The New York Times on Thursday obtained the so-called Palmer-report, called after a panel of the UN Secretary General, about the Israeli attack on the Free Gaza Flotilla and specifically its flagship the Mavi Marmara on 31 May 2010. During tis attack nine people were killed.
The content of the report is somewhat shocking, because it said that Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza is both legal and appropriate. At the other hand however, it found that the way Israeli forces boarded the vessels trying to break that blockade 15 months ago was excessive and unreasonable.
report, expected to be released Friday, also found that when Israeli commandos boarded the main ship, they faced “organized and violent resistance from a group of passengers” and were therefore required to use force for their own protection. But the report called the force “excessive and unreasonable,” saying that the loss of life was 'unacceptable' and that the Israeli military’s later treatment of passengers was 'abusive'.
“Forensic evidence showing that most of the deceased were shot multiple times, including in the back, or at close range has not been adequately accounted for in the material presented by Israel,” it says. The report also criticizes Israel’s subsequent treatment of the passengers, saying it “included physical mistreatment, harassment and intimidation, unjustified confiscation of belongings and the denial of timely consular assistance.”
Th report was completed months ago, but its publication was delayed two times by Israel with Turkey's consent, in order to give more time for attempts to reconcile the two countries. Israel recently asked for another postponement of six months, but that was refused by Turkey, that said that Israel apparently could not make up its mind about te apologies and the payment of compensation to the victims as Turkey repeatedly had demanded.
The real surprise of the report is of course the conclusion that Israel's naval blockade was legal and the action against the Flotilla justified, although not the way in which it was executed. The Palmer panel does not provide any legal basis for these assertions. An earlier report, by a commision of legal experts which was commissioned by the Human Rights Council of the UN and published in September 2010, concluded that the blockade and Israel's assault on the Flotilla were both illegal.
Update: The Israeli NGO Gisha (Legal Centre for the Freedom of Movement of Palestinians) gave a reaction to the Palmer Report on Friday:
In a failed attempt to achieve political compromise, the Palmer Report squandered an opportunity to evaluate the overall Gaza closure policy, still in place today. Stopping ships to Gaza for reasons of security is legal – the civilian closure of Gaza is not.
Gisha shares the position of the Palmer Commission that international law allows Israel to stop ships on their way to Gaza for the purposes of security. Nonetheless, Gisha recalls that, in parallel, the law requires Israel to allow freedom of movement for people and civilian goods to and from the Strip, subject only to individual security inspections. The Palmer Commission did not review Israel's overall closure of the Gaza Strip, still in place today. For it to conform to the principles of international law, Israel must remove the sweeping restrictions on export of goods, movement of people between Gaza and the West Bank and entrance of construction materials.
[The composition of the Palmer Commission has been somewhat questionable, consisting as it was of one Israeli, one Turk and two others taken from a list that Israel had provided. The choice of Geoffrey Palmer, the chairman, a former prime minister of New Zealand and an expert in international law, was not controversial. The choice of the number two, ex-president Alvaro Uribe of Colombia, was. Uribe is notorious for his relation in the past to death squads in his home country, according to Human Rights Watch, and he is known to be a staunch supporter of Israel. The Israeli member Yosef Ciechanover-Itzhar is a banker, and among otrher things member of the board of the rightist Elie EWiesel Foundation. The Turkish member, Süleyman Özdem Sanberk is a fornmer ambassador to Great Britain eand the EU, and a former assistant minister of foreign affairs.]