TEL AVIV – Remember the incident aboard the Mavi Marmara, a Gaza-bound ship in 2010 that became embroiled in a bloody battle with IDF commandos, leading to the death of nine members of a Turkish terrorist organization?
It turns out that eight years after the event, which resulted in Turkey severing diplomatic ties with Israel, a pro-Palestinian activist has inadvertently corroborated Israel’s version of events.
The six-vessel flotilla carried IHH terrorists posing as human rights activists bringing supplies to Gaza. The activists ignored repeated warnings from Israel not to breach Gaza’s naval blockade, which has the stated purpose of preventing the Hamas terror group from gaining access to more weapons. IDF commandos boarded the ship, but soldiers only fired bullets once one of them had his gun seized by an activist who fired a shot.
The IDF also said at the time — and provided video footage as proof — that the so-called humanitarian activists were armed with batons, clubs, knives and metal bars. The charges were vociferously denied by the activists who claimed that the soldiers perpetrated an unprovoked massacre, shooting and killing indiscriminately. By the time the IDF released the footage showing otherwise, the damage had been done. Israel was roundly condemned on the world stage and Turkey demanded an apology. The incident led to a six year rift in relations.
“Live fire was used against our forces. They initiated the violence, that’s 100 percent clear,” Israel’s then-government spokesman Mark Regev told the BBC at the time.
In newly revealed posts from Palestine Live, a secret British Facebook group, Greta Berlin, the co-founder and spokesperson of the Free Gaza Movement, admitted that the Israeli troops did not open fire until after Ken O’Keefe, a former U.S. marine aboard the vessel, had seized a gun from one of them.
Berlin argued with some of the other members of the group who came out in praise of O’Keefe.
“He was responsible for some of the deaths on board the Mavi Marmara. Had he not disarmed an Israeli terrorist soldier, they would not have started to fire. That’s enough. Most of you have no idea what you’re talking about,” she wrote.
At the time, Berlin repeatedly told the claim, to the New York Times and other publications, that the commandos “opened fire on sleeping civilians at four in the morning.”
“You think it was smart that he took the gun away from these crazies on board the MM [Mavi Marmara]? Then ran around the deck saying he had the gun? Then hid it so that the Israelis could say they found a gun on board? Right,” she wrote in another thread on the Palestine Live group.
She said O’Keefe was “not a hero and his actions put others on the Mavi Marmara at risk” and he had “crazy ideas to attack crazed and armed soldiers.”
O’Keefe had in the past called Israel a “racist, apartheid, genocidal state” which “must be destroyed.” He also claimed that the Mossad was “directly involved” in the 9/11 attacks. Berlin, who was married to a Palestinian, has been accused of promoting a video that claimed Zionists were responsible for the Holocaust.
The secret Facebook group was infiltrated by David Collier, who revealed Berlin’s comments in a blog post. Collier also outed British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn as a member. Corbyn in 2010 accused Israel of “acts of piracy” over the incident and committing “war crimes.”
In April of last year, one of the Mavi Marmara’s activists, Khalid Omar Ali, was found near the Houses of Parliament in London in possession of knives.
Israel at the time refused to comply with Turkey’s demand to apologize for the event. Then-Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said after the incident “there is no need to apologize” to Turkey and that doing so would be “a humiliation.” He also accused Turkey of using the apology card as a cheap trick to flex its muscles in the region, stating that it was simply “a matter of honor” for the Turks. This writer mused if apologizing wasn’t the best course to take considering Israel risked losing its strongest Muslim ally.
Can’t Israel simply swallow its pride and apologize in much the same way a Englishman is prone to say sorry to the person stepping on his toe? Isn’t the greater good of repairing diplomatic relations with Israel’s erstwhile Muslim ally worth the temporary embarrassment of apologetics? And as we already know, sorry is not the hardest word for Israel, as evidenced by the public apology to Turkey last year over the “Sofagate” incident.
Unfortunately—at least in this part of the world—the answer is no.
A diplomatic apology is not a band-aid that gets discarded once the wound has healed. Official apologies remain in collective memory forever. They carry tremendous power and can reshape the historical account of events. Furthermore, a diplomatic apology necessarily includes an acknowledgement of responsibility and acceptance of liability.
However, three years later Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu did apologize to Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a conversation facilitated by then-president Barack Obama.
“Prime Minister Netanyahu expressed an apology to the Turkish people for any error that may have led to the loss of life, and agreed to complete the agreement for compensation,” a statement from 2013 said.
Nevertheless, even after Turkey and Israel restored full diplomatic ties in 2016, Erdogan continued with his insistence that it was “impossible” that the IDF soldiers were acting in self-defense.
“We have all of the documents and evidence,” Erdogan said.
“Regrettably, 10 of our brothers were martyred there,” he added.