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The Triangle - The Independent Student Newspaper at Drexel University

Magazine’s retelling lacks facts

Shoshana Weiss
“Entertainment Weekly” is a magazine filled with the types of articles young adults our age can appreciate: articles regarding the next best films, TV series, music and books. When I open EW, I expect to read about Angelina Jolie’s next big role, or the upcoming episode of “Glee.” I do not expect to come across a bigoted view of politics. In fact, I find it offensive that this magazine, having no expertise or credibility in the area of politics, would print biased controversial event coverage.

When the April 15 issue arrived in my mailbox I was, as you may have already guessed, offended. Throughout the pages that were studded with celebrities and posh film directors, I came across an article about Henning Mankell – a famous Swedish novelist best known for his series of mystery novels starring his fictitious character, Inspector Kurt Wallander. The spread focused on informing readers about his famous book series and biography – all seemingly appropriate for EW. However, the entertainment glossy took a step into the surreal once it started elaborating about his recent “social justice” trip regarding the infamous Flotilla incident in the Middle East. This tragedy starred Israel and self-proclaimed “social activists” including Mankell himself.

In what can only be described as a non-sequitur, the author of the article summarized the events as if he were reporting on his own personal movie script. Breathlessly, he states:

[Mankell] lived through an attack by the Israeli military. He was on a ship headed for Gaza, part of a flotilla that was trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Palestinians who had been cut off by an Israeli blockade. They never made it. Israeli commandos stormed the ships, gunning down nine activists and roughing up many more. (The Israeli government maintains that the killings were in self defense.) ‘I would never, ever imagine that the Israelis would be so stupid as to attack ships in international waters, to kill people completely unnecessarily,’ he said. ‘The brutality they showed to some people was terrifying.’

This re-telling of the event was extremely out of place in such a magazine. Not only is it intensely biased, it is simply false. The confrontation did take place. People were killed. The context, however, is wildly off the mark. EW has created a character of its own: the evil and ruthless Israeli commando. Looking at the event through the eyes of EW, there was no rendition of both sides of the story aside from the one parenthetical statement, thrown in as a sop to objectivity.

And so, because the editors chose to ignorantly place a transparent anti-Israel political agenda right in the middle of a report on an author, I will try to illuminate the facts of the event. First, it is important to note that Israel has set an international blockade on Gaza since 2007 (when the organization Hamas took power) to restrict Hamas from obtaining weaponry that they procure specifically for, and use specifically against, Israeli citizens. Gaza terrorists have launched attacks against Israel for the sole purpose of killing or maiming civilians in their never-ending quest to kill Jews and destroy Israel. Over 10,000 rockets have been launched at Israel from the Gaza Strip. What is even more astonishing is that EW would print such an article when just recently, those same Gaza terrorists fired over 50 rockets into Israel. The rocket was aimed at a school bus that had just dropped off 30 students; nevertheless, it left one boy critically injured.

Secondly, the wording implies that the ship was sent to provide humanitarian aid to Gaza, because Gaza is a poverty-stricken area desperately in need due to the Israeli blockade. This is absolutely not the case. Israel, every week, allows any humanitarian aid from any country into Gaza. Even further, Israel sends 15,000 tons of its own humanitarian aid into Gaza every single week even though it has placed a blockade on Gaza and Gaza continues to try to hurt innocent Israeli civilians. What other country would aid the people chanting its demise? Chanting America’s demise? Another fact EW refuses to acknowledge is that the fleet was funded by the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief, a militant Islamist group with previous ties to al-Qaeda, Hamas and other terrorist organizations throughout the Middle East. The group was outlawed in Turkey and officially named a terrorist group by the United States in 2008. Germany has also outlawed the IHH.

And so, the drama goes like this: IHH activists decided to send humanitarian aid to Gaza, disregarding the blockade Israel had imposed. Israel, even before the fleet left the port, warned that the ships would not be able to dock at Gaza due to the blockade (although Israel was willing to allow ships to dock in Israel, agreeing to transport the humanitarian aid once they had been inspected). The activists refused to accept Israel’s offer and began their journey on which they chanted “Go back to Auschwitz” and “Remember 9/11.” Every single fact set forth herein was and is available on the Internet with audio and video.

The Israeli Navy asked the ships, from a distance, to turn around or comply with the Navy’s right to inspect the ships for weapons. Upon a final refusal, the Israeli Navy, as well as the Egyptian Navy, offered to deliver the aid to Gaza. If the sole purpose of this mission was to deliver humanitarian aid, why would they not accept this offer? Were they not carrying humanitarian aid? To no surprise, the “peaceful activists” refused these offers in addition to an offer made by the Israeli army to use a third party such as the U.N. or another NGO to deliver the packages. All ships refused, leaving Israel with no choice but to board the ships by force. Of the six boats, five peacefully complied and were led safely to Israel’s nearby port of Ashdod for security checks. The last boat, Mavi Marmara, was the only boat to violently resist the boarding and the only boat to incur causalities. It is unclear if Mankell was even on this boat. Varying accounts claim he was on different boats. Some say he was aboard the MS Sofia while others say it was in fact the Mavi Marmara. For our sake, it is easier to assume he was on the Mavi Marmara.

So what exactly took place on the Mavi Marmara? Israeli commandos originally boarded the boat with non-lethal tear gas and paintball guns — proof they had no intention of killing or even hurting anyone. Upon boarding, the soldiers were attacked and dragged to the ground before being flogged with pipes, clubs, bats, chains, crow bars, glass bottles, knives, fire hoses, live ammunition, stun grenades and fire bombs — all seen on video tape. One soldier was even thrown 30 feet from the upper deck of the ship to a deck below. An attempt to lynch two soldiers was also carried out. In an interview with the captain of the Mavi Marmara, the “social activists” began planning the attack two hours before the boarding by cutting chains and steel off the ship to use as weaponry. Unfortunately, in an act of self-defense, the Israeli soldiers killed nine IHH militants. Only later was it uncovered that before they departed from port, these militants expressed a desire to become martyrs, also seen in a video clip.

Once the scuffle was over and the ship was in the hands of the Israelis, a thorough search was conducted. Unsurprisingly, weapons were found on the ships. The injured “social activists” were all taken to Israeli hospitals and treated right away. Israel also delivered all of the aid from the flotilla to Gaza as originally offered — much of which was expired medicine.

EW did not mention all of this — most likely out of ignorance. However, Henning Mankell refused to mention any of this out of pure deceit. Instead, Mankell did what he does best: he created a fascinating drama in which sympathy is evoked for the “underdog” against his “oppressor.” What he forgot is that Inspector Kurt Wallander is not the only one seeking truth and justice. Mankell is now considering refusing to allow his books to be printed in Hebrew, the expected reaction of an open-minded “activist.” Had readers known about these facts all along, his books may have been refused in English as well.

Shoshana Weiss is a sophomore majoring in finance. She can be reached at op-ed@thetriangle.org.