By Noura Erakat
This interview was conducted by Jadaliyya co-editor Noura Erakat. Huwaida Arraf is Chairperson of the Gaza Freedom Movement Coalition and Co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement.
NE: Let's get some of the basics first—how many passengers were a part of the Freedom Flotilla II? How many ships and how many nations did they represent?
HA: Twenty-two initiatives or national campaigns participated in organizing Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human. Each of these had hundreds, if not thousands of people who wanted to be on the ships. For the Mavi Marmara alone, we had nearly half a million applications.
We originally expected to have seats for 1000 passengers. Unfortunately in mid-June we learned that the Mavi Marmara would not be ready to sail by our projected launch date, meaning that we lost over half of our seats. On the remaining 10 vessels we would have room for approximately 350 passengers.
Some of the notables who were planning to sail with the flotilla include American poet and Pulitzer Prizewinner Alice Walker, Swedish crime writer Henning Mankell, 87-year-old Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, Irish Rugby star (retired) Trevor Hogan, Former Chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation Robert Lovelace, several European parliamentarians, and more.
Text of H.R. 2589: Antiboycott Act
Introduced by Rep. Howard Berman [D-CA28]
Jul 19, 2011 - Introduced in House. This is the original text of the bill as it was written by its sponsor and submitted to the House for consideration. This is the latest version of the bill currently available on GovTrack.
H. R. 2589
To prohibit certain activities in support of the Arab League boycott of Israel, and for other purposes.
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
July 19, 2011
Mr. BERMAN introduced the following bill; which was referred to the Committee on Foreign Affairs
To prohibit certain activities in support of the Arab League boycott of Israel, and for other purposes.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the ‘Antiboycott Act’.
SEC. 2. ANTIBOYCOTT PROVISIONS.
(a) Findings- The Congress finds that--
(1) the Arab League boycott of Israel, and the secondary boycott of United States firms that have commercial ties with Israel, are an impediment to investment, trade, economic development, and peace in the Middle East and North Africa;
(2) it is in the common interest of the people of Israel and the Arab states that the Arab League boycott be terminated, that the Central Office for the Boycott of Israel be closed, and that Arab League states normalize relations with their neighbor Israel; and
(3) the President, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of Commerce should continue to vigorously oppose the Arab League boycott of Israel and use the authorities enacted into law by Congress to take concrete steps to seek an end to the Arab League boycott.
Tim DeChristopher: "Our children are calling to us to think like a fist."
Tim DeChristopher, 29, the courageous activist who posed as an oil industry bidder to monkeywrench an oil and gas lease sale in Utah, was sentenced this afternoon to two years in prison. "Mr. DeChristopher had many other lawful ways to express his disapproval with the oil and gas leasing process," said U.S. District Court Judge Dee Benson at the hearing.
But of course Tim's disapproval, and that of millions of others, has not been heard by tone deaf policymakers content to wish away the reality of our role in climate change instead of acting.
Tim faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and he was also was ordered to pay a $10,000 fine. He was not given the ability to take a few days to prepare himself for prison and was taken into custody immediately.
"Civil disobedience can't be the order of the day," the judge said, adding that it would lead to "chaos." Well, I predict that the judge's prognostication will be wrong. We'll see when the next civil disobedience over our failed energy policy happens, and that may be in August at the Tar Sands sit in Washington D.C. Over 1,400 people have registered to get arrested to show their contempt for the Keystone XL pipeline, a 1,700 mile long fuse to the world's biggest carbon bomb--Canada's tar sands.
Tim read a powerful statement at the sentencing hearing, which you can read here:
'The new Nazis love Israel, the Jewish State.'
By Uri Avnery
The Nazi Propaganda Minister, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, calls his boss, Adolf Hitler, by hell-phone.
'Mein Führer,' he exclaims excitedly. 'News from the world. It seems we were on the right track, after all. Anti-Semitism is conquering Europe!'
“Good!” the Führer says, “That will be the end of the Jews!”
“Hmmm…well…not exactly, mein Führer. It looks as though we chose the wrong Semites. Our heirs, the new Nazis, are going to annihilate the Arabs and all the other Muslims in Europe.” Then, with a chuckle, “After all, there are many more Muslims than Jews to exterminate.”
“But what about the Jews?” Hitler insists.
