May 31, 2010 Page 2

Israel Navy Massacres Freedom #Flotilla Passengers in International Water

EDITOR: The Voice of Peace

Only yesterday it looked like this, below. But even then, the murderous intentions were clear!


Turkey recalls envoy to Israel over Gaza flotilla deaths: Haartez

Egypt summons Israeli ambassador; Arab League urges member states to ‘reconsider dealings with Israel'; European Union condemns incident; UN chief calls for full inquiry.
Turkey announced Monday that it was recalling its ambassador to Israelafter 10 international activists were killed when the Israel Navy stormed a ship bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, while Egypt summoned Israel’s envoy in Cairo in response to the incident.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab state to sign a peace treaty with Israel. Turkey and Israel hold diplomatic ties, though they have been strained over the last year.
The Arab League, meanwhile, urged member states to “reconsider” their dealings with Israel.
“Israel’s attack indicates Israel is not ready for peace. Israel attacked the liberty fleet because it feels it is above the law,” Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa said in Doha.
“There is no benefit in dealing with Israel in this manner and we must re-assess our dealing with Israel,” he said.

Israeli commandos intercepted the aid flotilla on Monday. Officials said they were met with knives and staves when they boarded the ships, which included a ferry flying the Turkish flag.
Israel’s foreign ministry warned its citizens to avoid travel to Turkey and instructed those already there to keep a low profile and avoid crowded downtown areas.
Turkey denounced Israel’s killing of 10 left-wing activists as “unacceptable” and summoning Israel’s ambassador to discuss the incident – bringing already tense relations between the countries to new heights.

The ministry said that Israel had violated international law and must now carry the consequences.”[The interception on the convoy] is unacceptable … Israel will have to endure the consequences of this behavior,” it said in a statement.
Murat Mercan, a lawmaker from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling party, said: “I was expecting an intervention. I was not expecting bloodshed, the use of arms and bullets.”

“Israel is engaged in activity that will extremely hurt its image,” he said. Erdogan, meanwhile, cut short a trip abroad to deal with the incident.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas described the clashes as a “massacre.
UN chief calls for full inquiry into Gaza flotilla deaths
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for a full investigation and expressed shock at Israel’s storming of the convoy.
“It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation,” he said at a press conference in the Ugandan capital of Kampala.

France became the first European nation to respond to the early morning’s events. Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was “profoundly shocked”.
Many of the activists aboard the protest ships were European nationals and analysts have predicted a harsh diplomatic response from the European Union and its member states.

Many of the activists aboard the protest ships were European nationals and analysts have predicted a harsh diplomatic response from the European Union and its member states.
The European Union demanded an inquiry and Germany said it was “shocked”. The United Nations condemned violence against civilians in international waters.

Germany, one of Israel’s most loyal allies, expressed shock at the deadly interception and questioned whether the action by Israeli commandos was proportionate.
Two members of the Bundestag lower house of parliament were among five Germans on board the ships, the foreign ministry said.

“The German government is shocked by events in the international waters by Gaza,” government spokesman Ulrich Wilhelm told a regular news conference, adding the government was seeking further clarification about the incident.
“Every German government supports unconditionally Israel’s right to self defence,” said Wilhelm. But he added that Israeli actions should to correspond to what he described as the “basic principle” of proportionality.

“A first look does not speak in favor of this basic principle being adhered to,” he said. Berlin would await further details before judging the incident, he added.
Italy also condemned the killing of civilians during Israel’s storming of the aid flotilla as “very grave” and asked for an EU investigation to ascertain the facts.

“I deplore in the strongest terms the killing of civilians. This is certainly a grave act,” said Foreign Minister Franco Frattini.
Referring to the European Commission, he said it was “indispensable that there be an inquest to ascertain the facts, which are still not clear.”
He also said he had asked the Israeli ambassador for clarification and hoped that it would not hurt efforts on the part of Israel and Turkey to cooperate in the search for Middle East peace.

Death toll from Gaza aid attack hits 20: Press TV

Mon, 31 May 2010 05:27:14 GMT
The death toll from the Israeli navy’s takeover of a Gaza aid convoy has risen to 20 while Israel carefully censors reports on the casualties from the attack.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla came under fire early on Monday by Israeli navy forces in international waters more than 150km (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza.

The six-ship aid fleet was soon stormed by commandos descending from helicopters.
At least 20 people were killed in the takeover of the Gaza aid convoy, al-Aqsa TV channel reported, saying that more than 50 people, including leader of the Palestinian Islamic Movement Sheikh Raed Salah, were wounded in the attack.
The news trickled through the Israeli military censorship which has sought to block the reporting of any information about the casualties.

A report on the Israeli radio said the censorship was aimed at covering up the number of casualties brought to Israeli hospitals for treatment.

Meanwhile, Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Binyamin Ben-Eliezer expressed regret for the deaths aboard the Gaza aid ships.

“The images are certainly not pleasant. I can only voice regret at all the fatalities,” he told Israel’s Army Radio.

The comments come as the first official acknowledgement by Tel Aviv that the attack had turned fatal.

Israel had initially declined to comment on the reports of casualties from the takeover of the aid ships.

