Kourosh Ziabari, 22 August 2010
As the racist regime of Israel moves toward greater international isolation due to its aggressive, belligerent policies, Iran receives wider support from the world’s nations for its uncompromising resistance against the bullying superpowers and annulling their mischievous plots. The world is witness to the growth of Iran’s popularity while hatred and disgust against Israel builds up progressively. Iran is reaching out to the hearts and souls around the world while Israel ignites denunciation and deprecation in the four corners of the globe.
Since Israel raided the Gaza Freedom Flotilla on May 31, the flimsy existence of Tel Aviv began to splinter as the world nations collectively and categorically reacted to the atrocious mass killing of 9 peace activists in the international waters by the Israel Defense Forces.
Israel’s unlawful, brutal killing of the unarmed civilians aboard the Freedom Flotilla sparked such a remarkable international condemnation that even the most stalwart allies of Tel Aviv in the EU zone recalled their ambassadors from Israel and called for a thorough, detailed investigation of the incident which they described as offensive and violent. The international condemnations were so extensive and intensive that even the most pessimistic Israeli politicians couldn’t envisage. Four countries downgraded their diplomatic relations with Israel – in addition to the four countries that had cut their diplomatic ties with Israel during the 22-day Gaza war of 2008-2009, Twelve Latin American countries condemned the Israeli actions, Twenty-one European countries protested Israel and Twelve non-Arab Asian countries officially disapproved Tel Aviv.
The precursor of global protests to Israel was Turkey which had lost 9 of its citizens in the raid. In an insightful, thought-provoking and appreciable statement before his country’s parliament, the Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan strongly questioned Israel’s impunity from the international laws and called for a decisive end to the illegal actions of this regime: “It is no longer possible to cover up or ignore Israel’s lawlessness. The international community must from now on say ‘enough is enough’. Dry statements of condemnation are not enough … There should be results.”
At the beginning and when the first news was released, the extent of Israel’s violence had not become clear to the public opinion; however, as the international peace activists began retelling the stories of their ordeal upon being deported by Tel Aviv to their respective countries, the world realized that a great calamity had taken place.
Upon his extradition to Istanbul, the Irish historian and activist Dr. Fintan Lane told the media about his terrible experience on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was unjustifiably attacked by the Israeli commandos on May 31: “when they boarded our boat, we resisted entirely peacefully. I sat on the floor and tried to reason with them, but the Israeli commandos physically attacked us. Fiachra (one of the Irish passengers aboard the flotilla) was dragged around the ground and I had a gun pointed in my face by a screaming commando. His mania was so intense that I genuinely feared for my life. Others received beatings.”
The American peace activist and anti-imperialist speaker Kenneth O’Keefe was another passenger on board the Gaza aid convoy. He witnessed the death of two of his Turkish colleagues in person and was brutally harassed, tortured by the Israeli forces: “while in Israeli custody I, along with everyone else was subjected to endless abuse and flagrant acts of disrespect. Women and elderly were physically and mentally assaulted… in stress positions while hand cuffed to the point of losing circulation of blood in our hands. We were lied to incessantly, in fact I am awed at the routineness and comfort in their ability to lie, it is remarkable really. We were abused in just about every way imaginable and I myself was beaten and choked to the point of blacking out… and I was beaten again while in my cell.”
Hassan Ghani, the 25-year-old Scottish journalist and media correspondent of the Press TV was also among the flotilla travelers. He was ruthlessly punished by the Israeli commandos in what he described as the “brutal Israeli assault” on the flotilla: “we didn’t expect a ship with 32 different nationalities on board, with aid from 50 different countries on board, would be attacked in such a brutal manner… They began by throwing stun grenades on to the deck of the ship when people were in the middle of morning prayers. Then they began using rubber bullets, they tried to come aboard the ship from the side. People repelled the commandos with water cannons they had set up on the side of the ship. Then the Israelis used helicopters to drop people onto roof and there was scuffles on the roof. The Israeli solders had already opened fire on the ship, so people were grabbing anything they could to stop the attack in international waters.”
Another painful account of the flotilla raid was retold by the prominent Swedish author Henning Mankell who described the Israeli actions as “committing murder”: “they got very aggressive and ordered us to come down. There was one older man who was a little slow, so the Israelis attacked him with an electric stun gun. He was in a lot of pain. So was another passenger who was covered in paint after being hit with a paint ball missile. The commandos searched the ship thoroughly and emerged waving a razor and a metal-box cutting tool, which they claimed were “weapons” intended to be used against them. All the passengers were then herded into a group, with armed guards standing watch as the ship was taken to Israel When we got off… we were made to walk down a corridor of armed commandos who filmed all of us with cameras. They stole my mobile phone, my money, my clothes and my credit cards.” Mankell said that he was held in a cell for 24 hours along with a Swedish Member of Parliament and then deported even “without his socks”.
All of these accounts attest to the fact that Israel is being reprimanded by people from the four corners of the world who object to the inhuman policies and actions of Tel Aviv regardless of the nationality they belong to and the political stance they champion.
Today, it’s known to everyone that Israel is a political entity which the United States supports in order to maintain its interests in the Middle East and subject the region’s nations. In the other words, Israel plays the role of America’s permanent representative in the Middle East and is entitled to resort to every possible mean to intimidate and bring under control the independent nations in the region. The fact is that Israel is a fragile and unstable political regime and every day of its shaky survival is hinged on the exertion of force and violating the rights of other nations. As the Iranian journalist Mohieddin Sajedi once noted, Israel cannot live without creating troubles. From mass killing to occupation, from assassination to the construction of illegal settlements, Israel continues to exist with illegal actions and this is what keeps them alive.
The main adversary of Israel is Iran. Israel has repeatedly warned Iran against the use of force and launch of a military strike on its nuclear facilities. The reason is clear. Iran is turning into an inspiring model for the independent nations around the world. Iran’s 30-year-long resistance against imperialism and its courageous confrontation with the bullying superpowers has made it an example of victorious struggle with political arrogance and many independent nations on the face of world see Iran on the frontline of battle with the United States and its colonies such as Israel.
Iran is winning international popularity because it has demonstrated the effectiveness of self-sufficiency in nationalizing the nuclear energy. While Israel possesses up to 200 nuclear warheads in flagrant violation of the international law and Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, Iran has made striking advancements in taking over the nuclear power and excelling in using it for peaceful purposes. The fact that Iran has succeeded in nationalizing the nuclear energy without the assistance of Western superpowers is indigestible for Israel which is the sole possessor of nuclear weapons in the Middle East; that’s why it has warned Iran against a preemptive military strike; however, the reality is that a 70-million-strong army stands by the resistance movement of Iran and a coalition of powerful troops consisted of the independent nations around the world, stand by Iran against the collapsing Israel forever.
Book of the Day: Midnight on the Mavi Marmara: The Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and How It Changed the Course of the Israel/Palestine Conflict, Moustafa Bayoumi, Editor.
‘ “We have been attacked while in international waters. That means the Israelis have behaved like pirates … The moment they start to steer this ship towards Israel, we have also been kidnapped. The whole action is illegal.”—Henning Mankell, aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla
Eastern Mediterranean, Monday, May 31st, 2010, 4.30am: Israeli commandos, boarding from sea and air, attack the six boats of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla as it sails through international waters bringing humanitarian relief to the beleaguered Palestinians of Gaza. Within minutes, nine peace activists are dead, shot by the Israelis. Scores of others are injured. The 700 people on board the ships are arrested before being transported to detention centers in Israel and then deported.
Within hours, outrage at Israel’s action echoes around the world. Spontaneous demonstrations in Europe, the United States, Turkey, and Gaza itself denounce the attack. Turkey’s prime minister describes it as a “bloody massacre” and “state terrorism.” Lebanon’s prime minister calls it “a dangerous and crazy step that will exacerbate tensions in the region.”
In these pages, a range of activists, journalists, and analysts piece together the events that occurred that May night, unpicking their meanings for Israel’s illegal, three-year-long blockade of Gaza and the decades-long Israel/Palestine conflict more generally. Mixing together first-hand testimony, documentary record, and illustration, with hard-headed analysis and historical overview, Midnight on the Mavi Marmara reveals why the attack on Gaza Freedom Flotilla may just turn out to be Israel’s Selma, Alabama: the beginning of the end for an apartheid Palestine.
