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What about the Turkish charity’s alleged links to terrorists?

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly argued that the Turkish Islamic Charity IHH that owned the ship Blue Marmara has been linked to various networks of terror. Many journalists reiterated the claim; at times referring to former French judge Jean-Louis Bruguiere’s statements about the links between IHH and Al Qaeda.

Previously, Judge Brugiere had reached erroneous judgements that attracted critique from both the left and right establishment of France, a position difficult to reach. In his controversial report that came out in 2006, he accused politicians in Burundi for acts of terror by consulting only two sources, who were established political enemies of the man the judge accused. Both Liberation and Le Figaro, the ideological poles that are hard to bring together, had joined forces to discredit the judge’s previous accusations of terror. 

This time by consulting no source at all, Mr. Brugiere points a finger at another alleged source of terror, IHH. According to the former judge, now a professional politician who has ran for office with Sarkozy’s conservative coalition, the Islamic charity is linked to networks of terror. He is wrong, again. This time for three solid reasons:

First, IHH e.v has also been active in Germany, which ran a thorough investigation of all Islamic charity networks in Germany, including IHH. Despite great effort and careful research supported by Turkish government, no link to any organization that even ideologically supports forms of active resistance of any sort was found. The organization is pacifist, denying employment to any one who embraces even symbolic violence.

Second, IHH is closer to Saadet Party, the political enemy of the ruling AKP and a party closer to the ideology of Christian Democrats in Germany and other parts of Europe. AKP would be inclined to do its best to discredit its rival’s charity organization, and with reasons more legitimate than those of former Judge Brugiere. They could not find any links.

Third, the ultra-secular establishment of Turkey loathes any form of political Islamic organization, including IHH. So far, none of these organizations, including the ones who were innovative enough to accuse president Abdullah Gul of being a “US agent”, could even imagine that IHH had links to Al Qaeda.

The Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs has imagination wilder than Turkish Islamists and Seculars, French Communists and Conservatives combined. The time has come to use that imagination for peace, not killing or accusing peace activists.

Koray Caliskan is Vice Chair of Bogazici University’s Department of Political Science and International Relations in Istanbul

‘Terror’ smear against IHH springs from a familiar source

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

The IDF (Israeli Defense Forces) has backed down from the claim that forty activists in the Gaza flotilla, who had resisted the ship’s interception by Israeli commandos in international waters on Monday, are “al Qaeda mercenaries.”  

Some participants in the Gaza convoy are members of Insan Hak ve Hürriyetleri İnsani Yardım Vakfı –the Foundation for Human Rights, Liberties, and Humanitarian Relief– IHH, a Turkish non-governmental organizaion (NGO) established in the early 1990s.   Its mission is to provide humanitarian relief in regions of conflict or that have experienced natural disasters.  For the past six years, IHH has held Special Consultative status as an NGO (non-governmental organization) in the United Nations Economic and Social Council.

According to Max Blumenthal, when he and Lia Tarachansky, an Israel-based  freelance journalist fluent in Hebrew, called the IDF requesting more conclusive evidence of al Qaeda affiliation than possession of bullet-proof vests and night vision goggles, they were each told, “We don’t have any evidence.”  The IDF press release had been based on information emanating from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s National Security Council.

The next day, Blumenthal notes with satisfaction, the IDF’s press office changed the headline to Attackers of the IDF Soldiers Found Without Identification Papers, although the browser retains the original accusation of a link with al Qaeda. The rewritten story, which still bears yesterday’s date and the original time it was posted, omits any mention of a connection of the group with al Qaeda.

But the condemnation of IHH participants now ricocheting around the blogosphere isn’t about to go away anytime soon. The sad truth, with all due respect to Max (and a great deal is due!), is that the IDF gave in on the paltry evidence gleaned from photos of night vision goggles and bullet proof vests because they believe they a weapon much more powerful–a pro-Israel blogosphere where no Israeli Jew can do anything wrong, and no Muslim can do anything right. And the claim that there is a link between “Islamic terrorism” and the participants in the Gaza flotilla doesn’t need any pictures–a thousand words will do.

The link goes back to a strategy crafted in the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11, 2001. In the wake of the destruction of the World Trade Center and an attack on the Pentagon by Islamic extremists, Israelis expressed the hope that Americans might view their plight more sympathetic.  Israeli leaders anticipated that that they would be invited not only to join, but to be in the forefront of the impending war against Muslim fundamentalism.  The US priority, however, was enlisting and involving “moderate Arab states” in the “coalition of the willing” in the global fight against terrorism.

