In the immediate wake of the Israeli raid on the Gaza “Freedom Flotilla” last May, U.S. corporate media largely took Israel’s claims as fact. As media watchdog group Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting highlighted, the Washington Post reported the attack using a similar sequence of events that the Israeli government pushed: “Upon touching down, the Israeli commandos, who were equipped with paint guns and pistols, were assaulted with steel poles, knives and pepper spray.”
There is a lot of evidence to throw the Israeli account into question, but four months later the Post still can’t get it right.
While the paper’s September 29 report on the UN Human Rights Council endorsement of a report by three human rights experts that found the raid brutal, illegal and disproportionate opened with a decent lead–“The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Wednesday to endorse the report of a U.N. fact-finding mission that accused Israeli commandos of summarily executing six passengers on a Turkish aid flotilla last May”–the piece quickly attempts to discredit the report by citing Israeli and U.S. objections to it.
And then there’s this short account of the actual attack: “The commandos, who were attacked and beaten while rappelling onto the ship’s deck, killed nine passengers as they seized control.”
That misleading account has become the norm for corporate media reporting on the flotilla raid. A July report from the Wall Street Journal states that passengers on board the Mavi Marmara “attacked the Israeli soldiers as they boarded the ship.”
But that gets what happened on board the ship backwards, implying that it was the activists who first started the clash. As I pointed out in a Fairness and Accurary In Reporting blog post on the Journal piece:
Regardless of who initiated the violence on board the ship first–and witnesses claim that soldiers started shooting even before they landed on the Turkish ship (Common Dreams, 6/5/10)–when heavily armed commandos invade a ship in international waters without legal authorization to do so, that in itself constitutes an attack. The Israeli navy attacked the boat in international waters even as it was moving away from Gaza’s coast (Ali Abunimah, 6/7/10).