Responding to the news that Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu apologised to Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan today (22 March), Sarah Colborne, Director of Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who was on the Mavi Marmara, said:
‘Israel is not known for apologising for its crimes. Today, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu was forced to apologise for its attack on the Mavi Marmara, when Israeli commandos killed nine humanitarian activists, and wounded more than 80*. That is a significant admission of guilt, even if it is couched in terms of apologising for ‘operational errors’ when we were attacked in international waters, with live fire used against civilians, subjected to torture and illegal detention.
‘There are currently legal actions taking place in a number of countries against those responsible for the wanton massacre on the Mavi Marmara. As with any crime, if the defendant apologises, admission of guilt may be taken into account in sentencing. But an apology doesn’t erase the crime, or end the struggle for justice. And an apology from Netanyahu doesn’t end the fundamental injustice that motivated us to sail on the Mavi Marmara. Israel continues to lay siege to Gaza. 1.7 million Palestinians live in one of the most crowded areas on earth. Building materials to reconstruct homes and infrastructure destroyed during Israel’s attacks on Gaza are denied entry by Israel.
‘No state should be beyond the arm of the law and it is essential that legal processes continue, so justice for the victims can be achieved, regardless of an apology by the head of the responsible state. Judicial systems are independent, and Bulent Yildirim, President of the Turkish organisation IHH, made clear in a press release that the ongoing cases will not be affected. And the campaign for Palestinian rights will continue until Israel ends its crimes and violations of international law, and until Palestine is free.’
* The Mavi Marmara was sailing to Gaza as part of the First Freedom Flotilla when it was attacked by Israel on 31 May 2013. The UN Human Rights Council Report ruled that Israel’s attack had violated human rights and international law. The report stated that “The conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence,” and “It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.”