The way out of isolation: Haaretz Editorial

Israel suffered a searing diplomatic defeat at the five-year review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that ended last weekend.
Israel suffered a searing diplomatic defeat at the five-year review conference of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty that ended last weekend. The treaty’s 189 member states, including the United States, urged Israel to sign the NPT, which would mean ending its policy of ambiguity and dismantling its alleged nuclear capability. The conference also decided to promote the establishment of a nuclear-weapons-free zone in the Middle East, and to convene a regional conference on this issue in 2012.

The U.S. administration tried to mitigate the damage to Israel, and President Barack Obama restated his commitment to its security. This issue will be discussed tomorrow at his White House meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Israel will not hasten to alter its nuclear policy, and one should not expect foreign inspectors to visit the Dimona nuclear reactor anytime in the foreseeable future.
But the lameness of the review conference’s decision in practice, and even the consoling messages from Washington, do nothing to obscure the main problem: Israel has once again found itself isolated against the entire international community. The prime minister’s response – to declare that Israel will not help implement the decision – only painted it as rejectionist in the face of a global consensus. Even if Israel has no formal obligation to honor the decisions of a group to which it does not belong, its diplomatic isolation is only worsened by saying no to international decisions.

We must not ignore Obama’s message: While expressing reservations about isolating Israel, the White House also made clear that it is adhering to long-standing American policy on the peace process. Or in less diplomatic language, Israel’s stubbornness on the Palestinian issue is liable to carry a price in other areas of strategic importance. Those who want to control the territories for all eternity and expand the settlements are liable to undermine Dimona. Indeed, Israel itself is the one that created the link between nuclear capability and peace when it declared years ago that nuclear disarmament in the Middle East would be possible only once a comprehensive peace had been achieved.

At his meeting with Obama tomorrow, Netanyahu will have an opportunity to repair Israel’s relationship with its most important, and indeed only, ally. He must not waste it in yet another attempt to buy time and stymie the justified demand for an end to the occupation. For Israel to break out of its growing international isolation, Netanyahu must say yes, without reservations, to the peace process that Obama seeks to advance.

World in shock at deadly Gaza ship raid: YNet

EU foreign policy chief calls for comprehensive enquiry into deaths aboard aid ships seized by Israel’s Navy. Spain, Sweden and Greece summon Israeli ambassadors to their capitals to demand explanations
News agencies
Latest Update:     05.31.10, 12:34
The European Union called on Monday morning for a comprehensive enquiry into deaths aboard Gaza aid ships seized by Israel’s Navy on Monday and urged Israel to allow the free flow of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.
More than 15 people were killed in the incident – all activists participating in the flotilla. Six IDF soldiers were among the wounded. The ships were transported to Ashdod, under heavy security of the Navy commando.
Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon holds press briefing several hours after IDF takes over flotilla headed to Strip, accuses fleet’s organizers of having ties to Hamas, al-Qaeda

“High Representative Catherine Ashton expresses her deep regret at the news of loss of life and violence and extends her sympathies to families of the dead and wounded,” said a spokesperson for Ashton, the EU’s foreign policy chief.

“On behalf of the European Union she demands a full enquiry about the circumstances in which this happened … She calls for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”
The UN’s rights chief Navi Pillay said she was “shocked” at the violence of the raid, which left at least 10 dead, many of them reportedly Turks, while the European Union demanded a full inquiry from Tel Aviv.
Spain – the current European Union president – Sweden and Greece summoned the Israeli ambassadors to their capitals to demand explanations, with Madrid slamming the operation as “unacceptable”.
Greece, which had some 30 nationals on board the flotilla, also withdrew from joint military exercises with Israel in protest at the raid.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said he was “deeply shocked” by the Israeli raid and insisted “nothing can justify” such violence.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague said, ”I deplore the loss of life during the interception of the Gaza Flotilla. Our Embassy is in urgent contact with the Israeli Government. We are asking for more information and urgent access to any UK nationals involved. ”
Germany’s Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also said he was “deeply concerned” about the deaths.
Kuwait’s parliament speaker condemned the storming of the flotilla, which was carrying 16 Kuwaitis including an MP, as a “heinous Israeli crime.”
On Monday morning, police blocked dozens of protesters who tried to storm the Israeli Consulate in Istanbul. The protesters rioted, hurled stones and called out anti-Israel slurs.
Another protest took place Monday morning in the Jordanian capital of Amman. The al- Jazeera network reported that dozens of protesters are gathered near the Israeli embassy in Amman and are calling to cut diplomatic ties with Israel and cancel the peace agreement between the two countries.

Other protests were reportedly taking place in Algeria. No unusual incidents were reported.

British Academic Union Makes BDS History, Severing Links with Histadrut and Boycotting Ariel College: PACBI

Ramallah, Occupied Palestine
30 May 2010
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) expresses its profound appreciation for the courageous positions in support of Palestinian rights taken by the membership of the University and College Union (UCU) at its Congress today in Manchester.  The UCU has again firmly and decisively established its unwavering commitment to the Palestinian civil society’s campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law and recognizes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Making history in the international trade union movement in the West, UCU’s Congress also voted with an overwhelming majority to “sever all relations with Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise.”  The UCU has today confirmed its established position that it is legitimate to denounce Israel’s oppressive policies and to hold the state and its complicit institutions accountable for human rights abuses, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

The Histadrut’s long standing partnership in the Israeli state’s colonization, ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, particularly its statement on January 13th, 2009 supporting Israel’s war crimes in the occupied and besieged Gaza strip, has been condemned by a number of trade unions, including the British Communications Workers Union (CWU) [1] and others in Belgium, Spain, France, Norway and around the world.  The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) has recently decided to review its relations with the Histadrut with a view to severing them.

