Categorized | Middle East

Dorothy Online Newsletter

NOVANEWS

 

Dear Friends,

Much too much to read tonight, even after omitting ½ a dozen articles.  But the situation is such that there is much info that you really should have.

Ok.  Down to business.  Should Israel be worried?  Item 1 tells us that the US has decided to resume relations with the Muslim Brotherhood.  Is Hamas next in line?  I doubt it.  The signs don’t point that way.  But who knows.  Perhaps Obama will surprise us.

Items 2 and 3 are about a single subject: Britain’s incarceration of Sheikh Raed Salah.

In 2, Haneen Zoabi argues that by arresting the Sheikh,  “the UK authorities support the persecution of Arab citizens of Israel.”  This is not to say that she agrees with Raed Salah’s views, but she defends his right to have them.

In 3 the issue is England’s righgt to arrest the Sheikh.  Since even in Israel, though it detests the Islamic movement whose northern branch he heads, but has nevertheless not outlawed the organization, what right has England to arrest its leader.

Item 4 continues the series on sports with a piece on an Israeli Palestinian soccer team, Bnei Sakhnin soccer club.  It’s entitled ‘Coexistence Costs Money.’

Item 5 says that Israel is no place for Bedouins.  There is much truth to that.  In fact, if Israel’s leaders (and much of its population) could get rid of all Palestinians here they would.  It’s heart breaking to read what these people go through!

Items 6, 7, 8 are about the flotilla.  Disgusting!  6 informs us that the Irish ship was sabotaged, and in such a way that had it set sail, it would have sunk, very likely taking all its passengers with it.  Israel is the probable culprit.  Item 7 is about a YouTube in which a person who supposedly wished to participate in the flotilla was rejected because he is Gay.  The video was discovered to be a hoax.  But even before the discovery, a participant in the flotilla who is himself Gay denies that anyone was rejected on such grounds.  Item 8 relates that the Israeli navy intends to deploy 2 boats with operating rooms. Who do they expect to perform surgery on? Soldiers or passengers?

In item 9 Gideon Levy says it all in the title of his piece: “Israel has become a society of force and violence.”  I would only say that it became such from its establishment.

Item 10 is kind of amusing, at least it is in a lighter vein than all the preceding.  Carl Strenger tells Zionists to relax. Actually, he brings up the 2002 (and again in 2007) Arab League offer that the Israeli government did not so much as sniff. It never responded to an offer that included full recognition by all the Arab states in the area, and normalization of relations. The catch was that Israel had to pull back to the 1967 green line.  But Israel’s leaders are not willing to give up a centimeter of land!  Land not life, land not a future, land land and more land is what Israel’s leaders want.

Items 11 and 12 are links, the former to the PACBI  newsletter, which this time has some positive news, the latter to ‘Today in Palestine’ for June 29.

I had a phone call at 11:00 PM (about an hour ago) that a village had received notification from the military that it intends to confiscate a goodly portion of its lands.  That means that more farmers will no longer have land on which to farm!  Maybe tomorrow this, too, will be in ‘Today in Palestine.’

Wish that I could bring you good news.

Dorothy

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1.  Ynet,

June 30, 2011


Pursuing US interests. Obama Photo: AP

US to resume Muslim Brotherhood ties

Analysts say growing clout of Islamist party, which doesn’t recognize Israel, leaves US little choice

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4089220,00.html

Reuters

The United States has decided to resume formal contacts with the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, a senior US official said on Wednesday, in a step that reflects the Islamist group’s growing political weight but that is almost certain to upset Israel and its US backers.

“The political landscape in Egypt has changed, and is changing,” said the senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity. “It is in our interests to engage with all of the parties that are competing for parliament or the presidency.”

The official sought to portray the shift as a subtle evolution rather than a dramatic change in Washington’s stance toward the Brotherhood, a group founded in 1928 that seeks to promote its conservative vision of Islam in society.

Under the previous policy, US diplomats were allowed to deal with Brotherhood members of parliament who had won seats as independents – a diplomatic fiction that allowed them to keep lines of communication open.

Where US diplomats previously dealt only with group members in their role as parliamentarians, a policy the official said had been in place since 2006, they will now deal directly with low-level Brotherhood party officials.

There is no US legal prohibition against dealing with the Muslim Brotherhood itself, which long ago renounced violence as a means to achieve political change in Egypt and which is not regarded by Washington as a foreign terrorist organization.

But other sympathetic groups, such as Hamas, which identifies the Brotherhood as its spiritual guide, have not disavowed violence against the state of Israel.

The result has been a dilemma for the Obama administration. Former officials and analysts said it has little choice but to engage the Brotherhood directly, given its political prominence after the Feb. 11 downfall of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Stirring up demons

US President Barack Obama will surely face criticism for engaging with the Brotherhood, even tentatively.

Howard Kohr, executive director of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, made clear the pro-Israel group’s deep skepticism about the group in a speech last month.

“While we all hope that Egypt emerges from its current political transition with a functioning, Western-oriented democracy, the fact is the best-organized political force in Egypt today is the Muslim Brotherhood – which does not recognize Israel,” Kohr said.

Former US diplomats said the United States had to engage with the Brotherhood given its influence in Egypt.

“We cannot have a free and fair election and democracy unless we are going to be willing to talk to all the people that are a part of that democracy,” said Edward Walker, a former US ambassador to Egypt and Israel who now teaches at Hamilton College.

“It’s going to stir up demons,” he added. “You have got an awful lot of people who are not very happy with what the roots of the Brotherhood have spawned … There will be people who will not accept that the Brotherhood is of a new or different character today.”

Egypt’s parliamentary elections are scheduled for September and its military rulers have promised to hold a presidential vote by the end of the year.

