Sheikh Jarrah

January 12, 2011

EDITOR: Russel Tribunal on Palestine report is out

This important international report is now out, after the lengthy procedure which has been used to collect, corroborate and edit it. As the report itself is exceedingly long, I have only provided here the bottom line conclusions. I strongly suggest reading this report if you wish to come into contact with the frightening and grim realities of the Israeli occupation and its iniquities, as put by the most authoritative international body to date.

To read the report and its three Annexes, use the link below:

Russell Tribunal on Palestine: 2010 Report

VII.    TRIBUNAL CONCLUSIONS
7.1    The Tribunal heard compelling evidence of corporate complicity in Israeli violations of international law, relating to: the supply of arms; the construction and maintenance of the illegal separation Wall; and in establishing, maintaining and providing services, especially financial, to illegal settlements, all of which have occurred in the context of an illegal occupation of Palestinian territory. On the basis of this evidence, the Tribunal draws the following conclusions.
7.2    The RToP reiterates that Israel committed serious breaches of IHL during the Gaza incursion (December 2008-January 2009), especially by launching attacks that, in terms of the damage inflicted on the civilian population, are sufficient in themselves to demonstrate their indiscriminate and disproportionate nature. These breaches constitute war crimes entailing the criminal responsibility of their perpetrators. Corporations provided Israel with weapons and military equipment that assisted it in committing these crimes. The supply of such equipment involves acts of assistance that constitute complicity in Israel‟s violation of international law.
7.3    The RToP reiterates that the establishment and maintenance of settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories are violations of international humanitarian law and regulatory entail the commission of war crimes by Israel. Corporations assist in the establishment of such settlements by supplying equipment that can be used to demolish dwellings, to destroy Palestinian land and to build property. They also contribute to the maintenance of the settlements through the economic relations that they forge with the settlements; for example, by financing the construction of property, by investing in business firms established in the settlements, by importing goods produced by the settlements and by providing them with commercial services. These corporations are complicit in Israel‟s violations of international law, including war crimes.
7.4    The RToP reiterates that the construction by Israel, inside the occupied territories, of a separation Wall between Israel and the rest of the territories violates a number of international legal rules by seriously restricting, without legal justification, the exercise of certain civil, economic, social and cultural rights by the affected Palestinian population. Corporations assist Israel in its violations of international law
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by providing Israel with cement, equipment and vehicles that are used in the construction and maintenance of the Wall.
7.5    With regards to the legal liability of corporations assisting Israel in the violation of international law, the Tribunal concludes as follows.
7.6    By assisting Israel, corporations have infringed the rights recognized by state obligations. Corporations may be liable under civil or criminal law (for example, money laundering and/or handling or receiving stolen goods) for infringing these rights in domestic law courts (many countries domestic law incorporates international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law). For example:
(a)    A claim for damages against a corporation that provided goods and services that they knew (or should have known) would be used in a manner that would cause the claimant (or a class to which the claimant belonged) damage/loss, particularly personal injury, may succeed under domestic tort law (e.g. in England and Wales or the United States) where it can be shown that damage was caused. The fact that the acts were those of the defendant‟s subsidiary need not be a bar to recovery.
(b)    Palestinians may bring a suit under the ATCA for aiding and abetting war crimes and/or crimes against humanity.
(c)    A prosecution may be brought against a corporation in the French, English or American jurisdictions, although the prosecution is likely to be for a crime within each jurisdiction rather than simply for „violations of international law‟.
(d)    The Special Representative‟s Guidelines, the Global Compact, the Norms and the OECD Guidelines all specify that corporations should refrain from violating and should actively promote human rights norms and principles.
(e)    Pursuant to Article 121-7 of the French Criminal Code, it may be possible to bring a claim against corporations operating on French territory that provide material support to the construction of the Wall.
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(f)    Because war crimes are criminal offences under US domestic law and aiding and abetting is criminalised under US law, a corporation could be prosecuted in the US for aiding and abetting war crimes committed overseas. U.S. war crimes statutes approve the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to prosecute grave breaches of international criminal law by and against U.S. nationals.
7.7    The Tribunal concludes that corporate actors may be liable under international criminal law and/or under domestic criminal law if they have taken decisions as a result of which corporations have become involved in assisting Israel‟s violations of international law.    They may also be liable under civil law, in particular, under the Alien Tort Statute in the United States, which provides a tort remedy for serious violations of international law.
7.8    With regards to the non-legal liability of corporations, the Tribunal concludes that claims may be submitted to OECD National Contact Points for mediation and/or investigation and a final statement. The Tribunal recommends that a claim be brought before a domestic NCP where one is available for the state in which the corporation is domiciled. If no such NCP exists, corporations should be brought before an NCP in other states in which they have a permanent presence.
7.9    Representations to public bodies should make it clear that continued economic relations with these corporations would be contrary to their voluntary codes of conduct/guidance and to their government‟s obligations to promote and protect human rights. Continued economic relations may give rise to state responsibility.
7.10    States are advised to follow the example set by the Dutch public bodies that have investigated a Dutch corporation alleged to be complicit in in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law by supplying materials to Israel for the construction and maintenance of the illegal Wall.
7.11    The Tribunal concludes that states have an obligation to enforce existing law against corporations where they are acting in violation of international human rights and humanitarian law standards.
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7.12    States should ensure that there are sufficient remedies available, and that these remedies are accessible to victims of corporate violations of international and domestic law.
7.13    Finally, the Tribunal calls upon individuals, groups and organizations to take all necessary measures to secure compliance of corporations with international human rights and humanitarian law standards, in particular: boycotting corporations that assist in violations of international law, shareholders holding corporations to account, divestments by pension funds of investments tainted by illegality, and actions that continue to put corporations in the spotlight with the purpose of bringing about change in corporate culture. The Tribunal finds legal support for these initiatives in the Opinion of the International Court of Justice on the Wall, in which the Court stated that there exists an erga omnes obligation to refrain from recognizing or in any way supporting the illegality that arises from the conduct of Israel by building the Wall and violating international humanitarian law.

EDITOR: Beware of Israeli deception!

In its growing concern about the effects of BDS, Israel has now resorted to plain deception. The package below is advertising an oxymoron: Palestinian product sold by Israel’s offcial exporter, Agrexco. Beware and warn others of this new con! Nowhere on this package is the word Israel mentioned!