The timing was not particularly auspicious for Israel. 

Then-Prime Minister Ariel Sharon was struggling to keep his own coalition together.  Its right wing partners were demanding that he get tought with terrorist, expel Palestinian leader Yasir Arafat, and reject once and for all the idea of a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza.  Israeli aims and actions  were on a collision course with the dynamics of US foreign policy.

Israel’s Foreign Minister, Shimon Peres (now Israel’s president), proposed that Israel affirm its agreement with US aims in the “war on terror.” Several cabinet ministers agreed with the ingenious suggestion that the Palestinian Authority (PA) be presented as “Israel’s Taliban,” and Sharon announced that the PA would be considered as a state that harbors terrorists.

The fairly rapid routing of the Taliban (with unacknowledged cooperation from Iran) and a spate of suicide bombings in Israel occurred in the weeks leading up with Sharon’s “working visit” to the White House on Nov. 21, 2001. According to the statement by the White House Press Secretary on that date, the topic of the meeting between Sharon and Bush was to be “the international campaign against terrorist and the pursuit of peace in the Middle East.” Analysts expected little from the meeting.  They were surprised.  Sharon came away not only with the inclusion of Israel in the frontline of the “war against terror,” but the unprecedented American affirmation of Israel’s right to act both defensively and proactively in dealing with terrorists–a right that has gone almost unchallenged for nearly nine years. “Link to terror” became an elixir, believed to possess the almost magical property of being able to  immunize  Israeli policies from criticism.  

So it’s not surprising that, as the Gaza debacle unfolded on Monday, a link between the IHH and al Qaeda was discovered.  Appropriately perhaps, it was announced by the Israeli Ambassador to Denmark, the land of fairy tales. The French news agency AFP reported:

Israeli Ambassador to Denmark Arthur Avnon said on Monday that his country only attacked the Gaza-bound aid flotilla earlier in the day after receiving reports that it had links to Al-Qaeda.

“The people on board were not so innocent… and I can not imagine that another country would react any differently,” the ambassador added. Avnon lamented the loss of life, but said that Israeli soldiers were attacked when they boarded the ship.

Although mainstream media sites largely ignored the claim, it was picked up by Fox News and then swirled through the right wing “pro-Israel” blogosphere.   A 2006-2007 working paper by Evan F. Kohlmann, The Role  of Islamic Charities in International Terrorist Recruitment and  Financing, published by the Danish Institute for International Studies,  mysteriously surfaced. 

It is worth noting that anti-terrorism expert.   His mentor Steve Emerson,  produced  the 1994 Frontline television special “Jihad in America” and he is the author of, among other anti-terrorism tracts, Jihad Incorporated: A Guide to Militant Islam in the United States, both of which have been recognized as unfairly profiling  Muslims. Spinprofiles points out that Kohlmann had been dubbed  “the Doogie Howser of terrorism, at the outset of his career,  and provides a useful litany of objections to both his qualifications and his methods.  Among them:

Like other ‘terrorism experts’ Kohlmann tends to demonise Islamists groups, and to link disparate groups and individuals into an encompassing narrative of international terrorism. His ‘expertise’ are therefore very useful to prosecutors who seek to demonstrate the malevolent intent of a defendant in the absence of convincing evidence of their preparation or planning of acts of terrorism. As Kohlmann himself explains: “There are a lot of people who know a lot about the world, but they don’t know what every terrorist group represents…I am able to bring this to life for the court.”  What in particular Kohlmann tends to “brings to life” is connections linking defendants to Al-Qaeda or Osama Bin Laden. This, in the political climate of the United States greatly increases the prosecution’s chances of a conviction.

This makes him a perfect “white knight” for Israeli hasbarah, trying to calm the stormy seas surrounding the Gaza convoy fiasco.

According to Kohlmann, IHH is an example of an Islamic charity which diverted funds intended for humanitarian relief and used them to buy weapons:

Turkish authorities began their own domestic criminal investigation of IHH as early as December 1997, when sources revealed that leaders of IHH were purchasing automatic weapons from other regional Islamic militant groups. IHH’s bureau in Istanbul was thoroughly searched, and its local officers were arrested. Security forces uncovered an array of disturbing items, including firearms, explosives, bomb-making instructions, and a “jihad flag.” After analyzing seized IHH documents, Turkish authorities concluded that “detained members of IHH were going to fight in Afghanistan, Bosnia, and Chechnya.”