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2,  The Guardian,

29 June 2011

An Israeli trap for BritainIn arresting Sheikh Raed Salah, the UK authorities support the persecution of Arab citizens of Israel

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jun/29/israeli-trap-britain-raed-salah

Haneen Zoabi guardian.co.uk,

Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel, has been arrested in Britain. Photograph: Pavel Wolberg/EPA

The decision to ban the Palestinian leader Sheikh Raed Salah from entering Britain, and then to arrest him, was transparently not based on any serious examination of his political activities. It was an ugly kneejerk response to the growing hostility of the Israeli establishment and its supporters abroad towards anyone opposing its racist policies – and a rising tide of Islamophobia in Europe.

Salah is head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, and three times elected mayor of the Palestinian town of Umm el-Fahm. He and I represent different political organisations and traditions. But there are no legal or legitimate reasons to pursue him. The Israeli persecution of him has recently intensified, as have its attacks on leaders of Palestinian citizens of Israel more generally.

So have its demands that those of us struggling for equality recognise Israel as an ethnically or religiously defined Jewish state. There is no other meaning to a “Jewish state” except the recognition of the legitimacy of granting privileges to Jews in Israel at the expense of Palestinian citizens, annulling the legitimacy of our struggle for real democracy.

Because I took part in the first freedom flotilla to break the illegal and inhuman siege of Gaza, the Israeli establishment has waged a propaganda campaign against me, accusing me of “terrorism”, and demanding the withdrawal of my parliamentary immunity and citizenship. This will be difficult to implement, but it threatens my political legitimacy and defines me as a “risk”.

This is what is now happening with Salah. Unable to produce any legal evidence, the Israeli establishment and its supporters in Britain accuse him of antisemitism. Salah has rebutted the fabricated allegations behind these claims and instructed his lawyers to begin legal action against those repeating them.

It appears that the charge of antisemitism is being used as a way of suppressing criticism of Israeli policies. Since when has the struggle for equality become a form of racism? Since when have states that boast of their democratic credentials acquired the right to arrest people for their political views?

The British authorities cannot give one legal reason for Salah’s arrest. His statements against Israeli policies are no stronger than those made by many Israeli leftwingers and humanitarians. But it seems that the British government has bowed to pro-Israel pressure even when it comes to its home affairs.

By arresting and threatening to deport Salah, the British government is denying Palestinians in Israel the right to speak for themselves and make their case to the international community in what is universally understood to be one of the most combustible conflicts in the world. That is why the condemnation of the British government’s action by Palestinian members of the Israeli parliament has been so strong.

Palestinian Israelis are simultaneously part of the Palestinian people and citizens of Israel. Israel established itself in our land, and Israeli citizenship has no meaning for us unless we have equal citizenship to Israeli Jews and unless it permits our campaign for equality. This is what we, and Salah, are doing.

Pro-Israel organisations in Britain and elsewhere are manipulating growing European Islamophobia to discredit us by falsely portraying the democratic Palestinian struggle against racism and discrimination in Israel as antisemitic.

Palestinians experience this Israeli propaganda every day, but we can compare it to the daily racist reality. It is our land that Israel confiscates: 82% so far. We do not have the right to use it. It has constructed 600 Jewish cities and villages and hundreds of Jewish housing communities, which by law we do not have the right to reside in. It is our homes that get demolished, our history that is rewritten. It is we who are separated from our families and excluded from services, education and jobs.

The British authorities have fallen into an Israeli trap. Instead of supporting our leaders and their campaign for freedom and democracy, they are supporting Israeli persecution of the Palestinian citizens of Israel. Until now, Palestinian citizens of Israel have been struggling for our political rights in our country, and confronting Zionist racism inside Israel. But now it seems we have to confront Zionist racism abroad as well.

The pro-Israeli lobby must not be allowed to determine politics in Britain. Palestinians in Israel see the arrest of Salah by the British authorities as backing Israeli policies against us. We ask the British people to reject this, not to allow Israeli racism to inform them and support instead our just demands for democracy in our own land.

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3. The Guardian,

29 June 2011

Sheikh Raed Salah: Islamic Movement leader loathed by the Israeli right

Salah’s organisation is disliked – but legal – in Israel, so why has the UK government objected to his presence?

http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jun/29/sheikh-raed-salah-islamic-movement

Ian Black, Middle East editor guardian.co.uk,

Sheikh Raed Salah leads Israel’s Islamic Movement, the political importance of which has risen in recent years. Photograph: Sebastian Scheiner/AP

Sheikh Raed Salah, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Israel and veteran mayor of one of the country’s largest Arab towns, stands at one of the most sensitive junctures of the Middle East conflict.

As a citizen of Israel, he heads an organisation which is legal but disliked, doubtless monitored by the government, and loathed by the right as embodying the growing militancy of parts of the Arab minority – 20% of the whole population.

The Islamic Movement campaigns for the rights of those citizens who refer to themselves as the “Arabs of 1948” – those left behind while 700,000 others became refugees when Israel was founded. It fights discrimination and campaigns for the right of Palestinian refugees to return, as well as against house demolitions and expulsions in Jerusalem.

Salah has been jailed for raising money for Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organisation by Israel. In 2010 he served a five-month prison term for assaulting a policeman. But accusations of antisemitism and homophobia have largely emanated from the UK.

Attempts have been made to outlaw the Islamic Movement for incitement but they always failed in Israel’s high court. Its political importance has risen in recent years as prospects for a negotiated two-state solution to the conflict have receded and Palestinians have adopted more explicitly anti-Zionist positions that call for a “one-state” solution under which – under current demographic trends – Jews would no longer constitute a majority.

Ideologically, the movement is close to the Muslim Brotherhood. It preaches social conservatism, observance of sharia law, charity and resisting the influence of western culture. Salah’s visit to the UK was organised by the Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Middle East Monitor, which promotes Islamist causes and focuses on the Palestinians. Both say he rejects accusations of antisemitism.

