Máiread Maguire was the youngest recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, jointly awarded to her in 1976. She is a committed peace activist and has long been a supporter of the poor and the oppressed, including the Palestinians. Máiread Maguire has an internationally renowned reputation for peaceful activism and was part of the Freedom Flotilla, the subject of which she believes was grossly misreported by Jane Corbin in last week's edition of BBC Panorama. The following is an open letter by Máiread Maguire to the BBC in protest at the lop-sided reporting purporting to be journalism, in which she points out painstakingly the many factual inaccuracies contained in the Panorama programme.
RE: Biased flotilla report, from Mairead Maguire, Irish Nobel Peace Prize Winner
21st August, 2010
Dear BBC Panorama Team
I write to you regarding your programme of 16th August, 2010, about The Freedom Flotilla and particularly the killings of unarmed civilians by Israeli Navy Seals on the ship MV "Mavi Marmara', on 3lst May, 2010. I have been campaigning for the rights of Palestinians for over ten years. I have visited Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories many times. I was part of the Freedom Flotilla in May on the MV 'Rachel Corrie', my third journey on a Free Gaza boat.
I am deeply disappointed at the misrepresentation, lack of truth, and bias displayed by your programme. This programme had an opportunity to inform and educate the public about the background to the flotilla, the motives of the passengers and crew on board the MV 'Mavi Marmara', who (like all of us on the boats trying to get to Gaza) were concerned for the suffering of the people of Gaza. Over 650 people – from all faiths and none, – from over 40 countries, representing the human family and uniting in nonviolent resistance to break a cruel siege (collective punishment is illegal under International Law) to bring hope and support to the people of Gaza. Before leaving their various ports, as part of the undertaking, all passengers made pledges of nonviolence, all people, and cargoes were searched, and all undertook to go in a spirit of peace to resist (as is our moral right and duty) the breaking of Human Rights and International Law by Israel through its siege of Gaza and occupation of Palestine. This journey of courage and call for justice by people on board the MV 'Mavi Marmara' and the flotilla represented the conscience of the world. The boats carried no arms, and were no threat to Israel, but what they did carry were voices of dissent from every corner of the world, (including Jews) saying to Israel 'no more sieges, occupations, wars and threats of violence', we refuse to be silent in the face of your ethnic cleansing and persecution of the Palestinian people. Our motives were honourable, we did it for the children of Gaza, knowing that in the end, truth and justice will prevail.
Sadly, the Panorama programme did not see the true significance of this historic journey and missed an opportunity for the media to fulfil its responsibility to 'tell the truth and nothing but the truth'. They choose instead to try to demonize the passengers on the MV 'Mavi Marmara' from the word go by trying to make them out as violent terrorists. They choose to collude with the Israeli propaganda of lies and manipulation of facts thus trying to turn the victims into aggressors. The fact that Israeli commandoes started shooting from the zodiac assault boats and the helicopters from the word go was not stated. The audio and video footage used (provided by Israeli military intelligence) was proven to be doctored, and the IDF have admitted this. Your programme showed audio containing what was purported to be anti-semitic remarks issued over the radio by members on the flotilla, and you showed a clip of a percussion grenade exploding in one of the Israeli zodiac assault boats. These things never happened. There is so much commentary in this documentary that is inaccurate that it does a grave disservice to investigative journalism and the BBC. But the real people hurt by this programme, are the families of the 9 unarmed passengers who were assassinated in this unprovoked, illegal, massacre by the Israeli navy seals. So too the more than 40 unarmed people who were injured on the illegal military assault in International waters, whose only crime was to care about Gaza and its people.
The programme failed totally to cover the real suffering of the Palestinian people, it failed totally to cover the fact that the mass kidnapping of 650 unarmed world citizens and the high-jacking of 7 boats, was in International waters and it failed totally to ask the real questions of Israel 'why is this Port of Gaza – the only port in the Middle East to be a closed military zone (42 years) – not open for the people of Gaza and Palestine to travel and trade with the world as is their human right? Perhaps, the BBC Panorama will stop taking the propaganda of the Israeli Government (Jane Corbin travelling on Israeli Zodiacs embedded with Israeli military, hardly leads to objective report of facts). These same zodiacs which boarded all the flotilla ships (including the one I travelled on) kidnapped unarmed citizens, hijacked boats (an act of piracy), confiscated all possessions (which Israel still hold onto), forced all under military arms to go to Israel, detained all, violently assaulted many, imprisoned and repatriated foreigners – all an abuse of our human rights and most of which was not reported by BBC Panorama. The role of the BBC is not to give credibility to the Israeli military but to report facts and allow the public to make up their own minds. By planting doubt in the minds of the public about the events on board the MV 'Mavi Marmara'. It has done a grave injustice and further injury to the families of all those who were assassinated by Israeli Navy seals, on that terrible morning of 3lst May, 2010. I would like to ask the BBC Panorama Team, 'what do you intend to do to redress the injustice you have done to the good names of all those who were killed, and injured, and their families on board the MV 'Mavi Marmara' on 3lst May, 2010? I await your response.
Nobel Peace Laureate
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