Grand Theft Flotilla

“There’s been three or four reports from passengers that Israelis then went out with their credit cards and bought beer with it.” That’s what Greta Berlin of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla told me about what happened with the possessions of people who were on the seven boats of the Flotilla.

The deaths so far have been given major attention (nine at the moment and two so badly injured that they’re unlikely to live). The 40 or 50 wounded or beaten (many in Israeli jails) less so. For those who appreciated last week’s CounterPunch piece by the amazing Kenneth Nichols O’Keefe they should see his interview when bloodied and beaten as he was let out of Israeli custody.

However, the facts about what the Israelis did with the personal possessions of the passengers have received scant notice. This can be summed up in a few words: theft, malicious destruction and seizure.

First there’s good news, the supplies. It’s reported that the U.N. will transport ” the entire cargo” of the Turkish ships to Gaza. Hopefully the same will happen with the supplies from the non-Turkish ships. It’s a bitter triumph for the Free Gaza Movement and a sign that despite the thousands organized by the Israeli soccer club Betar to spew hatred in front of the Turkish Embassy in Israel and the opinion polls there showing overwhelming support for the raid, Netanyahu is rational enough to see he has to make a concession.

What about the personal property, cameras, computers, Iphones, and luggage? According to Greta Berlin some of the electronics were returned, all smashed up. Others were not given back at all. The Israelis selectively used snippets of passenger video to advance their case that the poor Israelis rappelling from the skies were set upon by well armed terrorists. The rest of the videotape and flash memory cards are kept back, no doubt for THE INVESTIGATION or perhaps they were pre-emptively “lost”.

Berlin said she received a report from a lawyer working for a Turkish organization that over $3.5 million dollars in equipment had been destroyed. Clothing, personal items. If a passenger wants to see if their luggage was returned they can go to a Turkish warehouse and pick though the suitcases packed with random clothing and gear and see what they can recover.

They flat out stole money and credit cards. Not a dime has been returned of the cash and as has been mentioned some security officials are merrily tippling their Lowenbraus and laughing at their unwitting benefactors.

Many of the passports have not been returned, especially those from Palestinian Israelis. Now, whatever could they do with passports? What Mossad bunker have they been shipped to be examined and refashioned for use in the next assassination?

Then there are the ships, big expensive ships this time, not the little boats of the first few voyages. They sit in Ashdod harbor. Supposedly they were to be returned to Turkey within ten days. The Free Gaza Movement is afraid the Israelis will demand they first sign a pledge never to use them again to bring things to Gaza. They won’t sign any such pledge of shame. They will be going back. Right now the ships sit in the port along a Free Gaza ship the Israeli navy stole last year.

Stealing is not such a big thing. Look at the olive trees that now dot the settlements, fine decorations. It used to be that the Israeli pioneers would plant fir trees of Europe “to make the desert bloom”. But with all the olive trees available, with the hundreds of thousands being bulldozed out as they army builds the Wall and whatnot, why just waste them, why not put them to good use. So the fashion is established.

Why doesn’t Netanyahu get it over with? Remove the Star of David and blue bars from the Israeli flag and hoist up the Jolly Roger.

Piracy pays.

The fly in the ointment is the fact that the Flotilla Massacre survivors are speaking out. Or they’re trying to. Several of the survivors are attempting to speak at the U.N. and at events in the U.S. However, a group of powerful NYC politicians are demanding the U.S. State Department keep them out. No, it’s not neo-cons slandering the survivors as having “ties” with terrorists. It’s what passes for New York liberals.

The New York Daily News says Representative Carolyn Maloney has pledged to deliver a petition with more than 23,000 signatures demanding the State Department do visa checks of Mavi Marmara ship passengers planning a speaking tour. The Congresswoman says she’s defending the country from “Hamas”. At the press conference Congressman Jerome Nadler made the claim that the IHH which organized the Turkish ships “has long been known for its ties to Hamas and al-Qaeda”.

The paper quotes Harlem Congressman Charlie Rangel as saying, “Use extra caution. Take this threat seriously.” What threat, the threat that survivors might rip through the steady stream of Israeli propaganda? What irony. We have the Congressman from Harlem defending the outrageous lies of a country headed by a President (Shimon Peres) who in the heyday of apartheid offered to sell nuclear weapons to South Africa. This foremost Black Congressman pledges on his website “unwavering support” to a country where racism (against Palestinians) is open and pervasive.

Malcolm and Martin must be spinning in their graves.

STANLEY HELLER is host of the news magazine “The Struggle” which can be seen at He can be reached at