Key Fact Suppressed in the Israel-Turkey Reconciliation Story

Certain facts simply do not find purchase in the western corporate press. A seemingly minor example is furnished in the latest round of reporting on the 2010 Israeli naval assault on the Mavi Marmara vessel. The basic facts are circulating as background for the just announced reconciliation between Ankara and Tel Aviv. (As a side note, the significance of this development is that ruling class solidarity between two important regional allies of Washington is restored, increasing pressure on Iran and others outside the U.S.-led framework). The common boilerplate language states that nine Turkish activists were killed by the Israeli commandos. This is simply false.

To give a sense of how widespread this rendering of the facts is, I have captured a series of screen grabs from my news alert on the topic. In the UK, the left-leaning Guardian:

1

A German publication similar to the BBC World News and France 24 (citing AFP and the AP):

2

In Canada (citing the AP):

3

In UK again (citing the major European news outfit, Sky News):

4

In Israel, Haaretz, which more than any leading newspaper, should really know better:

5

Not to be outdone by AP, Reuters also included the falsehood:

6

In reality, one of those nine civilians executed was a US citizen. He was of Turkish ancestry but did not have Turkish citizenship. Flubbing this detail in the initial round of reporting just after the incident in 2010 would have been understandable. However, by now nearly three years have passed since the attack and there has been plenty of time to absorb the correct set of facts.

The discrepancy is significant because it reduces the Israeli violence to an exclusively Turkish grievance. Reporting the detail accurately casts Washington’s behavior in an odd light. Why has the Obama administration not joined Turkey in expressing opprobrium towards Tel Aviv? Does Turkey care for the safety of its citizens but not the U.S.?

The fact does not serve (indeed undercuts) geopolitical aims and thus it does not do to mention it in press accounts. It is frequently therefore simply filtered out, per the propaganda model of the media. The media do not always misstate the fact (e.g. the NYT piece on the reconciliation did not repeat the falsehood), but quite frequently they run the false version. (I have not attempted to quantify the error rate using a database like LexisNexis but I suspect the majority of Western press articles regurgitate the error; and few indeed explicitly mention the U.S. fatality.)

Perhaps, it may be said, the error is not deliberate but born of ignorance and lazy reporting. Nonetheless, the error conforms to propaganda needs and thus is allowed to stand uncorrected after all this time. That one of the victims was American is hardly a secret. Even Wikipedia gets the nationalities right. All a journalist would have to do to get the story straight is consult the most accessible reference in the Western world.

Incidentally, it is worth noting that, though many passengers on the Mavi were injured, one man, Uğur Süleyman Söylemez, was shot in the head and remains in a coma to this day. I have seen no indication that he is expected to ever regain consciousness. His fate is virtually never mentioned in press accounts.

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