Kohlmann cites a a French intelligence report which claimed that  the terrorist infiltration of IHH extended to its most senior ranks. The report, written by famed counterterrorism magistrate Jean-Louis Bruguiere, charged IHH President Bulent Yildirim with having   conspired in the mid-1990s to “recruit veteran soldiers in anticipation of the coming holy war [jihad],” and transferring cash, firearms, knives and explosives, parenthetically  on behalf of IHH.   Furthermore, an examination of IHH’s phone records in Istanbul showed repeated telephone calls in 1996 to “an al-Qaida guesthouse in Milan.” 

Kohlmann’s copious footnotes for each sentence dealing with these accusations all cite a single page of one report.  It is in  French and written by France’s “first anti-terrorism judge,” Jean-Louis Bruguiere, and Jean-Francois Ricard.  Its hefty title is “Requisitoire Definitifaux aux Fins de Non-Lieu. De Non-Lieu partiel. De Requalification. De Renvoi devant le Tribunal Correctionnel, de mantien sous Controle Judiciaiare et de maintien en Detention.” Cour D’Appel de Paris; Tribunal de Grande Instance de Paris. No. Parquet: P96 253 3901.2. Kohlmann’s accusations against IHH all come from page112.

Bruguiere had been called as an expert witness at the Seattle trial of Ahmed Ressam, the would be “Millenium bomber” who targeted LA Airport 1999, and testified that IHH had played an important role in the plot. Under “repeated questioning” from federal prosecutors, according to the trial transcript as rendered by Kohlmann (one can’t help wondering why the questioning would need to be repeated) Bruguiere depicted IHH as an NGO whose humanitarian work served as a cover for more nefarious activities.

Not surprisingly, as Kohlmann’s report began circulating earlier this week in support of Israeli charges that the Gaza flotilla was linked to terrorism in general and al Qaeda in particular,  Alfred de Montesquiou  of the Associated Press interviewed Bruguere by telephone.  Yahoo News published it under  eye-grabbing headline “Interview: Turkish Aid Group Had Terror Ties.   Bruguiere, currently EU’s coordinator in a joint EU-US  terrorism finance tracking program, is quoted as saying,  “Elements within the charity supported jihadi operations in the 1990s.”  

Nonetheless, he added that he didn’t know whether they continued to do so. No mention appears to have been made of Bulent Yildirim.  All Bruguiere apparently said was, “Some members of an international terrorism cell known as the Fateh Kamel network then worked at the IHH.”  Kamel was an Algerian-Canadian who Bruguiere claimed  had ties to then nascent al-Qaida.

As an aside, it’s  ironic–but never even hinted at by Kohlmann– that Bruguiere also ordered the raids on the Mujehidin e-Kalk (MEK) in Paris in June 2003.   An odd hybrid of  Marxism and radical Islamism  at the time of the Iranian revolution, MEK broke with the Khomeini regime after the latter gained control of Iran in 1979.  During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, MEK fought on the side of Saddam Hussein in the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s. 

Although it has engaged in terrorist acts and has the status of a quasi cult centered on its leader, Maryam Rajavi, it has nonetheless been championed as a possible instrument for regime change in Iran by many pro-Israel neoconservatives. Many MEK members are presently detained at Camp Ashraf in Iraq, US policymakers debate how useful these terrorists might be in achieving American strategic goals   Unlike IHH, MEK is indeed considered to be a terrorist organization by the US government,  despite the repeated efforts of the ranking Republican on the House Foreign Relations Committee, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen,  to rehabilitate MEK’s reputation. 

At the time of the 2003 raid,   Bruguiere said he had  uncovered  a ”criminal conspiracy with the intent to prepare acts of terrorism and financing of a terrorist enterprise.” Shouldn’t pro-Israel neocons supporting the MEK should also be exposed for their own “links to terrorism.”

Back to IHH:  In a rejoinder to Bruguire’s accusations which Montesquiou allowed him to offer about links between the IHH and terrorism, IHH Board member Omer Faruk Korkmaz insisted IHH was a legal organization:  ”We don’t know Ahmed Ressam or Fateh Kamel,” Korkmaz told AP. “We don’t approve of the actions of any terrorist organization in the world.”  Fatma Varol, an IHH volunteer at its Istanbul  headquarters challenged  Bruguiere’s Seattle testimony about the organization to CSM’s Iason Athanasiadis:  “IHH was not related to jihadis but formed to help people who need help, such as the Muslims of Bosnia who were suffering from the Serb genocide,” she says. “It’s only a humanitarian aid foundation bringing help to needy people wherever there’s conflict.”