EU LAYS BASIS FOR SANCTIONS AGAINST ISRAEL: TikunOlam

In late Apartheid-era South Africa, the momentum among the international community shifted inexorably toward toppling the discriminatory system.  Crippling sanctions took their toll on the country’s economy and psyche.  While the white regime clung desperately to power, finally a spark of realism emerged within the ruling party which allowed the rise of a leader like F.W. de Klerk, who negotiated a peaceful transition to democracy and majority rule.
In the past few months, a similar process has emerged outside Israel with multiple Latin American nations (the latest being Chile) recognizing a Palestinian state within 1967 borders. Now, Haaretz reports on a sensitive new EU report drafted by consuls general in Jerusalem and Ramallah which would lay the groundwork for a possible EU sanctions regime against Israel as long as it continues the Occupation and rejects a Palestinian state.
Among the recommendations:
1. a boycott of all Israeli products, services and businesses operating outside the Green Line including East Jerusalem
2. refusal to attend meetings with Israeli officials outside the Green Line (including East Jerusalem)
3. creating a settler black list forbidding entry to EU countries of those suspected of committing violent acts against Palestinians
4. discouraging citizens of EU countries (most likely directed at European Jews) from purchasing property in East Jerusalem
Returning to the South African analogy, the chief difference is that there seems to be no realism whatsoever within the Israeli political system nor any moderate or pragmatic leader capable of being the Israeli de Klerk.  In that event, it seems that Israel’s future is deeply clouded.  Without political leadership, and with the gathering storm of opprobrium against the Occupation and denial of Palestinian national rights, it seems something has to give.  It could be an international diktat jointly negotiated by the U.S., EU, and Quartet compelling Israel to yield.  Or it could take some other form.  But it appears more and more likely that Israel simply cannot come to terms with what it must do and that the rest of the world must help or even force Israel to get where it needs to be so that both that country and the rest of the region can find stability and peace.

The nation is behind you, Galant: Haaretz

The synergy between settlers and soldiers derives from the intimate relationship between defender and defended, and from the basic fact that the IDF is a people’s army.
By Amira Hass

The seizure of public land, unauthorized road paving, misleading testimony, double standards in land allocation – all under the cover of an army uniform. Is this a precis of the history of Israeli colonialism? Not at all. These claims are the basis of the High Court of Justice petition by the Green Movement political party against Yoav Galant’s appointment as the next Israel Defense Forces chief of staff, accusations that Maariv journalist Kalman Liebeskind has made repeatedly in investigative reports over the past two years.

In the meantime, the High Court has asked the attorney general on Monday to explain how complaints lodged against Galant have been handled. Here is an explanation that has already been written, but in invisible ink:

The IDF, the greenhouse that has nurtured Galant, is the major land broker in Palestinian areas that were occupied in 1967. All the land that private speculators have managed to purchase by cunning and stealth does not come close to the vast territory stolen on military orders signed by our finest commanders. The army’s seizure of land “for military and security purposes” quickly turned into large-scale appropriation for the exclusive benefit of Israel’s super-citizens, at the expense of the subpar species.

The IDF is simultaneously the representative and the defender of a campaign to peddle the Bible as a real estate deed. Public land, private land, rocky ground, springs, unregistered land, irrigated land, unirrigated land, built-up land, precious artifacts of agricultural and architectural traditions – it’s all the same. Military and civilian jurists alike, ensconced in the robes of knowledge and boasting degrees conferred by the finest universities, have concocted infinite stratagems and machinations to plunder all types of land.

The jurists and the military commanders, like the soldiers who tack land seizure orders or demolition orders on olive trees, are the representatives, the emissaries, of the campaign. But in a state in which military service constitutes an admissions test for a successful political career, any lines that distinguish between those who devise policy and those who implement it become blurred.

Lest there be a misunderstanding, let me state that the settlers also play the role of emissary. Even when the puppet rises against its maker and protector, it is still an instrument, and it is implementing the consistent policy of undermining the prospect of a viable Palestinian state (as compared to a state of Bantustans, of the sort that Kadima and Labor are advocating.

Generations of soldiers and commanding officers owe to the settlement enterprise their social capital – their prestige – and their livelihood in the army, politics or business. As the settlement enterprise grows, so does the number of Israeli Jews who profit from it, whether directly or indirectly. And as that dual expansion takes place, the dispossession of those who aren’t Israeli Jews also increases, as does the need for more security techniques. Israelis serving in the army – whether recent recruits, career soldiers or reservists – are depicted as altruistic, as having no agenda of their own, as the prime human material behind these security techniques.

The synergy between settlers and soldiers derives from the intimate relationship between defender and defended, and from the basic fact that this is a people’s army. In a state in which the social welfare component has long since become watered down, it is the settlements that have become the best prospect for a socioeconomic upgrade for Israeli Jews.

For Galant, the synergy appears to have gone awry; according to the complaints, his actions were a scaled-down version of what his employer, the IDF, has been doing on a macro level.

If he lived in the West Bank settlement of Ofra and he took over land in the neighboring villages of Silwad and Ein Yabrud – just as he is accused of doing to his Jewish neighbors in Moshav Amikam – those who compile a report or file a complaint about it might be subject to a parliamentary investigation.

It would be pointless to file an altogether different kind of petition: one that protests Galant’s appointment as chief of staff not because of his private actions but because of the direct responsibility that he, as GOC Southern Command, bears for the killing of hundreds of civilians in Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, in non-combat circumstances.

The nation is behind you, Galant.

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August 29, 2010

EDITOR: Is this as good as it gets?

Please do not believe that David Grossamn is the thing itself, as far as activism in Israel is concerned. Grossman is, at bottom (and top) an Israeli, Zionist nationalist. He has even backed the war against Lebanon in 2006, in which his own son, one of the murderous troops, was killed. Only after some time he started thinking that maybe this war was not such an excellent idea. Of course, the death of his sone has given him a saint’s hallow, and one cannot say anything against him in some circles, not just in Israel.

The interview below has all the hallmarks of a naive groupie – Rachel Cook is so loving, admiring, protective, that she manages to get quite a few details wrong, even the name of Grossman’s wife, which she calls “Machal” (her name is Michal). She obviously does not read and speak Hebrew, knows little of the conflict, and is too admiring to ever question Grossman’s positions, not to mention criticising them. She does a good job of selling his new book as the Tolstoy of our time, which makes me doubt that she has actually read Tolstoy… If Grossman is the best there is, then Palestinians can only hope for God’s help…

David Grossman: ‘I cannot afford the luxury of despair': The Observer

The Israeli writer discusses his novel To the End of the Land, a memorial to his son who was killed while serving in the army, and why he remains an opponent of his country’s policy towards the Palestinians
Rachel Cooke
Israeli author David Grossman photographed for the Observer in Jerusalem. Photograph: Ahikam Seri/Panos Pictures
In May 2003, David Grossman, one of Israel’s most celebrated novelists, began writing a new book. It was to be about what the Israelis euphemistically call “the Situation”, which was a little odd because, for the past decade, he’d carefully avoided writing about politics, in his stories, if not his journalism. It was not just that he’d long felt that almost anything he could say had already been said by one side or the other. There was the danger that such a story, even in his deft hands, would be creaky and polemical. Now, though, he felt suddenly that he couldn’t not write about it. Grossman’s eldest son, Yonatan, was six months from completing his military service and his younger son, Uri, was 18 months from beginning it. His feelings about this – in Israel, men serve three years – were so acute, it seemed they would push the pen over the paper for him.

