Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Activists, Israel Use YouTube to Shape Story

The UN Security Council and the international community are condemning the "acts" that led to the deaths of nine activists in the Mediterranean this week at the hands of Israeli commandos. The activists were part of a Turkish-backed "Freedom Flotilla" trying to dodge the Israeli navy and deliver relief supplies to Gaza, which has been under a blockade since 2007.

Israel is pondering what to do with the more than 600 people it detained, Gaza supporters are ramping up the pressure on Israel, and both sides are turning to YouTube to get their message across.

A nine-minute clip bearing the logo of DHA, a Turkish broadcaster, was uploaded to YouTube on Monday. Shot aboard the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the aid flotilla, the footage includes stand-ups with reporters who identify themselves as working for Press TV of Iran and Al Jazeera. They explain that Israeli vessels are first approaching in the water and then boarding the ship. A helicopter flies overhead (at 6:18), soldiers are seen scrambling on deck (at 6:04), and gunshots can be heard (at 4:47 and elsewhere). Later, the captain of the ship (at 8:15) addresses everyone over the loudspeaker: "Please go back to your cabin and sit on your seat. Stop your resistance. They are using live ammunition." The video ends with a shot of Israeli soldiers holding weapons (at 8:51).

Israeli officials responded with their own narrative, posting a series of videos on YouTube using channels for the Israeli Defense Forces and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Officials assert that passengers attacked Israeli forces with knives, clubs and other weapons, and explain that soldiers opened fire only in self defense.
The videos are enhanced with subtitles offering translations of soldier communications and the Israeli version of events: "Soldiers being hit with metal poles and chairs," "Firebomb thrown at soldiers."

For more background and a closer look at the Mavi Marmara, watch Al Jazeera reports from the ship and from Antalya, Cyprus, the flotilla's home port, before the assault began.


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