PACBI applauds the UCU’s reaffirmation of its determination to implement BDS measures within the existing constraints.  On a practical level, we appreciate the decision “to seek in conjunction with other trade unions, nationally and internationally, to establish an annual international conference on BDS, a trade union sponsored BDS website and a research centre on commercial, cultural and academic complicity with Israeli breaches of international law.”  These resolutions will have a far reaching impact on enhancing the global BDS movement, particularly in providing the needed resources for furthering the academic boycott of Israel.  The Congress’s decision to campaign actively against the EU-Israel Association Agreement in coordination with other trade unions and solidarity movements is another milestone that responds to a central appeal of the Palestinian civil society BDS campaign.  We also appreciate the UCU’s decision to work with other bodies in supporting the membership of the Palestinian Federation of Unions of University Professors and Employees (PFUUPE) in Education International.

Through these decisions, the UCU joins other UK and international unions and public bodies in endorsing and implementing BDS.  Most recently, the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) reaffirmed in its annual meetings its BDS policy.  Days earlier, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions (ICTU) had also reaffirmed its own overwhelming support for BDS.  The British TUC has also launched with the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign (PSC) an important drive aimed at implementing a wide boycott of Israeli colonies’ products and services, as a first step towards a more comprehensive application of BDS, as called for in the TUC’s last congress.

Creative and effective realization of BDS policies has become a theme among trade unions and TU federations from South Africa’s COSATU to the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW).  In 2009, Hampshire College in the US became the first in the West to divest from companies profiting from the Israeli occupation.  Many other universities in North America are witnessing similar divestment campaigns at various stages of development.  Norway and Sweden have recently divested their respective pension funds of all stock in Elbit Systems, a leading Israeli military manufacturer implicated in violations of international law.  Besides the UK, campaigns supporting PACBI’s Call for an academic and cultural boycott of Israel have sprung up in the US, Spain, France, Italy, India, Australia, Pakistan, South Africa, among other countries.  Leading cultural figures of the calibre of Elvis Costello, Gil Scott-Heron and Carlos Santana have heeded the call to cancel performances in Israel in protest over its persistent suppression of Palestinian rights.  Some of the largest supermarket chains in Italy have decided to stop carrying Israeli colonies’ products.

PACBI especially welcomes the UCU Congress resolution to “commence the investigatory process associated with the imposition of a boycott of Ariel College,” a college-colony built on occupied Palestinian territory, as a first step in implementing the academic boycott against the Israeli academy.  It is worth noting that the Spanish Government had excluded an Israeli academic team from Ariel College from a sustainable architecture competition last year for the same reasons.  All Israeli universities are deeply linked to the military-security establishment, playing indispensable — direct and indirect — roles in perpetuating Israel’s decades-old violations of international law and fundamental Palestinian rights.  No Israeli university or academic union has ever taken a public position against the occupation, let alone against Israel’s system of apartheid or the denial of Palestinian refugee rights.  Israeli universities are profoundly complicit in developing weapons systems and military doctrines deployed in Israel’s recent war crimes in Gaza [2]; justifying the ongoing colonization of Palestinian land and gradual ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Palestinians [3]; providing moral justification for extra-judicial killings and indiscriminate attacks against civilians [4]; systematically discriminating against “non-Jewish” students in admissions, dormitory room eligibility, financial aid, etc.; and many other implicit and explicit violations of human rights and international law. [5]

Finally, we salute the UCU membership for its effective and consistent solidarity in pushing BDS forward and for its politically and morally sound contribution to the struggle to end oppression and uphold universal human rights for all.

[1] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=1075&key=Histadrut
[2] See, for example, the following incriminating evidence against Tel Aviv University’s partnership with the Israeli army and weapons industries: http://www.electronicintifada.net/downloads/pdf/090708-soas-palestine-society.pdf
[3] http://www.pacbi.org/etemplate.php?id=63
[4] http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1062127.html and Reuven Pedatzur, The Israeli Army House Philosopher, Haaretz, 24 February 2004.
[5] http://www.alternativenews.org/images/stories/downloads/Economy_of_the_occupation_23-24.pdf

Posted on 30-05-2010

EDITOR: Gush Shalom Speaks Out

The first Israeli organisation to condemn the massacre on high seas by the Israeli war criminals Netanyahu and Barak, was Uri Avneri’s Gush Shalom:

Uri Avnery: this night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command
A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists
It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do

“Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality could something like that – consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill.

“Noone in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with,” said former Knesset member Uri Avnery of the Gush Shalom movement. Gush Shalom activists together with activists of other organizations are to depart at 11:00 from Tel Aviv to protest in front of the prepared detention facility where the international peace activists will be brought.

Greta Berlin, the spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers located in Cyprus, told Gush Shalom activists that the Israeli commandos landed by helicopter on the boats and immediately opened fire.

This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world, adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel’s already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few remaining friends.

Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza – but the provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy ships commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.

It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel did not “disengage” from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there.

The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza, through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop their economy. It’s time to realize this commitment and open the Port of Gaza. Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will continue – and rightly so – to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the people living there.

