Gaza not Represented in Blockade Whitewash

freegaza-1-1

Stuart Littlewood

Warped “inquiry” invites mega-mischief

“Israel faces a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. The naval blockade was imposed as a legitimate security measure in order to prevent weapons from entering Gaza by sea and its implementation complied with the requirements of international law… the flotilla acted recklessly in attempting to breach the naval blockade.”

That’s the conclusion of the Palmer inquiry, brought to you by that freak-show the United Nation, under its Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

It’s completely at odds with what other experts have said. The UN itself has already accepted that Israel’s blockade is illegal. One of its own fact-finding missions declared that it constituted collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus was illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The action by Israel’s military in intercepting the Mavi Marmara on the high seas was “clearly unlawful” and couldn’t be justified even under Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations [the right of self-defence]. “No case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal”.

The Centre for Constitutional Rights also concluded that the Israeli blockade was illegal. “Due both to the legal nature of Israel’s relationship to Gaza – that of occupier – and the impact of the blockade on the civilian population, amounting to ‘collective punishment’, the blockade cannot be reconciled with the principles of international law, including international humanitarian law… The flotilla did not seek to travel to Israel, let alone ‘attack’ Israel… Israel could have diplomatically engaged Turkey, arranged for a third party to verify there were no weapons onboard and then peacefully guided the vessel to Gaza.”

Craig Murray also knows a thing or two about such matters, having headed the Maritime Section of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. He was responsible for giving political and legal clearance to Royal Navy boarding operations in the Persian Gulf following the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, to enforce the UN authorised blockade against Iraqi weapons shipments. He commented: “Right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas… Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.”

But, he explains, San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. “Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict… San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.”

Furthermore, Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) emphasizes “the need to ensure sustained and regular flow of goods and people through the Gaza crossings” and calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”. Israel has imposed a land blockade for decades and until very recently had a hand in keeping Gaza’s land crossing with Egypt closed. The 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel is also ignored. So the only sensible channel for “unimpeded provision and distribution” is by sea.

Panel “cannot make definitive findings”

The Terms of Reference for the inquiry handed down by Ban Ki-Moon set out a ‘method of work’, which is described in the report this way…

    “The Panel is not a court. It was not asked to make determinations of the legal issues or to adjudicate on liability…
    “The Panel was required to obtain its information from the two nations primarily involved in its inquiry, Turkey and Israel, and other affected States….  the limitation is important. It means that the Panel cannot make definitive findings either of fact or law. The information for the Panel’s work came primarily through its interactions with the Points of Contact designated by Israel and Turkey.”

So it could not summon individuals or approach individuals or organizations direct. It could only do so through the Points of Contact designated by Israel and Turkey. “The legal views of Israel and Turkey are no more authoritative or definitive than our own. A Commission of Inquiry is not a court any more than the Panel is. The findings of a Commission of Inquiry bind no one, unlike those of a court. So the legal issues at large in this matter have not been authoritatively determined by the two States involved and neither can they be by the Panel.”

The 4-man panel included a representative each from the governments of Turkey and Israel, and was headed by Sir Geoffrey Palmer (Chair) and Alvaro Uribe, 58th president of Colombia. Palmer was the 33rd prime minister of New Zealand if that’s any consolation.

Note the absence of anyone to represent the views of the party targeted by the blockade. Ban Ki-Moon didn’t think it necessary to invite someone from (horror of horrors) the government of Gaza. Can you imagine, if the tables were turned, the merry hell Israel would kick up if not represented on an inquiry about the legality of a blockade on one of its ports?

Limited to this, couldn’t do that… Ban Ki-Moon’s inquiry was warped from the start. “This Panel is unique. Its methods of inquiry are similarly unique,” says the report, slitting its own throat.

Key passages from Palmer’s nonsensical 105 pages speak for themselves:

    “The naval blockade is often discussed in tandem with the Israeli restrictions on the land crossings to Gaza. However, in the Panel’s view, these are in fact two distinct concepts… the land crossings policy has been in place since long before the naval blockade was instituted. In particular, the tightening of border controls between Gaza and Israel came about after the take-over of Hamas in Gaza in June 2007. On the other hand, the naval blockade was imposed more than a year later, in January 2009. Second, Israel has always kept its policies on the land crossings separate from the naval blockade. The land restrictions have fluctuated in intensity over time but the naval blockade has not been altered since its imposition. Third, the naval blockade as a distinct legal measure was imposed primarily to enable a legally sound basis for Israel to exert control over ships attempting to reach Gaza with weapons and related goods.
    “Israel has faced and continues to face a real threat to its security from militant groups in Gaza. Rockets, missiles and mortar bombs have been launched from Gaza towards Israel since 2001. More than 5,000 were fired between 2005 and January 2009, when the naval blockade was imposed. Hundreds of thousands of Israeli civilians live in the range of these attacks…. Since 2001 such attacks have caused more than 25 deaths and hundreds of injuries. The enormity of the psychological toll on the affected population cannot be underestimated. In addition, there have been substantial material losses. The purpose of these acts of violence, which have been repeatedly condemned by the international community, has been to do damage to the population of Israel. It seems obvious enough that stopping these violent acts was a necessary step for Israel to take in order to protect its people and to defend itself.”

Did they never consider the most obvious step of all – ending their illegal occupation?

    “The Israeli report to the Panel makes it clear that the naval blockade as a measure of the use of force was adopted for the purpose of defending its territory and population, and the Panel accepts that was the case.
     “Although a blockade by definition imposes a restriction on all maritime traffic… the Panel is not persuaded that the naval blockade was a disproportionate measure for Israel to have taken in response to the threat it faced.
    “The Panel considers the conflict should be treated as an international one for the purposes of the law of blockade. This takes foremost into account Israel’s right to self-defence against armed attacks from outside territory.”

What about Gaza’s right to similarly defend its territory and population? It sounds like the Panel regards Gaza and the West Bank as the aggressor.

    “It would be illegal if its imposition [i.e. the blockade] was intended to starve or to collectively punish the civilian population. However, there is no material before the Panel that would permit a finding confirming the allegations that Israel had either of those intentions or that the naval blockade was imposed in retaliation for the take-over of Hamas in Gaza or otherwise. On the contrary, it is evident that Israel had a military objective. The stated primary objective of the naval blockade was for security. It was to prevent weapons, ammunition, military supplies and people from entering Gaza and to stop Hamas operatives sailing away from Gaza with vessels filled with explosives… The earliest maritime interception operations to prevent weapons smuggling to Gaza predated the 2007 take-over of Hamas in Gaza. The actual naval blockade was imposed more than one year after that event. These factors alone indicate it was not imposed to punish its citizens for the election of Hamas.”