CONTRIBUTORS: Ali Abunimah, Eyad Al Sarraj, Lamis Andoni, Omar Barghouti, George Bisharat, Max Blumenthal, Noam Chomsky, Marsha B. Cohen, Juan Cole, Murat Dagli, Jamal Elshayyal, Sümeyye Ertekin, Norman Finkelstein, Neve Gordon, Glenn Greenwald, Arun Gupta, Amira Hass, Nadia Hijab, Adam Horowitz, Rashid Khalidi, Stephen Kinzer, Iara Lee, Henning Mankell, Paul Larudee, Gideon Levy, Alia Malek, Lubna Masarwa, Mike Marqusee, Yousef Munayyer, Ken O’Keefe, Daniel Luban, Kevin Ovenden, Ilan Pappé, Doron Rosenblum, Sara Roy, Ben Saul, Adam Shapiro, Raja Shehadeh, Henry Siegman, Ahdaf Soueif, Raji Sourani, Richard Tillinghast, Alice Walker, Stephen M. Walt, Philip Weiss, and Haneen Zoabi.
Publication September 1 2010 256 pages’
This is a guest post from sharyn Lock, Author of Gaza: Beneath the Bombs and one of the original freedom flotilla participants. This post first appeared at www.plutobooks.com
On Sunday evening, May 30th, at 10.30pm, I was in bed reading. In bed with me was my mobile phone; it had taken me several days to understand how Twitter worked and set it up so I could receive FreeGaza flotilla updates, but I’d finally achieved it. Earlier in the day I’d spoken at a Transition Town event locally, taking advantage of a crowd to ask for people to do the same, to go online that night and witness the journey of the Freedom Flotilla, with a particular concern for 8am Monday morning when the boats would reach Gaza waters. When the Israeli navy had rammed and stolen FreeGaza boats in the past, it had waited until Gaza waters, daily occupied by its gunboats which weekly kill, injure and kidnap Gaza fishermen.
So as the twitter texts had several times announced good progress in international waters that evening, I thought that perhaps we would all get some sleep tonight, even the people on the flotilla. When I journeyed on FreeGaza missions one and four, two of the five trips that successfully reached Gaza, I’d managed to doze a little myself – they may have been two of the most exciting nights of my life, but by the time we made it onto our beautiful boats, after the weeks, months, years of work, we were knackered!
On FreeGaza’s first trip in August 2008, I was one of the nonviolence trainers. It was a job which also involved vetting of participants. We were all excited and full of hope. Yet I had to help everyone figure out if they were ready for what might come. Many of us had faced Israeli violence in the past – some of us carried the injuries to prove it – but not all of us. Without scaring anyone unreasonably, I had to make sure everyone faced the possibility we may be facing our deaths in only a few days’ time. I remember when the reality of the whole thing hit Irish Derek.
“Wait on. You mean… if Israel tells you to turn around, you’re not going to turn around?” he said. “But… you people… you’re all mad, so you are!” Through the rest of that day’s training, he kept pointing this out, apparently stuck in disbelief. So later on I took him aside, acknowledged that this wasn’t everyone’s idea of fun, and reminded him the land team greatly needed more people; he’d be just as vital there (a bit of a white lie since he knew more about boats than almost all the rest of us put together.)
Were we all mad? Well, it depends on your viewpoint. International law is a reasonably sensible thing; upholding it seems to me similarly reasonable – though I would agree it’s mad that it’s left up to a bunch of self-funded citizens donating their holidays to do it. Many journalists, scrabbling round for someone to provide another narrative of events to the one Israel was pushing while very tactically keeping my flotilla friends out of contact of media as well as family and lawyers, asked me “what do all you people have in common?” That made me laugh, and I didn’t have to
think twice about the answer. “That we’re all just like anyone else! Most people, if they saw a child in front of an oncoming car, would step in without a second thought. It’s the same instinct. Gaza’s population is 50% children.”
But anyway, there I was, that Sunday night, on the other side of the story. Back home from Gaza last year to study midwifery. Trying to think longterm, trying not to consider throwing it all in and attempting to blag a place on one of the boats. Receiving, at about 10.30pm, a flurry of texts that Israeli gunships had just appeared on the scene. Worrying that maybe, since we seem to let Israel get away with anything, they weren’t going to respect international waters, that maybe their presence meant they planned to attack in the dark. Thinking in turn of Alex, Ewa, Osama,
Theresa, and all the others I hold dear. Sleeping fitfully between twitter texts, each saying gunships were following but progress continued. Until, just minutes after the last reassuring message, another followed: “2 dead, 30 injured.”
I leapt out of bed, grabbed the laptop with shaking hands, and watched the livestream satellite footage Israel had tried, and failed, to block, as it happened. Listened to the gunshots, watched the wounded being carried below deck. Knew, from my personal experience, that the Israeli forces would not allow them to be rescued, that there would be unnecessary deaths.
But then, they were all unnecessary deaths, weren’t they? All nine – or is it more, since last I heard, some people from the Mavi Marmara seemed to still be missing, and the numbers still under guard in Israeli hospital were not clear. Israeli gunships had travelled about 70 miles away from Israel to attack 6 boats that weren’t going anywhere near Israeli waters; that were going, as they had gone in the past, direct to Gaza waters. To Gaza, which Israel says it not longer occupies. Boats that had been certified as free of anything other than aid at every port they’d left. Checked by authorities in countries such as Greece and Turkey, that Israel shares military manoeuvres with.
Anyway, back to Derek. If you’ve been following the story of the Free Gaza Movement, you’ll know that he not only was the first mate on that first trip, when our boats were the first international ones to reach Gaza in 41 years, but also on trips 2-5 that successfully reached Gaza, as well as of trips 6-8 that didn’t. They simply couldn’t have happened without the skill, charm, and humour of both of himself and his partner Jenny. So by the time of the 2010 flotilla, he’d already lost an aid cargo once to Israeli hands when they stole the Free Gaza boat Spirit of Humanity – cargo that funnily enough never was delivered by Israel to Gaza.
And if you were watching the flotilla news, you also know that electrician Derek, and hotel manager Jenny, were on the bravest mission of all that week. They were on the Rachel Corrie, the Irish cargo boat named for the American activist killed by Israel, whose purchase they’d masterminded, whose cargo of cement and schoolbooks they’d got together along with Irish, British and Malaysian people. The Rachel Corrie, who was delayed by “engine trouble” – perhaps the sabotage Israeli representatives have virtually acknowledged – and who therefore set off alone to Gaza, with her crew knowing that at least 9 people who had followed the same course only days before were dead. This crew included Nobel Peace Prize Winner Mairead Maguire and former UN Assistant Secretary General Denis Halliday.
Vik and Eva in Gaza, who shared the Sunday night vigil with me via text messages, told us later that people in Gaza could actually see the Rachel Corrie on the horizon, before the Israeli navy boarded her on June 5th.
I want the Flotilla attack to be a turning point in public awareness, in international political action. Within the Boycott/Divestment/Sanctions movement, it already has been. Today the word online is that Israel has announced it will “ease” the blockade restrictions. Yet since what is needed is an absolute end to the siege of Gaza itself, I am wary this may be a token response to international pressure, and hope the international community will not be fooled if so. And if this is, finally, a real turning point, a part of me will always be angry that the deaths of nine brave Europeans got the world’s attention more successfully than the deaths of 1,400 Gazans beneath the bombs of Israel’s 22-day Operation Cast Lead.
In July, a predominantly Jewish-organised aid boat – or maybe two, since the first is now oversubscribed – will be sailing to Gaza. When Israel began killing and injuring international volunteers like myself in the West Bank in 2002, they might have reasonably supposed it would discourage volunteers. But it didn’t – their numbers increased. Aid boats will continue to head to Gaza. Until the siege ends; until Palestine is free. Until the end of the Occupation brings peace to Palestinians and Israelis alike.
(Testimonies from Flotilla survivors from all over the world can be found at www.talestotell.wordpress.com)
Beneath the Bombs
Sharyn Lock with Sarah Irving. Afterword by Richard Falk
An eyewitness account of events in Gaza that brings home the horror of life in a war-zone, based on the author’s candid and dramatic blog.
