June 6, 2010
EDITOR: Today, 43 years ago, started a bloody chapter in Middle East history, one which still affects us all. For the second time, Palestinians found themselves facing the Israeli armed forces, without an armed force of their own, and this time Israel has occupied the whole of Palestine, with support from the USA, and a nod and a wink from the other western nations. At that point the long and painful occupation looked neigh impossible, not just unlikely. But despite the international protest, the UN and Security Council resolution, and the unceasing Palestinian struggle for independence and for ending the occupation, here it still is, with hundreds of illegal settlements, with over 650,000 Israelis living in the Occupied Territories, and with the hundreds of check-points, the apartheid wall, and the daily brutalities of the settlers and the IOF, the Israeli Occupation Forces.
Some things have changed, though. The recent Israeli massacre of human rights activists on the Freedom Flotilla is a spark which has started fires everywhere. A new and larger Flotilla is being prepared, and each attempt will be bigger and bolder, until the illegal blockade crumbles. The great and growing BDS movement is evidence of the groundswell in public support for the Palestinian struggle for a just settlement of the conflict. Without waiting for governments to pressurise Israel into a retreat from the OPT, the international community has started acting in earnest towards that goal. This struggle, civic, economic, political and cultural, will be the deciding factor in bringing Israeli apartheid to an end.
To see how this type of apartheid id supported by Jews elsewhere, just read the first item below. The American Dream, on Land stolen from the Arabs, but Arabrein (free of Arabs, in German, similar to Judenrein, free of Jews, used by the Nazis)
Looking for the American Dream in Eretz Yisrael?:Moshavyishi
Looking for the American Dream in Eretz Yisrael?
Do you want American neighbors and immediate access to Bet Shemesh and Ramat Bet Shemesh schools, health and community services, clubs, recreation, and social activities?
Do you appreciate living within easy walking distance of a national forest, rolling farmland, resevoirs, terrific views, and other places of natural beauty?
Would you like a private pool, tennis court, equestrian facilities, gardens, lawns, and room enough to feel genuinely relaxed on your own property?
Does an Arab-free environment sound appealing? Yishi is miles inside the green line and even further from the nearest Arab settlement.
Moshav Yishi offers a lifestyle option available nowhere else in Israel: To be one of the very lucky, very few, to enter the Promised Land… and actually get the Land! Whether you delight in hobby aggriculture and the mitzvot of Eretz Yisrael or simply want the feeling of expansiveness and freedom no city can offer, Yishi is a delightful place to be. As more and more Americans move in, as more and more of Yishi is reinvigorated and rebuilt, Yishi will become more and more delightful a community to call home. Unfortunately it’s not yet available for the whole nation, but for a fortunate few, “Yishi” will be exactly that – “my Salvation”. A place in Israel that comes as dreamed, no concessions, no compromise.
Breaking out of the siege: Haaretz Editorial
If Israel is to break out of the international siege and strategic catastrophe it now faces, it urgently needs a different policy.
The intelligence failure and faulty planning in last week’s operation to board the Mavi Marmara led to a crisis in Israel’s foreign relations in the blink of an eye and a low in its standing in world public opinion. The international community is demanding an investigation into the incident and is roundly criticizing the siege Israel continues to impose on the Gaza Strip’s 1.5 million residents. Friendly countries such as the United States and France are demanding that the Israeli government lift restrictions on the passage into Gaza of goods and raw materials for civilian use.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in his usual manner, rushed to raise the specter of the Iranian threat along with the adage that “the whole world is against us.” Instead of locating the source of the fire scorching the diplomatic relations we built up with such effort, Netanyahu is following in the footsteps of his ostracized foreign minister, Avigdor Lieberman, accusing the world of hypocritical treatment of Israel.
In an effort to evade responsibility for the crisis and escape his obligation to fundamentally change his policy, the prime minister is distorting the nature of the criticism against his government and has plied it as hatred of the Jews.
Netanyahu and Lieberman are imposing a siege on a Jewish and democratic state that has professed to be a light unto the nations, but is becoming anathema among nations. The disagreement over halting construction in West Bank settlements and East Jerusalem sorely eroded the goodwill Israel had garnered in the wake of Netanyahu’s declared support for a two-state solution. Last month’s nuclear nonproliferation conference diverted attention from the Iranian nuclear program to Israel’s nuclear capabilities. The summit of countries bordering the Mediterranean, which had been due to open today in Barcelona, was scrapped following Arab leaders’ refusal to be in the company of the Israeli foreign minister. And finally, the proximity talks with the Palestinians are being portrayed as a recipe for perpetuating the deadlock in the peace process.
Reasonable governments of democratic countries act in accordance with the interests of their citizens. Even if the world is “hypocritical,” as Netanyahu claims, he must fundamentally change his government’s aggressive and inward-looking approach; it is not within his power to change the nature of the rest of the world.
A thorough investigation of the Mavi Marmara incident and the lifting of the siege against civilians in Gaza are essential steps, but they are certainly not sufficient. If Israel is to break out of the international siege and strategic catastrophe it now faces, it urgently needs a different policy.