A catalogue of distortion

There are several things wrong with these assertions. Israel’s unending acts of violence have also been repeatedly condemned by the international community and there’s a string of UN resolutions to prove it. But they are never implemented.

Israel slapped a naval blockade on Gaza long before January 2009. Israeli gunboats were shelling Gaza and shooting up Gazan fishing boats in 2007 when I was there. An Interim Agreement signed in 1995 allowed the Israelis to weave a tangled web of security zoning in Gaza’s coastal waters and to dictate what happens off-shore and who comes and goes. It’s the sort of agreement no Palestinian would have signed except with a gun to his head.

Being “interim” these restrictions were not expected to last beyond 1999. But they are still in force. They predate rockets from Gaza, speaking of which why doesn’t Palmer, instead of trotting out details of these home-made missiles, tell us how many Israeli bombs, rockets, shells and prohibited ordnance have been fired at the Gazan population by Israeli jets, tanks and warships? Palmer talks about the 25 Israeli deaths and hundreds of injuries and “the enormity of the psychological toll” on the Israeli population. Regrettable as those casualties are, they are nothing compared with the mega-deaths and countless thousands maimed, the wholesale destruction of infrastructure and the psychological toll inflicted by Israel on the Gazans.

The people of Gaza couldn’t care less whether Israel keeps its policies on land and naval blockades “separate”. It’s the combined effect that counts.

As for the claim that the primary purpose of the blockade is security, the Panel clearly hasn’t studied the Wikileaks cables from 2008, one of which reads: “As part of their overall embargo plan against Gaza, Israeli officials have confirmed to (U.S. embassy economic officers) on multiple occasions that they intend to keep the Gazan economy on the brink of collapse without quite pushing it over the edge.” Israel wanted it “functioning at the lowest level possible consistent with avoiding a humanitarian crisis”.

And according to documents released under a Freedom of Information petition by Gisha, an Israeli law centre, Israel operated “a policy of deliberate reduction” of basic goods in the Gaza Strip. Gisha’s director accused Israel of “paralyzing normal life in Gaza”. The documents confirmed that the siege was not for security reasons but aimed at keeping Gazans at near-starvation level. Since around half the population are growing children this act of collective punishment has meant that hundreds of thousands are undernourished.

The Panel might have asked why, since no rockets have been fired from the West Bank, the shredded remains of that part of Palestinian territory is still under occupation, blockade and cruel restriction?

Palmer, Uribe and Ban Ki-Moon need to wake up to Israel’s never-ending campaign of disinformation. Palmer for example repeatedly refers to “the takeover of Gaza” by Hamas when Hamas, as everyone else knows, was democratically elected.

    “It is Hamas that is firing the projectiles into Israel or is permitting others to do so.  The Panel considers the conflict should be treated as an international one for the purposes of the law of blockade. This takes foremost into account Israel’s right to self-defence against armed attacks from outside its territory.”

There’s nothing about Gaza’s right to self-defence or even self-preservation. Then this warning…

    “Once a blockade has been lawfully established, it needs to be understood that the blockading power can attack any vessel breaching the blockade if after prior warning the vessel intentionally and clearly refuses to stop or intentionally and clearly resists visit, search or capture. There is no right within those rules to breach a lawful blockade as a right of protest. Breaching a blockade is therefore a serious step involving the risk of death or injury.
    “Given that risk, it is in the interests of the international community to actively discourage attempts to breach a lawfully imposed blockade.

“The imposition of a blockade involves the use of force, which can only be employed in the exercise of a right of self-defence. Measures taken by States in the exercise of their right of self-defence are required under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter to be notified to the Security Council.”

Occupier is the victim of resistance?

So Palmer’s bizarre re-framing of the situation – that the illegal occupier Israel is the victim of the Palestinians’ lawful resistance and that Israel’s security must be given priority over everyone else’s – will have given Tel Aviv something to smirk about. Worse, it gives Israel and its stooges around the world reason to think they have a green light for imposing a permanent blockade, for Israel will always dream up bogus threats to its security.

But the Palmer report, surely, cuts both ways. By the same token it gives the green light to Palestine, if ever it obtains the weaponry to impose a blockade of its own, and to Lebanon, Syria, Iran and maybe Free Egypt to play the naval blockade game against Israel, whose unsupervised nuclear arsenal, scant respect for international law and liking for armed trespass pose a much greater threat to the region than random garden-shed rockets from Gaza ever did.

And what does this whitewash mean for the Palestinians’ UN bid for statehood? Is the newly fledged state to begin its young life with a land and sea blockade in place because Palmer and Uribe say it’s all legal and above-board and Israel’s security comes first? Let us not forget that the West Bank and East Jerusalem are under blockade too.

The Turkish representative on the panel, Mr. Süleyman Özdem Sanberk, has rightly dissociated himself from some of Palmer’s key ‘findings': “On the legal aspect of the blockade, Turkey and Israel have submitted two opposing arguments. International legal authorities are divided on the matter since it is unprecedented, highly complex and the legal framework lacks codification. However, the Chairmanship and its report fully associated itself with Israel and categorically dismissed the views of the other, despite the fact that the legal arguments presented by Turkey have been supported by the vast majority of the international community. Common sense and conscience dictate that the blockade is unlawful.

“Also the UN Human Rights Council concluded that the blockade was unlawful. The Report of the Human Rights Council Fact Finding Mission received widespread approval from the member states.

“Freedom and safety of navigation on the high seas is a universally accepted rule of international law. There can be no exception from this long-standing principle unless there is a universal convergence of views.”

The Palmer report deserves condemnation and is getting it. Such dangerous tripe belongs in the wastepaper basket. At the outset the inquiry Panel said it couldn’t make definitive findings and was not competent to determine the legal issues, yet it immediately set about concocting its own distorted judgement based especially on the dubious legal views of Israel, which it admitted are “no more authoritative or definitive than our own”.

So what is the Secretary-General’s mischievous game in setting this up?

As if we didn’t know…

 

Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood

Stuart Littlewood is an industrial marketing specialist turned writer-photographer. In 2005 he was invited to write and shoot pictures for a book about the plight of the Palestinians under occupation. ‘Radio Free Palestine’ was published in 2007. For details please see www.radiofreepalestine.co.uk.

  • The Author is a regular contributor to RamallahOnline.com. Find more Articles by Stuart Littlewood on RamallahOnline.