Contact: Uri Avnery 0505-306449
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesman 03-5565804 or 054-2340749
Coalition Against the Siege Yacov – 050-5733276, 09-7670801, Sebastian -050-6846056

Greta Berlin  spokeswoman for flotilla organizers
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Aftermath of Israel’s attack on Gaza flotilla
By Gregg Carlstrom in
Middle East
on May 31st, 2010
.
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Turkish protesters in Istanbul wave Palestinian flags. (Photo: AFP)
Early Monday morning, Israel attacked a flotilla of aid ships bound for the Gaza Strip; at least 16 people were killed in the pre-dawn raid, according to organisers and media sources.

We’ll be live-blogging the aftermath of this incident throughout the day; keep checking back for international reaction, news from our correspondents on the ground, photos and video. (All times are GMT, except where noted.)

——–

Update, 12:42pm: Amnesty International just issued a statement — its latest of many — demanding Israel to end the Gaza blockade; it also called for a full investigation into the flotilla attack.

“Israeli forces appear clearly to have used excessive force,” said Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Israel says its forces acted in self-defence, alleging that they were attacked by protestors, but it begs credibility that the level of lethal force used by Israeli troops could have been justified. It appears to have been out of all proportion to any threat posed.”
The group called on Israel to reveal the rules of engagement it issued to its commandos.

Update, 12:38pm: Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu spoke this afternoon with defence minister Ehud Barak, army chief of staff Lt Gen Gabi Ashkenazi, and several other Israeli officials, according to a statement from Netanyahu’s office.

The prime minister “reiterated his full backing for the IDF.”

Netanyahu is currently in Canada, where he’s been traveling for the last few days. He’s expected to issue a longer statement to the press this afternoon.

Update, 12:30pm: The flotilla story continues to command a lot of attention in the regional media, not just in the Arabic press, but also in Turkey.

Hurriyet, one of Turkey’s largest-circulation newspapers, has basically given over its entire homepage to flotilla coverage, with several stories about the diplomatic fallout, prime minister Erdogan’s reaction, protests in Istanbul and more.

Update, 11:51am: Bill Burton, a spokesman for the White House, issued a very short statement this morning from Chicago, where President Obama is spending the weekend:

The United States deeply regrets the loss of life andinjuries sustained, and is currently working to understand thecircumstances surrounding this tragedy.
The US is just waking up; I’m sure we’ll see a longer White House statement today, plus further reactions from members of Congress, lobbying groups and other organizations. Remember, though, that this is a holiday weekend in the US — today is Memorial Day — so this story might receive less attention than it ordinarily would.

Update, 11:28am: Nabil al-Sharif, Jordan’s minister of communication and media affairs, gave a statement to reporters a few minutes ago; he called the Israeli attack an “ugly, unacceptable crime.”

Jordan is very concerned, and is following up on the fate of its 25 passengers aboard the flotilla, and holds Israel completely accountable and responsible for any harm caused to the Jordanians on board.
Jordan calls on the international community to take firm and immediate action to pressure Israel to lift its siege on Gaza.
A few other reactions: A spokesman for German chancellor Angela Merkel said that, at first glance, the raid does not appear “proportional,” which would make it a violation of international law; Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said there was a “clear need for Israel to act with restraint”; South Africa condemned the attacks; and Austria’s foreign ministry has summoned the Israeli ambassador.

Update, 11:18am: Lebanon’s foreign minister, Ali al-Shami, said a few moments ago that his government will ask the UN Security Council to condemn the Israeli attack.

Protesters in Amman, Jordan [AFP]

Lebanon currently holds the rotating presidency of the council — but that presidency expires at the end of May.

Update, 11:15am: The Egyptian foreign ministry has summoned Israel’s ambassador to Egypt, according to Egyptian state television.

Update, 11:11am: Ban Ki-moon, the United Nations secretary-general, called for a full investigation of the flotilla attack during a press conference today in Kampala, Uganda.

It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place. I believe Israel must urgently provide a full explanation.
Other UN officials have offered harsher statements: Robert Serry, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, and Filippo Grandi, the commissioner-general of UNRWA, said they were “shocked” by the attack and “condemn[ed] the violence.”

Update, 11:06am: Turkey’s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is cutting short an official visit to Latin America to return to Turkey.

Update, 11:03am: The Palestinian Ma’an News Agency is reporting (in Arabic) clashes between “Palestinian youths” and Israeli soldiers in Jerusalem’s Old City; one soldier was lightly wounded in the fighting, according to Ma’an. Shopkeepers in the Old City are reportedly closing their businesses in protest of the Israeli attack on the flotilla.

There have also been other scattered demonstrations throughout the West Bank, including one in Nablus, according to Palestinian media reports.

Update, 10:59am: Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros, reporting from Ashdod, just tweeted that a second boat from the flotilla is approaching the port (the first one arrived about an hour ago).

Update, 10:57am: Israel’s National Security Counter-Terrorism Bureau just issued a travel warning for Turkey, warning of the threat of “violent outbreaks” against Israeli citizens traveling there.

It advises Israelis to postpone any trips to Turkey; for Israelis currently in Turkey, it recommends that they “should remain in their places of residence, avoid city centers and sites in which demonstrations are being held, and monitor developments out of concern that the situation could worsen.”

Update, 10:53am: Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, was one of the first Arab leaders to condemn the attack; he called it an “act of piracy” in a speech earlier this morning.

