It was clear from the moment news of the flotilla attack emerged that Israel was taking extreme steps to suppress all evidence about what happened other than its own official version. They detained the flotilla passengers and barred the media from speaking with them, thus, as The NYT put it, “refusing to permit journalists access to witnesses who might contradict Israel’s version of events.” They detained the journalists who were on the ship for days and seized their film, video and cameras. And worst of all, the IDF — while still refusing to disclose the full, unedited, raw footage of the incident — quickly released an extremely edited video of their commandos landing on the ship, which failed even to address, let alone refute, the claim of the passengers: that the Israelis were shooting at the ship before the commandos were on board.
This campaign of suppression and propaganda worked to shape American media coverage (as state propaganda campaigns virtually always work on the gullible, authority-revering American media). The edited IDF video was shown over and over on American television without question or challenge. Israeli officials and Israel-devoted commentators appeared all over television — almost always unaccompanied by any Turkish, Palestinian or Muslim critics of the raid — to spout the Israeli version without opposition. Israel-centric pundits in America claimed, based on the edited IDF video, that anyone was lying who even reported on the statements of the passengers that Israeli fired first. In sum, that the Israelis used force only after the passengers attacked the commandos became Unquestioned Truth in American discourse.
But now that the passengers and journalists have been released from Israeli detention and are speaking out, a much different story is emerging. As I noted yesterday, numerous witnesses and journalists are describing Israeli acts of aggression, including the shooting of live ammunition, before the commandos landed. The New York Times blogger Robert Mackey today commendably compiles that evidence — I recommend it highly — and he writes: “now that the accounts of activists and journalists who were detained by Israel after the raid are starting to be heard, it is clear that their stories and that of the Israeli military do not match in many ways.” As Juan Cole says: “Many passengers have now confirmed that they were fired on even before the commandos had boots on the deck. Presumably it is this suppressive fire that killed or wounded some passengers and which provoked an angry reaction and an attack on the commandos.”