Tony Blair says yes to Israeli obsession with control + supervision

Gaza Bread Crisis (Photo: Sameh Habeeb Jan 2009)

Marian Houk, 22 June 2010

If anyone failed to understand the ever-so-careful language in the Quartet statement issued on Monday [following the Israeli cabinet pronouncements on Sunday] Tony Blair spelled it out perfectly clearly in an interview published in part on Tuesday [the rest is promised for later in the week] with the Jerusalem Post’s David Horovitz and Herb Keinon.

Gaza Bread Crisis (Photo: Sameh Habeeb Jan 2009)

Gaza Bread Crisis (Photo: Sameh Habeeb Jan 2009)

First, a re-cap of a particularly relevant portion of the Quartet statement issued yesterday: The Quartet said it “recognizes that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must continue to be safeguarded, and believes efforts to maintain security while enabling movement and access for Palestinian people and goods are critical. The Quartet commits to work with Israel and the international community to prevent the illicit trafficking of arms and ammunition into Gaza. It urges all those wishing to deliver goods to do so through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via land crossings into Gaza. The Quartet emphasizes that there is no need for unnecessary confrontations and calls on all parties to act responsibly in meeting the needs of the people of Gaza”.

Now, here is what the Jerusalem Post reported after speaking to Tony Blair:

“Anyone thinking of organizing an aid flotilla for Gaza should instead utilize the legitimate existing land crossings, where Israel is now lifting restrictions on civilian goods, Quartet envoy Tony Blair said on Monday. ‘If we implement this policy so that the things that people are trying to bring in by flotilla you can bring in through the legitimate existing crossings, do it that way’, Blair urged in an interview with The Jerusalem Post. ‘That is the more sensible way to do that’ … Blair, who played a central role in working with the government to reverse the three-year policy of restricting civilian goods entering Gaza, emphatically endorsed the Israeli security concerns that underpin the ongoing naval blockade. ‘Where I divide from some others in the international community is that I think that Israel has got a genuine security concern that it is entitled to meet’, said the former British prime minister. ‘For me, the fact that Israel says, ‘Look, we’re not going to allow things into the [Gaza] seaport, but you can bring them to Ashdod, and we can check them, and then they can come on to Gaza,’ I think that is a reasonable position. What you can’t justify is saying that basic foodstuffs and household items can’t go into Gaza … My argument was and always has been that there is a very clear distinction, the only distinction in the end you can sensibly justify, between the security needs of Israel and [the] daily life [needs of Gazans]‘ … Blair said he would now be exploring the possibility of bringing PA forces to help oversee land crossings into Gaza, and restoring the EU’s role at the Rafah crossing. “Improving the conditions of people in Gaza by whatever means is helpful to the overall cause,” he said … (The full interview with Tony Blair will appear in the Post later this week.)” This is reported in the JPost here.

By the way, what does he mean by “the overall cause” ???

And, could somebody please explain how, and on what grounds — given that it continues to insist, in defiance of all evidence the contrary, to that Gaza is no longer Israeli-occupied — Israel can justify its insistence on maintaining absolute ultimate control over everything that goes in and out of the Gaza Strip [except, of course, via the tunnels -- a policy, also by the way, that some Palestinians predict, will be coming soon in the West Bank, too]?

Or, is this just a far worse form of occupation — in which many others [starting with the Quartet] are also collaborating?

And one other question: would Tony Blair speak in the same tongue to a Palestinian publication?

Source:UN-Turth

Israeli blockade: Pasta YES, People NO

Photo by AFP

Sherine Tadros, 21 June 2010

What should we make of Israel’s change in strategy towards the Gaza blockade?

It really depends on what you see as the aim – saving face amidst intense international (Turkish and US) pressure or allowing people in Gaza to live a normal life.

Not only is it clear that it is the former not the latter (otherwise why not let people leave the Strip?) but through a change in semantics, Israel has managed to checkmate the world.

Photo by AFP

In the lead-up to what became Israel’s Freedom Flotilla PR disaster, a debate erupted as to the arbitrary and ambiguous nature with which goods are allowed into Gaza.

In the press conferences I attended days before the flotilla’s arrival, journalists grilled the army on why there was seemingly no logic behind what is let in – one journalist friend of mine remarked that while pasta was sometimes allowed through, gluten-free pasta was disallowed. It didn’t make sense, and more importantly authorities were increasingly finding it hard to explain (and justify) the policy.

With the decision to publish a list of prohibited items (rather than the ever-changing, inconsistent list of allowed goods) should come a debate on what the endgame of the Gaza siege is for Israel.

Former ministers and commentators have blamed Ehud Barak, the defence minister, as well as Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, for this “pasta and coriander” policy, which made a mockery out of the idea of a blockade on what Israel insists are security grounds.

Progress, really?

Put these small grumblings aside and Israel has done what Israel does best in defining what “progress” entails on its terms.

The siege on Gaza is illegal under international law – 1.7 million civilians not allowed to exit a plot of land that has become one of the poorest and congested places in the world.

Yet Israel’s decision to allow in a few more types of goods (with caveats) is hailed as progress by an American administration also desperate to start seeing positive signs in this part of the world.

Maybe this is a sceptical point of view, maybe we should see this as a step in the right direction, or maybe we should realise that by worsening the situation to crisis point, anything short of war is now considered progress.

Perhaps we should aim higher and the world should demand more of Israel. Just like they can ease the siege, they can end it too.

A ‘legitimate’ blockade

What the change in policy also does is legitimise the illegal blockade – giving it official status now endorsed by the Quartet and the Americans separately.

By changing it from a “civilian” blockade to a “military” one, in one stroke Israel pacified the international community and gained their approval (or at least a nod) for its continuing policy in Gaza.

But even if more goods are let in, even if the UN is finally able to finish its projects in the Strip, even if the land crossings start working efficiently and for longer hours – the people of Gaza are still under the whim of Israel’s decisions and 1.7 million people cannot leave.

For people there, this is often what they will tell you is the most difficult aspect of life under siege – entrapment and lack of control over the simplest of things like whether fresh meat will be available in Gaza tomorrow.

The naval blockade is still in place, exports are not allowed so the economy cannot recover, people are still trapped by air land and sea and Gazans are still 100 per cent reliant on Israel to survive. The new “military” blockade looks an awful lot like the old one, and it’s the “civilians” that bare the brunt of the siege, whatever name it goes by.

Source: aljazeera

B’tselem: Gaza, 95% of factories are closed, 93% of water is polluted

Gaza Siege food handouts

Most of Gaza’s factories have closed and its water is polluted as a result of Israel’s siege policy, according to a new report being released today by the Israeli Human Rights group – B’tselem.

The siege policy has “led to economic collapse in Gaza,” B’tselem noted in a 44-page report (PDF) that looked at Gaza, the West Bank and east Jerusalem during the period from January 2009 to the end of April 2010.