The story came quickly. It would be about a middle-aged woman, Ora, whose son, Ofer, only just released from army service, has voluntarily returned to the frontline for an offensive against one of Israel’s many enemies. Ora, having moved from celebration to renewed fearfulness in a matter of hours, is in danger of losing her mind. She has no idea how she will get through the next weeks or months. Then, in a fit of magical thinking, it comes to her. She will mount a pre-emptive strike of her own. She will simply go away, absent herself from her home and her life. That way, she reasons, she will not be there when the army “notifiers” come to tell her of her son’s death. And if she is not there, perhaps he will not die. After all, how can a person be dead if his mother isn’t at home to receive the news of it?

Grossman started writing and as he did, he, too, indulged in a little magical thinking. He had the feeling – or perhaps it was just a fervent hope – that the novel would keep Uri safe. Every time Uri came home on leave, they would discuss the story, what was new in the characters’ lives. “What did you do to them this week?” Uri used to ask. He also fed his father useful military details. This went on for a long time and it seemed for a while as if the charm was working. But on 12 July 2006, following Hezbollah attacks on Israeli soldiers on patrol near the Lebanese border, war broke out. Over the course of the next 34 days, 165 Israelis (121 of them soldiers), an estimated 500 Hezbollah fighters and 1,191 Lebanese civilians were killed.

Grossman was terrified for his son, a tank commander, but he was not, at first, opposed to the war. Though a determined lefty as far as Palestine goes – he is against the occupation of Palestinian territories – he believed that Israel had a right to defend itself against Hezbollah which, unlike the majority of Palestinians, is committed solely to destroying Israel. As the weeks went on, however, he began to think that Israel should show more restraint. At the beginning of August, together with two other great Israeli writers, Amos Oz and AB Yehoshua, Grossman appeared at a press conference in Tel Aviv, demanding that the government negotiate a ceasefire. “We had a right to go to war,” he said. “But things got complicated… I believe that there is more than one course of action available.” He did not mention that his own son was on the frontline. It was not relevant. He would have felt exactly the same had Uri been safely at home.

The Israeli government eventually accepted a UN-brokered ceasefire which came into effect on 14 August. But this was too late for Grossman and his family. On 12 August, in the dying hours of the war, Uri, who was just 20 years old, was killed when his tank was hit by a rocket; he and his crew, who were killed with him, were trying to rescue soldiers from another tank. The notifiers came to Grossman’s house at 2.40am. He heard the voice over the intercom, and he knew what was coming. Between his bedroom and the front door, he decided: “That’s it – life’s over.” But the strange thing is, it was not. The Grossmans buried Uri; his father’s simple but piercing eulogy was reprinted in newspapers around the world, including the Observer; and then the family sat shiva (a period of mourning during which time a Jewish family receives visitors).

The day after the shiva ended, Grossman returned to his book. “I went back to it for an hour,” he says, surprise registering on his face even now. “Then I had to come back home. But the next day, I added 10 minutes, and the day after that, another ten. Yes, it was hard. I was going straight to the place that frightened me most. On the other hand, it was the only possible place for me.” The result – To the End of the Land – was published in Israel in 2008 and arrives here, in the most beautiful translation, this week. What can I tell you about this book? I’m not sure. Only that I loved it. And that it tears at your heart. And that when I heard someone comparing Grossman with Tolstoy, and his novel with War and Peace, I did not scoff.

It is blazing hot in Jerusalem and, as usual, the city is a knot: tight with anger, cinched with frustration. The traffic is so heavy, it takes a taxi 20 minutes or more to move a single kilometre, but walk to your destination, as I’ve just done, and your dress will be sopping wet, the straps of your sandals will have flayed your feet like whips. Forget the holy sites, the bearded priests and the shawled rabbis. On a day like today, the visitor seeks the blessing only air conditioning can bestow: cool, crisp and calming.

I meet Grossman in a coffee shop in Mishkenot Sha’ananim, a venerable Jewish neighbourhood just outside the Old City walls. The view from the window is of a pomegranate tree, the Hagia Maria Sion, formerly known as the Abbey of the Dormition, where the Virgin Mary is said to have fallen into eternal sleep and, following the curve of the next hill, the sombre grey line of the barrier that separates the citizens of Jerusalem from those of the West Bank.

The room is deliciously cold, (goosebumps are already rising on my shins), but the calm I feel, the sense of benediction, is all to do with Grossman. He once said that the effect of regular wars and prolonged uncertainty can be seen in the way Israelis drive (people are prone to honking their horns and yelling out of their windows). But you can no more imagine him going mad at an intersection than you can picture him inviting Binyamin Netanyahu out for beer and pizza.

Grossman radiates wisdom, modesty, kindness and, above all, a sort of stillness: contemplative and tender, but steely, too. This is not to say that the darkness is all behind him. He warns me that there are some things he cannot talk about, will perhaps never be able to talk about, and I cannot look at his heart-shaped face, his big, marsupial eyes, without worrying about manhandling him. Grief, inasmuch as I’m acquainted with it, makes a person feel, among many other things, like an over-ripe peach, prone to bruises and watery leaks.

For his own part, he likens it to exile. “The first feeling you have is one of exile,” he says. “You are being exiled from everything you know. You can take nothing for granted. You don’t recognise yourself. So, going back to the book, it was a solid point in my life. I felt like someone who had experienced an earthquake, whose house had been crushed, and who goes out and takes one brick and puts it on top of another brick. Writing a precise sentence, imagining, infusing life into characters and situations, I felt I was building my home again. It was a way of fighting against the gravity of grief.” The merest flicker of a flinch. “This used to be so hard to express… but now, when I talk about it, I feel able to say that it was a way of choosing life. It was so good that I was in the middle of this novel, rather than any other. A different book might suddenly have seemed irrelevant to me. But this one did not.”

Grossman’s heroine, Ora, whom the American novelist Paul Auster has already likened both to Tolstoy’s Emma, and Flaubert’s Madame Bovary, decides to hike in Galilee for the duration of her country’s latest war. She takes with her an old love, Avram, a veteran of the Yom Kippur war and a former PoW. While they walk, they talk. She tells him about Ofer, describing her boy at every stage in his life, carefully bringing him to life (Avram has never met him). Slowly, an absence becomes a presence. The novel, then, works as kind of memorial: not only to Uri, to whom it is dedicated, but to Ofer, who may, or may not, be dead. After Grossman had finished writing it, he handed it to Yonatan, and to his wife, Machal (he also has a daughter, Ruti, but she was too young for this book at the time). “It wasn’t easy for them to read it,” he says. “I think it was only the second time they read it that they understood that it could be a source of comfort to us all. I’m not describing our family, but there are always moments [when the two collide]. And yes, when someone dies, they’re gone and yet they are still so present.”

