Ahmet Dogan, a professor at Erciyes University here in Kayseri, Turkey and an acquaintance of mine, posted this video to Facebook, noting that his son Furkan was one of the bystanders in the last scene. Furkan Dogan was an American citizen shot five times at close range by Israeli soldiers aboard a flotilla headed for Gaza last May. The video was broadcast on Al Jazeera before Israelis commandeered the ship, and gives a pretty good idea what conditions were like aboard the crowded boat.
Journalist Jamal El-shayyal, a British citizen reporting for Al Jazeera, managed to broadcast live from the ship shortly after the Israelis boarded the ship, until his transmission was cut. He was imprisoned for days by Israelis, and later spoke about his experiences here. (Text and NYT analysis here.) His eyewitness account contradicts the official Israeli version. He states emphatically that the Israelis used live bullets from their helicopter(s) to shoot unarmed Turkish activists before commandos boarded the ship to kill, in total, nine people.
Two months later, after the ship was finally returned to Turkey from Israel, El-shayyal broadcast again and recalled what happened as an eyewitness. It's worth watching.
Why Won't the Israelis Acknowledge Error?
The large Israeli daily newspaper, Haaretz, asserting that Turkish-Israeli relations are too important to be derailed, has called on Israel to "express regret" at the loss of civilian life on the flotilla and to offer symbolic compensation to the families of victims.
Americans also wonder why Israel won't apologize.
"In the United States, we still remember our 34 sailors killed during the 1967 attack by the Israeli forces on the USS Liberty in international waters," writes commentator EMP of Washington, DC on the NYTimes blog. "But then the Israelis at least had the wisdom to apologize and to offer compensation. The fact that the Israeli government refuses to do so in this case lends itself to the appearance that they do not consider Turkey as an equally important ally, or even worse, that the lives lost are not as important...
"By its monumentally ill conceived raid on a foreign flag vessel carrying Turkish and international peace activists in international waters and in the process killing 9 Turks, Israel unfortunately played right into the hands of that minority segment of Turks who harbored anti-Israeli views.
"By obstinately continuing to refuse to apologize for the results of their actions and to offer at least symbolic compensation to the families of the dead, the current right-wing government of Israel risks alienating a large number of other Turks who were previously neutral in their feelings towards the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or who even sympathized to some degree with Israel because of the Arab citizens of the Ottoman Empire having fought against their own country during WW1."
NYT columnist Thomas Friedman warns Israel that it is in danger of losing the support of the American people. "You are losing the American people," Friedman warned. "Not to dislike, not to opposition - they are fed up, fed up with the Palestinians, believe me, fed up with the Mideast in general. But they're also fed up with Israel. When they see their president working hard to try to tee up an opportunity. All we're asking is just test - go all the way to test whether you have a real (peace) partner."
Many Americans, Friedman continued "just are fed up with this conflict, and over time, that will become a national security problem for Israel, given the fact that the United States is your only friend."
Israeli blogger Bradley Burston adds: "Long term, American emotional divestment, Jewish and non, may well prove more of a threat to Israel's future than Ahmedinejad and his bomb factories, or Nasrallah and Mashaal and their rockets."