“You won’t believe this: the new Nazis love Israel, the Jewish State - and Israel loves them!”
The atrocity committed this week by the Norwegian neo-Nazi – is it an isolated incident? Right-wing extremists all over Europe and the US are already declaiming in unison: “He does not belong to us! He is just a lone individual with a deranged mind! There are crazy people everywhere! You cannot condemn a whole political camp for the deeds of one single person!”
Sounds familiar. Where did we hear this before?
Of course, after the assassination of Yitzhak Rabin.
Tuesday, July 26th, 2011
Release of a United Nations report on Israel's deadly raid that killed nine Turkish activists on a Gaza-bound aid flotilla last year will be postponed until late August. The U.N. confirmed the delay Monday, giving Israel and Turkey more time to work out their differences.
The report by a U.N. panel of experts was expected to be delivered to Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week.
But U.N. spokesman Martin Nesirky said panel members agreed to delay finalizing their inquiry after consulting with Mr. Ban and the Turkish and Israeli governments.
UN commission to publish findings on IDF raid on Turkish flotilla vessel, prompting Israel to debate whether to apologize to Turkey, newspaper says
By Aviel Magnezi
07.24.11, 16:07 / Israel News
Commandos boarding Mavi Marmara (Photo: IDF Spokesman's Office)
According to the newspaper, the UN-appointed panel to investigate the raid on the Mavi Marmara vessel has ruled that IDF soldiers boarded the ship with an intention to kill.
And slowly and surely we will be able to put back the pieces and create the jigsaw of reconciliation and truth. This must be based on the twofold recognition that a solution has to include all the Palestinians (in the occupied territories, in exile and inside Israel) and has to be based on the construction of a new regime for the whole land of historical Palestine, offering equality and prosperity for all the people who live there now or were expelled from it by force in the last 63 years of Israel’s existence.
By Ilan Pappe
The Electronic Intifada
The real reason for Israeli diplomats’ headaches.
(Claudia Gabriela Marques Vieira/Flickr)
The Israeli ambassador to Spain, Raphael Schutz, has just finished his term in Madrid. In an op-ed in Haaretz’s Hebrew edition he summarized what he termed as a very dismal stay and seemed genuinely relieved to leave.
This kind of complaint now seems to be the standard farewell letter of all Israeli ambassadors in Western Europe. Schutz was preceded by the Israeli ambassador to London, Ron Prosor, on his way to his new posting at the United Nations in New York, complaining very much in the same tone about his inability to speak in campuses in the United Kingdom and whining about the overall hostile atmosphere. Before him the ambassador in Dublin expressed similar relief when he ended his term in office in Ireland.
All three grumblers were pathetic but the last one from Spain topped them all. Like his colleagues in Dublin and in London he blamed his dismal time on local and ancient anti-Semitism. His two friends in the other capitals were very vague about the source of the new anti-Semitism as both in British and Irish history it is difficult to single out, after medieval times, a particular period of anti-Semitism.
“Though the gay activist and the bellydancer stunts proved to be a total failure but they brought to light the duplicity of the Jewish state and how presumptuously Israel played the world for a bunch of fools.”
By Dr. Ashraf Ezzat
U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, one of the ships of the Freedom Flotilla II
Though Israel has managed to abort the planned course of the Freedom Flotilla II that was aiming to break the Israeli naval blockade on Gaza, it utterly failed to divert the attention of the international community from the inhumane Israeli siege on Palestinians imprisoned in their own homeland.
The Flotilla II may have failed in literally breaking the Israeli blockade on Gaza but the brave activists’ collective efforts have unequivocally exposed the ugly side of the Middle-Eastern Zionist enclave and displayed its brutal apartheid face for the whole world to see.
Israel's belly dancer stunt
The Israelis may have managed to muscle the Greek government and freak out practically all the European aviation security authorities and keep the activists grounded in Europe’s airports, but they couldn’t incarcerate the love message and the hope the activists and a lot of free spirited people shared with them around the world.
Israels "gay rights activist" stunt
Mission failed but not the message
Israel has managed to sabotage the naval trip of the flotilla II, demolish the democratic right of expression of the free world (www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/14/israel-boycott-ban-criticised) and audaciously incriminate those who choose to nonviolently boycott Israel for its crimes against humanity.