Four months after Uri’s death, Grossman addressed a crowd of 100,000 Israelis who had gathered to mark the anniversary of the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin in 1995. His speech was beautifully controlled, but quietly furious. He denounced Ehud Olmert’s government for a failure of leadership, a failure which would ultimately damage the Jewish state, and he again argued that reaching out to the Palestinians was the only hope. “Of course I am grieving,” he said, anxious that Olmert and his cronies might dismiss his speech as the outpourings only of a bereft father. “But my pain is greater than my anger. I am in pain for this country and for what you and your friends are doing to it.”

I understand that he wants to separate his grief and his politics, but does he think, now, that his loss has changed some people’s opinions of him all the same? “Yes. There were people who stereotyped me, who considered me this naive leftist who would never send his own children into the army, who didn’t know what life was made of. I think those people were forced to realise that you can be very critical of Israel and yet still be an integral part of it; I speak as a reservist in the Israeli army myself.”

His novel provoked a strong reaction in Israel. “Some of my books in the past have aroused hatred [notably his collection of reportage, The Yellow Wind, a sympathetic account of life in the occupied territories]. Not this one. I think this one allowed people to give up on the need to be a fist, to remember the nuances, to ask themselves: what does it mean to be a human being in this situation? Our curse is that all of us become representatives; we congeal. But we need to feel our inner doubts, our contradictions.”

Was it horrible having to grieve in public? He must have feared that his son would be adopted as yet another symbol of the Situation. “I’m not sure it was horrible. One burden is at least taken away [when you are a public figure]: you don’t have to tell people what happened, because they know. We found our way. We’re very private people. We are a close family and we have a wonderful, devoted group of friends. What happens outside that… well, it depends how people approach me. Most approach me with tenderness and sensitivity. There has been a lot of warmth. But I made it clear from the beginning that I don’t ask for special privileges. I don’t want people to say: ah, because he suffered this, his opinions are this. My opinions are not my emotions. I spoke in Rabin Square, but I only do [public] things that I would have done before.

“I’m not a rational, cold person. On the contrary, so much of the politics is emotional here, and the two peoples involved are very emotional, so you must be attuned to emotions very precisely. But the bottom line must be logical. You must not surrender to the primal urges of revenge. I just do not see a better solution than the two-state solution. I’m more sad, and maybe desperate, but not in a way that paralyses me.” He pauses. “Maybe I cannot afford the luxury of despair. Maybe. Or maybe it’s a question of personality: I cannot collaborate with despair because it humiliates me to do so.”

All the same, he cannot feel hopeful at the prospect of more (American-brokered) talks. “I think our prime minister is the only person who can change our destiny for the better. He has a lot of credibility here. The question is: does he really believe in peace with the Palestinians? And I’m afraid that the answer is no. Even if he taught himself to utter the words ‘two-state solution’, he deeply mistrusts the Palestinians.”

To read the rest of the interview, use the link above

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July 11, 2010

Israel Inquiry, by Khalil Bendib

EDITOR: BDS is taking a hold and dictating the new agenda

Not a day passes without some major news on the BDS issue, from all parts of the globe. This rising movement, with supporters in most countries, and with growing effect, is now assisting the isolation of the Israeli regime of militarised, brutal colonial settlement. While Israel’s universities and colleges do all they can to support the coniued occupoation, there are many academics who are increasingly voicing their opposition to the regime and its war crimes. This struggle is likely to intensify, as the regime is moving to stop all crticism by using the legal machinery to silence academics. This vert act is a proof on the increasing efficacy of the BDS campaign.

Israeli academics hit back over bid to pass law that would criminalise them: The Observer

Backlash over threat to outlaw supporters of boycott movement aimed at ending the continued occupation of the West Bank

An academic backlash has erupted in Israel over proposed new laws, backed by the government of Binyamin Netanyahu, to criminalise a handful of Israeli professors who openly support a campaign against the continuing occupation of the West Bank.

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel has gained rapid international support since Israeli troops stormed a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships in May, killing nine activists. Israeli attention has focused on the small number of activists, particularly in the country’s universities, who have openly supported an academic boycott of Israeli institutions.

A protest petition has been signed by 500 academics, including two former education ministers, following recent comments by Israel’s education minister, Gideon Saar, that the government intends to take action against the boycott’s supporters. A proposed bill introduced into the Israeli parliament – the Knesset – would outlaw boycotts and penalise their supporters. Individuals who initiated, encouraged or provided support or information for any boycott or divestment action would be made to pay damages to the companies affected. Foreign nationals involved in boycott activity would be banned from entering Israel for 10 years, and any “foreign state entity” engaged in such activity would be liable to pay damages.

Saar last week described the petition as hysterical and an attempt to silence contrary opinions. While the vast majority of the signatories do not support an academic boycott of Israel, they have joined forces over what they regard as the latest assault on freedom of expression in Israel. The petition states: “We have different and varied opinions about solving the difficult problems facing Israel, but there is one thing we are agreed on – freedom of expression and academic freedom are the very lifeblood of the academic system.”

Daniel Gutwein, a history professor at Haifa University who is one of the signatories, described the minister’s intervention as an attempt “to make Israeli academia docile, frightened and silent”.

Although the BDS campaign – in various forms – has been running for over half a decade, it has become an increasingly fraught issue inside Israel in the past year since a small number of academics publicly declared support for a boycott, including Neve Gordon, author of Israel’s Occupation and a former paratrooper who was badly injured while serving with the Israeli Defence Force.

Speaking to the Observer last week, Gordon said that many Israelis saw support for the BDS as “crossing a red line”. Adding that he had received recent death threats, he said: “I am worried about what is happening to the space for debate in Israel. I find that there is a proto-fascist mindset developing. One of the slogans you hear a lot now is no citizenship without loyalty. It is an inversion of the republican idea that the state should be loyal to the citizen.”

Israeli campaigners believe the Gaza flotilla incident represents a tipping point in raising support for boycotts. Musicians including Elvis Costello, Gil Scott Heron and the Pixies have cancelled shows in Israel. Hollywood actors also snubbed Jerusalem’s international film festival and internationally acclaimed writers have supported the BDS movement, which is gaining support in dozens of countries.

“It’s a different world to what it was even a month ago,” says Kobi Snitz, member of an Israeli BDS group. “Suddenly, all sorts of people are supporting it – people that you wouldn’t expect.”

What is most interesting, however, has been the impact in Israel itself. Israeli journalist and blogger Noam Sheizaf wrote recently that such actions are now forcing Israelis “to think about the political issues and about their consequences… For a country in a constant state of denial regarding the occupation, this is no small thing.” Sheizaf does not promote the boycott, but says: “I will gladly return concert tickets if that is the price for making Israelis understand that the occupation cannot go on.”

