Three of Israel’s most distinguished and respected human rights groups testified before the Israeli-government-appointed Turkel Commission on Wednesday in a six-and-a-half hour marathon public session (with two 10-minute breaks).
One Israeli media report afterwards described the rather mainstream groups [(1) B’Tselem, (2) Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, and (3) GISHA] as “left-wing”, and B’Tselem’s Director Jessica Montell as a “radical leftist activist”, — which says a lot about the atmosphere in the country. See story here
The polarization increased geometrically after the massive Israeli military operation in Gaza, Operation Cast Lead [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009] — during which Israel first announced its formal naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space, on 3 January 2009, as the ground phase began.
And, the polarization was all too obvious in Wednesday’s hearing.
The Turkel Commission [website here – H/T to Jessica Montell] says it is an independent public inquiry looking into what they call the “maritime incident” of 31 May 2010 [or, the Flotilla fiasco] which occurred in the pre-dawn hours that day when Israeli naval missile boats and helicopter-borne Israeli commandos intercepted the Freedom Flotilla, and killed 9 men [8 Turkish, one American high-school student from a Turkish family] on board the larger Turkish passenger ship, the Mavi Marmara.
It is Israel’s main state-appointed body of inquiry on this matter, which was one of the main news stories in the world for several weeks. An outpouring of international criticism followed the brutality of the interception.
The Commission’s website notes that it “was asked to relate to an assessment of the security circumstances of placing the maritime closure on the Gaza Strip and the maritime closure’s compatibility with the rules of international law”.