A dramatic headline appearing on the Middle East page of the BBC News website on May 14th announced “ICC launches inquiry into Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla“.
However, the full facts behind the story make the event distinctly less dramatic and sensational than portrayed in that headline.
The BBC report opens:
“The International Criminal Court (ICC) has launched a preliminary inquiry into an Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla which left nine Turkish activists dead.
ICC chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said it would establish whether there were grounds for a full investigation.”
The fact is that – as stated in the press release issued by the Office of the Prosecutor to which the BBC article links – such an inquiry is routine and indeed required in the event of any referral, as explained here.
“Finally, a plea to the media: please do not overstate the importance of the OTP’s “decision” to open a preliminary examination into the attack on the flotilla. As the ICC’s press release notes, the OTP is required to conduct such an examination into every state referral, regardless of merit. I have no doubt that the OTP takes state referrals more seriously than referrals from individuals and human-rights groups. But that does not mean, nor does it even suggest, that the OTP will decide to open a formal investigation into the flotilla attack. Indeed, for all the reasons mentioned in this post, I think that is exceedingly unlikely.”
The BBC article continues:
“The move follows a request from the Comoros islands, in which one of the vessels was registered.”
The article initially omits any mention of the fact that the request was filed by Turkish lawyers Ramazan (Ramadan) Ariturk and Cihat (Jihad) Gokdemir (who also represent the Mavi Marmara ‘victims’) from the Istanbul-based law firm Elmadag on behalf of Comoros, by Power of Attorney. Only half way through the BBC report do readers learn of “a Turkish law firm acting on behalf of the government of the Union of the Comoros”.
The report also fails to mention that whilst the vessel concerned – the Mavi Marmara – was indeed registered in Comoros at the time of the incident in which some of its passengers attacked Israeli soldiers trying to board the ship in order to prevent it from breaching a legal naval blockade, that registration only took place on May 22nd 2010 – just over a week before the incident occurred – and that the ship was, and still is, owned by the IHH with its registration having been transferred back to Turkey in August 2011.
“The boats were trying to transport aid supplies to Gaza in May 2010.
The Free Gaza Flotilla, which had more than 600 pro-Palestinian activists aboard several ships, was trying to break Israel’s naval blockade.”
In addition, the report heavily airbrushes the events initiated by passengers aboard the ship which led to the eventual deaths of nine.
“The activists were killed when Israeli commandos boarded the lead flotilla vessel, Mavi Marmara.”
The article also includes the deliberately disingenuous use of the phrase “Israel says” in its description of the naval blockade: the smuggling of arms to Hamas by sea is a well-known fact.
“Israel says the blockade is necessary to prevent weapons and ammunition being smuggled to the Gaza Strip, which has been governed by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas since 2007.”
BBC audiences’ understanding of the significance – or rather, lack of it – of this latest Turkish move would of course have been better served by clear, accurate and impartial reporting on the subject. Instead, the BBC succumbed to sensationalism which was only marginally pipped at the post by the IHH itself.