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IDF Launches New Media Offensive Against the Mavi Marmara

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, June 1 2010

The Israel Defense Force's media wing is engaged in a fevered attempt to win what we might delicately call the second battle over the Mavi Marmara, this one over where public opinion comes down over the raid on the Gaza-bound ship that left a reported nine activists dead. The IDF is pushing out scores of videos and photos, amplified over Twitter, in attempt to convince that the attack on the boat's activists was justified by the circumstances. Gawker's Max Read reports:

Israel has released a video of the early-morning raid on a blockade-violating aid ship headed for Gaza that resulted in the shooting deaths of nine activists. It appears to show soldiers being beaten with metal pipes and thrown overboard.

On Monday morning, the Israeli Defense Force conducted a raid on a flotilla of ships violating an Israeli blockade by bringing humanitarian aid to Gaza. During operations on one ship, the Mavi Marmara, at least nine of the activists were killed, and several more injured. Many of the injured, members of a group called the Free Gaza Movement, were Turkish citizens, and in response, Turkey has recalled its ambassador and cancelled planned joint military exercises. Several countries have condemned Israel for the attacks, and an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council has been called.

In an attempt to make the case that their soldiers' actions were justified, Israel has distributed a video of the opening moments of the raid, taken from an Israeli ship. The video seems to show some activists hitting the commandos with metal pipes, and, at one point, throwing one soldier overboard. Does it vindicate Israel? Well, you know, it depends on where you stand on the question of "necessary force" and what you think of the idea of "proportional response."

How effective is all this raw material in tilting public opinion in Israel's favor? Difficult to say. Together, the IDF's videos related to the incident have pulled in more than a million views on YouTube in the last day alone. Some of the clips do indeed seem to show the Gaza activists setting upon Israeli forces with pipes and other weapons. It's difficult to make sense of some of the action, and there the IDF has borrowed a trick from the Wikileaks' Apache video and annotated the proceedings. One clip pushed out by the IDF, though, stops short of the moment when the Israeli troops actually shot on the crowd -- additional footage that would no doubt put the events leading up to that moment in sharp relief.

But the IDF's strategy here seems to ignore or at least pretend to ignore that public anger over the Mavi Marmara incident is fueled by a rejection of the general situation with the Gaza embargo, while all these YouTube videos and photos are necessarily bound by one moment in time. In that, the IDF's PR push might gain it an edge in the battle but still find Israel losing the overall war.