Before I conclude I must briefly refer to what happened this morning: The Israeli act of piracy against Arab and foreign activists, who tried to break a non-humanitarian, unjust siege imposed on our fellow citizens in the Gaza Strip, [imposed] for no reason but [that] they exercised their democratic right of choice. The crimes perpetrated this morning against the civilians supporting the Palestinians remind us of the unjust siege, the open bleeding wound in the [Gaza] Strip. All those who preach freedom, justice and democracy are required now to move, and to act to break this siege, so the blood of these free men does not go down the drain. This is a message addressed to the Arab states, who were brought to the moment of justice by those free men on board.”
Update, 10:48am: The BBC is reporting that the Greek government canceled joint military exercises with Israel in protest over the attack.

Protesters in Nablus [AFP]

Turkey’s deputy prime minister announced a few moments ago that Turkey, too, is canceling joint drills with Israel.

Update, 10:43am: We’re still trying to track down information about today’s victims (various reports now put the death toll between 16 and 20).

We do know that the majority of the people on board the ships were Turkish. The passengers also include people from Algeria, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Kuwait, Malaysia, Norway, Palestine, Serbia, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

At least three of the German passengers were members of parliament.

Update, 10:38am: The Los Angeles Times is reporting a crowd of roughly 10,000 demonstrators in Istanbul today; they marched from the Israeli consulate to Taksim Square.

Turkish media, meanwhile, are reporting that the foreign ministry recalled Turkey’s ambassador to Israel.

Update, 10:32am: The Egyptian foreign ministry issued a statement condemning the flotilla attack, according to Al Jazeera’s Amr El-Kahky, who sends this note from Cairo summarizing the statement.

The spokesman sent his condolences for the families of the victims. He added that such actions remind the world that Gaza is still entirely under occupation calling for the immediate lifting of the blockade. He vowed that Egypt will continue to ease the suffering of Gazans by allowing more individual passage to and from the coastal strip and making sure aid heading for Gaza is delivered to the beseiged Palestinians.
The Egyptian government temporarily opened the Rafah border crossing with Gaza earlier this month, but it generally maintains tight controls over the movement of people and goods.

Jordan’s government is expected to issue a formal statement in about a half-hour.

Update, 10:10am: We’re hearing from Iraq that Moqtada al-Sadr has called for a large anti-Israel rally across from the Green Zone in Baghdad. The rally is scheduled to start around 5pm local time (2pm GMT).

Update, 10:04am: Raed Salah, a senior member of the Islamic Movement in Israel, was reportedly seriously wounded during the attack, and is being treated in a hospital in Israel.

Salah’s deputy, Sheikh Kamel Khatib, told an Israeli radio station that Israel would be “directly responsible” if Salah was killed.

Update, 9:53am: More international condemnation continues to roll in:

Pakistan’s foreign ministry issued a statement that “strongly condemns the use of brazen force by Israel.”

The Jordanian foreign ministry has summoned the Israeli charge d’affaires, the ranking official at the Israeli embassy in Amman.

Saeb Erekat, the chief negotiator from the Palestinian Authority, called the Israeli attack “a war crime.”

Update, 9:14am: The Stop the War Coalition and several other organisations are planning a rally this afternoon at 2pm local time (1pm GMT) outside the UK prime minister’s residence.

Update, 8:59am: I just spoke with Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla’s organisers, who said her organisation (the Free Gaza Movement) has had no contact with the passengers and crew on board the ships since they were attacked.

Berlin also strongly rejected the Israel’s claim that the activists were the first ones to start shooting. She said there were no weapons on board the boats, and that any violence from the activists would have been in self-defense:

People certainly have the right to resist if they’re being attacked. We taught our Free Gaza Movement people to be non-violent, and the Turks did the same, but if anyone resisted, it was in response to soldiers opening fire on them when they hit the deck.
Berlin also said organisers are still hoping to launch a second flotilla of boats, most of which remain at port in Cyprus.

We need to find out where the passengers are, where the crews are… and then we need to assess – we split up our flotilla, we have a second set of boats.
But Berlin said she didn’t know when that second launch would happen; she expects it will be several days until everyone on board the first flotilla is accounted for.

Update, 8:43am: A statement from Saad Hariri, the Lebanese prime minister, who called the attack “dangerous and crazy”:

The Israeli attack on the aid convoy is a dangerous and crazy step that will exacerbate tensions in the region.
Lebanon firmly denounces this attack and calls on the international community, notably major powers… to take action in order to end this continued violation of human rights and threat to international peace.
Update, 8:31am: Spain’s foreign ministry has also summoned the Israeli ambassador for questioning. And Bernard Kouchner, the French foreign minister, described himself as “profoundly shocked” over the attack.

Update, 8:24am: An observation: We’ve heard a lot from the Israeli army, the Palestinian Authority, Hamas, the European Union, and a number of other governments.

The one party we haven’t heard from in the last few hours is the organisers of the flotilla. Obviously it’s impossible to reach those activists who were on board; and I haven’t been able to reach their on-shore counterparts. The group’s Web site hasn’t been updated in the last few hours.

Update, 8:17am: This video, a report from Iran’s state-run English-language Press TV network, shows a large crowd of protesters gathered outside the Israeli consulate in Istanbul this morning.

