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Monthly Archives: May 2010

Israeli Commandos Kill Gaza Aid Volunteers

photo

On Monday, women in Gaza wave the Hamas flag as they demonstrate against the Israeli massacre of international activists who were on their way to Gaza to deliver humanitarian aid. (Photo: Max Ajl / Truthout)

The Port of Gaza was so beautiful yesterday morning. The quay, constructed from concrete columns broken up in segments, laid in piles in a huge "L" leading out into the Mediterranean, was abuzz. So was the shore. Large fishing boats boarded passengers and moved out to sea. Big, colorful bunches of balloons went up in the air. Palestinian flags were everywhere, mingling with the red crescent of the Turkish group Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), a major international humanitarian NGO. Boats floated out into the sparkling blue water.

A demonstration was held to welcome the Freedom Flotilla, a fleet of boats carrying international activists and humanitarian aid for Gaza, intending to defy Israel's embargo on certain types of aid. About 700 activists rode on the flotilla, including a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, an elderly Holocaust survivor and 17 European legislators. Yesterday morning, the flotilla congregated close to Cypriot territorial waters, preparing to begin its voyage to the Gaza Strip.

The mood was celebratory at the Port of Gaza. Hamas security forces looked on as members of other political parties shouted out their slogans, everyone hoping for the siege to end.

What a horrible difference a day makes.

Today, news reports and clips and dispatches arrived that I had never in my life expected to see. Israeli commandoes had rappelled onto the deck of the Mavi Manara, the big red-and-white Turkish aid ship sailing to Gaza. Counts of dead and injured rose throughout the morning, in horrible dribbles of information. Initial reports pegged the casualty count at two or three dead, 30 injured. As I write, Israeli television, citing the Israeli military, reports up to 19 killed and 26 injured. No one knows. No one can verify. No information is allowed out of the ships

The footage from the live feed on the Mavi Manara is the only audio-visual material currently available. It’s tragic: Men in orange life vests quietly suffering. Orange canvas stretchers marked with blazes of blood. "They’re all taken," reads correspondence from the Free Gaza Movement (FGM). All six of the boats taken by the Israeli navy are on their way to Ashdod and the Israeli processing camp set up there; its white tents loom like a quiet obscenity. Fragments of news percolate through the electronic blockade Israel has erected around the ships, and through the military censor that Israel uses to attempt to contain information.

Here's what seems to have happened: At around 10:50 p.m. last night, when the flotilla was 75 nautical miles offshore, several Israeli warships started to draw close to the ships of the Freedom Flotilla, asking them to identify themselves, and asking them where they were headed. The Navy said that they were not welcome in Israeli waters, and told the captains that by proceeding, they would put themselves, their passengers and their ships at risk. FGM chairwoman Huwaida Arraf rejected the call flatly. At around midnight, lights came into direct visual contact. Two warships were on either side of the flotilla, about a kilometer or more distant.

A little earlier that day, military sources confirmed that Israel was planning to use silent boats to creep close to the ships, and to board each one individually, using divers as well. The ships of the flotilla were advised to keep a close formation, keeping the smaller ships between the larger ones. They also took a course that would bring them even farther from the Israeli coastline, even though they were already far from international waters when Israeli gunboats started approaching.

At around 5 a.m. this morning, the live feed on the IHH ship showed helicopters floating above the desk of the Mavi Manara, and paratroopers rappelling onto the decks. Israeli army spokeswoman Lt. Col. Avital Leibowitz claimed that the navy confiscated light weapons and handguns from the flotilla. "We basically encountered a lynch," she said. "We had to control this violence." All evidence suggests that Leibowitz is lying. The boats and passengers were rigorously checked for guns by international monitors before leaving the port. According to FGM, the commandoes opened fire from their machine guns practically as soon as they hit the deck.

"Under darkness of night, Israeli commandoes dropped from a helicopter onto the Turkish passenger ship, Mavi Marmara, and began to shoot the moment their feet hit the deck," the FGM report says. Some of those they shot were asleep.

"We will assume that the government is lying," Gaza Freedom March coordinator Ziyaad Lunat told me. "The Israeli army claimed it didn't use white phosphorus during Cast Lead, Amnesty International proved otherwise. We should start accepting their claims when they start resembling reality."

Greta Berlin, one of the coordinators of the Free Gaza Movement, said that any violence that occurred on the activists' end was in "self-defense."