Following is a summery of this report:

  • The prohibition on bringing in raw materials and exports into Gaza, which has been in place since Hamas’s takeover of the Strip in June 2007, forced 95 percent of the factories and workshops in the area to close.
  • Before 2007, 4,000 types of goods were let into Gaza, compared with less than 150 that come in now. Among the restricted items are building materials such as iron and cement, which are needed to rebuild the 3,500 homes destroyed during last Israeli assault on Gaza – Operation Cast Lead.
  • The quantity of goods that comes through the crossings is less than one-quarter of what entered prior to the siege.
  • Before 2007, 70 trucks laden with export goods such as furniture, clothing and produce left Gaza daily for Israel. Now, only the export of strawberries and flowers to Europe is allowed in “certain instances”. Goods are coming into Gaza through a system of tunnels set up under the border with Egypt, although the system is not enough to revive Gaza’s economy.
  • Electricity is a problem in Gaza. 98% of the residents suffer from blackouts ranging from eight to ten hours a day, while the remaining 2% do not receive any electricity at all.
  • The power outages due to lack of fuel and spare parts have prevented the proper operation of wells and desalination plants.
  • At the end of 2009, studies showed that 93% percent of the Gaza Strip’s water was polluted, with high quantities of chloride and nitrates.
  • “The water supply is defective and thousands of residents are not even connected to the water grid. Waste treatment has also been affected. Every day, some 100,000 cubic meters of untreated or partially untreated waste-water flow into the sea.”
  • A lack of pesticides and spare parts for irrigation systems makes it hard for farmers. Those with land near the border with Israel can no longer farm because access is forbidden or restricted, and those who violate these orders risk being shot.
  • Fisherman cannot go out farther than three nautical miles, which limits the Strip’s fish supply.
  • The number of Palestinian fatalities at the hands of the IOF dropped from 456 in 2008 to 83 from January 21, 2009, through the end of April 2010. These numbers do not include Palestinian deaths that occurred during Operation Cast Lead.
  • The report noted that Israel demolitions had continued in Area C of the West Bank, where from January 2009 to the end of April 2010, the occupation forces had destroyed 44 residential structures. The demolitions left 317 Palestinians homeless.
  • In 2009, the Jerusalem Municipality demolished 48 buildings in east Jerusalem. The demolitions left 247 Palestinians homeless.
  • The report notes that the IOF had not stop building settlements and no outposts been removed.
  • According to the report, very few IOF or police investigations into allegations of wrongdoing against Palestinians had actually lead to convictions. From the start of the second intifada in September 2000 to the end of April 2010, B’tselem reported 255 cases of violence to the military advocate-general’s office. Only 11 indictments were filed, and one of those was canceled.
  • During that same period, B’tselem turned to the Justice Ministry’s Police Investigation Department concerning 180 cases of violence, but only 12 indictments were filed.
  • Since September 2000, B’tselem has submitted 220 complaints to the Israel Police, demanding investigations of cases where Israelis harmed Palestinians or damaged their property. Only nine of these complaints resulted in indictments.

B’tselem executive director Jessica Montell said that the report was being released to mark “the 43rd anniversary” of the end of the Six Day War, which marked “the beginning” of Israel’s occupation.

“The ongoing occupation both violates” Palestinian rights and “poses clear dangers for Israel’s democracy,” Montell said. “For this reason we as Israelis must demand accountability for actions taken in our name in the occupied territories and work to change in policies that infringe human rights.”

Big cracks in the walls of Israeli propaganda

Israeli separation barrier at Abu Dis, June 2004 (en wikipedia where it was uploaded as own work)

Mazin Qumsiyeh

Israeli separation barrier at Abu Dis, June 2004 (en wikipedia where it was uploaded as own work)

The story that Israel wants to go away but that is critical to tell…

Release of smuggled video from the Mavi Marimara
http://vimeo.com/12429821
http://www.democracynow.org/2010/6/10/exclusive_journalist_smuggles_out_video_of
Press conference held at the UN 10 June 2010 to release the one hour video smuggled out
http://www.culturesofresistance.org/UN-press-conference
and there are other videos showing Israeli commanders obviously not under any threat shooting point blank at passengers who are down.  Here the soldier empties four bullets into the head of a 19 year old US citizen and still the US refuses an independent investigation (or at least demand Israel return all confiscated cameras and video and photos)
http://dunyabulteni.net/news_detail.php?id=117339

Israel hasbara fails again: Photos show Mavi Marmara passengers protecting, aiding Israeli soldiers http://aliabunimah.posterous.com/blog-post-israel-hasbara-fails-again-pics-sho

Reporters Without Borders: As Turkish photographer is buried, other journalists aboard flotilla speak out http://en.rsf.org/israel-as-turkish-photographer-is-buried-09-06-2010,37701.html
And more survivor testimony http://www.freegaza.org/boat-trips/survivor-testimonies
And a Chilling testimony of a survivor from the massacre
http://blogs.aljazeera.net/middle-east/2010/06/06/kidnapped-israel-forsaken-britain
And Dr. Paul Larudee on ‘The Price of Defying Israel ‘: I was one of those who chose to defy Israeli forces when they attacked and took our Freedom Flotilla ships that were trying to deliver desperately needed humanitarian aid to civilian organizations in the Israeli blockaded Gaza Strip…
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paul-larudee/the-price-of-defying-isra_b_607977.html

Must read document which demolishes Israel’s legal basis for blockade, attack, exclusion zone…http://www.lphr.org.uk/FlotilliaIL_QA/LPHR_FlotilliaIL_QA.pdf

Roger Waters  (Pink Floyd) says it all: We shall overcome
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vnMMHepfYVc

Liberal PEPs Trash Helen Thomas While Ignoring Flotilla Deaths
http://wallwritings.wordpress.com/2010/06/10/liberal-peps-trash-helen-thomas-while-ignoring-flotilla-deaths/

Israel Navy reserves officers wrote a letter contradicting the Israeli official version and calling to ‘Allow external Gaza flotilla probe” http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-navy-reserves-officers-allow-external-gaza-flotilla-probe-1.294536

The rogue state of Israel (with backing by Israeli occupied Washington) refuses to return or release the videos and photos taken by passengers (or even full videos taken by their own military instead of the doctored short clips) and refuses an International impartial investigation. Instead, the Israeli military just announced forming a military investigative committee to take some ‘operational lessons’.  The chief criminal, IDF Chief of Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi appointed Maj-Gen (ret.) Giora Eiland to head this ‘inquest’. Who is Giora Eiland? The NY Times had this interesting quote:

