Archive | June 6th, 2010



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.


Posted in Uncategorized1 Comment



Australians are increasingly vocal about Israel

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Today’s letters in the Sydney Morning Herald show a combination of anger, defensiveness (on the part of Zionists who dishonestly claim that they actually think independently from the Israeli government) and passion:

Immanuel Suttner and David Tester (Letters, June 4) ask if and when Bishop George Browning and others would express outrage about attacks by Islamic militants, rather than singling out Israel.

I can assure them that most, if not all, of us deplore such mindless acts. We know that is how fanatical groups operate.

But Israel prides itself on being a humanitarian, civilised state, and declares itself a vibrant, liberal democracy – the only one in the Middle East. It is expected to conduct itself accordingly.

The Taliban and al-Qaeda make no such claims. We cannot expect them to behave by standards they abhor, scorn or know nothing about. Israel’s friends expect better.

John Apostolakis Lockleys (SA)

Israel is held to a higher standard than Islamic terrorists because it repeatedly claims that standard for itself. How often have we heard about Israel’s democracy and freedoms, its respect for human rights and its professional army? If it wants to claim that status, it should act accordingly and expect to be called to account when it fails to do so.

Unless, of course, it is happy to be lumped together with terrorists and other nutcases.

Anura Samara Calwell (ACT)

Your editorial calls on diaspora Jews ”to question Israel’s actions” (”Candour is not Israel’s enemy”, June 4). Within Israel, public opinion and media coverage, usually hypercritical of the government, have shown unusually strong support for its actions in regard to the flotilla.

Most Israelis do not accept the image of the flotilla organisers as non-violent peace activists. They have been given far more information than readers of the Herald about the group that organised the flotilla, its alleged links to al-Qaeda, Hamas and other jihadist groups, and about the motives of the Turkish government in supporting it. The views of Australian Jews tend to reflect Israeli public opinion on this issue.

Diaspora Jews question Israel’s actions constantly. But we seek balance and context in media coverage, and are careful to do that questioning in ways that will not further the cause of those who have a long history of seeking Israel’s destruction.

Vic Alhadeff Chief executive, NSW Jewish Board of Deputies, Darlinghurst

Yesterday’s editorial is repugnant and offensive to me, an Australian Jew. The Herald is entitled to its views but so am I. So don’t tell me what my views should be, on Israel or any other topic. You have slandered me and the Jewish community with your slurs and innuendos. I demand an immediate apology.

Gaby Berger Point Piper

Eric Borecki (Letters, June 4) defends Israel’s blockade of Gaza ”to ensure [ships] are not carrying rockets to Hamas”. One wonders why Israel has the right to import high-tech weaponry, yet denies its neighbours the same right. As the primary aggressor, occupier and nuclear power in the region, Israel’s only defence appears to be that might is right.

Michael McGrath Manly Vale

Eric Borecki has a selective view of history. In 1948 the British and US air forces broke the Soviet blockade of Berlin, supplying it for nearly a year from the air. It seems blockade-breaking is acceptable if you are powerful enough.

Laurie Eyes Wyong Creek

”They hunted like hyenas”, says Paul McGeough (”Prayers, tear gas and terror”, June 4). Give us a break. McGeough should stick to reporting and leave out the emotive, dehumanising similes. ”They” were the young Israeli conscripted men sent to stop a supposedly peaceful protest. ”Hunted” suggests they went out to kill, when it seems the protesters were the ones preparing for that. ”Hyenas” is an attempt to turn Israeli people into animals in the eyes of readers. McGeough should report the full story and leave out the creative writing.

David Whitcombe Randwick

Am I the only one who finds it ironic Kate Geraghty’s ”photos they didn’t want seen” show the same thing as the footage the Israel Defence Forces released? All I see is an angry mob waiting to attack the commandos.

Danny Rod Rose Bay

The threat of female flesh in the streets of Tehran

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Life for young people in Iran is a constant struggle and I deeply admire the men and women who challenge the hard-liners regressive view of human rights and decency:

Iranian authorities have begun police patrols in the capital to arrest women wearing clothes deemed improper. The campaign against loose-fitting veils and other signs of modernism comes as government opponents are calling for rallies to mark the anniversary of the disputed presidential election, and critics of the crackdown say it is stoking feelings of discontent.

But hard-liners say that improper veiling is a “security issue” and that “loose morality” threatens the core of the Islamic republic.

Iran’s interior minister has promised a “chastity plan” to promote the proper covering “from kindergarten to families,” though the details are unclear. Tehran police have been arresting women for wearing short coats or improper veils and even for being too suntanned. Witnesses report fines up to $800 for dress considered immodest.

Some here say the new measures are part of a government campaign of intimidation ahead of the election anniversary this month. The hard-liners have grown more influential since the vote, which led to months of anti-government demonstrations that leaders saw as the biggest threat to the Islamic system in decades.

Iranian women are obliged by law to cover their hair and wear long coats in public. The Islamic veil protects the purity of women, preventing men from viewing them as sex symbols, clerics here say. But the law is imprecise, and interpretations vary.

On a recent day, two young women wearing bright pink lipstick and identical thigh-hugging beige coats strolled down Tehran’s affluent Bahonar Street. Their peroxide-blond hair, emphasized by delicately positioned brown scarves, spilled onto their shoulders.

When seminary student Fatemeh Delvari, 24, moved to Tehran from a provincial town eight months ago, she was shocked to see how some women dressed.

“My own veil oppresses my feminine side, so I can be free and active,” she said of her black chador, a garment that covers the entire body except the face and hands. “But some women seem to be only interested in looking beautiful.”

Public opinion is lost

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

While Israeli bloggers debate the rights and wrongs of this week’s Gaza flotilla massacre (there’s something right about it, I hear you ask?) this piece of news is pretty damning:

Israel was tonight under pressure to allow an independent inquiry into its assault on the Gaza aid flotilla after autopsy results on the bodies of those killed, obtained by the Guardian, revealed they were peppered with 9mm bullets, many fired at close range.

Nine Turkish men on board the Mavi Marmara were shot a total of 30 times and five were killed by gunshot wounds to the head, according to the vice-chairman of the Turkish council of forensic medicine, which carried out the autopsies for the Turkish ministry of justice today.

The results revealed that a 60-year-old man, Ibrahim Bilgen, was shot four times in the temple, chest, hip and back. A 19-year-old, named as Fulkan Dogan, who also has US citizenship, was shot five times from less that 45cm, in the face, in the back of the head, twice in the leg and once in the back. Two other men were shot four times, and five of the victims were shot either in the back of the head or in the back, said Yalcin Buyuk, vice-chairman of the council of forensic medicine.

The findings emerged as more survivors gave their accounts of the raids. Ismail Patel, the chairman of Leicester-based pro-Palestinian group Friends of al-Aqsa, who returned to Britain today, told how he witnessed some of the fatal shootings and claimed that Israel had operated a “shoot to kill policy”.

More testimonies from survivors (here and Sydney Morning Herald’s Paul McGeough has a long piece today here and another one where he reveals the presence of Australian-accented Israeli troops storming the ship) paint a grim picture of extreme Israeli violence.

Israel has no evidence that the activists were connected to al-Qaeda (a lie that was initially used and is now a smear that’s stuck).

And who is going to truly investigate the situation of Palestinians in Israel and Palestine, the wider and far more imporat question? Yes, the UN has appointed the Sri Lankan representative in New York, a member of a government facing serious allegations of war crimes:

Sri Lanka’s permanent representative to the UN Dr. Palitha Kohona is to head a UN delegation to investigate Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories, UN officials said.

The Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories will visit Egypt from 8 to 11 June, Jordan from 11 to 16 June, and Syria from 16 to 19 June 2010.

Where’s the Tea Party anger over Israeli killings?

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

A little message from Juan Cole:

Hey, Tea Party. A foreign navy boarded an unarmed ship flying the flag of a NATO member in international waters and shot dead an American citizen with four bullets to the head and one in the chest on Memorial Day. It did this while the head of the belligerent state was on his way to a state visit to Washington, DC, to be awarded a further $200 million in aid on top of the $3 billion of American taxpayer money the US gives away to him every year.

If you are not upset by this, your tea is weak, man. Weak.

BDS gets noticed by Murdoch press

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

This piece in the Wall Street Journal highlights a serious problem faced by Israel and its Diaspora supporters:

Israel’s bungled attempt to stop the aid flotilla from reaching Gaza also highlights how an increasingly forceful strategy by Palestinians and their supporters to turn to boycotts, international isolation, and relatively nonviolent protests is confronting Israel with a challenge it appears ill-prepared to counter.

Bush wishes he used the water-board himself

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Just in case anybody missed the former US President admitting his regime used torture and was proud of it:

George Bush admitted yesterday that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, was waterboarded by the US, and said he would do it again “to save lives”.

“Yeah, we waterboarded Khalid Sheikh Mohammed,” the former president told a business audience in Grand Rapids, Michigan. “I’d do it again to save lives.”

Waterboarding is a simulated drowning technique that the Obama administration has said is torture. Mohammed was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and is the most senior al-Qaida operative in US custody.

In his speech, Bush also defended the decision to go to war with Iraq in 2003. He said ousting Saddam Hussein “was the right thing to do and the world is a better place without him”.

Happy birthday, occupation

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Blair suddenly shows some care for Gaza

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Tony Blair, the man behind the Iraq war, Lebanon war and Gaza war, now calls for the lifting of the siege on Gaza. But these comments are simply delusional. Hope left Gaza many years ago:

What is important is that we don’t end up with people [in Gaza] losing hope for the future, alienating young people we don’t need to alienate. Don’t forget that 50 per cent of people in Gaza are under the age of 20 – and we don’t want to kill the private sector in Gaza.

“There was live ammunition flying around”

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Democrats, Republicans, Zionist groups and Christian Zionists are falling over themselves to express their deep love for Israel. Touching.

Perhaps they should listen to people other than the government in Tel Aviv:

The first British survivor of the assault on the Mavi Marmara Gaza aid ship to return to London has told of her terror as Israeli troops ignored SOS calls for medical aid and continued to fire live rounds at activists.

Sarah Colborne, director of campaigns and operations at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, who was on board the Turkish ship when the Israeli navy mounted a raid early on Monday, gave a press conference in central London still wearing her grey prison fatigues from her spell in jail in Be’er Sheva, southern Israel. She described how she saw one man fatally wounded from a gun shot to the head and how passengers feared for their lives as Israeli troops trained laser sights on the activists through the ship’s windows.

Colborne, 43, from London, insisted the activists on the boat were on a purely humanitarian mission and the passengers were aged between one and 89. She claimed:

• Unarmed activists were shot by Israelis using live ammunition;

• The death toll of nine is likely to rise, because some activists remain missing;

• The Israelis ignored calls over the Tannoy and on written signs calling for them stop firing and to evacuate the critically injured;

• The Israeli forces handcuffed members of the activists’ medical team who were sent to help treat the injured.

Colborne said she was positioned on the deck when the assault was at its peak.

“It felt a bit surreal,” she said. “I couldn’t quite believe they were doing what they were doing.

“There was live ammunition flying around and I could hear the sounds of the bullets flying and the whirr of the helicopter blades as people were dropped down onto the roof. What I saw was guns being used by the Israelis on unarmed civilians. I saw a bullet wound in someone’s head. It was very clear it was live ammunition.”

She said the activists had set up a makeshift medical centre below deck on the previous evening, after Israeli naval vessels were detected on the ship’s radar. They also donned lifejackets and some went to sleep.

“At around 4.10am I woke up, went up to the deck so I could see outside and I saw small dinghies bristling with guns and Israeli military speeding towards the ship,” she said.

“Helicopters then appeared and gas and sound bombs were used … We then had the first passenger fatally injured. He was brought to the back of the deck below. He was shot in the head.

“I saw him. He was in a very bad way and he subsequently died. There were bullets flying all over the place. We asked for the Israelis to stop the attacks. We asked this in English: ‘We are not resisting, please help the injured.’ Instead of helping the injured the saloon remained surrounded by soldiers targeting individuals with laser sights.

“The captain announced live ammunition was being used, to stop resisting and to go downstairs. At 5.15am we started broadcasting over the Tannoy for help to evacuate the critically injured and for emergency medical assistance. We asked the Israelis to stop the attacks in English.”


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Major Australian newspaper calls for stronger Jewish criticism of Israel

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

A pretty remarkable editorial in the Sydney Morning Herald, clear, correct and being proven right in the Middle East by events. Blind support for Israel is causing its death. Discuss:

In seeking to reassert forcefully its blockade of Gaza, Israel has succeeded only in calling its action even more into question. And each new ramification of its action in boarding the pro-Palestinian protest vessels attempting to run the blockade serves only to undermine its case further.

The Herald has covered the protest from the start. Running the blockade was clearly a political act in the guise of a humanitarian one – provocative and dangerous, but nonetheless legitimate.

The Israeli government was informed, through its ambassador to Australia, that the Herald journalist Paul McGeough and photographer Kate Geraghty would be with the flotilla. The two were detained along with the protesters on board the boats. That was predictable, given the confusion of the night-time interception in which nine protesters lost their lives. But what followed was not.

Once their identities were known, instead of being allowed to carry on with their professional activities, the two had their equipment confiscated and despite legal action pending in the Supreme Court of Israel against the legality of the country’s action on the high seas, they were deported yesterday morning to Turkey. They signed notes assenting to deportation: in the circumstances they had little choice.

The government of Benjamin Netanyahu, which routinely thumbs its nose at international opinion, clearly treats Israeli law and due process – and the freedom of the media to cover events in the region – in a similarly high-handed manner. No doubt its mailed-fist approach to protests which push the Palestinian cause will win it support among parts of the Israeli population; other Israelis, though, will view with dismay their country’s gradual descent from the democratic ideals with which it was founded, in which the shooting of protesters is only the latest stage. Israel’s allies are right to urge a full inquiry into the assault on the vessels. It would be a first step to reasserting Israel’s great claim that it is the only democratic country in its region.

We believe that it is time for Jews of the diaspora to question Israel’s actions. For too long the spectrum of Jewish opinion outside Israel has been narrowed on Middle Eastern questions to a compulsory, unquestioning support for the Israeli government of the day, no matter what. A few brave individuals challenge this orthodoxy – to their cost. No similar constraints exist in Israel itself, where debate even now is robust about the rights and wrongs of intercepting the blockade-runners, and broader issues of Palestinian rights. Not the least reason for the domestic criticism is that Israel’s excessive response has now guaranteed the Gaza blockade protest will have imitators, all of them confidently expecting the Israelis to repeat their initial blunder.

This is the level of “debate” on US TV over Gaza

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

Former mayor of New York Ed Koch and writer Jeremy Scahill discuss Gaza and the flotilla. It’s a parallel universe on American TV with blind Zionist supporters using the same language over and over again (terrorism, Jew-hatred, terrorism, Hamas killers, terrorism):

Is the world ready for pro-Hamas Zionist propaganda?

Posted: 03 Jun 2010 05:20 PM PDT

Latma is a right-wing Israeli website showing how rabid Zionism equals hatred of Arabs.

It therefore makes sense that their latest effort on the Gaza flotilla is typically tasteless and ignorant. Welcome to pro-settler “humour”:

Hey US students, ignore the oldies and take a stand on Palestine

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

The divestment campaign against Israel on the UC Berkeley campus continues but the movement is spreading like wildfire. Growing numbers of young Americans won’t simply hope and pray that Barack Obama acts and are instead taking actions into their own hands. Such as this week:

The Resolutions
Resolution #1: We, the student body of The Evergreen State College, call on The Evergreen State College Foundation to instate a socially responsible investment policy. To this end, we ask them to divest from companies that profit from Israel’s occupation of Palestine. As members of the Evergreen community, we stand with conscientious Palestinians, Israelis, and other international figures such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to endorse the non-violent tactic of boycott, divestment, and sanctions for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict. Do you support this resolution?
Passed by 79.5% of the student vote!

Resolution #2: In 2003, Evergreen student Rachel Corrie was killed by a weaponized Caterpillar bulldozer while non-violently protecting the home of a Palestinian family in Rafah, Palestine. Numerous Palestinian civilians have been killed by militarized Caterpillar bulldozers, as well. Caterpillar, Inc. knowingly sells bulldozers to Israel for military purposes in violation of international law and the US Arms Export Control Act, despite on-going pressure from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch that they desist. Their equipment is used to demolish Palestinian homes, wells, olive trees, orchards, farmland, and other infrastructure as well as to build Israel’s Annexation Wall, which was declared illegal by the International Court of Justice in 2004. Therefore, we, the student body, demand that The Evergreen State College declare a CAT-Free Campus and instate the following policies:

  1. Refuse to allow Caterpillar equipment to be used for maintenance and upkeep of campus facilities.
  2. Include stipulations in all construction agreements that no Caterpillar equipment will be used for any contracted services with the college.

These policies will remain in effect until Caterpillar, Inc. ends its complicity in human rights violations. Do you support this resolution?
Passed by 71.8% of the student vote!

The final Student Union resolution:
Whereas the passage by student vote of the Divestment and CAT-free Campus Resolutions demonstrates an unambiguous mandate; andWhereas the Geoduck Student Union is the elected representative of the student body;

We, the Geoduck Student Union, demand:

That The Evergreen State College and The Evergreen State College Foundation instate a socially responsible investment policy and to this end divest from companies that profit off of Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine. This divestment policy will remain in effect until such time as Israel abides by all applicable international law and ceases to illegally occupy and blockade the indigenous Palestinian land of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

And that The Evergreen State College declare a CAT-Free Campus and instate the following policies:

Refuse to allow Caterpillar equipment to be used for maintenance and upkeep of campus facilities.

Include stipulations in all construction agreements that no Caterpillar equipment be used for any contracted services with the college.

These policies will remain in effect until Caterpillar, Inc. ends its complicity in human rights violations.

The GSU stands with conscientious Palestinians, Israelis, and other international figures such as South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu to endorse the non-violent tactic of boycott, divestment, and sanctions for a peaceful and just resolution to the Israel/Palestine conflict.

By the beginning of the academic year 2010-2011 we insist on full disclosure of all corporations, including those held through mutual funds, in which The Evergreen State College Foundation and The Evergreen State College are invested.

Further we insist that the Board of Trustees and the Board of Governors make public a plan of action for divestment from companies that profit from the occupation of Palestine. In addition, we insist that The Evergreen State College initiates the above CAT-Free Campus policies.

We join with campuses around the world in building a movement for human rights and dignity by working to end the occupation of Palestine. We look to other campuses to join us in our common effort for justice and peace in the Middle East.

How to make friends and influence people, Halliburton style

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

Democracy, American style:

As Congress investigated its role in the doomed Deep Horizon oil rig, Halliburton donated $17,000 to candidates running for federal office, giving money to several lawmakers on committees that have launched inquiries into the massive spill.

The Texas-based oil giant’s political action committee made 14 contributions during the month of May, according to a federal campaign report filed Wednesday — 13 to Republicans and one to a Democrat. It was the busiest donation month for Halliburton’s PAC since September 2008.

Of the 10 current members of Congress who got money from Halliburton in May, seven are on committees with oversight of the oil spill and its aftermath.

The Aussie Zionist lobby remembers its job

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

Israel is facing global criticism, so of course the Australian Jewish News focuses on poor, little Jewish students on campus who may be forced to see photos of dead Palestinians in Gaza. Tough times for the Zionist community:

An escalation in tension around Australian university campuses is expected after the Gaza flotilla raid this week.

Australasian Union of Jewish Students (AUJS) vice-chairman Glen Falkenstein warned students need to be aware and report any incidents.

“If a student is harassed or intimidated on campus, then we encourage them to contact their campus AUJS president or their equity and diversity unit.”

Falkenstein said there has already been increased activity on campus.

Meanwhile, in order to best confront verbal attacks or hostile conversations over the flotilla crisis, the NSW Jewish Board of Deputies has emailed background information and interview transcripts to community members.

The information provides legal background, indicating that “Israel is currently in a state of armed conflict with Hamas” and as such “maritime blockades are a legitimate and recognised measure under international law”.

Israel exercised its right to enforce its blockade after passengers on the boats provided “clear intention to violate the blockade by means of written and oral statements”.
They have also circulated transcripts of official Knesset press responses from Israeli Government spokespeople.

With heads in the sand and nowhere to go but down

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

After the Gaza flotilla massacre, at least some of the American mainstream are actually reporting on the reality in Gaza itself. People may not be starving there but they’re living without dignity and humanity. A breeding ground for terrorism.

There is certainly some Zionist self-criticism (here and here) that clearly outlines the utterly futile Gaza siege and actions on the high seas. Sabotaging the Jewish state with the eyes wide open.