EDITOR: Murderous Philosophy

Beranard Henri-Levy is exactly the kind of apologist Israel needs and uses all the time. Read what he has to say now, as the latest massacre is still unfolding. There is nothing, however vile, illegal or immoral, which will move such people to re-examine their positions. Of course, the Israeli army is totally democratic, liberal, humane, gentle and peace loving; who could think otherwise? I strongly suggest Henri-Levy joins this army without delay, so he can take part in the next democratic massacre…

Bernard Henri Levy: I have never seen an army as democratic as the IDF: Haaretz

French philosopher addresses ‘Democracy and its Challenges’ conference sponsored by the French Embassy in Israel in cooperation with Haaretz.
“If a time should come when dialogue between Diaspora Jews and Israeli Jews becomes illegal, if it is blocked by the obstacles of censorship, this will be a retreat from the democratic ideal,” said French philosopher Bernard Henri Levy Sunday evening at the opening of the “Democracy and its Challenges” conference in Tel Aviv.
Levy’s address opened the conference, organized by the French Embassy in cooperation with Haaretz. In his speech, Levy addressed the recently formed left-wing European Jewish movement, J Call, and the response he elicited by joining the organization’s call on the U.S. and the European Union to push Israel to take measures toward peace.

Levy also touched on the Israel Defense Forces, saying the “I have never seen such a democratic army, which asks itself so many moral questions. There is something unusually vital about Israeli democracy.”

At the conclusion of Levy’s address, which garnered enthusiastic applause, a participant in the event yelled out that his support of J Call’s petition “endorses Israel’s enemies.”

“I demand a response,” the participant called out. Levy sat on the stage and said “I am no more or less of a Jew than you. I don’t want the U.S. administration to wait until the current president’s last month in office to really enter the race. The two peoples [Israel and the Palestinians] need to divorce, and sometimes someone has to mediate.”

In regard to criticism over his support of J Call, Levy also said that as someone who was in Israel during the Second Lebanon War in 2006, “I would like people to think twice before imagining that I would be capable of signing a text that is unfriendly to Israel. The Jewish people invented democracy. It is absurd to prevent the democratic ideal from being expressed in discussions on current events – it is pathetic.”

At the start of the address, Levy lauded Israeli democracy, saying that “Israel represents an island which is actually a miracle of freedom, democracy and rejection of fascist ignorance.”

“Zionism is the only ism of the 20th century that didn’t fail and become a caricature, of all the great movements,” he said. “The people who built Israel, who came from the darkness of Nazism, Communism and totalitarian Arab nations, invented a working democracy within a matter of days,” he added.

Israeli Arabs call general strike over Gaza flotilla takeover: YNet

Acting Higher Arab Monitoring Committee head calls incident ‘massacre’. Deputy of Islamic Movement official Sheikh Raed Salah says ‘this was an assassination attempt’. Meanwhile, military sources say Salah found on one of ships, not seriously injured
Published:     05.31.10, 11:03 / Israel News
Israeli Arabs are protesting against the takeover of the Gaza flotilla, which claimed the lives of at least 10 activists. The Higher Arab Monitoring Committee held an emergency meeting on Monday in which it called for a general strike on Tuesday, and representatives of the various political parties are slated to organize protest processions in Arab towns and cities later Monday.
Meanwhile, Tel Aviv District Police forensics experts examined whether head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch, Sheikh Raed Salah, was among those seriously injured during the takeover and hospitalized at Chaim Sheba Medical Center at Tel Hashomer. The examination revealed that Salah was not in the hospital.

Military sources said Salah was injured, but not seriously, and was found on one of the ships, on its way to Ashdod. The military report comes in contrast with claims made by Salah’s deputy, according to which he was rushed to an operating room in Tel Hashomer in serious condition.
Shortly after the committee meeting concluded, some 50 people protested on the main street in Nazareth against the injuries inflicted on the Gaza aid activists. Some of the protesters carried signs that read, “Israel’s leaders are war criminals.”
The committee convened for an emergency meeting Monday morning, following the bloody incident at the heart of sea. The committee’s acting chairman, Ramez Jaraisi, called for an international probe into what he called “the State of Israel’s crimes”. Representatives from various political parties attended the meeting, including Knesset members Mohammad Barakeh, Afou Agbaria, Ibrahim Sarsur and Masud Ganaim.

At the start of the meeting Jaraisi said, “We are up against the crimes of pirates. No body in the world would dare think of attacking a humanitarian operation. This is the brutal attack of ships that were transporting aid equipment.”
He also leveled piercing criticism at the Jewish state, saying, “The State of Israel is not satisfied with the criminal siege on the Gaza Strip, and is seeking to enlarge and expand its circle of crime through the massacre we saw with our very eyes.”
At the end of his speech, Jaraisi, who is also the mayor of Nazareth, called for a general strike and said the Arabs in Israel expect clear and unambiguous answers from its leaders.
MK Barakeh then took the podium, saying, “We are concerned for all those injured, including Sheikh Raed Salah (head of the Islamic Movement’s northern branch), as we do not know what condition he is in. I call for protest processions and demonstrations in all the Arab villages and cities.”
Salah’s deputy, Kamal Khatib, said at the meeting, “No matter the scope of Sheikh Raed’s injuries, this was an assassination attempt. All blood that is spilled there is sacred blood and there is no difference between one person’s blood and another’s. All measures we decide on today are not final, and they will be followed by other measures. This depends on the developments in the matter.”