Press Release: JFJFP
Jewish Boat to Gaza is sailing soon
In a harbour in the Mediterranean a small vessel is waiting for a special mission. She will be sailing to Gaza during the second half of July. In order to avoid sabotage, the exact date and name of the port of departure will be announced only shortly before her launch.
“Our purpose is to call an end to the siege of Gaza, to this illegal collective punishment of the whole civilian population. Our boat is small, so our donations can only be symbolic: we are taking school bags, filled with donations from German school children, musical instruments and art materials“, says Kate Leiterer, one of the organizers. „For the medical services we are taking essential medicines and small medical equipment, and for the fishermen we are taking nets and tackle. We are liaising with the medical, educational and mental health services in Gaza.“
”In attacking the Freedom Flotilla, Israel has once again demonstrated to the world a heinous brutality. But I know that there are very many Israelis who compassionately and bravely campaign for a just peace. With broadcasting journalists from mainstream television programmes accompanying our boat, Israel will have a great chance to show the world that there is another way, a way of courage rather than fear, a way of hope rather than hate”, says Edith Lutz, organizer and passenger on the ”Jewish boat”.
The ”Jüdische Stimme” (‚Jewish Voice’ for a Just Peace in the Near East), along with her friends of EJJP (European Jews for a Just Peace in the Near East) and Jews for Justice For Palestinians (UK) are sending a call to the leaders of the world: help Israel find her way back to reason, to a sense of humanity and a life without fear. ”Jewish Voice” expects the political leaders of Israel and the world to guarantee a safe passage for the small vessel to Gaza, thus helping to form a bridge towards peace.
Edith Lutz, EJJP-Germany +15204519740
Kate Katzenstein-Leiterer, EJJP- Germany +1629660472472
Glyn Secker, Jews for Justice For Palestinians (UK) +7917098599
What Is Not Allowed: Irish Times
POEM: No tinned meat is allowed, no tomato paste,
no clothing, no shoes, no notebooks.
These will be stored in our warehouses at Kerem Shalom
until further notice.
Bananas, apples, and persimmons are allowed into Gaza,
peaches and dates, and now macaroni
(after the American Senator’s visit).
These are vital for daily sustenance.
But no apricots, no plums, no grapes, no avocados, no jam.
These are luxuries and are not allowed.
Paper for textbooks is not allowed.
The terrorists could use it to print seditious material.
And why do you need textbooks
now that your schools are rubble?
No steel is allowed, no building supplies, no plastic pipe.
These the terrorists could use to launch rockets
Pumpkins and carrots you may have,
but no delicacies,
no cherries, no pomegranates, no watermelon, no onions,
We have a list of three dozen items that are allowed,
but we are not obliged to disclose its contents.
This is the decision arrived at
by Colonel Levi, Colonel Rosenzweig, and Colonel Segal.
‘No prosperity, no development, no humanitarian crisis.’
You may fish in the Mediterranean,
but only as far as three km from shore.
Beyond that and we open fire.
It is a great pity the waters are polluted –
twenty million gallons of raw sewage dumped into the sea every day
is the figure given.
Our rockets struck the sewage treatments plants,
and at this point spare parts to repair them are not allowed.
As long as Hamas threatens us,
no cement is allowed, no glass, no medical equipment.
We are watching you from our pilotless drones
as you cook your sparse meals over open fires
and bed down
in the ruins of houses destroyed by tank shells.
And if your children can’t sleep,
missing the ones who were killed in our incursion,
or cry out in the night, or wet their beds
in your makeshift refugee tents,
or scream, feeling pain in their amputated limbs –
that’s the price you pay for harbouring terrorists.
God gave us this land.
A land without a people for a people without a land.
Richard Tillinghast is an American poet who lives in Co Tipperary. He is the author of eight books of poetry, the latest of which is Selected Poems (Dedalus Press, 2010 ), as well as several works of non-fiction
The hijacking of the truth: Film evidence ‘destroyed’: The Independent
Protesters say Israel had an assassination list. Israel says soldiers fired only in self-defence. So what really happened on 31 May? Catrina Stewart reports
Sunday, 6 June 2010
Jamal Elshayyal, a journalist with al-Jazeera, woke with a start to the opening salvos of an Israeli assault that would transform the decks of the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish vessel bound for Gaza, into a bloodbath.
From the ship’s position deep in international waters, satellite images of Israeli speedboats and helicopters approaching the vessel were beamed across the globe before communications were abruptly cut off, leaving the events on the Marmara to unfold away from the eyes of the world.
Six days after the bloody assault that left nine foreign protesters, mainly Turks, dead, nobody can recount with any conviction precisely what happened that night. The convoy of ships, whose passengers included writers, politicians and journalists, had been expected for weeks, with organisers loudly broadcasting their plans to run Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and draw international attention to the situation there.
From the beginning, it was clear that Israeli forces were concentrating in their largest numbers on the Marmara, a ship carrying some 550 peace activists. The remaining five boats were much smaller and easily commandeered. After the Marmara was subdued, the passengers silenced, and their recording equipment confiscated, Israel disseminated a carefully choreographed account of the events that night that would dominate the airwaves for the first 48 hours.