‘This is an honest, forthright account full of compassion and insight; it plunges the reader into Gaza as it suffers the Israeli onslaught. Whether you are familiar with the plight of Palestine and the work of international volunteers or looking for an introduction to the subject, Sharyn Lock has made an invaluable contribution.’ – Jeremy Hardy
‘Moving and understated … Sharyn Lock manages to humanise the inhuman … I will long remain grateful to Sharyn Lock!’ – Richard Falk, United Nations Special Rapporteur on Palestine and Professor Emeritus of International Law at Princeton University
£12.99 only £9.99 on the Pluto site
Stephen Lendman, 23 July 2010
This article follows an earlier UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs Special Report titled, “The Impact of the Barrier on Health,” accessed through the following link:
Stop the Wall.org (STW) is a “Palestinian movement against the (Separation) Wall and the settlements under Israeli repression,” calling for it to be stopped, portions built dismantled, all confiscated lands returned, and compensation paid for losses.
On July 9, it released a report titled, “People versus Oppression,” a March – June 2010 account of Israeli repression, including “large scale violations of the civil, political and human rights of activists and communities active against the Wall that compounds the dispossession brought upon them by (its) illegal construction.”
In defiance of the International Criminal Court (ICJ) ruling it illegal, calling for it to be dismantled and reparations paid for lost homes, businesses, farmland, orchards, olive groves, and other immovable property seized, construction continues unabated, committing human rights violations against many thousands affected.
Over the past year alone, harsh repression included killings, targeted assassinations, mass arrests, travel bans, raids against Stop the Wall’s offices, and other Palestinian organizations and international activists, notably Freedom Flotilla ones, up to 15 murdered in cold blood in international waters delivering humanitarian aid to besieged Gazans.
From March – June 2010, the “extent of violence and dehumanization (has been) staggering.”
The past year “marked (a) quantitative shift in….Israel(‘s) overall policies and strategies,” its ongoing deterrence and oppression agenda, punctuated by daily violence against defenseless civilians, including women and children, endangering their struggle for justice, self-determination and peace, notions Israel spurns, preferring conflict to conciliation, collective punishment to the rule of law, and crimes of war and against humanity over democratic freedoms and equal justice – how all rogue states operate.
Combined, they’re “part of a new Israeli strategy to deal with growing international (and internal) criticism – through legislation, belligerence, and repression, including Wall construction, land theft, and isolation.
The Wall and Settlements
Projected to exceed 800 km when completed, its route is mostly within the Green Line, confiscating Palestinian land and resources by:
“a network of walls, fences, military zones, 34 fortified checkpoints, 44 tunnels, 634 checkpoints and obstructions, and 1,661 km of settler roads.” Combined with settlements, military zones, parks, commercial developments, other closed areas, and open spaces, more than 46% of the West Bank will be annexed, destroying villages and isolating others into Bantustans, surrounded and denied all rights, including free movement.
Up to eight meters high with watchtowers and a buffer zone 30 – 100 meters wide for electric fences, it included trenches, cameras, sensors, and military patrols.
Other portions consist of razor wire topped fences, patrol roads, sand paths to trace footprints, ditches and surveillance cameras, encircling communities, others between the Wall and Green Line in the so-called Seam Zone, requiring landowners and residents have permits to stay in their homes and access their land.
The effect is devastating, isolating thousands from their property and means of subsistence, dispossessing others to facilitate construction, forcing over 266,000 in 78 communities to abandon their homes, land, and livelihoods, their ability to access health care, education, religious sites, and their right move freely and live normally in peace – a state of hellish dystopia.
“The Wall is an integral part of (Israel’s plan) to control the West Bank” and East Jerusalem, while avoiding its responsibilities as an occupier, ones never observed for decades. It’s part of a massive land grad, a scheme to establish and expand key settlements, seize every valued km of land, dispossess tens of thousands, make Jerusalem exclusively Jewish, and enforce its agenda by extreme belligerence, the worst of police state harshness.
Given Wall protection, settlement expansions are unimpeded, more than 500,000 occupants on confiscated land, including over 200,000 in East Jerusalem, many more to follow, dispossessing Palestinians from their land, livelihoods and futures.
During 2009, 2,316 new housing units were begun, another 2,300 completed. In the first half of 2010, East Jerusalem has been especially targeted, facilitated by evictions, home demolitions, and dispossessions.
“Palestinians are (systematically being) expelled from their capital and their lands….herded into walled-in ghettos….in a well planned, low speed ethnic cleansing operation,” to be replaced by illegal settlements in violation of international law, aided by international complicity and indifference to a defenseless people, abandoning them for their own self-interest.
Along with international campaigns and legal measures, Palestinians have protested through regular demonstrations despite harsh Israeli recrimination. In 2002, they began in Qalqilya and Jenin. By 2004, they were large-scale, in 2005 weekly, and throughout 2008 and 2009 gained momentum and strength despite “extraordinary Israeli repression” against organizers and village leaders, beating and arresting them.
The “Stand up….and Break the Siege” initiative continues to demand removal of the military checkpoint, isolating 17 villages north and northeast of Ramallah. On June 18, 2010, a mass demonstration was held in front of the Bet El settlement on Beitin land, condemning the occupation, settlement expansions, checkpoint policies, Wall construction, and collective punishment of an entire people, denying their basic freedoms and self-determination.
Others occur regularly in al-Ma’sara, Wadi Rahal, al-Walaja, and Beit Jala near Bethlehem. Also around Nablus, activists conducting sit-ins against land theft, home demolitions, and isolation, despite beatings, arrests and other forms of abuse.
In addition, major resistance persists in Jerusalem against demolitions and settlement expansions, activists flooding streets in protest. Throughout May and June, 2010, daily mobilizations occurred, resulting in over three dozen arrests, including 14 children.
The ICJ Opinion and its Implications
UN resolutions and the ICJ called the Wall and settlements illegal, the latter, according to the Security Council in “flagrant violation” of Fourth Geneva, the Court saying they were “established in breach of international law,” both the Wall and settlements “tantamount to de facto annexation.”
The ICJ also said the Wall’s “infringements (can’t be justified) by military exigencies (or) requirements of national security or public order.” In other words, the Wall and settlements are land grabs under international law.
Because of Israeli non-compliance, affected residents formed committees of human rights defenders (HRDs), staging mass civil protest actions, legitimate under Fourth Geneva and other international law against an illegal occupation, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights Preamble stating:
“Whereas it is essential, if man is not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law.”
Under General Assembly Resolution 2625 – Declaration on Principles of International Law concerning Friendly Relations and Co-operation among States in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, every state must “refrain from any forcible action which deprives people (of) their right to self-determination and freedom and independence.” When denied, “such peoples are entitled to (resist) and receive support in accordance with the purposes and principles of the Charter.”
The UN also passed numerous resolutions affirming Palestinian self-determination, including 3070 in 1973 supporting “all available means” to achieve it, including in times of conflict.
HRDs anti-Wall resistance is “unique,” representing an effort to enforce international law and the ICJ ruling, especially with no outside support. They’re on their own because Israel and the world community violated their legal obligations to halt construction, dismantle portions built, and make restitution for damages.
Resistance and civil disobedience are legitimate forms of self-defense against lawlessness and repression, Henry David Thoreau saying people shouldn’t let governments overrule or atrophy their consciences. They’re obligated to confront injustice directly, including by defying the law when it’s wrong.
Stop the Wall.org asks:
“does the continuing confiscation of houses, destruction of property and forced evictions taking place in the West Bank in order to build the Wall constitute big enough crimes or risks to justify the measures taken by Palestinians to dismantle the Wall? And can these measures be further justified by showing that they have a notable impact on those crimes or risks?”
Forms of Repression
From April through June, 2010, STW recorded 114 arrests (mostly minors or persons in their early 20s) compared 89 during 2009 – “a dramatic increase in repression” against legitimate resistance, Adeeb Abu Rahmah, a member of the Bil’in Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements, one of many affected.
On July 10, 2009, he was arrested during a weekly demonstration, spent 11 months in the Ofer Military Complex, then, on June 30, 2010, was sentenced to two years in prison for “encourag(ing) violence….activity against public order (and being) present in a closed military area,” Bil’in’s designation every Friday from 8AM – 8PM to prevent demonstrations.
Amnesty International (AI) expressed concern saying he could be “the first activist against the fence/wall to be brought to a full evidential trial in a case of this kind,” setting a worrisome precedent for others, criminalizing their legitimate resistance, how all police states operate, Israel one of the worst, a democracy in name only like America.