The real question about the episode is this: if Salah is tolerated in Israel, why did the UK government object to his presence?

====================

4.  Haaretz,

June 30, 2011


Coexistence costs money

I took responsibility for the Bnei Sakhnin soccer club because I knew what the club’s potential was. I came in the belief that through soccer I can advance the interests of both the Arab population and myself.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/sports/coexistence-costs-money-1.370387

By Mazen Ghnaim

I took responsibility for the Bnei Sakhnin soccer club because I knew what the club’s potential was. I came in the belief that through soccer I can advance the interests of both the Arab population and myself.

The potential was enormous: the media, the countrywide exposure, a stage from which to deliver a message for the good of the Arab population and advance my personal interests. I didn’t hesitate to mix politics with sports, but I tried to steer developments toward the important goals.

The road was not an easy one, and was riddled with difficult challenges. At first it was practically impossible to sign Jewish players to Sakhnin. I wanted to promote coexistence and show that there is a way to live in peace and brotherhood. Soccer provided suitable turf, but the results didn’t come immediately. Jewish players did not rush to sign for Sakhnin. In their eyes, Sakhnin was a poor, hostile Arab village, not a respectable place to be seen in.

Once I managed to convince a Jewish player to join the team, his parents and those around him would get involved and express their reservations. My dream was to form a team that represents coexistence, equality and mutual respect.

I saw myself as an ambassador of the Arab public in Israel, and did not give up. I knew that once the first ones arrived, others would follow. I just had to break the stigma.

Today, after a lot of hard work, Jewish players no longer think twice before signing for Bnei Sakhnin. Jews and Arabs have demonstrated that a different way is possible – we can be good neighbors, set common goals, celebrate moments of joy, and be disappointed and cry together during crises. That is the big source of my pride. Once, people would tell me that Sakhnin is an Arab village near Carmiel. Soccer put the city on the map, and that’s something that cannot be taken away from Sakhnin.

But there’s a long way to go before we can sit back and relax. Years after Sakhnin became a symbol of the Israeli Arab population and a regular in the Premier League, sponsors and investors are not still knocking on the club’s doors.

This failure is mine. I had hoped that investors, whether Jews or Arabs, would jump on the idea and sign up to take the club to the top. But the threat of relegation looms over the team every year, professional and economic struggles to survive are the club’s lot, and the distress is almost unbearable. I expected at least the wealthy members of our community to offer a hand, but I was proved wrong. It was difficult to topple this wall.

Arab investors didn’t have to look to Israeli businessman and former soccer player Ya’akov Shahar, who came in as a primary sponsor and, through soccer, became well-known in the business world. They should have looked to me, and understood the benefits soccer could bring. Without my years with the soccer team, I would not have been elected as Sakhnin’s mayor. The club opened doors and gave me the exposure that I wouldn’t have gotten anywhere else. Doors were opened to many people, to politicians and government ministers. I even got as far as the prime minister.

Maybe a Jew will be chosen to pick up the gauntlet. He will be loved by the Israeli Arab community, just as Arcadi Gaydamak’s contribution is still remembered. I just hope someone will come soon, Inshallah.

The author is the mayor of Sakhnin and the former chairman of the Bnei Sakhnin soccer club.

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5.  Al Jazeera,

29 Jun 2011 11:34

Israel: No Place for Bedouin

Bedouin living in the Negev desert often lack even basic services, something Israel appears to promote

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/20116238174269364.html

Jillian Kestler-DAmours EmailPrintShareSend Feedback

Bedouin Arabs living in the Negev desert are being forced off their grazing lands into towns and villages that lack clean water, sanitation, electricity, and other basic services [GALLO/GETTY]

Ibrahim al-Atrash lifts the cover to a large, copper water tank. “Rust,” he says, pointing to the discolored rim. Moments later, one of al-Atrash’s children fills a pink, plastic jug with water that slowly trickles out from the container’s spout.

This is how the al-Atrash family – and the over 4,500 residents of al-Atrash, a so-called “unrecognized” Bedouin village in the Israeli Negev (Naqab) desert, which is named after the tribe – gets water: through a series of pipes connecting individual tanks to a central water system over 5 kilometers away.

“We don’t have any options. We’re obliged to drink from the containers and it’s not healthy. It causes a lot of health problems because sometimes there are holes in the pipe, water pressure issues, and lots of things,” says Ibrahim, who heads the al-Atrash village council.

Ibrahim explains that it cost him nearly 50,000 Israel sheckels (approximately US$14,500) to dig up the land in order to hook his pipes up to the water system. Despite the investment, the system is far from perfect; the water freezes in the winter and is boiling hot in the summer, water pressure is low and often there isn’t enough water to satisfy an entire family’s needs.

“We don’t have water here to drink. It’s hot here [in the Negev]. The minimum thing is to give us water so that our children can drink,” he says.

Today, nearly half of the entire Bedouin population in the Negev – approximately 80,000 people – lives in 45 Bedouin villages that are unrecognized by the Israeli government. Despite being Israeli citizens, the state views the Bedouin residents of these villages as illegal squatters and does not provide them with basic services or infrastructure, including electricity, water, sewage systems, roads, schools or hospitals.

On June 5, the Israeli Supreme Court ruled on an appeal filed five years ago on behalf of 128 Bedouin families living in six different unrecognized villages, including al-Atrash, who asked to be connected to the area’s water distribution network.

The court ruled that three villages – Gatamat, Umm el-Hieran, and Tel Arad – must be provided with an unspecified “minimum access to water” but rejected in part the claims of three other villages – al-Atrash, Tel al-Maleh, and Tla’ Rashid – since it stated that these villages already had reasonable access to water.

