May 30, 2010

Nuclear Israel, by Carlos Latuff

Breaking news! Breaking news!

The israeli secret service has done all it can to stop the boats, and a number of them are now unable tyo travel, and have to be towed back to Famagusta. The Flotilla is now waiting for the passengers on those boats to join the main body and then will leave to Gaza. All the Flotilla boats are surrounded by Israeli navy boats, in an act of piracy on the high seas. No one seems to care about international law, all of a sudden… Israel has also manged to sabotage international satellite communication, so that the boats are unable to keep in touch with the waiting world.

Israsel can indeed stop the boats, kill people on them, arrest them, and detain them in OIsrael, so that they cannot arrive in Gaza. What Israel can no longer do, is to stop the growinf international campaugn, spreading like bush fire over the the globe. They have already lost the battle over public opinion.

Support Gaza – join the locally organised action wherever you live!

Live feed from Turkish boat Insani Yardim Vakfi

Flotilla homepage with a map

About the Freedom Flotilla, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Chair

Before leaving port

Gaza “Freedom Fleet” Expected To Receive An Armed Welcome From Israeli Forces: Gaza Freedom

In Columnists, Dan Owens, Middle East, Politics on May 30, 2010 at 10:28 am
By Daniel Owens

A flotilla of nine boats, carrying over 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid and over 700 pro-Palestinian activists, is expected to arrive in Gaza on Sunday 30th May 2010, if it manages to break through the armed Israeli blockade.

Israeli authorities have vowed to prevent the convoy from reaching Gaza, claiming that there is no humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian territories. However, organisers have protested against the Israeli ‘misinformation campaign’ and have claimed that “for over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a manmade humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions.” The organisers have stated that all the cargo on board is designed to make life better for those living within Gaza, including building materials, medical supplies, dental equipment and chocolate for the children.

The Israeli blockade of Gaza has been in place since the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas took control after a battle with rival Palestinian group Fatah – following the election of Hamas in 2006. Nearly all exports and imports are banned under the terms of the blockage and only a limited supply of humanitarian aid is allowed in (15,000 tonnes per week). The United Nations has stated that this is less than a quarter of what is needed to sustain those within the strip. The Israeli navy also enforces a 23 mile closure of the sea around Gaza which has devastated its fishing industry and has vowed to use limited force to prevent the flotilla from making ground in Gaza.

More concerning than Israel’s apparent ignorance of a humanitarian crisis, or its willingness to threaten force against an unarmed convoy, is the mainstream media’s apparent ignorance of the ‘freedom fleets’ mission. Having browsed several of the leading news websites in the UK this evening (including The Times, BBC News and The Guardian) it is hard to find reference to the mission unless you actually search “flotilla” or “Gaza”. Similarly, watching the 10 o clock news mentioned nothing of their plight and chose to focus on domestic issues such as David Laws’ resignation and the Eurovision song contest.

It appears that Israel is expecting yet more criticism from international groups with YNetnews.com (Israel’s largest paper) reporting that the Knesset are “preparing for the media blitz certain to follow the flotilla, which many believe will harm the state’s already floundering reputation”. The article proceeds to detail how IDF, Foreign Ministry and PR representatives are preparing to make TV appearances to defend Israel’s position – mainly claiming that “the flotilla serves the terror organisation ruling Gaza and not its residents.”

The Jerusalem post published an article claiming that the basic elements of the Israeli media campaign is to “stress that the supplies the ships are carrying are unnecessary and that Israel – together with various international organizations – already transfers these supplies to Gaza via land crossings.” Israeli foreign ministry spokesperson Yigal Palmor stated that “the existing land crossings were more than capable of meeting Gaza’s needs;” that “15,000 tons of supplies enter Gaza each week.” However, contradicting Palmors statement is a UN report that has found that the “Livelihoods and lives of people living in the Gaza Strip have been devastated by over 1000 days of near complete blockade” and that “Most of the property and infrastructure damaged in Israel’s offensive on the Gaza Strip [in 2008] was still unrepaired”

The flotilla, which is currently being delayed in International waters by Cypriot authorities, is expected to arrive in Gaza at some point on Sunday. It is undoubtedly beyond time that action is taken over the blockage and as Richard Falk, Princeton University, has stated “it has been demonstrated that neither governments nor the UN will challenge this blockade, only people of conscience and courage will.” Let’s hope this flotilla makes it.

As American as Apple Pie: Free Gaza blog

WRITTEN BY GRETA BERLIN,  30 MAY 2010

(Cyprus, May 30, 2010) The Free Gaza Movement now has two boats included in the Freedom Flotilla that is on its way to deliver 10,000 tons of supplies to the imprisoned people of Gaza. The third boat is being repaired.

Our two passengers boats, Challenger 1 and Challenger 1I, had mechanical problems on Friday, May 28, and were pulled into ports in Cyprus. After Cypriot port authoriies on the Greek side denied our request to pull in for repairs, our boat, Challenger 1 limped into the port of Famagusta, on the Turkish side of Cyprus.

Both boats are flagged and registered in the United States, which means they are U.S. territory.

Therefore we expect the U.S. government to intervene if U.S. property is wrongly confiscated by Israeli authorities as they have threatened. Israel has yet to return the Spriit of Humanity, registered under a Greek flag.

Please contact the American State Department and ask them what their plans are in case this happens. They can be contacted at Telephone No. (202) 647-4000 (24-hour number) or publicaffairs@panet.us.state.gov .

