Saturday, June 5, 2010

The Flotilla, Gaza and Israel: Updates

Israeli soldiers have boarded an aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip and forced it to head to the Israeli port of Ashdod instead. The Israeli military said in a statement that troops boarded MV Rachel Corrie on Saturday after the activists aboard the ship ignored warnings to divert to Ashdod


Gaza Aid Ship Taken To Israeli port
By Aljazeera
05 June, 2010

Israeli soldiers have boarded an aid ship bound for the Gaza Strip and forced it to head to the Israeli port of Ashdod instead.

The Israeli military said in a statement that troops boarded MV Rachel Corrie on Saturday after the activists aboard the ship ignored warnings to divert to Ashdod.

"There was no violence or injuries amongst the soldiers or crew ... and no shots were fired," the statement said.

Jacky Rowland, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Ashdod, said the Rachel Corrie arrived at the port, escorted all the way by Israeli military vessels.

"The aid will be taken off and inspected," she said.

"It is not clear how much of it will be taken to Gaza. We can expect the passengers to be deported fairly promptly."

Activists on board the Malaysia-funded Irish ship were attempting to break the siege of Gaza imposed by Israel, five days after its troops killed nine activists while raiding a flotilla of aid ships carrying humanitarian aid for the coastal Palestinian territory.

Israeli statement

Israeli naval vessels trailed the Rachel Corrie for several hours before boarding it. The ship's radar was jammed, cutting off all radio communication.

Miri Eisin, a spokeswoman for the Israeli government, told Al Jazeera that the vessel was boarded by soldiers at the edge of the maritime zone of Gaza in agreement with those on board.

"The people on board will be taken care off in accordance with Israeli law, as they have approached Israel illegally, so they will be asked to leave voluntarily," she said.

Eisin said the cargo would be offloaded at Ashdod and then transferred to Gaza.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, said naval forces involved in Saturday's operation had followed exactly the same procedures as they had done earlier in the week, but the difference lay in the attitude of the activists on board the vessel.

"We saw today the difference between a ship of peace activists, with whom we don't agree but respect their right to a different opinion from ours, and between a ship of hate organised by violent Turkish terror extremists ... waiting for our soldiers on the deck with axes and knives," Netanyahu's office cited him as saying.

Raising awareness

On the other hand, Mukhriz Mahathir, head of the Perdana Global Peace Organisation, a Malaysian non-governmental organisation that sponsored the Rachel Corrie, said people would be willing to contribute to further aid ships.

"These actions have finally succeded in raising lots of awareness," he said.

"But for the moment, we are upset that these aid goods have not reached their destination."

The Rachel Corrie, which carried 11 activists and eight crew members, is named after an American womanwho was killed by an Israeli military bulldozer in the Gaza Strip in 2003, while protesting against a house demolition.

Pro-Palestinian activists on board the ship had earlier said they were determined to press ahead towards the Gaza coast, despite the Israeli warnings.

"We are not afraid and we are all advocating non-violence… and we will just sit here and go if they insist on commandeering our boat and forcing us into Ashdod," Mairead Maguire, an activist and Nobel Peace laureate aboard Rachel Corrie, said before radio contact with the ship was lost.

The Israeli military had cautioned that troops would consider storming the ship, if it continued its journey towards Gaza.

In a statement, the Israel navy warned the ship that it was "approaching an area of hostilities which is under a naval blockade. The Gaza area, coastal region and Gaza Harbour are closed to all maritime traffic."

Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, told Al Jazeera that the military had a government directive to make sure the ship does not reach Gaza.

Al Jazeera's Nicole Johnston, reporting from Gaza, said the Rachel Corrie had hundreds of tonnes of aid, including medical supplies, wheelchairs, cement, building materials and even note pads for children.

UNRWA appeal

Speaking to Al Jazeera on Saturday, Chris Guinness, a spokesman for UNWRA, the United Nations Palestine refugee agency, underscored the need for Gaza's land and sea blockades to be lifted.

"The World Health Organisation needs 20 million dollars worth of aid to enter Gaza, there is 44 per cent unemployment and education is in crisis," he said.

"We are turning thousands of five and six year olds away from our schools [and] 39,000 children in Gaza are not receiving United Nations education because we cannot get our building materials in.

"We also want to see exports coming out of Gaza. It is already 80 per cent aid dependent. What we don't want is to make it more aid dependent."

The developments surrounding the Rachel Corrie came as the UN human-rights chief said that Israel could face prosecution for Monday's flotilla raid, and that she was following requests for a referral to the International Criminal Court [ICC] in the Hague.

"I am following very closely the very many calls that come particularly from civil society and from all the people who are suffering in Palestine for that kind of action to be taken," Navi Pillay, the high commissioner for human rights, said on Saturday in Kampala, Uganda, where she was attending the ICC's ongoing review conference.