Only as eyewitnesses, traumatised by their experiences, started to return to their home countries, were serious questions raised about the veracity of the Israeli version of events. Israeli commandos initiated the attack on the Marmara with stun grenades, paintballs and rubber-cased steel bullets. They were met with water hoses as the ship’s passengers tried to form a defensive cordon to prevent soldiers from reaching the wheelhouse. Next, the helicopters started their approach, hovering overhead as they tried to disgorge commandos.
From the other ships, passengers looked on helplessly: “The worst thing was seeing the helicopter come up because I knew they were going to invade,” said Ewa Jasiewicz, a 32-year-old organiser. “You could hear the screams when they started shooting … We wanted to stop and go back but there wouldn’t have been anything we could have done.”
From the moment the helicopters arrived, the sequence of events becomes confused. The dizzying number of claims and counter-claims serves only to present an incomplete account of a military operation that went badly, badly wrong. More than 1.7 million viewers have pored over the edited YouTube footage posted by the Israeli navy since Wednesday. In the dramatic clip, commandos rappel down on to the deck from a helicopter, where they are met by angry activists armed with iron bars and sticks.
This is a critical point, for Israel has rallied domestic opinion on the crucial claim that its soldiers dropped into a meticulously planned riot for which they were completely unprepared. Panicked, they acted in self-defence after they landed, shooting only those who threatened them.
The video is problematic, though. The images of angry protesters are striking, but they lack context. What happened before? What happened next? Had the soldiers started shooting when they descended to the deck? The only account offered by the Israelis of what happened next is left to Staff Sergeant S, a commando who claims he shot six of the protesters.
The last of 15 to arrive on the deck, he said he saw that two of his colleagues had gunshot wounds. Pushing others into a protective cordon around the injured soldiers, he shot at the protesters to force them to fall back. It’s a neat account, but several eyewitness accounts tell a very different story.
Mr Elshayyal, a reporter for the Arab channel al-Jazeera, was standing to one side of the ship and had a view of the front and back of the vessel when the fighting started. By his account, soldiers fired down on the protesters from the helicopters before an Israeli soldier had even set foot on the ship. A man next to him was shot through the top of his head, dying instantly.
“What I saw were shots being fired from the helicopter above and moments later from below – from the ships,” Mr Elshayyal said. “As far as I am concerned, it’s a lie to say they only started shooting on deck.”
At least two other eyewitnesses saw soldiers firing from above the ships before they landed on the Marmara’s deck. It is possible that this is what prompted the fierce resistance to the soldiers when they dropped down. Several passengers recount how organisers urged their peers to stop hitting the soldiers, aware of how it would harm their claim to be peaceful protesters.
Others on the ship claim they raised a white flag, but say that it was ignored. They also used a loudspeaker to reiterate their message of surrender and requested that the injured be taken off the ship to get medical assistance. Again, they were ignored.
At some point early on, the activists dragged three, possibly four, injured soldiers to a lower deck, either to keep as hostages or for their own safety. It was then, several passengers say, that the situation quickly deteriorated. Israel has insisted that the protesters took two of the soldiers’ pistols and used them, but others claim the pistols were taken away to prove that Israel planned to use live rounds.
Below, the protesters rummaged through captured soldiers’ belongings and claimed to unearth a document that they allege is a list of people Israel intended to assassinate. The booklet, written in Hebrew and in English, contained some photographs of passengers on the Marmara, including the leader of IHH, the Turkish charity that provided two of the ships, an 88-year-old priest and Ra’ad Salah, head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Mr Elshayyal said.
A military spokesman, Lt Col Avital Leibowitz, insisted soldiers acted in self-defence and that she “was not aware” of any list. But one thing is fast becoming clear – many of the dead were shot multiple times at point-blank range. One was a journalist taking photographs. “A man was shot … between the eyebrows, which indicates that it was not an attack that took place from self-defence,” Hassan Ghani, a passenger, said in an account posted on YouTube. “The soldier had time to set up the shot.” Mattias Gardell, a Swedish activist, told the TT news bureau: “The Israelis committed premeditated murder … Two people were killed by shots in the forehead, one was shot in the back of the head and one in the chest.”
When Israeli troops had subdued the ship, they rounded up the passengers, bound their wrists, in some cases forcing activists into stress positions, and prevented them from using toilets. Mr Elshayyal said he was given just three sips of water before he was taken off the ship more than 24 hours later.
Their ordeal, of course, was not yet over. Accused of entering Israel illegally, the captives were transferred to an Israeli prison, where many were held in cramped cells and denied phone calls. Furious, Turkey sent three planes to transport the activists out of Israel, threatening to sever all diplomatic ties if they were not all released.
Meanwhile, much of the video footage confiscated from Marmara passengers remains undisclosed, and Israel has sought to undermine some eyewitness accounts by alleging some of the passengers were terrorist sympathisers bent on martyrdom.
Questions remain unanswered on both sides. But without a full and transparent airing of all the evidence, the truth of that dreadful night on the Marmara may never come to light.