MK Sarsur said, “We must not remain silent in the face of such a crime… Responsibility lies solely on the State of Israel.”

A Special Place in Hell / The Second Gaza War: Israel lost at sea: Haaretz

We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege, which is itself becoming Israel’s Vietnam.
By Bradley Burston
A war tells a people terrible truths about itself. That is why it is so difficult to listen.
We were determined to avoid an honest look at the first Gaza war. Now, in international waters and having opened fire on an international group of humanitarian aid workers and activists, we are fighting and losing the second. For Israel, in the end, this Second Gaza War could be far more costly and painful than the first.
In going to war in Gaza in late 2008, Israeli military and political leaders hoped to teach Hamas a lesson. They succeeded. Hamas learned that the best way to fight Israel is to let Israel do what it has begun to do naturally: bluster, blunder, stonewall, and fume.

Hamas, and no less, Iran and Hezbollah, learned early on that Israel’s own embargo against Hamas-ruled Gaza was the most sophisticated and powerful weapon they could have deployed against the Jewish state.
Here in Israel, we have still yet to learn the lesson: We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel’s Vietnam.

Of course, we knew this could happen. On Sunday, when the army spokesman began speaking of a Gaza-bound aid flotilla in terms of an attack on Israel, MK Nahman Shai, the IDF chief spokesman during the 1991 Gulf war, spoke publicly of his worst nightmare, an operation in which Israeli troops, raiding the flotilla, might open fire on peace activists, aid workers and Nobel laureates.
Likud MK Miri Regev, who also once headed the IDF Spokesman’s Office, said early Monday that the most important thing now was to deal with the negative media reports quickly, so they would go away.

But they are not going to go away. One of the ships is named for Rachel Corrie, killed while trying to bar the way of an IDF bulldozer in Gaza seven years ago. Her name, and her story, have since become a lightning rod for pro-Palestinian activism.
Perhaps most ominously, in a stepwise, lemming-like march of folly in our relations with Ankara, a regional power of crucial importance and one which, if heeded, could have helped head off the First Gaza War, we have come dangerously close to effectively declaring a state of war with Turkey.

“This is going to be a very large incident, certainly with the Turks,” said Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the cabinet minister with the most sensitive sense of Israel’s ties with the Muslim world.
We explain, time and again, that we are not at war with the people of Gaza. We say it time and again because we ourselves need to believe it, and because, deep down, we do not.

There was a time, when it could be said that we knew ourselves only in wartime. No longer. Now we know nothing. Yet another problem with refraining from talks with Hamas and Iran: They know us so much better than we know ourselves.
They know, as the song about the Lebanon War suggested (“Lo Yachol La’atzor Et Zeh”) that we, unable to see ourselves in any clarity, are no longer capable of stopping ourselves.

Hamas, as well as Iran, have come to know and benefit from the toxicity of Israeli domestic politics, which is all too ready to mortgage the future for the sake of a momentary apparent calm.
They know that in our desperation to protect our own image of ourselves, we will avoid modifying policies which have literally brought aid and comfort to our enemies, in particular Hamas, which the siege on Gaza has enriched through tunnel taxes and entrenched through anger toward Israel.

For many on the right, it must be said, there will be a quiet joy in all of what is about to hit the fan. “We told you so,” the crowing will begin. “The world hates us, no matter what we do. So we may as well go on building [Read: ‘Settling the West Bank and East Jerusalem’] and defending our borders [Read: ‘Bolster Hamas and ultimately harm ourselves by refusing to lift the Gaza embargo’].”
Hamas, Iran and the Israeli and Diaspora hard right know, as one, that this is a test of enormous importance for Benjamin Netanyahu. Keen to have the world focus on Iran and the threat it poses to the people of Israel, Netanyahu must recognize that the world is now focused on Israel and the threat it poses to the people of Gaza.

Fatah official: Israel world’s most despicable country: YNet

Hundreds of Palestinians protest near Ramallah against lethal raid on Gaza aid flotilla. Palestinian Parliament member Mustafa Barghouti says, ‘Israel has made fatal mistake, will have to answer to 40 European, Arab countries’
Published:     05.31.10, 16:08
Hundreds of Palestinians on Monday joined a line of protests against the Israeli military operation against the Gaza aid flotilla and called for an end to negotiations with Israel.
The Palestinians protested in Qalandiya, near Ramallah, against the lethal raid, and called out anti-Israel slogans and slogans in support of the activists on the ships.
The demonstration was organized by a number of Palestinian groups, but Palestinian Authority officials did not attend. However, a number of Fatah officials and senior sources from other organizations were at the protest, including Palestinian Parliament member, Dr. Mustafa Barghouti.
Speaking from the scene of the demonstration, Barghouti told Ynet that Israel has proven on Monday “that it is the most despicable state in the world if it expects anyone to believe its pathetic lies, according to which the peace activists on the flotilla were carrying weapons, as the Israeli spokespeople have claimed.”
Barghouti wondered, “Does Israel expect anyone to believe it when it claims that the adults on the ships were carrying weapons? Israel has committed a serious crime, an act of criminal piracy. It has made a fatal mistake.”