She said she believed Israel's blockade of Gaza violates international law.

"International humanitarian law prohibits starvation of civilians as a method of warfare ... It is also prohibited to impose collective punishment on the civilian population, so it is [for those reasons] that I have consistently reported to member states that the blockade is illegal and must be lifted," Pillay said.

"Even if it is demonstrated that the blockade is legal under international law, Israel's current military operations against the flotilla must be analysed from the perspective of its obligation to allow humanitarian aid to be brought into the Gaza Strip."


An Israeli video response to the freedom flotilla massacre
Uri Averny "Kill a Turk and Rest" here

Many believe that the “Exodus” incident was the turning point in the struggle for the creation of the State of Israel. Britain collapsed under the weight of international condemnation and decided to give up its mandate over Palestine. There were, of course, many more weighty reasons for this decision, but the “Exodus” proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back

By Uri Avnery
05 June, 2010
Gush Shalom

(Parts of this article were published in Ma’ariv, Israel’s second largest newspaper.)

Protecting America’s Security From The USS Liberty To The Freedom Flotilla
By William A. Cook
05 June, 2010

“We do not need to apologize for defending ourselves. The armada of hate and violence is merely one manifestation of the constant provocation Israel faces.” - (Danny Ayalon, Deputy Foreign Minister of Israel)

Only a member of the Netanyahu Court could stand before the TV cameras of the world and see “hate and violence” in a shipment of wheelchairs, medical supplies and building materials destined for a people ravaged by the savagery of the 20008/2009 Christmas invasion of Gaza. This “Armada” of six boats, bloated into an invading force capable of destroying the British Navy, represents yet again the eternal threat that plagues the Zionist state, “the constant provocation” from the rest of the nations of the world to destroy the tiny democracy created for those who belong to their faith, victims once again...

...The Turks have obviously moved on from those days centuries ago as they loaded the boat with its items of mercy and verified that process for the Israeli government, a government that has understood its relationship to be a good one, but not good enough to be trusted apparently. The Zionist state trusts no one, obeys no laws but its own, suffers no outsiders like the UN to witness its actions, and perhaps superstitiously or perhaps pathologically must maintain the sickness of victim hood in its citizens or lose their support. Above all, the Zionist government does nothing in the open except by mistake as it did in 2006 when it invaded Lebanon and in its Christmas gifts to the people of Gaza a year ago and hence dropped its hooded and heavily armed mercenaries onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara at 4am while the innocent slept and the darkness hid their insidious attack.

Following the attack on one of its own vessels, Turkey sought justice from the United Nations in the form of a statement “that would condemn Israel for violating international law, demand a UN investigation and demand that Israel prosecute those responsible for the raid and pay compensation to the victims” (The Salt Lake Tribune). But the Obama administration found reason to protect Israel against such a statement just as the Lyndon B. Johnson administration found reason to protect Israel when it attacked the American Naval vessel the USS Liberty 43 years ago, an attack of greater magnitude and consequence than the raid on the Freedom Flotilla, yet just as illegal, just as merciless, and just as revealing of true friendship among nations. To this day, the remaining sailors of that ship seek justice, not from the UN, but from their own representatives in our Congress who deny the attack or obsequiously grovel before the power of the Jewish lobbies that condemn those who condemn Israel for putting American sailors at risk, nay for killing American sailors with impunity, a blatant criminal act against their beloved friend, the United States of America.

What has Obama to fear that he too would capitulate to the demands of the Zionist sympathizers in Congress or his own administration? Have citizens of many countries no rights to sail in international waters to bring medical supplies to a besieged people, imprisoned now in collective punishment for three years, deprived of life’s basic needs by a nation that is among the wealthiest in the world, who live in luxury behind the walls they have erected to incarcerate a people that have no recognized government, no military, no control of their roads, their own housing needs, their own economy. And the world, it seems, supports the nation that creates this horrendous injustice because the President of the United States demands that those who lifted deck chairs to protect themselves from the armed and armored commandos dropped from the sky should be investigated for legal acts of self protection? What nonsense is this? Why does our President, like Johnson 43 years ago, cow-tow before the demands of men like Avigdor Lieberman and Bibi Netanyahu? Consider that a broad array of countries demanded an independent investigation, not just Turkey. Consider the words of the Foreign Minister of Turkey Ahmet Davutoglu, who called the attack “tantamount to banditry and piracy’ it is murder conducted by a state.” Indeed, why do Americans tolerate a nation that attacks its own sailors, that watches as this administration pulls the FBI off of its investigation and prosecution of Israeli spying through AIPAC operatives, and refuses to demand justice for the murder of Rachel Corrie as she acted in true American spirit to protect those who could not protect themselves and suffered a cruel death by Israeli hands for her efforts?

