The Israeli Navy has jammed all communications aboard the ships of the Freedom Flotilla, blocking cell phone signals and internet connections aboard humanitarian aid ships. Scrambling the signals preceding the Israeli raid on the Flotilla, which involved special forces troops and the mobilization of one third of the Israeli Navy.As the last few images broadcast from the Flotilla played over and over again on news channels around the world, agencies from Qatar to Malaysia called on Israel to allow them to report on the Israeli military attack on the civilian ships that left at least fifteen people dead.
Malaysian news agency Astro Awani called on the Israeli government to release information on two reporters aboard the Mavi Marmara, the Flotilla ship that was attacked by Israeli paratroopers early Monday morning. Al-Jazeera Television also asked for protection for its three reporters aboard the ship. Both news agencies said they lost contact with their reporters just prior to the Israeli attack.
The Israeli government has tried to control the media’s coverage of both the aid convoyand the raid on it, but the internet has frustrated its efforts, disseminating news and images from the ships.
Since all of those on board the ship who were not killed are presumed arrested by the Israeli military, the news agencies have called on the Israeli military to release the footage recorded by their reporters on board the ships. The small amount of video footage that has been able to get past the Israeli blackout has disproved Israeli claims that activists ‘grabbed the guns’ of Israeli troops during their assault. Footage of the Israeli paratroopers landing on the ship’s deck shows that the Israeli military attacked the unarmed activists unprovoked.
The Israeli government’s complete blackout of the actual incident has been accompanied by a public relations blitz from Israeli government spokespersons and government-hired private public relations firms, who have continued to repeat already disproven claims that the humanitarian aid would have been allowed through if the activists had only gone through the proper channels to bring the aid. In fact, virtually all of the items on board the ships are banned by the Israeli government as ‘security risks’ – including crayons, pencils, medical equipment and building materials. Because Israel continues to ban these items from entering the Gaza Strip, many of the 30,000 buildings destroyed by Israel during last year’s three-week long assault on Gaza cannot be rebuilt.
Israel’s media office began its public relations campaign before the aid caravan got underway, beginning with an attempt to inundate global media with ‘menus from Gaza restaurants’ meant to show that the siege was not so bad. This effort backfired when video footage released by the Israeli government along with the alleged ‘Gaza menus’ was proven to have been taken before the siege even began.
As the Israeli media blackout continues, along with carefully crafted messages by the Israeli government aimed at discrediting the humanitarian aid flotilla, messages from on board the ships and the hospital where injured activists were taken continue to trickle out via Twitter and the web – #flotilla, #FreedomFlotilla, #Gaza and #Israel are among the top international trending topics on Twitter. Although Israeli government spokesmen have attempted to justify the attack, Israeli media analysts have complained that the media blackout is not complete, and video footage of the unprovoked Israeli attack continues to leak out through the web.