Whatever a French anti-terrorism judge may have testified about IHH, the French government  doesn’t consider it a terrorist group. Despite rumblings in the right wing blosgosphere  that the CIA is hinting at members of Gaza flotilla’s terrorist ties, it’s not on the US State Dept.’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations either, nor on Great Britain’s. As Athanasiadis points out in the Christian Science Monitor, Israel is the only country in the world to ban the IHH as a terrorist organization–and only since 2008– primarily because of its sympathy for the Palestinian cause and Hamas.  Athanasiadis also notes that  “The current Turkish government has publicly supported the organization and hinted that it might send an armed escort with the next ship or ships running the Israeli blockade of Gaza.”

Bulent Yildirim himself was among the participants in the Gaza convoy and was inteviewed by  BBC News on Thursday.   BBC reported that the activists, speaking on their return home, saod that in addition to the nine deaths caused by shots fired by the IDF, the  Israeli commandos had also administered electric shocks and beaten passengers during their assault on the Mavi Marmara. Yildirim was identified as “head of the Istanbul-based Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (IHH), which organised the flotilla” as well as an eye witness to the events on the Turkish vessel:

Upon his arrival back in Turkey, he admitted some of the activists had grabbed the guns off soldiers in self-defence.

“Yes, we took their guns. It would be self-defence even if we fired their guns. We told our friends on board: ‘We will die, become martyrs, but never let us be shown… as the ones who used guns’. By this decision, our friends accepted death, and we threw all the guns we took from them into the sea.”

He described how a doctor and a journalist were both shot at close range, and said another activist was shot as he was surrendering.

“I took off my shirt and waved it, as a white flag. We thought they would stop after seeing the white flag, but they continued killing people,” he said.

The English language Turkish news site Zaman also interviewed Yildirim upon his return to Istanbul.

In his initial statements upon landing back home at İstanbul Atatürk Airport, Yıldırım said everyone was shocked when the Israeli navy attacked the ship from the air and the sea using all kinds of equipment. “We thought maybe they were putting on a show for us. If we were in their waters, under Palestinian jurisdiction, then we would have imagined that they would attack us. They suddenly dropped people onto the ship. Our friends only put up civilian resistance. The entire press corps was there.”

He said he told Israeli authorities during his interrogation that they were managing the process badly. “Then they asked us, ‘Didn’t you attack us with iron bars and axes?’ I told them what I did was only self-defense. This was defense against helicopters and assault boats, against well-trained commandos. They lie when they say they were given permission to use real bullets after the 35th minute. They threw in gas bombs, which injured our friends. Only two of the initially fired bullets were rubber. The others were nail-like bullets. Our friend Cevdet was martyred. He is a member of the press. He was only taking pictures as the Israelis fired on us. They smashed his brain into pieces from exactly one meter away.”

Perhaps the least likely statement to come from an alleged “al Qaeda” sympathizer or “anti-Semite”  or operative comes at the end of Yildirim’s Zaman interview:

Yıldırım vowed to fight the blockade of Gaza until it is lifted, “or we will come with bigger fleets from Egypt and from the sea. Let statesmen figure out what will happen then. We will pay a price, but so will you. All the conscientious people of the world stand united. We are not afraid of anything,” he said.

He also responded to allegations that the flotilla attacked by Israel was of an “Islamist nature.” Yıldırım said: “Had it been Muslims killing Jews, I would again go with a flotilla. We are against all cruelty.” 

The 600-700 participants–and the thousands behind the movements they represent–are a remarkably diverse, if unlikely, melange. It’s not just Turks like Bulan Yildrim, who probably attracted the attention of the CIA and US military intelligence because he has been  an outspoken critic of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.  The “Free Gaza” movement in Britain– its co-founders and its  legal communications team, are English women between 65 and 85–including a Jewish holocaust survivor named Hedy Epstein– according to the Guardian.  The Gaza flotilla has brought together Greeks and Turks, who for over a century have viewed one another as enemies:  only from the Greek press does one  learn that two of the six Gaza ships and three dozen activists  in the convoy are Greek.