Former New York Times correspondent in Gaza, Taghreed El-Khodary, says that Hamas has only been strengthened by the siege and the flotilla disaster.

Both former US ambassador Edward Peck and Sydney Morning Herald reporter, Paul McGeough – detained in Israel for a few days and now released to Turkey – both recall moments of terror when Israeli commandoes stormed the ships at sea and terrorised the activists (and some photos of the raids have been saved by an Australian photographer).

But not to worry, here’s a very mainstream Israeli view of Arabs and Western criticisms against the Jewish state:

The Arab culture of lies guarantees that they will remain mired in a cesspool of misery, inadequacy, and failure.

And so, the Gaza-bound thugs got nowhere close to the Strip. Soon they will be swept aside and forgotten in the Mideastern maelstrom, as bigger news take over. As to the Arab and Muslim world, just like the Gaza flotilla, it will continue to sail nowhere, caught between the waves of its own miserable lies.

ABC Triple J Hack on Israel and the Gaza flotilla

Posted: 03 Jun 2010

I was interviewed yesterday on ABC Triple J Hack – the daily current affairs program – on the siege of Gaza, life in the Strip and the need to allow Palestinians there to live normal lives:

This posting includes an audio/video/photo media file: Download Now

“Cats smuggling semtex in their fur for Hamas”

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

More, please (thank you, Mark Steel):

It’s time the Israeli government’s PR team made the most of its talents, and became available for hire. Then whenever a nutcase marched into a shopping mall in somewhere like Wisconsin and gunned down a selection of passers-by, they could be on hand to tell the world’s press “The gunman regrets the loss of life but did all he could to avoid violence.” Then various governments would issue statements saying “All we know is a man went berserk with an AK 47, and next to him there’s a pile of corpses, so until we know the facts we can’t pass judgement on what took place.”

To strengthen their case the Israelis have released a photo of the weapons they found on board, (which amount to some knives and tools and wooden sticks) that the naive might think you’d expect to find on any ship, but the more astute will recognise as exactly what you’d carry if you were planning to defeat the Israeli army. It’s an armoury smaller than you’d find in the average toolshed in a garden in Cirencester, which goes to show the Israelis had better destroy Cirencester quickly as an essential act of self-defence.

It’s a shame they weren’t more imaginative, as they could have said “We also discovered a deadly barometer, a ship’s compass, which could not only be frisbeed at someone’s head but even had markings to help the assailant know which direction he was throwing it, and a set of binoculars that could easily be converted into a ray-gun.”

That would be as logical as the statement from the Israeli PM’s spokesman – “We made every possible effort to avoid this incident.” Because the one tiny thing they forgot to do to avoid this incident was not send in armed militia from helicopters in the middle of the night and shoot people. I must be a natural at this sort of technique because I often go all day without climbing off a helicopter and shooting people, and I’m not even making every possible effort. Politicians and commentators worldwide repeat a version of this line. They’re aware a nation has sent its militia to confront people carrying provisions for the desperate, in the process shooting several of them dead, and yet they angrily blame the dead ones. One typical headline yesterday read “Activists got what they wanted – confrontation.” It’s an attitude so deranged it deserves to be registered as a psychosis, something like “Reverse Slaughter Victim Confusion Syndrome”.

Israel and its supporters claim that Viva Palestina, made up of people who collect the donated food, cement and items for providing basic amenities such as toilets, and transport them to Gaza, wanted the violence all along. Because presumably they must have been thinking “Hezbollah couldn’t beat them, but that’s because unlike us they didn’t have a ballcock and several boxes of plum tomatoes”.

One article told us the flotilla was full of “Thugs spoiling for a confrontation”, and then accused them of being “Less about aid and more about PR. Indeed, on board was Swedish novelist Henning Mankell.” So were they thugs or about PR? Did they have a thugs’ section and a PR quarter, or did they all muck in, the novelist diverting the soldiers with his characterisation while the thugs attacked them with a lethal spirit level?

But some defenders of Israel are so blind to what happens in front of them there’s nothing at all they wouldn’t jump to defend. Israel could blow up a cats home and within five minutes they’d be yelling “How do we know the cats weren’t smuggling semtex in their fur for Hamas?”

If this incident had been carried about by Iran, or anyone we were trying to portray as an enemy, so much condemnation would have been spewed out it would have created a vast cloud of outrage that airlines would be unable to fly through.

But as it’s Israel, most governments offer a few diplomatic words that blame no one, but accept the deaths are “regrettable”. They might as well have picked any random word from the dictionary, so the news would tell us “William Hague described the deaths as ‘hexagonal’”, and a statement from the US senate said “It’s all very confusing. In future let’s hope they make every effort to avoid a similar incident.”

The quick flotilla round-up (aka Israel has lost it)

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Zionist groups in the US wish Barack Obama was more supportive and remain disappointed that the American President hasn’t invaded Turkey.

Israel’s Deputy UN Ambassador says whatever his government tells him to say.

Israel’s President Shimon Peres – the best friend apartheid South Africa could ever havesays that the Israeli soldiers were “humane”. Yes, the ones who killed the peace activists.

Israel claims that a hardcore group of Turkish jihadists were willing to sacrifice their lives in the pursuit of harming Israel and helping Gaza.

The American Zionist lobby is furious that Israel hadn’t given them more information and warning about their actions on the high seas. They need to know when innocent civilians will be murdered and how to spin it:

“There’s a lot of anger about the hasbara [public diplomacy], how it was handled,” said Malcolm Hoenlein, executive head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations. “Why did it take so long to get the films [of the ship-board violence] out? It appears [the soldiers] weren’t prepared for what they found, even though they knew what they were going to find.”

The Jewish community supports Israel, Hoenlein said. “People see the overkill against Israel, the biased reporting. Of course, every time the UN gets involved, Jews automatically [turn] against it.”

But, he lamented on Tuesday, “We’re only now coming to terms with the facts.” And that’s a shame, because “the facts make the case for Israel.”


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More bombing and killing, please

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Here’s some solid advice from an American neo-con who worries that America just isn’t aggressive enough anymore in the Middle East:

We need to return to an old paradigm for understanding the region: Reward our friends, and punish our enemies.

Little room in Israel for anybody who doesn’t love the government

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Here’s the Israeli Knesset, a rabble of bigots and haters. Charming:

Rightist lawmaker Moshe Mutz Matalon (Yisrael Beitenu) told Palestinian MK Haneen Zoabi, “Nice work. In one day you’ve managed to accomplish what the treacherous people around you have been trying to do for years. Unfortunately, the (commando) fighters (who raided the aid flotilla) acted with too much restraint. They left only nine floating voters.”

Obama administration and Israel sitting in a tree…

Posted: 02 Jun 2010


U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday defended Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and its decision to intercept the pro-Palestinian flotilla bringing humanitarian aid to the coastal territory, though he did not go so far as to defend the Israel Navy raid that killed nine people two days earlier.

In an interview with Charlie Rose, Biden pointed out that Israel had given pro-Palestinian activists the option of unloading their cargo at the Ashdod port, and offered to bring it to the Gaza Strip on their behalf.

“They’ve said, ‘Here you go. You’re in the Mediterranean. This ship — if you divert slightly north you can unload it and we’ll get the stuff into Gaza,’”, he said. “So what’s the big deal here? What’s the big deal of insisting it go straight to Gaza? Well, it’s legitimate for Israel to say, ‘I don’t know what’s on that ship. These guys are dropping… 3,000 rockets on my people.

“Look, you can argue whether Israel should have dropped people onto that ship or not  — but the truth of the matter is, Israel has a right to know — they’re at war with Hamas — has a right to know whether or not arms are being smuggled in.”

During the interview, Biden also blamed Hamas for the crisis that has wracked the coastal territory and for the ongoing state of conflict with Israel.

“As we put pressure, and the world put pressure on Israel to let material go into Gaza to help those people who are suffering, the ordinary Palestinians there, what happened? Hamas would confiscate it, put it in a warehouse [and] sell it.

“So the problem is this would end tomorrow if Hamas agreed to form a government with the Palestinian Authority on the conditions the international community has set up,” Biden told Rose.

It’s a position that oh-so-surprisingly is shared by Benjamin Netanyahu.

And now for something a little different

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

In dark times, we need some relief.

Here’s Jon Stewart on BP, oil leaks and Barack Obama:

The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
The Spilling Fields

A few simple steps for Israel to win back friends (measured in decades)

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Note yesterday’s editorial in Murdoch’s Australian broadsheet. Defensive, seemingly pained that the beloved Israel had acted so brazenly and less defiant as usual. Next step, backing a targeted boycott campaign (ok, I can dream):

The Jewish state must reassure the world it wants peace

In boarding vessels intent on breaking the Gaza blockade the Israeli military has done the Jewish state a great deal of harm. Hamas, the terrorist organisation that controls Gaza, cannot hope to destroy Israel by military means. But by isolating Israel diplomatically it can weaken its ability to defend its interests everywhere from the UN General Assembly to the Gaza border and there is no doubting this morning Israel has fewer friends than it did two days ago.

Israel’s motivation is easy to understand – the flotilla was testing Israeli resolve to ensure the seas did not become a supply route for rockets to be fired at them from Gaza. So is the reason why the Israelis opened fire when they boarded the biggest vessel, their advance party was attacked by friends of Hamas spoiling for a fight. But Israeli explanations are being drowned out by condemnation from Hamas and its allies, a chorus that will be joined by people all over the world who buy the lie Israel is always the aggressor.

There are at least nine reasons why – the number of people who died in the fracas. Like Bloody Sunday in Londonderry in 1972, when British paratroopers fired on demonstrators, killing 13, these deaths will be what is remembered, not the way the Israelis offered to accept supplies for Gaza in one of its ports, or any errors of judgment or mitigating circumstances that may be revealed by the inevitable inquiry.

Understandably so. The fact Israel has been in a fight to survive throughout its entire history does not exonerate its officers in the deaths of people who would be alive but for poor planning. Certainly, the five smaller vessels in the flotilla were stormed without strife. But what did the Israelis expect would happen when they boarded a vessel carrying 600 people, including some keen on a confrontation? It appears senior officers involved did not anticipate resistance and deployed too few men, ill-equipped to contain a mob without using deadly force.

For a nation whose police and armed forces have decades of experience in containing riots with minimal casualties, this is a failing as unnecessary as it is unacceptable. All military establishments become complacent and make mistakes and the Israelis are no exception, demonstrated by the 2006 incursion into southern Lebanon which was slow to start and lacked clear objectives. And now the Israelis have again demonstrated an inability to manage the new ways of war where terrorists, not troops, are used. It is a long time since Israel’s classic battle victories of 1967 and 1973.

But while military failings are alarming, the real worry for its friends is the way Israel’s government either does not understand or, more alarmingly, no longer cares what the world thinks of it. This year Israel has committed three unforced errors that have made it look arrogant and uninterested in its image.

In January, assassins, all but universally agreed to be Israeli agents, killed senior Hamas operative Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in Dubai. Nobody outside the terror organisation and its Iranian paymasters mourned Mabhouh. But countries were enraged that the hit squad used forged passports, including some in the names of Australians. In March, Israel announced a new housing development in Jerusalem, on land the Palestinian Authority claims, during a visit by US Vice-President Joe Biden. Mr Biden, who was trying to kick-start talks with the Palestinians, was furious. And now people are dead in a fight that could have been avoided.

Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorists is beyond doubt. But this does not exempt it from continually making its case to the world or mean it need not do everything it can to demonstrate it is the only state in the Middle East governed by democracy and the rule of law. There are all sorts of reasons why Israel seems uninterested in making the effort. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is in coalition with nationalists who are hard to control. Many Israelis are tired of talks that go nowhere and prefer to put their faith in the military.

But Israel must remember that it had the sympathy of the Western world when it carried, and occasionally used, a very big stick but always talked of peace and made concessions to secure it. As recently as 2006, retired general and then prime minister Ariel Sharon unilaterally evacuated Gaza. But now Israel is looking like an aggressor.

After losing the shooting war, Hamas, which is committed to destroying the Jewish state, is incongruously winning the struggle for sympathy. And Israel is losing support even in social-democratic countries that traditionally supported it. Israel needs to win back their support – its security requires more than military might.

“We would never tolerate this from our enemies”

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

The letters in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Hear the rising anger about the pass Australia and the West in general have given Israel for decades. Public opinion is shifting. Feel it:

I am sick of the PR spin. I am sick of the tired justifications, I am sick of the diplomatic niceties and double standards. I am sick of the excuses. I am sick of this having no end in sight. I am sick of the inhumanity.

Israeli commandos boarded vessels in international waters and killed several people. Period. The Israeli government has, for decades, oppressed, terrorised and reduced to near starvation close to a million people. Collective punishment is a war crime. There are no excuses.

We would never tolerate this from our enemies. Why on earth is it tolerated from our friends?

Adrian Bain St Leonards

When did the act of repelling invaders from your vessel in international waters become an act of aggression? Mr Netanyahu tells us that his soldiers were ”attacked with sticks and iron bars” and that ”the invaders started it”. The soldiers rappelling in the dark from helicopters were coming to help, were they?

When will the Australian government have the courage to tell Israel to stop the blockade and the occupation?

Edward Poole Annandale

Far be it from me to leap to Israel’s defence. Having signed the Independent Australian Jewish Voices letter in support of the Palestinians, I nonetheless feel condemnation of the Israel Defence Forces is becoming too automatic.

There may be many reasons to condemn the Israeli military, but its actions on board the flotilla are not among them. Ask yourselves what you would expect any other nation to do if ships were sent, in violation of its military blockade, and if its soldiers were attacked when they rappelled on board.

The blockade may be unjust (it is), and Israel may have a long record of terrible PR-disasters (it does), but the blame for this event rests with the individuals who behaved as peace-loving idealists, but who came armed with knives, clubs and cans of Mace.

You do not need more than 600 activists to get supplies into Gaza, you only need the supplies. And unless your intention is simply to create a scene, you send them via the appropriate channels.

Simon Holloway Newtown

At what point is Israel not the victim?

Ted Keating Tallai (Qld)

For a letter so scathing about melodrama and hysteria, Gabriel Sassoon’s (June 2) has a good deal of both. The Turkish ships were in international waters, not Israeli waters, and no one disputes that. They were not ‘’storming”, but carrying cargo such as building materials, prohibited by Israel and badly needed for humanitarian reasons to repair the damage that Israel itself unlawfully perpetrated.

Scott Poynting Manchester (UK)

There were no ”armed terrorists entering Israeli controlled waters”, as Gabriel Sassoon says. The attack took place in international waters. The only small arms used were – as reported by the Israelis – taken from the Israeli forces. The ”calculated melodrama, the confected hysteria, the feigned shock and anger” he decries may be caused by the fact that unarmed civilians died and were injured in the attack.

The Israeli line that those on board started the violence holds no water. No violence would have happened had the Israelis not boarded the boats. He and the other apologists do their cause no good by refusing to believe Israel can do no wrong.

Pip Denton Guildford

There you have the whole, complex problem in a nutshell. The world is divided into ”the anti-Israel propaganda machine” and ”the rest of us”.

William Cattell Sydney

The Israeli ambassador, Yuval Rotem, says the Gaza flotilla was a media stunt. Of course it was. The organisers wanted to show what thugs the Israelis are. They wanted to show the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and how little the Israelis allow in for the state to survive. They wanted to show how Israel deals with other views and how little it cares.

We now know.

Paul Stephen Yamba

Susan Jewell (Letters, June 2) and her fellow defenders of outrageous political stunts gone wrong should watch the video evidence, which shows ”unarmed” civilians beating Israeli commandos with iron bars and throwing them from an upper deck – hardly the actions of a group of unarmed peace activists. If Israel’s intent had been anything other than to resolve this with the minimum of force, that would not have happened.

Yammering about these vessels being in international waters is an attempt to fool a public ignorant of what a navy is allowed to do. A navy may board another vessel in international waters for a whole host of reasons. Even if Israel was in the wrong to board them, you are never legally right to attempt to repel naval personnel with violence (just as you are always in the wrong to resist arrest by a police officer).

This incident was a publicity stunt, not an aid convoy. There were other methods to get the aid delivered; this one was taken only because of the publicity generated by the inevitable Israeli attempts to stop it, or because the real intent was to deliver munitions to Hamas.

Anyone with even a passing interest in the Israel-Palestine conflict has seen numerous incidents like this manufactured to get airtime in the Western media. Sometimes I think Hamas could paint a red cross on a tank and the media would call it an ambulance and criticise Israel for blowing it up.

James Ramsay Bexhill

”We came for peace,”’ said the commando, one of the first Israeli soldiers to board the Mavi Marmara. ”They [the activists] came for war” (”There was madness in their eyes – they were trying to kill us”, June 2).

So let me get this straight. Israeli commandos land on the deck of a boat, in international waters, at night, with weapons, and this is in peace. The people on board, armed with nothing more than would ordinarily be found on such vessels (and humanitarian supplies), come in war. This really is a parallel universe, isn’t it?

Gina Hay Bayview

”The organisers’ intent was violent, their method was violent and, unfortunately, the results were violent.” – Danny Ayalon, Israel’s deputy foreign minister.

”The flotilla organisers’ intent was violent, the methods employed were violent and, regrettably, the result was violent.” – Yuval Rotem, Israeli ambassador to Australia.

At least one side has its story straight.

Cliff Jahnsen Bowral

The blockade of Gaza by Israel – and by Egypt – has the blessingof the United States. These nations would have us believe the blockade is not intended to hurt the Gazans, but to bring down Hamas.

One cannot help feeling that while the raid on the flotilla by Israel’s navy commandos may have deprived the Gazans of basic daily needs, it has served to strengthen the support for Hamas, not only within Gaza but throughout the region.

Sam Nona Burradoo

And now the blame game begins

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

An Israeli journalist reports that many in the local press there didn’t report (self-censorship? government censorship?) that many in the military establishment supposedly opposed the military action before it was launched near Gaza.

Leaked: BP’s note to Israeli Prime Minister about disaster management

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

The secret memo is here.

The Washington way is to embrace its Jewish friend and hold tight

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Washington’s aim in life seems to be to protect its little mate, Israel. Sweet. Here’s a quote from a few days ago that can’t be forgotten:

“The situation is that they’re so isolated right now that it’s not only that we’re the only ones who will stick up for them,” said an American official. “We’re the only ones who believe them — and what they’re saying is true.”

Who cares about truth? The American way is to back Israel to the hilt. And this has nothing to do with Jewish donations, the Zionist lobby, the mid-term elections and a deluded view of American interests? No, not at all.

The Cable has the full picture:

As Monday’s deadly naval commando raid off the coast of Gaza escalated from a regional incident to an international crisis, U.S. and Israeli officials scrambled to contain the damage, working at the highest levels to forge a common diplomatic position and preserve indirect peace talks that took months of painful negotiations to bring about.

U.S President Barack Obama has been personally and deeply involved in the U.S. response, speaking with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu three times since the crisis began.

“There’s an intensive effort being made here to make sure this incident doesn’t have any effect on our common interests,” an Israeli official told The Cable on background basis.

In their first call, Netanyahu simply informed Obama that he wouldn’t be able to make his planned trip to Washington. In their second call, the Israeli prime minister gave a detailed explanation of what happened on the Miva Marmara, the Turkish vessel where Israeli troops say they were attacked with knives, wooden clubs, and long metal rods-and fought back with lethal force, killing at least 10 activists. The two leaders’ third call was to discuss and coordinate strategy on how to deal with Monday’s emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council, which early Tuesday morning issued a statement on the incident that represented something less than what Turkey and Arab countries had demanded.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton also spoke with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak over the phone, and there have been a flurry of other contacts as well, with Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren having conversations with top National Security Council staff and others.

The U.S. effort to pare down the language of the Security Council statement condemning “acts” related to the effort was also a success, according to the Israeli official.

“Definitely the Americans were making an effort, maybe they didn’t get as much as we hoped, but they got a lot,” the official said.

“We’d like to express our thanks to the United States that worked behind the scenes to water down the [statement] at the United Nations,” said Mark Regev, an Israeli government spokesman.

Those efforts were led by U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice and her deputy, Alejandro Wolff.  A key point of contention in the Security Council was whether there would be an outside investigation of the Miva Marmara affair, or whether it would be sufficient that Israel conduct its own inquiry. The United State has “every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial, transparent, prompt investigation internally,” Wolff told reporters today.

Although Israel has not issued any official reaction, the officials saw three main changes between the first draft circulated by Turkey and the final draft adopted, which they credit to the work of the U.S. delegation. First, there was no mention of an independent investigation. Second, there was no time limit placed on the investigation. Third, there was no direct condemnation of Israel.

Overall, the Obama administration is “trying to contain things, trying to calm things down,” the official said, pointing to the fact that the president’s Middle East peace envoy, former Senator George Mitchell, is heading back to the region tomorrow.