Before the massacre, the Israeli army insisted that its troops were highly trained – that they would not respond to provocations, including spits, cursing and tossed cigarettes; that they were elite commandoes. Footage has confirmed that Israel didn’t respond to provocations. It looks like it shot first.

"Very few times in history has a flotilla delivering humanitarian goods been welcomed by military war ships," Lubna Masarwa of the FGM commented.

Al Jazeera confirms that the ships were in international water when the Israeli navy attacked them, using one-third of their fleet and hundreds of soldiers. What that means is that Israel attacked vessels flying under the flag of foreign nations in international waters. Piracy is defined as the use of violence on the high sea, in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states that "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."

Before the attack, Israeli spokespeople and statesmen had sedulously tried to paint the flotilla in the colors reserved for scoundrels and terrorists. "Israel … invited the flotilla organizers to use the land crossings … however, they're less interested in bringing in aid than promoting their radical agenda and playing into the hands of Hamas provocations…. [The organizers have] wrapped themselves in a humanitarian cloak, but engage in political propaganda," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor. Avigdor Lieberman, the Israeli foreign minister, said that "the flotilla is an attempt at violent propaganda against Israel, and Israel will not allow a violation of its sovereignty at sea, in the air or on land." The flotilla carried hundreds of wheelchairs for crippled Gazans and a dental clinic for Al-Shifa Hospital.

The pattern of mind is one that views resistance as terror, self-defense as murder and pacifism as violence. Such a mindset cannot admit to the possibility of a legitimate or just challenge. So nonviolent sailing ships transmute to violent propagandists, "an Armada of hate and violence," as Ayalon described the Freedom Flotilla. International Solidarity Movement activists become human shields for bomb-planters, and the Palestinian resistance gets locked up in prison – there are about 7,000 Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails; they make up 50 percent of the prison population. There are hundreds more in administrative detention. Israeli Arab lawmakers who contest Israeli apartheid are bludgeoned with politically motivated indictments and forced into exile, as Azmi Bishara was. Palestinian lawmakers and civil society leaders are locked in penitentiaries and tortured there, as Ameer Makhloul, the chairman of the Popular Committee for the Defense of Political Freedoms and the director of Ittijah, an umbrella group of hundreds of civil society organizations, has reportedly been. The tacit presumption is that Palestinian resistance is inherently illegitimate. The corollary is that Palestinians and their supporters have no right to resist Israeli actions. So when they defend themselves from corsairs intent on commandeering their ships, "They are directly responsible for the violence and the deaths that [occur]," as Israeli army spokesman Mark Regev comments. They should just take it.

The world sees things a bit differently, as even Benjamin Ben-Eliezer, the trade minister, has acknowledged, commenting, "It's going to be a big scandal, no doubt about it." The Arab Monitoring Committee in what Palestinians call '48 – Israel within the pre-1967 borders – has called for a general strike, to start tomorrow.

European ministers of state are livid, and have summoned Israeli ambassadors to find out the status of their nationals aboard the Freedom Flotilla. "What has happened is completely unacceptable and if it has happened on international waters it would make it even more serious and there must be a strong European reaction," said Swedish Foreign Ministry Cabinet Secretary Frank Belfrage.

Turkish people have converged on the Israeli embassy in Istanbul, furious. There are demonstrations going on in Lebanon and Jordan, the latter of which is 50 percent Palestinian. Here in Gaza, the reaction has been strong. Many didn’t expect the boats to get in but were happy that the world’s people were paying attention to their suffering, and doing their best to do something about it. The people I have talked to in Gaza have expressed a spectrum of emotions: dumbfounded, devastated and furious.

Palestinian hospitality traditionally extends toward almost any guest. Solidarity activists are particularly cherished guests – or they would have been. Over the last four or five hours men and women who survived the Cast Lead massacre have universally called the attack "unbelievable," not believing that Israel would do something so "stupid." I have seen grown men in tears over what happened to these boats. Civil society here, often factious, is united on the outrageousness of what has happened to the mutadamineen, those in solidarity. In a territory in which Rachel Corrie is commemorated as a martyr, as a hero, where she is a household name, a massacre in which perhaps 10 or 20 Rachel Corries have been slain is a major event, a tragedy. The flotilla represented hope, a physical token of respect for Gaza and the humanity of its people. Gazans will not take an Israeli assault on that hope lightly. Tonight, Gaza will not sleep

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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Norman Finkelstein on Gaza Flotilla Attack : ‘Israel is a Lunatic State’

RussiaToday  May 31, 2010 — Political scientist Norman Finkelstein has spoken to RT to give his assessment of Israel's raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

'Israel is a Lunatic State' – Finkelstein on Gaza Flotilla Attack

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

On-Board Video of Gaza Freedom Flotilla Storm, Aid Workers & Israeli Troops Clash

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Deadly Israeli Raid on Aid Fleet – Al Jazeera May 31, 2010 19:01 GMT

Israeli commandos have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships off the coast of the Gaza Strip, killing up to 19 people on board.