Not unlike the FBI’s attempts to discredit the American civil rights movement as a tool of Soviet  “communism” half a century ago, the Israeli government’s hasbarah (justification) network is branding the global outcry against Israeli policies and actions as a manifestation of “terrorism.”  But in an age of very real terror threats, the vague and vacuous “link to terror” elixir–a drink-me brew Israel believes makes it appear more powerful or more vulnerable, but always in the right and beyond censure–may finally have reached its expiration date.     

Marsha B. Cohen is an analyst specializing in Israeli-Iranian relations and US foreign policy towards Iran and Israel. She currently holds the position of Lecturer in the Master of Arts in International Administration (MAIA) Program of the University of Miami, Coral Gables, FL. Her articles have been published by PBS/Frontline’s Tehran Bureau. IPS, Alternet, Payvand and Global Dialogue.

‘Tablet’ runs groundbreaking Luban piece attacking liberal Zionism’s Jewish narcissism, as Palestinians suffer

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

There is only one thing to be said about Daniel Luban’s breathtaking essay on liberal Zionist narcissism in Tablet: Read it.

But of course I can’t restrain myself. The news here is that a young Jewish intellectual who says he once was a Zionist in an automatic way but today is not one is thinking freely, beyond the constraints that Peter Beinart imposes on himself in NYRB (I’m a liberal but I’m a Zionist, so I’m not a liberal–but I’m a good Jew!). Hat’s off to Tablet for running this piece. And note that the useless liberal-Zionist dithering that Luban attacks is embodied by Michael Walzer this week at Dissent, saying that the flotilla was a “trap” that the Israelis walked into, but oh– Israelis dont think the siege is a good idea any more. Luban:

While a few [liberal Zionists in the wake of flotilla attack] spoke out against the siege of Gaza, the majority restricted themselves to familiar admonitions that the raid was “unwise” and “counterproductive” even if the intentions behind it were blameless. It was a classic illustration of the liberal Zionist predicament..

The first notable feature of the debate [about Israel among liberals] that became apparent was its heavily emotive and tribal character. Rather than taking a measured look at the situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories, at the concrete facts and issues in play, participants spent an inordinate amount of time fighting to claim the “pro-Israel” mantle and squabbling over who could be said to love Israel more…

The second feature of the debate that became apparent to me was related to the first; it was the obsessive focus on the motives of Israel’s critics. On the one hand, there was the need to ensure that all criticism was restricted to “true friends” of Israel—always Jews, who must constantly reaffirm their Zionist credentials, who must pull their punches in public debate, who must take care not to criticize too stridently or to overstep the innumerable lines demarcating “acceptable” criticism of Israel.

On the other hand, there were the unhinged (one might say disproportionate) attacks directed at any critics who were deemed to be “outsiders”—generally Gentiles (and if Jewish, easily tarred as “self-haters”), who failed to abide by the rules of acceptable debate and therefore had to be made examples of.

Recent years have seen any number of examples, from Jimmy Carter to Tony Judt to John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt to, mostly recently, Richard Goldstone. In each case, much of the crime was to step outside the prescribed limits of “acceptable” criticism: to say not merely that the perpetuation of the occupation would be regrettable, but that would bring “apartheid” (Carter); not merely that the window for a two-state solution is closing, but that it has closed (Judt); not merely that the Israel lobby is bad for Israel, but that it is bad for the United States (Mearsheimer and Walt); not merely that Israel made unspecified “mistakes” in Gaza, but that it committed outright war crimes (Goldstone).

But in each case, the problem was more with the messenger than the message. Thus both Ehud Olmert and Ehud Barak, for instance, have reiterated Carter’s “apartheid” rhetoric without arousing much visible outrage. Similarly, Beinart is only the latest in a line of mainstream liberal Zionists who have conceded the basic truth of the Mearsheimer/Walt thesis without acknowledging it by name. .

If the debate over Israel has shifted noticeably to the left over the last several years, this fact therefore owes almost nothing to the “responsible” liberal Zionists and almost everything to those whom the responsible liberal Zionists have tarred as anti-Semites. Yet the mainstreaming of once-taboo positions has not brought a respite in the tone or frequency of attack…

At some point, I simply got tired of these fratricidal and self-absorbed debates, tired of the endless rhetorical dance. I stopped caring much about the “pro-Israel” label, or whether others would consider me a true “friend of Israel,” or whether I was abiding by the strictures of “acceptable criticism.” In the face of so much evident misery and injustice, these considerations came to seem self-indulgent and irrelevant.