The White House announced the visit as a presidential delegation to the Palestinian investment conference. The delegation will include Deputy Treasury Secretary Neal Wolin, top USAID official Alonzo Fulgham, Mitchell’s deputy Mara Rudman, and Ziad Asali, president of the American Task Force on Palestine.

The conference is scheduled for Thursday, and the proximity talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority are expected to resume, with Mitchell mediating on Friday in Jerusalem and then on Saturday and Sunday in the West Bank.

The main goal of the intensive U.S.-Israel communications on the Gaza incident is how to contain this incident to make sure it doesn’t have an effect on the proximity talks, the Israeli official said. For now, the Palestinian Authority hasn’t said it will pull out of the talks, and the Israeli position is full steam ahead. “From our point of view, there’s no reason to postpone.”

“I don’t think this has to interfere at all negatively on the peace process,” said Regev. “We want to see the talks succeed.”

“I think that containing Hamas can be an important element in moving forward with the peace process,” he added.

The Gaza flotilla incident has put the Obama administration in the difficult position — trying to support its chief regional ally, Israel, while being seen as an honest broker in Israel-Arab relations and foiling the efforts of another important Middle East ally, Turkey, to punish Jerusalem.

Accordingly, the State Department’s latest statement supports Israel’s drive to keep control over the investigation, while also trying to put the focus back on the proximity talks.

“The United States deeply regrets the tragic loss of life and injuries suffered among those involved in the incident today aboard the Gaza-bound ships.  We are working to ascertain the facts, and expect that the Israeli government will conduct a full and credible investigation,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement, “Ultimately, this incident underscores the need to move ahead quickly with negotiations that can lead to a comprehensive peace in the region.”

But how to read Hillary Clinton’s comment over Gaza when she said the situation was “unsustainable and unacceptable”?

Straight from the mouth of the IDF

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

IDF Global PR:

Sneak preview of our impartial investigation: “Israel’s response was proportionate and justified”


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Erdogan sailing soon to Gaza?

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Imagine that:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is weighing the possibility of traveling to the Gaza Strip in order to “break the Israeli blockade,” the Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal reported on Saturday, according to Army Radio.

Erdogan reportedly raised the idea in conversations with close associates and even informed the United States of his intention to ask the Turkish Navy to accompany another aid flotilla to Gaza. The Americans asked Erdogan to delay his plans, in light of tensions on the region, the Lebanese report said.

Moving from watching Fox News to understanding Palestine

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

During my experience with the Gaza Freedom March in late 2009 in Cairo, I spent time with a remarkable American woman and mother, Debbie Mardon. She once was a right wing, Fox News watcher but is now a fiercely passionate activist for Palestine.

Her transformation was documented in New York’s Indypendent newspaper last week and it makes for moving reading. People such as Mardon should be cherished, a woman able to unlearn years of anti-Arab propaganda to understand the complicity of Washington in the tragedy of the Middle East:

Last New Year’s Eve, Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti — instead, she headed to Cairo’s main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, 18, and son Joel, 23.

Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, Debbie, 55, a native New Yorker, said that protesting in Cairo “was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”

It was an unlikely place to be for a previously apolitical mother who voted for George W. Bush and as recently as three years ago relied on rightwing radio hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to help her make sense of the world.

More than 1,300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Since 2006, after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. The situation worsened in December, 2008, when Israel invaded Gaza, eventually killing about 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians.

Debbie and her children, like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, were outraged at what many have labeled the “Gaza massacre.”

The three-year journey for Debbie, her husband Mahmoud and their two children from political indifference to passionate involvement in the Palestine solidarity community has brought them closer together as a family, and they now regularly attend demonstrations together.

For Debbie, things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. It was a personally harrowing time — both she and Mahmoud had lost their mothers and a good friend had been placed in a nursing home, and Debbie decided it was time to find out more about what was happening in Palestine.

She started attending talks and lectures about Palestine, and one in particular, featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, left an indelible impression.

“It was jaw-dropping. He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, children burned from the white phosphorous, and the photos had me in tears. Then he said, this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, it is political, it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved,” Debbie said.

The “Jewish boat” moving towards Gaza

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Soon Israel will be faced with Jewish anti-siege activists fighting to break the blockade on Gaza.

Israel needs a mass movement of sanity (which is sadly lacking)

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

The peace movement, anti-occupation, anti-Gaza siege and rational Israelis do exist and they made their voices heard this weekend. If only more of them existed:

Thousands of demonstrators from across the left-wing of Israeli politics held a rally in Tel Aviv Saturday afternoon to protest 43 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and a government that organizers said is “drowning Israel”.

The protestors began their demonstration with a march from Rabin Square to the Tel Aviv museum, where speeches were held. The demonstration, which was held under the slogan “The Government is Drowning Us All”, was originally planned solely to protest the occupation, but following last Monday’s deadly raid on a Turkish boat attempting to break the Gaza blockade, the rally also addressed those upset about the government’s policies in regard to the Gaza Strip and the raid that left 9 foreign citizens dead and several IDF soldiers wounded.

Periodically during the course of the demonstration, dozens of right-wing counter protestors attempted to disrupt the proceedings, and at one point a smoke grenade was thrown at the rally. While the main rally was proceeding at the museum, counter protestors gathered in an adjacent patch of sidewalk and sang praise for the Israeli Navy SEALS and performed renditions of the Israeli national anthem.

As busloads of left-wing activists drove past at the end of the evening, counter protestors chanted “traitors”, “terror supporters”, and “go to Gaza” behind a wall of border patrolmen and YASSAM riot police.

Adam Keller a spokesman for Gush Shalom, one of the organizers of the event, told the Jerusalem Post that the demonstration “was an even bigger success than he expected” and said he believes the last week’s events increased the number of participants.

“Many people didn’t agree about to what level they oppose this government, but they feel suffocated by it, and feel that it is antagonizing the entire world.”

Keller’s sentiments were shared by Peace Now Head Yariv Oppenheimer who said that the demonstration was much larger than he expected and that it showed that “people are opposed to this government that is driving us towards international isolation.”

Oppenheimer added that he hopes the larger-than-expected rally leads to a new wave of opposition to the government, and praised what he said was a lack of anti-IDF slogans, placards, or sentiments at the rally.

Rachel Corrie is illegally boarded

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Looks like Israel’s trigger-finger was on holiday this Sabbath:

Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Saturday boarded the Gaza-bound aid ship “Rachel Corrie,” and directed it toward the the Israeli port city of Ashdod. The move came after warnings that Israel would not allow the vessel to reach Gaza, which is under blockade by Israel, and several days after an Israel Navy takeover of another boat headed for the Hamas-ruled coastal strip ended in violent clashes and the deaths of nine passengers.

The Cambodian-flagged Rachel Corrie – named for an American college student who was crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer in 2003 while protesting Israeli house demolitions in Gaza – was carrying hundreds of tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement.

Israel has kindly released this video showing the seizure of the boat (again in international waters):

“The Israelis have behaved like pirates, no better than those who operate off the coast of Somalia”

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Bestselling Swedish author Henning Mankell, who sailed on the ships trying to break Israel’s Gaza blockade, shares his diary of the journey.

The far-right shows its proud side

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Israeli dissident Neve Gordon on Israel’s fascist turn. Remind me how we share “values” with Israel again?

In Israel, almost all of the protests against the navy’s assault on the relief flotilla took place in Palestinian space. Palestinian citizens in almost every major town and city, from Nazareth to Sachnin and from Arabe to Shfaram, demonstrated against the assault that left nine people dead and many more wounded. The one-day general strike called for by the Palestinian leadership within Israel was, for the most part, adhered to only by Arab citizens.

In Jewish space, by contrast, business continued as usual. Except for a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, which brought together a few hundred activists, the only site where there was some sign of a grassroots protest against the raid was on Israeli university campuses. While numerically these protests were also insignificant – there were fewer than 2000 demonstrators from all the different campuses, out of a student body of more than 200,000 – they were extremely important both because they took place within Jewish space and because the protestors were Jews and Palestinians standing side by side.

Perhaps because of the widespread international condemnation of the attack on the flotilla, the Israeli police were relatively careful when handling these protests. Their caution is particularly striking when compared with the police reaction during the war on Gaza. Twelve students from the Technion and Haifa University were nonetheless arrested, and one at Ben-Gurion University was detained by undercover agents.

There was a visceral response to these campus protests, however, from pro-government students. Counter-demonstrations were immediately organised, bringing together much larger crowds that rallied around the flag. While demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are usually a sign of a healthy politics, in this case the pro-government demos revealed an extremely disturbing trend in Israeli society.

A group of opposition students from Ben-Gurion University prepared a big banner on the street near their off-campus apartment: ‘15 Dead. The Israeli government, as usual, has its reasons, and the Zionist majority, as usual, extends its support.’ Their neighbours spat on them and called them ‘cunts’, ‘whores’ and ‘traitors who love Arabs’ until the students fled.

The following morning these students and their friends rolled the same banner down from the administration building, initiating a third wave of protests on campus. Both those opposing and those supporting the Israeli government use Facebook to tell their friends about these spontaneous demonstrations, and so within minutes a couple of hundred students from both sides of the fray had gathered and were shouting chants in the middle of campus.

A Palestinian student with a Palestinian flag was shoved and had his flag torn from him by some of the pro-government protesters, who were chanting: ‘No citizenship without loyalty!’ In response, the Jewish and Palestinian oppositionists shouted: ‘No, no, it will not come, fascism will not come!’ and ‘Peace is not achieved on the bodies of those killed!’

At one point a Jewish provocateur, who is not a member of any group (and could even be a police agent), raised his hand in the air: ‘Heil Lieberman!’ The response of the pro-government students was immediate: ‘Death to the Arabs!’ Luckily the university security managed to create a wedge between the protesters, and in this way prevented the incident from becoming even more violent.

Pro-government students interviewed in the press said they were ’shocked to see faculty members, together with students from the left and Arab students shouting slogans against Israel’. Their classmates posted pictures of the protests on Facebook, asking likeminded students to ‘identify their classroom “friends”’.

A Facebook group was created to call for my resignation: by the end of the day more than 1000 people had joined. As well as hoping that I die and demanding that my family be stripped of our citizenship and exiled from Israel, members of this Facebook group offer more pragmatic suggestions, such as the need to concentrate efforts on getting rid of teaching assistants who are critical of the government, since it is more difficult to have me – as a tenured professor – fired.

What is troubling about these pro-government students is not that they are pro-government, but the way they attack anyone who thinks differently from them, along with their total lack of self-criticism or restraint. If this is how students at Israel’s best universities respond, what can we expect from the rest of the population?

Some Swedes care about Palestine and show it

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

More progress:

Swedish dockworkers will launch a weeklong blockade of Israeli ships and goods arriving in the Nordic nation to protest Monday’s attack on a Gaza-destined aid flotilla.

Nine activists died after Israeli troops intercepted the convoy.

Swedish Port Workers Union spokesman Peter Annerback says workers will refuse to handle Israeli goods and ships during the June 15-24 blockade. The union has some 1,500 members and supports Ship to Gaza, which took part in the flotilla.

It says the reason for the blockade is “the unprecedented criminal attack on the peaceful ship convoy.”

It was unclear Saturday how much the blockade would affect trade between the two countries since the union still needs to identify cargos with Israeli origin.

Talk to Hamas now, says Turkey

Posted: 05 Jun 2010

While the New York Times calls for better relations between Israel and Turkey – and even urges Israel to end its siege on Gaza – Ankara has its own ideas about moving forward (via The Cable):

As the crisis over a deadly Israeli commando raid on a vessel carrying Turkish activists continued to command the attention of top officials in Washington, Jerusalem, and Istanbul, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, called Friday for engaging Hamas in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

But in an unfortunate turn of phrase, Tan twice said Friday that the militant Palestinian group, which the United States and Europe have designated a terrorist organization, is a necessary and important part of the “final solution” to the conflict.

“For a final solution, you cannot ignore Hamas. That’s what we are saying,” said Ambassador Namik Tan. “This is not the first time that we are trying to bring this into the discussion. We have told this to the Israelis, to our American friends, to our international interlocutors, everyone. How could you imagine a final solution without Hamas?”

Tan’s choice of words aside, he was calling for Hamas to be included in final-status negotiations — a prospect many Israelis would find even more objectionable than his language. The U.S. position is that Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, respect international agreements, and reject violence before it can be considered a legitimate player.

The ambassador’s comments highlighted the yawning gap between the positions of the Turkish government and that of the American and Israeli administrations, as tensions linger following this week’s Gaza flotilla incident.

Only yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization. I said the same thing to the United States. I am still of the same opinion. They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”

As the Obama administration continues to try to calm the situation and contain emotions following the Gaza flotilla incident, the Turkish government is doing exactly the opposite, raising the volume of its public calls for actions by both Washington and Jerusalem.

At his embassy Friday afternoon, Tan railed against Israel, made broad threats about the Turkish-Israel relationship, and professed deep disappointment with the Obama administration and its handling of the crisis.

“Israel is about to lose a friend … This is going to be a historical mistake,” he said, calling on Israel to make a public apology if its wishes to keep its ties with Turkey. “The future of our relationship will be determined by Israel’s action.”

Calling the Israelis “criminals,” he reiterated Turkey’s call for an international investigation. “It’s all criminal … Can you imagine a criminal investigating its own wrongdoing?”

The Obama administration has made clear it supports Israel conducting its own investigation, albeit with some unspecified international participation. “Can Israel, as a vibrant democracy, with strong institutions of government, conduct a fair, credible, transparent investigation?” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. “The answer is yes. It is fully capable of doing that.”

President Obama spoke with Erdogan by phone and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a two-and-a-half hour face-to-face meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday. But while the two long interactions were helpful in getting Israel to release Turkish citizens, they didn’t produce any agreement on the overall issue, said Tan.

“There is no word of condemnation nowhere, at all levels. So we are disappointed,” Tan said. “We want to encourage the United States to take certain decisions in that regard.”

He also revealed that Davutoglu had been scheduled to have a meeting in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before Netanyahu canceled his visit to deal with the fallout from the flotilla incident.

Asked about the next flotilla, currently headed to Gaza, Tan said that Turkey was not discussing it with either the U.S. or Israel. In fact, he professed not to be aware of it. “Is there another flotilla? Are there even any Turkish citizens on it? I have no idea.”

Major British union embraces BDS

Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Drip, drip:

Britain’s largest union, Unite, has unanimously passed a motion to boycott Israeli companies at its first policy conference in Manchester on Wednesday.

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”.

Reflecting the University and College Union’s call at their Manchester conference earlier in the week, Unite will similarly host a “Palestine conference” to support trade union action against Israel.

But at odds with the UCU’s call to sever links with Israel’s trade union movement Histadrut, Unite delegates voted to keep solidarity links. Stephen Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel, said that indicates a split within the pro-boycott movement, many of whom realise such a call “is all very dangerous stuff.

“It would be huge for another trade union movement to expel them even when they are a democratic organisation and pass all the criteria of being a member of the international trade unions.”

Nevertheless, Mr Scott added: “All round, you now have a major player supporting the boycott and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and there is no resistance.”


Posted in UncategorizedComments Off on A.LOEWENSTEIN ONLINE NEWSLETTER



social-climbing for nationalists

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Jeffrey Goldberg:

I happen to be around a lot of Israeli generals lately…

‘In the spirit of humanity!’ –a look at the MV Rachel Corrie

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Goldstone vindicated by flotilla attack as Israel faces another UN investigation

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Richard Goldstone  told Newsweek magazine in a May 27th interview that he “doubts” Israel will ever launch another “Operation Cast Lead”-type assault because of the ramifications of his report. Goldstone told Dan Ephron that Israeli military lawyers are “on notice more than they were. If it achieves nothing else, I think it’s worth that.”

We can only hope that Goldstone is right. But how many more “Operation Mini Cast Leads” (as Gideon Levy put it) will there be?

The Israeli attack on the Freedom Flotilla has vindicated Goldstone’s report and his central claim that Israel used disproportionate force and deliberately attacked civilians in the Gaza assault—just as Israel, albeit on a much smaller scale, did in the massacre aboard the flotilla.

Israel is now facing another international, United Nations-led independent investigation of the events that led to the killing of at least 9 people and the injury of dozens more aboard the Mavi Marmara. The U.N. Human Rights Council lopsidedly passed a resolution today that authorizes “an independent international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian aid and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance.”

The resolution passed with 32 countries voting in favor, 9 abstaining, and 3 voting against: the United States, Canada and Holland.

Once again, the United States has proven that it’s on the wrong side of history.

 The U.S. ambassador to the Human Rights Council said that the U.S. opposed the resolution because “it creates an international mechanism before giving the responsible government the opportunity to investigate the incident itself.”

What a joke.

Israel has already had ample opportunity to investigate themselves after the Goldstone report called for independent, impartial investigations, but they have failed.  Here’s an excerpt from an April 2010 Human Rights Watch report titled “Turning a Blind Eye: Impunity for Laws-of-War Violations during the Gaza War”:

Israel has failed to conduct credible investigations into policies authorized by senior levels of the country’s political and military leadership that may have led to violations of the laws of war.

There’s nothing more to say.  This time won’t be different.  The Obama administration is completely out of touch with reality.

Obtuse NYT editorial portrays courageous humanitarian mission as human sacrifice

Posted: 02 Jun 201

Today the New York Times editorial board weighs in on the disaster at sea. Here’s a brief look at its more notable statements. The editorial leads with the following:

“The supporters of the Gaza-bound aid flotilla had more than humanitarian intentions. The Gaza Freedom March made its motives clear in a statement before Monday’s deadly confrontation: ‘A violent response from Israel will breathe new life into the Palestine solidarity movement, drawing attention to the blockade.’”

This makes it seem like the flotilla organizers intended to provoke the violent Israeli response. This is a gross distortion of the Gaza Freedom March statement, which accurately noted that Israel was preparing a violent response, and merely tried to foresee a positive outcome whether or not Israel followed through. There is not a shred of evidence that the flotilla organizers intended anything other than humanitarian aid. They forced the issue; either Israel would have to allow the goods to pass through, or it would have to use force to stop it. Both responses would have negative consequences, as Israel would be hard-pressed to justify its interception of humanitarian goods when it was conducting a blockade.

Moreover, the organizers no doubt anticipated that any “violent response” by Israel would be similar to the prior Israeli actions against aid ships, such as ramming and crippling one ship and boarding another and arresting all on board. In fact, in the same public statement as the one quoted by the Times, the Gaza Freedom March stated: “Although the first five voyages successfully docked, the last three attempts have all been violently stopped by the Israeli military.”

The editorial makes it seem like the courageous souls who ventured on this trip were used, either willingly or unwillingly, as human sacrifices for the purpose of embarrassing Israel. It surely was not expected that Israel would increase its violence a thousandfold and actually execute a number of the volunteers to set an example.

The Times continues: “There can be no excuse for the way that Israel completely mishandled the incident.” Mishandled? That eliminates the possibility that Israel deliberately committed murder. One could say that BP has “mishandled” the oil gusher on the gulf coast, because no one suggests that BP intentionally executed the disaster. And it might not be fair to expect the Times to reach the conclusion of pre-planned murder, but it jumps to the opposite conclusion–mistaken judgment. “This is a grievous, self-inflicted wound.” Yes, it is. At least one hopes it will damage Israel’s image.

But Israel’s actions are first and foremost a “wound” directed at international humanitarian activists – a lethal wound for at least nine and injuries to dozens of others – and a blow to the million and a half people of Gaza. Israel is saying that these people have no possibility of relief from the crushing blockade, and that it will go to great lengths to prevent concerned people of the world from providing even a small measure of assistance. Did anyone ever suggest that a serial killer committed a “grievous, self-inflicted wound” by embarking on a course of conduct that led to his execution? Aren’t the victims entitled to primary consideration?

The Times proposes what it believes are the important questions to be resolved: “Why did Israel, which has blocked some ships but allowed others to pass, decide to take a stand now? Did it make a real effort to find a compromise with Turkey, which sanctioned the flotilla?” One can hardly think of lamer questions. These would be slow-pitched softballs served up to the Israeli PR machine.

“Israel has a right to stop weapons from going into Gaza, but there has been no suggestion that the ships were carrying a large cache.” “Large cache?” That suggests that there was at least a “small cache.” There was no “cache” at all. What do the Israelis claim to have found? Knives? There are knives in my kitchen, and no doubt there were knives in the galleys as well. Slingshots? What were those going to be used for? To hurl small stones into Sderot? Not to mention the bigger picture that Israel imports and manufactures billions of dollars per year of the most sophisticated killing machines ever invented, and has no right to complain even if there had been light weapons on board, which there were not.