According to the Fatah officials, Israel has put itself at a delicate crossroads, and will be forced to deal not only with the Palestinian state, but also with 40 European and Arab states.
“Israel violated Turkish, Greek and Irish sovereignty by attacking ships that carried their flags, and it will be forced to face a much more extensive boycott and official sanctions,” Barghouti said.
He added, “The world will stop accepting Israel as a country that conducts itself as if it is above the law, and will start to address it as it addressed the Apartheid Regime in South Africa.”

Barghouti said it was regrettable that no cries against the “flotilla crime” were heard from within Israel and said the international movement calling for sanctions and an official boycott of Israel could be expected to grow.
The demonstrators in Qalandiya carried Turkish flags and called out pro-Turkish slogans, but life in nearby Ramallah and the rest of the West Bank’s towns and cities went on as usual.
Except for isolated local protests attended by a small number of people, there were no demonstrations against Monday’s raid, and Palestinian security forces boosted their presence in the centers of towns and cities in order to maintain peace and quiet.

Several Israeli Arab protesters arrested in mass rallies over Gaza flotilla deaths: Haaretz

Israeli forces on high alert on Lebanon, Gaza and Syria borders; Hezbollah demands ‘international punishment’ of Israel.
Hundreds of Israeli Arabs took part in mass demonstrations across Israel on Monday, to protest against the Israel Navy’s deadly raid on a Gaza-bound aid convoy earlier in the day.
Angry Palestinians were hurling rocks at police forces positioned near the Old City gates. A handful of protesters were arrested in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm as the demonstrations turned violent.
Protests were also held over the course of the afternoon in the Israeli Arab cities of Acre, Sakhnin, Arabe and Shfaram. There was no word of violence or disruption in those areas.
A spontaneous demonstration erupted in Nazareth as Israel’s law enforcement authorities prepared to face an anticipated wave of violence after Israel shot dead at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid convoy.
The protest in the Arab-populated town in northern Israel was the first mass response to news in the early hours of the morning that Israeli commandos had fired on flotilla passengers as they approached a maritime exclusion zone imposed by Israel off Gaza.

Reports in the Arabic-language press on Monday that Raed Salah, head of the northern branch of the Israeli-Arab Islamic Movement, had been seriously wounded sparked widespread anger among the country’s Arab minority – some 20 per cent of the population.
IDF officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Haaretz that Salah was alive – but offered no other details on his condition.
Salah’s deputy, Kamel Khatib, said in a radio interview that there was still no clear indication of Salah’s state. Khatib said that if emerged Salah had been killed, Israel would be directly responsible.

Local authorities in Arab-populated areas in Israel on Monday declared a general strike for the following day.
Israeli-Arab leaders condemned Israel’s handling of the interception.
Knesset member Mohammed Barakeh offered sardonic praise for the government, congratulating Defense Minister Ehud Barak on his “decisive victory of the army of pirates over the flotilla of civil liberty”.
Barakeh added: “Any government that puts itself outside international and humanitarian law will consign itself to the garbage can of history.
MK Taleb al-Sana said the operation had “exposed the ugly face of Zionism, the violence and aggression of the government of Israel”. Sana described the interception as an act of state terror against a humanitarian mission and called for Israel’s leaders to be tried for war crimes.

“This event proves you don’t have to be a German to be a Nazi,” he said.

By lunchtime, police were preparing for disturbances in Arab-majority districts in the north of the country, as well as around the Al-Aqsa Mosque atop the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the harbor at Ashdod and hospitals across the country where casualties are being treated.
“At this moment we have to act with restraint and complete control, so as not to inflame the situation needlessly,’ said police commander David Cohen.
The internal security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, also held emergency planning meetings with police, saying that while he hope to maintain calm, law enforcement agencies were prepared for any eventually.
The Arab Higher Monitoring Committee, which represents Israel Arab minority, called on Israeli forces to stay out of Arab areas so as not to provoke violence.

“The government of Israel and the police carry responsibility for the safety of Arab citizens that will demand the right to protest against the police of the government and defense ministry that was carrying a message of peace to Gaza.”
Hezbollah demands ‘international punishment’ over Gaza flotilla deaths’
The Hezbollah guerrilla group on Monday said Israel’s action against Gaza-bound aid ships in which at least 10 people were killed, was a “terrorist act that deserves international punishment”.

Israeli commandos stormed the ships before dawn and at least 10 pro-Palestinian activists on board were killed, unleashing fierce criticism from Israel’s friends and enemies.
Israel put its forces on high alert on its borders with Lebanon, Syria and the Gaza Strip, as well as around Jerusalem and the West Bank, following the incident.
“Israel’s kidnapping of civilian hostages from international waters and their arrest constitutes a barbaric aggression and Israel bears complete responsibility if anything happens to them,” Hezbollah lawmaker Hassan Fadlallah told Reuters.

“Any delay by the Security Council in moving quickly against this Israeli crime constitutes a cover-up. This never would have happened without international and U.S. silence over the Gaza blockade and the crimes that Israel commits against civilians.”
Hundreds of people protested against Israel in Beirut and Palestinian refugee camps across the country also witnessed several demonstrations during which protesters chanted anti-Israeli slogans and raised Palestinian flags.
“We hope they come back safely. My father is on the ship and he is injured but our blood is not more precious than the blood of all martyred Palestinians,” said Adham Suleiman, the son of Lebanese activist Hani Suleiman, in Beirut.

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