In the meantime, the organisers say they will seek again and again to breach Israel’s defences. Scottish protester Ali El-Awaisi said: “We sent six ships this time. Next time it will be 30 ships.”
By MARK LANDLER
Published: June 4, 2010
WASHINGTON — Tensions deepened between Turkey and Israel on Friday, and a new fissure threatened to open between the United States and Israel, as the three countries continued to deal with the fallout from Israel’s deadly raid on a humanitarian aid flotilla off Gaza.
A senior Turkish diplomat warned that his country might sever diplomatic relations with Israel unless its government apologized for the attack, in which nine Turkish citizens were killed; consented to an international investigation; and lifted its blockade of Gaza.
“Israel is about to lose a friend; this is going to be a historical mistake,” said the diplomat, Namik Tan, Turkey’s ambassador to Washington. “The future of our relationship will be determined by Israel’s actions.”
Israeli officials refused Turkey’s demands, saying their commandos acted in self-defense after activists on one ship set upon them with knives, clubs and metal rods. Israel also took issue with the Obama administration’s assertion that the United States had warned Israeli officials to exercise caution and restraint in intercepting the flotilla.
“I was not contacted by anyone in the administration about this,” said Michael B. Oren, Israel’s ambassador to the United States. Mr. Oren said he was not aware that anybody else in the Israeli government had been called and was seeking clarification from the administration.
A spokesman for the State Department, Philip J. Crowley, said the United States had “extensive contacts” with Israel and Turkey before the flotilla set sail. “We expressed to the Israelis the need for caution and restraint in dealing with civilians, including American citizens,” he said.
With another aid ship steaming toward Gaza, this one from Ireland, the United States seems determined to avoid a repeat of the last raid. The White House issued a statement on Friday urging the ship, the Rachel Corrie, to instead go to the Israeli port of Ashdod, where its cargo could be unloaded and shipped to Gaza.
The dispute over who said what to whom symbolizes the fragility of the mood between the United States and Israel. The administration initially resisted worldwide condemnation of Israel, watering down a United Nations resolution that could have placed the blame on Israel. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. voiced support for Israel.
But privately, President Obama and other officials have pressed Israeli leaders to do more to alleviate the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Administration officials said they were working to devise an investigation that would satisfy the Turkish demand for international involvement, while being acceptable to the Israelis, who said they would reject outside oversight.
The deepening imbroglio does not appear to have derailed the administration’s most pressing diplomatic priority: imposing new United Nations sanctions on Iran over its nuclear program. Administration officials and European diplomats said that despite opposition from Turkey and Brazil, the Security Council was on track to pass a resolution in the next two weeks.
The focus now, officials said, was on trying to persuade these two countries to abstain rather than vote against a resolution. Turkey and Brazil brokered a last-minute deal with Tehran to further enrich some of its uranium outside the country. But the Obama administration threw cold water on the agreement, saying it did not address all the issues.
Mr. Tan declined to say how Turkey would vote in the Council. But he said that Turkey believed that sanctions were a mistake, and that Turkey and Brazil had pursued their agreement with the administration’s blessing.
The United States has tried to mollify Turkey, with long meetings and phone calls to Turkish leaders by Mr. Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. Mr. Tan said Turkey appreciated American pressure on Israel to release the passengers and return the bodies from the ship. But he repeated Turkey’s disappointment over the Americans’ refusal to condemn Israel.
“There is no word of condemnation, nowhere,” said Mr. Tan, who was once Turkey’s ambassador to Israel.
In Turkey, the vitriol toward Israel continued. Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc told Turkish television that Turkey could reduce its relations with Israel “to a minimum.”
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Israel of breaking the biblical commandment against killing. Mr. Erdogan also talked in favorable terms about Hamas, which controls Gaza, calling the group “activists in a struggle to defend themselves.” Israel and the United States consider Hamas a terrorist group.
American officials are watching the rift with growing alarm. Turkey’s deepening cooperation with Israel was one of the most promising diplomatic developments in the Middle East over the past decade, said a senior administration official. “We’re not taking anything for granted,” said the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicacy of the situation. “We’ve seen how much emotion there is in Turkey.”
The administration, he said, is studying proposals for an Israeli-run investigation that could include outside participants. One model would be South Korea’s international investigation of the torpedo attack that sank its warship in March.
Israeli officials do not dismiss the idea of international participation, but one said, “We’re not there yet.”
Statement issued by 285 civil society organizations in the Arab World condemning the crime committed against the relief convoy and demanding the dismantling of the blockade on Gaza and the turnover of the Israeli`s war criminals to International Justice
We, the civil society organizations of the Arab World (representative of more than 800 NGOs in 16 Arab countries), strongly condemn the crime (armed assault) committed upon the Freedom Convoy which by the special units of the Israeli Navy at the order of their higher authorities at 4:00 am on Monday, 31 May 2010. The armed forces’ crime served to kill at least 10 activists on the boat “Mavi Marmora” and wound dozens of persons coming of varying origins.
The action taken by Israel is a clear and outright violation of the rules and principles of public international law and the humanitarian international law: the Fourth Geneva of 1949 convention in particular.