But the one obvious thing Israel couldn’t do is to prevent the world conscience from feeling guilty and somehow morally blamed over the Israeli flagrant crimes of the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in the west bank and Gaza.
The thwarted mission of the “To Gaza with love” Freedom Flotilla II might be classified as a military and political triumph for Israel but with more scrutiny it wouldn’t be so hard to discover that Israel came out of this world PR campaign as a sore loser.
Mission impeded but the message conveyed.
Israel came out of this flotilla story more isolated than ever and tremendously losing whatever stock it got left of the western public support.
Anti-Israeli sentiments in the Arab and Muslim world, invoked by Israel’s aggressive and colonization policy in Palestine, is something that Israel managed to not only orchestrate but to skillfully employ as a tool for blackmailing the west and justifying whatever crimes it committed in the name of its right to defend itself amongst an alleged sea of Muslim and Arab unjustified hatred.
Following the drama of sabotaging and terrorizing the flotilla II that sea of resentment for the Israeli expansionist and apartheid policies has grown bigger and wider as it encompassed most of Europe and America’s public opinion as clearly expressed on the web blogging.
And it seemed for Israel that the only way to hold back that anti-Israeli tide is to play the card of a nation seeking friendship and peace with its Arab neighbors who in return refuse its friendship and won’t normalize relations with the peace-loving state of Israel.
Arabic anti-normalization with Israel
The Arab nations have unanimously agreed not to normalize relations with the Israeli people as long as the Israeli aggressiveness and occupation of the Arab land in Palestine, as delineated by UN resolution 242, continues.
And this popular consensus of anti-normalization with Israel is particularly and closely observed and respected by all Arabic artists, writers and intellectuals.
Failing to break through this popular consensus in the Arabic world the Israeli Mossad, every now and then and through its operatives of Arabic origin in Europe, try to pull out a propaganda stunt to distract the world public opinion from the real issues of annexing the Arab land in Palestine, kicking out its indigenous people and lately bullying the pro-Palestinian political and humanitarian activists in land, air and sea and instead sell the world a Murdoch style story about the friendly and tolerant side of Israel.
Flotilla II counter attacked by propaganda stunts
The real issue this time was the Gaza Freedom Flotilla II laden with thousands of love and solidarity letters meant to be delivered to the people of Gaza, only the Zionists in Tel Aviv are no fools, they knew that those letters are mightier than weapons, they knew that they wouldn’t be able to conquer those activists by some commandos raid this time.
This time was different and as the whole world was closely watching, Israel had to fight back the flotilla II with the same tools the activists used and may be send, in advance, a counter propaganda campaign.
Posted By Daniel Levy Friday, July 22, 2011
As more information seeps out from the Quartet principals meeting held in Washington on July 11, it becomes harder not to reach the conclusion that American policy on Israel-Palestine is now being driven almost exclusively by a desire to prevent any possible U.N. vote on the matter in the Autumn. Reading the draft text proposed as a Quartet statement by the U.S. (the text is not yet public, but the authenticity of the draft described here has been reliably confirmed) and rejected by the EU, Russia, and the U.N. Secretary General entrenches that conclusion -- and worse, that the U.S. was attempting to pull something of a diplomatic fast one on the senior Quartet officials assembled. But more on that later.
First, a veritable minefield of myths that have sprung up around a possible Palestine vote at the U.N. should be debunked.
No a U.N. vote will not in practical terms deliver a sovereign Palestinian state and Israeli withdrawal and de-occupation. Nor will Israelis instantly be hauled in front of various international legal bodies as a consequence of a U.N. General Assembly (UNGA) resolution. Several other steps would have to take place subsequent to a U.N. vote for either of those things to happen and those do not flow seamlessly, one from the other.
No the U.N. Security Council or General Assembly is not an inappropriate venue for discussing or passing resolutions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nor does doing so contravene previous agreements signed between the parties. It is hard to imagine a more relevant or obvious matter for the U.N. to act on. One does not have to get very far in reading the charter of the U.N. to understand that U.N. member states who are signatories to that charter would be derelict in their duties if they refused to act on the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Article 1 of that charter is about maintaining international peace and security; Article 2 is about the right of peoples to self-determination; and the list goes on. More specifically, when it comes to Israel-Palestine, the idea of partition to two states is a product of the U.N. (more specifically Ad Hoc Committee on the Palestinian Question), enshrined in UNGA Resolution 181, and it was U.N. recognition that crucially established the legitimacy of the State of Israel. The existing panoply of Israeli-Palestinian agreements from the past two decades say nothing about barring any action at the U.N. and do not even explicitly refer to Palestinian statehood, so that any recognition of a Palestinian state at the U.N. cannot be in contravention of those agreements.