The Israeli theory of what it tried to do here[in Gaza by killing 1400 people mostly civilians]  is summed up in a Hebrew phrase heard across Israel and throughout the military in the past weeks: “baal habayit hishtageya,” or “the boss has lost it.” It evokes the image of a madman who cannot be controlled. “This phrase means that if our civilians are attacked by you, we are not going to respond in proportion but will use all means we have to cause you such damage that you will think twice in the future,” said Giora Eiland, a former national security adviser.
http://www.nytimes.com/2009/01/19/world/middleeast/19assess.html?_r=1&scp=5&sq=Giora+Eiland&st=nyt

This is like Hitler appointing Eichman to look into operational lessons from Auchwitz.  And yet, Mahmoud Abbas tells Zionist lobbyists in Washington in a cordial meeting that he recognizes Jewish rights to our land and puts Israeli security on the top of his agenda. Meanwhile decent people here at the local level confront Israeli soldiers daily (despite objections from the ‘Palestinian Authority’). Yesterday confrontations and arrests happened in several towns.  Here in the Bethlehem area, you can join us in Beit Jala every Sunday at 11:30 AM (Cremsan road). And decent people internationally are engaging in boycotts, divestments, and sanctions (critical tools to end this apartheid)

Take Action in the USA:
http://endtheoccupation.org/article.php?list=type&type=345
http://capwiz.com/adc/issues/alert/?alertid=15130406&queueid=[capwiz:queue_id]

Mazin Qumsiyeh, PhD
A Bedouin in Cyberspace, a villager at home
http://www.qumsiyeh.org
Professor, Bethlehem and Birzeit Universities
Chairman of the Board, Palestinian Center for Rapprochement Between People, http://www.pcr.ps

They’re Coming: Freedom Flotilla Two and Others Planned

MV Mavi Marmara leaving Antalya for Gaza on May 22, 2010

Stephen Lendman, June 11th, 2010

The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) is “an umbrella body” of 34 European human rights and humanitarian organizations supporting the right of Palestinians “to live in peace and dignity,” to be free from occupation, and to have “their own independent and sovereign state, (and) encourages all peoples of conscience and human rights advocates to intensify their efforts to highlight this life-theatening issue and end the catastrophe.”

On its June 6 web site posting (savegaza.eu), ECESG reported that preparations for an even larger Freedom Flotilla Two are well advanced, and will be launched in the coming weeks, saying their mission is humanitarian, and others will keep coming until the siege is lifted and aid can enter freely.

Its members helped organize Freedom Flotilla One along with Free Gaza Movement (FG), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), Ship to Gaza Greece, and Ship to Gaza Sweden. ECESG says that if governments won’t help, activist groups like them and others will keep working until justice for Palestinians is achieved.

It condemned the Freedom Flotilla 1 massacre, the appalling propaganda that followed, explained that more missions are coming, and said funding for “the first three ships” of Freedom Flotilla Two has been gotten, Campaign president Arafat Madi saying:

“The extensive calls are taking place to launch a new fleet to the Gaza Strip, involving many ships that will be carrying on board more aid and more peace activists than Freedom 1 which was carrying (10,000) tons of aid and hundreds of peace activists from more than forty countries around the world.”

Other Aid Missions Planned

The Iranian Red Crescent Society is part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, comprised of 186 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

On June 7, it announced it will send three aid ships to Gaza “by the end of the week,” two with humanitarian supplies, the other with volunteer Iranian relief workers, and a plane with 30 tons of medical equipment. Iranian Red Crescent director Abdolraoof Adibzadeh said it will deliver aid through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing.

On June 1, Egypt opened it, saying it will be “indefinite (and) Additional crews at the harbor are working on carrying out the president’s instructions so that procedures for Palestinians to pass into Egypt can be implemented quickly.” In addition, those with Arab or other passports, students enrolled to study abroad, and medical patients will be granted free passage in and out.

In December 2008, Iran’s Red Crescent sent a ship with food and medicine, then interdicted by Israel’s navy and prevented from reaching Gaza. This time, Iranian ships “reportedly” will escort the flotilla, setting up a possible serious confrontation.

Turkey also promised to send aid, this time with a naval escort and perhaps more after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he’s considering coming to break the siege and show solidarity with besieged Gazans.

Washington is trying to dissuade him. Israel called it a political maneuver. Erdogan perhaps is serious and intends to come. If so along with Turkish warships, it will be a significant development to watch.

Turkey also, along with Brazil, struck a deal with Iran to further process much of its enriched uranium, then return it as fuel rods for a medical research reactor. Erdogan also met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at this week’s Istanbul regional security summit, prompting Council on Foreign Relations member Steven Cook to complain that he’s “running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers (read Washington and Israel) want,” then asked – “How do we keep the Turks in their lane?”

According to Bilgi University Professor Soli Ozel, “The Americans, no matter what they say, cannot get used to a new world where regional powers want to have a say in regional and global politics. This is our neighborhood, and we don’t want trouble. The Americans create havoc, and we are left holding the bag.”

More Still Coming

Egyptian lawmaker, Hazim Farouq, said an Egyptian humanitarian convoy, with political party members, will head for Gaza next Monday, June 14, carrying construction and other materials. On board Freedom Flotilla 1, Farouq said the Arab League was determined to break the siege and open the Rafah Terminal to Gaza.

On June 6, after an extraordinary Arab League session, the Secretary General of the Interim Arab Parliament said a convoy of 44 of its members, accompanied by journalists, plan to break the Gaza siege through the Rafah crossing.

Arab Parliament Speaker, Adnan Omran, said the body will take immediate, urgent action to cut off all forms of overt and covert normalization, stop direct and indirect negotiations, and work to strengthen resistance against Israel.

He emphasized “the need to take urgent action before the competent courts to file lawsuits against the leaders of Israel in favor of freedom and peace activists from around the world, and to document this criminal incident to make these documents irrefutable proof of prosecution.”

The Parliament also condemned Washington’s “justifi(cation of) Israel’s crimes, in particular the attack on the freedom flotilla.” It also dismissed Security Council timidity that “clearly demonstrates bias and lack of credibility” as well as providing Israel cover.

The German-based Jewish Voice for Peace movement said it will send one or more aid ships in July, according to spokesperson Kate Leitrer, saying:

“We have one small craft so far….Getting another boat means more expenses, and we’re discussing this possibility.” On June 6, the Israeli news service, Ynet.news.com, headlined “Jewish flotilla to break Gaza siege,” saying:

Kate Leitrer announced, along with other supplies, it will carry school equipment, candy, and musical equipment with musicians aboard to teach Gazan children how to play.

“Jews have been to Gaza in the past,” Leitrer said, “and they were treated in a friendly manner. We have also talked with them recently, and they are very keen for us to come. We are frightened by what happened on the Marmara, but if you are committed to do good things, you have to act. People were also killed in the fight against fascism.”

