Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 28 December 2014

Donald Macintyre: Israel ruled the airwaves as it did the seas

Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
A protester hangs on a lamp outside Belfast City Hall
Deputy First Minister Minister Martin McGuinness who joined several hundred people in Derry's Guild Hall Square in protest at the raid on the aid flotilla which was travelling to Gaza
Some of the several hundred people in Derry's Guild Hall Square in protest at the raid on the aid flotilla which was travelling to Gaza
A protester hangs on a lamp outside Belfasat City Hall
Gerry Adams with protesters outside Belfast City Hall
Protesters outside Belfast City Hall
Protesters outside Belfast City Hall
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Pro-Palestianian campaigners in Whitehall, London
Pro-Palestianian campaigners in Whitehall, London
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Actor Adrian Dunbar (right) joins protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
Protestors gather outside the Israeli Embassy in Dublin
A large crowd of protesters stand at the entrance to Kensington Palace Green and the Israeli Embassy
An Hasidic Jew, a group who traditionally do not agree with Israel's action against Palestine, reads scripture during a campaign in Whitehall, London
Pro-Palestianian campaigners in Whitehall, London
Israelis attend a demonstration in support of Israel following a deadly raid by the Israel military on an aid flotilla bound for the blockaded Gaza
Israelis wearing snorkels attend a demonstration in support of Israel
Israeli Navy Intercepts peace boats bound for Gaza
Israeli Navy soldiers aboard a boat as the Israeli Navy intercepts peace boats bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010
Israeli Navy soldiers prepare to disembark a missile ship as the Israeli Navy intercepts peace boats bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010
This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show an injured passenger on a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip
Image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aboard a military vessel in international waters off the Gaza
This video image released by the Turkish Aid group IHH Monday May 31, 2010 purports to show Israeli soldiers aiming a gun on the deck of a Turkish ship, part of an aid convoy heading to the Gaza Strip
Palestinian Islamic Jihad supporters hold Turkish flags as they ride on their motorcycles during a protest in Gaza City, Monday, May 31, 2010.
Palestinians ride boats in Gaza waters as a flotilla of aid ships leaves for the blockaded territory (AP)
Israeli Navy sailors embark on the I.N.S. Hanit in order to stop a flotilla of activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza in spite of Israel's blockade May 30, 2010 in Haifa, Israel
Israeli Navy sailors embark on a warship in order to stop a flotilla of activists attempting to deliver aid to Gaza in spite of Israel's blockade May 30, 2010 in Haifa, Israel
Pro-Palestinian activists demonstrate a day before the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists carrying 10,000 tons of supplies into the Gaza Strip, in Paris, Friday May 28, 2010
Palestinian members of the Hamas naval police and civilian defense officers ride a boat at Gaza port during a display of their preparations ahead of the expected arrival of a flotilla of hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists trying to sail into the Gaza Strip, in Gaza city, Friday, May 28

Jonah's Hill overlooking the port of Ashdod is rich in history, the look-out point from which British officers during the Mandate used to scour the sea below to prevent illegal Jewish immigrants from entering Palestine.

Yesterday journalists peered across the same stretch of water, a slight heat haze visible on the horizon, looking for a very different kind of vessel – those whose passengers had been arrested on the high seas in the early hours and were now being brought under Israeli command one by one to port.



It was near as we could get – and reminiscent of the so-called "hill of shame" from which we were forced to watch Israel's bombardment of Gaza during the 2008-9 war, having been excluded from entering the territory.



Once again we had no access for most of the day to those on the other side – then it was the Gaza population, now it was the passengers. And this time even telephone contact was impossible, with the passengers' mobile and satellite phones having been temporarily blocked or confiscated.



Whether intentionally or not, the quarantining of reporters from the several hundred activists brought ashore at intervals of several hours yesterday helped to underpin a sophisticated and comprehensive Israeli media operation that ran through the day.



For the most part, Israel commanded the air waves as comprehensively as they had commanded those of the south-east Mediterranean in the early hours of the morning.



At Jonah's Hill, officials from the Israeli military and government departments fanned out among the reporters, relaying with courtesy and fluency their version of events.



This in turn was reinforced by a stream of analysis and explanation by politicians and sympathetic analysts in the live television coverage throughout the day and, by late afternoon, there was the aerial black-and-white film, supplied by the Israel Defence Forces (IDF), of commandos landing aboard the Mavi Marmara.



The core message was that the deadly violence was started not by the Navy but by activists on board the vessel who had attacked Israeli forces.



And that Israel was within its legal right to carry out the operation in international rather its own territorial waters because it could not be sure that the flotilla did not pose a threat to its security.



Whether or not that account is vindicated by any independent investigation of the incident, if there is one, is a matter for the future, but, for yesterday at least, Israel moved with impressive efficiency according to the American political maxim about media rebuttal and counterattack: speed kills.



At Jonah's Hill, the Israeli media handlers were favoured with a supportive crowd of flag-waving members of the public and right-wing activists keen to show their support for the operation against the flotilla. "Well done the IDF" said one banner in English and Hebrew.



One of those who had come to show his appreciation was a 52-year-old business consultant, Haim Cohen. Wearing the tell-tale orange bracelet of those who opposed Ariel Sharon's withdrawal of settlers from Gaza in 2005, he said had seen television images of an activist thrusting a knife into the stomach of an Israeli serviceman.



"I came here to support the IDF," he said. "The IDF is the best army in the world. In any other country they would have killed everybody. Here they only killed 15."

COMMENT RULES: Comments that are judged to be defamatory, abusive or in bad taste are not acceptable and contributors who consistently fall below certain criteria will be permanently blacklisted. The moderator will not enter into debate with individual contributors and the moderator’s decision is final. It is Belfast Telegraph policy to close comments on court cases, tribunals and active legal investigations. We may also close comments on articles which are being targeted for abuse. Problems with commenting? customercare@belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Latest News

Latest Sport

Latest Showbiz