Contact: Audrey Bomse, 00 357 96 48 98 05

Greta Berlin, 00 357 99 18 72 75

Gaza flotilla drives Israel into a sea of stupidity: Haaretz

Of course the peace flotilla will not bring peace, and it won’t even manage to reach the Gaza shore. The action plan has included dragging the ships to Ashdod port, but it has again dragged us to the shores of stupidity and wrongdoing
By Gideon Levy
The Israeli propaganda machine has reached new highs its hopeless frenzy. It has distributed menus from Gaza restaurants, along with false information. It embarrassed itself by entering a futile public relations battle, which it might have been better off never starting. They want to maintain the ineffective, illegal and unethical siege on Gaza and not let the “peace flotilla” dock off the Gaza coast? There is nothing to explain, certainly not to a world that will never buy the web of explanations, lies and tactics.

Only in Israel do people still accept these tainted goods. Reminiscent of a pre-battle ritual from ancient times, the chorus cheered without asking questions. White uniformed soldiers got ready in our name. Spokesmen delivered their deceptive explanations in our name. The grotesque scene is at our expense. And virtually none of us have disturbed the performance.
The chorus has been singing songs of falsehood and lies. We are all in the chorus saying there is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We are all part of the chorus claiming the occupation of Gaza has ended, and that the flotilla is a violent attack on Israeli sovereignty – the cement is for building bunkers and the convoy is being funded by the Turkish Muslim Brotherhood. The Israeli siege of Gaza will topple Hamas and free Gilad Shalit. Foreign Ministry spokesman Yossi Levy, one of the most ridiculous of the propagandists, outdid himself when he unblinkingly proclaimed that the aid convoy headed toward Gaza was a violation of international law. Right. Exactly.

It’s not the siege that is illegal, but rather the flotilla. It wasn’t enough to distribute menus from Gaza restaurants through the Prime Minister’s Office, (including the highly recommended beef Stroganoff and cream of spinach soup ) and flaunt the quantities of fuel that the Israeli army spokesman says Israel is shipping in. The propaganda operation has tried to sell us and the world the idea that the occupation of Gaza is over, but in any case, Israel has legal authority to bar humanitarian aid. All one pack of lies.

Only one voice spoiled the illusory celebration a little: an Amnesty International report on the situation in Gaza. Four out of five Gaza residents need humanitarian assistance. Hundreds are waiting to the point of embarrassment to be allowed out for medical treatment, and 28 already have died. This is despite all the Israeli army spokesman’s briefings on the absence of a siege and the presence of assistance, but who cares?

And the preparations for the operation are also reminiscent of a particularly amusing farce: the feverish debate among the septet of ministers; the deployment of the Masada unit, the prison service’s commando unit that specializes in penetrating prison cells; naval commando fighters with backup from the special police anti-terror unit and the army’s Oketz canine unit; a special detention facility set up at the Ashdod port; and the electronic shield that was supposed to block broadcast of the ship’s capture and the detention of those on board.

And all of this in the face of what? A few hundred international activists, mostly people of conscience whose reputation Israeli propaganda has sought to besmirch. They are really mostly people who care, which is their right and obligation, even if the siege doesn’t concern us at all. Yes, this flotilla is indeed a political provocation, and what is protest action if not political provocation?

And facing them on the seas has been the Israeli ship of fools, floating but not knowing where or why. Why detain people? That’s how it is. Why a siege? That’s how it is. It’s like the Noam Chomsky affair all over again, but big time this time. Of course the peace flotilla will not bring peace, and it won’t even manage to reach the Gaza shore. The action plan has included dragging the ships to Ashdod port, but it has again dragged us to the shores of stupidity and wrongdoing. Again we will be portrayed not only as the ones that have blocked assistance, but also as fools who do everything to even further undermine our own standing. If that was one of the goals of the peace flotilla’s organizers, they won big yesterday.

Five years ago, the noted Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who is a Jerusalem Prize laureate, after concluding his visit to Israel, said the Israeli occupation was approaching its grotesque phase. Over the weekend Vargas Llosa, who considers himself a friend of Israel, was present to see that that phase has since reached new heights of absurdity.

Israel to World: Screw You, We will Continue to Block Gaza
May 29th, 2010 | by Assaf Oron | Add a Comment
It all happened before.
A ship sailing to Palestine. Its organizers care not so much about the ship’s arrival. They want to bring world attention to the injustices in Palestine. Live broadcasts from aboard the ship excite and inspire supporters on the shores.
The power controlling Palestine in a non-democratic manner, responds in form. It sends soldiers to storm the ship at sea some 20 miles out of Gaza. Passengers fight back using non-lethal means. Troops open fire killing 3, then force the ship to another port, arrest the passengers and deport them. The battle is won, but the campaign is lost. World opinion, and other world powers, turn against the controlling power. Within a few months it decides to cede control of Palestine.
The ship’s name was “Europe Exodus 1947″, or in short, “Exodus”.
Now, 63 years later, the tables have fully turned, and Israel’s leaders seem determined to act every bit as brutally and stupidly as their British predecessors.
First, links to the Witness Gaza flotilla.