Many others are also targeted, arrested, bogusly charged, imprisoned, and tortured for their legitimate right to resist, including children, one 15-year old explaining:
In January 2010, he was arrested at home, detained and tortured – shackled, blindfolded, beaten, and ordered to confess (to stone-throwing a year earlier), his interrogator saying, “I’ll break (and) shock you if you” refuse. “Because of the beating, I had to confess….I wanted him to stop hitting me because” of the pain. He spent three and a half months in prison followed by eight months probation and a 1,000 shekel fine.
He wasn’t alone. Defense for Children International (DCI) – Palestine section recorded at least five cases of threatened or actual inhumane treatment and sexual assaults against minors in Israeli prisons.
Violence is official Israeli policy, to intimidate and suppress resistance. “Overwhelming aggression” follows threats, including use of live ammunition, rubber-coated bullets, high-velocity tear gas canisters that can harm or disable, sound bombs, and other measures intended to willfully injure or kill.
The UNESCO Chair of An-Najah National University described the murder of two unarmed boys, aged 16 and 19, in Iraq Burin near Nablus saying:
“One Israeli soldier (came) out of one of the army jeeps and position(ed) himself (with one knee on the ground) on the road, directing his weapon toward the western end of the street and crossroad,” about 60 meters from the boys. They opened fire, “hit(ting) Abd Qadus in the forehead….As Muhammad Ibrahim Abdel-Qadr Qadus rushed to his cousin (and) reach(ed) down to help him, he (was) shot in the chest….” They were both killed in cold blood. No investigations followed, Israel’s usual whitewash, absolving state-sponsored terrorism.
Rarely ever are soldiers held accountable, and almost never their commanders, effectively legalizing the murder of Arabs, even children. “Palestinians are consequently left without remedy or recourse to justice.”
Tear Gas to Intimidate and Injure
On the pretext of dispersing crowds, high-velocity tear gas canisters are used as a weapon, causing a significant number of injuries, many serious, including asphyxiation, skull fractures, brain hemorrhages, and others requiring hospitalization.
Sound bombs, live fire, and rubber-coated bullets also cause casualties when fired directly into crowds, inflicting serious wounds, burns, and deaths. In addition, new weapons have been tested in real time, one in late April producing thick smoke and shrapnel in all directions after exploding. A new type tear gas was fired directly into the face of protestors, causing severe breathing problems.
Against a May demonstration, eyewitnesses described a powerful device detonated by an electrical wiring system, Rali Galli, Corporate vice president of Major Campaigns for Elbit Systems saying:
In “fighting terror,” Israeli companies have an advantage when it comes to the “development of new systems, testing them in real time and adapting and fine tuning following feedback from performance in the field.”
Fourth Geneva’s Article 33 is unequivocal, stating:
“No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited….Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited.”
Spurning the law, Israel targets villages as well as people, al-Ma’sara repeatedly raided in the past three months, mostly at night, including Muhammad Brijiyyeh’s home affecting him and his family. He’s the Bethlehem coordinator for the popular committee against the Wall. Israel’s aim – wear him down, “wear him (and his family) out,” including his elderly mother, one and a half year old daughter and infant twins.
Another tactic involves spraying phosphorous green “skunk water” into homes and workplaces, emitting an unhealthy stench lasting weeks. It not only damages property, it harms human health and constitutes humiliating and degrading treatment.
Military zones are also established, repressively closing and isolating villages, Bi’lin and Ni’lin two examples, closed every Friday from 8AM – 8PM to prevent demonstrations. Residents participating are targeted, assaulted and arrested, their property damaged, including by randomly fired tear gas into agricultural fields, igniting fires, consuming large areas of land, homes and other property.
They’re assaulted and arrested for their activism or presence near demonstrations, Defence of Children International (DCI) recording 335 detained in April 2010 alone, 32 aged 12 – 15, two held in administrative detention without charge. In May, another 305 were detained, 25 aged 12 – 15, two held administratively. Usually they’re accused of stone-throwing whether or not true. Yet they’re brutally treated in detention, as harshly as adults.
In 2009, DCI obtained 100 sworn affidavits, collected by lawyers and fieldworkers, citing the following forms of mistreatment:
– forced confessions in Hebrew;
– midnight – 4AM home arrests;
– threats and other forms of intimidation;
– solitary confinement;
– threatened or actual sexual assault; and
– painful position abuse.
In monthly updates, the Palestinian Centre for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) reported that in April 2010, journalists covering demonstrations were assaulted, five arrested, and two injured. Affected were:
– cameraman Hazem Bader, arrested on April 10 in Beit Safa, Hebron;
– Al-Hayat Al Jadedah correspondent Muheeb Al-Barghouthi, arrested covering the weekly Bil’in April 23 demonstration;
– Al-Jazeera cameraman Majdi Abu Zer and technical assistant Nadir Abu Zer on April 30 in Bil’in; and
– APA photographer Najeh Hashlomoun on April 24 in Beit Ummar, Hebron.
In addition, AP photographer Mahfouz Abu Turk was injured in East Jerusalem on April 9 covering clashes, and other arrests and injuries were reported in May and June, part of Israel’s ongoing campaign against free expression and dissent.
Targeting Human Rights Defenders (HDRs)
Recently in East Jerusalem, they’ve increased as a result of “significant resistance from (residents) under siege,” their homes and land threatened, especially in Silwan and Sheikh Jarrah.
In Silwan alone, 39 arrests were documented, including 14 children. In April, four Sheikh Jarrah families got demolition orders – the Al Kiswani home for the second time, and the Salah family, fined and forcibly evicted from the house they’ve lived in for over 40 years. Other raids targeted numerous residents, eight HRDs arrested including two children. One was charged with threatening Jews during Passover.
In May, 22 more raids were conducted, mostly at night, as well as other clashes with settlers, resulting in 11 arrests, including children. In June, a demolition plan passed an initial Local Planning and Construction Committee hearing, focusing on the Al-Bustan neighborhood where 88 face demolitions on the bogus grounds that they were illegally built. Protests followed, resulting in 60 or more arrests. On June 26 and 27, another 50 were injured.
Other harassments include closures, mobile checkpoints, vehicles stopped and searched, and Jerusalemites ticketed for driving unsafe cars.
Settler violence compounds the abuse. On April 5, a group of extremist Jews tried to provoke Palestinians with racist posters, shouts of “Death to Arabs….Leave Jerusalem now….go to Amman,” and stone-throwing, nearby Israeli security forces doing nothing to stop them, even arresting a targeted child.
“Israeli (violence and other abuses) in Jerusalem are increasing. However, Palestinian Jerusalemites and their international supporters are resisting the oppressive (occupation) and will continue to stand in solidarity for (their) human rights even though their activism comes at a huge cost,” including their freedoms and lives.
Targeting International HRDs
The Gaza Freedom Flotilla was most prominent, causing the cold-blooded murder of up to 15 activists. In addition, international HRDs against the Wall and settlements are routinely assaulted and arrested.
On May 31, Emily Henochowicz, a US citizen was peacefully present during a Qalandiya demonstration when she and other HRDs were assaulted by tear gas canisters. She lost an eye and sustained fractures when struck in the face.
“They clearly saw us,” said Soren Johanssen, a participating Swedish citizen. “They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.”
Although international law obligates other countries to hold human rights violators accountable, they, in fact, collaborate by supporting Israel against the rule of law and well-being of their own nationals.
As a result, Israel gets away with beating, torture and cold-blooded murder, claiming self-righteousness and self-defense – against nonviolent men, women and children guilty of defending their rights, common decency, and the notion that laws are meant to be obeyed, not abused, the latter an Israeli specialty, mainly against the most vulnerable.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Juan Cole, 13 July 2010
Predictably, the Israeli military investigation of itself with regard to the commando attack on the Mavi Marmara humanitarian aid ship on May 31 is a whitewash that says the deployment of deadly fire by the troops was justified. Eyewitnesses reported that one seated photographer was abruptly shot between the eyes, and that another innocent’s head exploded when he was shot from above. The report mentions the Israelis airlifting the humanitarian workers whom they had injured to shore for medical treatment but not the nine persons, one of them an American citizen, whom they killed.
