Archive | September 27th, 2010



Sun Sep 26, 2010

PARIS (AFP) – Palestinian collaborator Mahmud Ab-A$$ held talks Sunday with influential members of the French-Zionist community in Paris about the Zionist-Palestine ‘peace negotiations’, during his visit to France.

At Meurice hotel, Ab-A$$ met with 20 well-known figures including philosopher Alain Finkielkraut, journalists Jean-Pierre Elkabbach and Ruth Elkrief, Zionist student union leader Arielle Schwab and president of the Holocaust memorial Eric de Rothschild.

“If Israel does not continue the freeze on settlement building, the peace process will be a waste of time,” Ab-A$$ told them.

Finkielkraut said he was impressed by Ab-A$$ sincerity and “the fact that he does not underestimate Hamas violence.”

He added that Ab-A$$ “spoke to us about his desire for a negotiated deal, of his willingness to pass from a culture of violence to a culture of peace.”

“He wants us to understand a bit better the Palestinian position and in this respect, it’s progress,” Elkabbach said, hailing the “courage” of a man “who risks his skin at every moment.”

Earlier, the Ab-A$$ announced that the Arab League would meet on October 4 to discuss further action in the fragile negotiations with Zionism, once the illegal settlement moratorium in the West Bank expires Sunday night.




A keen foreign correspondent in the Middle East sent me this (he/she does not want to be identified):  “EgyptAir has been given instructions now to hassle Palestinians with Egyptian-issued travel document for Palestinians flying to Egypt. They didn’t want to let one on a flight from Dubai last week, one whose mother is Egyptian. She got on in the end, but imagine EgyptAir trying to do that to Palestinians or Egyptian-Palestinians with documents issued from Egypt itself. How low.   

I also called up M., who appeared on an al-Jazeera discussion a few months ago about governments refusing children nationality of the mother. On the show she claimed things were about to change. Inspired by what happened last week, I wanted to speak to her to see if some action was imminent to force the Interior Minister to honour the law — feted on al-Arabiyya a few years ago — that Egyptian-Palestinians can also obtain nationality. 

What I found was her selling the idea that it’s perfectly normal for each and every child of an Egyptian mother and Palestinian father to have to hire their own lawyer to raise a case with the Supreme Court (maglis al-dawla) to force the Interior Ministry to give them a passport. Apart from issues of cost and effort, what is astounding is that she knows very well the government will still ignore the courts. In fact, she is a lawyer, running a ‘rights group’ or NGO with a lofty title about defending mothers’ rights, w hen in fact she is just living off the misery of others – though her group helps ‘those who are unable’ to bear costs, she says. “

Posted in WorldComments Off on UNDER ZIONIST MU-BARAK


Monday, 27 September 2010

The Report of the UN Fact Finding Mission, established on 2nd June by the UN Human Rights Council into the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, is a devastating critique of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and its aftermath, in particular regarding the Mavi Marmara. That Israel has dismissed its findings as ‘biased’ etc. is no surprise. Any independent fact finding report, such as the Goldstone Report which they have since quietly admitted is true, is always rubbished by Israel.

At 56 pages, the Report is at once both devastating in its factual conclusions and in its concise legal summary of the implications of those facts. It should be used by activists to nail the Israeli lies and the BBC’s continued peddling of those lies, in particular the Panorama programme, Death on the Med which was broadcast from the viewpoint of the killers.

It is extremely interesting that the BBC was given, according to its own boast, ‘unique access’ to the killers whilst it has refused to supply any evidence to the UN Inquiry. One wonders why it is that the Israeli state thought it could trust the BBC so much. Possibly because it knows that these days the BBC, and its wretched Director General, Mark Thompson, can always be trusted to put out a propaganda line on their behalf.

The Report begins (all numbers in square brackets are paragraph numbers [16] by expressing ‘its profound regret’ at Israel’s ‘non-recognition of and non-cooperation with the Mission.’

Unlike the BBC, the Committee made what was an obviously sensible decision regarding Israeli video footage. [20]

In light of seizure of cameras, CCTV footage and digital media storage devices and of the suppression of that material with the disclosure only of a selected and minute quantity of it, the Mission was obliged to treat with extreme caution the versions released by the Israeli authorities where those versions did not coincide with the evidence of eyewitnesses who appeared before us.’

Legally the position is quite clear. ‘According to applicable international law, unless an exception applies, a vessel on the high seas is subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of its flag State.’ Therefore

the only lawful basis for intercepting the vessel would be a reasonable suspicion that it was making an effective contribution to the opposing forces’ war effort, such as by carrying weaponry or was otherwise closely integrated into the enemy war effort (belligerent right of capture); or posed an imminent and overwhelming threat to Israel and there was no alternative but to use force to prevent it (self-defence under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter). In view of the information available, the Mission is satisfied that the interception of the flotilla and related preparatory planning by Israel was not purely motivated by concerns as to the vessels’ contribution to the war effort.

Indeed ‘The evidence of Prime Minister Netanyahu to the Turkel Committee indicates that the decision to stop the flotilla was not taken because the vessels in themselves posed any immediate security threat.’ [56]

The attack on the flotilla ‘was motivated by concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organizers of the flotilla.’ Those who are powerful are also usually idiots. The propaganda victory they feared was magnified thousands of time by the murders on the MM.

The Report is quite clear that there was no military threat posed by the flotilla: [58]

Given the evidence at the Turkel Committee, it is clear that there was no reasonable suspicion that the Flotilla posed any military risk of itself. As a result, no case could be made to intercept the vessels in the exercise of belligerent rights or Article 51 self-defence. Thus, no case can be made for the legality of the interception and the Mission therefore finds that the interception was illegal.

The Report found that [61] ‘the enforcement of an illegal blockade does not only constitute a violation of the laws of war, but also a violation of the laws of neutrality giving rise to State responsibility.’

There was therefore no justification for the armed attack on the MM: [66] ‘In a situation of armed conflict, military force can only be used against a combatant or against civilians participating actively and directly in combat activities, which cannot be said of the civilians on the Mavi Marmara.’

And in respect of the killing list booklet the Report found that [97]

Advanced identification and surveillance of specific passengers by Israeli intelligence forces took place, as indicated by a laminated booklet, recovered from the possessions of one of the captured Israeli soldiers which contained the names and photographs of specific high profile individuals on each of the six vessels as well as photographs of each vessel. … Advance surveillance is confirmed by evidence attributed to Defence Minister Ehud Barak before the Turkel Committee…

The Report also finds that no weapons were ever brought on board the MM. [101]

‘Furthermore, the fact that some passengers engaged in last minute efforts to fashion rudimentary weapons shortly prior to the interception confirms the findings of the Mission that no weapons were brought on board the ship.’

When radio contact was first made by the Israeli navy, the flotilla was asked to switch from Channel 16 which could be heard by other ships. One wonders why? [108]

And again contrary to the BBC, which uncritically broadcast the fake Israeli tapes of someone saying ‘Go Back to Auschwitz’ and praising 9/11, the Report is quite specific: [110]

However, the Mission is not satisfied that these recordings are authentic, nor has the Israeli government made this material available to the Mission for appropriate examination. The Mission was given positive evidence that no such statements were made by anyone involved in communications on the flotilla.

The Report finds that the passengers attempted to repel the boarders with the ship’s water hoses. [113] but also sites the International Maritime Organization’s circular ‘Guidance to ship owners and ship operators, shipmasters and crews on preventing and suppressing acts of piracy and armed robbery against ships’ June 2009, recommending the use of water hoses ‘as a means to prevent an attempted boarding by pirates and armed robbers.’ both of which the Israeli forces were.

In an important finding the Report concludes that live ammunition was fired at passengers from the helicopter above the MM. [114]

‘The Mission does not find it plausible that soldiers were holding their weapons and firing as they descended on the rope. However, it has concluded that live ammunition was used from the helicopter onto the top deck prior to the descent of the soldiers.’

Likewise the Report found that weapons seized from the soldiers was thrown into the sea [115]. There was [116]:

‘no evidence to suggest that any of the passengers used firearms or that any firearms were taken on board the ship. Despite requests, the Mission has not received any medical records or other substantiated information from the Israeli authorities regarding any firearm injuries sustained by soldiers participating in the raid. Doctors examined the three soldiers taken below decks and no firearm injuries were noted. Further, the Mission finds that the Israeli accounts so inconsistent and contradictory with regard to evidence of alleged firearms injuries to Israeli soldiers that it has to reject it.’

That’s pretty clear then and [p.27, fn. 70] made it quite clear why it rejected the Israeli attempt to suggest otherwise:

‘In his testimony to the Turkel Committee on 11 August 2010, Chief of General Staff Ashkenazi refers to one soldier being “shot in his abdomen by one of the activists” and that “in the course of the battle, five soldiers are wounded by stabbings, blows and shooting.” However, at the Special Sitting of the Human Rights Council on 1 June 2010 Ambassador Aharon Leshno Yaar, Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Geneva stated that passengers “shot two Israeli soldiers”. In contrast, in the State’s Response at the Habeas Corpus hearing on 2 June 2010, no specific reference is made to any Israeli soldiers being shot.’

In respect of those killed, the Report finds that [117] in view of the small number of people on the top deck, the vast majority were in receipt of gunshot wounds. Further more that the naval commandos: [118]

‘continued shooting at passengers who had already been wounded, with live ammunition, soft baton charges (beanbags) and plastic bullets. Forensic analysis demonstrates that two of the passengers killed on the top deck received wounds compatible with being shot at close range while lying on the ground: Furkan Doğan received a bullet in the face and İbrahim Bilgen received a fatal wound from a soft baton round (beanbag) fired at such close proximity to his head that parts such as wadding penetrated his skull entered his brain. Furthermore, some of the wounded were subjected to further violence including being hit with the butt of a weapon, being kicked in the head, chest and back and being verbally abused. A number of the wounded passengers were handcuffed and then left unattended for some time before being dragged to the front of the deck by their arms or legs.’

And even when securing the boat [120]

‘Israeli soldiers fired live ammunition both from the top deck at passengers on the bridge deck below and after they had moved down to the bridge deck. At least four passengers were killed and at least nine injured (five with firearms injuries) during this phase. None of the four passengers who were killed, including a photographer who at the time of being shot was engaged in taking photographs and was shot by an Israeli soldier positioned on the top deck above, posed any threat to the Israeli forces. There was considerable live fire from Israeli soldiers on the top deck and a number of passengers were injured or killed whilst trying to take refuge inside the door or assisting other to do so.’

Despite Bulent Yildirim, the President of IHH displaying a white flag [123] ‘This does not appear to have had any effect and live firing continued on the ship.’

And again it makes a finding that the BBC has continued to ignore, [125] viz. that ‘While some passengers wished to harm the soldiers, other passengers ensured that they were protected and able to receive rudimentary medical treatment from doctors on board.’

The Report makes a number of findings of fact re those killed. Furkan Doğan a US/Turkish citizen

received five bullet wounds, to the face, head, back thorax, left leg and foot. All of the entry wounds were on the back of his body, except for the face wound which entered to the right of his nose. According to forensic analysis, tattooing around the wound in his face indicates that the shot was delivered at point blank range…. the bullet exit point, is compatible with the shot being received while he was lying on the ground on his back.

