14 June 2010

Bryan Hemming: Masked, Missing and Mossad - Are the Three Connected?

Masked, Missing and Mossad - Are the Three Connected?

Six passengers disappear without trace from the crowded deck of a ship. Normally, we might expect family members to report their loss in an incident beamed across the world. As yet, it appears no family members have come forward to report their disappearance. No government has inquired about the loss of its citizens. For all intents and purposes, we can suppose that nobody knew them; they were all loners without family or friends. But it seems impossible that the only ones who disappeared were precisely the same ones who nobody knew. By now, you have guessed the ship was the Mavi Marmara attempting to deliver aid to Gaza.

There is little doubt that when a small, but significant, number of people vanish without trace there has to be a reason. Yet, not a mention by the Israeli authorities of the disappearances, no denial of their existence; no affirmation. Puzzling, when it might be considered to be in Israeli interests to mention them. If they never existed in the first place, the claim they were missing could be touted as yet another piece of propaganda by Hamas to inflate the numbers of the dead.

There have been contradictory statements from other souces. A few days after the attack, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said there were no people missing. That was countered by Bulent Yildrim, chairmen of the Turkish relief organisation IHH, when he told reporters: "However, we have a longer list, there are still people missing". Presumably, he should know. In support of his claim that there was a list of passengers still unaccounted for, Libyan-Irishman Isam Bin Ali, - who had earlier been reported as missing - returned to Ireland and took part in a protest march to the Israeli Embassy. Whether his name was included among the missing six has not been confirmed. The Turkish Prime Minister may have had his reasons for his statement, which I will come to later.

Let´s assume for a moment there are six passengers still unaccounted for from the official passenger list, and try to assess what might´ve happened. The most obvious answer would seem that they went overboard, one way or another. Either they jumped, or fell accidentally, into the sea. They may even have been pushed. If we want to apportion blame, we can even go further and say their corpses were thrown overboard by the IDF in an attempted cover-up. But none of these explanations makes sense. The footage of passengers dropping one IDF commando onto the deck below has been played over and over again, yet nobody has come forward with photos, film, or even a reliable eyewitness account, of other bodies being thrown over the rails. And despite Israeli attempts to confiscate all material of the hi-jacking recorded by activists, a considerable amount managed to escape detection. Footage has been released showing, not only passenger dead and wounded being carried below decks for medical care, where appropriate, but also of injured Israeli soldiers being tended to by medics. None shows more corpses than those already reported and identified as killed. Let´s not forget, we are talking bodies here, not a body. The very lack of evidence belies suppostions that the six went missimg during the fray. The very same six who nobody claims.

There is absolutely no evidence pointing conclusively towards them going missing while the Mavi Marmara was at sea. Even though all passengers can be seen wearing fluorescent life jackets, no bodies have been washed up, nor have any sightings been reported so far. Not so much as a life jacket has been recovered. With such a lack of hard evidence, one would´ve expected someone might use it to demonstrate the six never existed. After all, apart from that pesky passenger list, there is very little to show they did. But, strangely enough, some proof of their existence has emerged from the most unexpected sources.

Within hours of news of the hi-jack reaching our TV screens, carefully controlled Israeli news bulletins, released information claiming the flotilla had been infiltrated by Islamic terrorists before it even left Turkey. Described variously as ´Al Quaeda´, ´Hizbollah´, ´Hamas´, ´Iranian´ and ´Turkish` in a pick ´n mix style of propaganda, they had boarded with the intent of ´lynching´ Israeli commandos as part of an audacious, pre-planned, attack, it was said. No proof of the claim has come to light so far.

By contrast, within days, Israeli sources were offering a completely different version of the same claim. The Washington Post quoted former Mossad agent, Victor Ostrovsky, as saying: "Mossad probably had more than one man on board." Senior IDF officer, Colonel Itzik Turgeman, told Haaretz: "they took care of" the engines of boats. The Guardian quoted an anonymous Israeli Defence Forces spokesman as saying ´grey operations´ were used against the convoy, in reference to the sabotage of at least two ships´ engines. On June 6th, none less than the Jerusalem Post reported Deputy Defence Minister, Manan Vilna'i, as hinting that Israel had sabotaged some of the ships which were meant to take part in a Gaza-bound flotilla.

As it is impossible to sabotage ship engines secretly, without boarding the vessels, it has to be considered the agents managed to escape detection by posing as passengers or members of the crews. Once aboard, it would´ve been so difficult to disembark before setting sail, without raising suspicions, as to be virtually impossible.

If we are to take all this information seriously, whether European, Jewish, Turkish or whatever in origin, it suggests that a number of passengers did go missing. But not at sea. And if they didn´t go missing at sea they had to have gone missing some time after being arrested, kidnapped, captured (choose which ever word suits you) and landed on Israeli shores. As there are no reports of passengers escaping, presumably, they were counted, imprisoned, and interrogated before being released. Just like everyone else. Or not quite like everyone else. Released and ´disappeared´. Some claims published in the media suggest that there could have been a number of agents from Egypt, Turkey and Iran mingling with the passengers (perhaps that might explain the Turkish PM´s statement I refer to earlier). But why not go the whole hog and say MI6, the CIA, and the Man from UNCLE were there? Perhaps everybody was a secret agent. However, as the disappearances could realistically have only occurred following docking in Ashdod, a Mossad presence is most likely.