“The Israeli Defense Forces have distributed a video showing that the commandos were attacked. Why weren’t they better prepared to defend themselves without using lethal force?” Once again, the Times buys Israel’s claim that it was attacked and that its mistake was in not being adequately prepared to respond.

Then the Times gets to the heart of the matter. “Is the blockade working? Is it weakening Hamas? Or just punishing Gaza’s 1.4 million residents —— and diverting attention away [sic] from abuses by Hamas, including its shelling of Israeli cities and its refusal to accept Israel’s right to exist?”

The blockade is a form of collective punishment against a civilian population, illegal under international law. It is not a question of whether or not it is “working.” Collective punishment often works, though in this case it surely is not; when it is effective, it is no less illegal. Moreover, Hamas stopped its shelling of Israel for months in 2008 in compliance with a cease fire, and only resumed when Israel broke the truce on US Election Day. Even then, Hamas offered to reinstate the cease fire if Israel lifted the blockade, and Israel flatly refused. Israel could have terminated the shelling peacefully rather than launching an offensive that killed about 1400 people and cruelly accomplished the almost impossible task of making the people of Gaza even more miserable than they already had been made by the blockade.

And what about now? There has been virtually no shelling for over a year, but does Israel lift the blockade? Why does the Times imply that the shelling is ongoing and that it still is a legitimate aim of Israel to stop it? “At this point, it should be clear that the blockade is unjust and against Israel’s long-term security.” That was not clear before? Did the Times previously think the severe restrictions on the amount of day-to-day goods available to the Gazans was “just”? Israel had coldly calculated how much was necessary to keep a million and a half people alive, and decided that any excess constituted “luxury” goods that could be barred from entering the Strip.

And now that the Times has seen the light, the principal flaw it finally identifies is damage to Israel’s long-term security. “Hamas is still in charge —— and the blockade has become an excuse for any and all of the government’s failures.” Excuse? In other words, the Times contends that Hamas provides inefficient, ineffective government, and unfairly blames Israel and its measly blockade for its failures.

Does the Times get anything right? Sort of, but at the end of the editorial. It properly criticizes Obama’s wishy-washy expression “deep regret” over the incident. Even then, the Times makes it clear this is about Israel, not about the suffering of the people of Gaza and the murderous attack on a humanitarian convoy, as it adds, “He is doing Israel no favors with such a tepid response.”

The Times scores again by saying, “Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has shown time and again that he prefers bullying and confrontation over diplomacy. Washington needs to make clear to him just how dangerous and counterproductive that approach is.”

Of course, the Times does not suggest that Obama use leverage of threatening or even implementing a reduction in the enormous aid it gives Israel. Instead, he is urged to “back an impartial international investigation,” presumably along the lines of the Goldstone report that the Obama Administration has worked so hard to undermine and bury in oblivion. The Times also proposes that the US join in a Security Council effort to “urge” that Israel lift the blockade. Sure, that will work – urge, persuade, implore Israel to stop its four-year long sadistic siege.

While we’re at it, why doesn’t the US “urge” Israel to end the occupation and grant full and equal rights to the non-Jewish citizens of the country? Surely it is not yet time to impose actual pressure from the international community. After all, the US still practiced slavery nearly 90 years after the Declaration of Independence, and openly allowed ethnic discrimination against its citizens for another century. Israel at 62 is still relatively youthful, and prone to adolescent errors. Give it time.

A knowledgeable friend of mine emailed me this morning and asked if this was the harshest Times editorial against Israel in our lifetime. Sadly, that might be the case.

Israel’s war against non-violence

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Today, Israel’s Defense Minister Ehud Barak, praising the Shayetet 13 commandos who slaughtered at least nine humanitarian activists on board the Mavi Marmara, said:

“…we live in the Middle East, in a place where there is no mercy for the weak…”

A year ago President Obama declared in Cairo:

Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and it does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America’s founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It’s a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end.

But if the violence is being committed by Israelis then it is all too evident that this particular world leader lacks the courage and moral conviction to speak out.

When the slaves of Zionism are called on to break out of their chains, instead, their own fear of political and financial retribution guarantees that they will maintain their silence.

Obama is not only incapable of condemning Israeli violence; he cannot even acknowledge its existence!

When unarmed and non-violent Americans are the victims — whether killed, maimed or abused by Israeli soldiers — the government of the nation that proudly describes itself as the most powerful nation on earth has nothing to say in defense of its own citizens.

If it wasn’t being used to justify murder, this headline in the Washington Post would be laughably absurd:

Israel says Free Gaza Movement poses threat to Jewish state

The report says:

Once viewed only as a political nuisance by Israel’s government, the group behind the Gaza aid flotilla has grown since its inception four years ago into a broad international movement that now includes Islamist organizations that Israeli intelligence agencies say pose a security threat to the Jewish state.

The Free Gaza Movement’s evolution is among Israel’s chief reasons for conducting Monday morning’s raid on a ship carrying medicine, construction materials, school paper and parts for Gaza’s defunct water treatment plant. The movement once drew its support almost entirely from activists and donors in Australia, Britain and the United States. But the ship that Israeli forces stormed Monday morning was operated by a Turkish charity that Israeli intelligence agencies and others contend has connections to radical Islamist groups.

Radical Islamist groups — the hobgoblins of the Israeli psyche have also enfeebled the judgement of most Americans. Raise the specter of such a threat and the rational mind freezes.

This is the psychology of cowardice, where fear becomes omnipresent.

Those thus enslaved, cloak their own weakness with fables about the demons they hope to destroy. But their deceit is transparent. This is heroism merely self-declared, visible to no one else.

Arrogance and cowardice are the two faces of the fear of fear. Israel’s might is the mask behind which it conceals its own lack of courage — its terror of looking weak.

Hours after Israeli commandos were out slaying sea monsters, an Israeli soldier in the West Bank faced the threat of an unarmed American 21-year old.

Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas canister fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during a demonstration at the Qalandiya checkpoint. She is a talented young artist who will now only be able to follow her passion with one eye — the other was removed in surgery yesterday.

Does the soldier who shot her believe Israel is now safer?

When a state blinds or even kills individuals whose “crime” is their willingness to stand up in defense of justice, what is it that national security is securing?

As Robert Fisk duly noted yesterday:

[I]t is a fact that it is ordinary people, activists, call them what you will, who now take decisions to change events. Our politicians are too spineless, too cowardly, to take decisions to save lives. Why is this? Why didn’t we hear courageous words from [Britain’s prime minister and deputy prime minister] Messrs Cameron and Clegg yesterday [after the flotilla massacre]?

For it is a fact, is it not, that had Europeans (and yes, the Turks are Europeans, are they not?) been gunned down by any other Middle Eastern army (which the Israeli army is, is it not?) there would have been waves of outrage.

And what does this say about Israel? Isn’t Turkey a close ally of Israel? Is this what the Turks can expect? Now Israel’s only ally in the Muslim world is saying this is a massacre – and Israel doesn’t seem to care.

But then Israel didn’t care when London and Canberra expelled Israeli diplomats after British and Australian passports were forged and then provided to the assassins of Hamas commander Mahmoud al-Mabhouh. It didn’t care when it announced new Jewish settlements on occupied land in East Jerusalem while Joe Biden, the Vice-President of its erstwhile ally, the United States, was in town. Why should Israel care now?
How did we get to this point? Maybe because we all grew used to seeing the Israelis kill Arabs, maybe the Israelis grew used to killing Arabs. Now they kill Turks. Or Europeans. Something has changed in the Middle East these past 24 hours – and the Israelis (given their extraordinarily stupid political response to the slaughter) don’t seem to have grasped what has happened. The world is tired of these outrages. Only the politicians are silent.

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

‘Huffpo’ stakes out new frontier in the liberal discourse (Welcome home, Barney!!!!!!!)

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

I have been in despair about the lack of angry response to the flotilla in the American liberal discourse. Well, take heart: at this moment (11), seven of the 25 blogs on the Huffington front page are about Israel and the lame U.S. response; all but one (by Dershowitz) are highly critical of Israel–impressive showing by Zogby, Clemons, others. The contrast with the Times and Washington Post is remarkable. The main Huffpo headline is Barney Frank saying that
“as a Jew”
he’s ashamed of the treatment of Palestinians. A Boston Herald interview, foreshadowed by Jeff Halper on Mondo a few weeks back when he said that Barney would let loose if he only thought he had political cover.

Does Barney feel he has political cover? Oh wow, this is awesome. Awesome. Celebrate Barney Frank, celebrate the shift. From the Herald:

Frank, in a wide-ranging interview with the Herald, went on to say that “as a Jew,” Israeli treatment of Arabs around some of the West Bank settlements “makes me ashamed that there would be Jews that would engage in that kind of victimization of a minority.”

Liberalism. Coming home.

Israel censors the news, again

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Israel may have botched its raid on the Gaza Flotilla, but it is still successfully deploying its time-honored news management practices — as outlined by the Dutch journalist, Joris Luyendijk, in his impressive book, People Like Us: Misrepresenting the Middle East.

The London  Financial Times provides its readers with an entire article documenting the Israeli strategy. The reporter, Tobias Buck, explains:

Desperate to counter a mounting diplomatic backlash, the Israeli government and army sought to flood the airwaves with their version of events, bolstered by heavily edited scenes from the assault.  More importantly, the authorities ensured that their narrative gained early dominance by largely silencing the hundreds of activists who were on board during the attack.

Let’s look and see how The New York Times handled the same story.  In my print edition, I had to read down to the 11th paragraph before I discovered,

Israel did not provide journalists with access to those detained.

This is a nice euphemism for “Illegally arresting hundreds of people on the high seas, killing at least 9 of them, detaining the rest unlawfully for several days, and not permitting scores of international journalists who were on the scene to listen to their side of the story.”

Eventually, the hundreds of activists will be deported, and start to talk.  By then, the cement will have settled around the Israeli story, and if another Goldstone comes along to calmly challenge it, he will be dismissed as anti-Semitic.

Drive-by settlers, and other news

Posted: 02 Jun 2010 07:56 AM PDT

My “Today in Palestine” news links. Don’t miss the two Palestinian pedestrians killed in the West Bank by Israelis speeding by on settlers-only roads:


Land Theft/Destruction & Ethnic Cleansing
Settlers torch hundreds of Nablus olive trees
Nablus – Ma’an – Residents of the illegal Yitzhar settlement set fire to more than 100 dunums of Palestinian lands near Urif village, southwest of Nablus on Wednesday afternoon, Palestinian officials said.  Local official in charge of the settlements file in the northern West Bank Ghasan Daghlas said the fire was set in the Jabal Marwes area, the hill separating the villages of URif and Asira Al-Qaliya, into which Yitzhar’s “municipal area” extends.

Israel deports Palestinian to Gaza, says society
Gaza – Ma’an – A Palestinian man from Beersheba was deported into Gaza on Tuesday evening, the Wa’ed Prisoners Society said, after Israeli authorities invoked a controversial military order allowing the expulsion of Palestinians broadly defined as “infiltrators.”
The society said Nasser Al-Jarushah was detained late Tuesday night from his home in the southern Israeli city and left at the Erez crossing into Gaza, leaving behind his wife and children.

Violence and Aggression
Jewish settler runs over Palestinian to death in West Bank
RAMALLAH, June 2 (Xinhua) — A Palestinian man died Wednesday shortly after a Jewish settler ran over him in the West Bank, witnesses and Palestinian security sources said.  Mazen Al-Jamal, 50, was passing across a road in the south of Hebron before a speedy Israeli vehicle hit him, the witnesses said.  Meanwhile, security sources said the man died hours after being evacuated by an Israeli ambulance to an Israeli hospital.  Jewish settlers, who have access to the heart of the Palestinian city, use the Road 60 on their movement in and out of Hebron.  Following the accident, the Israeli police and army shut down the road before the Palestinians.  On Monday, an elderly Palestinian woman also died in a similar accident in Hebron.

Call for action from activist Caoimhe Butterly (Gaza TV News)

Petition: Strip Israel of UN Membership


Gaza Flotilla March on Saturday June 5th.  Assemble Downing Street, London @ 1:30PM

Al-Awda Los Angeles, calling for a second demonstration on Friday June 4th @ 4 pm in front of the Zionist Consulate, 6830 Wilshire Blvd., Los Angeles

Political Fallout
Nicaragua suspends diplomatic ties with Israel
MANAGUA, June 1 (Xinhua) — The Nicaraguan government Tuesday suspended the country’s diplomatic ties with Israel in protest of the Jewish state’s deadly raid on the Gaza-bound international aid flotilla on Monday.  Government spokeswoman Rosario Murillo, who is wife of Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, announced the move in a short statement.  “Nicaragua suspends from today its diplomatic relations with the government of Israel,” said the statement.

Mashaal wants ‘Goldstone report’ on sail
Hamas politburo chief lashes out at Israel over IDF takeover of Gaza-bound flotilla. ‘One of the participants was a Holocaust survivor, while Israel itself is committing a Holocaust today,’ he says during visit to Yemen.,7340,L-3897620,00.html

Hamas urges states to cut Israel ties, end embargo
* Meshaal wants US, Russia to make Israel end Gaza blockade
* Urges Egypt to keep Rafah crossing point open permanently
* Calls for Barak, Netanyahu to be tried for war crimes

Full Text of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Speech

Diplomat families return to Israel
Israel’s ambassador to Turkey has been stuck at home for two days, consulate in Istanbul also under ‘siege.’ Remaining detainees to be deported.,7340,L-3897776,00.html

Turkey gives Israel deadline to free activists (AFP)
AFP – Turkey warned Wednesday of fresh measures against Israel if it failed to free by the evening hundreds of Turkish activists detained in a deadly raid on aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip.*

Turkey calls on Israel to end blockade to restore ties (Reuters)
Reuters – Turkey demanded Israel lift its blockade of Gaza as a condition for normalizing relations but added it was time that “calm replaced anger” after Israel’s deadly raid on a Turkish-backed aid flotilla.*

Turkey wants US condemnation of Israeli raid (AP)
AP – Turkey demanded on Tuesday that the United States condemn the deadly Israeli raid on an aid flotilla headed to the Gaza Strip that ended with Israeli soldiers killing nine activists.*

No one should test Turkey’s patience, PM Erdoğan warns
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who cut his trip to Chile short after Israel’s attack on a Turkish-led humanitarian aid flotilla on Monday, said in an address to his party’s parliamentary group on Tuesday that Israel should not test Turkey’s diplomatic patience and that Turkey would do everything in its diplomatic power to give the deserved response.

Turkish foreign minister: Israeli raid on Gaza aid flotilla ‘like 9/11’ for his country
With anger and sarcasm, Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu lashed out Tuesday at Israel’s attack on a Gaza aid flotilla and by extension the Obama administration’s reluctance to immediately condemn the assault that left at least nine civilians dead.

Obama expresses regret over loss of lives (AP)
AP – President Barack Obama has expressed condolences to Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the loss of life and injuries after Israel’s raid on a flotilla trying to break the blockade of Gaza.*

Report: Turkey considers navy escort for future Gaza aid ships
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Turkey may escort future aid ships to Gaza, according to news reports. IBN, the US network CNN’s affiliate in India, reported Tuesday that Turkey was considering accompanying future aid ships to Gaza.

Travel Advisory: Stay Away From Arabs…
The consulate advised American citizens to be “on alert for possible road blockages, demonstrations and protests,” adding that US citizens “should specially use caution in places with large Arab populations, including Umm el Fahem, Acre, Jaffa, Haifa, East Jerusalem and Jerusalem’s Old City. Demonstrations are likely in various West Bank cities as well as in Gaza.”

Irish aid vessel still sailing for Gaza, ‘most serious consequences’ promised if passengers harmed
Irish humanitarian aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie is still sailing for Gaza, in spite of Israel’s recent, devastating attack on other vessels in the Gaza aid flotilla, resulting in at least nine dead activists and hundreds of prisoners.  Irish humanitarian aid ship the MV Rachel Corrie is still sailing for Gaza, in spite of Israel’s recent, devastating attack on other 23-year-old U.S. peace activist Rachel Corrie — who was crushed to death in 2003 by an American-built bulldozer operated by the Israeli army — has been pleading with the international community to pressure Israel into leaving them alone.

Condemnation across Europe after Israel raid on Freedom Flotilla (The Christian Science Monitor)
The Christian Science Monitor – European official and public reaction to an Israeli raid that killed at least 9 members of the self-styled “Freedom Flotilla” bound for Gaza on Monday has been uniformly condemnatory.*

Egypt opens border as new aid ship sails for Gaza
Egypt opens its border with the Gaza Strip in a clear rebuke to Israel the deadly raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla, as activists say they have launched another aid ship.

Kuwait MPs call for withdrawal from Arab peace plan (AFP)
AFP – Kuwaiti MPs on Tuesday blasted Israel as a criminal state over its attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla and called on the government to withdraw from an eight-year-old Arab peace initiative.*

Vatican: Israeli occupation politically unjust
Leaked document says occupation of Palestinian territories ‘makes daily life difficult for freedom of movement, the economy and social and religious life’.,7340,L-3897712,00.html

Israeli ministers likely to demand probe of Gaza flotilla raid
Netanyahu convenes political-security cabinet; senior ministers fume after Gaza flotilla operation goes ahead without their approval.

Democracy Now Interviews Adam Shapiro, Amira Hass, Ali Abunimah and Richard Falk
It was early Monday morning as Israeli soldiers stormed the Gaza-bound international aid convoy called the Freedom Flotilla in international waters about forty miles off the coast of Gaza. The six ships had nearly 700 international activists on board and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid. They were aiming to break the three-year-long siege of the Gaza Strip. Israeli commandos landed on the lead ship in the convoy, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, which had about 600 activists on board.

Barney Frank: ‘As A Jew’ I’m ‘Ashamed’ Over Treatment Of Palestinians
JERUSALEM — Israel on Wednesday began deporting the bulk of nearly 700 international activists detained during its deadly raid on an aid flotilla bound for Palestinians in the blockaded, Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip.  The raid that ended with Israeli soldiers killing nine activists has strained diplomatic ties, sending Israeli relations with Turkey, in particular, to a new low. At least four of the nine killed were Turkish and the ship Israel attacked was Turkish. Israel ordered families of its diplomats out of that country a day after Turkey branded the raid a “massacre.”

Harman challenger: Top Dem “in the pocket” of AIPAC
In a statement posted on her website on Monday, Winograd called for an international investigation into the flotilla raid and called Harman’s refusal to speak out immediately on the issue “shameful.”  She also charged that Harman’s lack of response indicated she approved of Israel’s violent tactics and said her policies make her constituents less safe.

Experts say Gaza convoy raid may boost militancy (Reuters)
Reuters – Outrage at a lethal Israeli raid on a Gaza aid flotilla could radicalize youths in Western-based Muslim communities already unsettled by the West’s military record in Afghanistan and Iraq, security experts say.*

Eyewitness Accounts/Information on Activists

Palestinian-Israelis from Gaza Flotilla Face Extended Detention
A court hearing held in Ashkelon Tuesday resulted in the decision to extend the detention of four Flotilla detainees who are prominent Arab Israeli ctizens.

Iran’s Press TV reporter missing after Israeli attack on aid convoy: report
TEHRAN, June 2 (Xinhua) — Contact with Press TV’s reporter Hassan Ghani was lost soon after Israeli commandos intercepted the Freedom Flotilla in the Mediterranean Sea, Iran’s English language satellite Press TV reported on Wednesday.  Three days after the deadly Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, the fate of Press TV’s British national correspondent onboard the humanitarian convoy remains unknown, the report said.

Freedom Flotilla activists released to Jordan
Over one hundred and twenty of the Freedom Flotilla activists, finally released from Israeli detention. The activists were captured and cut off from contact from more than two days. They tell us stories of the deadly Israeli raid on the Mavi Marmara ship and the dreadful treatment they were subjected to.

Israel to Deport All Activists, Breakdown by Country
Australia 3; Azerbaijan 2; Italy 6; Indonesia 12; Ireland 9; Algeria 28; United States 11; Bulgaria 2; Bosnia 1; Bahrain 4; Belgium 5; Germany 11; South Africa 1; Holland 2; United Kingdom 31; Greece 38; Jordan 30; Kuwait 15; Lebanon 3; Mauritania 3; Malaysia 11; Egypt 3; Macedonia 3; Morocco 7; Norway 3; New Zealand 1; Syria 3; Serbia 1; Oman 1; Pakistan 3; Czech Republic 4; France 9; Kosovo 1; Canada 1; Sweden 11; Turkey 380; Yemen 4.

Doubt cast on Israel raid account
Activists on ships raided by Israeli commandos cast doubt on Israel ‘s version of events that led to at least 10 deaths.