İbrahim Bilgen a 60 year old Turkish citizen, from Siirt in Turkey,

‘received a bullet wound to the chest, the trajectory of which was from above and not at close range. … Forensic evidence shows that he was shot in the side of the head with a soft baton round at such close proximity and that an entire bean bag and its wadding penetrated the skull and lodged in the brain. … The wounds are consistent with the deceased initially being shot from soldiers on board the helicopter above and receiving a further wound to the head while lying on the ground, already wounded.’

Ali Heyder Bengi, a 38 year old Turkish citizen from Diyarbakir, received six bullet wounds … None of the wounds would have been instantly fatal, but damage to the liver caused bleeding which would have been fatal if not stemmed. There are several witness accounts which suggest that Israeli soldiers shot the deceased in the back and chest at close range while he was lying on the deck as a consequence of initial bullet wounds.

Cevdet Kiliçlar a 38 year old Turkish citizen was on the Mavi Marmara, in his capacity as a photographer employed by IHH. … he was standing on the bridge deck on the port side of the ship near to the door leading to the main stairwell and was attempting to photograph Israeli soldiers on the top deck. According to the pathology reports, he received a single bullet to his forehead between the eyes.

Likewise the Report finds that the Israeli military delayed for 2-3 hours providing any medical treatment and that the wounded were themselves subject to abuse [130-1]

‘The flotilla organisers and other passengers engaged in efforts to request the Israeli forces to provide the necessary treatment to the wounded persons…. These attempts proved unsuccessful and it was up to two hours before the Israeli forces took out the wounded persons. However, the wounded were required to leave the cabins themselves, or taken outside in a rough manner, without apparent concern for the nature of their injuries and the discomfort that this would cause.’

‘Wounded passengers, including persons seriously injured with live fire wounds, were handcuffed with plastic cord handcuffs, which were often tied very tightly causing some of the injured to lose sensitivity in their hands…. Many were also stripped naked and then had to wait some time, possibly as long as twothree hours, before receiving medical treatment.

It is noteworthy that people from ‘western countries’ [130] ‘were not handcuffed, or were temporarily handcuffed and then uncuffed after a relatively short period of time and were then permitted to sit on the benches.’ However other passengers were exposed on the open decks and ‘received serious sun-burn to their skin as a result of many hours exposure: medical reports show that at least thirteen passengers received first degree burns as a consequence.’

There are repeated references in the Report to [134]

‘physical abuse of passengers by the Israeli forces, including kicking and punching and being hit with the butts of rifles. … The passengers were not allowed to speak or to move and there were frequent instances of verbal abuse, including derogatory sexual remarks about the female passengers. Passengers were denied access to toilet facilities or made to wait for lengthy periods before being escorted to the toilet and then forced to use the toilet with Israeli soldiers watching and while handcuffed.’

One can only assume that the Israeli soldiers forgot that they weren’t dealing with Palestinians under occupation. The use of plastic handcuffs which cause extreme pain is also dealt with at length.

‘The manner in which plastic handcuffs were attached to the wrists of passengers caused severe pain and discomfort. There was widespread misuse of the handcuffs by the Israeli soldiers who tightened the plastic handcuffs to an extent that caused pain, swelling, a loss of blood circulation in the hands and the loss of sensitivity in their hands and fingers. Most passengers who requested that the handcuffs be loosened were ignored or it resulted in the handcuffs being further tightened. A number of passengers are still experiencing medical problems related to the handcuffing three months later and forensic reports confirm that at least fifty-four passengers had received injuries, transversal abrasions and bruises, as a result of handcuffing on board the Mavi Mamara.’ [135]

The Zionist propaganda brigade argues that it was only those on the MM who were subject to aggressive tactics because only they resisted. This is not true. Referring to the Challenger the Report finds that [137-139]

‘Soldiers opened fire with paintballs and rubber bullets as they boarded, hitting and injuring one woman in the face with either a plastic bullet or a paintball. Another woman was bruised on her back by from rubber bullets…. the soldiers were met with no resistance, but a female journalist sustained burns on her arms from an electroshock weapon fired by an Israeli soldier. Witnesses said that the primary concern of the soldiers seemed to be the confiscation of photographic equipment and media. … The passive resistance offered by the passengers was met with force. One woman’s head was hit against the deck of the boat and then stepped on by an Israeli soldier.’

Likewise violence was used on the Sfendoni and here there was an actual attempt to prevent a doctor giving medical treatment. [143, 146]

‘Prior to boarding a number of stun grenades, plastic bullets and paint balls were fired at the boat from soldiers on the zodiacs: at least two passengers were hit, one on the back of the head. According to a medical doctor on board, one of stun grenades landed in the confined space of the bridge, injuring a number of people and causing damage to the hearing of one man…. The soldiers attempted to stop a medical doctor from treating the passengers’ injuries, saying that the army medical officer on board would treat them. … The doctor said that they would have to shoot him to prevent him doing his job.

So too with the Eleftheri Mesogios. [149-150]:

‘The passengers did not engage in any pro-active resistance to the take-over of the ship but used passive resistance methods, blocking access to the bridge with their bodies. The Israeli forces used physical force, electroshock weapons, plastic bullets and paint balls to clear the area. A number of passengers were injured, including one passenger whose leg was fractured leg…. Those who refused to cooperate were roughly treated. According to a number of witnesses, some people who refused to surrender their passports were assaulted, including one woman who was punched in the stomach and one man who was wrestled to the ground by two soldiers, kicked and beaten. One passenger said that the hand ties were too tight and when he asked for them to be loosened they were instead tightened further.’

The Report finds that [167-8]

‘throughout the operation to seize control of the Mavi Marmara, including before the live fire restriction was eased, lethal force was employed by the Israeli soldiers in a widespread and arbitrary manner which caused an unnecessarily large number of persons to be killed or seriously injured. Less extreme means could have been employed in nearly all instances of the Israeli operation, since there was no imminent threat to soldiers; for example in relation to the operation to move down to the bridge deck and seize control of the ship and the firing of live ammunition at passengers on the bow deck of the ship. … A well-trained force such as the Israeli Defence Force should have been able to successfully contain a relatively small group of passengers armed with sticks and knives and secure control of the ship without the loss of life or serious injury to either passengers or soldiers.

And confirming what has been said repeatedly since then and denied by Israel’s paid liars like Mark Regev, a particular favourite of the BBC, [169] Indeed it remarks that it was purely a matter of chance that more people weren’t killed:

‘It is apparent that no effort was made to minimise injuries at certain stages of the operation and that the use of live fire was done in an extensive and arbitrary manner. It is difficult not to conclude that, once the order to use live fire had been given, no one was safe. Under the circumstances, it seems a matter of pure chance that there were not more fatalities as a result.’

And in a devastating conclusion the Report finds that 6 of the 9 killed were in effect executed by the Israeli military. [170]

‘The circumstances of the killing of at least six of the passengers were in a manner consistent with an extra-legal, arbitrary and summary execution. Furkan Doğan and İbrahim Bilgen were shot at near range while the victims were lying injured on the top deck. Cevdet Kiliçlar, Cengiz Akyüz, Cengiz Songür and Çetin Topçuoğlu were shot on the bridge deck while not participating in activities that represented a threat to any Israeli soldier. In these instances and possibly other killings on the Mavi Marmara, Israeli forces carried out extralegal, arbitrary and summary executions prohibited by international human rights law, specifically article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’

That is quite clear to all but the wilfully blind. And the Report goes on to elaborate on the mistreatment of those who had already been injured: [171]

‘It is apparent that a number of the passengers on the top deck were subjected to further mistreatment while lying injured. This included physical and verbal abuse some time after the operation to secure control of the deck had concluded. Furthermore these passengers were not … Other passengers suffering from chronic medical conditions were also denied access to their required essential medicines. The Israeli forces failed to meet the requirement to provide proper medical treatment to all those injured as rapidly as possible.

Unsurprisingly the Report [172]

‘is satisfied that much of the force used by the Israeli soldiers on board the Mavi Marmara and from the helicopters was unnecessary, disproportionate, excessive and inappropriate and resulted in the wholly avoidable killing and maiming of a large number of civilian passengers. … As such, the conduct of the Israeli forces amounted to violations of the right to life and of the right to physical integrity, as stipulated in articles 6 and 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.’

The Report goes on to find that the treatment of those detained on board the MM was ‘cruel and inhuman in nature’. [178]

‘This included a large number of persons being forced to kneel on the outer decks in harsh conditions for many hours, the physical mistreatment and verbal abuse inflicted on many of those detained, the widespread unnecessarily tight handcuffing and the denial of access to basic human needs such as the use of toilet facilities and provision of food. In addition there was a prevailing climate of fear of violence that had a dehumanizing effect on all those detained on board. On other vessels in the flotilla there was additional instances of persons being subjected to similar severe pain and suffering, including a person being seriously physically abused for refusing to provide his passport without a receipt.

The Report expresses particular concern over the way that plastic handcuffs were used and their deliberate tightening to cause more pain to be inflicted. [179]

‘Numerous passengers described the pain and suffering caused by being shackled by plastic handcuffs (also known as ‘plasticuffs’) in an overly tight manner, frequently behind their backs, causing further suffering. Many were experiencing neurological damage up to three months after the events of the flotilla.’

And in what is a devastating conclusion, the Report finds that [180] ‘the treatment tended towards torture.’ and that this treatment[181]

‘in certain instances on board the Challenger 1, Sfendoni and the Eleftheri Mesogios, by the Israeli forces amounted to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and, insofar as the treatment was additionally applied as a form of punishment, torture. This represents a violation of articles 7 and 10 (1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.’

And just in case the passengers hadn’t suffered enough for wishing to break Israel’s starvation blockade of Gaza, they were publicly paraded in front of hostile crowds when disembarking [185].

‘The vessels were greeted by crowds of soldiers and sometimes civilians, including school children, at the quayside, waving flags and cheering the return of the Israeli forces. Some passengers said that they were jeered or taunted by the people on the quay. There were also television camera crews and journalists recording the disembarkation of the passengers. Many passengers said that they found the experience of being “paraded” before the media and the sometimes hostile crowds unsettling and humiliating. ‘

And in disregard of all international obligations [186]

‘Some passengers with serious injuries were made to walk off the Mavi Marmara unaided. Due to the delay in disembarking and processing all passengers, some injured passengers had to wait for considerable periods before they were diagnosed and sent to hospital. Others were not diagnosed until they arrived at the prison later.’

The Israeli forces attempted to get all passengers to sign official papers in which they admitted to having entered Israel illegally and consented to deportation and be banned from re-entering Israel for a 10-year period.

Of course the soldiers could be forgiven. Wringing a confession out of a prisoner through torture and violence is standard practice before presenting someone to a military court [188]

‘… There were concerted efforts by some Israeli officers to coerce passengers into signing the forms. … Some passengers were threatened with physical violence for refusing to sign; others were beaten or physically abused for refusing to sign or for advising others not to sign. Efforts to persuade passengers to sign the forms continued at the airport almost up to the moment of departure.’

The Report describes one incident when a Greek national

‘was severely beaten for refusing to provide his fingerprints to the Israeli authorities. The passenger was dragged along the ground for some distance and then surrounded by a large group of Israeli officials who proceeded to beat him severely, including the deliberate fracture of his leg. His cries for help were ignored, and one witness noted uniformed officials, both male and female, laughing at him. The passenger’s broken leg was not treated until after he had left Israel.’ [190]

“You are in Israel now; you have no rights”.

