Al Jazeera Journalists Publish their Testimonies in a Book contradicting the BBC version of the attack on the ‘Mavi Marmara’
By Iqbal Tamimi
The BBC Panorama report ‘Death in the Med’ covered by Jane Corbin met an extensive criticism for its clear bias in favour of the Israeli military version of its attack on the humanitarian aid ship ‘Mavi Marmara’ on 31st May 2010, where the Israeli Navy Seals murdered 9 unarmed civilians and injured many others.
The BBC offered credibility to the Israeli military propaganda and planted doubts in the minds of the public about the events that occurred on board the ‘Mavi Marmara’. This was considered a grave injustice and further injury and insult to the families of all the innocent civilians who were assassinated by the Israeli military onboard the ship that was sailing in International waters.
I wondered then why Jane Corbin has not interviewed any of the British eye witnesses on board the Mavi Marmara or any of the journalists who were on board recording the events, and witnessed the Israeli attack, and why she never investigated or mentioned the Israeli soldiers' confiscation of the journalists’ cameras? The answer might be found in a new book published by Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, entitled ‘Freedom Flotilla… Proceedings of a Premeditated Assault’.
The book tells the story and the events that the BBC did not want its audience to know. Five members of Al Jazeera reporters and cameramen have documented what they went through while reporting onboard the attacked Freedom Flotilla.
Mohammad Fal, Waseema Ben Saleh, Othman Al Batteri, Ali Sabri Dunnon and Jamal Al Shayyal were all Al Jazeera crew witnesses on board the ‘Mavi Marmara’ and were there during the Israeli assault, and who Jane Corbin did not care to include their testimonies in her full of holes report.
The book of testimonies tells the experiences of Al Jazeera reporters and photographers from humanitarian and journalistic professional dimensions. The book documents an extremely frightening military attack on non armed humanitarian group of people from 40 different faiths, convictions, ages and nationalities.
One thing the testimonies reveal clearly and without a shadow of a doubt, that the Israeli attack on the humanitarian aid ship on May, 31, 2010 and the killing of 9 innocent Turks was a deliberate premeditated criminal act which was well prepared for, which makes the BBC version of the story a clear media failure.
At least 5 journalists documented this tragic incident from professional and human perspectives. Their emotional experience might prove to be a good reference for further academic media studies about the traumatic experiences the journalists go through while reporting from conflict zones, and how such experiences scars journalists and changes their lives.
It is quite clear that the savage attack on the Flotilla where Al Batteri and Ben Saleh were few inches away from their death, has not deterred them from announcing that they are ready and willing to repeat the trip and go to Gaza again and join any convoy that aims to break the siege on the people of Gaza.
Fal talks about his experience as a journalist inside an Israeli prison cell, he described that moment as "a defining moment between freedom and subjugation, similar in its impact of that of a moment of standing on a thin line between life and death". He expressed his feelings about being in an Israeli prison and that the first that came to his mind, ‘I felt that all the people of Gaza are prisoners with me in that same Israeli cell’.
Danoun says in his testimony that the trip on the Freedom Flotilla "was historic by all standards, in terms of financial and humanitarian mobilization, preparation, and by media coverage, besides its outcome that has exposed Israel and placed it in a critical position in front of the international public opinion’.
These testimonies are extremely important from journalism point of view, because the presence of journalists and media professionals on board the Mavi Marmara, limited Israel’s use of military force. Israel has been always careful about implementing its crimes away from the journalists and their camera which document its savage aggressions. This explains Israel’s policies of keeping the journalists away during any of its aggressive incident of breaking international law. That’s why Israel managed to keep the media away from Gaza during its criminal offensive of ‘Cast Lead Operation’ that reduced Gaza to a heap of rubble of dust and corpses. But some courageous journalists such as Jon Snow from Channel 4 ‘ Dispatches’ exposed the corrupt Israeli policies that forced the journalists to stay away and prevented them from reporting the facts. While unfortunately other shallow minded journalists think of reporting from the Middle East as a free tanning opportunity.
Suzanne Moore from the Mail on Sunday accepted the invitation by the Israeli authorities and came back to publish an article on 11th January 2009 that she started it’s headline by the title ‘ Yes, Israel has a right to exist…’
She seemed to have no sense of sensitivity towards the mothers who were still able to smell the burning flesh of their children, burned by the white phosphorus, she wrote how she spent her reporting time since she was welcomed and entertained by the Israeli PR team. She wrote … “At Erez Crossing we had a picnic”.
A picnic??? Obviously she ran out of expressions or maybe she considers a reporting assignment from the Middle East is a free fully paid holiday.
The BBC programme on the other hand failed to mention that the audio and video footage used in its report had been provided by Israeli military intelligence and had been proven to be doctored, something the IDF have admitted to.
The BBC's Panorama programme said nothing about Israel’s kidnapping unarmed journalists, confiscating all their possessions, forcing them all under military arms to go to Israel, their detention, imprisoning and repatriation – all considered an abuse of their human rights and covering such breaches of their right is a duty of every descent journalist who cares about the mission of freedom of expression and respects his profession. When our colleague Alan Johnston, the BBC reporter, was kidnapped in 2007, every single journalist around the world campaigned for his safe release.
Now Al Jazeera reporters are telling the full story the BBC thought of burying under a heap of manipulated records of events and ‘well chosen and hand picked filming footage’.