Adi Oz, culture editor on the Tel Aviv weekly Ha’ir, appeared on Israeli national radio explaining her support for recent boycott activity. “When the Pixies cancelled their concert here I was disappointed,” she says. “But I was not critical of the Pixies, I was critical of our government, because they are responsible for Israel’s isolation.” She adds that, post-flotilla, the cultural boycott is “something that everyone has a stand on – and some people are realising that they are in favour of it, without having thought about it before.” There has also been a spate of boycott-related discussion in the financial press. The daily business newspaper Calcalist ran an uncritical profile of the Israeli campaigners behind Who Profits, an online database of Israeli and international companies involved in the occupation of the West Bank.

The project’s co-ordinator, Dalit Baum, of the Coalition of Women for Peace, says: “Every day there is an article about this issue in the Israeli media, which creates a discussion about the economy of the occupation and raises the fact that there’s a problem.”

Lebanon UN force urges co-operation with peacekeepers: BBC

The head of the UN peacekeeping force in southern Lebanon has appealed for calm, following recent incidents in which villagers attacked soldiers.
Locals were angered by what they saw as plans by the UN force to undermine the Hezbollah militant group in the event of a renewed conflict with Israel.

The area is a Hezbollah stronghold.
In an open letter to residents, Maj Gen Alberto Asarta Cuevas said the best way to deal with any concerns was through dialogue, not by beating peacekeepers.

In the latest of the clashes, villagers on Saturday disarmed a French patrol of UN peacekeepers in the village of Tuline and attacked them with sticks, rocks and eggs before the army intervened.
Residents have complained that Unifil has stepped up its patrols in southern Lebanon, which has been under the de facto control of Hezbollah since the withdrawal of Israeli forces in 2000.

Open letter
“As you all know, some recent incidents have cast a shadow on the positive environment in which Unifil peacekeepers have been working, in close co-ordination with the Lebanese army, for your safety and security,” Maj Gen Cuevas said in a rare open letter released on Thursday.

The UN commander said Unifil respected the privacy and property of the villagers in the south, and that problems should be resolved by discussion “not by obstructing the work of the peacekeepers or by beating them”.

Tensions in southern Lebanon have increased after recent Israeli claims that weapons were flowing in to Hezbollah fighters.
On Wednesday, the Israeli military published an aerial photograph purporting to show Hezbollah weapons caches in the southern Lebanese village of al-Khiam.
Following the recent clashes, Hezbollah – which fought a devastating 2006 war with Israel – urged the peacekeepers to stick to their mandate.
“Unifil should always carry out its role… in a way so as not to arouse mistrust and worry of citizens as was the case during the latest exercises,” Hezbollah’s number two, Naim Qassem, said in a newspaper interview.
The UN Security Council is due to meet later on Friday, at France’s request, to discuss the confrontations and reaffirm the peacekeeping force’s right to free movement.

The UN force was originally formed in 1978 after Israeli troops entered southern Lebanon and began a 22-year occupation.
Security Council Resolution 1701, that ended the 2006 war, expanded the mandate of Unifil and paved the way for the Lebanese army to deploy in the sensitive border area.

Racism in the name of halakha: Haaretz Editorial

Rabbis are exploiting fears and inflaming emotions under pretense of enforcing Jewish religious law.
The letter circulated by three rabbis in south Tel Aviv in which they direct residents not to rent their apartments to migrants and refugees trying to settle in the city makes a pretense of concern for the welfare of the residents and compassion for asylum seekers. But it hardly manages to conceal the blatant racism lurking between the lines.

The rabbis warn residents not to give access to their homes to “illegal workers,” but it is clear that maintaining the rule of law is not their concern, inasmuch as they are not demanding similar treatment for Israeli citizens. As for the argument that the presence of the foreigners is causing a rise in crime and intermarriage, the rabbis are even taking the law into their own hands and bypassing city hall and the police.

The weaker population groups living in south Tel Aviv find themselves pressed to take in refugees, migrant workers and collaborators. This situation creates troubling friction that aggravates the residents’ sense of unfair treatment and alienation. It’s hard to ask the inhabitants of these deprived neighborhoods to take in the outcasts of the world with open arms without feeling threatened. In this complex reality, the role of religious and secular leaders is to try to bridge the gaps and find creative ways of living together.

The rabbis who signed the letter are not civil servants. However, the public is greatly influenced by their opinions. The Tel Aviv municipality has expended more than a little effort in taking care of migrant workers and could have used the rabbis’ help in making contact with the migrants and their leaders and attempting to integrate the newcomers into the neighborhood in the ways that have been done in many other countries. The rabbis, however, prefer to exploit residents’ fears and inflame emotions in the name of halakha, Jewish religious law.

Over the weekend, a courageous leader, Rabbi Yehuda Amital, who founded the Meimad political movement, passed away. His party carried the banner of tolerance, humanism and the search for peace in the name of religious faith, and though the members of his movement were always a minority, they provided an important alternative to ultra-Orthodox-nationalist radicalization.

In recent years, Rabbi Amital’s students and followers have fallen silent, and the status of rabbis such as those who wrote the letter about the migrants has grown stronger. It can be hoped that the municipality will understand the damage they are doing and will publicly disassociate the city from their questionable activities and instead provide the option of an alternative, one of coexistence for all of the city’s residents – both temporary and permanent – a coexistence free of fear and racism.

A peace crime: Haaretz

What more can Assad say that he hasn’t already? How long must he knock in vain on Israel’s locked door?
By Gideon Levy
It couldn’t have been spelled out more explicitly, clearly and emphatically. Read and judge for yourselves: “Our position is clear: When Israel returns the entire Golan Heights, of course we will sign a peace agreement with it …. What’s the point of peace if the embassy is surrounded by security, if there is no trade and tourism between the two countries? That’s not peace. That’s a permanent cease-fire agreement. This is what I say to whoever comes to us to talk about the Syrian track: We are interested in a comprehensive peace, i.e., normal relations.”

Who said this to whom? Syrian President Bashar Assad to the Lebanese newspaper As-Safir last week. These astounding things were said to Arab, not Western ears, and they went virtually unnoticed here. Can you believe it?

What more can Assad say that he hasn’t already? How many more times does he have to declare his peaceful intentions before someone wakes up here? How long must he knock in vain on Israel’s locked door? And if that were not enough, he also called on Turkey to work to calm the crisis with Israel so it can mediate between Israel and Syria.

Assad’s words should have been headline news last week and in the coming weeks. Anwar Sadat said less before he came to Israel. In those days we were excited by his words, today we brazenly disregard such statements. This leads to only one conclusion: Israel does not want peace with Syria. Period. It prefers the Golan over peace with one of its biggest and most dangerous enemies. It prefers real estate, bed and breakfasts, mineral water, trendy wine and a few thousand settlers over a strategic change in its status.