One passenger who protested [192]‘ was told by an Israeli officer: “You are in Israel now; you have no rights”.

And the wife of one of the deceased passengers was treated with complete insensitivity to her bereavement. She was not allowed to make a phone call to inform her family of her loss. [194].

And of those passengers who were detained at Ella prison near Beersheva: [198]

‘Many passengers were subjected to further interrogations while in detention; some said that this was done repeatedly. There were a number of allegations of beatings during these interrogations.’

And in a section entitled ‘Ill-treatment of passengers at the airport and repatriation’ the Report expresses its astonishment that the Israeli forces orgy of violence continued right up to the point of departure: [202]

‘Perhaps the most shocking testimony, after that relating to the violence on the Mavi Marmara, provided to the Mission was the consistent accounts of a number of incidents of extreme and unprovoked violence perpetrated by uniformed Israeli personnel upon certain passengers during the processing procedures inside the terminal at Ben Gurion International Airport on the day of deportation. These accounts were so consistent and vivid as to be beyond question. An intimidating number of armed soldiers and police were present inside the terminal building. Some passengers said that these officers were “spoiling for a fight”.’

‘Some passengers in the passport checking area saw an older passenger being roughly treated after receiving what appeared to be a beating. When other passengers, including Irish and Turkish, protested at this treatment, they were charged by soldiers using batons. In the foray, around 30 passengers were beaten to the ground, kicked and punched in a sustained attack by soldiers. One Irish passenger was seen being particularly badly beaten around the head and held in a choke position to the point of near suffocation. He identified his attackers as police officers. He was taken to a holding cell.’

There are a number of such attacks detailed in the report. [204] [207] Even those injured and in hospital [214] ‘were handcuffed to their beds using standard metal handcuffs throughout their stay. Some were also restrained at their ankles. These were seriously injured people and the cuffing was done with no apparent regard to their injuries.’

What is important is that the witnesses, from a number of different countries reported the same things, leading the Report to conclude [219]-220 that

Passengers’ testimony included a number of credible allegations of physical violence and abuse perpetrated by Israeli officers, soldiers and policemen at the processing centre in Ashdod, at the prison and at the airport. In some cases, this violence seemed gratuitous; in other cases, it seemed aimed specifically at forcing compliance with particular procedures… The Mission considers that acts of torture were committed by Israeli officials against passengers during their period of detention in Israel in violation of article 1 of the Convention against Torture and articles 7 and 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

There were other instances of behaviour by Israeli officials which was aimed at humiliating individuals which, if not torture, would constitute cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment under the terms of article 16 of the Convention against Torture… The Mission would like to draw particular attention to the treatment received by some women by female Israeli officers at the processing centre that fell well short of acceptable behaviour.

In a further reference to the parading of detainees [221] the Report notes that

‘the scene at the quayside described by those interviewed carries the hallmarks of a ‘triumph’ at which captured prisoners of war are paraded in front of flag-waving crowds. Prisoners of war would have been protected against this humiliating spectacle by article 13 of the Third Geneva Convention which protects them from “insults and public curiosity”.’

Likewise the Report is quite clear that [225] ‘Regardless of the pretended claim to legality of the detention of the flotilla participants inside Israel, the State of Israel was bound to afford the detainees certain basic rights whilst in detention.’ (my emphasis)

The Report likewise deals with the theft of the passengers’ possessions. [235]

‘The Mission estimates that many hundreds of expensive electronic items remain in the possession of the Israeli authorities. Many passengers were carrying considerable amounts of cash donations to be distributed in Gaza, in some cases amounting to tens of thousands of dollars.’

And naturally Israel likes foreign passports in particular! No doubt when Israel assassinates another victim in someone else’s country it will be discovered that the person responsible was from the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, given Israel’s ability to clone passports: [236] and that some passengers have still not received their passports nearly four months after the incident. The Report notes [239] that

‘On 20 August 2010 it was reported in the Israeli media that “at least four” Israeli soldiers had been detained on suspicion of stealing and selling laptops belonging to passengers that were on board the flotilla. Furthermore, at least four passengers have stated that their personal items, including credit cards and mobile telephones, have been subsequently used in Israel. There is an account of a particular witness, a journalist, who was on board the Svendoni and alleged that his credit card was used to purchase items in Israel, both while he was detained at the Beersheva prison and after he had been released.5 There is another specific account where more than $1,000 was spent on a confiscated credit card in Israel.’

This is, of course, the ‘most moral army in the world’!! Naturally Israel confiscated

‘a large amount of video and photographic footage that was recorded on electronic and other media by passengers, including many professional journalists, on board the vessels of the flotilla. This includes a large number of photographic and video material of the Israeli assault and interception on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels. The Israeli authorities have subsequently released a very limited amount of this for public access, in an edited form, but the vast majority has remained in the private control of the Israeli authorities.’

Only an institutionally stupid organisation, such as the BBC, could not draw the obvious conclusions from such behaviour. However not being so stupid or cowardly the Report drew the only conclusion possible: [241] ‘The Mission is satisfied that this represents a deliberate attempt by the Israeli authorities to suppress or destroy evidence and other information related to the events of 31 May on the Mavi Marmara and other vessels of the flotilla.’
In an important part, the Report deals with the ‘Consequences for Israeli Citizens of participation in the Flotilla’ finding [251] that Israeli citizens

‘were separated from other passengers on arrival in Ashdod. After interrogation, they were informed that they would be detained and face charges under Israeli law, including attempting to kill a soldier, seizing arms, shooting from a soldier’s gun, organizing violence and being present in a military zone. Although taken to a different prison, they had similar experiences as the other passengers including sleep deprivation and denial of access to a lawyer.’

The Report has a sub-section on ‘Reprisals against an elected member of the Knesset’. Haneen Zouabi, who was a passenger on the Mavi Marmara. As the Report notes [255] the Knesset voted on 7 June 2010 to remove three parliamentary privileges available to Ms. Zouabi

‘The Knesset held several sessions on the issue of her participation in the Flotilla during which there were racist and sexist remarks and physical threats made against her… Since her participation in the Gaza Flotilla, Ms. Zouabi has received many death threats.’

The Report cites, [256] and this is important, given that the ability of Israeli Arabs to elect members to the Knesset is one of the few democratic rights left to them, the decision of The Inter-Parliamentary Union’s Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians, in July 2010, that ‘the punishment of Ms. Zouabi for exercising her freedom of speech by expressing her political position to be unacceptable and calling on the Knesset to reconsider its decision.’
And the Report dismisses Israel’s self-serving justifications: [261-262]

‘The Mission has come to the firm conclusion that a humanitarian crisis existed on the 31 May 2010 in Gaza. The preponderance of evidence from impeccable sources is far too overwhelming to come to a contrary opinion. Any denial that this is so cannot be supported on any rational grounds. One of the consequences flowing from this is that for this reason alone the blockade is unlawful and cannot be sustained in law. This is so regardless of the grounds on which it is sought to justify the legality of the blockade.’

… the action of the IDF in intercepting the Mavi Marmara in the circumstances and for the reasons given on the high sea was clearly unlawful. Specifically, the action cannot be justified in the circumstances even under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter.

Equally the Report is clear that the conduct of the Israeli military and other personnel towards the flotilla passengers was ‘not only disproportionate to the occasion but demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence. It betrayed an unacceptable level of brutality. Such conduct cannot be justified or condoned on security or any other grounds. It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.’ [264]

The Report, in a decision which may have major reverberations, states [265] that ‘there is clear evidence to support prosecutions of the following crimes within the terms of article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention:’ including wilful killing; torture or inhuman treatment; wilfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health.’

‘The Mission also considers that a series of violations of Israel’s obligations under international human rights law have taken place, including: • right to life (article 6, ICCPR); • torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment (article 7, ICCPR; CAT);

• right to liberty and security of the person and freedom from arbitrary arrest or detention (article 9, ICCPR); • right of detainees to be treated with humanity and respect for the inherent dignity of the human person (article 10, ICCPR); • freedom of expression (article 19, ICCPR).

In what is clearly ironic humour the Report notes [268] that it is:

‘aware that this is not the first time that the Government of Israel has declined to cooperate with an inquiry into events in which its military personnel were involved. … It is nonetheless regrettable that, on yet another occasion of an enquiry into events involving loss of life at the hands of the Israeli military, the Government of Israel has declined to cooperate in an enquiry not appointed by it or on which it was significantly represented.’

One might think there is a touch of naivety here. Does one really expect murderers to co-operate with an inquiry into their behaviour?

And importantly the Report concludes, regarding the witnesses [273] that:

‘All the passengers on board the ships comprising the flotilla who appeared before the Mission impressed the members as persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism and imbued with a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.’

See also

All in all this is a Report which should and will come to haunt Israel. If the Israeli state inflicts this level of violence on internationals sailing in international water, then what does it do on a routine basis to Palestinian prisoners?

Is it any wonder that the Jerusalem Post reports that ‘Israel threatened Monday to pull out of a UN inquiry into a raid on a Turkish flotilla heading for Gaza, after the UN chief said there is no agreement that the panel will refrain from calling Israeli soldiers to testify. What else can it do in the circumstances apart from have Panorama ‘interview’ them again?

Tony Greenstein





September 27, 2010

I think there has been a certain amount of relief in leftish, anti-war and Palestine solidarity circles that Ed Miliband beat his brother, David, in the contest for leader of the UK’s Labour Party. Brother David was implicated in the wars on Iraq and Afghanistan, the torture of rendition victims and he was an ardent supporter of the Zio=Nazi State of ‘Israel’ whilst in office and never uttered a critical word after leaving office. I’m not expecting much better of brother Ed really but at least brother David has been punished for his unprincipled opportunism.

Ok, all that is by the by. I have heard many times that the mother of the Miliband brothers and the widow of their father, legendary British marxist, Ralph Miliband, is an activist with Jews for Justice for Palestinians. Her name is Marion Kozak. I don’t know if that’s her original name or if she remarried.

Anyway, the Jerusalem Post is finding it all rather fascinating in the context of this Jewish boat, Irene, to Gaza and some of the “talkbackers” are in apoplexy over the news.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians, the British organization which organized the boat sailing for Gaza on Sunday, has over 1,600 signatories including Marion Kozak, the mother of recently elected Labor leader Ed Miliband, according to its Web site.

In an interview over the phone from the UK, Naomi Wayne, a co-founder and acting treasurer of the left-wing group, confirmed Kozak’s support and laid out her organization’s manifesto.

“Our slogan is Rabbi Hillel’s quote that which is hated by you do not do to your neighbor,” she said. “We want the end of the occupation and for Israel to sit down and speak with all the Palestinians. We believe the occupation itself is a violent act…What we are hoping to do by sending the boat is reach Gaza in a very peaceful and friendly way. We do not believe people should be locked in without being able to leave.”

Jews for Justice for Palestinians was founded in 2002, at the height of the Second Intifada. Besides Kozak other well-known signatories include Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, actor and comedian Stephen Fry, and the late playwright Harold Pinter.