I continue to believe that the policies I support would ultimately be in the best interest of the people of Israel, but I recognize that only a minority of Israelis agree with me, and I frankly have little interest in squabbling with the Likudniks and neoconservatives over the right to call myself “pro-Israel.”..

[I could now describe how my position reflects my Jewish experience and "Jewish values"] But I won’t talk about these things, not because they are untrue, but because they are irrelevant. One of the least attractive features of the debate as it has been conducted in the Jewish community is the constant insistence on changing the subject from the concrete political issues at stake to issues of Jewish identity and Jewish self-understanding.

It is the worst kind of narcissism to insist on talking endlessly about our feelings rather than the political realities that stare us in the face. So I will not dwell on my “feelings” about Judaism, my “relationship” with Jewish identity, because these are simply distractions. Either the Gaza blockade is just, or it is not, either the Lebanon war was wise; or it was not; either the U.S. should bomb Iran, or it should not; either the two-state solution remains viable, or it does not.

To reply to these questions with invocations of Judaism or anti-Semitism or the Holocaust is sheer non sequitur, and when someone does so it is generally a sign that they have no good answers. As for the charge of self-hatred, it may once have had bite, but today it has lost its sting. It comes off as desperate, even silly, and I can’t find it in me to muster an answer to it.

Dominoes are falling

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Biggest UK union endorses BDS:

The motion, which passed unanimously, called the union “to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies”, while a boycott of Israeli goods and services will be “similar to the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid”.

MV Rachel Corrie due to reach Gaza within hours. “The world is watching” — Mustafa Barghouthi

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

The MV Rachel Corrie, a cargo ship in the Freedom Flotilla whose passage from Ireland was delayed by mechanical difficulties, is now hours away from its destination.

“I commend this courageous action of brave international civilians who are carrying essential medical, education and construction materials denied by Israeli suffocating and illegal siege on Gaza. It is vital that they have maximum support by the international community!” a Palestinian political leader, Dr Mustafa Barghouthi told Nobel Peace laureate Mairead Maguire today. She and other activists on board the cargo ship carrying humanitarian aid from the Republic of Ireland to Gaza, said they hope to reach their destination by Saturday morning.

The world is watching,” said Dr Barghouthi, calling upon the international community to ensure the safe passage of the Rachel Corrie; he urged the EU representatives to take immediate and concrete steps in pressuring Israel to refrain from blocking the ship.

An appeal has gone out calling on Irish Americans to support the effort to end the siege of Gaza. Lorna Siggins, reporting from the Rachel Corrie for the Irish Times, writes:

Former UN assistant secretary general Denis Halliday has called on the [Irish] government to highlight the situation of the Gaza-bound Irish aid ship Rachel Corrie with US president Barack Obama’s administration and the EU.

Speaking by satellite phone on board the Rachel Corrie yesterday several hundred miles from Gaza, Mr Halliday said it was imperative that the Obama administration and the EU supported Ireland’s call on the Israeli authorities to ensure safe passage for the ship, which is carrying aid supplies.

“We feel that, like the UN, the EU has failed the Palestinians and we feel that the EU could exert more pressure in terms of trade links, which the Israelis are very dependent on,” he said.

Mr Halliday, a Connemara resident, confirmed that Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin had been in phone contact with the ship over the past two days .

“We are very grateful to the Minister, who has been completely supportive, but we need more,” Mr Halliday said.

“We also feel there is a role for the Irish diaspora here, in the US and elsewhere to lobby politicians over this continued illegal blockade of Gaza, which is causing such hardship to the Palestinian people.”

As Robert Naiman notes:

The issue of the Gaza blockade has tremendous resonance in Ireland, partly because of Ireland’s high degree of engagement in international humanitarian causes — John Ging, head of the UN Relief and Works Agency in Gaza, who had called on the international community to break the siege by sending ships loaded with aid, is also Irish — but also, of course, because the Irish people have some experience with the consequences for civilians of a colonial blockade.

Between 1845 and 1850, more than a million Irish people starved to death under British rule while, as Sinead O’Connor famously noted, food was shipped out of Ireland under armed guard. A million more fled Ireland to escape starvation, many to America, including Falmouth Kearney, President Obama’s great-great-great grandfather.

Many Irish people — and Irish-Americans — take the responsibilities of this legacy very seriously.

This is cross-posted at Woodward’s site, War in Context.

