Israel Creates Facts to Shape Flotilla Campaign Media Coverage

by James M. Wall

Correct picture captions below.

Israel’s government continues to believe it can win the Flotilla Campaign by shaping news coverage of its next attack on non violent humanitarian ships.

Two flotillas are ready to sail from Lebanon and Iran, which, if they succeed in leaving their ports,  will be the second and third steps in the non-violent campaign now being waged against Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza.

Two weeks after killing nine passengers on the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, the cabinet of Bibi Netanyahu has voted to repeatthe Mavi Marmara disaster. The International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) writes:

The Israeli government instructed the army and the navy to intercept, and if necessary, to use force against the two Lebanese ships that would be heading to Gaza to deliver humanitarian supplies.

That cabinet decision was aimed at the flotilla based in Lebanon.

The Iranian flotilla will be handled through manipulation of the American media, which takes all of its signals from Israeli sources.

Mike Whitney, writing on the My Catbird Seat blog, found that American media willingly played to Israel’s narrative in its coverage of the Iranian flotilla.

Two different start times for the Flotilla are reported in Iran and in the US media, via Israel. One says the ships have sailed; the other said they have not sailed. Best to keep the American public and the Israeli public uncertain.  Fear increases that way.

Iranian Red Crescent Director for International Affairs, Abdul Rauf Adibzadeh, told Iranian media “These relief goods include food, medication and medical equipments. The ships will be sent to Gaza by the end of the week.” (emphasis added.)

CNN, an American based news network, announced: “Iran’s Mehr news agency said that an Iranian ship carrying humanitarian aid left the port of Khorramshahr on Saturday, heading towards Gaza.” (emphasis added.)

Whitney reports that he searched the Mehr news agency’s website and “found no evidence of CNN’s claim that an Iranian ship ‘had set sail for Gaza'”.

ABC news reported:

The State Dept today expressed some skepticism about the true intentions of Iranian ships that recently left for Gaza. The ships say they are carrying humanitarian aid, construction supplies, and toys for the isolated region.” (emphasis added.)

Asked if he thought the aid ships were carrying arms, a State Department official said he didn’t know for sure, but added:

It remains a very legitimate concern that Israel — have. They have, in fact, in the past, intercepted ships that were carrying, you know, weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people.” (“Iranian Aid Ships Headed Towards Gaza Has US Worried”, Kirit Radia and Luis Martinez, ABC News).

Juan Cole, who monitors Arabic and Hebrew Middle East media, found a clear example of Israeli misinformation as to the motivation of the Lebanon flotilla.

Writing on his blog, Informed Comment, Cole reports:

Al-Hayat [Life], reporting in Arabic, says that Israeli radio carried assertions from sources in the Israeli foreign ministry that these two ships are actually backed by the Lebanese Shiite fundamentalist party-militia, Hizbullah.

They said that the party forbade singer Haifa Wahbi to board the ships, on the grounds that her steamy music videos would overshadow the mission and give the wrong impression of it. But this ridiculous charge is just a piece of gossip picked up from the Kuwaiti newspaper al-Siyasah, which is rather distant from the scene.

In fact, Haifa herself expressed bewilderment at the report, saying she had never registered to be a passenger on the Mariam, and Hizbullah if anything was even more astonished. I’ll let you decide if this looks to you like someone who pays attention to Hizbullah.

That the Israeli foreign ministry is taking ridiculous gossip seriously as a basis for making foreign and possibly military policy is a sign of serious derangement.

And if Israel attacks these ships on the assumption that they are Hizbullah, it will not go well for the Netanyahu government. [Go to Informed Comment for full posting, including links to Cole’s sources.]

Two convoys, one from Lebanon, the other from Iran, are caught in the same intricate web of fear which Israel is spinning to justify its use of military force to intercept the two flotillas.

It is a no win situation for Israel because the ships will just keep coming, and world disenchantment with Israel will only grow greater.

Lebanese Transportation Minister Ghazi Arid, according to the Lebanon newspaper, an-Nahar, said the ship is carrying  all female passengers.