One talkback says of Ed’s (and David’s) mum, “she should never have survived the holocaust”.

Posted in Campaigns1 Comment



Dear All,

4 items tonight—B’tselem statistics, the option that foreign workers children don’t have, Akiva Eldar on “Netanyahu is looking for a magical solution to both let the tractors get back to work in the West Bank and to keep Abbas at the negotiating table” with which I agree.  The 4th is one that you will enjoy.  It will for a change leave you with a good taste in your mouth. 



1. Jerusalem Post, Monday,

September 27, 2010 

 Photo by: Ben Curtis/AP

 B’tselem: Since 2000, 7,454 Israelis, Palestinians killed



According to human rights group report, 6,371 Palestinian, 1,083 Israeli causalities during armed conflict in last 10 years.  

Since September 29th, 2000, 6,371 Palestinians have been killed and 1,083 Israelis according to a report by B’tselem on the casualties of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict released on Monday.

According to the report, 1,317 of the 6,371 Palestinians were minors, at least 2,996 of them did not take part in fighting when they died and 2,193 died while they participated in fighting. B’tselem said it was unaware whether 694 of the Palestinians did or did not take part in fighting. Two-hundred and forty-eight were Palestinian police officers who died in Operation Cast Lead and 240 were targets of assassination.

“Palestinians killed 1,083 Israelis in Israel and in the territories in the last 10 years,” said B’tselem. “Seven-hundred and forty-one of the killed were citizens, 124 of them were minors, and 342 were security personnel.

On Sunday evening, a nine-month pregnant Israeli woman and her husband were wounded in a terror shooting on Route 60 in the West Bank. 

The two were hit while in their vehicle and managed to reach Soroka Hospital in Beersheba, where the woman underwent surgery for her wounds after giving birth by Cesarean section to a healthy baby boy.


2. Haaretz Monday,

September 27, 2010

Hundreds of migrant families reject voluntary exit deal

Next Sunday will mark the end of the period during which illegal foreign workers whose children do not qualify for permanent residency can leave voluntarily, with government assistance, rather than being deported.

By Dana Weiler-Polak

Next Sunday will mark the end of the period during which illegal foreign workers whose children do not qualify for permanent residency can leave voluntarily, with government assistance, rather than being deported. But so far, only a handful of families has taken advantage of the program.

Under the voluntary departure plan, the government not only buys the plane ticket, but pays to have the workers’ belongings shipped back to their home country. The cabinet had originally allotted 30 days for the program, but later extended it a bit.

During the month of August, 701 families of migrant workers applied to the Interior Ministry for legal status on the grounds that their children met the requirements for residency set by the cabinet. These applications cover 1,035 children and 1,027 parents.

Only 85 applications were rejected out of hand on the grounds that the children clearly failed to meet the criteria. The others are still being considered.

Once the voluntary deportation period ends on Sunday, families still here that did not file applications, or whose applications were rejected, will be subject to arrest and deportation.

“Only a handful of families honored the cabinet decision and chose to leave,” an Interior Ministry official said. “Arresting people and keeping them in custody is a last resort, but the law will be enforced.”

To prevent children from being thrown in jail, a special facility in Hadera was renovated to accommodate families that opt to contest their deportation until a custody judge can hear their case. Families that do not contest their deportation will simply be put on the next available plane.

Families that did apply for residency are supposed to receive a letter from the Interior Ministry in the coming days stating either that their case is moving forward, or that their application has been rejected and they must leave the country within 30 days.

One family now awaiting the ministry’s letter is the Ozumas, who filed their application in late August. Justice Ozuma, age five and a half, meets all the other criteria set by the cabinet. But because she spent an extra year in preschool, she started kindergarten this year rather than first grade. Kindergartners are only eligible for residency under special circumstances.

“I was very happy that they accepted the application and are taking the fact that Justice should have been starting first grade into account,” said her father, Vincent Ozuma. “She began kindergarten at the Bialik Rogozin Campus this month, and it definitely seems to be a good place for her. She’s flourishing. She has a lot of friends, and everything really seems good. I hope it will continue like that.” 

Ozuma sounded cautiously optimistic. “I hope the fact they spoke with us when we filed the application, that we then went on to an interview, and that they didn’t reject our application out of hand means something,” he said. “After all, the children were born and raised here, and this is their home.”


3. Haaretz Monday,

September 27, 2010

Akiva Eldar / Settlement freeze furor is a mask for Netanyahu’s true intentions Netanyahu is looking for a magical solution to both let the tractors get back to work in the West Bank and to keep Abbas at the negotiating table.

By Akiva Eldar

It’s no spin. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu really is looking high and low for a magical solution to both let the tractors get back to work on settlement lands and leave President Mahmoud Abbas at the negotiating table.

Construction in settlements is a very uncomfortable issue for Israel. Most countries say settlement in occupied territory is illegal; friendly governments believe that building in the occupied territories is an obstacle to peace. The boycott of Ariel’s new cultural center reminded us that here, too, the settlements are more a bone of contention than the foundation for our existence. Who will believe Bibi will be ready within a year to evacuate thousands of homes if he cannot / will not declare a temporary moratorium on the construction of a few hundred new homes? Over that it’s worth breaking up the peace talks?

No, Netanyahu does not want to create a crisis over the freeze. Why should he have a crisis over the demand of Jewish migrants to settle in Hebron if he can focus it on the demand of Palestinian refugees to return to Haifa? Let Bibi get through the nuisance of the freeze, and he will pull Abbas into the sure trap over the “right of return.” What will Tzipi Livni say, and even those who call themselves “the Zionist left” when Abbas announces he refuses to give up the right of return in advance?

A broad hint of this scheme could be seen in statements Netanyahu made during a visit to Sderot a week ago. “I’m not talking about a name,” Netanyahu said, to explain his insistence the Palestinians recognize Israel as the nation-state of the Jewish people. “I’m talking about essence,” he said.

“When they refuse to say something so simple, the question is why?” Netanyahu said to explain what he meant by essence. “Do you want to flood the state of Israel with refugees so it will no longer be a country with a Jewish majority? Do you want to rip away parts of the Galilee and the Negev?” When Netanyahu demands agreement ahead of time that the talks are intended to bring about, according to him, agreement on the establishment of the “nation-state of the Jewish people” alongside a Palestinian state, he is therefore demanding the Palestinians give up in advance on the right of return of refugees. And the main thing, don’t forget, is “no preconditions.”

The controversy around construction in the settlements draws attention away from the bombshell hiding behind Netanyahu’s demand that the Palestinians first recognize Israel as the state of the Jewish people. As the prime minister himself has said, this is not mere semantics. It is an essential matter from the most sensitive part of the narrative of the conflict. As Dan Meridor, one of the ministers closest to Netanyahu, put it in an interview with Haaretz Magazine (October 23, 2009): “I am not too optimistic that the Palestinian government has given up on the right of return. That would mean conceding the rationale for the Palestine Liberation Organization, which was founded in 1964, three years before the Six-Day War. And Abu Mazen [Abbas] was one of its founders.” Meridor, by the way, says that a state that is not the state of all its citizens is not a democratic state.

Some people, for example the previous prime minister, Ehud Olmert, believe that with goodwill, sensitivity to the suffering of the refugees and international assistance, the right of return obstacle can be overcome. Speaking at a conference of the Geneva Initiative leadership, Olmert reminded the audience that the PLO had accepted the 2002 Arab peace initiative, which states the solution to the refugee problem must be not only just (based on United Nations Resolution 194), but also agreed-on by all the parties. It will be attained only in the framework of a comprehensive deal that will include all the core issues, first and foremost an arrangement for the holy places in Jerusalem.

The problem of the refugees is not a ball in a game whose purpose is to push the Palestinian adversary (partner?) into a corner and to push away the pressure of the American friend (adversary?) That is a game Israel has no chance of winning. 

What will happen if the Palestinians declare they do recognize Israel as the state of the Israelis – take it or leave it? What will Netanyahu do? Will he end the moratorium on construction in the settlements, stop the negotiations on a two-state solution and begin the countdown to the end of the Jewish state?


4. [forwaded by Ehud Krinis]

David Shulman

An-Nabi Salih,

September 25, 2010 

Something New is Happening in Palestine

          Something new is happening in Palestine. I saw and heard things today that are relatively rare in my experience. I saw conflict erupt in the village between those who wanted to throw stones at the Israeli soldiers and generate more violence, as in the past, and the no less passionate people who intervened fiercely to prevent this from happening. I heard tough words of peace and hope. I saw the most dignified and brave demonstration I’ve ever seen. I also saw the army react with its usual foolishness, which I’ll describe, and I saw the soldiers hold back when they could easily have started shooting. It wasn’t an easy day by any means, but it was good.

          An-Nabi Salih is a hard place. When Ezra heard me say yesterday, in Sheikh Jarrah, that I was going to the village, he said, “Take a helmet. They’re violent there, all of them” (he meant:  settlers, soldiers, and villagers). Yesterday, at the usual Friday demonstration in the village, the soldiers fired rounds of live ammunition along with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas and stun grenades. I was expecting more of the same today.

          The village, north and west of Ramallah, has the great misfortune of having the hard-core settlement of Halamish as its unwanted neighbor. An-Nabi Salih lost some of its lands to the settlement along with access to a fresh-water spring, a precious thing in this arid, sun-scorched landscape; the settlers stole the spring, but the villagers were not prepared to surrender it, so there have been many violent clashes, spread over years. The settlers do whatever they can to make the villagers’ life miserable, with much success, and the soldiers, as always, back them up. All this is standard practice.

          Today is International Peace Day, and the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance, run by Ali Abu ‘Awad from Beit ‘Umar (with offices in Bethlehem), has planned a celebration-cum-workday in An-Nabi Salih. Hundreds of Palestinian activists were supposed to arrive from all over the West Bank—but the army has turned all the buses away and closed the roads. We run into the same roadblocks at the main turn-off from Highway 60 running north through the West Bank. The soldiers laugh at us when we tell them we’re going to An-Nabi Salih.

No chance, they say, of getting through. But this is the West Bank, and there is always a way, maybe not an easy way, but some back road or goat track or dirt path that will get you where you’re going; so we wind our way for close to two hours, through Jiljiliya and other quite lovely villages until we fetch up at Qarawat Bani Zeid, close to our goal. But there is, we know from Ali and Alison, another army roadblock at the entrance to the village. The Tel Aviv contingent tried to get past them by running a few hundred yards over the hills, and several of the activists were caught and arrested. Do we want to attempt the same tactic?

          At least some of us may get through, but we hesitate: is it worth the hassle of the arrests and the violence? On the other hand, having come so far, how can we simply turn back? Seven of us are prepared to run the gauntlet. Finally, at high noon, Ali leads us down into the rocky terraces and olive groves underneath An-Nabi Salih. Leaping over the rocky ledges, we descend to a level that is hopefully beyond the soldiers’ range of vision, and  for twenty minutes or so we creep stealthily from tree to tree and rock to rock, in near-total silence, playing hide-and-seek, outflanking them, crouching, holding our breath, hoping to emerge far enough past the roadblock to elude capture.