Just imagine what would happen if we emerged from the ruins of our international status to sign a peace agreement with Syria – how the international climate regarding us would suddenly change, how the “axis of evil” would crack and Iran’s strongholds weaken, how Hezbollah would get a black eye, more than in all the Lebanon wars. And maybe even Gilad Shalit, held by the Damascus-based Hamas, would be freed. Sound too good to be true? Maybe, but Israel is not even trying. A prime minister who ignores this chance is no less than a peace criminal.

Instead of the Shalit march that has just ended, a different march should have set out this week, one more massive and determined, calling on the Israeli government, the peace refuser, to do something. Hoarse shouts should have gone up: Peace with Syria now. But this march will not go forward this week. Apparently it will never happen. Singer-songwriter Shlomo Artzi, Zubin Mehta and the respectable demonstrators who marched on behalf of one soldier will not do so to support a move that could save the lives of many soldiers and civilians. Why? Because that takes courage. Why? Because Assad was right when he told La Repubblica in Italy: “Israeli society has tilted too far to the right, and it is not capable of making peace with Syria.”

True, they say the Mossad chief thinks that Assad will never make peace because the whole justification for his regime is based on hostility toward Israel. Our experts are never wrong, but similar things were said about Sadat. True, Assad also said other things. Other? Not really. He said that if he does not succeed through peace, he will try to liberate the Golan through resistance. Illogical? Illegitimate? Not a reason to try to challenge him? What do we have to lose but the chance? Even the latest fig leaf a few prime ministers have used here – the assessment that the U.S. opposes peace with Syria – is absurd. Does anyone see U.S. President Barack Obama opposing a peace move with Syria? What a pity that he is not pressing Israel to move ahead with it.

And then there is the old refrain: “Assad doesn’t mean it.” When Arab leaders make threats, they mean it; when they talk peace, they don’t. And also: “We’ll return the Golan and end up with a piece of paper and missiles.” Remember how that was said about Egypt? But we persist: The prime minister is criminally missing a historic chance for peace, and we yawn apathetically. Sounds logical, right?

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July 6, 2010

EDITOR: The love story hots up again…

After all the entreaties, demands, threats and sweet-talk, and after the Gaza and Flotilla massacres, a freeze on settlements that never was, and the new huge Jerusalem settlements, you would have thought that Obama has by now found out the basic facts about Israeli occupation, and he might actually DO something, rather than talk about it. Instead, Netanyahu is invited for a grand visit to the White House, which must be the prize for the massacres, or else it is difficult to explain…

After all is said and done, Obabma seems to be even more supportive than those before him, Clinton and Bush the Father and the Son. While talking tough, he has been walking with a big carrot, as far as Israel is concerned. It is now even clearer than before, that we have nothing to expect for from the American administration, whoiever happens to live in the White House at the time.

The differences between Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama: The Guardian

Why the two politicians have not enjoyed the rapport of their predecessors
Binyamin Netanyahu at a press conference. Photograph: Jim Hollander/EPA
Binyamin Netanyahu and Barack Obama, who took office within a month of each other, have not enjoyed the warm rapport felt between many of their predecessors.

Obama’s early demand for a halt to settlement expansion in the West Bank was met with evasion and foot-dragging by Netanyahu, who clearly believed he had outflanked the new US president.

A temporary freeze was eventually wrung out of Israel. But things went further downhill when a big settlement housing project was announced during vice-president Joe Biden’s visit to Jerusalem in March.

The White House made its displeasure known during Netanyahu’s subsequent visit to Washington when the customary photo opportunity was humiliatingly denied to him.

The US was further angered by Israel’s deadly interception of the flotilla carrying aid to Gaza, followed by its refusal to accept demands for an international inquiry.

Ahead of today’s attempts to publicly paper over the cracks between the two sides, many Israeli commentators have been critical of Netanyahu for endangering the traditionally close and supportive relationship between the two countries.

Americans for Peace Now to Obama: Extend settlement freeze: Haaretz

Ahead of PM Netanyahu’s White House meeting with U.S. President Obama, Americans for Peace Now deliver petition to Obama with nearly 16,000 signatures calling for extension of settlement freeze.
Americans for Peace Now delivered a petition to U.S. President Barack Obama on Tuesday, calling on him to press Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to extend the freeze on Jewish settlement construction in the West Bank, set to expire in late September.

The petition, with 15,962 signatures, arrived ahead of a meeting between Obama and Netanyahu at the White House on Tuesday.
“These thousands of voices are expressing what we all know: Peace for Israel is more important than settlement expansion. American leadership toward a two-state solution is essential, and Israel’s future depends on reaching such a solution,” APN’s president and CEO Debra DeLee said.

Last November, Netanyahu declared a 10-month freeze in settlement construction. The upcoming expiration of the freeze is expected to be an issue discussed during Tuesday’s meeting between Obama and Netanyahu at the White House.

Israeli soldier charged with manslaughter during Gaza offensive: The Guardian

Unnamed staff sergeant indicted in connection with killing of two Palestinian women during 2008-09 Israeli Defence Force operation
Israeli infantry soldiers on the Gaza border: A soldier has been charged with manslaughter after the 2008-09 Israeli offensive. Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters
An Israeli soldier was today charged with manslaughter during the 2008-09 offensive in Gaza – a move that will bring the military’s conduct during the conflict, in which hundreds of Palestinian civilians were killed, into fresh focus.

The unnamed staff sergeant was indicted in connection with the killing of two Palestinian women who were part of a group witnesses said were carrying white flags.

According to reports and testimonies at the time, 35-year-old Majda Abu Hajaj and her mother, Rieyh, 64, were among 30 people, including children, trying to leave a house where they had taken shelter on 4 January 2009. The group was fired on and the two women were killed.

An Israeli military statement issued today said the charge was based on evidence that the soldier, a marksman, “deliberately targeted an individual walking with a group of people waving a white flag without being ordered or authorised to do so”.

In a second case, a battalion commander was disciplined in connection with a claim that a Palestinian man, Majdi Abed-Rabo, had been used as a “human shield”.

An Israeli Defence Force (IDF) investigation found the commander had “authorised the sending of a Palestinian man into a house … sheltering terrorists in order to convince them to exit the house”.

This, according to the IDF statement, was a deviation from “authorised and appropriate IDF behaviour”.

According to a graphic account of the incident given to reporters at the time, Abed-Rabo said he was forced, at gunpoint, to go ahead of Israeli soldiers into buildings suspected of housing Palestinian militants. The use of human shields is prohibited under the fourth Geneva convention.

Disciplinary action has also been taken against a third soldier, a captain, for failing to exercise appropriate judgment in ordering an air strike close to a mosque. The IDF said the strike was targeted at a militant launching rockets at Israel.