Dozens of others were injured when troops raided the convoy of six ships, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, early on Monday.

Israel said activists on board attacked its commandos as they boarded the ships, while the flotilla's organisers said the Israeli forces opened fire first, as soon as they stormed the convoy.

Binyamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, gave his "full backing" to the military forces after the raid.

"The prime minister… reiterated his full backing for the IDF [Israeli Defence Forces] and inquired about the well-being of the wounded," his office told the AFP news agency.

He also said Israel regretted the loss of life in the raid.

Israeli media reported that many of the dead were Turkish nationals.

Organisers of the Freedom Flotilla say it was carrying 700 activists and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid with the aim of breaking the Israeli siege of Gaza.

Protests worldwide

Hamas, the Palestinian group which governs the Gaza Strip, said the assault was a "massacre" and called on the international community to intervene.

Hamas, whose leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, called the Israeli action "barbaric", urged Arabs and Muslims to show their anger by staging protests outside Israeli embassies across the globe.

LIVE BLOGGING

  Updates of Israel's attack on Gaza flotilla

The call came even as demonstrationsdenouncing the Israeli raid were being held in many cities around the world, including the capitals of Syria, Jordan and Lebanon.

Thousands of Turkish protesters tried to storm the Israeli consulate in Istanbul soon after the news of the operation broke.

Mahmoud Abbas, the Palestinian president, officially declared a three-day state of mourning.

The United Nations Security Council was to meet on Monday afternoon for an emergency session to discuss the matter.

Live ammunition

Al Jazeera's Jamal Elshayyal, on board the flotilla's lead ship, the Mavi Marmara, said in his last report before communications were cut off, that Israeli troops used live ammunition during the assault.

IN DEPTH

 

  Blog: Israel defending the indefensible
  Twitter: Sherine Tadros
  Outrage over Israeli attack
  Previous activists killed by Israel
  Focus: On board the Freedom Flotilla
  Focus: Gaza's real humanitarian crisis
  Focus: 'The future of Palestine'
  Programmes: Born in Gaza
  Video: Israel's Gaza PR offensive
  Video: Gazan's rare family reunion abroad
  Video: Making the most of Gaza's woes

The Israeli military, 10 of whose soldiers were reportedly wounded in the operation, said troops opened fire after "demonstrators on board attacked the IDF naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs".

Our correspondent said that a white surrender flag was raised from the ship and there was no live fire coming from the passengers.

Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from the Israeli port of Ashdod, where the aid ships were taken after the assault, said the Israeli army was not giving any details of who had been killed, injured or detained.

"As soon as [the ships] land here, the goods are taken, put into a terminal, and the passengers undergo extensive security checks," she said.

"[They are] given the choice either to go home straight away, in which case they're being bussed to Tel Aviv airport, or if they resist deportation, they are taken to a nearby detention centre where we understand they will be for at least 72 hours."

More than 80 activists had been detained by mid-evening, Sabine Hadad, the spokeswoman for Israel's immigration police, told AFP.

"So far, 83 have been detained, of whom 25 have agreed to be deported. The rest are going to jail," she said, adding that authorities were expecting "hundreds more" arrests through the night.

Defending Monday's military raid, Mark Regev, the Israeli government spokesperson, said the Israeli commandos came under fire from people on board the flotilla whom he branded as "violent extremists".

"Israel was totally within its rights under international law to intercept the ship and to take it to the port of Ashdod," he told Al Jazeera.

"Unfortunately they were met by the activists on the boats with deadly violence, knives, metal clubs, even live fire on our service people. They initiated the violence."

He said the people on board the flotilla were not peaceful activists.

"They are part of the IHH, which is a radical Turkish Islamist organisation which has been investigated by Western governments and by the Turkish government itself in the past for their links with terrorist organisations."

Turkish denial

But Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister, said the flotilla was carefully inspected before departure that there was no one on board "other than civilian volunteers.