Despite a resignation among intellectuals in the United States to Israel having gotten away with it again, the mood is quite different in Turkey.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said again on Monday that he ‘has no intention of letting Israel get away with its “pirate-like” and “barbarous” attack which led to the death of civilians. ‘
Erdogan said, “I’m saying it very clearly: The Mavi Marmara and those on board who were carrying medicine and games for children were subject to a barbarous and pirate-like attack in international waters. We will never give up pursuing this point,”
Erdogan also expressed impatience with the failure of the Obama administration to pressure the Israelis about the attack, saying that President Obama had said he agreed with Erdogan’s stance when they met privately, but then seemed not to have followed through when Obama met recently with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. Or, Erdogan speculated, perhaps press reports about the Obama-Netanyahu love fest were inaccurate (i.e. behind the scenes Obama may have actually read Netanyahu the riot act about the assault on the Gaza aid flotilla).
IHH, the Turkish charity backing the flotilla effort, rejected the Israeli report, contrasting the firearm-toting Israeli commandos to the civilians aboard. Aljazeera English has video:
Israel responded last week to the IHH flotilla efforts by putting the organization on a terrorism watch list.
Writing in Today’s Zaman, Ayse Karabat reports on the reaction of Turkish intellectuals such as Sedat Laçiner to the Israeli military report. Laçiner observed, ‘as someone who lives in Ankara, I was able to contact the Mavi Marmara and able to ask them how the situation was. They told me that there was a group of people on the ship, preparing sticks to use against Israeli soldiers if they tried to intercept them. If I knew that, sure Israel knew about it, too.’
Nihat Ali Özcan of the Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey, said, “Recent developments in the world tell us that if you confront a group, you have to learn their conflict culture, not their physical capacity. The passengers of the ship were from a civil society organization, but not a Norwegian-style [one].”
Kürşat Atilgan, a retired military officer now serving in the Turkish parliament, criticized Israel as a ‘paranoid state’ and said that it was impossible to know at what distance from their shores their paranoia would kick in.
Turkey continues to demand an apology from Israel, and has closed off its airspace to the Israeli air force.
- Juan R. I. Cole is Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan. For three decades, he has sought to put the relationship of the West and the Muslim world in historical context. His most recent book is Engaging the Muslim World (Palgrave Macmillan, March, 2009) and he also recently authored Napoleon’s Egypt: Invading the Middle East (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007). You can visit his site at http://www.juancole.com/
Stephen Lendman, 1 July 2010
Ongoing since its May 14, 1948 “Declaration of Independence,” Israel systematically reigned terror against Palestinians and neighboring states, always claiming self-defense – bogus then, bogus now, historian Ilan Pappe describing Israel as a “settler Prussian state: a combination of colonialist policies….manifested in the dominance of the army over political, cultural and economic life,” then adding:
“You probably have to be born in Israel, as I was, and go through the whole process of socialisation (sic) and education – including serving in the army – to grasp the power of this militarist mentality and its dire consequences. And you need such a background to understand why the whole premise on which the international community’s approach to the Middle East is based, is utterly and disastrously wrong,” so much so that Israel is slowly self-destructing, preventable only by an entirely new mindset.
Public discourse won’t admit it or that Palestinians “lost 80% of their homeland” in a few short months, about 800,000 of them either dispossessed or massacred. Then in 1967, “they lost the remaining 20%,” not recovered after 43 years, nor have they received any measure of justice, Cast Lead and Gaza’s siege the most extreme recent examples.
On May 31, no wonder Israeli commandos attacked peaceful activists trying to deliver humanitarian aid to Gazans. Defense Minister Ehud Barak once commanded a similar unit, and Benjamin Netanyahu’s eldest brother, Yonatan (a martyr and national hero), led 100 commandos in Operation Entebbe, the July 4, 1976 hostage rescue mission at Uganda’s Entebbe Airport.
That was heroic, not murdering unarmed, peaceful activists in international waters, an unconscionable crime, one the Turkish-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH) calls a premeditated terrorist attack in a newly issued report titled, “Palestine Our Route, Humanitarian Aid Our Load Flotilla Campaign Summary Report,” saying:
“While Israel continues to distort the truth….this report provides information about (the flotilla’s) purpose and content,” its humanitarian mission, and “the Israeli attack it was subjected to, the way in which the attack took place and the losses” as a result.
Under embargo since Hamas’ January 2006 election and a suffocating three year siege, 1.5 million Gazans (900,000 in eight refugee camps), have suffered months under a humanitarian nightmare, slow-motion genocide, acknowledged by Pappe and international law expert Francis Boyle, citing the provisions of the 1948 Genocide Convention, saying prior to the siege:
“Israel has indeed perpetrated the international crime of genocide against the Palestinian people (and a) lawsuit would….demonstrate that undeniable fact to the entire world,” more than ever today after Cast Lead and Gaza’s strangulation under siege.
Why a Humanitarian Aid Flotilla?
It tried “to pierce the blockade….with 9 ships full of humanitarian aid….to bring some (relief) to the people of Gaza, who have lived for many years in such deprivation….People from South America, Africa, the Balkans, Central Asia, the Middle East….the Far East (and North America) came together, people with different languages, religions and races, all came together to bring (desperately needed) aid….”
Items included were 10,000 tons of:
– clothes, towels, bedding, shoes, fabrics, carpets, kitchenware, quilts, blankets, couches and beds;
– ultrasound scan devices, x-ray equipment, electric patient beds, dentistry units and gear, doppler echocardiography devices, regular and electric wheelchairs, electric scooters for the disabled, stretchers, deambulators, autoclaves, mammography devices, microscopes, blood circulating and hemodialysis machines, radiology monitors, crutches, ENT units, cat scan machines, operating beds, gynecological couches, and various medical supplies;
– 750 tons of iron;
– 100 precast home units;
– tiles, timber, fiberboard, cage, plumbing supplies, electric equipment, plastic window frames, glass, steel cables, measuring tools, hand carts, nails, mountings, bathroom fittings, paint, power distribution units, ladders, insolation materials, and other construction supplies;
– 3,500 tons of cement;
– 50 tons of ceramic tile adhesive;
– units compromising 16 children’s playgrounds;
– two truckloads of wood;
– two electrical power generators;
– electric hand tools, machines, ovens, and other hardware supplies;
– power units (one of 35 kws, five of 85 kws, one of 100 kws, two of 145 kws, six of 150 kws, and three of 165 kws;
– another 80 one, two and five kws power units;
– an ETC;
– two desalination units; and
– 20 tons of paper.
Israel confiscated the entire cargo, claiming it would deliver select items through the UN, meaning only permitted foods, fabric items, and some medicines, most everything in all categories strictly prohibited – thousands of non-military items in total.
Summary of Events – the Mavi Marmarra Mother Ship
Its 600 passengers were attacked in international waters after its Turksat satellite frequency and satellite telephone communications were blocked to prevent massacre reports getting out and connections to other ships.
Late at night, Israeli ships surrounded the Mavi Marmarra, including one or two submarines, after which helicopters circled overhead. After warning passengers, “masked, armed soldiers….tr(ied) to grab onto the boat with heavy grappling irons,” at the same time live fire began, including high frequency sounds, machine guns, and loud noises resembling gas bombs, after which soldiers descended from helicopters, shooting before landing on deck.
There was no provocation, and no warning was given. Unarmed civilians were attacked, some at point blank range, at least nine of them murdered in cold blood, some shot in the head multiple times, perhaps more as bodies were dumped overboard, and some passengers remain missing. Dozens more were injured, at least 20 seriously. Everyone was taken prisoner.
The few Israeli soldiers hurt were treated by the ship’s doctor. Confirming video showed it. On board, after hearing about civilian deaths, IHH President, Bulent Yildirim, told passengers over a loud speaker to sit in the lounge and not resist, except for medical workers continuing their work. He, in turn, removed his white shirt, waved it at soldiers, asking for a ceasefire. He was ignored.
Despite good faith efforts, “the Israeli soldiers, who had surrounded the lounge, continued” firing live rounds – even at medical workers treating their own injured comrades. A doctor providing aid was shot in the arm.
More soldiers boarded the ship with specially trained K9 dogs. Passengers were searched and handcuffed. Their possessions, including passports were confiscated. Women were seated on benches, men forced to kneel uncomfortably on deck. No one was allowed “to fulfill their most basic needs.” It became a “long war of nerves….”
Throughout the ordeal, soldiers were hostile and abusive, “trying to agitate (passengers) to create problems.” In control of the ship, they took it (and the others) to Israel’s Ashdod Port, a trip taking 10 hours, passengers not knowing their destination or fate once they arrived.