Sullivan gets it: ‘There is no sense of the human here, just the tribe’

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Brilliant takedown of Krauthammer by Andrew Sullivan suggests he has fully imbibed the teaching of Walt and Mearsheimer: that Jewish nationalism, absorbed by its empowered American adherents, has distorted the idea of an American interest to the point that we went to war in Iraq. I wonder how long he’s felt this way. The great thing is that he feels safe saying it, now. Of course Fukuyama hinted at this re Krauthammer years ago. And note that Krauthammer, whose piece is about the “final solution” now focused on Israel, is published by the Washington Post and is all over TV.

To read Charles Krauthammer today is to enter a twilight zone of an alternate reality. A country permanently occupying and colonizing a neighboring region, and treating its original inhabitants as dangerous interlopers, is the victim. An elite commando unit attacking a ship carrying toys and wheelchairs in the hours before dawn are those we should feel pity for…

This is a form of derangement, or of such a passionate commitment to a foreign country that any and all normal moral rules or even basic fairness are jettisoned. And you will notice one thing as well: no regret whatsoever for the loss of human life, just as the hideous murder of so many civilians in the Gaza war had to be the responsibility of the victims, not the attackers. There is no sense of the human here; just the tribe.

Something has been wrong here for a very long time, and now it is inescapable. Until the discourse is rescued from the victims of Israel Derangement Syndrome, Israel and America will slowly be drawn into wars they cannot ultimately win, lose every other ally they ever had, and embolden and fortify the very Islamist forces we are seeking to defuse and defeat.

Ibn Tufayl, who sent this to me, wrote, The lobby has lost the battle. And I think he’s right. Which is why we will see a kinder, gentler lobby before long, with a new Israeli government, but the same tribal allegiances.

Senor: Israel chose ‘most confrontational way’ to stop flotilla, so no wonder it went ’sideways’

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

The other night at the Union League (which I would have assumed in my youth to be a bastion of anti-etc, but which reflects the new establishment as much as any other institution) Michael Hirsh of Newsweek asked Dan Senor, the neoconservative tv commentator and Israel lobbyist, about Elliott Abrams’s extremist view that Obama has abandoned Israel over the flotilla disaster.

While Senor said he too wants to ring the alarm bells about Obama’s treatment of Israel, it’s OK to criticize Israel for the way it handled the flotilla attack, and another to abandon Israel, a big no-no:

Look there’s a lot of disagreement over this issue among people who tend to be very supportive of a strong US-Israel relationship. One point of major disagreement is, Did Israel screw up? Some [say] — Israel did nothing wrong. They did what they had to do. Israel had to defend itself. I don’t think that it’s that black and white actually. There are probably about eight different ways you can stop an attempt to break through a blockade, and Israel, the navy, chose about the most confrontational way to do it.

Could there have been other ways to disassemble the ship, perhaps. Since Israel had a lot of advanced notice… could they have prepared for it differently? …. If they had more numbers… would they have been able to suppress it without its going sideways as quickly as it did? Some are saying that the chief of the navy in Israel will not survive this, ‘this was a huge screwup.’ I think those are all legitimate discussions about whether or not there was at a tactical level, there were major mistakes made. But: Israel’s right to defend itself.. Israel’s right to enforce a blockade… etc. 

I put this in the same category as Wieseltier abandoning Netanyahu over the attack. American Zionists are restive.

‘Al Jazeera’ reporter says Israelis fired from helicopter

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

No wonder Israelis detained him for three days. Jamal ElSheyyal, speaking from Istanbul:

There is no doubt from what I saw that live ammunition was fired before any Israeli soldier was on deck.

Indiscriminate fire from helicopter– one man shot in the top of the head. Three shot passengers died because they did not get treatment over many hours.

Passenger violence: “I definitely saw iron bars.” Passengers took apart the railings and used them to fend off the Israelis. “I did see a number of Israeli soldiers being beaten by them.” There were no weapons. People wielded those bars as the Israelis tried to come aboard the ship.

He heard accounts of three Israeli soldiers being taken captive by the passengers. The Israelis were released, because the capture produced more intense

Treated with contempt by the Israelis, he said. Hands tied for 24 hours. “Soldier requested that I urinate where I was.”

Two rallies: which crowd do you want to be in?

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Two diametrically opposite worlds existed nearly side-by-side June 1.

Just blocks away in Midtown Manhattan, dueling rallies expressed their views on the massacre of 9 activists aboard the Turkish Mavi Mamara, part of a flotilla attempting to break Israel’s crippling blockade of the Gaza Strip. One rally, on 46th St. and 1st Ave., near the Turkish Mission to the U.N., was in “support of Israel’s flotilla self-defense,” while the other, at 42nd St. and 2nd Ave. across from the Israeli Consulate, denounced the killings.