Homepage with a map

Live feed from Turkish boat Insani Yardim Vakfi

(intermittent, but authentic and quite entertaining when on. Maybe less entertaining if you know Turkish)
Homepage of Free Gaza, the group organizing siege-breaking sailings since 2008, and one of the organizers of the present flotilla.
Now, let us set the record straight regarding the Gaza siege, in particular the siege of Gaza’s port. English-language media keep insisting that the port has been blockaded since the Gaza mini-civil-war in 2007, or perhaps since the Hamas election victory in 2006.
Bullcrap.
The 2008 Free Gaza boat was the first foreign vessel to land in Gaza since…
1957.
In other words: Egypt had blockaded Gaza for 10 years. Then Israel for 38 years of direct control. Then, since Israel’s 2005 “disengagement” – a Potemkin display if there ever was one – both Israel and Egypt have colluded to continue the siege. So the next time anyone says “Hamas”, “terror”, etc. to justify the siege, set them right. Gaza has been a de-facto prison for decades. Only the rationales for this atrocity keep shifting.
The new trend: they’re not even hiding it!
An Israeli Foreign Ministry spokeswoman has no problem saying “We have to remember: These people are entering Israel illegally” (h/t TomJ). In other words, when convenient Israel claims it “does not control” Gaza, but when push comes to shove it regards Gaza’s waters as its own, in plain view of the world.
Whence the Chutzpah? Here’s whence. In 1947, the newly-dominant powers of the US and the USSR were all too happy shafting the UK via the Palestine question. Both had sided with the Jewish immigrants and insurgents, a support which quickly led to a UN resolution favorable to he Jews, and – more importantly – to the Brits obeying the resolution, in fact eager to get out of Palestine.
In 2010, there is no major government in the world really willing to put any political dime next to its cheap “remove the siege” talk. Why, even Obama formally asked Israel to remove the Gaza siege. Talk is indeed cheap. In actions, Obama, like Bush before him and like all others leaders of the West, have colluded with Gaza’s imprisonment and made sure that Western puppets like Mubarak collaborate with it.
During this decade, increasingly, Israel has become allied with the world’s political and economic elites, and oblivious, even hostile, to global public opinion. This includes many countries considered friends of Israel. The US where public sentiment tends to reflexively support the Israeli stand, has been a somewhat different story – but even here, the ground has been shifting since the 2008-9 Gaza war. In most other countries, that same war has pretty much sealed the case and solidified a seemingly irreversible anti-Occupation public consensus. And yet, the Occupation and the imprisonment of Gaza continue.
Coincidentally, last year a new government coalition came into power in Israel, its most right-wing coalition ever. Previous governments knew they must give the world some lip-service about peace, to help ally governments divert attention from the Occupation so as not to get into trouble with their constituencies. By comparison, the present Bibi-Lieberman-Barak government seems like a physical incarnation of Deh Stoopid.
Israeli pundits call the new diplomatic approach Pissing into the Pool from the High Jump: if we’ve got the power and all powers-that-matter keep doing our bidding, then we couldn’t care less about what anyone thinks, and we might as well do it out in the open. In Bibi’s books, the strategy is working well. Why, only a few weeks ago Israel was admitted to the OECD, reportedly thanks to some behind-the-scenes arm-twisting from the Obama administration.
Beyond that, the sad fact is that Israel’s government and its military leadership do genuinely think and act like dictators, and at this point seem unable to even start thinking differently. Rather than sit back, let the modest flotilla sail in, make a few speeches and sail back – they are willing to risk a major PR catastrophe, and employ violence so as to deny Gazans anything except what they prescribe for them.
The Gaza flotilla story unfolding right now is the perfect occasion to remind the Israeli regime, that yes, the vast majority of the world’s population who think the Gaza siege should have never started and should stop yesterday DOES COUNT, and that he who keeps pissing from the top of the high jump right into the pool of global community, might eventually get his private parts damaged.

MESS Report / Israel is doing its best to glorify the Gaza aid flotilla: Haartez

Israel has turned the need to stop the convoy into a matter of critical importance, by virtue of the importance it has assigned to the not-so-useful siege on Gaza.

A series of unpredictable delays, technical problems and diplomatic disruptions have managed so far to postpone the arrival of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza’s shores – or, the more likely scenario – clashing with the Israeli Navy ships which are prepared to meet them.
But on Saturday night the delay seemed to be temporary.
The organizers of the eight-ship Gaza aid convoy announced that they planned to set sail from the international waters off the shores of Cyprus sometime over the next 24 hours. The expected maritime conflict is due to occur within hours after they depart.

Cyprus’ government was responsible for placing obstacles in the convoy’s way, as they denied the ships the right to dock at their ports and delayed the departure of European parliament members who requested to join the flotilla on its sea voyage.

At least two ships suffered from technical problems, and the Irish ship named Rachel Corrie [after the American activist who was killed by an Israel Defense Forces bulldozer during a protest in 2003] was late for the scheduled rendezvous with the other ships.

Under these circumstances, it will not be surprising if the flotilla suffers further difficulties, even before the organizers achieve the hoped – for confrontation.

If, however, the ships approach Gaza’s shores overnight, the Israeli ships awaiting them will call out a proposal through speaker phones, exactly as the political echelon formulated: Turn back, or accept our escort to the Ashdod port, where, after inspection, the supplies you carry will be transferred to Gaza.

Last night, the chance that these scenarios would take place seemed slim. Today, the most plausible scenario seems to be the one the convoy’s organizers are counting on: A mid-sea confrontation during which Israel will apply its will – by force. The IDF will make an effort to keep the takeover as clean as possible, while simultaneously, trying to minimize the damage caused by media coverage, by apparently disrupting the ships’ broadcast transmission.

Yet paradoxically, it seems that the Islamic and Leftists activists who are behind the convoy, with significant encouragement from the Turkish government, are not the only ones seeking a confrontation. Israel’s government has turned the need to stop the convoy into a matter of critical importance, by virtue of the importance it has assigned to the not-so-useful siege on Gaza.

It is highly doubtful that the convoy’s organizers have the well being of Gaza’s residents as their top priority. The cargo on the ships, even if it does reach Gaza, will not effect the average Gazan’s condition – we have learned over the three years since the revolution in Gaza (12 June 2007) that the Hamas government isn’t very different from its predecessors regarding its citizens’ welfare.

In the days of severe fuel shortage, Hamas leaders’ vehicles were the only cars that traveled feely. The taxes the government placed on Gazan residents were not meant to improve their lives, but rather to make sure the Hamas rule does not crumble.
Freeing Gilad Shalit would have most likely ended the siege, but the organization is in no hurry to do that – again, due to the political accounts it wishes to close.