It’s very hot, and I’m thirsty and, by the end, physically depleted; it’s been 33 years, I calculate, since I last engaged in such games, in my Basic Training in the army. So absorbed am I in the play that I hardly take in the splendor of the hills rolling dizzily toward the horizon, but at one point I do see, just above my head, an olive branch laden with green fruit almost exploding with ripeness. Soon autumn will come, and the olive harvest; on the way in the minibus, bouncing over the back roads, there was even a sweet moment of rain, with the sharp smell, unlike all others, of wet dust settling to the ground.

          There are eleven of us: seven Ta’ayush volunteers, two Palestinian women in modern dress, head covered, from Beit ‘Umar, Alison and Ali himself, tall, graceful, careful, prescient. At one point we almost make a bad mistake, start climbing up too soon, too close to the soldiers; but Ali catches this in time and leads us back down through the trees and brambles. When we do move up to the road, we find ourselves very much inside the village, welcomed warmly by two elderly gentlemen, who come to shake my hand, and then by a contingent of teenagers.

The first thing I see is a huge sign, in Arabic and English: “The children of this land deserve our struggle and sacrifices for peace.” Fifteen yards down the main street, another one: “We believe in non-violence, do you? We are making social change, are you?” A few yards further along: “La salam ma’a wujud al-ihtilal, “Making peace means ending the occupation.” Biggest of all, draped over the entrance to the town meeting place: “Keeping our political prisoners behind the bars of tyranny and injustice is inexcusable on International Peace Day.”

          Do I believe in non-violent struggle? Yes, with all my heart. And I see that I’m not alone—indeed, far from it. We sit at first, re-hydrating, under the enormous tree in the village square, just like in India. Our hosts serve us Turkish coffee and mineral water. We make some friends. One of the village elders says to me with irony (remember yesterday’s live ammunition): “Welcome to Eden.” Actually, though, he just might be right. The heat intensifies. Eventually, inevitably, it is time for the speeches. Popular Arabic music is blaring at deafening volume from the loudspeakers as we take our seats under a wide canvas. It goes on and on, until, mercifully, a young poet takes the microphone and recites a poem. A passage from the Qur’an is sung. The poet introduces the speakers one by one. I’m weary and, at first, a bit bored.

Normally, I have no patience with political speeches in the villages (how many hours of rhetorical Arabic have I sat through?), but today’s surprise me, shake me awake: “We are against violence, we condemn it, we want to be free, the occupation with its hatred is destroying hope but we persevere for the sake of our children, we will win.”  More poems, dramatically sung or recited, punctuate these orations. Now Ali rises to speak—in English, so that all the Israelis and the foreign volunteers can understand:  “I bow my head to all the volunteers who came to An-Nabi Salih today, who struggled past the soldiers and the roadblocks and didn’t turn back. Our struggle is complicated and hard, a struggle that we all share—local leaders of the villages, women, children, families—the first large-scale Palestinian non-violent movement on the ground, aimed at building a just peace with Israel. When I see Israeli activists coming here to the village, my heart cries with happiness; I am honored to have these people with us. To all the Jews I say:  you are not my enemy. The occupation is your enemy, as it is ours.

The Israeli state is a state that eats its children by sending them with weapons to kill and be killed. When you hurt us to the point where we lose our fear of dying, all of us together lose our love of living. They closed off An-Nabi Salih today to keep us out; they know how to put up checkpoints, but they do not know how to fight the feeling of freedom we hold in our hearts. We say to you today, on the Day of Peace:  Peace itself is the way to peace, and there is no peace without freedom. I am proud to be in An-Nabi Salih, and I promise you: we’re gonna make it.”

          As if on cue, soldiers roll into the village in their jeeps; they do what soldiers do, that is, they threaten, they bully, they make arrests, they take their hostages to an olive grove on the other side of the houses, facing Halamish. Our hosts ask us if we would be prepared to take water to the new arrestees (they don’t want to approach the soldiers themselves), so of course we set off through the village streets and down the hill until we find them. Some ten to fifteen soldiers, weighed down by what looks like tons of equipment, green camouflage netting on their helmets and rifles in their arms, are guarding a group of twenty-some students from Bir Zeit university who came to join today’s festivities. We bring water, we chat with the captives, and suddenly it transpires that we’ve been added to their number; the soldiers won’t allow us back into the village.

They don’t want outsiders in there, they’re glad they’ve thinned the ranks. (The presence of foreigners, especially Israelis, makes it harder for them to shoot.) After a few minutes we tire of this and strike out uphill, dodging the soldiers, who are clumsy, weighed down by their guns and all the rest, as they join hands to create a wall and hold us back, and skirmishes develop, and then the first stun grenade, and it ends with four activists, including Sahar and Lihi, caught, handcuffed and forced to the ground. I am too quick for them, as often, and escape their clutches by following Jonathan farther into the trees.

          By the time I regain the village, the main procession—the ritual dénouement of the day– is already forming. I hear mothers telling their young boys to go home, to stay out of it, watch them pushing them away. Originally the idea was to reach the stolen spring, but the soldiers, waiting for us in force at the turn in the road, put an end to this dream. Tear-gas canisters and cartridges of rubber-coated bullets are loaded on to the rifles pointed at the crowd of women, children, men, young and old, many carrying in their arms green saplings that we wanted to plant around the spring.

We sit on the pavement with the soldiers almost close enough to touch, they’re aiming at us, and I’m a little afraid they might open fire like yesterday, and even more afraid that one of the kids will throw a rock and all hell will break loose, but there’s also suddenly no end to the happiness that is washing over me in this crazy late-afternoon moment that I am lucky enough to witness as the light softens to a golden glow and a blessed wind gusts through the trees. People are singing: freedom songs. They swell to a sweet and strident chorus.

          If the Israeli army had a brain, which it apparently doesn’t; if the government of Israel had even an iota of generosity of spirit, which it doesn’t; if the people of Israel and the Jewish people throughout the world could open their ears and hear the voices I heard today, in Arabic and English, but they can’t; if the world weren’t all upside down and crooked and cruel, but it is—if all these ifs could only stop being ifs, then they, whoever gave the orders, wouldn’t have tried to stop us from coming to An-Nabi Salih today, in fact they would have welcomed the arrival of this new generation of proud peace activists from Hebron and Ramallah and Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, and the Palestinian Movement of Non-Violent Resistance wouldn’t be pushing the heavy rock uphill, day after day.  I guess it’s in the nature of such movements to struggle with the rock. Human hearts are heavy as stone.

          Something new is happening in Palestine.


Posted in Middle EastComments Off on DOROTHY ONLINE NEWSLETTER



Privatisation for breakfast, lunch and dinner27 Sep 2010

Are there limits to privatisation or should we just consider asking multinationals to sell babies to the highest bidder?

A private company in Maryland has taken over public libraries in ailing cities in California, Oregon, Tennessee and Texas, growing into the country’s fifth-largest library system.

Now the company, Library Systems & Services, has been hired for the first time to run a system in a relatively healthy city, setting off an intense and often acrimonious debate about the role of outsourcing in a ravaged economy.

A $4 million deal to run the three libraries here is a chance for the company to demonstrate that a dose of private management can be good for communities, whatever their financial situation. But in an era when outsourcing is most often an act of budget desperation — with janitors, police forces and even entire city halls farmed out in one town or another — the contract in Santa Clarita has touched a deep nerve and begun a round of second-guessing.

Can a municipal service like a library hold so central a place that it should be entrusted to a profit-driven contractor only as a last resort — and maybe not even then?

After all, in the US countless politicians are bankrolled by the arms industry, proving that privatisation of death and the myriad of ways to achieve it is no block to assuming public office and then spreading the glorious ideology to other areas of life.


New Yorker embraces pure surrealism 27 Sep 2010

The New Yorker on the iPad. Sheer joy:


Murdoch hearts anybody other than sensible US politicians27 Sep 2010

Hello, my name is Fox News and I like Christians, no mosques anywhere and far-right Republicans:

With the exception of Mitt Romney, Fox now has deals with every major potential Republican presidential candidate not currently in elected office.

The real cost of outsourcing asylum seeker care is more pain 27 Sep 2010

How unsurprising. Shocking cases of mistreatment in Britain’s detention system, most of which are run by private companies, such as Serco. But let’s not have a robust debate about whether multinationals should be managing people coming from torture and trauma:

Millions of pounds in compensation is being paid to migrants who have been traumatised after being locked up in detention centres across the UK, the Guardian has learned.

Government figures show £12m in “special payments” – including compensation – for 2009/10 and a further £3m the year before.

The Home Office said it did not record the proportion of special payments made in compensation, but officials accepted that the figure over the past three years ran to millions of pounds.

Lawyers who are acting for detainees said there was an “epidemic of mistreatment” in the asylum system.

Harriet Wistrich, of Birnberg Peirce, said there was a “systemic failure” to protect torture victims who came to the UK seeking refuge. “It is nothing short of scandalous that we are causing serious harm by detaining people, sometimes for long periods of time, who have done nothing other than seek a place of sanctuary from the horrors they have escaped from, in the mistaken belief that Britain is a just and tolerant society.”

In another case, in June this year, a woman from west Africa, who was locked up for a month in 2006 at [Serco’s] Yarl’s Wood detention centre, Bedfordshire, was awarded a £57,000 payout. In his ruling the judge said there had been a “grave failure” on the part of the Home Office. “A true punishment of the Home Office to reflect the gravity of the situation would run into sums far in excess of those which the court is legally authorised to award,” he said.


Islam is the true enemy, says Republican candidate27 Sep 2010

Welcome to mainstream America:



How we rely on local journalists to show our stupidity 27 Sep 2010

The silent heroes who report on inept and criminal Western wars:

Stringers in Afghanistan, where I am the correspondent for al-Jazeera, are the eyes and ears of the world’s media. Without them, getting a picture of what is going on outside Kabul is almost impossible for a western journalist. Most correspondents don’t often stray from the capital and those embedded with security forces struggle to witness anything not cleared by military censors.

Al-Jazeera is bolder than most, with an occasional trip to the more dangerous provinces. But in the past week our invaluable stringer network has closed down. This month, one stringer’s home in Khost was raided and four of his relatives were arrested. Then our Ghazni stringer was arrested two days after polling day for being what the International Security Assistance Force termed a “suspected Taliban media and propaganda facilitator”. Two nights later, our Kandahar stringer was also picked up for being a “Taliban facilitator”.

Whether or not the intention was to intimidate the press, these arrests have in effect shut down our coverage, despite the fact that both men were released on Friday. So when do I stop being a journalist who wants to cover both sides of this conflict and become a facilitator of Taliban propaganda? I recently produced three reports based on footage my brave producer had taken in a Taliban camp in Baghlan province. The fighters talked about the upcoming elections, suicide bombers and al-Qaida.

Their views may be unpalatable, especially for those who have lost relatives in this conflict, but is that a reason not to air them? If the coalition is committed to talking to the more moderate members of the Taliban, then the more we know about them the better.

But there’s a much more basic reply to the suggestion that our footage stopped people voting. About 40% of Afghans have access to TV but only 4% have access to satellite television and even fewer speak English or Arabic. Even if our footage of the Taliban could put fear into the hearts of people here, very few of them even got to see it.

• Payment for this piece will go to the stringers’ families


Your friendly financial institution assists killers 26 Sep 2010

Did you know that one of Australia’s major banks, ANZ, is funding companies that make cluster bombs?


