Mark Steel: No guns? They must be terrorists

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Somehow, the Chilcot Inquiry has become like Big Brother. About once a month it pops up as a small item in the news and you think: "Oh blimey, I didn't realise that was still going on." Before long, like Big Brother, they'll come up with stunts to try and revive some interest. So they'll reintroduce contestants from previous inquiries such as Martin McGuinness and Christine Keeler, or make some witnesses complete a task of finding hidden ping-pong balls in the room or they have to give evidence blindfold.

So it might seem these procedures are pointless, in which case it makes no difference that the Israelis have agreed to co-operate with a United Nations inquiry into the episode in which nine people died after the Israeli Defence Force went aboard the Mavi Marmara as it sailed towards Gaza.

But it seemed to matter to the Israelis, because until this week they insisted their own inquiry was sufficient, and that was already under way. One fact emerging from this process was that the victims, according to "Sgt S" who shot six of them, "were without a doubt terrorists". And he produced evidence to back this up, which was: "I could see the murderous rage in their eyes".

This matches the classic definition of a terrorist according to international law, as someone "with murderous rage in their eyes", and shows the key witness in any terrorist trial isn't the forensics expert or explosives analyst but an optician. If they're trained well enough they can shine a light at the iris and tell whether you're short-sighted, long-sighted, Hamas or Basque separatist.

But there was more. According to the Jersusalem Post the IDF told the inquiry that the group on the boat were "well-trained and likely ex-military" because "each squad of the mercenaries was equipped with a Motorola communication advice, so they could pass information to one another". A Motorola communication advice? So these so-called peace-activists were armed with mobile phones! It's a wonder the whole Middle East wasn't set alight. And to think Motorola and other sinister arms dealers such as Nokia and Orange go round trading in this deadly merchandise quite openly.

If the IDF were asked to police a rock festival, at the moment when everyone used their mobiles to take a photo they'd open fire on the whole crowd. Then once 3,000 were dead, Sgt S would say: "Well done, boys, if we hadn't been so careful that could have turned quite nasty."

One possible difficulty in proving the optically murderous gang's intent could be that none of them had guns. But the IDF dealt with that by saying the "mercenaries" preferred to use "bats, metal bars and knives, since opening fire would have made it blatantly clear they were terrorists and not peace activists". So this was another cunning trick of the terrorists, to disguise the fact they were terrorists by not doing anything terrorist. My neighbour's much the same; disguising her terrorism by being 74 and spending all day peacefully doing the garden without ever shooting anyone, the evil witch.

Even more blatantly, the inquiry was told the group did have guns on board, but "the mercenaries threw their weapons overboard after the commandos took control of the vessel". Because that's classic guerrilla training, to carry guns right up until the moment when the enemy arrives, and then throw them away. This is the strategy of all great military thinkers. That's why Nelson, at the Battle of Trafalgar said: "Men, I see the French, and so let every Englishmen do his duty, and chuck all our weapons in the sea. That'll teach the bastards."

On and on this goes, with Prime Minister Netanyahu making it clear he agrees with it, himself calling the victims "mercenaries". Because these mercenaries were trying to get goods such as medicine to an area that's under a blockade, which is typical mercenary behaviour, except instead of gun-running, they were inhaler-running.

But bit by bit Israel is finding it has to answer for itself publicly, and the old excuses are not so easily accepted. From now on they'll have to put a bit more thought into their bollocks, which has got to be for the good.

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