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Israel's Propaganda Machine Produces Photos That Imply Peace Activists Were Armed... With Bullet-Proof Vests

Israel's public relations/propaganda efforts are going at full blast as the IDF tries to justify why its commandos ambushed a flotilla of humanitarian civilians in international waters Sunday, leaving at least 9of them dead. On the Israel Defense Ministry's official Flickr page, photos have been posted of weapons they say were seized from the peace activists' flotilla headed to Gaza. Let's take a look. First up: Fearsome bullet proof vests to protect the peace activists from Israeli fire. (Sadly, one must assume the 9 who died weren't wearing them.) Next: A single very rusty box-cutter. Moving on: That's right. Not one, but three cans of pepper spray, the kind my mom thinks I should carry around. This, too, is beyond the pale: Kitchen knives! Activists can't possibly chop up onions and tomatoes on their sea journey. (Oh, and CD-ROMS.) Finally: A power tool. Israel's Flickr page describes this as an electric saw, but someone in the know says it's actually a grinder. Good grief. Mark Steel writes at the Independent:
It's a shame they weren't more imaginative, as they could have said "We also discovered a deadly barometer, a ship's compass, which could not only be frisbeed at someone's head but even had markings to help the assailant know which direction he was throwing it, and a set of binoculars that could easily be converted into a ray-gun."
Some bloggers have pointed out that the dates associated with the Flickr photos are old -- from about 2003 -- but digital cameras are often set to the incorrect date. But the dates are really besides the point. The real story is that Israel is trying to present these "weapons" to an irate international community as justification for their spineless attack on a group of humanitarians trying to protest Israel's long-standing blockade of Gaza. Power tools, old box-cutters, and bulletproof vests are not weapons, and they are certainly not enough to vindicate the IDF's bellicose actions Sunday. Indeed, as my AlterNet colleague Zach Carter says, attacking a ship full of civilianshas been an act of war in previous eras. Remember the Lusitania? It brought the U.S. into World War I.
Look, there really isn't a way to rationally defend what Israel did last week, lest you really believe the talking-points spewed by mainstream media apologists. As Eli Clifton writes:
Israel knows exactly what risk it runs when it commits provocative acts such as the recent raid on the flotilla.  Editorial writers and sympathetic journalists dutifully repeat the message that the Palestinian response to Israel “defending itself” could lead to a “new Intifada”.  What better way to derail peace talks than to provoke violence before the parties have even gotten to the table?
By attacking the humanitarian flotilla, Israel may very well have declared war.
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