Israelis “humiliated” ship activists: eyewitness
* Activists acted in self-defence, witness says
* Refused to sign documents

MK Regev to Balad’s Zoabi: Go to Gaza, traitor!
Likud member says Arab MK who took part in Gaza sail must be punished, adds, ‘We don’t need Trojan horses in the Knesset.’ Barakeh: Her actions were noble.,7340,L-3898073,00.html

Huwaida Arraf recounts Israeli attack on Freedom Flotilla

Israeli MP’s Terror on Aid Ship: ‘Plan Was to Kill Activists’, Jonathan Cook – Nazareth
An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who was on board the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday as it tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza accused Israel yesterday of intending to kill peace activists as a way to deter future convoys.  Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla’s flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandos abseiled from a helicopter directly above them.

Gaza boat passenger says Australian photographer electroshocked by Israeli soldiers
CANBERRA , June 2 (Xinhua) — Australian photographer Kate Geraghty was electroshocked on the arm by Israeli soldiers who stormed a flotilla of boats heading to Gaza , a fellow passenger said on Wednesday.  One of the first to be released from detention center on Wednesday (AEST) was organizer with the Free Gaza Flotilla, Huwaida Arraf, a dual U.S./Israeli citizen who claimed she was aboard the U.S.-flagged vessel Challenger 1 along with Australian Fairfax journalist Paul McGeough and Geraghty.

Expelled activists describe cold-blooded killings (AFP)
AFP – Activists expelled to Jordan early on Wednesday after being hauled off a Gaza-bound aid flotilla accused Israeli commandos who carried out the raid of killing passengers cold-bloodedly.*

Swedish intellectuals among Gaza flotilla detainees
Gaza – Ma’an – The famous Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell is currently detained in Israel amongst solidarity activists seized by Israeli naval forces which raided Gaza aid flotilla on Monday morning, Ma’an has learned.

El Cerrito man beaten in assault on Gaza aid flotilla
A 64-year old El Cerrito resident who sailed with a group taking supplies to the Gaza Strip was badly beaten during the Israeli commando assault, a family friend said Tuesday.  The report came from Lindsay Bagette, who said she was speaking on behalf of Paul Larudee’s wife, Betty.  Larudee was beaten because he refused to comply with a commando’s orders, the Israeli Consulate General told Betty Larudee on Tuesday afternoon, Bagette said.  The report could not be independently confirmed.

Israelis used bullets and tear gas: Greek activist (AFP)
AFP – A Greek activist told Tuesday of the moment Israeli troops stormed the ill-fated Gaza-bound aid flotilla, using rubber bullets, tear gas and electroshock weapons to subdue those aboard.*

Israelis pointed guns at our heads-Turkish captain
ISTANBUL, June 1 (Reuters) – An Israeli warship threatened to sink Captain Huseyin Tokalak’s ship before young commandos boarded the Turkish-flagged Gazze and trained their guns on him and his crew.  “They pointed two guns to the head of each of us,” Tokalak told a news conference on Tuesday. “They were really interesting guns, like the ones you see in the movies.”

Germans on Gaza ship deny Israeli commandos provoked
BERLIN — Visibly shaken German activists who were on an aid ship bound for Gaza rejected on Tuesday Israeli claims that commandos were provoked by violence by those on board, saying it was a peaceful convoy.  A German doctor on the ship, Matthias Jochheim, who had bloodstains on his trousers from people he treated, said that he had personally seen four dead people and that he expected the total death toll to be 15.

Salah to remain in custody 1 more week
Head of Islamic Movement’s northern branch waves at supporters during remand hearing, appears amused.,7340,L-3897739,00.html

Victoria activist caught in Israeli attack willing to risk his life: friend
Victoria, B.C. – Activist Kevin Neish of Victoria “is willing to lay his life on the line to follow through with convictions,” said a friend of 35 years.

Flotilla Activist’s Family on Hunger Strike to Demand his Release
The family of Osama Qashoo, a British citizen of Palestinian descent, has declared a hunger strike that will only end with Qashoo’s release. Qashoo was one of the activists aboard this Freedom Flotilla attempting to bring aid supplies to Gaza . His mother, father, and six brothers are demanding his release after he and all of the other activists aboard the Flotilla were arrested by Israeli troops.

Why we sailed to Gaza | Lauren Booth
Let me ask you one final question that’s been troubling me, as sympathy for those apparently fragile Israeli commandos continues to pour in. If you were on a boat in the Mediterranean and hundreds of the world’s most notoriously violent soldiers started falling from the sky, wouldn’t you defend yourself? The brave human beings on the Mavi Marmara were acting in self-defence. And because of this many died. Something of the hopeful child in me died with them.

Other Flotilla News
Organizers: Freedom Flotilla 2 in a few weeks
Gaza – Ma’an – The Brussels-based European campaign against the siege on Gaza announced Wednesday that they had secured funds to support three new aid ships to be sailed to Gaza .  The fleet will be called the Freedom 2, which head of the campaign Arafat Madhi said would be “much bigger than the first,” which included nationals from some 40 nations and 10,000 tons of aid, currently held by Israel following the takeover of six ships in international waters on Monday morning.

Activists: We have funding for another larger Gaza flotilla
‘Freedom 2’ expected to set sail in coming weeks; Crew members of ‘Rachel Corrie’ ship, part of the first Gaza aid convoy, still determined to break Gaza blockade, saying ‘we are a peaceful mission.’

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:  FGM: Update on Israeli attack on Humanitarian Boats
[Cyprus – 1 June, 2010] The UN Security Council Calls for Impartial, Credible Investigation of Israeli Boat Raid. The raid in international waters, on the aid convoy headed to Gaza left at least 16 civilians dead. After an emergency session wrapped up in the early hours this morning, the council agreed to language condemning the acts that resulted in the deaths and injuries aboard the Turkish vessel Mavi Marmara and the European Campaign’s vessel Spendoni.

Israel navy braced to intercept next Gaza aid ship (Reuters)
Reuters – Activists vowed on Tuesday to try to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza with another ship, and an Israeli officer pledged to halt it, setting the stage for a fresh confrontation after Monday’s deadly clash.*

Activists on board last flotilla ship now ‘more determined’
BEIRUT: Activists on board the last remaining ship of the Gaza freedom flotilla said Tuesday they were more determined to reach Gaza following the deaths of their comrades, and urged the international community to call on Israel to allow their safe passage.
“After hearing the news we were more determined than ever to get to Gaza ,” Derek Graham, an activist on board the ship, told The Daily Star by satellite phone.

No weapons on stormed Turkish ship: Report
“Allegations that there were weapons aboard the Turkish ship are baseless,” Fevzi Gulcan, the head of customs at the Mediterranean port city of Antalya, told Anatolia.

Pictures: Mystery solved: flotilla cargo contents revealed!

Gaza aid flotilla: Israeli sabotage suspected
Israel’s military may have sabotaged two boats carrying Free Gaza activists after both malfuntioned at the same time in the same way prior to the raid.

Anger in Turkey over Israeli flotilla raid

Palestinians in Bulgaria Rally against Israeli Blockade of Gaza

Tunisians demonstrate to denounce Israeli raid on aid ships

Israeli strike echoes in Pakistan

Mya Guarnieri: Israeli Left Denounces IDF’s Raid of the Freedom Flotilla

Church council condemns flotilla raid

Thousands Rally in Los Angeles Against Israeli Flotilla Raid

Vermonters mourn the dead of the Memorial Day Massacre on Aid Flotilla to Gaza

San Francisco Protests Flotilla Massacre (Part 1: The March)

San Francisco Protests Flotilla Massacre (Part 2)

Arab Americans protest in Dearborn against Israel’s actions

Other Activism/Solidarity/Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment
Sweden requests cancellation of national youth soccer team’s match in Israel
In wake of IDF raid on Gaza-aid flotilla, Swedish Soccer Association asks UEFA to nix its national youth squad’s match in Israel scheduled for Friday.

Ireland: Tribute to the people of Gaza
I never cease to be amazed at the power of the human spirit to survive. During my last visit to Gaza in October 2008 I was amazed and deeply moved by the power of the people I witnessed. In a triumph of hope over adversity and tremendous suffering, love still abides.

What leaders will decry Henochowicz’s ‘devastating injury’?, Philip Weiss
Emily Henochowicz, the 21-year-old Cooper Union student whose left eye was destroyed by Israeli soldiers in Palestine yesterday during a protest of the flotilla raid, has a blog. You will see that she is a person of great imagination. On her “about” page appears this image and the words, “A visual adventure!” Let’s look for important expressions from Henochowicz down the road.  Cooper Union has issued a completely safe/noncommital statement on the matter. Notice the scaly evasion, “a tear gas canister hit her in the face.” Oh, and a bullet paralyzed Dean Kahler.

Palestinian pacifist gets Sweden’s Anna Lindh award (AFP)
AFP – A Palestinian pacifist, Jean Zaru, on Tuesday won the Anna Lindh award for dedicating her life to “defending non violence as a solution” to the Mideast conflict, the prize committee said.*

Lessons from the UC Berkeley Divestment Effort
Israel right-or-wrong apologists have reason to be worried after three lengthy UC Berkeley student senate hearings concluded each with a solid majority of votes (60% or more) in favor of divestment from companies that profit from the Israeli occupation. Though in the end, the vote fell 1 short of the needed supermajority required to overturn a veto, neither our opponents nor we forget that a clear majority consistently supported the bill.

Israelis celebrating attack on Turkish Aid Ship – infront of Turkish Embassy,Tel Aviv

Palestinian civil society condemns repression in Canada against Palestine solidarity campaigns and humanitarian efforts
Occupied Palestine, May 26 2010 – The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), strongly condemns the actions taken by Canadian state bodies, university administrations and pressure groups to defund, repress and otherwise attempt to weaken groups and individuals that provide assistance to, or campaign in solidarity with, Palestinians. Such blatantly anti-democratic measures are not only repulsive per se; they are forms of complicity with Israeli violations of international law and Palestinian rights and have far reaching adverse consequences for civil liberties. The BNC believes that this repression in Canada must be brought to an end.

Israeli Justification of Crimes/American Support
‘Next time we’ll use more force’
Israel will use more aggressive force in the future to prevent ships from breaking the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, a top Navy commander told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Netanyahu: World criticism won’t stop Israel’s blockade of Gaza
Ministers likely to call for probe into Gaza flotilla raid; PM tells cabinet that naval blockade needed to ensure weapons not be smuggled into Hamas-ruled territory.

Lieberman to UN chief: International community is two-faced for condemning Israel
After emergency session and marathon negotiations, UN Security Council calls for impartial probe of Israel’s raid on Gaza flotilla, requests immediate release of ships and civilians held by Israel.

State: Petitions over raid of Gaza flotilla biased
Human rights groups file High Court petition claiming Israeli army’s raid violated international law. State prosecutor argues to the contrary, says petition is ‘baseless and mendacious’.,7340,L-3897575,00.html

Official: US Will Stand with Israel
I’m told there won’t be any daylight between the US and Israel in the aftermath of the incident on the flotilla yesterday, which resulted in the deaths of 10 activists.  Regardless of the details of the flotilla incident, sources say President Obama is focused on what he sees as the longer term issue here: a successful Mideast peace process.  “The president has always said that it will be much easier for Israel to make peace if it feels secure,” a senior administration official tells ABC News.

US declines to apportion blame after Israeli raid (AFP)
AFP – The White House declined Tuesday to specifically condemn Israel for its raid on a humanitarian flotilla, but said it showed Middle East peace moves were now needed more than ever.*

Obscene:  Peres: Soldiers were beaten for being humane
President expresses support for IDF actions during takeover of Gaza-bound ship, commends ‘troops who preferred getting hurt over hurting someone else’.,7340,L-3897711,00.html

Obscene: Israel should lead investigation into attack on Gaza flotilla, says US
Turkey’s demands for international inquiry blocked at meeting of United Nations security council

Top US lawmaker: No ‘biased’ UN resolution in flotilla raid (AFP)
AFP – US President Barack Obama should veto “any biased UN resolutions reining in Israel’s right to defend itself” after a deadly Israeli raid on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla, a top lawmaker said Tuesday.*

Israel’s Arab Helpers
Fatah’s Azzam Al-Ahmad: Gaza Doesn’t Need Food, Humanitarian Supplies
02/06/2010 Senior Fatah Movement official, Azzam Al-Ahmad, told the German News Agency (DPA) that the Gaza Strip did not need humanitarian or food supplies. The Fatah Central Committee member stressed in his telephone call with DPA the Palestinian Authority of Mahmoud Abbas was securing the needs of the Strip on daily basis. “I confidently say that Gaza does not need humanitarian or food supplies because the PA is securing all of this. The PA sends 200 trucks into Gaza, not through Rafah but through other crossings,” he told the Genrman News Agency. “These trucks are always full of food supplies, medicaments, and fuel,” he added.

Humanitarian/Human Rights
Amnesty International: Suffocating Gaza – the Israeli blockade’s effects on Palestinians/More than half of the population in Gaza are children
Israel’s military blockade of Gaza has left more than 1.4 million Palestinian men, women and children trapped in the Gaza Strip, an area of land just 40 kilometres long and 9.5 kilometres wide.  Mass unemployment, extreme poverty and food price rises caused by shortages have left four in five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. As a form of collective punishment, Israel’s continuing blockade of Gaza is a flagrant violation of international law.

WHO: Medical Supplies Blocked From Entering Gaza
The World Health Organization (WHO) says Israel is blocking vital medical supplies from entering the Gaza Strip.  The U.N. agency says it is impossible to maintain a well-functioning health system if necessary supplies are not available.  The World Health Organization is renewing its appeal to the Israeli government to allow necessary medical equipment, spare parts, and repair crews to enter the Gaza Strip.

After Israeli raid, Freedom Flotilla aid starts to flow to Gaza
Ships involved in the “Freedom Flotilla” were towed into the Israel port of Ashdod after the Israeli raid Monday. Some of the humanitarian aid is being delivered by Israel to Gaza. But Hamas says it won’t accept it until flotilla activists are released from Israeli detention.

OPT: Gaza hopes Egypt border opening will be permanent
* UN says blockade led to humanitarian crisis, Israel denies
* Hamas calls for full opening of Rafah crossing
* Egypt allows generators into Gaza

PA official: Shin Bet threatened to expel me from Jerusalem
Jerusalem Portfolio appointee Hatem Abdel Kader says was warned over his political activities within capital’s limits.,7340,L-3897694,00.html

The colors of racism
Even Iran is not as bad as Immanuel, where they make Jewish girls of differing ethnic stripe wear different colored uniforms.

Political Developments
Palestinians to continue with indirect talks: UN (AFP)
AFP – Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas said on Tuesday indirect talks with Israeli would go ahead despite a deadly commando raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, UN chief Ban Ki-moon told AFP.*

PA factions demand end to proximity talks
Bethlehem – Ma’an – The majority of factions within the Palestinian Authority are opposed to the continuation of indirect talks with Israel, officials in Ramallah said Monday.  The officials spoke out during a meeting convened to consider sending a delegation of PLO and Fatah Central Committee members to Gaza in order to finalize a reconciliation deal with Hamas. It followed Israel’s fatal attack on an aid convoy destined for the coastal enclave.

Haniyeh: Gaza receiving calls of support from Arab world
Gaza – Ma’an – Turkish Prime Minister Raceb Tayeb Erdogan called Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, the Hamas leader said, to affirm solid support for the de facto government “even if Turkey is your only supporter.”  While Turkey had remained neutral on the issue of Hamas rule in Gaza, offering earlier in the year to act as a go-between for reconciliation talks with the rivals, Haniyeh said Edrogan believed the presence of activists from some 40 nations was an “indicator that Israel is not only confronting Turkey but also the whole world.”

NPT Signatories Call on Israel to Open Nuclear Sites
Israel is the only Middle East state not to have signed the NPT. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has rejected the measure, calling it biased for excluding Iran.

Media Bias/Restrictions
Reporters Without Borders: 15 journalists still missing
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Reporters Without Borders is urging the Israeli authorities to release a list of the journalists who were arrested during Monday’s raid on the humanitarian flotilla and to say where they are being held.

RSF condemns flotilla censorship
Bethlehem – Ma’an – Reporters Without Borders has strongly condemned the censorship attempts that accompanied Monday’s deadly assault by Israel on a flotilla that was carrying humanitarian aid, 750 pro-Palestinian activists and several journalists to the Gaza Strip.  “We deplore this assault, which left a heavy toll of dead and wounded,” Reporters Without Borders said in a statement. “The journalists who were on the flotilla to cover the humanitarian operation were put in harm’s way by this disproportionate reaction.

FAIR:  Reporting Israeli Assault Through Israel’s Eyes
On May 31, the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of boats full of civilians attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip. Reports indicate that at least nine and as many as 16 of the activists on board were killed, though details remain sketchy due to Israel’s censorious limitations on media coverage. Much of the U.S. media coverage has been remarkably unskeptical of Israel’s account of events and their context, and has paid little regard to international law.

‘Washington Post’ relies on Israel lobby group for statistical graphic about blockade, Philip Weiss
Our media are broken, corrupted. Look at these Washington Post graphics on the blockade of Gaza. For info, the Post credits the Israel Project, the Israel Defense Forces, and Gisha: Legal Center for freedom of Movement. That’s nuts. The IDF is a foreign army, and the Israel Project is an Israel lobby group that serves up propaganda over easy. You will say that Gisha is a Palestinian-solidarity group, but it is in the end an NGO, and an Israeli one, which, shockingly, seeks freedom of movement for an ethnic minority. Once again, we see the lobby’s influence in American discourse. Pervasive. Hard to say where it stops. I didn’t spot this: Matt Duss did.

Compassionless, Matthews ratifies Israeli raid
I thought Chris Matthews, a Catholic, would betray a hint of compassion for the persecuted people of Gaza. But tonight he was shockingly callous re the flotilla raid:

Who will take on Netanyahu? Comedy channel?, Susie Kneedler
CNN aired Binyamin Netanyahu’s falsehoods yesterday. The Israeli Prime Minister held forth about Israel’s premeditated attack on international humanitarians, as well as its starvation siege of Gaza—both of which, let’s not forget, are acts of war.  CNN challenged this Minister no more than facts confront Orwell’s Ministry of Truth once they’re dumped down Nineteen Eighty-Four’s “memory hole.” No reporters queried his claims; worse, substitute anchor Suzanne Malveaux echoed many. Certainly, CNN’s very headline for the video,  “Netanyahu responds to flotilla raid,” casts the PM as a mere bystander to the attack he masterminded.  His government threatened beforehand that it would do anything to halt the convoy.

Other News
Elliott Abrams to Maariv: Obama’s policies bad for Israel, prospects for peace slim
Last weekend, Sheldon Adelson’s Israel Hayom featured Newt Gingrinch warning Israelis that Obama’s policies could lead to “a second Holocaust.” Now, Elliott Abrams is in Israel for an event organized by Dore Gold’s neoconservative institute, the JCPA, and the competition, Maariv, interviews him on Obama’s Israel policies.

Analysis/Opinion/Human Interest
CrisisWatch N°82, 01 Jun 2010
Israeli commandos killed at least nine people when they raided a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza on 31 May. Full details are not yet clear but the incident has already thrown into question recently launched proximity talks between the Palestinians and Israel. The international community has been swift to condemn Israel’s actions and the UN Security Council has called for an impartial investigation. However, the event has underscored the failure of a much broader policy for which Israel is not solely responsible. Many in the international community have been complicit in isolating Gaza in the hope of weakening Hamas, an approach that has ultimately harmed the people of Gaza without loosening Hamas’s control.

‘We’re the only ones who believe them’, Ben Smith
For while much about the incident remains unclear, a day of carefully parsed statements from the White House and State Department left at least one irrefutable aftershock: With much of the world expressing fury over the raid, the contrast with Washington’s muted response could not have been more striking.  “The situation is that they’re so isolated right now that it’s not only that we’re the only ones who will stick up for them,” said an American official. “We’re the only ones who believe them – and what they’re saying is true.”

Glenn Greenwald Destroys MSNBC’s Israeli lapdog Apologist
Here’s what Glenn had to say about his appearance: I was just on MSNBC talking about Israel, the Gaza blockade and the flotilla attack with Eliot Spitzer, who was guest-hosting for Dylan Ratigan. It was a rather contentious discussion, though quite illustrative of how Israel is (and is not) typically discussed on American television, so I’m posting the whole 8-minute segment below. Two points: (1) before I was on, Spitzer had on an Israel-defending law professor, followed by Netanyahu’s former Chief of Staff, and both of them (along with Spitzer) were spewing pure Israeli propaganda in uninterrupted and unchallenged fashion; at the end of Spitzer’s discussions with them, he asked them to “stick around just in case,” and once I was left, he brought at least one of them back on to respond to what I said without challenge; (2) literally 90 seconds before my segment was about to begin, the new cam and sound system I just acquired stopped working, forcing me to unplug everything and use only my laptop cam and mic, which caused the technical aspects to be less than ideal (though still perfectly workable)

It’s up to Obama whether the siege of Gaza continues, Paul Woodward
After the flotilla massacre committed by Israeli forces, Turkey’s call for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council yesterday was to be expected. Turks are assumed to be among the dead — whose names and nationalities have still not been released. There are now hundreds of Turks being held in detention in Israel and Turkish ships were captured illegally in international waters in an action Turkey’s foreign minister described as “tantamount to banditry and piracy.”