This aggression constitutes an act of piracy which is prohibited by public international law and humanitarian international law which guarantee for the ships the right of safe passage in international waters in accordance with the principle of the freedom of navigation. They also allow the passage of relief convoys to civilians in the cases of blockade and armed conflict.
Therefore, the storming of the convoy, the killing or wounding of some of its passengers, and threatening to tow by force the ships to the Israeli`s port of Ashdod constitute a crime of international piracy stipulated by the public international law and is a blatant violation of the humanitarian international law which bans attacks on relief ships and blocking their arrival to the needy civilians, children, women, the ill and others if they are hosting the flag of a certain country and if they declare their route, load, and ports of embarkation and disembarkation, and the goal behind their journey.
Moreover, the Israeli decision to expand the area of its military exercises from 20 to 68 miles within the regional waters of Gaza to confront the Freedom Convoy is a “violation of international law of the sea, particularly that the expansion of the scope of the military exercises to such a large area is only done to confront military ships carrying arms and ammunition, not freight and passenger ships carrying humanitarian and relief aid to the blockaded Gaza Strip.”
Obviously the international criminal court and the Geneva conventions prohibit such actions which are tantamount of war crimes, particularly the legal provisions which prohibit the attacks on ships and the relief crews which belong to neutral countries.
The issue of running relief convoys is based on two essential factors. The first one is the provisions` enforcement of public and humanitarian international law. In other words, it should not be permissible whether in the state of peace or in the state of war to block the outlets of humanitarian relief aid or to deny this relief aid to any group of people or to starve them.
The second factor is the aim to forestall giving a political reward to the aggressor for the war crimes and for the crimes against humanity which this aggressor had committed. In other words, to forestall the consolidation of the blockade of civilians and starving them so as to gain political concessions from the won party.
The action taken by Israel is a crime that violates the provisions of the public international law which guarantees the right of passage in the High Seas or in the international waters.
The aim of the Freedom Convoy was to offer medical and food assistance to the residents of the Gaza Strip.
This makes the Israeli action of intercepting the convoy and storming it by military force one of continuing to starve the civilian population who are living under the occupation`s yoke. This fact is prohibited by the rules and conventions of international humanitarian law. Consequently, the states which the ships are hoisting their flags or the persons who belong to several nationalities are entitled, as states or individuals, to take legal action against Israel in the international courts, particularly against the leaders who issued the orders of storming and killing or wounding the passengers of the convoy.
Therefore, this action constitutes at all a crime of international piracy and It is a war crime which is prohibited and punishable by the Articles of Association of the International Criminal Court because the action was taken in violation of the provisions of Article 8 of these Articles of Association.
The signatories of this statement believe that failure by the international community to pursue the Israel`s war criminals who have committed shameless and massacres (as, for example, was the case of the massacres committed in Dayr Yaseen, Kafr Qassem, Qibyah, Al-Samu’, the Bahr Al-Baqar school, the first and second massacres committed in Qana, Gaza in 2008/2009 and other places) encouraged the war criminals to commit this ugly crime in international waters.
Moreover, It`s necessary to underline that the continued attempts to outflank the Report of the Goldstone Committee in order to abort criminal justice and block the trial of the Israeli war criminals by the relevant international courts has specifically encouraged the mentality of arrogance of the Israeli`s leaders who took the decision of the military storming thinking that they were acting above the law.
While we appeal to the international community that it should support the issues of justice, freedom and human rights, not have double standards in its judgment and not fail to draw a clear line between the victim and the executioner, as we have been frequently accustomed to see.
We appeal to the international community to adopt the standards which can hold to accountability those who committed this massacre against civilians coming from several countries and to impose “smart” sanctions on the racist occupation State (exactly as was done with South Africa during the rule of apartheid).
We also appeal to the international community to place the Israel`s nuclear arsenal under international control and supervision so as to preclude the use of this arsenal against the people of the region.
All the crimes committed by the Israel, which we have seen in these days against can only represents the beginning of the end of the Israel`s apartheid state.
EDITOR: Murder is not enough!
The Jerusalem Post staff found it necessary and acceptable, even before the 9 victims of Israeli brutality were buried, to sing in mocking of the dead and surviving activists, in English. This is just one of many examples of Israeli propaganda inverting the facts and projecting the lie to those gullible in the US and elsewhere. The killers are the victims, and the victims are killers! Disgusting is too nice a term to use against those rampant racists. For the JP staff this is all good fun.
Pixies cancel Israel concert: Haaretz
The veteran American rock band Pixies canceled their upcoming concert in Israel, the organizers of a festival in which the band was to participate announced on Sunday.
This announcement follows recent concert cancellations by the Klaxons and the Gorillaz Sound System in the wake of a clash between Israeli navy commandos and Turkish peace activists in international waters last Monday, during which soldiers killed nine activists aboard a Gaza-bound aid ship.
The Pixies issued a statement saying that the decision was not taken lightly and that “we’d like to extend our deepest apologies to the fans, but events beyond all our control have conspired against us. We can only hope for better days, in which we will finally present the long awaited visit of the Pixies in Israel.”
According to organizers, ticket holders will be able to receive a refund at ticket sales counters starting Monday, June 7 at 9 a.m.