The flotilla is meant to serve the organization on the international front and depict Israel as a cruel country that harms innocent Palestinians.

It is easy to guess that few of the international media outlets covering the story will mention that Israel transfers thousands of tons of supplies to Gaza on a daily basis, or transfers critically ill Gazans’ to its own hospitals for treatment. It will be interesting to see if the reports give any mention to the smuggling tunnels which transfer the unnecessary goods that Israel denies entrance to.

The problem is, as stated, that that Israeli government helped glorify the flotilla. It is difficult to understand why an alternative solution was not fully considered, such as stopping the ships, searching them, and then letting them through.

Even if hundreds of Muslim and European activists enter Gaza accompanied by an Israeli MK, it will be incomparable to the damage to Israel’s image from the media coverage of a confrontation between its Navy’s commando and unarmed citizens.
But it’s too late now: Stopping the flotilla has become a test of Israel’s power of deterrence.

Abbas mulls Gaza visit in bid to end Hamas rivalry, source says: Haaretz

Trip would be the PA President’s first trip to the Hamas-ruled Strip since the Islamist group took power there after winning Palestinian election in 2007.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is “seriously considering” visiting the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, the Palestinian Ma’an news agency reported Sunday, in what would be his first visit since before the Islamist group took power of the coastal enclave.
Hamas was elected into power in the Gaza strip in 2007. The Palestinian secular Fatah movement, headed by Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, did not accept the religious party’s rule in Gaza.
Abbas, according to a presidential source quoted by Ma’an, is apparently determined to make the trip, his first since 2006, so to signal his commitment to resolving the long-running animosity between Fatah and rival Hamas.

In addition, the report also stated that Gaza’s Hamas Interior Minister, Fathi Hammad, had invited the Palestinian president last week, saying that “reconciliation is our strategic choice.”

Aziz Dweik, speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council, told Ma’an he hoped to accompany Abbas on his Gaza tour.

“We miss Gaza and our beloved people there. I applaud this step forward toward restoring Palestinian unity in the face of an unprecedented, fierce, Israeli campaign,” Dweik said.

Last week, leaders of rival Palestinian factions Fatah and Hamas displayed rare unity at a joint Nakba Day rally in Gaza, raising hopes of reconciliation between the groups.

It was the first time leaders from Islamist Hamas and the more secular Fatah movement, headed by Abbas, shared the platform at a large public gathering since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from Fatah.

The rally, organized by the much smaller Islamic Jihad group, coincided with reports of serious talks between Hamas and Fatah aimed at resolving their differences.

Top Palestinian businessman Munib Masri who has been heavily involved in recent mediation efforts, expressed cautious optimism, telling Reuters that “the coming days may result in a positive outcome, but we should not expect too much.”

Masri has been mediating between the two groups’ leaders and has enlisted the support of Arab diplomats to help narrow the differences. More than two years of Egyptian mediation efforts have so far failed.

Masri’s efforts led to a phone discussion between senior Hamas leader Mahmoud Zahar and Fatah official Azzam Ahmed that has been well publicized among Palestinians.

Israel stations nuclear missile subs off Iran: Times online

By Uzi Mahnaimi in Tel Aviv, Times Online (London) – 30 May 2010
Three German-built Israeli submarines equipped with nuclear cruise missiles are to be deployed in the Gulf near the Iranian coastline.
The first has been sent in response to Israeli fears that ballistic missiles developed by Iran, Syria and Hezbollah, a political and military organisation in Lebanon, could hit sites in Israel, including air bases and missile launchers.
The submarines of Flotilla 7 — Dolphin, Tekuma and Leviathan — have visited the Gulf before. But the decision has now been taken to ensure a permanent presence of at least one of the vessels.
The flotilla’s commander, identified only as “Colonel O”, told an Israeli newspaper: “We are an underwater assault force. We’re operating deep and far, very far, from our borders.”
Each of the submarines has a crew of 35 to 50, commanded by a colonel capable of launching a nuclear cruise missile.
The vessels can remain at sea for about 50 days and stay submerged up to 1,150ft below the surface for at least a week. Some of the cruise missiles are equipped with the most advanced nuclear warheads in the Israeli arsenal.
The deployment is designed to act as a deterrent, gather intelligence and potentially to land Mossad agents. “We’re a solid base for collecting sensitive information, as we can stay for a long time in one place,” said a flotilla officer.
The submarines could be used if Iran continues its programme to produce a nuclear bomb. “The 1,500km range of the submarines’ cruise missiles can reach any target in Iran,” said a navy officer.
Apparently responding to the Israeli activity, an Iranian admiral said: “Anyone who wishes to do an evil act in the Persian Gulf will receive a forceful response from us.”
Israel’s urgent need to deter the Iran-Syria-Hezbollah alliance was demonstrated last month. Ehud Barak, the defence minister, was said to have shown President Barack Obama classified satellite images of a convoy of ballistic missiles leaving Syria on the way to Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Binyamin Netanyahu, the prime minister, will emphasise the danger to Obama in Washington this week.
Tel Aviv, Israel’s business and defence centre, remains the most threatened city in the world, said one expert. “There are more missiles per square foot targeting Tel Aviv than any other city,” he said.

Navy prepares for Gaza flotilla : Ynet
Large naval forces stationed at Haifa Port to ‘prevent precedent of opening unsupervised maritime route to Gaza’. Source says mission to intercept aid ships ‘relatively simple’ but large forces deployed to ‘minimize PR damage’
Ron Ben-Yishai
Published:     05.30.10, 13:44 / Israel News
For the past three days, three Israeli missile ships have been docked at the military port in Haifa ahead of the arrival of the Free Gaza Movement flotilla. Every night since Friday, Shayetet 13 commando forces, naval officers, and mechanics teams have been boarding the ships. Israel Defense Forces spokespeople were also there, to document and distribute images of the interception, since the PR battle against this particular “enemy” is as important as the actual struggle.