Still Think Israel Doesn’t Run the United States?
From the website of the U.S. Department of Commerce (Bureau of Industry and Security)

US reaction: Cracks appear in America’s other special relationship
Once again, the US conspicuously failed to follow most of the rest of the world in condemning Israel. The White House merely expressed its “deep regret” at the loss of life, stressing the need to establish first the details of what happened. The State Department went a fraction further, citing its “deep concern” at the civilian sufferings in Gaza. But again, no condemnation.

Questions over US policy on Middle East conflict
In the US military and diplomatic establishments a consesnsus has long existed that Israel is a strategic liability. Following the wars of ’67 and ’73 corporate elites also came to share this view. Now Mossad chief Meir Dagan is admitting that Israel is becoming a strategic burden for the United States. His honesty is refreshing. One wishes Jewish liberals in the US would be as forthcoming as Jewish rightists in israel. Alas, with some honourable exceptions, this hasn’t happened. The Israel lobby, which has fought a historically uphill battle trying to convince politicians that Israel is a strategic asset, has found an unlikely ally in some figures on the left. The most prominent of course is Noam Chomsky, but there is also a legion of his followers who keep parroting this line.

U.S. must condemn Israel for ship killings, Amjad Atallah, Special to CNN
(CNN) — President Obama, in his memorable speech almost exactly one year ago in Cairo, Egypt, urged Palestinians to pursue nonviolent means toward securing their freedom and raised the hopes of many Muslim-majority nations who saw a new, unbiased Mideast policy in the making. Those hopes were shattered by America’s tepid response to the killings aboard a ship on a peaceful humanitarian mission Sunday night.

Israeli raid on Freedom Flotilla shatters key Turkey-Israel ties
The raid on the Turkish-led Gaza Freedom Flotilla has dealt a harsh blow to Turkey-Israel relations. Ankara’s sharp response is strongest signal yet that Turkey may abandon its bid to be regional mediator.

Israel’s flotilla actions vindicate Goldstone report, Philip Weiss
The flotilla is completely vindicating Goldstone. Note that the Israeli defense of its actions on the boat is exactly the same as its defense of its actions in Gaza: we had a right to inderdict their movements across international lines, we got severe provocation, we were being attacked by so-called civilians, no country could permit this to happen, we defended ourselves, just look at the video. And in Gaza the Israelis killed 1200-1400 with minimal loss of life on the Israeli side; and the numbers are similarly imbalanced for the Mavi Mamara.

Ex-Mossad agent: Gaza flotilla raid ’so stupid it’s stupefying’
Tuesday, June 1st, 2010 — 10:53 pm, submit to reddit Stumble This!, Share, 0diggsdigg, israelnavygazaaidflotilla Ex Mossad agent: Gaza flotilla raid so stupid its stupefying, While the United States has reserved judgment in the matter, a former Mossad agent is casting blame for the botched raid on a Gaza aid flotilla, pointing directly at Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for allegedly ordering forces to act without vital preparation.

Israel underestimated reactions
Daniel Levy, a former Israeli negotiator in the peace process, said that Israel underestimated world reaction to the raid. Here he speaks to Al Jazeera’s Kimberly Halket from Jerusalem.

The Gaza flotilla attack shows how far Israel has declined
The closure of Gaza is the consequence of a clumsy, calcified policy, which resorts by default to the use of massive force

Israeli aid boat attack ‘has opened world’s eyes to Gaza’s plight’
Israel’s botched commando raid has succeeded in doing the one thing that Tel Aviv will have wanted to avoid — drawing attention to the Jewish state’s harsh three-year blockade of Gaza.  Mahmoud al-Zahar, a senior Hamas official in Gaza, said that while the activists did not succeed in reaching their intended port they have at last brought international attention to the Israeli-led blockade.

It’s up to us to lift the blockade, Donald Macintyre
The people of Gaza don’t need the West to send humanitarian aid. They need our leaders to take decisive action – after all, we have been complicit in this siege, writes.

PR blitz cannot turn off spotlight on Gaza
Those on the ships – Turks, Europeans and Americans as well as Israelis and Palestinians – cannot be dismissed as ‘terrorists’ with ties to Iran. Their voices will not be easily silenced.

Israeli Attack May Have a Silver Lining
Details of Israel’s attack on the flotilla to Gaza containing humanitarian aid are still leaking out from the Israeli attempt to stifle them. But even if Israel’s spin about its attack on the flotilla is accepted, the situation is still fairly damning for Israel.

The Flotilla attack and Turkey’s views of Palestine
Turkish society has been deeply divided over many issues, from political allegiances to cultural preferences. The public sphere in Turkey is more a realm of appropriation and exclusion than one of mutual agreement and consensus building. However, when it comes to Palestine — as the current furor of Israel’s attack on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza — demonstrates, there is a surprising consensus. Murat Dagli comments for The Electronic Intifada.

We are all Gazans now, Pepe Escobar
Just imagine if these were Iranian commandos attacking a multinational, six-boat aid flotilla in international waters. The United States, the European Union and Israel would instantly make sure to shock and awe Iran to kingdom come.  Instead, it was Israeli commandos who perpetrated this bit of gunboat diplomacy – or “self-defense” – in the dark hours of the early morning, in international waters, some 130 kilometers off the coast of Gaza.

Will Israel’s attack change anything for Palestinians?, Ian Black
Outside Israel and the US, it is widely acknowledged that the policy of isolating Gaza has failed. Is this a watershed moment?  Arabs and many others have been venting their fury over Israel’s violent interception of the Gaza freedom flotilla. The UN security council’s call for a full investigation into the fatal maritime assault is one early achievement. But the larger and longer-term question is whether there will now be any change for the 1.5 million Palestinians living under blockade in the crowded coastal strip. Will policy shift?

Treat Palestinians Like Jews, Robert Scheer
It was an act of international terrorism, pure and simple. There can be no valid claims of self-defense on the part of Israeli commandos who attacked a ship of protesters in international waters, killing nine civilians and kidnapping more than 600 others–including 15 international reporters who were prevented from filing their stories by a nation that claims to be the beacon of democracy in the Mideast.

Why Israeli raid on Freedom Flotilla makes Abbas’s job harder
International pressure in the wake of the Israeli raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has boosted sympathy for Hamas, the chief rival of Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas’s party and a longtime opponent of peace talks.

Israel is becoming the new Jewish ghetto
The events unfolding in the wake of Israel’s attack on Monday against the humanitarian aid flotilla heading for the Gaza Strip can be assessed on three levels, and it matters very much how one chooses to engage the matter.  The first is the narrow technical level of who used force first – whether the Israeli attack was the problem, or whether those on board the Turkish vessel, the Mavi Marmara, who defended themselves against the Israelis triggered the fighting that resulted in death and injuries.

Murdering Human Rights Workers, MARJORIE COHN
On Sunday, Israel murdered human rights workers who were attempting to deliver 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, because Gaza has been virtually cut off from the outside world by Israel. At least 19 people were reportedly killed and dozens injured when Israeli troops boarded the 6-ship Freedom Flotilla convoy in international waters and immediately fired live ammunition at the people on board the ships.

America’s Complicity in Evil, PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS
As I write at 5pm on Monday, May 31, all day has passed since the early morning reports of the Israeli commando attack on the unarmed ships carrying humanitarian  aid to Gaza, and there has been no response from President Obama except to say that he needed to learn “all the facts about this morning’s tragic events” and that Israeli prime minister Netanyahu had canceled his plans to meet with him at the White House. Thus has Obama made America complicit once again in Israel’s barbaric war crimes.  Just as the US Congress voted to deep-six Judge Goldstone’s report on Israel’s war crimes committed in Israel’s January 2009 invasion of Gaza, Obama has deep-sixed Israel’s latest act of barbarism by pretending that he doesn’t know what has happened.

Obama’s Timidity and Deaths at Sea, RAY McGOVERN
A chief lesson to learn from President Barack Obama’s recent unwillingness to stand up to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and the Likud Lobby is that such timidity can get people killed.  Casualty figures are still arriving in the wake of Israel’s Sunday night-Monday morning commando attack on an unarmed flotilla trying to bring relief supplies to the 1.5 million Palestinians crowded into Gaza. Already, at least nine civilian passengers are reported killed, and dozens wounded.

The Mediterranean Massacre,  Justin Raimondo
The condemnations, the imprecations, the expressions of shock are rolling in, as the nations of the world raise their voices in protest over the Mediterranean massacre carried out by Israeli commandos, but rather than get into specifics, I want to note a general pattern that this incident seems to confirm.

The Shadow over Israel, Margaret Atwood
Then there are people like me. Having been preoccupied of late with mass extinctions and environmental disasters, and thus having strayed into the Middle-eastern neighbourhood with a mind as open as it could be without being totally vacant, I’ve come out altered. Child-killing in Gaza? Killing aid-bringers on ships in international waters? Civilians malnourished thanks to the blockade? Forbidding writing paper? Forbidding pizza? How petty and vindictive! Is pizza is a tool of terrorists? Would most Canadians agree? And am I a tool of terrorists for saying this? I think not.

Piracy on the Blood-Red Sea, NEVE GORDON
“Why didn’t they greet us with muffins and orange juice?” was my friend’s facetious question after listening all morning to the Israeli media’s coverage of the assault on the relief flotilla heading for Gaza, the navy assault that left nine citizens dead and many more wounded. Like a group of pirates in the Mediterranean, the Israeli navy attacked humanitarian aid ships in international waters, and yet Israeli officials and commentators were totally surprised when the passengers did not receive them with open arms. Going through the talkbacks on news sites, it seems that most Jews in Israel were also taken aback.

Notch Up Another Disaster for Israel’s Well-Oiled Propaganda Machine, PATRICK COCKBURN
An old Israeli saying describing various less-than-esteemed military leaders says: “He was so stupid that even the other generals noticed.” The same derisive remark could be applied almost without exception to the present generation of Israeli politicians.
Such healthy skepticism among Israelis about the abilities of their military and political leaders has unfortunately ebbed in recent decades. As a result, Israelis are left perplexed as to why their wars, military interventions and armed actions have so often ended in failure since the 1973 war, despite the superiority of their armed forces.

9 Activists Paint-Balled To Death By Israel
During two appearances on CNN yesterday and today, on-again off-again American and currently Israel’s ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, made the claim that the commandos who helicopter-dropped and stormed the humanitarian aid ships going to Gaza were armed with paintball guns. You may be laughing now, and I agree, it is almost funny, except the Stepford wives and other dumb fucks posing as journalists at CNN eat that shit up and take it at face value. As a matter of fact they did let the claim pass unchallenged and as a matter of fact.

Israel and Palestinians Stay on Collision Course, James Gundun – Washington D.C.
Prospects of the White House learning from its first, aborted round of indirect negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians quickly dropped in the days following a second launch.  One attempt at proxy negotiations hadn’t just failed, but crashed spectacularly across the international community and media. A brief, exaggerated scuffle between America and Israel ensued, gleefully observed by the Palestinians regardless of its authenticity. Justifiable Schadenfreude recycled into further Israeli resentment.

Rachel Corrie Lives: The Attack On the Aid Flotilla, Ron Jacobs
Just when you think Israel can not do anything more to anger most of the world, it does. The attack on the aid flotilla of ships that includes the MV Rachel Corrie on May 31, 2010 was beyond the pale of conventionally accepted actions, even by Israel. It was the ship Mavi Marmara that was attacked and several of its passengers killed because they dared to physically challenge the tactics of the Israeli government in its campaign to isolate and eventually eradicate the idea of a Palestinian people. Like Rachel herself, the people on the ship were activists actively opposing the Israeli regime’s decades-long crusade to dehumanize and destroy the lives of those who call themselves Palestinian. Realizing that the blockade of goods into Gaza has reached disastrous proportions, these folks worked with thousands of others around the world to gather food, medicines and a multitude of other goods forbidden by Israel to enter Gaza and bring the goods to Gaza.

PR Advice to the Palestinians, Matt Barganier
I’ve heard a certain criticism countless times over the years, but after seeing it three times in two days on the same site, I decided to do a little research. From that vast repository of respectable opinion, The Atlantic, here are Jeffrey Goldberg, Andrew Sullivan, and Megan McArdle with the idea du jour:

Political Cartoons

How To Achieve The Right Of Return?
Supporters and critics of one democratic state came together from around the world recently, indicating that alternative solutions are being actively sought as the viability of a two state solution loses support.  Organised by the Abnaa El’Balad movement, the Second Haifa Conference for the return of Palestinian Refugees and for the Democratic Secular State welcomed around 300 participants from Palestine, Israel and across the globe. Through workshops, debate and performances, the three day event provided a forum for discussion on the establishment of a one state solution for Palestine.

Only a one-state Palestine is possible,Christopher King
Christopher King looks beyond Israel’s latest crime against humanity, its murder in international waters of aid workers bound for Gaza. He argues that it is high time to accept the fact that Israel is a fundamentally illegitimate entity and that the only chance for peace lies in a one-state Palestine shared among Palestinian Arabs and Jews.

Israel’s Nuclear Policy, James Petras
On May 24, 2010, the Guardian (U.K.) published a highly confidential document released by the South African government. The 1975 document reveals a secret military agreement signed by Shimon Peres, Israel’s Foreign Minister at the time (and today Israel’s President) and South Africa’s Defense Minister P. W. Botha. Israel offered to sell the apartheid regime, weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear, chemical and conventional weaponry to destroy and defeat the million person African resistance movement. The Presidents of the Major American Jewish Organization, immediately set in motion the Lying Machine claiming the official minutes of the Israeli nuclear offer and a far reaching agreement on military ties between two apartheid regimes were merely a “conversation” (sic) and that Israel did not “make an offer.”

Gideon Levy, can you express yourself freely as a journalist in Israel?
I met Gideon Levy in Hebron five years ago, when we both went for the same reason – to find out about certain Arab families who were being harassed by Israeli settlers. He is a very committed journalist, who in his articles, reportage and columns expresses his views – usually critical of the establishment and the government – with clarity, honesty, talent and courage. I want Gideon to help me to understand the most contradictory and fascinating passion of the world today – Israeli society.

Lebanon fires on Israeli warplanes: security official (AFP)
AFP – Lebanon’s military fired anti-aircraft artillery at Israeli warplanes that were flying over Lebanon, a senior Israeli security official said on Tuesday.*

Israeli troops kidnap shepherd’s 11-year-old son
SIDON: Units of the Lebanese Army and peacekeeping forces were put on alert Tuesday in the region of Wazzani, following the abduction of two Lebanese shepherds by Israeli forces. A number of Israeli troops crossed the technical fence near an Israeli checkpoint in the region of Wazzani where they kidnapped an 11-year-old shepherd. Mohammad Hayel Zaal Mohammad, from the village of Wazzani was herding his flock along with his father Hayel Zaal Mohammad when both were abducted by the Israeli squad. While Hayel managed to escape, his son was taken to an unknown destiny after which he was handed over to the Lebanese army one hour later. Mohammad was interrogated by the Lebanese Army about the details of the incident in an effort to figure out whether or not he had crossed the Blue Line.

Q&A with Hizbullah’s Sheikh Naim Qasim: Israel ‘not ready’ for regional war

337 Iraqi civilians killed in May
275 civilians, 45 police and 17 soldiers – killed as a result of attacks in May, according to data compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries.

Tuesday: 6 Iraqis Killed, 1 Wounded
For Iraqi civilians, May has been the deadliest month so far this year. According to data released by various ministries, at least 275 died. Another 62 Iraqis who were security personnel were killed as well, along with five U.S. soldiers. On the first day of June, at least six Iraqis were killed and one more was wounded, including both civilians and service members.

Iraq’s north says villagers flee Iranian shelling

SULAIMANIYA, Iraq, June 1 (Reuters) – Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region said on Tuesday dozens of families had been displaced in days of shelling by Iranian forces pursuing Kurdish rebels in the border region.

U.S. and World News
Amnesty International:  Libya executes 18 by firing squad
Amnesty International has condemned the reported execution by firing squad of 18 people in Libya on Sunday.  Amnesty International has condemned the reported execution by firing squad of 18 people, many of them foreign nationals, in Libya on Sunday. Cerene, a newspaper closely affiliated with Saif al-Islam al-Gaddafi, son of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, reported that the 18, including nationals of Chad, Egypt and Nigeria, were executed after being convicted of premeditated murder.

Egypt goes to polls, opposition says supporters blocked
CAIRO: Many Egyptians were blocked by security forces and ruling party backers from voting in an election on Tuesday, particularly where the opposition Muslim Brotherhood was running, rights groups and the opposition said.  The vote for 88 of the 264 seats in the upper house, or Shura Council, is regarded as a litmus test for how much space the authorities will give opposition voices in a parliament vote this year and presidential election in 2011.

Saudi youths in trouble over MTV reality show
RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s religious police are trying to bring to court three Saudi youths for challenging the kingdom’s austere lifestyle on an MTV reality show – a new test of the country’s stated commitment to reform.  Divisions have emerged within the influential religious establishment, including the religious police body itself, over long-held restrictions that have been enforced in the world’s leading oil producing country and key US ally.

Did Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman provoke and incite their murderers in Philadelphia, MI?

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Tracking the American liberal discourse’s failure on the flotilla raid, it is important to note that Brian Lehrer, the cerebral conscience of the New York public radio station, WNYC, today did an interview with Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of England on his new book about Jews and Israel. So a conservative Zionist was given a platform to defend Israel’s attack on the boat.

(How’d Lehrer have done with the killings of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, freedom riders who died in 1963?)

Lehrer brought up some good questions. He asked about the inhuman blockade, without quoting the many legal opinions that it is collective punishment. He halfway valorized criticisms of Israel that come from “anti-Zionists” and asked whether these were anti-Semitic.

Sacks said it was anti-Semitic when people attack The Jews for supporting Israel.

So they take credit for anti-Zionist Jews, as proving diversity, when neither Sacks nor Lehrer gives a platform to an anti-Zionist Jew. No, anti-Zionist Jews and non-Zionist Jews are excommunicated by the Jewish leadership. I challenge you, Brian, if you are bragging on that diversity, to honor it: and let your listeners hear from these people. Amy Goodman does so all the time. She puts on Naomi Klein and Norman Finkelstein. Al Jazeera put me on last week. BBC put me on last month. Russian TV put Norman on yesterday.

Lehrer read from a Tom Friedman op-ed today that criticized the Israeli attack mutedly. This is how Lehrer seems to express his own discomfort with the Israeli violence, Tom Friedman.  When Israel is in a crisis stemming from a simple fact: the government does not represent half the people who are under its governance.

Anywhere but here: ‘Haaretz’ prints another Israeli rightwinger talking one-state

Posted: 02 Jun 2010

Moshe Arens, a rightwing Israeli hawk, has joined Reuven Rivlin, speaker of the Knesset, in endorsing a one-state solution that absorbs the West Bank. At the link, Jerry Haber points out that they want to disgorge Gaza but congratulates the right for thinking outside the box. Arens wrote in Haaretz:

Adding another 1.5 million Muslims, the population of Judea and Samaria, to Israel’s Muslim population would of course make the situation considerably more difficult. Would a 30-percent Muslim minority in Israel create a challenge that would be impossible for Israeli society to meet? That is a question that Israeli politicians, and all Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – need to ponder.

I believe the figure is closer to 2.5 million. But what is exciting about Arens’s statement, following on Rivlin’s, is that the right is thinking creatively about a dire crisis faced by Israeli society. And who else is thinking creatively? Who else is publishing this sort of idea? Certainly not liberal Zionists in the United States, who can’t even call for a return to the ’67 lines to save the Jewish state of ancient memory. The right is actually willing to take action/some risk with enfranchising Palestinians who are now under occupation and tyrannized. The Israeli right is thus far closer to Ali Abunimah’s idea that Israel/Palestine should become a… are you sitting down? …. a democracy.