While the court stated that the right to water is a constitutional right for all Israeli citizens, including the Bedouins, “because it stems directly from the constitutional right to life and the right to dignity and equality,” it failed to specify what constitutes a fair minimum of water for the villages the state deems illegal.

Further, its ultimate conclusion dangerously adopted the official Israeli solution with regards to the so-called Bedouin “problem” – that the Bedouins of the unrecognized Negev villages should be moved into government-planned townships.

A history of Bedouin transfer

This, of course, has been the Israeli government’s plan all along, and has been promoted through various means since the state began building the first three Bedouin urban centers – Tel al-Sabe (Tel Sheva), Rahat and Kseife – in the early 1960s. Today, seven government-planned, Bedouin towns exist in the Negev, including the largest, Rahat, which holds over 50,000 residents.

These towns are the poorest in the entire country and lack basic services, including schools, complete sewage systems, banks, libraries and employment opportunities. They are largely seen as dormitory towns – people only sleep there and must go outside for anything else they need – and most importantly, the towns fail to take into account Bedouin culture and way of life, which is agricultural and deeply rooted in the land.

Today, the extremely difficult conditions prevalent in unrecognized Bedouin villages in the Negev is being used as an excuse to promote the urbanization of the Bedouin population. This effort comes despite the fact that the Bedouins have lived on their lands (considered state lands by the Israeli government) for generations, and despite the reality that the sub-par conditions in the townships mean that there is no real incentive for the Bedouins to leave their communities, despite being unrecognized.

“The court took for granted that these people are land squatters when in fact, they are not. This is very, very problematic,” explained Sawsan Zaher, a lawyer with Adalah, The Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, which represented the villagers in their appeal to the Supreme Court. “[It] does not take into consideration that the Bedouins are living on their own lands, many of them before 1948, and many of them were moved onto the lands that they are living [on now] by an order by the [Israeli] military commander.”

Prior to and during the founding of the state of Israel in 1948, approximately 85 percent of the Bedouin population in the Negev was expelled from their lands to surrounding territories, including the West Bank, Gaza Strip, Jordan and Egypt. Of the original 95 Bedouin tribes that inhabited the area, only 19 remained.

According to Ismael Abu Saad, the founder of the Bedouin Studies Center at Ben Gurion University of the Negev, after Israeli military rule was imposed on the entire Palestinian population that remained in the territory now known as Israel, the Bedouins of the Negev were deprived of the ability to travel with their herds and cultivate their lands.

In addition, 12 of the 19 remaining tribes were forcibly displaced from their lands and confined to a restricted area in the northeastern Negev, which they could only leave with a special permit. Known as the Siyag, this area covered only ten percent of the land the Bedouins controlled prior to 1948, and was known for its low fertility.

“These restrictions represented a form of forced sedentarization, which virtually ended their traditional way of life,” Abu Saad wrote in a paper titled, “Defining the ‘Other’ as the Enemy: the Indigenous Palestinian Bedouin in Israel”. As most of the Bedouins of the Negev were forced into the Siyag and were therefore not occupying their original lands, they lost ownership claims to land that they had used for generations.

After Israel had expropriated 93 percent of the lands in the Negev for Jewish settlement, the state’s next priority was the forced urbanization of the Bedouins. “We should transform the Bedouins into an urban proletariat–in industry, services, construction and agriculture. 88 percent of the Israeli populations are not farmers, let the Bedouins be like them,” stated Israeli military leader Moshe Dayan in 1963.

“Indeed, this will be a radical move which means that the Bedouin would not live on his land with his herds, but would become an urban person who comes home in the afternoon and puts his slippers on. His children would be accustomed to a father who wears trousers, does not carry a Shabaria [traditional Bedouin knife] and does not search for vermin in public. This would be a revolution, but it may be fixed within two generations. Without coercion but with government direction, this phenomenon of the Bedouins will disappear,” Dayan said.

Ethnic cleansing continues slowly

The Judaization of the Negev has been a priority for Israeli leaders since before the state was even founded. In 1937, David Ben-Gurion, who would go on to be Israel’s first Prime Minister, wrote in a letter to his son: “Negev land is reserved for Jewish citizens whenever and wherever they want. We must expel the Arabs and take their place.”

Over 60 years later, not much has changed. Indeed, in 2005, the Israeli government publicly stated its goal to strengthen Jewish settlement in the region and increase the population by 70 percent by 2015, up to 900,000 residents. As such, virtually every Jewish development project in the Negev – whether for a kibbutz, agricultural village, individual farm, or city – is immediately given basic services and infrastructure and encouraged to grow, while these same resources remain at unlivable levels in Bedouin communities.

Individual settlements – provided with hundreds, and sometimes thousands, of dunums of land for the use of one single Jewish family – have been promoted since 1997 in the Negev. These farms are equipped with basic infrastructure, including vast reserves of water and electricity, and their stated purpose is to safeguard state lands from Arab citizens of the state while ensuring that Jewish Israelis use the most land possible. According to Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority Rights in Israel, the earliest individual settlements were built “without tenders, without clear criteria for distributing the land, without building permits or approvals as required by law, and without examining development and policy needs.”

Not only are projects for the benefit of Israel’s Jewish population promoted without going through the proper legal channels, they are actively pursued at the expense of the Bedouins, who continue to be viewed as a threat by the state. For example, the Israeli planning authorities in the Negev are arrogantly working on plans to completely destroy the unrecognized Bedouin village of Umm al-Hieran – currently inhabited by 150 families and approximately 1,000 residents – to build a Jewish town, which will be called Hiran, directly on top of it.

In another example, the 300 Bedouin residents of the unrecognized village of al-Araqib have seen their rights trampled in order to make way for a forest sponsored by the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The village has been completely demolished nearly two dozen times, including the most recent demolition on June 21, and JNF bulldozers work the villagers’ lands each day in preparation for planting.