En route, “Some of the wounded were purposefully mistreated, kicked and hit with weapons, while others were shot at, despite being wounded. Some wounded people” weren’t taken to the hospital. Although bleeding and needing treatment, they were kept on board, doctors not allowed to help them.
At Ashdod, passengers were taken off in handcuffs, accompanied by policemen. Interrogations and security checks followed, including strip searches down to underwear, fingerprinting, and photographing. Then a health check, after which participants were told told to sign “certain documents,” to be released. Otherwise, they faced prison and confinement for at least two months for entering Israel illegally despite being taken there forcibly.
Most refused, were put on freezing cold buses, taken to Beer Sheva prison, and placed in two to four-person cells, separated from others, given no information about them or allowed to make phone calls. Instead they were told: “This is now your home, forget going back.”
Requests to meet consular officials were refused. Sleep was denied for two nights. Harassment was punishing, including repeated (day and night) interrogations to state their names, and explain where they came from, and why – besides being forced to “carry out every type duty,” including “carrying things, distributing things, (and) cleaning up after dinner, etc.”
After nearly a day, consular officials got in. Then by noon the next day, passengers began being released to be deported. Others waited an extra day, some longer. The entire procedure was made as arduous, demeaning, and degrading as possible, the slightest reaction met by blows.
Some participants “who had left the prison unharmed arrived at the airport with injuries.” Others before and during detention were seriously beaten, some tortured. Five stayed behind hospitalized too injured to leave. The whereabouts of six or more remains unknown. Likely they’re dead, murdered in cold blood.
Events on Other Ships
On May 30 evening and throughout the early morning May 31 hours, before the Mavi Marmarra massacre, the Defne was harassed, told to change course, and abandon its mission, what it and other vessels refused to do.
At 6:10 AM, commandos stormed the ship, took it to Ashdod, imprisoned its passengers, confiscated their possessions and the cargo. No one on board was killed, nor on other vessels who were treated like Defne’s, all personal property and aid items seized, the entire ordeal (from boarding to imprisonment to deportation) made as uncomfortable and painful as possible, a lesson Israelis hoped would intimidate others from coming, an experience emboldening participants to come back, undaunted by their intimidating experience.
Eight of the nine known dead were Turks. The ninth was a Turkish American. Most of those wounded were also Turks or of Turkish or Arabic origin. Clearly they were identified in advance. Commandos had names and photos of assassination targets, ordered by top Israeli officials, including IDF commanders to commit cold-blooded murder.
A Final Comment
Besides violating maritime law in international waters, Israel massacred as many as 15 or more passengers in cold blood, injured dozens more, some seriously. In addition, ship communications were cut off, participants illegally arrested, repeatedly interrogated, initially denied consular contact, intimidated, imprisoned, and treated horrifically for two – three days, including harassment, humiliation, and physical abuse involving beatings, in some cases torture.
Further, their passports and personal possessions were stolen. Permission “to fulfill their basic needs” was denied. Humanitarian aid cargo was confiscated. Individual testimonies bore witness to Israel’s lawless, callous, and degrading treatment.
Mevlut Yurtseven, the Mavi Marmarra’s doctor, said dozens were wounded, at least 20 seriously. “They forced the wounded to stand up and tried to make them walk. They did not bring stretchers. Because I protested (I) was handcuffed.”
Press TV – UK’s Hassan al Banna Ghani said “They set attack dogs against me and another (UK) volunteer. They gave us nothing to eat for 20 hours on the ship. They stole our personal belongings and damaged them.” Volunteers were treated violently.
UK emergency aid worker Nur Choodhury explained “We were physically abused: kicked, slapped, pinched, and elbowed. Our hands were tied tightly with cables; this was extremely painful and caused us to lose feeling in our hands.” They were prevented from using toilets or phoning families.
Sema Islek, a Turkish nurse, called their “psychological oppression and physical torture….very great.” Turks and other Muslims were treated the worst, former German MP Norman Paech said “Israeli soldiers displayed openly raci(st) behavior….treat(ing) us much better than the Turkish and Arab passengers.”
Those waging war on peace will lose, the report concluded, legal professionals already enlisted to represent families of those killed, the injured, and everyone imprisoned, tortured, abused, robbed, and subjected to cruel and humiliating treatment – crimes against humanity by a nation mocking democratic freedoms, defiling the rule of law, affording rights solely to Jews, and endorsing racism, extremism, violence and torture as official state policies, including against peaceful activists bringing essential humanitarian aid to Gazans in desperate need.
The report’s final comment wondered what kind of a world they’d be “if other countries….follow(ed) the path of Israel….? What kind also when leaders committing these crimes aren’t held accountable, world leaders turning a blind eye, some providing active support, making them culpable – complicit in crimes of war and against humanity, including against activists bringing humanitarian aid.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.
Rifat Audeh, 29 June 2010
In an outstanding article entitled ‘How Israeli propaganda shaped U.S. media coverage of the flotilla attack’, Glenn Greenwald makes the argument that is self-evident in the title. As someone who was on the Mavi Marmara ship and interviewed frequently after the Israeli crime, I can attest to the accuracy of his findings, which are also applicable to the Canadian media and other global media outlets as well, albeit to a lesser extent.
After international pressure forced my kidnappers to release me and the other activists, Canadian media outlets kept asking me if it was we – the passengers of the ship – who had attacked the Israeli commandos! These questions were based solely on the footage released by the Israeli military and the Israeli narrative of what took place. Accordingly, it is worth taking a step back and looking at the big picture and the facts that have become common knowledge to everyone.
Amnesty International has called the siege of Gaza a “flagrant violation of international law” as have many other international organizations. The humanitarian aid ships and passengers were inspected and cleared from their points of departure, including Turkey, a NATO ally. The Israeli navy attacked the ship in the dead of the night with fully armed commandos in international waters, and even Israel does not dispute this fact. In reports from Bloomberg News, the Associated Press and Israeli papers in the days prior to the attack, Israel threatened to use force and any means necessary to stop the ships, a fact affirmed by Israeli ambassador to the USA Michael Oren in an interview after the attack on June 2nd.
And indeed they did. The Israeli military was firing at us from their vessels which approached the sides of our ship and the helicopters from above as well, even before a single soldier landed on deck. Here we had fully armed Israeli commandos firing live rounds, tear gas, sound grenades and other types of ammunition at unarmed activists of a humanitarian ship at night in international waters, and once again the media has criminalized us and victimized the perpetrators. Let me be clear: we had every right to defend ourselves and our ship against this illegal barbaric assault as our brothers were being wounded and killed. The reader must ask himself/herself: If someone attacked, invaded, burglarized my home with the latest weaponry in the middle of the night to hurt and kill, do I have the right to defend myself and would I? This was the situation for us on the ship, and hence the attempt at self-defense with sticks and slingshots on the one hand against warships, military vessels, helicopters, guns, tear gas, stun grenades and live ammunition on the other.
After the Israeli military took control of our ship, one of the first things it did was confiscate all cameras, footage, flash drives, media equipment and suspended any broadcasts from the ship. As I was thrown on the deck by four commandos and blindfolded with my hands tied behind my back and what seemed to be a soldier’s knee digging into my soon to be fractured ribs, this commando –who the Israelis would undoubtedly claim was acting in self-defense – demanded to know where my mobile phone was after inspecting my empty pockets. It is obvious that there were orders from the start of their operation to control the narrative and what the world sees – or rather doesn’t see. (Note: they never did get my mobile phone). On June 3rd , the Committee to Protect Journalists denounced Israel’s editing and distribution of footage confiscated from foreign journalists, stating “Israel has confiscated journalistic material and then manipulated it to serve its interests”. While this manipulated material was being broadcast to news outlets around the world, we were still under abduction and being held incommunicado by Israel. The few photos and videos that were smuggled out by the activists portray a very different picture of the events, even showing Israeli commandos -who were disarmed by the passengers- being treated for their wounds by the ship’s doctors.
Yet despite all this, Israel has refused an impartial inquiry into the incident, which speaks volumes in itself. If Israel has nothing to hide, why not let such inquiry take its course? Instead, a complete farce is occurring with Israel forming its own inquiry committee to investigate itself, acting as judge, jury and executioner. It has added two internationals – including a Canadian- to this committee, in a pathetic attempt to legitimize something illegitimate.