Around midnight, the missile ships’ crews were informed that the aid flotilla has yet to set off for Gaza. The teams were quick to take a rest at any available site at the Haifa naval base. This force, which includes the Hanit warship, one of the Navy’s most advanced missile boats, will be the first interception force the aid activists are met with. The force will be headed by deputy commander of the Navy’s Missile Boats Flotilla, and he will command the Shayetet 13 forces and naval officers as required.
Aid Sail
Aid flotilla moving at snail’s pace as determined activists plan on arriving at Gaza’s shores Sunday. Navy gearing to halt ships
“This is a relatively simple mission, the likes of which we have carried out a number of times in the past, even against armed terrorists,” a Navy source by one of the boats told Ynet. “The reason we are deploying such a large force and after much preparation, is to minimize the PR damage we may suffer while carrying out the main mission, which is to prevent the precedent of opening an unsupervised maritime route to Hamas in Gaza.”

“Experience shows that a large number of forces diminishes the volume of violence needed to carry out the mission,” a Navy statement said. “The mission is relatively simple and we are aware that the other side will try to make us look bad. We will show restraint and not respond to provocations, we will do only what is necessary to carry out the mission, no more, but no less either.”

The Navy and the Israel Air Force’s observation jets are following the various vessels en route to Gaza and are prepared to first deploy the Navy’s missile ships which are docked in Haifa, and then, the rest of the forces.

Navy to sail boats to Ashdod
The Navy hopes it will not have to use its extensive force and that the flotilla will retreat once its ships’ captains are warned. If this does not happen, Shayetet 13 officers are ready to take over the ships by force. Naval officers will board the ships and sail them according to the Navy commander’s orders.

A similar force of Dvorah patrol boats and Shayetet 13 vessels will be awaiting the ships at the Ashdod Port where they will assist in the final interception and in unloading the passengers and the cargo at the port. An Israel Police force will also be waiting on the shore, in order to prevent provocations and riots by the flotilla’s passengers.

The Navy’s decision to deploy such a large force for a relatively simple mission follows a decision by the prime minister, defense minister, and forum of seven top cabinet ministers not to allow the ships to arrive in Gaza under any circumstances, even if Israel is forced to pay a hefty price in the PR arena and in the international community’s eyes. But according to estimates, Israel is unlikely to pay too high a price, as global, non-Arab media has shown little interest in the affair so far, and it has only been extensively covered by al-Jazeera and the Iranian Alalam news channel.

Fear of regular ‘Turkey-Gaza’ line
The reason for the decision to deploy such a large force against the flotilla is that if the current sail were to succeed – even partially – in reaching the Gaza port or not far from the Strip’s coast, Hamas would be able to receive anything it desires, starting with Iranian money and ending with heavy rockets possesses by Hezbollah and antiaircraft missiles and weapons.

Should the Turks succeed in their efforts to open a sea line to Gaza as a result of the precedent which may be created by the current sail, the southern part of the State of Israel will be under clear and immediate danger, similar to the situation in the north.

Compared to this threat, the threat embodied in a possible clash between the sail’s passengers, some of whom belong to terror organizations and have been involved in acts of terror and in funding terroristic activities, is reduced.

Members of IHH, the Turkish organization which funded and organized the sail, insisted on the inclusion of European parliament members, whom they view as an “insurance policy” against the Israeli Navy’s firm hand.

And what about the mysterious technical problems suffered by some of the boats? Israel most likely had nothing to do with these problems, which were said to be internal malfunctions in the ships’ engines and were apparently caused by faulty maintenance or a shortage of fuel.
Another freighter named Rachel Corrie, after the American left-wing activist killed by an IDF bulldozer in Gaza, is making its way eastward and may serve as the foundation for another sail the Turks will try to launch in the coming days as a sort of “second wave”.

There is no doubt that Israel’s greatest success in this affair was the way the Cypriot authorities were convinced not to let the ships gather in its territorial waters and use its ports as the sail’s meeting and fueling point.

The island’s leaders realized that the sail was in fact a move orchestrated by the hostile Turkish government and decided not to play along with it.