And so while Israel promotes Jewish residential and forestation projects, every Bedouin community in the Negev – whether recognized or unrecognized – struggles to meet the basic needs of its residents, all of whom are citizens of the state.

In this context, it is clear that withholding access to water for the Bedouins – not to mention electricity, schools, healthcare, and virtually all other services – has nothing to do with the legal status of their villages.

Instead, it can be seen as a tactical tool that highlights the deep-rooted, state-sanctioned discrimination and inequality prevalent in the Negev and confirms that the rights of Israel’s non-Jewish citizens will always be sacrificed in the name of preserving Jewish control over all aspects of the state, from the use of land to the allocation of resources.

“Why is recognition in the country’s hands? They say that we are illegal, but then they will build 20 houses for Jews and call it a recognized village. Why do they recognize 20 houses, but not 5,000 people? You can’t recognize us? Give us water, electricity, and streets?” asks Ibrahim al-Atrash, sitting in the shade just outside his family’s home.

“It’s a way to pressure the people. They didn’t agree to give us water as a way to pressure us to give up our lands,” he adds, “But what will they give me in exchange?”

Jillian Kestler-D’Amours is a Canadian freelance journalist based in Jerusalem. She regularly contributes to The Electronic Intifada, Inter-Press Service and Free Speech Radio News. More of her work can be found at http://jkdamours.com/

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.

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6.  Haaretz,

June 30, 2011


Israel also sabotaged Irish ship, say Gaza flotilla organizers

Activists say Israel sabotaged second flotilla vessel, this time docked in Turkey’s territorial waters, after the propeller of a Greek-Swedish ship was found broken earlier this week.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/israel-also-sabotaged-irish-ship-say-gaza-flotilla-organizers-1.370434

By Haaretz and Amira Hass

Tags: Gaza flotilla Palestinians

Organizers of the Gaza flotilla said Thursday that Israel has sabotaged the Irish ship “Saoirse,” in the second such sabotage of a flotilla ship this week.

Earlier this week, activists accused Israel of sabotaging the Greek-Swedish ship “Juliano” in Piraeus.

According to an activist, the engine of the Irish vessel was damaged in such a way that would have caused the ship to sink in the middle of the ocean and cause fatalities. The ship was docked at in Turkey’s territorial waters when the tampering occurred.

The flotilla spokesman, Dror Feiler, told Army Radio that he has no proof that Israel was responsible for the damage, but that the state would do everything in its power to prevent the ships from heading to Gaza.

“I saw the damage and it is clear that it was done in a planned and professional way,” he said. “The Israeli government is the only one that could benefit from this.”

The flotilla organizers are expected to hold a press conference Thursday to reveal additional details of the incident.

On Monday, the propeller of the Greek-Swedish ship “Juliano” was found broken, and Gaza flotilla organizers said they believed it was deliberate sabotage by Israel. Due to the vandalism, flotilla participants have organized guard duty rosters for each ship that is due to sail for Gaza. The Juliano was towed for repairs to a shipyard at another port; as of Wednesday, the assessment was that it would require two more days of work.

Moreover, two Port Authority inspectors appeared at the Greek port of Piraeus on Monday and asked to conduct a surprise inspection of the Canadian ship “Tahrir”, after it had already underwent a thorough inspection by the International Naval Surveys Bureau and was said to be ready to sail.

The flotilla’s American ship has not yet been certified as fit to sail, following a complaint last week that it was unseaworthy. But a Canadian ship, which an anonymous complaint also labeled unfit to sail, has been reinspected and received clearance as seaworthy.

Israeli claims that flotilla passengers have stockpiled chemicals and flamethrowers on the ships for use against Israeli forces dispatched to intercept them are being portrayed by the organizers as propaganda warfare. The flotilla steering committee reiterated that every piece of personal luggage being brought on the ships will be inspected.

Speaking to Western media outlets, steering committee members repeatedly quoted the restrictions contained in the rules that every flotilla passenger signed, including a prohibition against initiating contact with soldiers or throwing objects (chemicals included) at them.

Some flotilla participants who are staying in neighborhoods near the ships have reported suspicious activity. For instance, some said they had been mugged on the street at several different locations and that their cell phones had been stolen. There have also been reports of the sudden appearance of “fishermen” near water polluted with gasoline and diesel fuel, fisherman who had neither bait nor buckets. Even without a background in intelligence, the delegates have concluded that the strange fisherman have more to do with the flotilla than with fish. The baitless anglers have already become the subject of jokes among flotilla participants.

The flotilla organizers said in the last few days that ten ships would sail to Gaza, although the number is expected to be lower, and are keeping the departure date secret.

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7.  Independent.co.uk,

29 June 2011

The hoax video blog and the plot to smear a Gaza aid mission

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/the-hoax-video-blog-and-the-plot-to-smear-a-gaza-aid-mission-2304030.html

By Catrina Stewart in Jerusalem

A bizarre video where a gay activist claims he was prevented from taking part in the upcoming Gaza-bound flotilla because of his sexual orientation has been exposed as an Israeli hoax.

It appears to be the latest in a dirty-tricks campaign that includes sabotage and legal challenges orchestrated by groups seeking to derail and discredit efforts by activists to sail into Gaza’s waters to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Palestinian territory.

In the three-minute clip originally posted by an Israeli government employee, a man calling himself Marc Pax says he has a “heartbreaking” story to share about his efforts to join the Freedom Flotilla II, a 10-ship convoy of about 350 activists, who include European politicians, writers and an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor.

He said that his vision of activists as “a cross between Che Guevara and Mother Teresa in a keffiyeh [Arab headscarf]” were quickly disabused when his request to participate was rebuffed because he was gay, prompting him to take a closer look at the groups involved.