To further that explanation, we must consider that, had they been members of a group designated terrorist by Israel, there would´ve been a watertight case for hanging on to them. The same would apply to Turkish agents. Apart from supporting the original plot claim -  that there existed a plot to attack the boarding commandos - the world´s press would´ve united in condemning the flotilla and praising the IDF for their daring. The deaths of the innocent would have paled into insignificance. The captured six would´ve been paraded before the world´s cameras in what would´ve been a sensational scoop for a press hungry for Islamic conspiracy.

However, despite Israel´s desperate attempts to sway it, public opinion remains deeply divided over the issue. While the pro-Israeli case descends into incoherent, inconsistent blame, claim and vehement denial; full of ridiculous attacks on friends and foes alike, the pro-Gaza case has been strengthened by dignity and restraint, in the main. If anything, the contrary accounts given by Israel in defence of its actions has spawned Israel´s worse nightmare. Since the attack, support for Gaza has increased immeasurably. The IDF is no longer regarded as invincible and, along with many of his ministers, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is beginning to be seen as a liability to even his closest ally. The international isolation he imposed on Gaza, could become reality for Israel itself, as whispers for sanctions against it resound through corridors of power. In such a situation, any conclusive evidence of Islamic terrorist involvement would be plastered over front pages everywhere. We can only conclude there isn´t any.
As the question of whether the flotilla was infiltrated or not is no longer being asked, we can only look at the scant evidence provided so far to surmise which side did the infiltrating. Israel has never denied the ships´ passengers were infiltrated. Far from it, they were the first to suggest they had. Where the issue clouds is over who exactly did the infiltrating? They just seem incredibly uncertain of whether they themselves did it, or whether it was carried out by this or that group of Muslim extremists.

Evidence of a planned attack on the IDF by Islamic terrorists has been presented in the form of photos of knives, wrenches, poles, sticks, and even an axe. Yet, nearly all are tools and equipment to be found on large ships the world over. Most households possess examples of some, if not all of them. That such instruments could be used as weapons cannot be denied. Nobody is denying it. The only question being asked is whether they were used in self-defence or in pre-meditated attack. As further proof of pre-planned action, photos showing a few passengers wearing gas masks have been released. Israelis have claimed these as conclusive proof that these passengers came prepared for violence. On the face of it, it does look as though they came prepared for confrontation. But not necesarily the confrontation claimed by the Israelis. A gas mask only shows the wearer being prepared for a particular type of confrontation involving tear gas and smoke bombs. It does not in itself prove the wearer is bent on attack. Nevertheless, as the majority of passengers seem to have been taken completely by surprise by an attack deploying not only tear gas, but also live ammunition, the fact that some had gas masks, while most didn´t, raises questions. A cynic might suspect the ones wearing masks had more than an inkling of how and when the attack would take place. They might also wonder how they came by such information.

I haven´t counted the number of passengers actually on the deck, which armed IDF commados abseilled down onto, whilst conveninetly being filmed from from many angles, but I would guess they numbered less than fifty. Of those, possibly twenty or so were involved in a real attempt to defend the ship. Most of the others seem to be in a state of panic. If the six missing are dead, then one has to suppose they were in the thick of things. If they were, there is no evidence to show it.

Back to the masks. Donning a gas mask is quite common in military confrontations, especially in situations where it is known the risk of gas being deployed is a real threat. But a gas mask also conceals the face of the wearer. In a situation where many cameras are being brandished, it´s not such a bad precaution, if you don´t want to be recognised as one of the attackers. Yet, in a situation where the identities of the people on board are well-documented, it seems a trifle unnecesary. Unless you were travelling under an assumed identity, that is, and wanted to avoid detection. In a world where we are told identity theft is common amongst secret service operatives, the appearance a real name on a list doesn´t necessarily mean it belongs to the person using it. In the case of cloned passports, families of the missing wouldn´t report missing members as they wouldn´t have gone missing.

Of course, wearing a mask away from the action, as some passengers wearing them seem to have done, might cause so much discomfort, they´d want to remove them. Not removing them might suggest alternative motives for wearing them. There is another advantage to wearing a mask of sorts. As well as concealing identity it can equally serve to identify a person as someone not to be shot at. I have yet to hear of anyone on the Mavi Marmara being shot in the head through a gas mask. From all the evidence admitted so far, it seems none of those shot were wearing them, which suggests the majority were identified before bullets were fired through heads at close range. As no mention has been made of these questions being asked in the in-house inquiry proposed by Israel and the US government, it would appear the the framework has been set to answer only questions where convenient answers already exist. An inquiry where answers dictate the questions is no inquiry at all.

(Additional research by David Sketchley)

Update from Bryan Hemming, 16 July 2010:

In a recent interview with Greta Berlin posted on the Intifada-Palestine site she said that all passengers on the flotilla had been accounted for. She added that there were five seriously ill passengers in hospital, two of whom were not expected to survive. I am very surprised that nobody in the mainstream media bothered to follow the story up. They created it. This is the sort of misinformation and lack of information we constantly come up against. The MSM ignores false claims they make when they find them out to be untrue later. They just pretend they never said it. Nevetheless, they are always eager to publish them without checking fully. We who comment on what they say, or don´t say are held to blame for disseminating the false information they give us. As I have said previously, if it´s disinformation, it´s disinformation from reliable sources.

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