Another organization member, Edith Lutz, said many Jews wish to come. “We began in Germany, but many have called us from England, Sweden and the US. There may also be another boat” with us, carrying reporters. Two years ago, Lutz was on the Free Gaza flotilla that arrived safely. She met Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who told her Palestinians have nothing against Jews, just the illegal occupation.

On June 5, the Union for Good (UFG) umbrella organization of over 50 Islamic charities plans a land convoy with food, clothes, shoes, and other supplies it hopes to deliver through Egypt’s Rafah crossing “within a few days,” urging other charitable groups to do the same.

On June 6, British MP and noted anti-war activist George Galloway announced he’s helping organize new land and sea convoys to break the siege, saying:

“After extensive discussion in Istanbul, I can announce that a land convoy will leave Britain shortly after the end of Ramadan in September and travel through Europe, down through Turkey and Syria into Jordan. We will ask the Egyptian government then to ensure passage from the port of Aqaba to Rafah and into Gaza.”

“At exactly the same time, a flotilla of boats will be leaving to tour the countries of the Mediterranean before heading for Gaza. These combined sea and land convoys will be co-ordinated by Viva Palestina with other organizations in Britain and with our friends throughout the Middle East and in Turkey.”

His announcement can be read on his web site: georgegalloway.com, with more information on Freedom Flotilla I.

Global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Momentum Building

New reports keep surfacing in the wake of the Flotilla massacre, including:

— on June 4, South Africa’s Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) announced a motion to declare every municipality in the country “an Apartheid Israel free zone” to ensure “no commercial, academic, cultural, sporting or other linkages whatsoever with the Israeli regime.”

SAMWU also pledged support for the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP). Earlier, its sister union, SATAWU (South Africa Transport and Allied Workers’ Union) refused to handle Israeli goods at South African ports.

A Ynet.news.com/InFact Institute survey showed 40% of Norwegians are already boycotting Israeli products, and Norway’s health minister, Kristin Halvorsen, called for an international boycott on arms sales to Israel, in line with her government’s policy.

The University and College Union, representing about 120,000 teaching and related staff in UK colleges and universities, voted to support BDS efforts against Israel, saying:

The National Executive Committee’s Motion 30 condemned “the failure of the international community to confront the Israeli government over the humanitarian disaster it is continuing to perpetrate in Gaza and the continued development of illegal settlements in the West Bank.”

Other motions also condemned Israel’s longstanding human rights abuses and the international community’s failure to hold its leaders accountable.

The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) called for an emergency June 5 Global BDS Day of Action (observed in New York and elsewhere), the 43rd anniversary of Israel’s Occupation. It also urged pressuring governments to implement arms and trade sanctions, and called on global transport and dock workers as well as unions to refuse to load, offload or in any way handle Israeli made products or shipments to the country.

Jews Against Zionism Condemn the Siege and Flotilla Attack

The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) “strongly condemn(ed) Israel’s barbarous early-morning raid, carried out in international waters, on a maritime humanitarian convoy, during which Israeli soldiers attacked with live ammunition peaceful civilians on board, murdering at least fifteen according to the Israeli army, perhaps many more, and wounding scores.”

IJAN “call(ed) on all governments to end Israel’s impunity, enforce international law and hold Israel accountable for its recurrent violations,” and also asked Jews and civil society everywhere to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and demand the Gaza siege be lifted.

UNWRA Condemnation

On June 7 UNWRA head, Filippo Grandi, appealed for more ships to come, saying he hoped the Flotilla “tragedy will be a turning point,” in calling the Gaza siege “absurd, tragic and totally unacceptable,” adding:

“It is terrible to say this but I hope that the tragedy could be a turning point, a watershed in terms of the blockade. I hope that world leaders, those who make decisions, open their eyes to the suffering of the Palestinians. (The) crisis is much bigger that just humanitarian. This is a crisis that encompasses every aspect of life: access to services, water and sanitation, poverty, the economy. (It affects) Gazans’ physical and mental health, and impoverishing the population in what is also known as the world’s largest outdoor prison.”

Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) Calls for All Nations to Support the Rule of Law and Accountability

During the May 31 – June 11 first Review Conference of the Rome Statute (attended by all State Parties to the International Criminal Court – ICC), PCHR asked all participants “to uphold victims’ rights and seek accountability for international crimes,” saying those most serious must not go unpunished.

Israel long ago proved itself an out-of-control rogue state, and has been unwilling to “genuinely….carry out investigations and prosecutions.” It’s thus up to the international community to do it and hold its officials accountable for their crimes of war and against humanity. The Rome Statute, UN Charter, and other international law demand no less.

“History has shown that as long as Israel is allowed to act with impunity, it will continue to violate international law. It is innocent Palestinian civilians who continue to suffer the horrific consequences.” No longer can this be allowed to stand.

Lawsuits Filed

On June 5, French lawyer, Lillian Glock, filed two lawsuits (in Marseille and Ivory) against Israel, for kidnapping and detention without reason, on behalf of the French charity, the Committee of Charity and Relief for Palestinians. Six of its members were aboard the Flotilla are are suing over Israel’s violence, piracy, and abduction in international waters. According to Glock, the French judiciary has jurisdiction to hear cases brought, so she’ll press ahead with them.

Others are following her example. The European Campaign says enough evidence warrants bringing Israel to international justice, and intends to file lawsuits for acts of violence. According to Amin Abu Rashid:

“The campaign held meetings with a team of lawyers and legal personnel to carry out immediate practical measures to prosecute responsible Israeli officials and soldiers before international courts in the Netherlands for the crimes they committed against the Freedom Flotilla in international waters.”

He expects to bring a strong case charging “crimes against world peace, crimes against humanity, (and) criminal offenses” in light of clear violations of the organizational charters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

Lawyers involved said Israeli military and political officials may be prosecuted, even in absentia, over crimes as grievous under peace as during war.

On June 8, the Palestinian Information Center reported that two Spanish activists, Manuel Tapial and Laura Arau, will file a lawsuit against Israel for attacking the Flotilla.

The Swedish legislature held an emergency Sunday session, discussing actions to take against Israel, one lawmaker saying:

‘How can the world’s countries be obliged to respect the international law if Israel’s violation….was condoned.”

The body also demanded condemnation and global sanctions on Israel in response to its actions. So do 21 regional countries led by Turkey. Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, called Israel’s officials “gangsters.” According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Tel Aviv’s justice ministry is preparing to face a wave of international indictments against Israeli soldiers, senior officers, and government officials. They can’t come a moment too soon.

