But a trap it most assuredly was -- deliberately laid, with planned results perhaps even more violent than those that transpired. The Israeli Defense Force (IDF) has had to walk back (hat tip Sullivan) exaggerated and credibility-eroding claims, such as that the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara who attacked the boarding Israelis were members of al Qaeda. But elements at least of the IDF's narrative of the planning on board for a confrontation are probably true. Here are those claims as relayed by the Jerusalem Post (distilled and at slight variance from the IDF press release that originally made the al Qaeda claim):
The IDF identified a group of about 50 men – of the 700 on board – who were well-trained and were stationed throughout the ship, mostly on the upper deck, where they laid an ambush for the IDF soldiers who rappelled onto the deck from helicopters.That picture is in keeping with Palestinian news accounts and on-board video footage posted by the Israeli group Palestinian Media Watch *(cited in the JPost story). From the Palestinian Authority daily Al-Hayat al-Jadida:
The members of this violent group were not carrying identity cards or passports. Instead, each of them had an envelope in his pocket with about $10,000 in cash. The defense establishment suspects the funding for the mercenaries may have come from elements within the Turkish government....
The group was split up into smaller squads that were distributed throughout the deck and communicated with one another with handheld communication devices. The men wore bulletproof vests and gas masks.
“Three of the four Turks killed in the Israeli attack on the ‘Freedom Flotilla’ bound for the Gaza Strip wanted to die as martyrs, said their relatives and friends. The wife of one of them, Ali Haydar Bengi, told the Vatan daily: “He used to help the poor and the oppressed. For years, he wanted to go to Palestine. And he constantly prayed to Allah to grant him shahada (martyrdom).
Ali worked at telephone repair shop in Diyarbakir, the largest city in southeastern Turkey. Sabir Ceylan, a friend of Ali, told the Milliyet newspaper: ‘Before embarking on this journey [to Gaza], he said he desired to become a martyr. He had a strong desire to die as a martyr.’
There follow accounts of the aspirations and sentiments of two other shooting victims. It does seem, though, that there is a formulaic aspect to the three reminiscences. "He always wanted to die as a martyr" may be a kind of honorific for those perceived to have been martyred; the eulogy cited above is the only one of the three that ties the wish directly to the trip. However, PMW also has a Hamas TV video in which a commentator explains:
"The [Gaza] flotilla commander said yesterday: 'We will not allow the Zionists to get near us and we will use resistance against them' How will they wage resistance? They will resist with their fingernails. They are people who seek Martyrdom for Allah, as much as they want to reach Gaza, but the first [Martyrdom] is more desirable."
There's blood-lust and martyrdom-lust too in an on-board Al-Jazeera video report also posted at PMW -- transcript below:
Flotilla participants chanted Islamic battle cry invoking killing of JewsThe Al-Jazeera report was broadcast on 5/29; the Hamas TV report was on 5/30; the flotilla intercept was on 5/31. The Israelis knew that the flotilla was adversarial, that many aboard and the planners could fairly be considered enemies. Yet they handed those enemies a sword to gore them.
Reporter: "Despite the Israeli threats and several unexpected delays, the arrival of the ships at the meeting point before sailing to the Gaza Strip inflamed the emotions and the enthusiasm of the participants."
[PMW caption:] Visuals from Gaza flotilla ship of young Muslims shouting Islamic battle chant invoking the killing and defeat of Jews in battle:
"[Remember] Khaibar, Khaibar, oh Jews! The army of Muhammad will return!"
[Khaibar is the name of last Jewish village defeated by Muhammad’s army and it marked the end of Jewish presence in Arabia in 628.]
Reporter: "While singing songs reminiscent of the Palestinian Intifada (Palestinian terror war against Israel, 2000 - 2005), participants expressed their longing to reach Gaza."
A participant: "Right now we face one of two happy endings: either Martyrdom or reaching Gaza." [Based on Islamic call before battle: "Either victory or Martyrdom".]
* While PMW's tone is intensely defensive and aggrieved, what they post is verbatim from original sources. It should be kept in mind, though, that like all partisan sources, they clip the context as it suits them.