Israel’s actions sparked an international outcry, jolted its relationship with allies Turkey and America and may yet reshape diplomacy in the region
For Israel’s prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, last week should have been about repairing the diplomatic bridges damaged in a series of international encounters. After visiting Canada at the start of the week, the acerbic leader’s next stop was to have been the crucial one – a visit to Washington to meet President Barack Obama.
This meeting was intended to heal the wounds caused by Israel’s announcement in March – in defiance of the US – that it planned to build large new settlements in the territories that it had occupied since the Six Day War in 1967. The plan was announced as US vice president Joe Biden arrived in Israel. It was a calculated diplomatic snub, Netanyahu was told at the time, that had “humiliated” the US president.
As things turned out, Netanyahu didn’t make it to Washington. Relations now, if anything, are frostier than ever.What put an end to Netanyahu’s trip is now well documented. At 4.30am on Sunday, dozens of Israeli naval commandos in Operation Sea Breeze boarded a flotilla of ships attempting to run Israel’s blockade of Gaza and deliver aid. The mission left a trail of dead and wounded among the 600 activists on the lead ship, the Turkish flagged Mavi Marmara.
As news emerged of the disastrous raid, Netanyahu – who was staying at the official residence of Stephen Harper, the Canadian prime minister – found himself convening an all-night meeting with his team to calculate Israel’s response to the wave of international condemnation. If Netanyahu and his senior advisers hoped the Marmara incident would quickly blow over, they were wrong.
The revelation that many of those killed – eight Turks and a US-Turkish citizen – were shot in the head at close range by members of Israel’s Shayetet 13 naval special forces team only exacerbated the sense of anger in many quarters, above all in Turkey.
And while Israeli diplomats and ministers have tried to spin the clash on the aid flotilla as either much ado about nothing, or as a justified response to violent and illegal actions by the activists, the diplomatic fallout is threatening to dwarf the international reaction to Israel’s war against Gaza last year.
Israel’s relationship with its closest Muslim ally, Turkey, has been pronounced fatally wounded. A succession of European leaders, including David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy, have lined up to pronounce Israel’s long-term embargo of Hamas-run Gaza as unsustainable and indefensible. Most serious of all for Netanyahu, Israel’s closest and most assiduous ally, the United States, has also endorsed that view, going out of its way to reveal that it had warned Jerusalem to show restraint when dealing with the six-ship convoy.
Behind the inevitable bluster, the real question many Israelis are now asking is: how did it come to this? The answer is that the bungled raid on the Mavi Marmara has been a powerful catalyst for the escalating sense of repugnance at Israel’s policy of collective punishment of the 1.5 million residents of Gaza, while sharply underlining the perception of the intransigence of Israel under Netanyahu. It has also exposed how slow Israel’s leadership has been to appreciate the profound changes that it faces on the regional and international stage – and how it should respond to them.
Those changes were most starkly visible last week in Turkey. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed it most forcefully in a televised speech last week: “You [Israel] killed 19-year-old Furkan Dogan brutally. Which faith, which holy book can be an excuse for killing him? I am speaking to them in their own language. The sixth commandment says, ‘Thou shalt not kill’. Did you not understand? I’ll say again. I say in English, ‘You shall not kill’. Did you still not understand? So I’ll say to you in your own language. I say in Hebrew, ‘Lo Tirtzakh’.”
But if the assault on a Turkish-flagged ship, supported by a Turkish organisation, which led to the deaths of Turkish citizens, has been a major source of anger, it has not been the only one. Another has been the sense that Israel has taken the relationship with Turkey as a “given”, even as the Nato member has sought to assert its increasing leadership in the Muslim world and as a bridge between east and west.
In recent years, an increasingly confident Turkey has denied the US permission to transport troops through its territory en route to the invasion of Iraq, and has pressed for a seat on the UN Security Council. It has attempted mediation between Syria and Israel, while trying to build alliances with Iraq and Iran. And it has used its position as Israel’s closest military ally in the Muslim world to launch increasingly sharp criticism of the Jewish state – not least over Gaza.
But if Turkey’s growing influence on the world stage has been recognised in the US as valuable, with recent visits both by secretary of state Hillary Clinton and Middle East envoy George Mitchell, that message has been missed in Israel.
That is certainly one problem, but it has not been the only one. The Mavi Marmara incident has also directed a harsh light on the country’s increasingly fraught relationship with America. And while many commentators in Israel last week were lamenting that the real problem was that they had failed to adequately explain themselves over the attack on the Mavi Marmara – and that bad diplomacy was really to blame – some at least have begun to recognise that unconditional US support should not be taken for granted.
They include the head of Israel’s foreign intelligence service, who warned that his country was “gradually turning from an asset of the United States to a burden”.
That fear has been fuelled by the White House’s attempts to strike a far sterner tone with Israel, a position that was evident before the flotilla crisis, when it was revealed that US officials had repeatedly pressed Israel not to over-react to the approach of the sea convoy to Gaza’s shores.
“We communicated with Israel through multiple channels many times regarding the flotilla. We emphasised caution and restraint, given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens,” a State Department spokesman said in a statement.