Here’s what Iraqis need; iTunes26 Sep 2010

Here’s a plan. Invade a country. Destroy the infrastructure. Refuse to compensate. Remain an occupier. Computer anybody?

The shipment of laptop computers that arrived in Iraq’s main seaport in February was a small but important part of the American military’s mission here to win hearts and minds. What happened afterward is a tale of good intentions mugged by Iraq’s reality.

The computers — 8,080 in all, worth $1.8 million — were bought for schoolchildren in Babil, modern-day Babylon, a gift of the American taxpayers. Only they became mired for months in customs at the port, Umm Qasr, stalled by bureaucracy or venality, or some combination of the two. And then they were gone.

Corruption is so rampant here — and American reconstruction efforts so replete with their own mismanagement — that the fate of the computers could have ended as an anecdote in a familiar, if disturbing trend. Iraq, after all, ranks above only Sudan, Myanmar, Afghanistan and Somalia on Transparency International’s annual corruption index.


It is your patriotic duty to provide weapons of death to the state26 Sep 2010

The privatisation of war is an ugly business, pushed by governments keen to pursue a “war on terror” with no end in sight and virtually no accountability:

The CIA is implicated in a court case in which it’s claimed it used an illegal, inaccurate software “hack” to direct secret assassination drones in central Asia.

The target of the court action is Netezza, the data warehousing firm that IBM bid $1.7bn for on Monday. The case raises serious questions about the conduct of Netezza executives, and the conduct of CIA’s clandestine war against senior jihadis in Afganistan and Pakistan.

The dispute surrounds a location analysis software package – “Geospatial” – developed by a small company called Intelligent Integration Systems (IISi), which like Netezza is based in Massachusetts. IISi alleges that Netezza misled the CIA by saying that it could deliver the software on its new hardware, to a tight deadline.

When the software firm then refused to rush the job, it’s claimed, Netezza illegally and hastily reverse-engineered IISi’s code to deliver a version that produced locations inaccurate by up to 13 metres. Despite knowing about the miscalculations, the CIA accepted the software, court submissions indicate.

IISi is now seeking an injunction to ban Netezza and the CIA from using the software or any derivative of it, in any context.


Business as usual in apartheid Palestine 26 Sep 2010

Posted in Middle EastComments Off on A.LOEWENSTEIN ONLINE NEWSLETTER



On May 31, former U.S. Marine Kenneth O’Keefe was aboard the Mavi Marmara in the Free Gaza flotilla. He witnessed the passengers’ preparations for a clash and the confused takeover by Israel troops that resulted in nine dead.

By Noam Sheizaf

BELFAST – “I don’t remember exactly how long we were at sea. Maybe three-four days. There were all kinds of delays, but the atmosphere was good and our spirits were high. I was certain we would succeed in entering Gaza. I brought my expensive possessions – a computer, cameras. People came to me two-three hours before [the takeover of the ship] and told me, ‘There will be an attack.’ I replied, ‘No, that can’t be.’ I really didn’t believe it. In the 2008 flotilla I was the captain of one of the ships and there, too, Israel said they would stop us by force, but in the end let us through. I was convinced that it would be the same this time.”

marmara - Facundo Arrizabalaga - Sept 24 2010 Kenneth O’Keefe. “I knew that if the Israelis boarded the ship, it would be a disaster.”
Photo by: Facundo Arrizabalaga

Belfast, Northern Ireland. Kenneth O’Keefe is sitting at the bar of the Europa Hotel in the center of town. Guests are seating themselves all around on comfortable couches for afternoon tea. Nina Simone and Louis Armstrong play softly in the background while O’Keefe describes his one-on-one combat with an Israeli commando unit.

Kenneth O’Keefe has no hesitations about saying that he failed completely to foresee the Israeli naval operation against the Gaza flotilla, even though he had a convenient observation point aboard the Mavi Marmara.

On the night of May 31, the former U.S. marine who became a devoted activist for Gaza found himself at the center of one of the major fiascos of the Israel Defense Forces in recent years. The confused takeover by naval commandos of the flagship in the flotilla that aimed to breach the blockade of the Gaza Strip ended in a pitched battle, the killing of nine of the passengers, the temporary capture of three soldiers, 10 soldiers and dozens of passengers wounded, a revision of Israel’s blockade policy and a rash of investigative commissions, Israeli and international alike.

O’Keefe, who lives in Ireland with his wife and son, devotes most of his time to Aloha Palestine CIC, created to promote trade with Gaza. According to him, he boarded the Turkish ship in order to reach Gaza and advance his organization’s goals. After seizing the ship, the IDF claimed that O’Keefe wanted to get to the Gaza Strip in order to set up and train a Hamas commando unit, a charge O’Keefe denies vehemently (see box). O’Keefe maintains his political activity is out in the open and he offered to be interrogated while in Israel. Our conversation is his first meeting with an Israeli journalist.

“We knew there was at least a theoretical possibility that the Israelis would try to stop us, and Fehmi Bulent, the president of IHH [the Turkish NGO that organized the flotilla], told us from the outset that this time we were not simply going to sit and wait for the soldiers,” O’Keefe continues. “He said this publicly even before the flotilla set out. When we were at sea, the IHH asked some of us, the passengers, if we would agree to take part in the defense. I was asked whether I wanted to film or help out. Team leaders were assigned to every area of the ship. Our area was the stern. I was one of a group of six and there was a Turk who was in charge of us. Because of my background and military experience, I was appointed his deputy.

“On the night before the attack, a meeting was held of all those who had volunteered to take part in the ship’s defense. We were told that our goal was to prevent the soldiers from boarding the vessel, and that if they did board, maybe to try to disarm them. We were told explicitly not to use knives; even before we set sail we were told not to bring knives. I had a small knife that I used to peel fruits, but when I heard that no knives would be allowed on board I left the knife in Antalya.

“We were told in the briefing, ‘If they throw a rope with a hook onto the deck, throw it back.’ Things like that. They said explicitly not to kill. I don’t remember anything being said about the possibility that we would seize a few of the soldiers.

“That night we were told to rest now, because the closer we would get to Gaza, the more likely it was that something would come up. We were surprised to be attacked in international waters. We weren’t afraid. It was only just before the assault, when we saw the ships, the helicopters and the drones, that people really began to be afraid.

“We were resting in the sector that had been assigned to us when the boats carrying the commandos arrived. There must have been 10 or 12 boats behind the Mavi Marmara. We could see them getting closer, and when they drew close they threw stun, gas and smoke grenades at the ship. Most people don’t know the difference between a stun grenade and a real grenade. It was about 4 A.M. It didn’t feel like an innocent boarding of the ship, it felt like an assault.

“After they threw the stun grenades and approached the ship, people threw chairs at them and whatever came to hand. I tried to tell one of the Turks not to throw anything – I must still have been under the notion that they wouldn’t try to board – but within a few minutes I already saw the first dead body. It was the Turkish photographer. He was killed even before the first soldier landed on the deck. That man was not even on the upper deck. He was not in any contact with the soldiers. He took a bullet in the forehead and then he was carried to the stern, where I was. When I saw him he was already dead.” (For the IDF response, see box.)

“Less than five minutes after the [soldiers in] the boats failed to board the ship, the helicopters appeared. Now there was no longer any doubt about what was happening, but people around me were still in shock, not believing that it was really happening. Now there was also fear. I have been in difficult and dangerous situations in my life and I learned that at moments of tension the way to overcome fear is to control your breathing and focus on the things that have to be done.

“I went from the stern to the middle deck, below the upper deck, on which the soldiers landed. Just as I got there, one of the commandos fell from the upper deck, just a meter and a half from me, in front of my eyes. I think it was the soldier whose photograph was later published looking straight into the camera. The first thing I saw was the 9 mm pistol he was carrying, and I immediately tried to take it. The soldier was conscious but pretty much in shock, and it was easy to deal with him. I took his firearm but didn’t know what to do with it. The whole time I heard shots from the upper deck, both the sound of paintball guns and firearms, simultaneously. It wasn’t automatic fire, but there were a lot of single shots. There were many shouts all around.

“In the meantime, more people arrived and took the soldier inside. I went on from there to the middle deck holding the pistol in my hand, close to my chest and pointed upward. People passed me saying, ‘They are killing people, they are using live ammunition.’ I saw more wounded being rushed inside, and another body.

“One of the Turks asked me what I was doing with the pistol and I told him I didn’t know. I tried to find one of the IHH leaders to ask him what I should do with the pistol. I didn’t find the person who was in charge of our sector in the stern, so I went to the other side of the ship and then went back again, but none of the leaders was [sic] there. I went up to the command bridge and asked the captain if he could take the pistol from me. He said, ‘No, I don’t want firearms here.’ In the end I decided to separate the weapon from the bullets. I gave the bullets to someone and hid the pistol. The logic was that if I succeeded in getting out of there the pistol would serve as evidence of the attack on the ship. I thought the pistol was evidence, so it shouldn’t be thrown into the sea.

“After hiding the weapon I went back to the middle deck from the other side, when another commando was thrown down. This soldier had an assault rifle and was fully conscious. It was a lot harder to cope with him than with the first soldier. I and another Turk tried to take his firearm, but the strap was tied behind his back and he lay on his back and fought us. I saw that he was trying to reach the trigger, so we both made sure not to be opposite the barrel. He held the weapon so tightly that I had to pry his fingers loose from it. In the end we managed to get the rifle away from him and the Turk who was with me took it. Another two people arrived from midship and took this soldier inside, too.

“After a few minutes I went into the room where our wounded were. The three soldiers were there, too. They were without their masks, helmets and communications equipment and they were frightened. Very frightened. That was clear. They didn’t speak. They looked like scared kids whose dad is about to beat them. I think they thought that we would do to them what they had done to us. They thought they were going to die, or at least they feared for their lives, you could see that on them.

“On this deck there were people who had lost their dear ones at the hands of the Israeli army and there were people who had lost their friends just now, in front of their eyes. By this stage I had already seen two bodies and a few more wounded. In these circumstances, there is no doubt that there were very angry people who wanted revenge of some sort, but they were an absolute minority. We all felt anger, but from the point of view of the absolute majority and from the point of view of the leaders there was no question of revenge, or even anything like it. The moment the soldiers were below they received medical treatment and no one hurt them anymore. Before they were taken there they took a few blows, there is no doubt of that. I think most of the blows were quite superficial, even though some of them may have been more than just blows. As far as I know, no soldier absorbed an injury he will not recover from or that will remain with him all his life, and the moment they got below they were given medical care.

“After about 15 minutes the order came to release the soldiers. I don’t remember if it came over the speaker system or was given orally, but an order like that came through and six or seven of our people took the three soldiers and went out with them toward the bow of the ship. One of the soldiers was in worse condition than the two others. He had taken more blows and was in shock. The two who were in better shape jumped into the water and the third remained at the bow, from where the other soldiers rescued him.

“The IDF account according to which the soldiers escaped under cover of the melee and the shooting is simply untrue. I was inside the ship with the soldiers. There were at least a hundred people around the soldiers when the order came to release them. There was a small group of people, six or seven, who took the three soldiers from the room to the bow. There were shots or stun grenades there, and because they were about to be released anyway, our people just turned around and went back inside. Otherwise, from their point of view, what was the point of taking the soldiers outside? After all, there were helicopters and snipers there. If we had wanted to hold on to them, the right thing would have been to leave them inside.

