Israel has a lot to answer for after this Flotilla week. Ignoring the whole affair of Israel taking control over the ships/boats under the justification of protecting its naval blockade on Gaza, I find myself forced to question Israel’s behavior during the aftermath. Especially its behavior on the Australian side of things. Yes, Australia: Through its actions, Israel has made Australia an active partner in the Flotilla events.
As a part of it taking control over the Flotilla convoy, Israel also took four Australian journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald newspaper under its custody. For the record, The Sydney Morning Herald is probably Australia’s most respected newspaper together with Melbourne’s The Age: both are owned by the same company, Fairfax, and in effect they are some sort of non identical twins. Amongst the four journalists was also Paul McGeough, a veteran Middle East reporter with a lot of well earned respect for his work in Australia.
By custody I am implying that Israel put these four journalists under arrest. Shortly after the four were arrested it was leaked Israel had offered them to choose between immediate deportation or extended arrest. They chose the latter, as they should: why should a reporter be arrested in the first place, and then threatened with deportation, is beyond me. You can read about this stage of the reports' arrest here.
A couple of days later it turned out one of the four was tasered during the mayhem and suffered some injuries. I can actually see how, in the chaotic conditions that prevailed, innocent people can get hurt; I don’t justify it but I can imagine how the soldiers being pressed had a hard time determining who’s who in all the chaos. What I simply fail to understand is why the reporters, all four of them, ended up being deported from Israel to Turkey like everyone else on the convoy. Why doesn’t Israel recognize the very legitimate right of reporters to do their work? As a country continuously boasting it being the only democracy in the Middle East, isn’t Israel aware of the importance reporters have in maintaining the very fabric of democracy? Or is the entire world expected to take Israel’s own word as the sole source of truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth?
Now that the journalists have been freed they can actually do their reporting. You can read McGeough’s report in today’s The Age here. Notice how McGeough's first person reports are quite limited; the majority of his report is made of eyewitness accounts he was able to collect while imprisoned by Israel together with the rest of the Flotilla’s participants. What, then, did Israel gain out of imprisoning them if it only resulted in the reporter being able to collect battle stories much easier than he would otherwise?
The peak of the crop, when it comes to Israel’s behavior towards the Aussie journalists, has to be the way it tried to confiscate photographic evidence of the Flotilla events from the hands of reporter Kate Geraghty (read here). What does Israel have to hide if it needs to strip search a legitimate reporter from a friendly country in order to confiscate her camera's memory cards?
When presented with all the above evidence I cannot avoid the conclusion that Israel’s behavior is more along the lines of George Orwell’s Ministry of Truth than they are in accordance with Israel’s supposedly democratic values.
I feel genuine shame for carrying an Israeli passport.