The marvel here is that the Israeli right is doing harder mental work than any American liberal I can think of. And doing so in good measure out of fears of endless bloodshed, lack of progress. The matsav, the conflict, hovers over Israeli society like a black cloud. And over our political life too. How long before American conservatives and realists, who see the apartheid conditions that liberals have blinded themselves to, join this conversation in favor of democracy? I am about to call on Roger Cohen to join this conversation, Roger Cohen who ardently opposed Partition in the former Yugoslavia out of a noble hatred of ethnic division. An essential conversation for Americans, and who will push it.


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shalom Israel we’re gonna put something much nicer there when it’s all over

Israel’s leadership is astoundingly stupid. Marinated in racism, the leaders and the social forces that stand behind them are certain that Israel has aggression rights. True, but aggression rights within reason. This, they don’t get, although you can almost forgive them–American Zionists reliably support them even when they attack American warships.

But American Zionists don’t control the world, and American Zionists don’t speak for the Empire. They can’t distribute aggression rights willy-nilly, and they can’t distribute them to be used against other powerful countries, without inciting a backlash.

So what is new about the attack on the Mavi Marmara? Simple. Netanyahu/Lieberman/Barak are too dumb to know when they are picking a fight with the wrong enemy—in this case, Turkey, a significant American ally in the Mediterranean, and a major (former?) Israeli ally and trading partner, one with political leaders who are partially responsive to popular discontent and popular mobilization (clearly, Israel is very used to dealing with broken democracies).

Erdogan would have broken military ties by now but he is scared of a coup d’état. He may not be scared for long. Or his fear may not be relevant. As Al Jazeera reports, there is in turkey “The danger that political decisions may well be slipping from government hands.” Israel is making more enemies that it can deal with, and against cynics who will say, “Oh, well, Obama won’t stand up to them, nothing will change,” Palestinian solidarity movements are forcing their governments into line with their demands, albeit slowly, haphazardly, with reversals along the way.

Erdogan said yesterday that Israel better “check itself” before it loses its “best friend in the region.” Swedish dockworkers will boycott Israeli goods for a week. Norway’s military has canceled a seminar in which an IDF officer was going to participate. There are 20,000 in the streets in France now. There will soon be more.

Israel cannot afford to offend the populations of Western nation-states with major economies and diplomatic clout. Egypt has opened the Rafah checkpoint. With enough pressure, the Mubarak government will keep it open, at least partially, not least so long as a non-Arab Muslim nation is seen to be doing so much for the Palestinians, and so long as Egyptians are in the streets, mobilizing politically in the thousands, in far bigger numbers for Palestine than I saw when I was there.

 “We’re reaching the endgame,” said Mazin Qumsiyeh, before the latest hijackings and murders. Israel is force-growing the historical process that will lead to its replacement with something much better. The best propaganda against Israel is the truth of Israel and its actions. That propaganda came dearly on the Mavi Marmara, and cheaper on the Rachel Corrie. Dominoes are falling. The US will be the last one to fall, for sure, but we will knock it over. So thank you Israel! You do our work for us.

Technorati Tags: freedom flotilla, Gaza, Israel, Mavi Marmara, no-state-solution, Palestine, Rachel Corrie, Zionism

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BDS in the USA , 2001-2010

Noura Erakat

Noura Erakat is a human rights attorney and adjunct professor of international human rights law at Georgetown University . 

Silent vigil on the Berkeley campus. (Riya Bhattacharjee/Berkeley Daily Planet)

On April 26, 2010, the student senate at the University of California-Berkeley upheld, by one vote, an executive veto on SB 118—the student body resolution endorsing divestment of university funds from General Electric and United Technologies, two companies that profit from the Israeli occupation of East Jerusalem, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Proponents of the resolution needed 14 votes to override the veto and, as 16 senators had spoken in favor of doing so, it appeared a simple task. 

But the vote in Berkeley had shifted the gaze of national pro-Israel organizations from Capitol Hill westward, begetting an unlikely alliance between the hawkish American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and its self-proclaimed liberal rival, J Street . The two groups collaborated in lobbying efforts on campus to sustain the veto. Ultimately, two senators changed their votes and a third abstained, bringing the final count to 13 in favor of overriding the veto and five opposed.

While adherence to student body procedure has blocked the divestment measure, the numbers indicate the strong support for divestment on Berkeley ’s campus and can be regarded as a milestone in the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement.

The strident response to Berkeley ’s resolution from off-campus groups reflects that the BDS movement is being taken more seriously by its opponents than ever before. Berkeley students have been at the forefront of BDS efforts since February 6, 2001, the day Ariel Sharon became Israeli prime minister. They erected a mock checkpoint on campus and unfurled banners exclaiming, “Divest from Israeli Apartheid.”

Within the span of three years, this first university-based divestment campaign spread onto dozens of other American campuses as well as into churches and community organizations. Yet the movement did not gain international legitimacy and elicit serious treatment until a call for BDS came from Palestinian civil society in 2005. 

Since then, and especially since the resounding failure of the international community to hold Israel to account for war crimes committed during Operation Cast Lead, the assault on Gaza in the winter of 2008-2009, the notion of extra-governmental tactics targeting Israeli human rights violations has permeated mainstream institutions. No longer the passion of idealistic students alone, BDS demands have reverberated within American retail stores, corporations and international multilateral organizations. 

The movement’s deepening acceptance among mainstream stakeholders correlates with the steady decline of faith in efforts to achieve a negotiated two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While heads of state fail to extract the most modest commitments from Israel, such as a settlement freeze, BDS activists have increased compliance (albeit incrementally) with international law among corporations and institutions that have distanced themselves from, or divested their holdings in, settlement-related enterprises. 

BDS victories to date, at least in the United States , have targeted Israeli policies in the Occupied Territories , the notion being what should be boycotted and sanctioned is the occupation, rather than Israel itself. But the movement draws inspiration from similar efforts aimed at apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, coupled with the 2005 call emanating from Palestine that includes a demand for equality for Israel ’s Palestinian citizens and the right of return for Palestinian refugees.

This genealogy makes BDS abhorrent to many loyalists of the two-state solution. J Street , for example, sees the movement as an attack on Israel ’s character as a Jewish state. In his blog entry opposing the Berkeley resolution, Isaac Luria of J Street complains that the movement “fails to draw a clear distinction between opposition to the post-1967 occupation and opposition to the existence of the state of Israel itself as the democratic home of the Jewish people.

Even if it was not the intent of the students who drafted this bill, its passage is now being seized on by the global BDS movement as a victory in its broader campaign.” BDS activists insist that they emphasize rights, as opposed to political solutions, precisely to escape the debate over whether Israel and Palestine should be one or two states. They recognize, however, that the fruition of the 2005 demands may lead to an Israel that is a state of all its citizens irrespective of religion.

Hence it is inevitable that BDS will be anathema not only to AIPAC, but also to J Street and Arab American partisans of the two-state solution like Hussein Ibish of the American Task Force on Palestine .

In arousing the ire of both the right and the left ends of the spectrum of permissible opinion on Israel-Palestine in Washington, the BDS platform and movement cuts to the heart of the conflict over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict—and could become central to the conflict itself.

Visions of Justice 


The tripartite strategy of boycott, divestment and sanctions is rooted in economic logic: Israel must comply with international law because non-compliance is too politically and economically costly to maintain. Divestment pressures institutions with stakes in Israeli companies, or in companies that sustain Israeli human rights abuses, to drop their holdings. Boycotts encourage consumers to “let the market decide” upon justice by refusing to buy goods made by companies that benefit from the occupation or inequality in Israel . Sanctions, on the other hand, are trade restrictions imposed by governments upon others. 

In the US , BDS is associated with the solidarity movement aimed at ending apartheid in South Africa .

That movement is widely credited with helping to topple apartheid and free Nelson Mandela, a political prisoner for 27 years, who became the first black president of South Africa . The African National Conference of which Mandela was a part called upon the world to boycott, divest from and sanction apartheid South Africa in 1958. Due to the South African experience, BDS is seen as a grassroots strategy that works.

According to Abdul Minty, secretary of the British Anti-Apartheid Movement, “The worldwide movement was effective because it was a coalition of committed governments and people’s movements in the West that managed to influence policy at the national level, as well as institutions like the UN.”

As with South Africa , the impetus for a global BDS campaign against Israel came from Palestinian civil society. On July 9, 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion declared the route of Israel ’s wall illegal, 170 Palestinian civil society organizations issued a call for boycott, divestment and sanctions.

The call gave voice to a growing movement that began, appropriately, in Durban , South Africa at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism, where non-governmental organizations and activists equated Israel ’s racially discriminatory policies throughout Israel proper and the Occupied Territories with apartheid and advocated BDS as the strategy of choice for fighting back.

In Durban and subsequently, the activists have drawn upon the general definition of apartheid laid out in the 1973 International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid: policies “designed to divide the population…by the creation of separate reserves and ghettoes for the members of racial groups, …[or] the expropriation of landed property…[or] the persecution of organizations or persons…because they oppose apartheid.” Directly preceding the 2005 call, a group of Palestinian intellectuals and academics issued a call for the academic and cultural boycott of Israel in 2004.

The Palestinian Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel’s (PACBI) fundamental principles ultimately formed the basis for the 2005 document, which demands that Israel comply with international law and uphold universal human rights by: 

Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands and dismantling the wall; recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.

The 2005 call marked a significant shift in the movement for Palestinian self-determination. Most importantly, it emphasized the rights of Palestinians everywhere irrespective of which state they live in today or where they envision living tomorrow. Omar Barghouti, a founder and steering committee member of PACBI and a drafter of the 2005 document, explains that “the fundamental pillar of the BDS call was its rights-based approach that does not endorse any particular political solution to the Arab-Israeli colonial conflict, but insists that for any solution to be just and sustainable it must address all three basic rights stated in the call.” 

Not everyone considers the affirmation of all three rights to be a neutral act. The likes of J Street view it as threatening to Israel ’s self-proclaimed identity as a Jewish state, because the return of refugees in appreciable numbers would render Jews a small minority. Those committed to the two-state solution on the “pro-Palestinian” side, like Ibish, have interpreted the call as a repudiation of the state-building project in place since 1993 and a return to the liberation model.

It was important, however, to the BDS drafters to represent the interests of all Palestinians, and not just those living within the elastic boundaries of a future Palestinian state. Hence the call’s second clause demands the full equality of Israel ’s non-Jewish Palestinian citizens. 

It is logical that this clause would be inserted, given the participation in the drafting of Ittijah, the umbrella network of Palestinian NGOs in Israel , which demands equal treatment before the law irrespective of race, ethnicity, national origin and religion. From the perspective of the BDS organizers, therefore, objecting to this clause amounts to rejecting Palestinians’ self-definition as a unified national body.

Still, for supporters of Palestinian human rights who prefer to indict the occupation only, the second clause is an affront to their solidarity. For these supporters, ending Jewish privilege within Israel may be desirable, but it exceeds the mandate of a movement for Palestinian self-determination. Despite its best efforts to transcend political solutions, therefore, the BDS call has been read as an implicit endorsement of the one-state solution. 

Perhaps surprisingly, several Palestinian NGO representatives within the Occupied Territories initially opposed the BDS call as well. They viewed the comprehensive approach to Palestinian rights as a veiled endorsement of the one-state solution, and hence a blow to the Palestinian Authority and a subversion of the strategic direction of the Palestinian national movement since the late 1980s and enshrined by the “peace process” of the 1990s. Drafters of the call, including PACBI, Ittijah, Badil and Stop the Wall, invested a tremendous amount of time and energy in explaining that the fundamental emphasis on rights was necessary to redress the concerns of a cohesive Palestinian national body as opposed to endorsing a particular political solution.

Ultimately, the Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine , the coordinating body for the major political parties in the Occupied Territories , along with the largest Palestine Liberation Organization mass movements, facilitated the acceptance of the BDS call by major sectors of Palestinian civil society within the Territories and beyond. Constricted by the parameters of the “peace process,” the Palestinian Authority has neither endorsed nor repudiated the BDS call. They have, however, launched a narrower boycott of settlement-produced goods.

In January 2010, Prime Minister Salam Fayyad staged the burning of $1 million in settlement products and created a National Dignity Fund to support the production and distribution of Palestinian-made goods. Unlike the 2005 call, the PA initiative perpetuates a state-centric approach to resolving the conflict and as such does not attempt to represent the rights of a unified Palestinian national body.

Barghouti explains that the call for equality within Israel remains the least popular element of the call among solidarity activists, even more controversial than the right of return, because it goes beyond calling on Israel to rein in its occupation policies in the Palestinian territories and demands that Israel rectify its domestic policies to afford non-Jewish Arab citizens full equality. But as Barghouti asks: “If a political system is built on a foundation of inequality and would collapse if equality set in, is it a system worth keeping?”

Mainstreaming BDS

Barghouti’s rhetorical question is precisely what makes BDS so controversial. Though BDS is in fact a reform movement, one that seeks to alter corporate and state behavior, it has been viewed as radical. Mark Lance, a Georgetown philosophy professor and co-founder of Stop US Taxpayer Aid to Israel Now (SUSTAIN), explains that when his group first approached cohorts with the idea of divestment in 2001, they were hostilely dismissed as naïve.

The established solidarity organizations feared such a tactic would alienate average Americans who were ready to support a Palestinian state but not to criticize Israel or call its internal policies into question. SUSTAIN redirected its energy at young global justice groups, Lance continues, and waited for the time for BDS to ripen. Within two years, the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, the “connective tissue” of American Palestine solidarity groups, had incorporated numerous BDS activists. 

Established in 2001 with a $20,000 grant and a few dozen member organizations, today the Campaign has grown to more than 300 members and boasts a budget of $250,000. In 2005, the Campaign endorsed the BDS call and mounted a campaign against Caterpillar, manufacturer of the heavy bulldozers used by the Israeli army to raze Palestinian homes.

 Phyllis Bennis, a Campaign co-founder and steering committee member, explains that Caterpillar emerged as a target for its role in the destruction of Palestinian olive trees and the murder of Rachel Corrie, the Evergreen State College student run over by a bulldozer in 2003 while trying to prevent a home demolition. Soon, Bennis says, “the discussion moved from the tactical targeting of Caterpillar to the strategic effort to build a campaign against corporations profiting from occupation.” 

The Campaign’s focus, which reflects its member groups’ prerogatives, has continued to shift. In 2006, the coalition adopted an anti-apartheid framework, which expounds on the discriminatory treatment of Israel ’s non-Jewish citizens, and in 2009, it endorsed the academic and cultural boycott of Israel , another controversial strand of the BDS movement.

The Campaign’s progression from divesting from occupation to boycotting Israel may be a bellwether of change in mainstream organizations that have joined the BDS movement but have limited their activism to targeting war-profiteering corporations involved in the occupation. 

Code Pink, the women’s peace group famed for head-to-toe pink attire and unabashed disruption of business as usual on Capitol Hill, coalesced in opposition to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. According to member Nancy Kricorian, Code Pink expanded its mandate to include the occupation of Palestine when it joined the Campaign in 2006—but the gesture was largely symbolic, as the group’s work remained focused on Afghanistan and Iraq .

This quiet engagement became much louder in the aftermath of Operation Cast Lead, when Code Pink brought Palestine to the front and center of its agenda, to the dismay of several members and funders. Undeterred, the women’s group has since taken two solidarity delegations to Gaza, co-led the Gaza Freedom March in February 2010 and launched Stolen Beauty, a boycott of Ahava, the settlement-manufactured cosmetics line. Since its inception in June 2009, Stolen Beauty has pressured Oxfam into suspending its goodwill ambassador, “Sex and the City” starlet Kristen Davis, for the duration of her contract as an Ahava spokeswoman and pushed Costco, a national wholesaler, to take the product off its shelves.

Despite these achievements, which have been covered in the New York Post and elsewhere, Kricorian shares that her group still uses the “A-word” gingerly. While BDS can be presented within the framework of corporate accountability and war profiteering, the term “apartheid” is controversial. “This word still triggers people’s emotions in a way that shuts off dialogue.

It is a trigger because of its history in South Africa , but in the case of South Africa , most people would not have dreamed of saying that apartheid was necessary for security’s sake, or that it was a good idea to keep blacks in bantustans.” 

Fayyad Sbaihat, a former University of Wisconsin student and a leading member of al-Awda Wisconsin, which garnered faculty senate and union endorsement of divestment across the 25 University of Wisconsin campuses in 2005, explains that the first and strongest opposition to BDS came from long-time allies who feared that the movement would drive away liberals or induce a backlash in Israel. “It was a hindrance in the short term,” says Sbaihat. “Not only was BDS too much to ask of the ‘fair-weather friends’ of Palestine , but also it was too much for them to accept or live with the apartheid analogy.

However, part of the appeal of BDS as we recognized it was getting the uninterested to begin asking questions and then questioning Israel’s character, and using the apartheid analogy was a way to provoke questions from the casual observer.” 

Glenn Dickson hopes to present precisely this challenge to the Presbyterian Church USA. At its 2004 general assembly, the 2.3 million-strong church endorsed divestment from companies profiting from Israeli occupation by an overwhelming vote of 460-41. Despite threats to burn down houses of worship and pressure from Congress to rescind the resolution, the church has reaffirmed its commitment to corporate engagement at subsequent general assemblies where support for divestment has only increased.

 In 2006, 17 of the 170 overtures submitted to the assembly opposed the divestment resolution, while in 2008 only two overtures protested the church’s stance. Today, the Presbyterians’ Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee has denounced Caterpillar for profiting from the non-peaceful use of its products and continues to explore divestment from Motorola, ITT, Citibank and United Technologies for their role in sustaining the occupation. 

Dickson is the retired Presbyterian pastor who introduced the 2004 divestment resolution. He did not consider including boycott at the time because he felt that unlike divestment, which lends itself to corporate engagement, boycott precludes dialogue. He rightly predicted divestment’s potential to excite controversy despite the church’s legacy of principled divestment from South Africa , Indonesia and Sudan , among other human rights violators.

Today Dickson and his colleagues are now thinking of introducing the concept of apartheid at the 2010 General Assembly because “it will help people to realize that Israel is as bad as South Africa in its poor treatment of people of color…. Because most people in the US see Israel as a benevolent democracy and see Palestinians as terrorists, reframing who Israel is will help us.” 

Blessing or Burden? 

Notwithstanding its popular association with South Africa ’s experience, the term “apartheid” is not a requisite element of the BDS strategy, though it may be a useful instrument of branding in and of itself. Like the US Campaign, Code Pink and the Presbyterians, activist groups have launched BDS campaigns without adopting the loaded term, only to adopt it later as their advocacy efforts developed. Even Students Confronting Apartheid by Israel , a group at Stanford University for whom the term was obviously central, has used it tactically at most. 

According to Omar Shakir, a founding member of the group who is now at Georgetown, the Stanford students wanted to make apartheid central to demonstrate the power disparity inherent in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and move beyond the language of “two sides,” which can imply that Israel and the Palestinians have equal resources to draw upon.

When campus opposition focused on the asymmetry between the South African and Palestinian cases, however, Shakir and his colleagues dropped the framework and focused instead on divestment criteria, including disparate treatment of Israel ’s non-Jewish Arab citizens. The method here was to describe the violation rather than call it by name. “In the beginning,” Shakir comments, “the opposition focused on apartheid more than our goal of divestment…. We liked the way we did it because we could pick and choose; we weren’t wedded to apartheid.” 

The apartheid framework is both a blessing and a burden. On the one hand, because the South African experience is so well known and so roundly condemned, mere mention of apartheid forces pro-Israel advocates to defend an entrenched system of racial discrimination and oppression rather than rally support for Israel ’s security. On the other hand, the two cases are far from identical.

No South African blacks were allowed to vote or participate in government, as are Palestinian citizens in Israel . Neither were blacks subjected to military offensives or debilitating humanitarian blockades as are Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, and nor were tens of thousands exiled as refugees to raise subsequent generations in the diaspora. Notwithstanding these differences, in the BDS movement there is general consensus that the apartheid framework is effective, especially in the symbolic realm.

As Lisa Taraki, a Birzeit University professor and PACBI steering committee member, comments, “All historic analogies are fraught with problems, but in this case…I think this line of argument has been very successful on the whole, and has put Israel ’s supporters in a very uncomfortable position, to put it mildly.” 

That activists deploy the “A-word” tactically does not diminish their sincere belief that the framework is apt. To the contrary, Shakir and Taraki’s attitudes are responses to detractors whose focus on the analogy’s fine print is an attempt to dismiss it for lack of perfect symmetry. Such attempts are misguided because although the South African experience makes the apartheid paradigm more compelling, it is by no means the yardstick against which to measure all occurrences of apartheid, whether in Israel-Palestine or elsewhere.

Perhaps only a legal forum like the International Court of Justice can settle this tension. In the meantime, public discussions of Israeli apartheid continue to be a battle for domination of the symbolic world. 

