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Blood Libel: The Sequel

Claire Berlinski’s must-read article in the September issue of Standpoint describes how the overwhelming majority of Turks have no idea what really happened earlier this year aboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara vessel, where an Israeli boarding party enforcing the blockade of Gaza was ambushed in a premeditated attack with knives and iron bars.

She canvassed Istanbul — where she lives — with a Turkish documentary filmmaker and interviewed a number of local people about that now-notorious incident. None knew the Israelis acted in self-defense when they shot their attackers.

“The men and women to whom we spoke,” she wrote, “were astonished when we told them that Israeli officials had invited the ship to disembark at Ashdod and deliver the aid overland. But they were not disbelieving — and importantly, when we told them this, it changed their view. Many spontaneously said that they knew they could not trust what they heard in the news, that the situation confused them and that something about the story just didn’t sound right.”

Unfortunately, few Turks will ever know what really happened that night. The Turkish media reported a grossly distorted version of the events, describing the attackers as “activists” and the Israelis who fought back as murderers. Most Turks can’t read or speak foreign languages and are therefore unable to learn the truth from newspapers abroad.

A new Turkish film may make the big lie all but permanent in the minds of millions of Turkish people. Kurtlar Vadisi Filistin, or Valley of the Wolves: Palestine, is the sequel to the notorious Valley of the Wolves: Iraq, which was released in 2006. The first installment portrays American soldiers massacring civilians at an Iraqi wedding party and harvesting the internal organs of prisoners to sell to Israelis.

The trailer for the second installment begins with an obviously false portrayal of the Mavi Marmara incident, and a later scene shows Israeli soldiers shooting more than a dozen handcuffed prisoners in the back.

The film’s main character is a Turkish special agent who sets out to avenge those killed on the boat by assassinating the Israeli commander in charge at the time, who is cartoonishly outfitted with an eye patch. “Our hero acts for the rights of the oppressed,” says Zübeyr Sasmaz, the director. “We’re talking about things people don’t want to hear,” says Necati Şaşmaz, one of the actors. “Up until now we have seen only Western heroes such as Rambo and James Bond. For the first time in the history of cinema there is an undefeatable protagonist from the Middle East.”

It’s too bad the story is based on a lie.

The first film in this libelous series was the most expensive ever produced in the country, and this one is slated to cost even more. It’s sure to be a big hit. Hopefully, the Turkish documentary filmmaker Clair Berlinski is working with can push back a little, at least.


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