Cyprus stops MPs from joining Gaza flotilla: Cyprus Mail

By George Psyllides
Published on May 29, 2010
CYPRIOT authorities prevented pro-Palestinian activists, including 30 MPs from nine European countries, from leaving the island yesterday to join a flotilla in international waters, which is on its way to blockaded Gaza.
In addition to issuing an edict banning ships headed for Gaza to set sail from the island’s ports, or dock on the island on their way back, the authorities yesterday forbade any small vessels from leaving Cyprus in case they were on their way to the flotilla of eight ships carrying around 700 peace activists, and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid.
This is the eighth time activists have tried to break the Israeli embargo on Gaza. On the seven other occasions, the aid ships left from Cyprus’ ports.
What is unusual this time is not the actual ban on the Free Gaza ships docking at the island’s ports, but the government’s refusal to allow small vessels to leave the island simply to drop people off at a ship in international waters.
“Anything related to the trip to Gaza is not permitted,” police spokesman Michalis Katsounotos told Reuters yesterday.
A spokesman for the Free Gaza group said the activists, including 17 members of parliament from Ireland, Bulgaria and Sweden, would attempt to meet the flotilla by departing through the north.
“We are bitterly disappointed with the Cypriot government,” Greta Berlin, a spokeswoman for Free Gaza Movement told the news agency.
Cypriot MEP Kyriakos Triantafyllides told the Cyprus Mail that around 20 of the foreign MPs had earlier in the day decided to head north to try and sail from occupied Famagusta port, while their Greek and Cypriot counterparts stayed behind.
Triantafyllides said however that in the late afternoon he heard that those MEPs who crossed north were returning to the government-controlled areas, having failed to secure a way off the island through Famagusta.
Authorities in the north said yesterday evening they had no information about a group of MEPs wanting to use Famagusta port to join the Gaza convoy.
The government yesterday defended its decision. “It is well known that the Republic of Cyprus is fighting for survival and believes that any actions that cause difficulties, damage even, should be avoided,” deputy government spokesman Titos Christofides said.
The government also denied it bowed to pressure from Israel to put the ban in place.
“It was the result of a decision which the Republic of Cyprus took on its own, taking into consideration all the data, all the factors, all the dangers and threats to its national interests,” Transport Minister Erato Kozakou Marcoullis told reporters.
The minister stressed that Cyprus had time and time again supported the rights of the Palestinian people and the relation between the two peoples was “very close and brotherly.”
She added that relations with Israel were also good in all areas, financial, political and others.
Regarding the dangers Cyprus currently faces, Marcoullis referred to efforts to advance the direct trade regulation with the occupied areas and “the continuous effort … for the daily (sea) link between Haifa and Famagusta.”
Triantafyllides who heads the Cyprus initiative, said he was only concerned with the group reaching Gaza and delivering the pharmaceutical and other material on board.
“We want to give the message to the international community that we are in solidarity with the Palestinian struggle; that Israel cannot continue this inhumane treatment of women, children and the elderly and the international community remaining indifferent,” Triantafyllides said.
The Gaza flotilla, which is off the east coast of Cyprus, is poised to reach Gaza over the weekend. Israel has urged convoy to turn back, saying its navy was prepared to intercept it.
Israel imposed a blockade on Gaza in 2007 after Hamas — an Islamist resistance movement came to power in the impoverished Palestinian territory.

Gaza aid ships prepare to set sail: Al Jazeera online

The flotilla is aiming to provide aid to Gazans in defiance of an Israeli blockade
A flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip is preparing to leave Cyprus, organisers say.
Earlier reports said the ships had already set sail around 5am local time (02:00 GMT). But organisers later said they merely relocated to a different location, 40km off the coast of Cyprus, and that the ships haven’t actually left for Gaza yet.
“We looked at the little blue bubble this morning and saw that it had moved 25 nautical miles, so we thought they had set off,” said Greta Berlin, a member of the Free Gaza Movement, referring to the flotilla’s website, which marks the position of the boats with a blue arrow.
Al Jazeera’s Mohamed Vall, reporting from the flotilla, said the ships expected to leave for Gaza on Sunday afternoon.
A total of six ships are expected to set sail. Two other ships were damaged over the weekend, and remain in port.
Organisers say they might launch a second smaller flotilla on Tuesday, which would include the two damaged ships, plus a third which has yet to arrive.

Breaking siege
“Now we are thinking of sending a second wave of boats including these two and the Rachel Corrie, which is still en route” from Ireland, said Audrey Bomse, an adviser to the Free Gaza Movement.
Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists are on board the flotilla, which aims to reach Gaza in defiance of an Israeli embargo on the territory. The flotilla was originally made up of nine ships – from Turkey, the UK, Ireland, Greece, Kuwait and Algeria -carrying roughly 10,000 tonnes of aid, including cement, water purification systems and wheelchairs.
It was initially expected that the flotilla would set sail on Saturday, but it was delayed over the weekend due to mechanical problems.

The boats were forced to anchor off the coast of Cyprus this weekend.
Hamas, the de facto rulers of the Gaza Strip, have said that the flotilla was about to make history, sending “a strong message that the blockade imposed on the Gaza Strip … will be broken”.
Israel said the boats were embarking on “an act of provocation” with the Israeli military rather than providing aid, and that it had issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.
It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers angrily denied.
Israel has said that it will intercept the boats and detain those on board in the port of Ashdod.

Gaza aid flotilla ‘leaves Cyprus:  BBC

Page last updated at 14:38 GMT, Sunday, 30 May 2010 15:38 UK
E-mail this to a friendPrintable version The flotilla has been beset by delays and difficulties
A flotilla of ships sailing towards Gaza with aid and activists on board has left Cyprus and will reach its destination on Monday, organisers say.
But Israel says it will stop the boats, calling the campaign a “provocation intended to delegitimise Israel”.
The Palestinian territory has been under an Israeli and Egyptian economic blockade for almost three years, with only limited humanitarian aid allowed.
The activists, from the Free Gaza Movement, want to break the blockade.
Israel imposed the measures after the Islamist movement Hamas took power in Gaza.
Hamas has fired thousands of rockets into Israel over the past decade.

‘Medieval siege’
For days, human rights activists aboard the flotilla of ships have been saying they are due in Gaza soon, but they are now running days late.
Organisers confirmed that they had left Cyprus on Sunday afternoon, after confusion over their exact plans.
Greta Berlin, of the Free Gaza Movement, told the BBC that the campaign was “extremely well organised”.
She told the BBC: “A lot of that confusion is done on purpose because why should we telegraph to the Israeli navy… exactly when it is that we are going to come?”
She said the activists would try to negotiate their entry into Gaza’s waters, amid reports that the Israeli navy intends to tow the ships to the nearby city of Ashdod and deport all of those on board.

Israeli government spokesman Mark Regev said the activists were “masquerading as human rights activists” while trying to make a political point.
He said both Israel and Egypt had offered to take the aid into Gaza, but that the activists had shown no interest.
“It appears they’re putting their radical politics above the well-being of the people of Gaza,” he said.
The BBC’s Jon Donnison in Gaza City says there is much political spin being put on the story by both sides.

Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniya says any Israeli action to stop the ships will be an act of “piracy”.
Israeli government press officers have been briefing journalists that the aid flotilla is not necessary. Israel says it allows 15,000 tons of aid into Gaza every week.
But the United Nations, which calls the blockade a “Medieval siege”, says this is only a fraction of what is needed and less than a quarter of what was coming into Gaza before the blockade was enforced.

The Gaza flotilla and the ironies of history: The Electronic Intifada

Richard Irvine, 30 May 2010
No one can accuse history of not having a sense of irony. Sixty-three years ago in July 1947 a passenger ship destined for Palestine and named The Exodus was stopped and boarded by the British Navy. The ship was crowded with Holocaust survivors determined to make a new life for themselves in British controlled Palestine but did not have official immigration permits. Facing terrorism by Zionist organizations, waves of illegal immigration by Jews fleeing the displaced persons camps in post-war Europe, and resistance by Palestinian Arabs to the increasingly powerful and belligerent Zionist movement emboldened by its growing numbers, Britain was determined to stop the ship. Accordingly when the Royal Navy boarded the ship twenty miles out from Haifa a full scale battle ensued. Three of the immigrants were killed and dozens injured as British troops beat the passengers on to three separate prison ships. From there these Holocaust survivors were transported back to Germany and were once again placed in camps. The world was horrified; an American newspaper ran the headline, “Back to the Reich.” Delegates from the UN Special Commission on Palestine who watched what occurred were similarly shocked; the Yugoslav delegate cited that what happened to The Exodus “is the best possible evidence we have for allowing Jews into Palestine.”

Since then the fate of The Exodus has achieved legendary status: Leon Uris used it as the basis of his 1958 bestseller of the same name; an award winning film starring Paul Newman came out in 1960. Indeed, The Exodus the book and film, painted an exceedingly favorable portrayal of the Zionist movement and the fledgling state, arguably helping the US and Europe to overcome their guilt for historic anti-Semitism and inaction during the Holocaust by supporting Israel. Former Israeli Foreign Minister Abba Eban drew a direct link between The Exodus story and the ending of British rule in Palestine. Tellingly a 1996 documentary celebrating the story is entitled, Exodus 1947: The Ship That Launched A Nation.

Today another small flotilla of ships is making its way to Palestine. Crammed with humanitarian aid and some 600 international peace activists and human rights workers it is set for Gaza.

Synonymous with violence and poverty Gaza is home to 1.5 million dispossessed and imprisoned Palestinians. Under Israeli control since 1967 Gaza has seen it all and been through it all. Yet the events of the last two years are without precedent. Under blockade since 2007, bombarded in a three week long assault that is called a war, its people have been barely subsisting since. As Dov Weissglas, an advisor to then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, explained in 2006, Palestinians were to be “put on a diet.” Today much that is essential for everyday life in Gaza is banned — for either “security reasons” or because they are “luxury items”: cement is banned, pencils banned, paper banned, toys banned, medicines and food restricted.

Of course you can agree with all this and say it is “the terrorist” organization Hamas that is to blame. You can say that even though all this is illegal under international law it is necessary for Israel’s security. Or you can ask how banning toys is fighting terror?

Like Mary Robinson after the war you can be shocked of course: “Their whole civilization has been destroyed, I’m not exaggerating … It’s almost unbelievable that the world doesn’t care while this is happening.” Or you can believe Israel’s Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman: “There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Despite Hamas’ war crimes against Israeli citizens … Israel continues to respond in the most humane way possible.”

Regardless of whom you choose to believe, this weekend you are likely to see another example of Israel’s humanity. Reportedly a quarter of Israel’s Navy has been mobilized to ensure the aid flotilla does not get through. The Israeli press reports that just like the British all those years ago, plans have been made to stop the aid flotilla twenty miles out to sea and transfer the passengers to holding camps or prisons inside Israel before deporting them. For Israel’s foreign minister this is not an aid convoy, but “a blatant provocation” and “violent propaganda.” Which is odd really since the convoy, if left unimpeded, will not go near Israel.

However, even if Israel does stop the convoy it should be aware that its position on blockading a whole people is not sustainable. At the time of The Exodus affair future Israeli Prime Minister Golda Meir declared: “To Britain we must say: it is a great illusion to believe us weak. Let Great Britain with her mighty fleet and her many guns and planes know that this people is not weak, and that its strength will stand it in good stead.” Replace Great Britain with Israel and the same applies today.

Richard Irvine teaches a course at Queen’s University Belfast entitled “The Battle for Palestine” which explores the entire history of the conflict. Irvine has also worked voluntarily in Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon and taken part in olive planting and harvesting in the West Bank.

An Open Letter by Jeff Halper to the Israeli Jewish Public: Support the Gaza Flotilla: TheOnlyDemocracy