What power does this rogue nation hold over our government? Let’s begin with the two favorite mantras that bind Israel to America: our only friend in the mid-east and the only democracy in the mid-east. Both are lies. Friends do not attack the ship of a friend, a ship that was virtually at the mercy of the US provided aircraft to the Israeli Air Force that pulverized the Liberty while the Israeli Navy attempted to sink the ship with a torpedo. Friends do not use the military weapons of the friend on the friend. Friends do not premeditatedly plan the sinking of a ship to force that friend to believe a lie so that it will enter a war on behalf of Israel against a nation, Egypt, that had done nothing to the United States. These are the actions of a criminal mind, a nation with a criminal mind. Friends do not plan out military attacks against innocent civilians who have devoted their time and money to bring life giving aid to others and demonstrated their true intent before the world’s nations by having their boats inspected only to have Israel not trust any nation but itself. Such actions do not protect the soldiers and sailors of the United States operating in the mid-east, they endanger them.

How democratic is this purported democracy? I’ve written about this subject before (see “Israeli Democracy: Fact or Fiction?”) and will not repeat myself. Let me note here a sample of a nation that does not act democratically as presented by Jonathan Cook, April 9, 2010, about a matter called the “Anat Kamm espionage affair.” Kamm provided hundreds of army documents to Uri Blau, a reporter for Haaretz, that revealed “systematic law-breaking by the Israeli high command operating in occupied Palestinian territories, including orders to ignore court rulings.” These were published. She now faces life imprisonment as does Blau, who was hiding in England in April. As Cook remarks, “In a properly democratic country, Kamm would have an honorable defense against the charges, of being a whistle-blower rather than a spy, and Blau would be winning journalism prizes, not hiding away in exile.” So much for freedom of speech, right to self-defense, and the public’s right to know the subterfuge of their government.

One additional comment should suffice. Tzvia Greenfield makes this observation in her article “Israel’s Choice: Make Peace or Disappear.” “Israel … continues to control the Palestinians and the territories by force. And in order to maintain its Jewish identity, it also has no intention whatsoever of granting them equal civil rights. One does not have to be a critical intellectual to understand that this internal contradiction, in a state that considers itself advanced, Western and democratic, is untenable.” This nation is what our government claims is our only friend and our only democratic bastion in the mid-east. How pathetic.

Yet our President and our Secretary of State declare over and over again that they will defend Israel’s right to “self-defense.” Does that right include defense of the military systematically disobeying laws and the government’s intent to deny equal rights of citizens? Does it also include defense of lands confiscated by Israel or annexed illegally to Israel or declared military security land and wrested from the true owners? How does this nation justify theft by its truest friend and still declare that Palestinians have rights? Let’s have our government officials speak the truth so that we know the true state of our government.

One more demonstrated action by this friendly state, our truest and most reliable friend that we must defend before the other less friendly and democratic, and dare we say, less moralistic nations of the world. Desmond Tutu visited the occupied territories recently and offered this observation, “I have witnessed the racially segregated roads and housing that reminded me so much of the conditions we experienced in South Africa under the racist system of Apartheid. I have witnessed the humiliation of Palestinian men, women, and children made to wait hours at Israeli checkpoints routinely when trying to make the most basic trips to visit relatives or attend school or college …”
This is a regime we support, one that humiliates and degrades innocent civilians against international law, that builds roads segregated for Jews only on land confiscated from its rightful owners and paid for in part by American tax dollars. This is a regime we support that has sold nuclear weapons to that same apartheid government when it was outlawed by the international community demonstrating thereby two important and non-disclosed things about this rogue state, this friendly and democratic state that insists it is America’s closest and greatest friend: first it has weapons of mass destruction but denies it, and second, it will and has sold such weapons to an illegal government. This is the regime we trust, the regime now who’s President, Shimon Peres, is the very man that arranged for the sale. This is the regime our President must avoid offending lest it be forced to join the nuclear non-proliferation agreement he and the United Nations wishes to exist in the mid-east. This is the regime we must placate by protesting “the grave dangers of Syria’s transfer of weapons to Hizbullah…transferring weapons to these terrorists … which pose a serious threat to the security of Israel …We do not accept such provocative and destabilizing behavior--nor should the international community” (Hilary Clinton, April 29, 2010).

Hypocritically, this is the regime the United States Department of State provides with billions of dollars worth of military weapons yearly that it uses in such illegal ways as the invasion of Gaza, declaring it was defending itself, when in fact it killed in one minute by one missile on the UN school more Gazan civilians than all the rockets fired legally from their occupied land by insurgents since 2000. And this is Israel’s only defense, its right to defend itself.