The Pyrrhic Victory of Jam and Halva

Gisha Logo

Gisha Legal Center for Freedom of Movement

On Monday June 7th, 2010, Israel permitted jam, halva, and shaving razors to enter Gaza, and it has said that it is willing to allow additional foods such as coriander, cardamom, and cookies into Gaza, after banning them for three years.

Gisha is pleased to learn that coriander no longer presents a threat to Israeli security.

However, Israel continues to prevent the transfer of purely civilian goods, such as fabrics, fishing rods, and food wrappers, as part of what it calls “economic warfare” aimed at crippling Gaza’s economy. In doing so, it denies 1.5 million human beings the right to engage in productive, dignified work.

It is not enough to permit Gaza residents to purchase Israeli-made cookies. Israel should stop banning raw materials such as industrial margarine and glucose, so that Gaza residents can produce their own cookies and restart the economy that has been paralyzed for three years.

International law requires Israel to allow the free passage of goods and people into and out of the Gaza Strip, subject only to individual security checks.

Additional details about the Israeli restrictions on goods coming into Gaza are available in a position paper by Gisha, titled: Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and obfuscation and in Gisha’s Frequently Asked Questions on the closure.

A list of permitted and forbidden goods is available on Gisha’s website.

Partial list of Prohibitied & Permittied items allowed in Gaza. (source, Gisa.org)

Frequently Asked Questions: Restrictions on passage of goods into and out of Gaza

1. Isn’t Israel preventing the free movement of goods and raw materials into and out of Gaza because of concrete security threats?

No. Following the Hamas takeover of the Gaza Strip in June 2007, Israel severely limited the quantity and variety of goods it allows into the Gaza Strip and almost completely banned exports. The restrictions were imposed as part of a declared policy whose purpose is to exert pressure on the civilian population of the Gaza Strip in order to influence the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip. Unlike in previous situations, Israel did not justify these restrictions on security grounds, such as threats to the border crossings or threats deriving from the nature of the goods entering, that could serve a military purpose. Instead, according to Israel, the entry of goods into the Gaza Strip is now limited to a “humanitarian minimum”, which includes only those goods that are considered “essential to the survival of the civilian population”. Most of the items whose entry is banned, such as food products, fishing rods, and paper, are not considered to be dual use (having both civilian and military use). These restrictions have led to a nearly complete halt of economic activity in the Gaza Strip, a paralysis of production, and deterioration in the standard of living in the Gaza Strip, all as part of an intentional policy to paralyze the economy of the Gaza Strip. Additional details are available in a position paper by Gisha, titled: Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and obfuscation.
2. Why is the entry of raw materials into the Gaza Strip prohibited?

The ban on the entry of raw materials into the Gaza Strip is part of the policy Israel calls “economic sanctions” or “economic warfare“, and which human rights organizations call “collective punishment”. Since June 2007, Israel has only allowed goods into Gaza which it defines as “essential to the survival of the civilian population”. Raw materials for industry are not included in that definition and, thus, their entry is prohibited. The ban on the entry of raw materials is part of a policy of preventing economic development in the Gaza Strip. One example that illustrates this policy is that Israel allows the residents of Gaza to receive small packages of margarine, which are considered a consumer item; however, Israel prohibits the transfer of large blocks of margarine to Gaza, because those blocks are for “industrial” rather than “household” use: they might, for example, allow a local factory to manufacture biscuits, and thereby engage in economic activity. Therefore, it is not the product that is banned but its use for industrial purposes. The purpose of this policy is to disrupt the economy of the Gaza Strip as an instrument of pressure.
3.Which goods does Israel allow to be transferred into the Gaza Strip and which are forbidden?

We do not know exactly, because Israel refuses to reveal the list of products whose transfer into the Gaza Strip is permitted, as well as other procedures related to the restrictions on the transfer of goods. Over a period of many months the State denied that it has a list of permitted goods. However, in its updated response to a petition submitted by Gisha under the Freedom of Information Act, the State recently admitted that it does have a list of permitted goods and other documents relating to the transfer of goods to Gaza, but claimed that revealing them would harm state security and/or Israel’s foreign relations. A hearing to determine whether the documents should be revealed will be held in October 2010. In the absence of official information, Gisha composed a list of permitted and forbidden products, based on the experience of Palestinian and Israeli merchants, international organizations and the Palestinian Coordination Committee. These parties learn what is forbidden and what is permitted by the answers that they receive from Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories to their requests to transfer goods into the Gaza Strip. The list of permitted and forbidden goods is available on Gisha’s website. A review of the list will show that the transfer of goods purely for industrial purposes is forbidden, including industrial salt, empty cans, food containers and glucose.
4. Is there a humanitarian crisis in Gaza?

Despite several years of attempts to get information from the military, including a Freedom of Information Act petition, we’ve never heard a satisfactory answer to the question of how Israel measures “crisis” or monitors the humanitarian situation in the Strip when it decides what and whom it allows into and out of Gaza. Nonetheless, it’s hard to argue that at least 80% dependence on charity, a stagnant economy, 90% to 95% unsafe water in the aquifers, and movement limited to the bare minimum don’t constitute, at the very least, a crisis of dignity.
While there does seem to be enough food in the Strip, the blow to economic activity means that most people can’t afford to buy it.
5. Can’t the tunnels provide a solution for the Gaza merchants?

Following Israel’s closure policy, which allows for the transfer only of “humanitarian goods” into the Gaza Strip, the tunnel industry on the border between the Gaza Strip and Egypt developed, becoming one of the biggest sources of economic activity in Gaza. The tunnels have become a vital lifeline for the Gaza economy and are the only way to obtain goods whose entry through the border crossings with Israel is forbidden. The tunnels also facilitate the smuggling of weapons, cash, and people.
The tunnels, estimated to number between 600 and 1,000, are under the control of the Hamas government, which collects taxes on them and controls the entry of goods. However, the tunnels cannot be a solution for Gaza’s manufacturers, because many factors — the uncertainty and unpredictability of the supply of materials and products, the danger of closure or attack of the tunnels, the high costs of transit, the damage caused to goods by the transit route, and the low quality of the purchased goods — make the tunnels unsuitable for the import of raw materials or the export of finished materials by Gaza’s manufacturing sector.
Likewise, international organizations working for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip cannot purchase building materials and other goods through the tunnels, because unlike the Hamas government, they need receipts for the goods they purchase. The UN has proposed a mechanism for the entry of building materials through the border crossings controlled by Israel to guarantee that the goods reach their desired destination, but Israel has so far refused to implement it, other than for glass, wood and aluminum which has entered Gaza as of December 2009. Furthermore, the tunnels are not safe: since the beginning of the closure more than 110 people have been killed working in the tunnels, including children, as a result of airstrikes and work accidents that caused tunnels to collapse.
6. Why is Israel still responsible for the transit of goods into and out of Gaza even after the “disengagement”?

