A rare note of European journalistic optimism in the aftermath of Israel's naval interception in May of a flotilla headed for Hamas-ruled Gaza: BBC Panorama, an investigative TV program, aired several weeks ago a remarkably hard-hitting exposure (“Death in the Med”) of what unfolded on the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara, when nine radical Islamists died. Jane Corbin doggedly pursues questions involving the jihadists’ animated ideology that spawned many of the Mavi Marmara activists. BBC shows previously unseen footage aboard the Mavi Marmara and fresh interviews with the Israeli naval commandos who participated in the naval mission.
One piece of evidence in “Death in the Med” that proves that the Mavi Marmara was a vessel containing a large number of jihadists seeking to kill Israelis (instead of its self-proclaimed “peace mission”) is footage of the head of the Turkish IHH “charity” Bulent Yildirim himself. In the clip, Yildrim proclaims, aboard the vessel before the Israeli interception:
We’re going to defeat the Israeli commandos –we’re declaring it now. If you bring your soldiers here, we will throw you off the ship and you’ll be humiliated in front of the whole world.
Corbin then asks Yildirim:
You said that if they board the ship you would throw them into the sea. Isn’t that a provocation, saying that to your supporters on the ship?
I spoke correctly there. I spoke beautifully. I watched it again afterwards. Israel stole these images from us, but we’re not denying it. If we organised another boat, and Israel attempted invaded, we’d use our right to passive resistance. We’d throw them into the sea.
The British-based media watchdog organization Just Journalism, which monitors anti-Israeli bias in the UK press, endorsed the BBC series. Just Journalism provides an exhaustive analysis of the documentary, access to the BBC video segments, and transcripts of the program.
Just Journalism neatly summed up “Death in the Med”: “Notable in this report was an unwillingness to gloss over crucial video footage showing the upper deck of the ship laying siege to abseiling Israeli forces, or to take the word of IHH officials at face value. The only thing missing, really, was IHH’s well-publicised role as both a fundraiser and ideological helpmeet of Hamas.’”
The anti-Israeli left in the UK reacted in its predictably Pavlovian way to a detached, objective journalistic presentation on the Gaza Flotilla: By screaming ‘shocking bias,’ because the BBC deviated from the anti-Israeli media script that dominates European press coverage of the Middle East conflict.
Let's hope that the BBC continues to churn out similar pieces like “Death in the Med” rather than wallow in the shoddy, one-dimensional reporting that blames Israel for measures of self-defense in the conflict with radical Islamists.
Benjamin Weinthal is a fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.