Who are the terrorists? Why does the United States defend this terrorist state? What laws does the US abide by? The laws as dictated by Israel or the laws as negotiated and agreed upon by the community of nations through the Charter of the United Nations, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Court of Justice. Why, if Israel has done no wrong in this latest of incidents, why does it not present its case before the ICJ and demonstrate to the world that it was right and the international community wrong? What has Israel to fear except the loss of fear by its citizens. And what we may ask does America have to gain by joining the united nations in their call, their demand for justice, an independent investigation (not one conducted by the Israeli military since they, argues our Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs, P.J. Crowley, are the best to undertake such an investigation, because they are the most knowledgeable about the matter; how true and how absurd!) that can attest to the reliability of the Israeli accounts and assert whose rights were denied?

Why does Israel have such a difficult time existing without fear and victim hood in the mid-east? Perhaps the Zionist mindset that finds itself alienated from its brothers and sisters around the world because it has created a nation baptized in blood, stealth, theft, and deception must fear the unveiling of its lies and the eruption of the world’s communities to the injustice it has inflicted on the hapless Palestinians and continues to inflict by cementing them behind massive walls of fear and depriving them of a modicum of compassion and brotherly love. Perhaps it is time for Israel to consider that to fester as a boil inside the mid-east, distrusted and isolated, bodes ill for their future and the future of their best friend, the United States, that has supported them blindly these past 63 years. Perhaps for the sake of that friendship they might consider justice for the Palestinians and peace for the world.

The Zionist state demands the right to exist as a Zionist state—a non-signatory of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty, bristling with nuclear weapons. Did Yahweh come out of the clouds and declare that this state alone can break all the rules of international decorum with impunity, without censure?

The Right To Exist: Who has it? Where is it? Why?
By Gary Corseri
05 June, 2010

Israel Vs The Rest Of Humanity
By Salim Nazzal & Kate Howarth
05 June, 2010

After the flotilla massacre, the Freedom of Palestine has become a human responsibility

The massacre on board the ‘Mavi Marmara’ in international territorial water in the early hours of June 1, 2010 will change the face of the conflict from an Arab Israeli conflict to a conflict between Israel and the rest of humanity.

Notwithstanding the predictable stance of the United States of America, and their continued bias support for Israel, regardless of what the facts are, the rest of the world is outraged by the cold blooded murder of peaceful humanitarian activists’ some 90 miles from the coast of Gaza last week, which Israel claims to have been in self-defense.

Live videos captured at the time of the attack show Israel soldiers landing from a helicopter, while Israel gunboats encircled the ship. People onboard the 'Mavi Marmara' were woken from their sleep by the sound of gunfire.

“The Middle East is boiling these days”. These are the words repeated across the Arab media in the aftermath, of what can only be described as the cold blooded killing of unarmed civilians, at the hands of the heavily armed Israeli soldiers.

As the stories from the 600 surviving witnesses to the attack filter through the international media, the voices of condemnation of Israel grow louder.

“I was shocked to see a regular army officer pointing a pistol to the head of a one year old child” a woman from the Algerian delegation said, to an Al Jazeera TV journalist, as she recalled the horror of the attack.

”The Israeli soldiers do not look like regular soldiers but rather pirates with uniform”. Another witness onboard is reported to have said.

The consistency of evidence from the many eyewitnesses to the fatal shooting of 19 year old American citizen, Furkan Dogan, cannot be ignored when it is said that an Israeli soldier raised his weapon, and shot Dogan twice in the head. Other survivors said that the Israeli soldiers threw two wounded peace activists into the sea.

In Istanbul, thousands of protestors called for revenge for the death of the 9 Turkish nationals murdered by the Israeli soldiers.

There have been unconfirmed reports that the Turkish Navy will accompany the next flotilla sending much needed aid to the people of Gaza, who have been suffering inhumane blockades by Israel for over three years. This would demonstrate that Turkey will not be intimidated by Israel and the aid for the people of Gaza will continue.

At the very least Turkey, Ireland and Greece, all of whom flew flags on the free Gaza flotilla, and all those on board, have shown Israel that they will defy all attempts to stop aid reaching Gaza.

Turkey, a member of the NATO, and Israel has always been considered as the forefront for the western forces in the region. However, there are strong indicators that the West is growing weary of the repeated provocation of Israel and their flagrant disregard for human rights and international law.

“Enough is enough,” said a Norwegian politician in the huge demonstration which took place in Oslo to protest the Israeli assault on the peaceful activist. Another speaker said that the question of the freedom of Palestine has become a question that engages humanity. Other speakers demanded an international firmer stand against the Israeli repeated crimes.

Although the response from some leaders, particularly from the USA, has left people astounded, there have been protests across most European countries, the Middle East, USA, Canada, and in far away Australia, which indicates the ground swell of opposition against Israel. The world community is demanding that Israel be held accountable for this crime and that the blockade against Gaza be lifted to allow the flow of essential supplies to reach the people.

See much more at Counter Currents dot org and Common Dreams dot org...

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