Passengers on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza have asked the Israeli authorities repeatedly for the return of their belongings and the release of the video footage they shot during the Jewish state’s attack on their boat, the Mavi Marmara, on 31st May. The Israeli assault took place over 10 weeks ago and yet it is only now that the authorities have released a 2 minutes 40 seconds video clip; but why now and why have the Israelis selected those couple of minutes from all of the hours of confiscated footage that they still have in their possession?
The Israeli authorities claim that the clip shows Knesset Member Haneen Zoabi in the presence of men from the charity group IHH armed with clubs, contradicting her claim that she did not see any flotilla members holding weapons. As a result of this video, there is now a call to investigate Ms Zoabi for her part in the violence that unfolded on board the Marmara.
However, in releasing this footage it looks as if the Israelis have shot themselves in the foot once again, because the film actually shows Israeli soldiers in a far worse light than Haneen Zoabi. In fact, it goes some way towards corroborating her version of events.
In the first of three short clips, Ms Zoabi is on screen for less than 10 seconds and she is simply in the distance walking towards the camera from the far side of the deck. There are more than 30 people milling around, only one of whom is shown for approximately six seconds holding what looks like a broomstick handle. The rest are tying on life jackets, filming the Israeli boats that are surrounding them and simply looking out to sea. At no point is Ms Zoabi seen anywhere near anyone with any kind of weapon.
In the second clip Ms Zoabi is standing in a stairwell. Blood from the victims shot by the Israeli commandos is already forming into pools on the floor of the landing a few steps up from where she stands; first aid is being administered to one of the wounded. In the stairwell she is surrounded by humanitarian flotilla members wearing orange life jackets, several with handheld cameras. On the section of the staircase directly above where she is standing – completely out of her line of sight – are three men holding what, again, look like broomstick handles. No weapons are in sight and once again it is clear that at no point is Ms Zoabi even in the visual proximity of anyone with a “weapon” even as flimsy as a broomstick.
In the third and final clip, Haneen Zoabi is in conversation with two armed Israeli soldiers. She is calm and confident but in no way aggressive at all. She is speaking in Hebrew but it is understood that she was trying to communicate to the soldiers that the wounded man in question did not want to be transferred to an Israeli hospital. Given the fact that he had just been shot by Israeli soldiers and nine colleagues had just been murdered by those same soldiers it is understandable that Ms Zoabi would do her best to ask the soldiers to let him be transferred somewhere other than Israel for medical attention! This does not contradict her claim that she later helped to facilitate the transfer of patients to get urgently needed medical treatment.
There are no guns, no knives, no clubs nor any other kind of weapon being held by anyone in this clip apart from, of course, those carried by Israeli soldiers, who are in full combat gear with their faces covered having a conversation with Ms Zoabi. Next to her is a man with a stethoscope around his neck while several men are lying on chairs, clearly having been wounded in the Israeli assault.
The content of the video, all two minutes and forty seconds of it, does not implicate Haneen Zoabi in the slightest. It actually supports her assertions about the events that unfolded. Claims by newspapers such as Jpost which state that the “video proves Zoabi knew activists [were] armed” are laughable. It does no such thing, so why release the footage? It’s simple; it serves as a diversion. Haneen Zoabi has made it clear that she believes the release of this footage at this particular time to be an effort to divert attention from the investigation into the flotilla assault that is now taking place; more specifically, that its release was timed to coincide with the IDF Chief of Staff giving his testimony. It is no more than that.
Calls to investigate her are welcomed by Haneen Zoabi because, as she has said before, neither she nor any of the other passengers on board the Mavi Marmara have anything to hide. But the Israeli army must have lots to cover up, as is clear from its consistent refusal to release all of the stolen footage or to let its soldiers be questioned during the investigation, and the curt refusal to co-operate with a fair and objective international enquiry into Israel’s murder of nine human rights activists in international waters.