Just as Israel stated it was not using white phosphorous on the civilians of Gaza last year, claimed that murdered activist Thomas Hurndall was armed and just as it refused a UN investigation into the Jenin massacre in 2003, the pattern of Israeli lies and intransigence continues. And, as with the Israeli assault on the USS Liberty which killed 34 American sailors and wounded 171, the media in the USA covered it up and never investigated. It seems some things never change.
- Rifat Audeh was one of three Canadians on the Mavi Marmara ship when it was attacked in international waters by Israel. He is co-founder of Michigan Media Watch and former member of the Palestine Solidarity Movement’s Process Committee. This article was published at PalestineChronicle.com.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
On Saturday 5th June, 2010, 35 heavily armed Israeli Navy Seals commandeered our boat, MV Rachel Corrie, one of the Freedom Flotilla, in International waters (30 miles off the coast of Gaza). As they did so, we 19 humanitarian activists and crew, sat on the deck.
We were quietly anxious, aware of the solitary figure in the wheelhouse with his hands held high against the window, in full view of the three Israeli warships, 4 approaching zodiacs and 2 commando carriers, whose guns were pointing in his direction.
I personally wondered if the courageous Derek Graham would live to tell the tale, conscious of what happened on the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara, earlier in the week.
On Monday 3lst May, 2010, we heard via satellite phone that the Israeli Commandoes had boarded in International waters, from helicopter and zodiacs, the Turkish Ship, MV Mavi Marmara, killing and injuring many people.
It was later confirmed that 8 Turkish people, l Turkish/USA, unarmed civilians had been shot (2 in the head and several in the back).
All 6 boats on the Freedom Flotilla had been commandeered by Israeli Navy and taken to Israel and during this attack by Israel over 40 people were injured.
These killings of unarmed civilians was devasting news to us all and something we never expected to happen.
All those participating in the Freedom Flotilla participated because they were moved by the suffering of the people of Gaza.
They were not Terrorists, they were human beings, who cared for other human beings in their suffering.
Gaza, cut off by land crossing, sea (its port had been closed for over 40 years since Israeli occupation and had the Free Gaza Rachel Corrie Cargo boat been able to enter Gaza, it would have been the first Cargo boat ever to do so).
Gaza has rightly been been described as the largest open air prison in the world. With Israel holding all the keys for its one and a half million people living under a policy of collective punishment by Israeli. Under siege for over 3 years now, with a shortage of medicine, basic materials to rebuild their homes, after the 22 day bombardment by Israeli in Dec/Jan.2009 has left Gaza and its people, a place of suffering and isolation.
The flotilla was not only to bring humanitarian aid, books for children, toys, writing material, but to help break the siege of Gaza, which is slowly strangling its people.
The violations of international law committed by Israel are well documented by the UN, and many independent human rights bodies.
All of these violations of International laws and norms are committed under the guise of ‘national security’ and A policy of isolating Gaza to weaken Hamas.
It is a policy that is clearly not working. As we have learned in N.Ireland, violence never works, so why not try talking to Hamas, as the British Government had to talk to rep. of IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries, in order to move to peace.
The brutal and illegal attack of aid ships in International waters on May 3lst and the subsequent boarding of the MV Rachel Corrie, also in international Waters, is a symptom of the culture of impunity under which Israel operates.
The Israeli Government was quick to blame the activists on board the MV Mavi Marmara, claiming that they attacked first and were members of terrorist groups.
They also claimed that the HLL the Turkish Humanitarian Group who organized the Mavi Marmara had terrorist links. The HLL is not a banned organization in Turkey and has no links to terrorist organizations. It was disappointing to see how many International governments and media outlets immediately accepted Israel’s version of events without further investigation.
Sure, there have been calls for a ‘prompt, Impartial, credible and transparent’ investigation into the events of May 3lst by the United Nations Security Council.
Yet the United States and others seem to think that Israel can conduct such an investigation on its own.
In the words of my colleague, Nobel Jody Williams, this is like “the fox accounting for the number of chickens left in the henhouse” such a response cannot stand, and nothing less than An Independent investigation will be acceptable to the international community.
This attack on the Freedom Flotilla is a tipping point. It is time for the International Community to finally stop allowing Israel to act with blatant disregard for Human Life, Human rights and International Law.
The partial lifting of the siege shows what International pressure can achieve, but it is not enough and only a full lifting of the siege can bring re freedom to the people of Gaza.
It is time for Israel to choose peace. It is time for world leaders and the international Community to join together and call on Israel to lift the siege of Gaza completely, End the occupation of Palestine and allow the Palestinian people their right to
To help bring closer that day we can all do something. Not everyone can go with The Freegaza boat people, but supporting the BDS campaign, calling for an end to EU special trading status with Israel insisting that USA end its economic/military assistance to Israel until it upholds it International commitments. Palestine is a key to peace in the Middle East so by us all refusing to be ‘silent’ in the face of Israel’s continued apartheid policies we can all bring closer an end to all violence in the Middle East.
Mairead Maguire, Nobel Peace Laureate
19th June 2010
Stephen Lendman, 19 June 2010
On June 17, Haaretz writer Barak Ravid and Reuters headlined, “Israel to ease Gaza land blockade,” saying:
“Israel’s security cabinet voted Thursday to ease its land blockade of the Gaza Strip, following its deadly raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla bound for the (mischaracterized) Hamas-ruled territory,” in fact, its legitimate government.
An official statement said:
“The Security Cabinet conducted an extensive discussion over the last two days regarding adjustments in Israel’s Gaza policy.
It was agreed to:
– Liberalize the system by which civilian goods enter Gaza.
– Expand the inflow of materials for civilian projects that are under international supervision.
– Continue existing security procedures to prevent the inflow of weapons and war materiel.
– the Cabinet will decide in the coming days on additional steps to implement this policy.
– Israel expects the international community to work toward the immediate release of Gilad Shalit,” the captured Israeli soldier on June 25, 2006 near the Kerem Shalom crossing, southeast of Rafah – one soldier compared to thousands of Palestinian civilians, held illegally in Israeli prisons under horrific conditions, including torture and other forms of abuse.
According to Raed Fattouh, Palestinian supplies coordinator for the Territory, the approved list will include all food items, toys, stationery, kitchen utensils, mattresses and towels, excluding most of what Gaza needs, including construction materials to rebuild.
For example, cement will still be banned, Israel saying Hamas could use it to build military infrastructure. Also, Israel’s official statement was vague, saying implementation procedures will follow, emphasizing that “existing security procedures” will continue – showing the announcement was a sham PR gesture to diffuse worldwide anger and satisfy world leaders, short of fully opening Gaza’s land and sea borders for free in and out movement of people and goods. Nothing less can be accepted.
Yet Israel’s ruse may have worked.
AFP quoted EU diplomat, Catherine Ashton, welcoming the decision, saying:
“We’re looking with great interest to what the Israeli cabinet has said this morning,” adding that she hopes “many more goods” will follow and stands ready to support Israel with a mission on the ground.
Middle East envoy, Tony Blair, called it an “important step….Israel has the clear right to defend itself and protect its security. The best way to do this is to ensure that weapons cannot reach Gaza whilst allowing into Gaza the items of ordinary daily life.”
French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner (he, Blair and other EU officials reliably staunch Israeli allies) said: “It is the first major progress since the crisis began. But it is not enough.”
The White House called it a “step in the right direction,” and State Department spokesman, Mark Toner, said the Obama administration supports an “expansion of the scope and types of goods into Gaza….while addressing, obviously, Israel’s legitimate security needs” – showing Washington only backs Israel’s bogus gesture, and continues, like Tel Aviv, calling Hamas a terrorist organization, when, in fact, it’s Palestine’s legitimately elected government.
Palestinian Response to the Sham
Hamas spokesman, Sami Abu Zuhri, told Reuters:
“What is needed is a complete lifting of the blockade. Goods and people must be free to enter and leave. Gaza especially needs construction material(s), which must be allowed to come in without restrictions.”
Senior Hamas leaders rejected the plan, Ismail Radwan, calling it a thinly veiled attempt to “relieve the pressure. We in Hamas reject the Zionist decision, which is an attempt to obscure the international decision to completely lift the siege.”
Fatah chief negotiator, Saeb Erakat, called it a “public relations ploy,” saying Mahmoud Abbas “demands the complete lifting of the siege….He believes there are no partial solutions.” He also wants it on his terms under his authority as chief Israeli enforcer. Otherwise, he opposes lifting, following orders from Tel Aviv and Washington.