Israel’s ongoing control of the main aspects of life in the Gaza Strip creates obligations. Since 1967 Israel has been ruling the Gaza Strip and the West Bank as an occupying power. Even after completing the “disengagement” plan in September 2005, in which Israel pulled permanent military installations and civilian settlements out of the Gaza Strip, it has continued to fully control the territorial waters and airspace of the Gaza Strip and the land crossing points between the Gaza Strip and Israel. Israel also maintains indirect but substantial control of the Rafah Crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
Israel’s control of the crossings between the Gaza Strip and the outside world, in addition to its control of other significant aspects of life in the Gaza Strip, such as the population registry and the taxation system, creates Israel’s obligation towards the population of the Gaza Strip. It is Gisha’s position that these obligations derive from international humanitarian law because Israel is the occupying force in Gaza. Even the Israeli Supreme Court, which considers that the laws of occupation do not apply to Gaza, ruled that Israel continues to bear obligations towards the residents of Gaza deriving from the state of combat between Israel and militants in Gaza, its ongoing control of Gaza’s borders, and the strong dependence created in Gaza upon services provided by Israel as a result of the years in which Israel controlled the Gaza Strip directly, from 1967 to 2005. One way or another, Israel is still responsible for the Gaza Strip and its residents in the areas that it controls, including movement of people into and out of Gaza. Furthermore, Israel is obligated by international humanitarian law to maintain public order and guarantee normal life for the civilian population. Therefore, Israel is responsible for ensuring that its policy regarding the crossings allows the residents of the Gaza Strip a normal life.
7. Why does Israel have to help Palestinians in Gaza when they continue to fire rockets at Israel and hold Corporal Gilad Shalit?

The ever-tightening closure that Israel has imposed on Gaza harms all the residents of the Strip – more than half of whom are children – regardless of any personal involvement in acts of violence against Israel. This constitutes collective punishment in contravention to international law. Indeed, the prohibition on punishing civilians for acts which they did not commit is a fundamental principle of international humanitarian law. IHL seeks to distinguish between those who participate in hostilities and innocent civilians, who are entitled to special protections. The firing of rockets at Israeli civilian population centers is unacceptable and constitutes a grave breach of international law. This and the ongoing captivity of Gilad Shalit do not, however, justify the imposition of restrictions on freedom of movement for the entire civilian population of the Strip, effectively punishing them for political or othercircumstances which are beyond their control.

Time to break the siege on Gaza: A survivor’s account of Mavi Marmara

FreeGaza

International Solidarity Movement

7 June 2010

During the Israeli attack on the Mavi Maramara, deep in international waters, I was inside the body of the ship. We were unarmed civilians ranging in age from a one-year-old child to an 88-year-old priest. We were going to Gaza to break the siege that Israel has imposed on a million-and-a-half people for the last four years. We were carrying a cargo of humanitarian and construction aid as well as letters from Turkish children to the children of Gaza. We were full of hope. When the attack began at 4 AM on the 31/5/10, our ship was transformed into a military target. On the deck, at first there was heavy firing, and then the Israeli occupation’s commandos took control of the ship.

Minutes after the attack began at four in the morning; wounded and dead bodies where being brought inside from the deck. We were then held for several hours with four bodies and dozens of wounded, some in critical condition. Blood was pouring from the bodies of the dead and the injured. We wanted to help them, but we had no medical equipment to treat them. There was nothing we could do. One Turkish woman was crying and saying goodbye to the body of her dead husband, petting his face and reading the Koran over him. Another man had a bullet wound in his head and was dying.

From 5 AM on, we were begging the Israeli navy to provide medical assistance to the wounded and dying but received no response. We made the request in English and Hebrew through the loud speaker and also wrote a large paper that said, “SOS… people dying in need of immediate medical attention” in Hebrew and put it on the window in front of them. They ordered the people with the sign to get lost.

At around 7AM they ordered us to come to the exit door one by one. I requested in Hebrew that medics be allowed to stay with the wounded; a solider told me to shut my mouth. Later he called me “You, tell the wounded that if they want to stay alive, they should come out one by one.” We tried to bring the injured out one by one, but they could not walk and where falling down.
We were transferred to the upper deck. We were searched; our hands were tied, and we were forced to sit or kneel on the deck as a military helicopter hovered within meters above our heads. Heavily armed soldiers with guns and knives strapped to their arms and legs stood guard over us with dogs. They where standing around us with the blood of their victims on their boots joking and making lewd sexual suggestions to each other about the female prisoners. Then Israeli formal delegations came and strutted around the ship. We were held this way for hours. I was held here until 1:40 AM on the 1/6/2010/

As soon as the Israeli occupation forces learned that I was a Palestinian Israeli citizen, I was treated more harshly and isolated from the rest of the other imprisoned passengers. I was taken to a prison in Ashkelon where I was held in isolation and subjected to humiliations such as strip searches four times a day. The next day we were brought to court, and I was held in a small metal box inside the police car for 8 hours with my hands and legs shackled. We were accused with various accusations from attacking soldiers to carrying weapons. The judge gave the police permission to extend our detention for another 8 days. After international pressure forced the Israeli authorities to release all the foreign prisoners, all the Palestinians from 48 were taken to court again. This time, the judge ruled that we would go to house arrest and would be forbidden to leave the country for 45 days.
As an occupier and a colonizer, Israel depends on the principle of “divide and conquer” in order to maintain its control. It is especially threatened by people like the Palestinian delegation from 48 that sailed to Gaza on the Mavi Marmara, because we defy Israel’s attempt to divide us as Palestinians. By struggling with our sisters and brothers under the siege, we also send the message that we are one people and our struggle is one struggle. Israel is threatened by solidarity.
That Israel should murder civilians in international waters is not strange. It is a direct continuation of their policy of targeting civilians with lethal force and lethal policies such as the siege of Gaza, and Israeli policies of occupation and Apartheid.

Israel feels entitled to besiege, to kill and to attack civilians in international water. This comes from the silence of the world that makes them feel they have the right to do so.

This is the time to break the silence and to take action. To say “enough is enough” for Israel. Israel’s impunity must end. Israeli war criminals, such as the ones who committed piracy and murder on the Mavi Marmara and their superiors, must be held accountable for their crimes in international courts.

From house arrest in Kfor Qara, Palestine

Lubna Masarwa is an organizer for the Free Gaza Movement, and was the movement’s representative on the Mavi Marmara