He goes on to identify groups such as Viva Palestina and IHH, the Turkish organisers of last year’s flotilla, as sympathetic to Hamas, the Gaza overlords which he blasts as a homophobic group that runs roughshod over basic human rights. “These are the people the flotilla groups are hugging,” he says.

The video was released as activists prepare to commemorate the events of a year ago when Israeli marines mounted a bungled raid on the Gaza-bound sea convoy, killing nine Turkish activists. Israel’s actions were widely condemned and it was pressured into partially easing its blockade of Gaza, imposed four years ago to weaken Hamas. The International Committee of the Red Cross has described Israel’s policy as “collective punishment”. Israel has adopted a different approach this year, focusing its efforts on persuading governments to stop their citizens from taking part, and IHH, the driving force behind last year’s event, has withdrawn its ship, the Mavi Marmara.

But it appears that wildcat groups, possibly with Israel’s official backing, are also trying to stop the flotilla. Bloggers first became suspicious of the supposedly amateur video by its slick production and heavy promotion by Israeli government bodies on Facebook and Twitter. Within hours, they had exposed Marc Pax as one Omer Gershon, an Israeli actor living in Tel Aviv.

The video was originally posted on Twitter by Guy Seeman, an intern working in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office. Israel’s press office and the foreign ministry both linked to it following his post. Once the video was revealed as a hoax, the press office apologised, saying it had been “duped”, and the foreign ministry removed the link from its Twitter feed. Mr Netanyahu’s office said that Mr Seeman’s actions were “without authorisation and without approval”.

Israel has increased its rhetoric against the flotilla in recent days. Domestic media have cited officials saying at least two passengers have links to Hamas, regarded by Israel as a terrorist group. The activists say that they have signed a pledge of non-violence.

The flotilla had been expected to set sail early this week, but boats moored at a Greek port near Athens have been hit by a series of mishaps. Activists on a boat taking Greek, Swedish and Norwegian passengers said their propeller shaft had been sabotaged, preventing the vessel from leaving on time. They blamed the damage on Israel’s “secret services or special forces”.

An Israeli legal group called Shurat HaDin has also delayed the departure of at least one ship, the Audacity of Hope, by informing the Greek authorities that it was not seaworthy, obliging port authorities to inspect it. Activists claimed it had earlier been cleared to sail.

Two French ships have already left a Corsica port, and an Irish ship is also en route to the Mediterranean. Activists in Greece say they hope to leave later this week.

=====================================

Haaretz,

June 30, 2011


Gaza flotilla activists: Queers welcome aboard aid ships

John Greyson, Canadian Gaza flotilla activist, responds to recent YouTube video claiming homosexuals are not welcome on board the flotilla; tells Haaretz video is a ‘ridiculously transparent attempt to vilify the flotilla’.

http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/gaza-flotilla-activists-queers-welcome-aboard-aid-ships-1.370467

By Amira Hass

Tags: Gaza flotilla Palestinians Middle East peace

John Greyson, a Canadian film director and Gaza flotilla activist told Haaretz in an interview that homosexuality is not a barrier to participating in the upcoming voyage, and in fact he and other flotilla participants have created an “unofficial queer caucus” on board the ship.

Greyson’s remarks come in light of a recent YouTube video in which a man related to viewers that Gaza flotilla organizers told him that he could not take part in the mission because he is a homosexual.

The video, nearly three minutes long, featured a young man who called himself Marc and claimed to be a gay and human rights activist. The man recounted a story in which he asked the organizers of the upcoming Gaza flotilla to join their mission, and claimed that his request was allegedly denied on the grounds that participation of the gay and lesbian group with which he was affiliated would not serve the flotilla’s “interests”.

Greyson, a 51-year-old Canadian who is gay and has directed many films about queer life, said he was shocked when he heard about the video. “At first I laughed, then I got mad, and then laughed again,” Greyson told Haaretz on board the “Tahrir” ship on Tuesday.

The Canadian director related how not only is he part of what he calls an “unofficial queer caucus” aboard the Tahrir, but every boat participating in the upcoming flotilla has queers.“This is common sense and human nature,” Greyson said, adding “who knows, maybe when we get back there will be more queers.”

“One of the hats that I wear on this boat is ‘queers against Israeli apartheid,'” the Canadian director said. He continued, saying that they have also work with Palestinian homosexuals who have not yet come out entirely.

When asked about the possible validity of the YouTube video, which reports have revealed to be linked to the Prime Minister’s office, a report that it has neither confirmed nor denied, Greyson told Haaretz that it “is another ridiculously transparent attempt to vilify the flotilla.”

Greyson, teaches film at York University in Toronto. In 2009 he canceled a screening of his documentary “Covered” at the Toronto International Film Festival as a protest against the screening of a series of movies about Tel Aviv marking the city’s centennial.

=========================================

8.  Ynet,

June 30, 2011


Flotilla Watch

INF missile boat (Archives) Photo: Rafi Barbiro

Navy to deploy ‘floating ORs’

As part of military preparations for Gaza flotilla, two missile boats will feature operating rooms

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4089605,00.html

Hanan Greenberg

The IDF and Navy are on high alert ahead of the nearing Gaza flotilla. Fearing an attempt to stop the sail from reaching the Strip would result in casualties, the military has decided to convert mess halls on two missile boats into operating rooms, in order to treat casualties at sea.

Ynet learned Thursday that the decision stemmed from the lessons learned from the first flotilla and the military’s desire to offer immediate medical attention for the injured – if there are any.

“This is the type of operating room we usually deploy in a state of emergency, like war,” a senior military source told Ynet. “In light of the nature of the flotilla, we have decided it would be best to have this option available.”