According to other reports some of the passengers are Catholic nuns. The ship is the French-registered Julia. The voyage has been named Mariam, Arabic for Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Minister Arid emphasized that his government would take “full responsibility over the ship’s course, its cargo and the female activists – both foreign and Lebanese – on board”.

This makes the Lebanon flotilla a tough opponent for Israel to face: Non-violent women sailing on a ship named after the Virgin Mary.

How will Israel spin the Lebanese ships encounter?  Easy enough, based on the research on critical time shift of the departure of the Iranian flotilla by Mike Whitney.

Confuse the American and Israeli publics into thinking both the Lebanese and Iranian flotillas are traveling at the same time and constitute serious threats to Israel’s security.

The US State Department knows the drill. Anything Israel calls a security threat will be played back to American audiences as a “very legitimate concern” facing Israel.

Those sneaky Lebanese women, and those dangerous Iranian terrorists, they are all in this together, don’t you see?

The strategy Israel seems to be following prior to its moment of darkness, when it will actually attack the flotillas, is to condition its targeted audiences with a scenario of fear.

However this plays out, and when, or even if, these two particular flotillas leave their respective harbors, they have already served a major purpose: The non violent campaign against the Gaza blockade is moving forward.

Non violence is an essential component of the BDS campaign, just as it is for the Flotilla Campaign. And what better way to act non violently than to gather together in church decision making  bodies and vote to  divest, on behalf of a particular religious body, from American corporations aiding and abetting Israeli’s Occupation.

The Freedom Summer of 2010 has begun with a major United Methodist organization, the Northern Illinois Conference, divesting its funds from three American corporations, Caterpillar, GE and Terex..

Within a few days of the vote, the word spread to several newspapers, and 31 websites. The news reached Australia, where the superb blog, Australians for Palestine, made the announcement:


ST. CHARLES, ILL. June 15, 2010 – At its annual conference, the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted to divest all holdings in three international corporations that profit from the occupation of Palestine. This action is in response to a plea by Palestinian Christians for action, not just words.

Divestment is a nonviolent form of economic protest long-used by churches and other shareholders to encourage companies to end unjust practices.

By selling its investments in Caterpillar (CAT), General Electric (GE) and Terex (TEX), the NIC expresses its commitment to do no harm with its investments and affirms the call of the UMC Book of Discipline to “avoid investments that appear likely, directly or indirectly, to support violation of human rights” (Paragraph 716).

Joseph Glatzer, posting on Mondoweiss, compares this summer’s non violent campaign against the blockade with the American civil rights movement of the 1960s.

He writes under the inspired title,“Movements take years to build to freedom summer”:

Movements take time and effort, and change happens little by little; not overnight and not in one fell swoop. . . .Momentum is built with each successful (albeit temporary and incomplete) weakening of the siege of Gaza.

In America, we learn history from the top-down instead of how it really happens, the bottom up.
We like to believe that Martin Luther King came along one day, organized a few marches and POOF, black people got rights! But that’s not the way it went.

Thousands, if not millions of unknown people took part in marches, strikes, civil disobedience, and yes: armed struggle. This is the reality of the Civil Rights Movement.

Without Stokely Carmichael and SNCC (which coincidentally supported Palestinians unequivocally after the 1967 war and occupation) doing sit ins at historically black colleges and universities throughout the American South and the rest of the country as well; there would never have been a March on Washington or a Civil Rights Act in 1964. . . .

I believe in our movement. We must count and appreciate the victories, large and small, and acknowledge that Palestine will not be freed before the next season of Lost starts

But, think about it…We (the Palestinians in 1948, occupied territories, diaspora, refugees and Israelis, and international activists) have achieved so much so quickly.

It took 18 years from the time of the South African BDS call for the first college to successfully divest. In contrast: in the Palestinian case, from the initial Palestinian BDS call until the first successful university divestment, it took only 7 years.

The Flotilla Campaign is a gift from God.