May 30th, 2010
By Jeff Halper

If we were not Israeli Jews, if the nine ships bringing 800 peace-makers from 40 countries would be sailing with humanitarian aid to an imprisoned population of a million and a half to, say, Haiti, the flotilla now on its way to Gaza would be hailed as a monumental event. The government of Israel would donate another 50 tons of food and materials and a brigade of army volunteers from the “rescue corps.” But we are Israelis, and the fact that such an operation is being launched against a siege we imposed on a civilian population three years ago – actually, the blockade goes back to the late 1980s – should cause us all to reflect upon how we and our country have arrived at this sorry state – how the “light unto the nations” has become one of the most oppressive states on earth, subject to international protests like this one.
The flotilla is sailing with a number of messages. First and foremost, to the government of Israel: “Lift the siege on Gaza!” The siege is absolutely illegal in international law, and for those of us who believe that the rule of law and human rights is the only recipe for a better world, it is incumbent upon us to join the flotilla’s call to lift the siege. Civilians cannot be the object of military and political attacks, as is the case in Gaza (which the Goldstone Report roundly criticized), nor can they be collectively punished for the policies of their political leaders. The very idea that people can be brought to their knees and forced to accept being permanently controlled and dominated, which is the thrust of Israeli policy, is both unconscionable and counter-productive. As the situation in Gaza shows, it has only stiffened resistance to the Occupation.
And then there is the urgency of  the flotilla’s second message, “Addressing the humanitarian situation in Gaza!” In a policy frightening reminiscent of other dark regimes in which Jews suffered from controlled malnutrition, our government has imposed a regime of “counting calories” on the Gaza population – imposing a “minimal dietary regime” on a million and a half people who receive as little as 850 calories a day, less than half the recommended daily intake. (Dov Weisglass, Sharon’s Chief of Staff, made a joke out of this. “It’s like a meeting with a dietitian,” he said. “We need to make the Palestinians lose weight, but not to starve to death.”) Instant coffee, fresh meat, rice, beans, spices, honey, chocolate, jam, bananas, coriander and pasta, among many others, are considered by Israel “luxury foods” for Palestinians. All this might be funny if it weren’t for the fact that, according to the World Health Organization, more than 10% of Gazan children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Two-thirds of the Gazan population face hunger on a daily basis.
Gaza is today an unreconstructed war-zone. Israel long ago destroyed the sewage system, so that people have drowned in periodic floods of sewage that have engulfed whole communities. Raw sewage flowing into the Mediterranean has polluted the only waters in which Palestinians are allowed to fish – the Israeli navy fires on fishermen who attempt to reach cleaner waters more than three miles out. Having destroyed Gaza’s only power station, much of the area suffers from blackouts, and Israel prevents adequate amounts of fuel from entering, with severe effects on hospitals. Gazans also have nowhere to live. More than 2,400 homes were destroyed in the invasion of last year and Israel, by prohibiting the import of raw materials, has prevented their being rebuilt. Thus the flotilla is bringing to Gaza 10,000 tons of humanitarian materials: temporary shelters, playgrounds for children, cement, steel and other construction materials, medical equipment and medicines and school supplies – a drop in the bucket of which is actually needed. The list alone is an indictment of our policies.
We Israeli Jews live in a managed information environment in which reality is carefully framed for us. Our government’s explanation for everything it does is “security,” and we accept that almost without question. But we have to understand a basic fact of life: four million Palestinians live under a cruel Occupation that we have nurtured for the past 43 years and which has deprived them of their fundamental rights (such as electing their own political leaders), robbed them of their land and homes (Israeli governments have demolished some 24,000 Palestinian homes in the Occupied Territories since 1967), reduced them to impoverishment and has led, in the case of Gaza, to their literal imprisonment.
Why do I have to repeat facts that seem so self-evident, that everyone knows? Because, though every informed person abroad knows these things, we Israeli Jews don’t – and we don’t care. Most Israelis know far less about what our government is doing in our name, in Gaza and elsewhere in the Occupied Territories, than the activists on the Free Gaza ships. We seldom if ever use the term “occupation” in our everyday speech (in fact, our government denied the very existence of an occupation), and we minimize the impact that our settlements, our separate roads, the Wall, hundreds of checkpoints and other facets of the Occupation have upon the political process, which we no longer believe in. Living in a prosperous “bubble,” we do not see Palestinian suffering, only ourselves as “victims.” (And so our Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman characterizes the Gaza flotillas as “violent propaganda” against Israel, as if we have nothing to do with conditions of life in Gaza or the very fact of occupation.)  But this is not reality. For the Palestinians there is no minimizing their suffering or their yearning for freedom. Why, with our history, is it so difficult for us to understand resistance to oppression?
And so the third message of the flotilla is directed towards us: “Take responsibility for your government’s policies!” When I entered Gaza on the first Free Gaza boats in August, 2008, I issued an appeal to the Israeli public to stand in solidarity with us. I argued that ordinary people have often played key roles in history, particularly in situations like this where world governments, who should end the siege, shirk their responsibilities. We must resist the self-serving and disempowering statements of our political leaders who would have us believe that there is no solution to the conflict with the Palestinians, that there is “no partner for peace,” that we are doomed to perpetual war and, therefore, we must become permanent oppressors. The Palestinians are not our enemies; our own political leaders are. The very fact that I, an Israeli Jew, was welcomed by the people of Gaza makes that very point, and it is the message they asked me to convey to you. But they also insist on their rights: self-determination.
We of the Israeli peace camp refuse to be enemies with our Palestinian neighbors. We recognize that as the infinitely stronger party in the conflict, we Israelis must accept responsibility for our failed and oppressive policies.
In the meantime, the flotilla to Gaza has already succeeded. If the Israeli government allows the ships into Gaza, the power of the will have prevailed once more. If it chooses to stop the flotilla, it will only highlight the existence of the illegal and inhumane siege and bolster international efforts to end it. In both cases Israel loses the battle for legitimacy in the international community. This is the beauty of non-violent direct action. It is only a matter of time before it will be forced to relinquish control over the Palestinians and their lands.
Let us, Israeli Jews who aspire to become an integral part of this region rather than a foreign implant at war with its inhabitants, begin to take our fate in our own hands. We must side with the people of Gaza and the activists on the boats against the unjust and immoral policies of our own government. This is what the good people of the flotilla are trying to tell us, what people all over the world are trying to tell us: unless we take responsibility for our actions and end this terrible conflict with the Palestinians, we will not remain here. And unless we find a way to a just peace rather than stand on the side of occupation, oppression and injustice, we may delay that day by force, but our society will not survive. For our sakes as well as the people of Gaza, let us, the Israeli Jewish public, board the boats to end the siege of Gaza.


Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Permalink Print