Other US officials, in off-the-record briefings and leaked comments to American newspapers, also have aired their frustrations with Israel’s conduct. “There is no question that we need a new approach to Gaza,” one official told the New York Times. That echoed comments by Hillary Clinton, who, immediately after the attack on the flotilla, called the situation in Gaza “unsustainable”.
That approach – of trying to get Israel to soften its attitude – has come as no great surprise to many Middle East watchers in Washington. “It does not surprise me that the Obama administration is trying to urge Israel to better manage this,” said Danielle Pletka, vice president for foreign and defence policy studies at the American Enterprise Institute. “The administration has tried to manage this mess. They have tried hard to extricate Israel from the fiasco.”
Speaking to the Washington Post yesterday, Daniel Kurtzer, the former US ambassador to Israel, argued the problem was more fundamental. “[Israelis] look at the world quite differently from the way from this president does, and they are not willing to just fall in line because he is the president. Israel and the United States are seeing the threat environment in the region… in increasingly different ways. And for the United States, that means Israel is a problem, as an ally heading in a very different direction.”
All of which leaves an isolated Israel in a deep dilemma, made all the more difficult because many Israelis do not understand the reason for the outrage. “It’s good that they filmed it at least,” says one Israeli woman at Jerusalem’s Hebrew university gym last week, commenting on the footage of the assault playing on the screens overhead – a video clip released by the Israeli army which shows the activists attacking the Israeli troops with clubs and iron bars as they arrive on deck, claimed as evidence of a premeditated, violent attack.
Her friend, also watching, says: “But you know, I heard that overseas they still don’t believe us.” The first woman lets out an exasperated gasp. “How is that possible?” she asks.
That, in microcosm, is the result of the assault on the flotilla – a widening chasm between Israel’s view of its actions and the way they are seen around the world. Because the army is conscripted, Israeli society and its military are intimately bound and, as a consequence, the army is trusted to tell the truth. What raises more eyebrows is the accompanying inability to see why the Israeli perspective on events might not echo globally.
In Israel, there is one explanation for rising hostility. “What we are seeing around the flotilla incident is just an extension of something which has been there for some time,” says Danny Gillerman, former Israeli ambassador to the UN. “It is an outrageous hypocrisy and double standard to revile Israel for these actions, when other countries in the same situation would do exactly the same, if not worse.”
Gillerman dismisses other nations’ anger that their citizens had been shot dead, hospitalised, or held without contact with the outside world at an Israeli desert prison facility. “ ’Foreign nationals’ or ‘human rights activists’ are broadly and wrongly used terms,” he says. “They were using clubs, trying to lynch and mob our soldiers.”
He does not hold Israel responsible for the now deteriorating relations with Turkey. “[The flotilla] was organised by extreme, Islamic terror groups connected to al-Qaida and supported by the Turkish prime minster, who for some time has been steering his country into the arms of Iran and Syria,” says Gillerman. “At the end of the day, it is up to Erdogan to decide if he wants to be part of the western world.”
Israeli politicians and analysts say that the country needs to fight harder on the diplomatic front, to redress the imbalance of opinion against the nation. Labour MP Einat Wilf raised this issue in Israel’s parliament last week.
“Israel is being threatened in two arenas,” she says. “One is military, with which we are familiar and experienced, but the other one is intellectual, the arena in which the very idea that the Jewish people have the right to a homeland is attacked.” She sees the flotilla as falling into that category.
Outside Israel, the flotilla is viewed very differently indeed: as a challenge to Israel’s stranglehold on Gaza, and as having been responsible for widespread awareness of an untenable siege. It is that which Israel cannot see.
And while Israel might not be able to break with its disconnected world view, it may yet be forced to break the blockade on Gaza.
‘We want justice for our comrades killed!’ says Berlin protester. ‘We insist on an end to the insane blockade of Gaza and freedom for our brother Palestinians.’
By Danna Harman
BERLIN – From Frankfurt to Berlin to Dusseldorf – thousands of anti-Israel protesters marched across Germany on Saturday, hoisting Palestinian flags and calling for action against the “massacre” aboard the Mavi Marmara.
There are an estimated 2.8 million Turks or Germans of Turkish origin in Germany. Eleven Germans were aboard the Mavi Marmara.
“We want justice for our comrades killed!” said Hamit Savas, a kefiyyeh-wearing protester in Berlin. “We insist on an end to the insane blockade of Gaza and freedom for our brother Palestinians.”
Paris, London and Dublin saw similar protests. In Dublin, protesters were angry not only about the Marmara, but also about Israel’s stopping the Rachel Corrie yesterday, which carried Irish activists.
In Sweden, dockworkers announced yesterday that Israeli ships trying to dock and unload goods would be “ignored” next week. A spokesman for the 1,500 strong Swedish Port Workers Union said it’s workers are being told to refuse handling Israeli goods and ships during the June 15-24 boycott. A union spokesman, Peter Annerback, said the dock workers would use “detective work” to figure out if any Israeli goods were arriving on non-Israeli ships. He urged other unions to join in similar initiatives. Seven Swedish citizens were detained on board the Gaza-bound flotilla.