According to witnesses, around 200 people were praying in the Ibrahim al-Maqadna mosque at the time and at least 13 people, including six children, were killed.

The IDF today said an investigation had concluded that the attack “did not violate the international laws of warfare because the attack did not target the mosque, rather it targeted a terror operative”. It said “no possibility of harming civilians was identified”.

A criminal investigation has been ordered in a fourth case, an airstrike on a residence in Zaitoun, where around 100 members of one family, the al-Samounis, were staying.

There were two earlier indictments arising out of the three-week military operation in Gaza – one for theft and the other for overstepping authority in a case in which soldiers ordered a Palestinian child to open a suspicious bag.

Turkey’s president says Israel acting ‘irrationally’: Haaretz

Turkish President Abdullah Gul says that divisions within Israel’s governing coalition were stopping Israel from repairing relations with Turkey in the wake of the Gaza flotilla affair.
Turkey’s President Abdullah Gul said on Tuesday that divisions within Israel’s governing coalition were stopping Israel from repairing relations ruined by the storming of a Gaza-bound aid ship over a month ago.

Gul said Israel’s apparent readiness to become more isolated by ditching relations with a country that had been its only Muslim ally was irrational.
“They don’t have many friends in the region, ” Gul said. “Now it seems they want to get rid of the relationship with Turkey.”

The United States, a mutual ally of Israel and NATO-member Turkey, has quietly encouraged the two governments to overcome their differences.
But in comments as Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu prepared to meet President Barack Obama in the United States on Tuesday, Gul said that he believed bitter rivalries within the Israeli coalition were stopping a rapprochement.

“As far as I can see, the internal political strife in Israel is very harsh. They undermine each other… they always block one another,” Gul said.
“It is important that everyone is aware of what kind of politics is going on there,” Gul said. “My own impression is that they don’t have the ability to act rationally.”

Nine Turkish pro-Palestinian activists were killed when Israeli marines stormed the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara in international waters on May 31, after which Turkey withdrew its ambassador, suspended joint military exercises and closed Turkish airspace to Israeli military planes.
Turkey has demanded an apology, compensation for victims’ families and an international inquiry into the incident. It doubts the impartiality of an Israeli inquiry begun last month.

Turkey also led calls for an end to the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu warned on Monday that Turkey would not wait forever and without going into specifics he said Turkey would cut off ties if Israel failed to start making amends.

Should the Israeli commission rule that the raid was indeed unfair and the Israeli government apologized in line with those findings, Turkey could be satisfied, Davutoglu added.

On Tuesday, the Turkish foreign minister renewed his demand for an Israeli apology and criticized his Israeli counterpart Avigdor Lieberman’s approach to the issue.

“What Lieberman says has no value for us,” Davutoglu said in an interview with Turkish television network TGRT.

Davutoglu said he did not view his Israeli counterpart as a proper go-between “owing to his rhetoric and attitude.”

Israel maintains the marines fired in self defense after a boarding party was attacked by activists armed with metal clubs and knives.

Israel has partially relaxed its blockade of Gaza following the international outcry over the incident, but argues that a blockade is needed to choke off the supply of arms to Hamas Islamists running the enclave of 1.5 million people.

Gul said a meeting between ministers of the two governments in Brussels last Wednesday was requested by the Israeli side and was supposed to have been secret; but news of the talks was leaked by other factions in Netanyahu’s cabinet who wanted to stop any progress.

“There were those who were not happy with this, and the situation remains frozen.”

The meeting between Davutoglu and Israeli Trade and Industry Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer had been the first face to face contacts between senior officials since the attack on the aid flotilla on May 31.

Lieberman said he had not been informed of the meeting as a row broke out within the Israeli cabinet.

Netanyahu subsequently said that while his government regretted the loss of life and wanted to stop relations deteriorating further there would be no apology as the Israeli soldiers had acted in self-defense. Lieberman also ruled out an apology.

Although Turkey is heading towards an election a year away, and politics are highly charged, there has been cross-party support for the government’s stance towards Israel.

Threat to Palestinian parliamentarians: The Guardian Letters

Mohammed Abu Tir, Ahmed Othwan and Mohammed Tutah, in addition to the former minister for Jerusalem affairs, Khalid Abu Arafa, have been issued with notices by the Israeli authorities of eviction to leave their homes in occupied east Jerusalem. On 30 June, the Israelis detained Abu Tir in preparation for his expulsion, whilst Othwan, Tutah and Abu Arafa have sought refuge in the office of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Jerusalem. Israel, the occupying power, claims these members of the Palestinian legislature are being served with notices as their participation in the Palestinian legislature proves non-allegiance to Israel. The parliamentarians have been informed that they may only remain if they resign from the Palestinian legislature.

It is without doubt that as elected representatives of the Palestinian Legislative Council they should not be removed from the areas which they have been elected to represent. We call for the British government to support the right of these parliamentarians to live in their home and to uphold the principles of the fourth Geneva convention which prohibits the expulsion of a protected people by an occupying power “regardless of their motive”. Any breach of this convention constitutes a war crime and as such Israel’s political and military leadership should be held accountable.

Caroline Lucas MP (Green)

John McHugo Chair, Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine

Betty Hunter General secretary, Palestine Solidarity Campaign

Ismail Patel Chair, Friends of Al-Aqsa

Richard Burden MP and Martin Linton Labour Friends of Palestine

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May 30, 2010

Nuclear Israel, by Carlos Latuff

Breaking news! Breaking news!

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

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

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

Live feed from Turkish boat Insani Yardim Vakfi

Flotilla homepage with a map

About the Freedom Flotilla, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Chair

Before leaving port

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As American as Apple Pie: Free Gaza blog

WRITTEN BY GRETA BERLIN,  30 MAY 2010

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

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

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

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

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

Contact: Audrey Bomse, 00 357 96 48 98 05

Greta Berlin, 00 357 99 18 72 75

Gaza flotilla drives Israel into a sea of stupidity: Haaretz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Homepage with a map

Live feed from Turkish boat Insani Yardim Vakfi

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

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May 29, 2010 Page 2

As the Gaza Freedom flotilla nears its goal, three boats have been lost already. The organisers suspect sabotage by Israeli agents is to blame, no further details are currently available. The main news channels are collaborating with Israel, and denying viewers any news on Israel’s illegal actions to stop the flotilla. Large detention camps have been prepared to detain the activists on the ships.

Follow the latest news on:

http://www.freegaza.org/en/

Tensions rise over Gaza aid fleet: Al Jazeera online

The Israeli army has prepared a detention centre in Ashdod for activists taking aid to Gaza [AFP]
The UN chief has called for restraint as some 700 activists from around world vow to deliver 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid to break the blockade of Gaza.

”]Israel has cautioned that the Freedom Flotilla would be stopped, if necessary by force.

The nine-ship flotilla is by far the largest fleet of aid to try to reach the coastal Palestinian territory since Israel imposed its siege on it in 2007.