Sari Bashi, director of the Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement said:
“The restrictions on goods into and out of Gaza are instituted not for security reasons, but rather as part of a declared policy to restrict the movement of people and goods as a means of applying pressure on the Hamas regime. The express purpose….is to block all economic activity in Gaza. So the real question is whether Israel will abandon this policy – immediately or in the near future – or whether it will continue to aspire to block economic activity, but simply let in a few more consumer goods.”
In a June 17 press release, Gisha headlined, “We don’t need more lists, we need to end ‘economic warfare,’ ” saying:
“The time has come for Israel to ask serious questions about how three years of closure (have) affect(ed)….1.5 million people whose right to travel and to engage in productive work have been denied. We don’t need cosmetic changes.”
What’s needed is unconditional free in and out movement, and world community censure of Israeli policy, economic warfare, and its ploy about fearing weapons imports and other security concerns. Under international law, Israel, as an occupying power, is responsible for the population’s welfare, including the free passage of food, medical supplies, clothing, and other essential items.
Even after rejecting Gaza’s occupation status, Israel’s High Court ruled that its government bears responsibility for the welfare of its people – because of continuing conflict, its military control of border crossings, and the Strip’s dependence on Israeli goods and services like fuel and electricity. No longer are half measures acceptable or Israel’s bogus justifications.
In addition, an independent investigation of Israel’s premeditated Freedom Flotilla attack is essential. No longer can its international law violations be tolerated, including repeated crimes against peace, the most serious of all.
Israel must be held accountable, the view Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) President, Mevlut Cavusoglu, expressed in a June 13 Today’s Zaman interview, explaining that Israel had violated core human rights principles embraced by the organization, saying they’d be consequences at the end of June summer session, adding:
“The Council of Europe and its Parliamentary Assembly value the rule of law, human rights and democracy. Israel was committed to these values (as seen) by signing up to be an observing member. But, with this raid in open waters, it violated a number of values espoused by this body.”
“This crisis with Israel will hamper our efforts in our Partnership for Democracy project and curtail efforts at dialogue in the Subcommittee on the Middle East. (The) attack came as a shock to us. We had to respond. Both the term president, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and I issued statements condemning this attack in international waters.”
In its June 21 – 25 session, PACE will address the attack, its Political Affairs Committee already planning an emergency summer meeting, a report to follow, Cavusoglu adding that:
“This is not a problem between Israel and Turkey. There were citizens in the aid flotilla from over 30 countries and ships flying the flags of many countries. It also happened in open waters, and civilians got killed. This was an act of piracy and violated international law.”
Update on New Flotillas
On June 17, the International Middle East Media Center (IMEMC) headlined, “Aid Ship Sets Sail From Iran Bound for Gaza,” saying:
An International Red Crescent Society organized Iranian Flotilla, funded by private donors, “departed from Iran bound for Gaza, with another ship planning to join it by the weekend.”
Last year during Cast Lead, another Iranian ship tried to enter Gaza, “but was turned back (not attacked) by the Israeli military while still in international waters.” The IDF, however, “threatened to engage (this) ship” while still in international waters, yet an attack seems unlikely given the world outrage over the May 31 one.
Washington’s response was unsurprising, State Department spokesman, PJ Crowley, saying America is very concerned about Iranian ships as Israel earlier “intercepted (some) that were carrying, you know, weapons and armaments that have been used to threaten the Israeli people,” even though no evidence supports the accusation.
The “Israeli government has (never) presented a case in which it captured ships with weapons bound for Gaza,” these accusations, like others, exposed as lies.
On June 8, Law Professor Jonathan Turley revealed fake Israeli video showing a cash of heavy weapons on the Mavi Marmara as justifiable evidence for the attack. Supposedly found were mortars, artillery shells, bazookas, and a million euros intended for Hamas. It was bogus, Israeli propaganda, but was “widely distributed as (proof) of why the IDF Naval commandos were dispatched to intercept the six vessels including the M/S Mavi Marmara.”
The Flotilla carried no weapons, not even light arms, the entire cargo comprised of food, medicines, toys, educational materials, and other essential items. Turley referred to “a conscious misinformation campaign,” those circulating the video knowing it was fake.
Like past aid vessels, the Iranian ones are carrying humanitarian aid, no weapons of any kind, verified by inspections before departure. “Passengers and crew say that any attempts by the Israeli government to claim (otherwise) would be a complete fabrication.”
On June 17, Sifynews.com headlined, “More international flotillas headed for Gaza Strip,” saying:
“Ships from several countries, including Iran and Lebanon, have reportedly left or are planning to leave (for) Gaza in defiance of an Israeli maritime blockade on that territory” – a land one as well not mentioned.
Sifynews reported several Iranian ships are involved and two Lebanese ones:
– the Naj Al Ali, sponsored by Journalists without Borders and Free Palestine “with at least 50 journalists and 25 European volunteers on board, including European parliament members;” and
– “an all-women’s ship, the Mariam.”
In addition, many others are planned from a number of countries, including more from the Turkish based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Aid (IHH), bogusly called an extremist Islamic terrorist organization, when, in fact, it provides humanitarian aid “to spread justice and good….fight(s) violation(s) of anyone’s basic liberties and human rights (and) perpetuat(es) good anytime and anywhere.”
According to the IrishTimes.com on June 16, IHH “told members of the European Parliament it had assembled (another) six ships for the next flotilla and put out an appeal for others to join.” It plans to sail the second half of July, and invited the international media to inspect all goods to “demonstrate their commitment to total transparency.”
Richard Howlitt, a British European Parliament MP, organized the group’s Strasbourg press conference, saying the EU is obligated to ensure safe passage and respect for humanitarian law next time, then adding:
“If this terrible tragedy tips the balance so that the international community finally insists on full and unhindered humanitarian access to Gaza, then some good can still come of it,” he said, referring to the Mavi Marmara massacre.
These and other flotillas will maintain pressure until the siege is entirely lifted, partial measures no longer will be tolerated, nor should they ever be.
A Final Comment
On June 17, Ma’an News Agency headlined “Fatah: Israel plans to separate West Bank from Gaza,” saying:
“Fatah said Israel aims at cutting off the Gaza Strip from the West Bank and ‘end the Palestinian national project,” according to party spokesman Ahmad Assaf. Whether or not Abbas goes along is unclear. What is clear is that he’s no friend of beleaguered Palestinians.
Neither is Congress, several prominent members (including Charles Rangel, Anthony Weiner, Carolyn Maloney, Jerry Nadler, Eliot Engel, and Janis Shorenstein), asking the State Department to prohibit all Flotilla members from entering America, wanting them investigated for terrorist ties.
Media Matters’ senior foreign policy fellow, MJ Rosenberg, cites Washington officials wanting Turkey kicked out of NATO, saying:
“The government, the (Israeli) lobby, the neocons, and their acolytes in the media, have decided that Turkey needs to be punished for its opposition to the Gaza blockade and its role in the flotilla ‘fiasco.’ ”
“The word is going out. Turkey is no friend of Israel, no friend of Jews, and has become, yes, a Muslim state that cares about its fellow Muslims in Gaza,” – again saying “Rep. Anthony Weiner takes the prize” for displaying extreme hostility, then adding:
“Anyone who questions just how far the lobby will go in defense of the Netanyahu government’s policies has their answer.”
Nor is there any doubt how closely aligned the Obama administration is with Israel, public statements about a rift misguided and out-of-touch, and the same holds for Canada, the point Eves Yngler makes in his book, “Canada and Israel: Building Apartheid.”
Since Israel’s 1948 creation, Canada, like America, has been a loyal ally, not an “honest broker” on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, then or now, and the reason outspoken professors like University of Ottawa’s Denis Rancourt got fired, despite his stature, tenure, and heroic commitment human rights and democratic values, ones neither Canada or America champion, uphold or defend.
No wonder that Prime Minister Stephen Harper called on New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Libby Davies to resign as her party’s deputy leader for saying Israel’s occupation is the longest in the world, then adding: “People are suffering. I’ve been to the West Bank and Gaza twice so I’ve seen for myself what’s going on.”
In response, Harper said:
“Mr. Speaker, this is a fundamental denial of Israel’s right to exist.” That and more from others in parliament, the way US politicians defend the most outrageous Israeli crimes, denouncing their victims as terrorists.
It’s why champions of human rights can’t rest, nor should they ever compromise on right v. wrong issues, especially when it comes to Israel or its Washington paymaster/partner.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.