mediterranean, where another aid ship might be reaching Gaza). The House and Senate will both both be on recess until  July 11. Not that Congress would be likely to take it up even if they were in session, given what is sure to be a credulous reading of a softball report.

Speaking of the IDF report, the Israeli MFA annoucement — a reprint of  of an IDF release where “team leader” Maj. Gen. Eiland’s name seems to be misspelled (“Island”) — was curiously ambiguous about what they were calling the inquiry into the IDF operation. (A late-breaking update: a second inquiry, on non-military matters and part international, is now being reported in the media.) The “team of experts” is going to “examine the flotilla operation and establish lessons from the event.” Establish lessons, huh? Like not making obvious, misleading edits in footage and audio put on the IDF YouTube channel for Max Blumenthal to pick apart?

The last graf of the communique really made we wonder about the careful phrasing when it drew a distinction betwen a “team of experts” and an “investigative team” and, in the second sentence, seems to distinguish between “examinations” and “investigations”:

A team of experts differs from an investigative team in that it is made up of a group of professionals with expertise on the matter, and were not a part of the operational chain of command during this specific incident. The IDF carries out examinations and investigations of various operations and exercises of this kind routinely and following Operation Cast Lead.

I don’t want to get into Talmudic parsings here, but even Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, rejecting an international investigation on Fox News Sunday, spoke about the flotilla incident only as an “inquiry,” and used the term “investigations” only in the context of Israel’s broader (theoretical) capability to do one.

I called the Embassy to ask about any other differences between the two types of ‘inquiries’ — if that’s the umbrella term of art — or whether it’s just bureaucratic speak. The press office there was unaware of the release, and a young-sounding man who answered referred me to the MFA in Israel (closed for the night), then got in a huff when I asked for his name.

Aaron, as the receptionist addressed the man just before transferring the call, then insisted that what he’d told me — simply that he didn’t know, but the distinction wasn’t apparent from what I read to him — was retroactively off the record. I explained politely to Aaron that when a press office gets a call from a reporter who identifies himself as such, the conversation is on the record until it’s not so by mutual agreement of the reporter and the source. “Thank you for the lecture,” Aaron graciously said as we politely gave our goodbyes and thank-yous.

Come to think of it, based on the apparently poor press-room training and when even the New York Times’s The Lede (to the credit of blogger Robert Mackey) is cataloguing mistakes, mischaracterizations, and falsehoods from official public relations channels, perhaps the Israeli spin-machine isn’t so great after all. But they’ve sure got the U.S. calendar memorized, so stay up on the list of federal holidays and keep your eyes peeled. I wonder what Americans won’t read about the Middle East when they emerge from a food coma the morning after Thanksgiving.

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Ali Gharib

Ali Gharib is a New York-based journalist on U.S. foreign policy with a focus on the Middle East and Central Asia. His work has appeared at Inter Press Service, where he was the Deputy Washington Bureau Chief; the Buffalo Beast; Huffington Post; Mondoweiss; Right Web; and Alternet. He holds a Master's degree in Philosophy and Public Policy from the London School of Economics and Political Science. A proud Iranian-American and fluent Farsi speaker, Ali was born in California and raised in D.C.

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  1. I’m going to be ghost-hunting in Boston on July 4th. But even if I and every other American read up on the Gaza flotilla inquiry, would it make a scintilla of difference? It’s an Israeli inquiry, after all. In any case, the nine dead, like the Americans killed on board the Liberty, have been swallowed by the mists created by the news media’s “coverage” of the incident. This matter is already off the radar screen for 95% of Americans. It’s a hot issue for debate among the other 5% that care deeply about the I-P issue. And, sad to say, a majority of that 5% consists of people who are pro-Israel and who have already created enough doubt about what happened in the minds of average Americans to induce a state of apathy. The Israelis could release the text on Scarlett Johanson’s derriere and wouldn’t move public opinion an inch. (Now, as to what else might move in those circumstances . . . )

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