The operating rooms have been set up in the mess halls of two missile ships. They will feature a full medical staff, including surgeons and anesthesiologists, and will be fully equipped to perform surgery at sea.

“Surgical procedures at sea are very complex, mostly due to sailing conditions. We would prefer to airlift anyone injured to a hospital, naturally, but if we need to administer life-saving measures we won’t hesitate to do so,” he said.

As part of the military’s preparations for the flotilla, the IDF Medical Corps will deploy medical teams both as sea and at the Ashdod Port, under the supervision of the Chief Naval Medical Officer.

“There are a lot of unknown factors here,” the military source said, “which his why we’ve expanded the issue of control, so we would be able to get a better reading of the situation in real time.”

========================================

9.  Haaretz,

June 30, 2011


Israel has become a society of force and violence

What will Israelis think about when they are spoon-fed scary stories about the flotilla, if not about the use of force? Those activists want to kill IDF soldiers? We’ll arise and kill them first.

http://www.haaretz.com/print-edition/opinion/israel-has-become-a-society-of-force-and-violence-1.370407

By Gideon Levy

Are we listening to ourselves? Are we still aware of the awful noise coming from here? Have we noticed how the discourse is becoming more and more violent and how the language of force has just about become Israel’s only official language?

A group of international activists is slated to sail a flotilla to the shores of the Gaza Strip. Many of them are social activists and fighters for peace and justice, veterans of the struggle against apartheid, colonialism, imperialism, pointless wars and injustice. Just stating that is difficult here, since they have already been described as thugs.

There are intellectuals, Holocaust survivors and people of conscience among them. When they fought against apartheid in South Africa or the war in Vietnam, they won admiration for their actions even here. But to say an admiring word now about these people, some of whom are elderly, who are risking their lives and investing their money and time for a goal they see as just, is considered treason. It’s possible that some violent people have intermingled with them, but the vast majority are people of peace, not haters of Israel but those who hate its injustices. They have decided not to remain silent – to challenge the existing order, which is unacceptable to them, which cannot be acceptable to any moral person.

Yes, they want to create a provocation – the only way to remind the world about Gaza’s situation, in which no one takes an interest unless Qassam rockets or flotillas are involved. Yes, the situation in Gaza has improved in recent months, in part because of the previous flotilla. But no, Gaza is still not free – far from it. It has no outlet to the sea or air, there are no exports, and its inhabitants are still partially imprisoned. Israelis who freak out if Ben-Gurion International Airport shuts down for two hours should be able to understand what life without a port is like. Gaza is entitled to its freedom, and those aboard the flotilla are entitled to take action in an effort to achieve this. Israel should be allowing them to demonstrate.

But look at how Israel is reacting. The flotilla was described immediately, by everyone, as a security threat; its activists were classified as enemies, and there was no doubt cast on the ridiculous assumptions that defense officials are making and the press has lapped up eagerly. We haven’t heard the last of the campaign to demonize the previous flotilla, in which Turkish citizens were killed for no reason, yet the new campaign has already begun. It has all the buzzwords: danger, chemical substances, hand-to-hand combat, Muslims, Turks, Arabs, terrorists and maybe some suicide bombers. Blood and fire and pillars of smoke!

The unavoidable conclusion is that there is only one way to act against the passengers aboard the flotilla: by force, and only by force, as with every security threat. This is a recurring pattern: first demonization, then legitimization (to act violently ). Remember the tall tales about sophisticated Iranian weaponry coming through arms-smuggling tunnels in Gaza, or those about how the Strip was booby-trapped? Then Operation Cast Lead came along and the soldiers hardly encountered anything like that.

The attitude toward the flotilla is a continuation of the same behavior. The campaign of scare tactics and demonization is what contributes to the violent rhetoric that is taking over the entire public discourse. For what will Israelis think about when they are spoon-fed scary stories about the flotilla, if not about the use of force? Those activists want to kill Israel Defense Forces soldiers? We’ll arise and kill them first.

Now the politicians, the generals and the commentators are competing with one another over who can provide the most frightening description of the flotilla, who can most inflame the public, who can best praise the soldiers who will save us, and who can deliver the most pompous rhetoric of the kind one would expect before a war. One important commentator, Dan Margalit, has already waxed poetic in his newspaper column: “Blessed are the hands,” he wrote of the hands that sabotaged one of the ships meant to take part in the flotilla. That’s another thuggish and illegal action, one that wins immediate applause here, without anyone asking: By what right?

This flotilla, too, will not get through. The prime minister and the defense minister have promised us this. Once again Israel will show them, those activists, who’s more of a man – who’s strongest and who’s in charge, in the air, on land and at sea. The “lessons” of the previous flotilla have been learned well – not the lessons of the pointless killing or the violent and unnecessary takeover of the ship, but of the humiliation of Israel’s military.

But the truth is the real humiliation lies in the fact that naval commandos were deployed to intercept the ships in the first place, and that is something that reflects on us all: how we have become a society whose language is violence, a country that seeks to resolve nearly everything by force, and only by force.

==========================

10.  Haaretz,

June 30, 2011


Zionists, relax, Israel is not on the brink of destruction

Rational thinking is highly unpopular in the Netanyahu government, which seems caught in the belief that catastrophe is on the way.

http://www.haaretz.com/blogs/strenger-than-fiction/zionists-relax-israel-is-not-on-the-brink-of-destruction-1.370455

By Carlo Strenger

Tags: Zionism Benjamin Netanyahu Gaza flotilla Palestinian state 1967 borders

One of the best-known Yiddish expressions is ‘Gevalt, Yiddelech, Gevalt!’, a phrase best translated as ‘catastrophe, Jews, catastrophe!’.

I would suggest that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s coalition officially be named the Gevalt! Government. Listening to the utterances of our ministers, you would come to the conclusion that the State of Israel is about to be erased and the Jewish people are in danger of immediate extinction.