Pamela Olson (who wrote about one aspect of our experience here), a journalist working on a book titled Fast Times in Palestine, and I met at the rally across the street from the Israeli Consulate, but decided to check out the pro-flotilla massacre rally.

The contrast was striking on a couple of levels. As Olson wrote, the pro-Israel rally only had about 150 people, while the Palestine solidarity rally had nearly 1,000. But what’s even more striking to me was what the make-up of the dueling rallies said.

At the action supporting Israel, I would guess it was majority Jewish. Some were religious, some were secular, but they all shared the delusional belief that Israel was under attack from the whole world (well, maybe not so delusional anymore, given that virtually every nation besides the U.S. has condemned Israel over the raid), that the people on the boats were terrorists, and that there was nothing wrong with what Israel did. Oh, and that there’s no crisis in Gaza. Everything there is just fine.

They chanted and sang, “am Yisrael chai”– the people of Israel live, in Hebrew.

If this act of murder on the high seas doesn’t change their mind, nothing will. According to them, nobody can criticize Israel; if you do, you’re a terrorist-sympathizing anti-Semite.

The pro-Israel rally was demographically homogenous, much older on average, and a poor reflection of the diversity of New York City.

Before a police officer threatened me with arrest if I stayed where I was, I engaged, civilly, with some of the Jewish supporters of Israel’s “self-defense.” I wanted to hear what they had to say, but it wasn’t anything novel. It was the standard hasbara line about the ships. One person interjected in the conversation I was having, and said, “don’t talk to him, he doesn’t like Jews.” When I informed him I was Jewish, he rolled his eyes, as if he did not believe me or that he thinks the only way you are truly Jewish is if you support Zionism.

Olson said to me that these people were like the whites in the South who opposed integration during the civil rights movement. Yes, as John Mearsheimer put it, these were the New Afrikaners.

At the Palestine solidarity rally, it was a beautiful display of multi-ethnic, multi-religious unity, condemning the Israeli massacre. Muslims, Arabs, Turks, Christians, Blacks, Whites, Hispanics. And yes, many, many Jews of conscience. These Jews are the “righteous Jews,” as Mearsheimer said. More and more of the “great ambivalent middle” are going to cross over to the “righteous” side, the side that is about justice and equality, because of the deplorable actions Israel continues to take.

The world on display at the Palestine solidarity rally is the one I want to live in.

It’s the world where Jews and Arabs join hand in hand fighting for justice.

Does Zionism = Amos’n’Andyism?

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

I hope you all looked at the video Adam posted last night, made by Israelis parodying the Palestinian-solidarity movement behind the flotilla. Watch the credits roll at the end, and you it looks like all the Arabs and Muslims in the parody are played by Jews.
 
In this sense it is like the popular but verboten radio show in the US before the civil rights movement: the Amos ‘n Andy show, in which the black roles were played by white people, for a while anyway. Black people hated this show. The NAACP tried to get it off the air. Wikipedia says it stopped right after the civil rights act, 1966.
 
I don’t think the producers of the flotilla parody had any choice but to hire Jews to play the non-Jews. Israel is a Jewish society. Part of the pleasure of visiting Israel for American Jews, famously, is we go over there and the bus drivers are Jewish, the peddlers are Jewish, the garbagemen are Jewish.
 
There are more Palestinians in Israeli society (20 percent) than there were blacks in American society during Amos ‘n Andy (15 percent), but the Palestinians are second-class citizens. They are not required to serve in the military, and very few do. Their political parties are NEVER invited into the governing coalitions, which is why the Jewish Labor party ends up making coalitions with the far right wing. They’re all Jewish! So 1/5 of the population is excluded from the government!
 
More Amos’n-Andy-ism:
 
Max Ajl posted this video (the second one down) from the Knesset meeting yesterday with translations of some of the things said to the Palestinian Member of Knesset Hanin Zuabi after she returned from the flotilla. One of the quotes:
 
“The blue and white flag is yours. You are in the Jewish state even if your bowels turn. The hatikva is your national anthem even if your heart twists/is aghast. And if you don’t like it – drink the sea of Gaza.” -Arieh Eldad (National Union).
 
There were times in the U.S. when such vitriol was aimed at black people.
 

See: www.modoweiss.net

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