"I want to say to the world, to the heads of state and the governments, that these boats that left from Turkey and other countries were checked in a strict way under the framework of the rules of international navigation and were only loaded with humanitarian aid," he said.

Murat Mercan, the head of Turkey's foreign relations committee, said claiming that activists on board had links to terrorist organisations was Israel's way of covering up its mistake.

"Any allegation that the members of this ship is attached to al-Qaeda is a big lie"

Murat Mercan, head of Turkey's foreign relations committee

"Any allegation that the members of this ship is attached to al-Qaeda is a big lie because there are Israeli civilians, Israeli authorities, Israeli parliamentarians on board the ship," he told Al Jazeera.

"Does he [Regev] think that those are also attached to al-Qaeda?"

The flotilla was attacked in international waters, 65km off the Palestinian coastal enclave.

Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: "This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves."

Footage from the Mavi Marmara showed armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.

Israeli accounts of the incident said its navy had contacted the Mavi Marmara's captain asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.

Shortly afterwards, two Israeli naval vessels flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance.

Organisers of the flotilla then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.

They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.

Troops on alert

Following the news of the flotilla deaths, Israeli police were put on a heightened state of alert across the country to prevent any civil disturbances.

Hundreds of pro-Palestinian activists, including a Nobel laureate and several European legislators, were on board the flotilla.

Dozens of activists were seriously injured 
in the raid[AFP]

They came from the UK, Ireland, Algeria, Kuwait, Greece and Turkey among other countries.

But Israel had said it would stop the flotilla before it could reach Gaza.

The flotilla had set sail from a port in Cyprus on Sunday and aimed to reach Gaza by Monday morning.

Israel said the boats were embarking on "an act of provocation" against the Israeli military rather than providing aid, and issued warrants to prohibit their entrance to Gaza.

It asserted that the flotilla would be breaking international law by landing in Gaza, a claim the organisers rejected.

The 10,000 tonnes of aid carried by the convoy included medicine, water purification devices and construction material.

Adnan Abu-Hasana, a spokesman for UNRWA, said the Gazans are in dire need of aid after Israel's war on the territory in December 2008-January 2009 destroyed buildings and infrastructure.

"We need hundreds of thousands of tonnes [of aid] to rebuild Gaza," he told Al Jazeera.

"We need more of building materials… We need spare parts for machines in the agricultural and industrial sectors, for the fishermen, all these sectors are nearly collapsed.

"Eighty per cent of the Gazans are dependent on humanitarian aid coming from UN organisations such as UNRWA."

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Paris Activists Demo in Support of Gaza Flotilla

otraverdad May 28, 2010Paris: Pro-Palestinian activists demo in support of Gaza flotilla

Palestinian sympathizers demonstrate on a boat denouncing the Gaza Strip embargo on May 28, 2010 on the Seine river in Paris. ships boats Cyprus Palestinian territory.

http://www.presstv.com/live/

Paris activists demo in support of Gaza flotilla

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

The Silent Prisoners

Filmed May 2007. Broadcast in the UK in July and August 2007.

Following the invasion of Afghanistan, and Pakistan's entrance into the 'war on terror', the CIA began a massive manhunt for individuals linked to Al Qaeda and the Taliban. As US warplanes bombed Kandahar, many Afghans fled across the border into Pakistan. President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan offered full support to America's intelligence services in tracking down the alleged terror suspects. His military officially handed over 369 men to the CIA, and received millions of dollars in bounties in return.

However, hundreds of Pakistanis have also gone missing, unaccounted for by the government. Some of them were political activists, some were linked to the Taliban, and others were simply ordinary citizens in the wrong place at the wrong time. The government denies it holds any of them, and claims they went missing of their own accord. Human rights groups say they have been taken by the 'agencies'. This is the story of their families' fight to find their loved ones.

Produced by Hassan Ghani

The Silent Prisoners
<p>The Silent Prisoners from Hassan Ghani on Vimeo.</p>

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2010 in Uncategorized

 

Gaza Flotilla Show Down: Life Line or a Dead End?

RussiaToday May 28, 2010Gaza could be set for its latest humanitarian, and possibly military, confrontation. An international flotilla carrying aid is heading there, in defiance of a blockade imposed by Israel. Tel Aviv is preparing to block the effort at all costs.

Gaza Flotilla Show Down: Life Line or a Dead End?

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2010 in Uncategorized