New Book Assembles Eyewitness Accounts from Mavi Marmara

A growing number of activists is contradicting the claims of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) regarding the Gaza Freedom Flotilla debacle in May, including a large faction of both Israeli and U.S. Jews.

This faction was evidenced by the distinguished array of Jewish scholars, journalists and professionals who contributed to Moustafa Bayoumi’s new book, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict. Amongst a host of "who’s who" of the literary world, the well-loved Jewish scholars and journalists who contributed included Noam Chomsky, Marsha B. Cohen, Norman Finkelstein, Glenn Greenwald, and Gideon Levy, to name a few. 

At a teleconference Thursday hosted by the Institute for Middle East Understanding (IMEU), well-known author and journalist Max Blumenthal, who spoke from Israel, said he knew for a fact that the IDF had confiscated all recording equipment from the Mavi Marmara and contrived media footage to make it appear that Israeli forces were attacked by activists on board the Freedom flotilla. 

A stray recording, however, proved otherwise to the world at large. 

Moustafa Bayoumi, associate professor of English at Brooklyn College and the editor of Midnight, also spoke at the press conference. 

"People are aware of what happened on the freedom flotilla and to me what that illustrated, as the editor of the book, and someone who has been interested in the conflict for a very long time and to many people, is that in the region and in the world that there has been a real shift in how global civil society is responding to the Israel-Palestine conflict," he said. 

Bayoumi described the blockade on Gaza, which has been ongoing for the last three years, as a "kind of a collective general punishment of the population of Gaza." 

"During these last three years you have seen the evisceration of the population of Gaza and the inability of governments around the world, inability of nations, inability of these organizations that really should be responding to this catastrophe, their inability to change things," he said. 

"But what we have seen in the interim is a growing global movement of concerned citizens really from around the world and that really reached its apogee of late with the Gaza freedom flotilla. That flotilla had six ships and people from 40 different countries all engaged in the idea and the action of bringing humanitarian aid to the besieged people of Gaza." 

Bayoumi indicated that another reason for the growing global movement of conscience was the fact that more and more of these conflicts appear to involve innocent civilian fatalities, especially on humanitarian aid missions. 

Some equally well-known academics like Harvard Law School Professor Alan Dershowitz and Chicago Law School Professor Eric Posner have reportedly stated that the naval blockade and the boarding of the Mavi Marmara in international waters were in accord with international law. 

However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the International Committee of the Red Cross has said that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza strip is illegal. 

The press conference highlighted the speed with which Bayoumi’s book was published. 

"Releasing the book at a quick pace is partly the idea of the company, which is a new publishing house," he explained. "The concept is that one should be able to harness new technologies in publishing to respond then in a way that publishing has traditionally not been able to respond with the kind of speed." 

Bayoumi said that one of the major advantages of the book is that the almost a third is a collection of testimonies from the people who were actually on the freedom flotilla. 

"Although I think you can find this kind of testimony scattered around the web, I don’t know of any place right now where you can find all of them in a collected volume. Not only that but after the attack happened, the New York Times sought to publish at least two different publishings defending the actions of the Israeli government but not a single testimony from the more than 500 people who were on the Mavi Marmara." 

On Thursday, CNN reported that another Gaza-bound flotilla had been launched, led by a majority of women activists including Lebanese superstar May Hariri.

(Inter Press Service)

Author: Kumari Karandawala

Kumari Karandawala writes for Inter Press Service.