Norway announced yesterday it was canceling an upcoming special operations seminar because the Defense Ministry objected to the inclusion of an Israeli army officer in the program. A spokeswoman, Maj. Heidi Langvik-Hansen, said it was “not the right time” to hear a talk by an Israeli officer [identified only as Colonel Toledano].
In England, in Bournemouth, a coastal resort town with a large Jewish population and a Jewish mayor, there were calls yesterday to cut the city’s twinning links with Netanya. In a letter to the local Daily Echo, resident Tony Williams charged that “the latest atrocity’ illustrated Israel’s “contempt not only for the rule of law but for the opinions of civilized nations throughout the world.” Williams said: “Next year in Bournemouth we shall be electing councillors, and it is essential that all candidates standing for election state their position on the Palestine-Israel conflict.”
Mayor Barry Golbart said people should work for a “peaceful solution.” Golbart said: “Speaking personally, and not as mayor, my position is that I am not an Israeli; I’m a Jewish man living in England. It is an extremely sorry state of affairs, whatever the rights and wrongs of it,” he told the Echo.
While Zuabi was savagely attacked in the Knesset – Livni kept mum. When the blockade continued – Livni kept mum. After Israel brutally abducted the flotilla ship – Livni skipped from one television studio to another, justifying the operation with frightening alacrity.
By Gideon Levy
Suddenly Tzipi Livni’s authoritative voice was heard in the Knesset. “Let MK Hanin Zuabi have her say. Democracy is tested by its tolerance and readiness to hear other voices, even subversive ones,” Livni said. Silence fell over the hall.
Zuabi ended her speech uninterrupted and the Kadima leader rose to the podium. Knesset members of all factions sat up straight, in anticipation of what she had to say. This always happens when Livni takes the podium. For an hour the opposition leader outlined her impressive credo, blasted the government and proposed a well-formulated alternative. Stop the blockade, it has only caused damage. I would have allowed the flotilla to reach Gaza; I’d call all the Palestinian people’s representatives to the negotiating table immediately, to reach peace based on the 1967 borders and a solution to the refugee problem. Israel’s international status and democratic character are immeasurably more important to its future than continuing the occupation.
Are you pinching yourselves? Of course you are. None of this actually happened, nor could it ever happen.
What did we get instead? While Zuabi was savagely attacked in the Knesset – Livni kept mum. While Livni’s faction members shouted the loudest against Zuabi, threatening to shatter the country’s fragile democracy – Livni kept mum. When the blockade continued – Livni kept mum. After Israel brutally abducted the flotilla ship – Livni skipped from one television studio to another, justifying the operation with frightening alacrity.
Take note: MK Livni is betraying her duty. She doesn’t even understand it. She provides neither alternative nor opposition, merely the greed to step in after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Under her leadership Kadima has become a random bunch of nationalist, McCarthyist, militarist, chauvinist, loudmouthed bawlers, raising anti-democratic proposals in the Knesset as if it were the last radical right-wing party.
Who launched the most despicable attacks on Zuabi? Yulia Shamalov Berkovich, Yohanan Plesner and Israel Hasson were all in close competition for the most vulgar, gross abuse. Who raised the proposal to outlaw organizations that give information to foreign authorities? Ronit Tirosh and Otniel Schneller. And who initiated the bill to shut down a widely circulated Israeli newspaper? Marina Solodkin. What do they all have in common? They are all measly Knesset members, midget politicians, representatives of that centrist party Kadima.
Who needs far-right MKs like Yaakov Katz or Michael Ben-Ari when we have Tirosh and Plesner? Who needs National Union or Habayit Hayehudi when we have Kadima, a faction that deceives its voters. They voted for the center and got right wing. What drove Japan’s prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama, to resign last week? He broke one single promise to his voters.
Israel has no opposition. The last opposition died in 1977. Since Menachem Begin’s rise to power, the opposition has become mute. A democracy with no opposition is like a fish without water. If anyone still needed proof of this, the flotilla episode provided it – a proven military and political fiasco with worldwide shock waves. These shock waves are scarring Israel irrevocably, while her majesty Livni’s opposition continues to support and justify the operation. If anyone, either in Israel or the rest of the world, thought this bungling government had an alternative, they have been completely misled.
Let it be known in Jerusalem and Washington, Ramallah, Paris and London, where some people are still pinning hopes on the attractive woman with the white suits and pseudo-moderate rhetoric – Israel has no alternative ruling party. None. Stop counting on Livni, she is a flimsy crutch. Netanyahu is wearing a mask, the right wing is in disguise.
A dangerous, murky wave of nationalism and intolerance is washing over Israeli society. Some blame the Netanyahu-Lieberman government, but the truth is Kadima is no less to blame, no less responsible. It is not only silent, it is an active partner in the treachery. The only merchandise Livni has to offer – “the peace process” – is moldy and misleading. It’s not peace, just a process.
Livni will have her photograph taken with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, will smile with chief Palestinian negotiator Ahmed Qureia, and the world will leave us alone. The only fire burning in her belly is the desire to become prime minister. Why? Just because.