It is non-violent, serves the purpose of delivering much needed relief supplies to the Palestinians of Gaza. And, it is a stage of the struggle that brings world attention to the plight of the Palestinians.

Despite Israel’s effort to shape the narrative back to the issue of the security of the world’s fourth largest military power, one with nuclear arms as well, the Flotilla Campaign will move forward.

As with the Civil Rights movement, to use a favorite Martin Luther King Jr., term, “people of good will” will come to see the moral righteousness of the cause. And no amount of narrative spinning will change that.

Photo Caption Corrections

Thank you for [this] article on the flotilla campaign and non-violent resistance to end Israeli occupation and apartheid. I wanted to point out that the pictures you use are misidentified. The boat with 8000 on it, is not a cargo ship, nor is it the Julia in Lebanon. This vessel was part of the Freedom Flotilla.

It is the passenger vessel referred to as the Sfendonh (registered name), or renamed “8000” for the number of political prisoners in Israeli jails.

The second photo (of the woman waving) is actually from a SUCCESSFUL, not unsuccessful attempt to reach Gaza. This photo was taken upon arrival to the Gaza port of the first boats to make it to Gaza on 23 August 2008.

Huwaida Arraf,

About wallwritings

From 1972 through 1999, James M. Wall was editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine, based in Chicago, lllinois. He was a Contributing Editor of the Century from 1999 until July, 2017. He has written this blog, wall, since it was launched April 27, 2008. If you would like to receive Wall Writings alerts when new postings are added to this site, send a note, saying, Please Add Me, to Biography: Journalism was Jim's undergraduate college major at Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. He has earned two MA degrees, one from Emory, and one from the University of Chicago, both in religion. He is an ordained United Methodist clergy person. He served for two years in the US Air Force, and three additional years in the USAF reserve. While serving on active duty with the Alaskan Command, he reached the rank of first lieutenant. He has worked as a sports writer for both the Atlanta Journal and Constitution, was editor of the United Methodist magazine, Christian Advocate for ten years, and editor and publisher of the Christian Century magazine for 27 years. James M Wall died March 22, 2021 at age 92. His family appreciates all of his readers, even those who may have disagreed with his well-informed writings.
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3 Responses to Israel Creates Facts to Shape Flotilla Campaign Media Coverage

  1. Connie Baker says:

    Thank you for noting the United Methodist vote for divestment in Freedom Summer 2010. The vote in legislative section was not close (85%) and it was equally if not more heavily supported in the full conference. (The show of hands to try to take it off the consent calendar was so many less than the 100 votes required that a request for a manual count was not made by the opposition to the resolution. The consent calendar passed with overwhelming support. Consent calendar rules were designed long ago to make it hard to get on and easy to take legislation off it.)

    It was important for the Northern Illinois Conference to call for an end to the occupation, not just react to the latest in a long, long line of atrocities: the flotilla attack, settlement expansion, Operation Cast Lead – the bombing of Gaza, the separation wall, home demolitions, farm land confiscations, denial of humane quantities of water in the occupied territories, and on and on (all illegal according to the Geneva Conventions and International Law, but legal according to Israeli law).

    We take the side of justice and International Law, but as Judge Goldstone noted in his interview with Bill Moyer that there was no comparison in the capacity of Israel which has some of the most advanced weapons in the world to an economically devastated group using mostly homemade weapons to commit crimes against humanity. (Goldstone makes the point that he is not pro-Palestinian by stating that he is a zionist. He is also on the Board of Directors for Hebrew University in Jerusalem.)

  2. Carolfrances says:

    There are two things we all need to inform ourselves of and write into our articles and letters:
    1) that the ships are always officially inspected before they disembark, and
    2) what the zionists are saying about “They have, in fact, in the past, intercepted ships that were carrying, you know, weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people.” What is the “evidence” they are claiming and what are the facts?

  3. Ronald Swat says:

    Would you leave the Israelis and Palestinians alone for a change? There are much more pressing issues to deal with. Send an aid flotilla to Pakistan, look at the floods over there – that would do some good.

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