Strategic Considerations 

Activists have waged this battle offensively for six years in their organizing of Israeli Apartheid Week. Originally limited to educational activities in Toronto and New York , today it spans 40 cities worldwide, including, for the first time in 2010, Beirut . 

Adalah- New York ’s BDS campaign is an organic outgrowth of Israeli Apartheid Week organizing. Unlike other groups, Adalah-NY began with the apartheid framework first and moved toward the divestment tactic later. The success of its campaign against Lev Leviev, an Israeli diamond mogul whose companies support the expansion of settlements in East Jerusalem, has made it a premier example of BDS organizing in the US . Lubna Ka‘abneh of Adalah-NY explains that the apartheid analogy constituted a cornerstone of the group’s outreach work “so that our [ US ] audience could make the connection to their own experiences.”

Ka‘abneh and her cohorts have discovered that American audiences relate much more easily to narratives of institutionalized racial discrimination than those of occupation. Hence they work to draw parallels between the civil rights movement and the Palestinian movement to achieve freedom and equality. 

Since launching its campaign in 2008, Adalah-NY has effectively pressed Danish Bank Dankse and the Danish pension fund PKA to exclude Leviev’s enterprise, Africa-Israel, from its investment portfolio, encouraged the second largest Dutch pension fund to divest from Africa-Israel, and convinced UNICEF, Oxfam, the British government and several Hollywood stars to distance themselves from the entrepreneur. Adalah-NY’s success in simultaneously highlighting Israel ’s discriminatory character while choosing the occupation as its BDS target both captures the movement’s strategic possibilities and reflects political maturity in the movement. 

The history of efforts at Berkeley is telling as well. While originally written to combat Israeli apartheid and therefore target all companies with subsidiaries worth $5,000 or more within Israel , the student body resolution SB 118 eventually limited itself to two American corporations that profit from Israel ’s military occupation. “Divestment is ultimately about students engaging the administration,” comments Abdel-Rahman Zahzah, a founding member of the Berkeley campaign and now a leader of similar efforts in Beirut .

Zahzah notes that Berkeley students did not start out with a political strategy in 2001. Instead they issued abrupt threats to the administration: “Divest all your holdings from apartheid Israel or we’ll take over academic buildings.” While activists did occupy Wheeler Hall twice, they did not come close to achieving divestment until nine years later when students introduced SB 118 in the student senate. 

The tactical shift is derived in part from Hampshire College ’s monumental success in becoming the first American institution of higher education to divest from Israel in 2009. Ilana Rosoff, a leading student organizer at Hampshire, explains that their campaign was a direct response to the Palestinian BDS call. Her fellows were motivated by the opportunity “to stand behind and re-empower Palestinians in their own national struggle.” Still, to avoid debilitating opposition, the students developed a strategy that targeted Israel ’s occupation “but did not try to make moral arguments about Israel as a nation-state.” 

The students won over the college’s board of trustees when in February 2009, the trustees voted to divest Hampshire’s holdings from Caterpillar, United Technologies, General Electric, ITT and Terex, companies that supply the Israeli military with equipment and services for use in the Occupied Territories . Under pressure from Alan Dershowitz, one of several self-appointed policemen of American discourse about Israel-Palestine, Hampshire’s administration denied that its decision was linked to Israeli human rights abuses and trumpeted its other investments in Israeli firms.

The minutes of the board of trustees’ meeting nevertheless reveal an explicit link; the college president “acknowledged that it was the good work of Students for Justice in Palestine that brought this issue to the attention of the committee.” And, of course, the students took care to claim that Hampshire was divesting from Israeli occupation, not from Israel .

The Logic of BDS 

While the Hampshire and Adalah-NY successes have made indelible marks, most campaigns cannot demonstrate their work’s impact in measurable units. Instead, the virtue of BDS has been its ability to challenge Israel ’s moral authority, arguably the most coveted weapon in its arsenal. Israel was not a major recipient of US aid dollars until the aftermath of the Six-Day War, which greatly enhanced Israel ’s image as a David facing down an Arab Goliath.

In June 1968, the Johnson administration, with strong support from Congress, approved the sale of supersonic aircraft to Israel and established the precedent of US support for “ Israel ’s qualitative military edge over its neighbors” (actually, any possible combination of its neighbors). Since then, no American politician seeking high office has spoken of Middle East peace without first stressing US commitment to the security of Israel .

BDS campaigns puncture holes in this security narrative by assuming an offensive posture. By asserting that Israel is worthy of BDS treatment, activists compel Israel ’s defenders to explain the logic of its policies, such as the imprisonment, at one time or another since 1967, of 20 percent of the entire Palestinian population. When the conversation is taken to its logical end, as it is more and more often, pro-Israel spokespersons are forced to declare that Palestinians’ mere existence is a security threat. 

In a recent address in Herzliya, site of an important annual security conference in Israel , Harvard fellow Martin Kramer leapt straight to the bottom of this slippery slope. He argued that when the proportion of adult men in the Arab and Muslim world reaches 40 percent of the population, their propensity to violence increases because they have become “superfluous” in society. Kramer not only dismissed political explanations for radicalization in favor of simple demography—dubious social science, to say the least—he concluded by encouraging the deliberate stunting of population growth among Palestinians as a matter of national security policy. The address, as Kramer said himself, was “memorable.”

Its legitimacy continually eroded by such pronouncements, Israeli structural discrimination will still find allies among Christian Zionists, who beseech God and Israel to hasten Armageddon, the defense industry, which wishes to protecting net earnings, and those American Jews who, for one reason or another, remain blind to Palestinian suffering. These allies are formidable, but they are not the broad spectrum of Americans whose backing Israel wants to safeguard its moral authority.

For this reason, AIPAC’s executive director, Howard Kohr, dedicated his address at the group’s 2009 annual conference to warnings of the dangers of BDS, which he lamented is “part of a broader campaign not simply to denigrate or defame Israel but to delegitimize her in the eyes of her allies.” 

The Reut Institute, an Israeli think tank, concurs. In its 2009 study, “Building a Political Firewall Against Israel’s Delegitimization,” Reut concludes that a network of activists working from the bottom up and from the periphery to the center has succeeded in casting Israel as a pariah state and warns that, within a few years, the campaign may develop into “a comprehensive existential threat.” In its presentation to the Knesset, the institute recommended that the government mitigate this threat with a multi-pronged strategy, including ending its control of the Palestinian population in the Occupied Territories .

Taraki says that such statements show BDS is having an effect. Unlike efforts at dialogue, which reinforced power discrepancies by creating “a false sense of symmetry [that] does not acknowledge the colonizer-colonized relationship,” BDS tackles the Israeli state head on. The proper response to ending Israel ’s impunity is the application of pressure and “the logic of BDS is the logic of pressure.”

On the horizon is the burgeoning movement for academic and cultural boycotts. Although launched a year before the 2005 BDS call, academic and cultural boycott does not enjoy the support of economic BDS campaigns. Some argue that culture should be immune from politics and that boycotting intellectuals infringes upon academic freedom. Others contend that Israeli intellectuals are the best allies within Israel of the global movement for peace with justice.

A close examination of the PACBI call makes it clear that boycott is restricted to Israeli institutions and entities that are complicit in justifying, promoting, supporting or otherwise perpetuating Israel ’s occupation, colonization and apartheid. Today, this call could not be more relevant as Israel rolls out its “Brand Israel ” campaign, meant to rehabilitate its hobbled image through the media of popular culture. Irrespective of form, Barghouti says, BDS is “the most effective form of solidarity with the Palestinian people today.” Its non-violent and universal nature makes it “ Israel ’s worst nightmare.”

I would not term this a “national movement” as it has been seen as an affront to the movement by disavowing the diaspora and unraveling the PLO so that there is no longer a legitimate representative body. this is precisely what has given rise to initiatives like the USPCN in the US and beyond. Saying Oslo helps to capture this and make the point you raise.


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Bibi, Stop Racist Talk against Turks and Release All Footage!

(expanded version of Occupation Magazine post)

Today (Saturday), Israeli PM `Bibi` again claimed, in rather crude terms, that the reason why the IDF killed 9 activists on Monday but today boarded the MV Rachel Corrie peacefully, is because of “…the difference between a ship of peace activists, with whom we don’t agree but respect their right to a different opinion from ours, and between a ship of hate organised by violent Turkish terror extremists…”

This continues a race-baiting campaign against the Turkish ship and IHH, which started well before Monday’s attack.

As CindyCasella’s excellent diary shows, just like in previous controversies the Israeli PR machine churns mostly lies. They are already backtracking from a claim IHH has Al Qaeda ties. But they’re still at it.

Call Bibi’s racist bluff: demand that Israel release all Mavi Marmara media taken by all sides last Monday.

Bibi’s poisoned praise today for the people aboard MV Rachel Corrie for not putting up a fight, completely banks upon the “casual” racism in Western and Israeli society. We are conditioned to expect dark and/or Muslim and/or Arab people to be more violent, and “pink” Western people to be less violent.

I admit even I have this subconscious bias, reinforced by early-life indoctrination and countless movies, books and the rest of popular culture. So surely Bibi feels like he has a winning wedge-theme here with this it’s all because the Turkish and Arab “terrorists” on Mavi Marmara, if it was only among us civilized Westerns it would have all been okay.

I do hope he’s wrong and the the West will not take the bait. But in Israel it works great. After a brief tentative embrace of multiculturalism in the 90’s, Israeli public opinion has reverted to anti-brown racism in general, and anti-Arab racism in particular, with a vengeance. The fact that there are many brown faces among Israeli Jews does not refute this sad reality, but in fact makes it worse (this is a side issue here, so I’m not following up with links – although there is plenty of evidence).

Back to Bibi and the flotilla: there are some teeny cracks in his “Israelis good, Arabs bad, Irish good, Turks bad” schpiel:

1. MV Rachel Corrie had barely 20 people on it including crew. MV Mavi Marmara had over 600 people.

2. Mavi Marmara happened first. The knowledge that people on a previous ship had been shot in the back of the head from a few cm, tends to help you make sure it won`t happen to you to, and not try anything funny. Is that the famous “deterrence” Israel keeps hoping for? Perhaps.

3. MV Rachel Corrie is an integral part of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. It just got delayed a few hours en route to Gaza, and therefore was not attacked on Monday. The entire flotilla was organized by Free Gaza, with many groups taking part.

4. The clearly racist baiting of the Turkish IHH and Turks and Arabs in general, is a very shameful line of defense especially when coming down directly from the PM`s office. By its activities, the IHH is a Muslim humanitarian organization. There were accusation by a right-wing hack made 4 years ago, based on half-truths and misrepresented bits of information, that the IHH was *sometimes* used as a front for terrorism. Fact of the matter, the IHH remains legal in all countries except Israel, and is active in over 100 countries.

The IHH Wikipedia entry has been a battlefield since last weekend. I admit having participated in the “battle” before the attack on Mavi Marmara. At that point some right-wingers overran the entry trying to portray the IHH as a terror-affiliated group. I prevented that from happening before the attack. Shortly afterwards it was overrun again. Since then, it seems that some grownups have entered the fray, and a voice of reason has finally taken hold over the entry.

In truth, all the allegations against IHH are controversial at best, and come from the usual suspects. As part of this propaganda battle, the Al Qaeda claims were made and now retracted.

5. Last but not least: Mavi Marmara and other ships’ passenger testimonies now finally coming out, as well as Turkish autopsy results, do not support the Israeli version (to put it mildly). Yes, the forensic physicians carrying out the autopsy were Turks, but somehow I trust their integrity more than Bibi’s.

If we are really after the truth here, rather than try to spin today`s second shameful takeover of a Gaza flotilla ship in a racist direction, I call upon Bibi to make sure *all* media taken by Mavi Marmara passengers (video, audio, pics), and by the IDF troops attacking them, be released immediately.

This way, we will finally know the truth about Monday`s bloodshed.

Or, if you had already destroyed evidence, have the guts to admit that you don’t want the truth to be known, rather than continue propagating racist lies that ultimately undermine Israel’s long-term prospects in the Middle East.


interview with Greta Berlin of Free Gaza Movement UPDATE: Israel takes over boat.

By Jesse Bacon

Here’s a clip of Greta Berlin, who is twittering at @FreeGazaOrg

She says boat should arrive within half hour if not stopped. IDF is jamming all transmission, but boat can be seen through binoculars from shore.

Greta Berlin of Free Gaza Movement.

UPDATE: Tweet from onboard says that Israel is towing boat to Ashdod.


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Daily Telegraph 05/06/10 see also at

As one of the Guildford Four, Gerry Conlon spent 15 years in prison for an IRA campaign he knew nothing about. More than 20 years later he is still fighting for justice.

There are moments when I lose sight of Gerry Conlon through the fog of countless cigarettes smoked during our four-hour interview. He is in Liverpool to campaign for other victims of miscarriages of justice, and we meet in a rented apartment in the city’s Chinatown. We are joined periodically by others who are there to support the cause. Each adds views on the various injustices they have suffered and each contributes to the cloud of thick smoke filling the room.

In 1974, the then 20-year-old Belfast-born Conlon was arrested over the IRA pub bombings in Guildford which killed five people. He had never been to Guildford. But along with the three other members of the group that became known as the Guildford Four, Conlon was sentenced to life in prison on the basis of false confessions made after days of mistreatment by Surrey police.

Conlon’s father, Giuseppe, was also imprisoned as part of a group known as the Maguire Seven. The basis of their convictions was forensic evidence – later discredited – which the prosecution claimed proved they had handled explosives used in the bombings. The group, including Patrick Maguire who was just 13 when he was arrested, were sentenced to between four and 14 years in prison.

In 1989 the Court of Appeal quashed the convictions of the Guildford Four when it was found that crucial alibi evidence – proving Conlon could not have done the bombings – had not been shown to the defence. There was also evidence of police collusion on fabricating the statements – the only evidence produced against them at the original trial.

The Maguire Seven later had their convictions overturned, but by this time they had all served their sentences and been released, except Giuseppe Conlon who, already in failing health when he was arrested, died after five years in prison.

The Gerry Conlon that stood outside the High Court in London after his release was a triumphant and charismatic figure. He told massed press and supporters that he was an innocent man who had spent 15 years in prison for a crime he didn’t commit. He vowed to clear his late father’s name and fight for the release of others, like the Birmingham Six and the Bridgwater Three, who had been wrongly convicted.

This is the Conlon that played repeatedly on the news bulletins. And this is the man portrayed by Daniel Day-Lewis as the star of In the Name Of the Father, the partly fictionalised 1993 film based on Conlon’s autobiography. But Conlon’s feelings of triumph were short-lived and he was far from ready for the outside world. “If you spend a few weeks in the Big Brother house, you get counselling when you leave to prepare you for life outside. I spent 15 years being moved from one terrible prison to the next, being treated like I was lower than the worst kind of paedophile.

When I got released I was given £34.90 and told to go.” When long-term prisoners come up for release, they are slowly reintroduced to the outside world, with supervised day releases, then weekend releases. When wrongful convictions are quashed, prisoners leave straight away, with no preparation for how to cope with life on the outside.

Conlon was initially on a high after his release. He put everything into making good his pledge to get the convictions of the Birmingham Six overturned. After months of frantic campaigning, he went back to his mother’s house in Belfast to take a break when suddenly the impact of what he had been through hit him.

“I came out of the bathroom and my father, who’d died years earlier, was sitting on the settee in prison pyjamas and a prison dressing gown. Since then I haven’t been able to get the terrible images out of my head. I never had one suicidal thought in prison. Now I have them all the time. I haven’t been able to have a relationship, I’ve turned to alcohol and drugs, it’s a constant waking nightmare.”

More than twenty years after his release, the man sitting in front of me is no less eloquent and determined than the angry 35-year old who stood outside court, but his mind has never escaped from prison. He speaks lyrically, without pause, recalling full names, exact dates and locations of the grim landmarks of his ordeal. But at every turn he is visibly haunted by the terrible memories that won’t stay in the past and the injustices which continue in the present.

Conlon believes that because their case caused such political embarrassment, there was what he calls a “whispering campaign” around Westminster after their release. That although their conviction was quashed, the authorities wanted people to think they were freed on a technicality, but may actually have been guilty.  He is angry that nobody was ever punished for their wrongful imprisonment.

He is also convinced that it was not just the police that lied to get them convicted. He believes the conspiracy to jail innocent people went right to the top. “The Government knew, right from the start, that we were innocent. They knew we had nothing to do with the IRA, but they didn’t care. That’s why they have a 75-year immunity order on our case. Because they want all the people involved to be dead before they release our files.”

Because this cloud of suspicion was allowed to remain, Conlon was denied access to psychiatric treatment. It was not until 2007 that he began getting regular therapy, and even then only one hour a week. This has helped, but is far too little, coming far too late, for someone who suffered trauma on the level that he did.

“I have what they call a disassociation problem: something comes in to my head and I’m back in prison. I’m back in Wakefield, being tortured… hands behind my back, gun in my mouth, it doesn’t go away. The reason I took drugs and alcohol was because I couldn’t deal with what my mind was projecting. To get some relief from the nightmares, day and night.

But then the nightmares started breaking through with a sledge hammer, and once that happened it was a question of giving up the drugs and fighting to get professional help.”

The effects of his wrongful conviction went far beyond Conlon and the others who were wrongfully convicted. Prison visits were supervised and any personal details discussed would be spread around by mischievous warders, so they stuck to discussing pleasantries.

“I’d spent months in solitary, in the dark. I’d been beaten, had people defecating in my food, putting glass in my food. I’d seen people murdered. Yet I had to tell my family they were treating me well. When you come out you find the relationship with your family during your time inside was built on falsehoods. I didn’t know that my mother and my sisters were being strip searched and abused when they came to see me. You can’t calculate the devastating effect it has on your family.”

As we are speaking Conlon sees a news report on the TV screen behind me about the treatment of the former Guantánamo Bay detainee Binyan Mohamed.

“Nothing has changed. The Government knew we were being tortured in the 1970s. When I hear about Binyam Mohamed it all comes back. My mind flashes back to the beatings, the threats and the mental cruelty I suffered at the hands of the police.”

Conlon has become frustrated by the lack of political will to help victims of miscarriages of justice. The Miscarriages of Justice Organisation (Mojo) was formed by Paddy Hill after he and other members of the Birmingham Six had their convictions quashed in 1991. Mojo is campaigning to have a trauma centre set up dedicated to helping miscarriage of justice victims after they leave prison. They get sympathetic noises from politicians but little action.

In 1997, Conlon was given half a million pounds in compensation. Giving money to victims of miscarriages of justice is likened by Conlon to giving them a “bottle of whisky and a revolver”.

“They may as well say: ‘here’s the money, now go and kill yourself. They gave me £546,000 – for taking me, torturing me and framing me; taking my father, torturing him and having him die in prison; then leaving me sinking in the quicksand of my own nightmares.”

In 2005 the Guildford Four and the Maguire Seven finally got a personal apology from Tony Blair. Conlon told the then Prime Minister that the apology would only mean something if it came with more help for the victims.

“Blair turned to [parliamentary private secretary] David Hanson and said: ‘David, get on to this right away.’ Since then we’ve had no help. We followed up on Tony Blair’s promise and were basically told to get lost. He lied to us – the apology means nothing. If there was a trauma centre, within a year, you could probably be living a normal productive life rather than being haunted by nightmares.”

But picking up the pieces of those who have already been wrongly convicted is cure, rather than prevention. Seeing the mistreatment of suspects and innocent people going to prison makes him feel that Britain has not moved on since the 1970s.

“Back then it was the Irish, now it’s Muslims. But nobody is safe, one of the Guildford Four was English. Everyone thinks this happens to other people, but it’s closer than you think. Who’s to say you’re not going to be next. Look at Sally Clarke, she was a solicitor and she drank herself to death after she was wrongly convicted of killing her two sons.”

What is striking about Conlon is that while he is angry, he is amazingly lacking in bitterness. He is clearly suffering greatly with the horrors of 15 years being treated “worse than a twisted child killer”. He wants his case files released; he wants proper post-sentence care for other victims of miscarriages – but he is not consumed by hate.

A common theme he returns to is how trauma counselling is given to people who have experienced what, to him, would seem fairly mild. But every time he mentions another group getting “the best counselling available”, he pauses, and slowly emphasises, “and so they should, and so they should. But what about us?”

Conlon is now “full of” psychiatric drugs, and his terrifying flashbacks continue. But through the pain caused by his years in prison he finds some purpose.

“I want my father’s death to count for something. It’s the hardest thing you can imagine to be put in prison for something you didn’t do. If I can do something to stop it happening to other people my life will have meant something.”

Troops Out Movement

Campaigning for British Withdrawal from Ireland

PO Box 1032 Birmingham B12 8BZ  Tel: 0121 773 8683 Mob: 0797 017 4167

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