In fact, it is nowadays the bon ton to join the Gevalt! chorus. Those who say that all this panicking is irrational are considered to be unpatriotic. A true Zionist and a good Jew is supposed to be in constant dread and must brace for the ultimate fight for the Masada that Israel has become and that is under threat from everywhere.

Here is another way of looking at Israel’s situation: Israel is quite safe and has a lot of constructive options. Palestinians were never as willing to move ahead toward peace with Israel. In the long run, the new developments in the Arab world are likely to lead to more democracy and stability; Israel still has the option of normalizing its relationships with the Arab world that has now been on the table for almost nine years, through the Arab League Peace Initiative. This is also indicated by a new poll showing that two thirds of Egyptians favor maintaining peace with Israel.

This is not the assessment of some starry-eyed idealist. It is that of the hard-headed and daring former Mossad chief Meir Dagan. The brouhaha that ensued after he gave his assessment showed that the Gevalt! Government is incapable of living with level-headed, calm and rational thought.

While its constant fear-mongering about existential threats is at times almost comic, it unfortunately has the consequence to push Israel from one blunder to the next.

Let’s look at three instances:

One is Netanyahu’s constant warning that the world is delegitimizing Israel’s very existence. Shlomo Avineri, one of Israel’s most senior political scientists with a lot of experience in international relations has pointed out, that this is simply not true.

Except for Iran, its proxies and the extreme fringes of left-wing academia, nobody in the world says that Israel doesn’t have the right to exist: The free world is simply unwilling to put up with Israel’s settlement policy and continuing foot-dragging about a peace agreement with the Palestinians and the Arab world.

It’s rather clear why Netanyahu keeps spreading this disinformation and heating up fear. He can’t survive politically if he does the simple, straightforward thing: continuing negotiations with the Palestinians where the Olmert government stopped.

As the Palestine Papers leaked by Al Jazeera showed, the story that ‘there is no partner’ is ludicrous: The sides were actually rather close to an agreement. But Netanyahu keeps repeating that Palestinians have never accepted Israel’s existence, never mind the evidence to the contrary, because he needs to keep the level of fear high. At this point even his long-time supporter and ally Ron Lauder is getting sick and tired of Netanyahu’s inaction.

The second is the enormous noise that the government is making about the second Gaza flotilla as if it were a real threat to Israel. Stopping the first one was utterly irrational to begin with, and the damage done to Israel’s already shaky standing in the world was considerable.

What on earth will be the damage if the flotilla lands in Gaza? The overwhelming majority of the world thinks that the blockade on Gaza is inacceptable anyway. A few peace activists showing solidarity with Gaza’s population will cause Israel a lot less damage than another violent confrontation at sea.

But our ministers keep talking about this flotilla as if it were a major military attack endangering Israel. And the Netanyahu government is likely to turn the second flotilla into another major political debacle instead of just letting it pass by.

An interesting and less predictable utterance has come from a minister who generally doesn’t contribute to the general atmosphere of doom. In a panel on conversion, Justice Minister Ya’akov Neeman found it necessary to say that assimilation of world Jewry is fulfilling Hitler’s vision. Neeman pulls the darkest figure of Jewish history to indicate that the Jewish people is about to be wiped out.

Neeman’s statement is quite remarkable in its lack of respect for the vitality of Diaspora Jewry – and its factual falsehood: The most recent census showed that there are actually one million more Jews in the U.S. than the previously assumed figure of 6.25 million.

Jewish life in the US is flourishing in all respects: It is culturally rich; it is religiously diverse, and Jews contribute to all facets of American life, culture and economy. So why does Neeman feel the need to lament the disappearance of the Jewish people?

It seems that the mentality of the Netanyahu government is driving everybody connected to it out of their wits: They actually get to the point where they believe that Israel is under existential threat; that the Jewish people is about to disappear and that only crying Gevalt! means that you are a good Israeli and a good Jew.

This leads us to the final point: Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s statement that Israel is awaiting a ‘diplomatic tsunami’ in September has become something like an accepted truth in Israel, as if UN recognition of a Palestinian state threatens Israel’s existence.

Looking at this calmly one realizes that the maximum that can happen is that the UN will accept Palestine as a full member. This will indeed make Israel’s occupation of the West-Bank, any military presence and settlement activity officially illegal.

But it is quite simply wrong to say that this endangers Israel’s existence. I have argued a number of times in the past that Israel should actually endorse UN recognition of Palestine along the 1967 lines.

Such a UN resolution would give Israel an internationally recognized Western border, for the first time in its history, as Shlomo Avineri has now also pointed out. While this would mean the end of the dream of the greater Israel that quite a few members of Netanyahu’s coalition haven’t given up on, it would also mean the end of Hamas dream of abolishing the state of Israel – and hence would actually increase Israel’s long-term security and legitimacy.

But such rational thinking is highly unpopular in the current government, and it will continue to fight UN recognition, instead of engaging with it in constructive ways.

For those who are sick and tired of hearing ‘Gevalt, Yiddelech, Gevalt!’ and want to see what a constructive Israeli policy could look like, I strongly recommend looking at the Israeli Peace Initiative that includes former IDF Chief of Staff Amnon Lipkin-Shahak, General Amram Mitzna, former Mossad Chief Danny Yatom and former heads of the Shin Bet Yaakov Peri and Ami Ayalon.

The voice of reason is there to be heard – one just needs to listen.

==============================

11.  PACBI Newsletter for June, 2011

http://www.pacbi.org/newsletter/june2011.php

and Bricup welcomes votes at UCU congress.

[BRICUP = British Committee for Universities for Palestine]

http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1641

=======================

12. Today in Palestine

http://www.theheadlines.org/11/29-06-11.shtml

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