“We strongly urge that all involved act with a sense of care and responsibility and work for a satisfactory resolution,” a spokesman for Ban Ki-moon said on Thursday.

He restated UN opposition to the siege of Gaza and the lack of material to meet “basic needs, begin reconstruction, and revive economic life”.

After the Israeli army announced a detention centre at Ashdod port for holding the activists, Greta Berlin, one of the flotilla organisers, said: “We have the right to sail from international waters into the waters of Gaza.

“The only illegal presence in the area is Israel.”

Berlin said the Freedom Flotilla was on schedule to arrive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday with more than 10,000 tonnes of supplies, including water-filtration units and pre-fabricated homes.

EU call

Israel and Egypt have sealed Gaza off to all but very limited humanitarian aid since Hamas, the Palestinian political faction, took control of the territory in June 2007.
Israel says the Gaza blockade aims to prevent Hamas from acquiring weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.

For the majority of Gaza’s population of 1.5 million people, the result has been impoverished living conditions.

Catherine Ashton, the EU foreign policy chief, issued a statement on Friday, calling for an immediate end to Israel’s blockade on Gaza.

“We would like to reiterate the EU’s call for an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza,” she said.

“The continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive.

“The EU remains gravely concerned by the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

‘Absolute provocation’

Israel’s foreign ministry said it had given warnings to the ambassadors of Cyprus, Greece, Ireland, Sweden and Turkey – from where the ships set sail – that it had “issued warrants that prohibit the entrance of the vessels to Gaza”.

The flotilla “is about to break international law”, Yossi Gal, the ministry’s director general, said.

Gal said that the flotilla was “an absolute provocation” and a “cheap political stunt”, as there was no shortage of humanitarian aid in Gaza.

Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros attended an Israeli army news conference on Wednesday, where journalists were told that there was no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

She said that the information to back up this claim was both incomplete and out of context: “This tells me what Gaza is getting in terms of supplies but does not compare this to how much Gaza needs to survive.”

Israel has vowed to divert the ships to the southern Israeli port of Ashdod.

It has said that Israelis on board would be arrested, Palestinians would be questioned by the Israeli secret service, and foreign nationals deported.

Part of the port has been cordoned off and prepared to deal with the activists, and large tents set up for immigration booths and areas for people to be searched.

Gal suggested the organisers should voluntarily head to Ashdod to unload the supplies so Israel or humanitarian agencies can deliver them to Gaza overland, but the flotilla organisers rejected the offer.

Hanin Zuabi, a member of the Israeli parliament who is on board the flotilla, told Al Jazeera that the activists intend to reach Gaza regardless of plans to stop them.

“If the Israelis try to stop us, this will be a huge diplomatic and political crises for them,” Zuabi said.

“We have 50 states participating in this and are sending a very clear message to Israel – the international community is not accepting the siege on Gaza.”

Peace laureates aboard

Al Jazeera’s Jamal Elshayyal, on board the flotilla, said the activists travelling in the convoy included European parliamentarians, former US diplomats and Nobel peace laureates.

Berlin, the flotilla organiser, said: “This mission is not about delivering humanitarian supplies, it’s about breaking Israel’s siege on 1.5 million Palestinians.”

Fintan Lane, an Irish activist, said that they were determined to break Israel’s blockade and will not be intimidated.

“The people of Gaza have a right to access to the outside world and the right to determine their own future,” Lane said.

Huwaida Arraf, one of the organisers from the Free Gaza Movement, said: “Israel should not be under any illusion whatsoever that their threats or intimidation will stop us or even that their violence against us will stop us.”

PR disaster

Some Israeli officials see the situation as potentially disastrous in terms of public relations.

“We can’t win on this one in terms of PR,” Yigal Palmor, a foreign ministry spokesman, said.

“If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes.”

Hamas officials say that Israel’s threats to intercept the flotilla amount to “Zionist piracy”.

“The occupation’s threat to prevent the Freedom Flotilla from arriving in the besieged Gaza Strip is Zionist piracy and a violation of international law,” Ismail Radwan, a senior Hamas leader, said.

“The occupation is concerned about these ships… because they grant legitimacy to engagement with the Palestinian government and confirm that the attempts to isolate Hamas have failed.”

Gaza Freedom Flotilla: by email

Saturday, May 29, 2010

After tremendous pressure from the Greek Cypriots, reneging on their agreement with us http://www.cyprus-mail.com/cyprus/cyprus-stops-mps-joining-gaza-flotilla/20100529, we were forced to take our MPs and activists to Famagusta yesterday, on the Turkish/Cypriot side of Cyprus. We spent all day going from one port to the next, surrounded by helicopters and police. Clearly our deal with Cyprus officials had fallen through, and we ended up being pawns in a political soap opera. The Cypriot members of Parliament, the ones who had worked so hard to get us permission to leave, were outraged. The Greek Parliament members finally told us to go to the North. If they could, they would. The Cypriot government said they made their decision because, “The Republic of Cyprus is fighting for its survival” but it didn’t bow to pressure from Israel. As they said this, they bowed their heads.

We made a deal with the Cypriot government that we would board our high-profile passengers and members of Parliament from Cyprus. We would board with no media coverage. We would not bring our boats into Cyprus. We would take small boats out to our own ships and board past the 12-mile territorial limit.

Authorities mandated that we couldn’t even do that, essentially telling us that, even if we board small boats anywhere in Greek Cyprus from any port, we could not travel outside their territorial limits to go to Gaza. Twenty-seven people were supposed to board, including 9 Cypriots and two Greeks. None of them could come with us as we went North.

Then our two passenger boats mysteriously had mechanical problems at the same time, 3:30 pm. Challenger 2 was able to get 14 delivered to the IHH ship, then limped into the harbor in Limassol after being harassed by Cypriot helicopters

essentially forbidding us to bring our wounded boat into port.

Our other boat, Challenger 1 headed toward Famagusta with 16 passengers. It, too, was wounded, something wrong with the steering.

By the time we were jerked around yesterday. We had started at 7:00 am.  By 10:00 pm, we had nowhere to board, and our boats were out of commission.

But we all have Gaza fever, and no one was giving up.

It has taken us all day to find someone on the Turkish side to ferry some of our passengers out to the flotilla who have been patiently waiting five hours away from Cyprus. At 6:00 pm, 20 of our passengers left for the flotilla, and the Swedish MP and the three German MPs are on board. Hedy is not, and we are heartsick that, once again, she will not be able to go to Gaza.

The flotilla leaves for Gaza early in the morning and should arrive tomorrow afternoon. We have persevered… Al Samoud.

Greta Berlin, Co-Founder
+357 99 18 72 75
witnessgaza.com <http://witnessgaza.com/>
www.freegaza.org <http://www.freegaza.org/>

http://www.flickr.com/photos/freegaza

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