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The two most compelling comments on the flotilla tragedy I’ve read came from very different sources. One is an Israeli Jew, Udi Adoni, writing on the Israeli online news service Ynetnews. The other is from IHH, the Turkish aid group that sponsored the MV Mavi Marmara, the ship that saw at least nine of its passengers shot dead. At a time when the Israeli state is eagerly telling the world that flotilla, and especially IHH, is Hamas, Iran, al-Qaeda and terrorists; and that the passengers who fought back were a terrorist ambush, the coincidence of these two voices is striking, and critical to hear. (everything that follows is their words0
Udi Adoni, “A view from the Left”: It is not true that among the participants of the flotilla there are proponents of peace and proponents of war. Its beauty lies in the seemingly impossible coalition of contrasts of men and women, homosexuals and clergymen, Muslims and Jews, Christians and communists, anarchists and Hanin Zoabi and Dror Feiler. They all agreed to unite for an unarmed action. They all decided to act for freedom without a fight.
IHH press conference (I’m fairly sure the speaker is Bülent Yıldırım, its president, but it’s not indicated on the page), June 4: Our group was made up of all sorts of people, including leftists, rightists, liberals, conservatives, atheists, muslims, christians, jews, buddhists…Ours was a civil and pacifist initiative created by conscientious, civilian, unarmed people who carried with them nothing but humanitarian aid.
And we set sail to prove to the people of Gaza, who have been under a siege for years which is not unlike an imprisonment in a castle, that human kindness has not yet died.
Keeping our faith in the spirit of civil power, our Freedom Flotilla did not take any orders or any kind of support from any government during its organization. Our power came solely from the conscience of humanity and the courage of our rightfulness. We wanted to be a source of invigoration for the people of Gaza on whom many states turn a blind eye.
Adoni: But I was afraid to stand on board a ship that carries food and hope to Gaza, and to find myself confronting the men of the corps which I had served loyally 30 years ago. Looking back, it is a pity I did not join. I am asked, “Surely you would not have beaten IDF soldiers?” True. I suppose that I would have tied myself to a post and screamed with fear and faith. However, the question is not at all how I would have behaved but whether one has the right to self-defense against maritime terror applied by a state.
IHH: Ours was self-defense. And self defense is legitimate. It has always been legitimate in all systems of law and throughout history. I am a lawyer. I should know this better than anyone. However, we did not defend ourselves with firearms against these terrorists that attacked us with firearms, we did not have such means anyway
Adoni: There were no firearms on board the ship. There were no suicide bombers. On the practical level, opposing worlds, united against the occupation and for the people of Gaza, to a struggle which was not supposed to bring death…but life.
IHH: Now some people are asking, “Why did you go there?”
We did, because we are humans. We went out there because we are humans. The conscience of humanity has not yet died, this we wanted to prove to humanity itself. For this, we went out there.
We went and we will go again.
Update, June 5: The International Federation of Journalists is calling for an inquiry into Cevdet Kılıçlar’s killing and the shooting of Indonesian cameraman Sura Fachrizaz. The investigation would also consider the treatment of all journalists on the flotilla and the confiscation of their pictures, cameras, and computers.
Update: IHH (the German acronym is the circulating one) has posted a photo album of Cevdet Kılıçlar (it appears to be pictures of him, rather than by him, but I don’t read Turkish) to its Facebook page. I’ve included his picture below now.
Original post: Onboard the Mavi Marmara, the largest ship of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, at least nine passengers were killed. Witness reports and forensic evidence now suggest that at least one of those killed was documenting the raid and not participating the clashes between Israeli commandos and passengers that came along with it. Turkish journalist Cevdet Kılıçlar was shot in the forehead at close range, the bullet ripping away the back of his skull. Kevin Ovenden, a British activist onboard and eyewitness, has stated that Kılıçlar was filming at the time and has his camera held to his eye.
Kılıçlar worked for the Taraf, and Selam and Milli newspapers in Turkey. For the flotilla, he was employed by boat organizer, the Human Rights and Freedoms (İHH) Humanitarian Help Foundation, as part of its press staff. He was one of sixty journalists on the flotilla.
Cevdet Kılıçlar was 38. He leaves behind a grieving widow, Derya, and two children. He was also a gifted photographer, as you can see from his flickr page from a recent trip to Baku, Azerbaijan.
I draw three things from this sad news. First, the tragedy in Gaza has crossed the “it could have be me” threshhold, and I am sadder and more angry than before because of it. Second, the manner of this death as described by Ovenden, can be nothing other than murder. Third, the complete Israeli seizure of photographic evidence from those onboard is an even more serious than before; the grounds for a complete, independent, international investigation lie in part in what the Israelis have taken and may choose to destroy.
Sources for this story: Erol Önderoğlu and Tolga Korkut, “Journalists Returned from Israel – İHH Employee Dead.” Mehmet Nedim Aslan, “Israeli commandos killed journalist as he photographed their crime.”