“After the soldiers were released I saw another two-three bodies and I heard more explosions and shots, but less consecutively. A little more time passed and then the ship’s captain announced over the speaker system, ‘They have taken control of the command bridge, stop resisting.’ And that was the end.”

No invitation to tea

O’Keefe’s body is covered with political tattoos such as “Citizen of the world” and “Truth, justice, peace.” He is against all forms of nationalism (“It’s ironic that because of opposition to the occupation I find myself supporting a Palestinian national struggle. I long for the day where all people see each other part of one human family, regardless of lines drawn on a map.” ). He believes that the United States government was involved in the 9/11 attacks and views Zionism as an offshoot of Western imperialism. Personally, he does not call for an armed struggle and thinks that “the most powerful weapon the Palestinians have is the truth; violent resistance is nothing in comparison.”

In a BBC interview he referred to some of Hamas’ actions as “violation of human rights” but in the conversations with me he was adamant not to condemn Hamas: “I am against such attacks in the same measure that I am against state terror. Hamas has not perpetrated suicide attacks for years now, and when they won the 2006 elections everyone who prevented them from taking part in the political process is as much to blame as they are for the violence that followed. You hate them because they are violent, but what do you do when they take part in the elections? You kick them out and push them into a corner.”

O’Keefe has devoted himself to the Palestinian cause since 2004. He has visited Israel and the West Bank twice. The first time he was caught by the IDF trying to enter the Gaza Strip without a permit, was incarcerated for 20 days and then deported. In the flotilla of 2008, he was the captain of one of the two ships that eventually reached Gaza. He spent a few weeks in Gaza before managing to leave via the Rafah crossing. The suffering of the population in Gaza, he says, which he witnessed firsthand, together with the sense of honor and pride that the Gazans showed, reinforced his determination to continue the struggle for Gaza.

Were you present when Bulent said the flotilla participants would struggle to defend the ship?

“I knew before we set out that the Turks are not like the other Westerners, that there would be no passive resistance in this case. The Turks are a tough people. They are people you don’t mess with too much. In the United States or Britain people are asleep, there is no danger of rebellion. The Turks are different. I knew that if the Israelis boarded that ship, it would be a disaster. Not only from the aspect of the people who would be killed, but that it would also be a disaster for the Israelis.”

Did you see them sawing the beams in preparation for the attack?

“I knew we would defend the ship. That was stated publicly a great many times. You have to be an idiot to board that ship and think it will be a ship of passive resistance.”

So the same things would have happened even if the confrontation had taken place in the territorial waters of Gaza?

“That is my feeling, yes. Even though the fact that it was done in international waters – every Israeli will agree that that was a terrible mistake. If you attack, do it in the region of dispute. Apparently the army wanted to do it at night, because a trained force equipped with night-vision instruments possesses a tremendous tactical advantage. You know, the Israelis didn’t send police or riot units to handle the demonstrations. They sent commando troops who are trained to kill. Ehud Barak said he would stop the flotilla at any price – and that is what they set out to do.

“If they thought we were a group of passive peace activists and that there would be no resistance to boarding the ship, what was the logic in coming in the middle of the night and using grenades? It’s an insult to the intelligence to say that. Is Israeli intelligence so useless that they didn’t even bother watching international newscasts, in which the leader of IHH said explicitly that we would defend the ships bodily? Did they know so little about the mood on the Turkish street that they thought boarding the ships would be an invitation to tea? Or did they know all that and because of it came at night, with stun, gas and smoke grenades and sought to gain a tactical advantage, in the clear knowledge that there would be a confrontation?

“There were helicopters there with snipers. The first to be killed was the photographer. That’s the proof of the way the army behaved there, that and the 250 bullet holes in the ship itself, including places where there was no fighting.”

Israel claims there was a planned ambush for the soldiers by a few dozen passengers.

“How exactly did they plan to attack? That’s bullshit. When someone comes aboard with a rifle and shoots you, you don’t start to think, ‘Is it moral to raise an iron bar and protect myself?’ You do what you have to do. The theory about 40 or 80 extremists is simply nonsense. Where is the proof? Israel says the passengers shot at the soldiers. Where are the gunshot wounds? Where are the weapons, the shells?”

Didn’t the resistance to the soldiers make their reaction legitimate?

“I am not even going to pretend to persuade the Israeli public to adopt my point of view. It’s clear that the Israelis believe that the army had every right to board the ship, international waters or not. It’s clear that they believe we were terrorists or connected to terror. It’s clear that the Israelis believe that we had no right to resist, because you are right and we are wrong and that’s that.

“But if you look at it from a different perspective, there are a million and a half people in Gaza of whom the overwhelming majority are not Hamas, there are 800,000 children who are suffering from trauma and diseases. We wanted to help them. And in my opinion, that is also an Israeli interest, because the present approach to the Palestinians will not bring you security. We defended not only ourselves but also the mission, to aid innocent people. How is it possible to believe that it’s justified to punish 800,000 children? If you see things like I do and like the people aboard the ship, it’s as though they are your children. What would you do to save your child?”

But how could Israel be sure there were no weapons on the ship?

“Do you think there was any chance that the Turks would have transported weapons on their ship to Gaza? Israel could easily have approached the Turkish authorities and received guarantees that there would be no weapons and no terrorists on the ships. All that could have been done through diplomatic channels, if they were really interested in doing it.

“Personally, I have no desire or interest to bring weapons into Gaza, and I don’t think anyone else wanted that. It’s beyond stupidity. And what exactly could you bring that would be able to cope with the IDF? I don’t believe armed resistance against Israel is anything but a losing battle. One flotilla is better than 10,000 rockets.”

Fault line

The second time I was to meet O’Keefe, the road adjacent to the center of Belfast was blocked by the police because of a suspicious object. The convoy of armored vehicles and vans of the security forces illustrates the fragility of the Good Friday Agreement that ended what everyone had claimed was an intractable conflict. In addition, one could not avoid seeing the support of the Catholic community for the Palestinian cause. Not far from Sinn Fein headquarters, two Britons were collecting donations for a new convoy to Gaza. It is those civil society activists who were shocked by operation Cast Lead in ways Israelis don’t always appreciate. During our interview, O’Keefe asked me at least twice whether I thought that the estimate that 80 to 90 percent of the Israeli public supported Cast Lead was realistic. “It’s very hard to accept that,” he says. “In the eyes of the world, support on that scale for bombing civilians with phosphorus is gross.”

Nothing in O’Keefe’s past indicated the course he would follow as an adult. He is from an affluent family and grew up in the suburbs of San Diego. He liked soccer and football, but gave them both up in favor of surfing. Politically, he leaned toward the Republicans and admired President Reagan.

He enlisted in the Marine Corps at the age of 19. He was, he says, a good soldier, popular with his buddies, until during a six-month mission aboard a ship in the Mediterranean he complained about unbecoming behavior on the part of a veteran sergeant. His life then became hell; he still becomes overwrought when he tells the story. In the First Gulf War, in 1991, he took part in the ground invasion of Iraq. There was “no serious resistance,” he says. He paid no particular attention to the residents of the country he invaded.

“I was like all Americans, spoon-fed what I needed to know. I was so dumb that I didn’t grasp that Saddam Hussein had been our boy for years, because he had fought against Iran; that he received weapons from us with which he killed Kurds; and that suddenly he had become a new Hitler who had invaded a defenseless sovereign country. At the time I was also an avowed supporter of Israel. I would have told you then that the Palestinians are a gang of terrorists who want to throw the Jews into the sea.

“That’s why I don’t hate the Israelis: I see myself in them. I also bought into that stuff. I would be happy to meet with the Israeli commandos who boarded the ship. I would like to sit down with them and talk to them respectfully. I would tell them, ‘Considering the circumstances and what you were told, you are doing what you think is right. And you are fighters – I respect that. But I’m sorry, if you move away from the conditioning and the propaganda, if you are honest and fair and know history, you understand what these people are resisting.’ Ehud Barak said himself that if he were a Palestinian, he would join the resistance.”

After his discharge, O’Keefe entered college and underwent a conceptual revolution. He went to Hawaii and became a diving instructor, took part in activity to preserve marine life and started to take an interest in the indigenous population and in the “dispossession and land theft” that they were subjected to, as he puts it. In 2001 he renounced his American citizenship. Two months after the September 11, 2001 attacks he left the United States and requested political asylum in Holland.

On the eve of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, O’Keefe initiated Operation Human Shields in which hundreds of citizens of Western countries took part, in an effort to protect the Iraqi people bodily against the American bombs. “It was an extraordinarily powerful idea that simply took off, because people understood that the invasion was a disaster and was based on lies,” he recalls. “Before going there I gave media interviews and made it clear that I did not support Saddam Hussein, who was a tyrant, a murderer and a dictator. That’s why I wasn’t invited to Saddam’s palaces, as others were, but that didn’t bother me.

“In the end,” he continues, “the mission failed. People told the media stupid things that made it look as though we were working for Saddam Hussein. Saddam prevented us from visiting hospitals and from deploying where we wanted to. Ten days before the invasion I was deported from Iraq.”

Do you understand that in the eyes of most people, if you go to Baghdad you are Saddam’s ally and that if you go to Gaza you are the ally of Hamas? How could it be otherwise?

“Easily. At least hundreds of thousands of people died because of the invasion of Iraq. They could have been alive today. They are the proof that I went for the right reasons. How could I try to help those people without being accused of supporting Saddam? I guess there is no way. It’s the same with Gaza. Probably the most beautiful moment of my life took place on August 23, 2008, when we arrived in Gaza with the first flotilla.

There was a special atmosphere in the port. There was excitement like we had just won the World Cup. Tens of thousands of people were there. No one believed we would get through, but we did. We knew it wouldn’t break the blockade, but it showed that it was possible to reach Gaza via the sea. For one day there was total euphoria. They looked at us like we were heroes, when actually we respected them more for what they had gone through. At that moment there was no other place in the world that I wanted to be.”

After his return from Gaza, O’Keefe founded Aloha Palestine together with Lauren Booth, the half-sister of Cherie Blair, Tony Blair’s wife. The organization’s goal is to maintain civil trade with the Gaza Strip. Among those who have endorsed the organization are Noam Chomsky and the Dalai Lama.

“In Gaza I understood that people cannot live only from aid. They have to be capable of buying food themselves, of working. I called the initiative Aloha Palestine because the Palestinians very much reminded me of the people of Hawaii: despite everything, they have remained courteous and welcoming. Aloha is actually a way of life. The Palestinians may not have much, but what they have they will share with you. As an American, you can’t go to Baghdad, but you can walk around without any problem in Gaza or the West Bank. People will look after you.”

In the sun without water

O’Keefe did not make it back to the Gaza Strip. The battle for the Marmara ended around 5 A.M. and the ship made for the port of Ashdod. “It took another two hours before it was decided that we would go one by one to the stern with our hands raised,” O’Keefe says. “A few dozen soldiers were waiting for us, tied our hands and searched us. I was kicked a few times, but it was very superficial, nothing serious. More attention was paid to people with a distinctly Muslim appearance. From there we were taken to a few points on the upper deck and told to kneel and wait.

“We were kept in that position until the Marmara reached Ashdod, at about 7 P.M. There was no shade on the deck and we had no food or water. An elderly man urinated on himself after all his requests to be taken to the toilet were ignored. At one point I tried to raise myself to stretch my muscles and a soldier shouted at me to sit down. When I refused he kicked me. A few others were also roughed up. It was unnecessary and unprofessional, but in comparison to the big picture it wasn’t serious.

“From Ashdod we were taken to a facility in the Negev [Ela jail in the Be’er Sheva prison], where we stayed two days. The treatment we received also changed radically. True, we were not allowed to contact anyone and had no access to a lawyer, but we had food and water and were allowed to smoke.

“Gradually the number of people in the jail decreased until only 50 of us were left, and in the end we too were taken to be deported. We arrived at the airport and there was someone in charge wearing civilian clothes. Under his command were policemen in special uniforms, black or very dark blue. [There were policemen, Border Police and members of the police special patrol unit at the airport.] It was obvious that they despised us.

We sat in the airport and a few meters in front of me was an American named Paul Larudee. Paul had a black eye and deep contusions on his right arm and he was in handcuffs. Apparently he had been told that he had to go somewhere and he would not do it and lay down on the floor. He was picked up by the hand and started to scream with the pain of his injuries. We all got up and started to shout at them to let him go. The police came over and shouted at us and hit us. One policeman hit me on the head with a truncheon and blood started to run down my face. I did not resist but told them everything I thought, that they were shits and cowards, so one of them started to choke me and the others kicked me in the ribs.

“There were four or five of them on me. I couldn’t breathe. Just as I started to black out, they got off. That was the only moment I thought I might not survive this story. Others were also beaten in the airport and one of the Turks had his arm broken.

“I was on the floor. They handcuffed me and started to drag me. At that point I started to resist, because I didn’t understand where they were taking me, so they threw me on the floor again and one of them kicked me in the head while I was lying on the floor and my head was bleeding.

“When the guy in charge brought the policemen under control again I no longer wanted anything from them. Someone wanted to wipe the blood off my face and I told him to back off. Probably they didn’t want me to fly with fresh wounds and all the blood on me, so they took me to some detention facility in the airport, where I ended up staying two more days while the others had already flown back.

“I was held in a cell alone in the airport. I was not allowed to see a lawyer or to call anyone. The Irish consul general came to see me and begged me to agree to leave. I told him I wanted to see a judge. On the day before I left someone came in and said, ‘A judge will see you now.’ I entered a room and there was a judge there and he asked me questions and I answered him. Half an hour later he called me in and said, ‘You are being deported from Israel.’

“The night before I left I was attacked in my cell by two guards or policemen. I don’t know who they were. I was sleeping, they came in, beat me and left. So I had blood on my face when I was released. I would not agree to wash my face, even though the Irish consul general asked me to. I told him, ‘This is the way I was treated and I will keep the blood on my face. That’s how I will stay, or that’s how I will leave.'”

Posted in USAComments Off on ROUGH PASSAGE


DateSeptember 27, 2010

Haaretz reported this week that a boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Germany, the U.S. and Britain set sail on Sunday for Gaza, hoping to breach Israel’s blockade there and deliver aid.

9 Jews will participate in this brave mission: amongst them is Rami Elhanan, an Israeli peace activist whose daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide bombing in 1997. Elhanan rightly maintained that it was his moral duty to act in support of the Palestinians in Gaza because reconciliation was the surest path to peace.  “Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am,” he said.

Refusnik Israel Air Force pilot Jonathan Shapira, another passenger aboard the ship, told Haaretz that “we hope that the soldiers and officers of the Israeli navy will think twice before they obey orders to stop us.” 

Shapira also reflected on recent Jewish history: “Let them remember the history of our people, and those who followed orders and later said we were only following orders.”

Elhanan and Shapira make a lot of sense, for they speak in the spirit of humanism and universalism. 

However: when it comes to Jewish political activism, there is always one ‘righteous person’ who insists on providing a glimpse into what is still a deeply Judeo-centric agenda.

Richard Kuper, an organizer with the U.K. group, ‘Jews for Justice for Palestinians’, said “one  goal is to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians.”

Well done Richard. Let me get it right : amongst the Jewish population of 18 million people, worldwide — all you have managed to apparently represent, speak for and collate, is 9 humanist souls who are not happy with Israeli policies.

I suggest to Jews — and humanist Jews in particular — to once and for all, drop the ‘not in my name’ strategy : it is not going to  work, and it doesn’t make any sense either.  Implementing such a tactic is as racist as the Zionist project, for it affirms the Zionist racial and collective attribution to Jews.  It basically says, ‘look at me, I am nice in spite of being a Jew’.  This common Jewish left tactic is,  unfortunately,  not as forceful as Zionism for  Zionism is  supported by the vast majority of world Jewry institutionally and spiritually.

Also, I would like to advise Mr. Kuper that the goal of a  humanitarian mission to Gaza should aim at helping Gazans rather than make Jews look better. 

I should be clear here : of course I wish the Jewish boat all success in accomplishing its sacred mission. I certainly go along with Shapira and Elhanan’s call. It is very impressive to see heroic Israelis opposing their criminal government. Shapira and Elhanan are the seed of a future reconciliation. It is also important to see Jews around the world standing up against Israel.

However, if these Jewish activists are true humanists,  they had better operate as ordinary people within the emerging solidarity movement. If these Jews are humanists, they had better accept the true meaning of universalism and stop buying into, and retaining aspects of Zionist racist philosophy and perhaps they should consider not solely operating in Jews only political cells

Posted in Campaigns1 Comment



September 27, 2010

President Obama seems to be confused.  Help him out by signing our petition stating that negotiations must be based on human rights, international law, and UN resolutions.  Click here to sign.

Yesterday at midnight, Israel’s self-declared ten-month “moratorium” on settlement building expired.

Not that the “moratorium” was meaningful in the first place. The supposed freeze on new housing starts in the occupied Palestinian West Bank literally had thousands of exceptions.  Projects already underway continued to be built, and building in occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem didn’t miss a beat. 

As of now, the fate of recently launched Israeli-Palestinian negotiations remains unclear.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas had threatened to walk away from the table if Israel didn’t extend the “moratorium,” but apparently will not make a decision on whether to do so prior to an Arab League meeting on October 4.

But, as our National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner noted in an op-ed published Friday in USA Today:

“Whether the talks persist or break down, one thing is clear: Palestinians paradoxically will still be expected to negotiate statehood with Israel while Israel – with the full support of the United States in the form of $3 billion per year in military aid – continues to gobble up the territory designated for a Palestinian state.”

You can read the entire op-ed by clicking here.

Rather than support official U.S. policy and international law, which both deem Israel’s settlements to be illegal, the Obama Administration is arm-twisting the Palestinians to remain at the table even without a clear Israeli commitment to stop colonizingtheir land. 

 Read more of our analysis on U.S. policy and the expiration of the settlement “moratorium” by clicking here.

Just because the Obama Administration apparently believes that it’s possible to negotiate Israeli-Palestinian peace by subordinating Palestinian rights to Israel’s illegal actions doesn’t mean that we have to accept it as our country’s policy.   

Here’s how you can take action to help us change U.S. policy on Israeli-Palestinian negotiations to support human rights, international law, and equality:

1) Sign our petition to President Obama stating that Israeli-Palestinian negotiations must be based on human rights, international law, and UN resolutions.  More than 5,000 people have already signed this petition-add your name by clicking here.     

2) Read our op-ed in USA Today and then add a supportive comment on-line, or consider joining US Campaign member group WRITE! in writing supportive letters-to-the-editor.  Here’s how:

“Please WRITE! USA Today to support this important piece which is sure to draw a heavy response.  Be sure to keep your letter under 250 words and include your name, address, and phone number for verification purposes only.”

3) Make a tax-deductible donation to the US Campaign to support our efforts to change U.S. policy toward Palestine/Israel to support human rights, international law, and equality.  





September 27, 2010 by crescentandcross


You promised me democracy,

But look what you have done to me.

You robbed my past,

and future stole,

and a present

left to me,

crushed beyond

a mending hope.

Ten years before invading me,

you broke my dams

and bridges bombed,

and power plants,

and sewage lines,

and water mains,

You fed the plants

with pesticide,

The baby food and medicine

you destroyed;

and the silos

of my grain

you set aflame.

So I may not

make good my loss

nor repair

my water mains,

you shackled me

in sanctions,

and a million kids

you starved to death.

I lived Saddam’s

nightmare through.

I knew what I

must watch out for.

But now I don’t know

where to hide

for death has lost

its pattern now.

He used to kill

and bury us,

friendless in

our unmarked graves;

but our names

he kept on files.

And now that you

are killing us,

we do not even

have a grave,

nor a number

nor a name–

thus in your books

we never lived.

He was your friend

who hurried us,

so many to their

early deaths,

with weapons that you

sold to him,

while you looked

the other way.

He was not

a ‘tyrant’ then,

which of late

he has become.

You merely changed

the label,

so you could come

and liberate,

the wealth that we

are sitting on,

and this you call

our liberation!

You promised me


but look what you

have done to me.

With bombs you won

my heart over,

with blows you changed

my mind.

You tore into

my home at night,

and pulverized

my only peace.

And shrieking as

my mother watched,

with frightened children

Gathered ‘round,

you floored my father

in a heap,

with kicks and blows

and rifle butts,

and tore my humble

home apart.

Then you led

our men away,

with tied hands

behind their backs,

and with their eyes folded blind,

into the endless prison night.

And there you tore

my father’s robe.

To cover then

his nakedness,

upon his head

you put the hood,

and leashed him like

a dog on show,

and your dogs

unleashed on him.

You promised me


but look what you

have done to me.

You took my youth

in prime away–

you shredded wedding


The little joys

that I had left,

merriment in

a broken life,

now in collateral

damage rest,

rising up

in smoke and flame,

of a mindless

bombing run.

‘Tis peel and husk

I have for food,

and water mixed

with sewage now

is all I have

to slake my thirst.

You even took

my sand away,

polluted by

uranium dust,

so when I have

my children they

shall be deformed,

unlovely and


and so unlike

your lovely kids!

My millions homeless

roam the road,

and orphaned children

beg in streets.

My women raised

in sanctity,

are now the stuff

of ravishment.

My men are slaughtered

out of hand,

and widows search

the morgues for them.

My dawn is dull,

and dusk is blood,

and bombs and blasts,

my afternoons.

My night in hopelessness is sunk,

when peace with me

a refuge takes,

and heaps on me

another dawn–

another search

of bodies lost;

another count

of heaped insults;

another day

to death evade,

call it life,

and celebrate.

So now when I

am fighting back,

my fearlessness

is causing awe.


but unafraid,

when I equalize myself,

and blow my only

life away,

you are shocked,

and label me

a terrorist!

I who want

my honor lost

and country back–

–a terrorist?

And you who came here

for my oil,

on crutches of

a shameless lie,

are and always

shall remain,

the humanist!

I know your type.

I see your greed

and hunger know,

but it is those

I want to know,

whose vote does so

empower you.

Do they not see

what they have done?

They promised me


but look what they have done to me!

(c) 2010 by Saeed Malik

Posted in LiteratureComments Off on YOU PROMISED ME DEMOCRACY?

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