A group of woman who remained in Piraeus to protect The Audacity of Hope rigged up a shower near the boat's gangplank.
By CAROL MURRY and GRETA BERLIN
On July 1, 2011, the US Boat to Gaza, the Audacity of Hope, was intercepted by the Greek Coast Guard as we attempted to sail to Gaza and escape the Greek "red tape" blockade of Freedom Flotilla 2. Although our Captain had argued valiantly for two hours that our boat was seaworthy, and we had completed all required inspections, several armed commandos had arrived and assumed battle positions with loaded and cocked rifles pointed at all of us. Those armed men put an end to our voyage just a few miles off the coast of Greece.
Our boat was herded into a Coast Guard dock and impounded, and our Captain put in jail. We would sail again, but we could not endanger our unarmed passengers (22 to 86 years old). These brave people included celebrated author, poet and activist, Alice Walker, holocaust survivor, Hedy Epstein, and a dedicated and creative group of musicians, retired military, social workers, and others dedicated to ending Israel's cruel and illegal blockade of Gaza.
It fell to eight women to stay on board to prevent any kind of sabotage (two of the flotilla boats had already been sabotaged in an attempt to prevent them from sailing). Our group included leader and retired U.S. Army Colonel and a former US diplomat, Ann Wright; British crew-member Jenny (OJ) Linnel; Free Gaza co-founder and passenger on the first boat to enter Gaza in 41 years, Greta Berlin; consultant and indigenous human rights advocate Regina Carey; progressive anti-war activist Missy Lane; peace activist and co-coordinator of Voices for Nonviolence Kathy Kelly; founder of Code Pink, Medea Benjamin; and public health activist, Carol Murry.
President in crisis Karolos Papoulias' promotion of trade and cultural exchange with Israel ignores the Palestinian struggle as the Free Gaza flotilla remains docked in Greece
By Khalid Amayreh
Al Ahram Online
On the eve of his visit to Israel, Greek President Karolos Papoulias spoke of a "strong relationship in all aspects" between his country and Israel.
The fact that Israel continues to occupy Palestine, expand Jewish-only colonies on occupied territory and persecute millions of Palestinians, including many Greek Orthodox Christians in the West Bank, seems to have little or no bearing on the evolving relations between Greek and the Jewish state.
"We are now involved in an intensive process of cooperation. Our ministers and officials systematically consult and work together on all levels and in key areas, including energy, defence and security, as well as agriculture and tourism," the Greek president was quoted as saying.
He added that "we are also working together on international issues and matters of regional concern to both countries. We are pursuing a strong relationship on trade, investment, political and security cooperation."
Greece is a sovereign state and should be free to pursue its various interests as its sees fit. However, Greece must also be aware of the immense negative ramifications that come with having close relations with an essentially criminal state whose entire modus operandi is based on ethnic cleansing, land theft and organised terror against the native Palestinian people.
In recent months and weeks, the Greek air force held a joint drill with the Israeli air force in the eastern Mediterranean. Moreover, the Greek authorities connived with the Israeli intelligence to thwart a planned flotilla en route to the Gaza Strip to deliver badly-needed humanitarian materials to besieged Gazans. The Free Gaza flotilla was intended to highlight the illegitimacy, illegality and utter criminality of the five-year blockade on the coastal enclave.
The latest measure by the Greek authorities is inexplicable, and the Greek government stands accused of acquiescing to Israel's Nazi-like persecution and repression of the Palestinian people.
By Uri Avnery
FOR SEVERAL weeks now, our army and navy have been in a state of high alert, bravely facing a deadly threat to our very existence: ten little boats trying to reach Gaza. These vessels are carrying a dangerous gang of vicious terrorists, in the form of elderly veterans of peace campaigns.
Binyamin Netanyahu has affirmed our unshakable determination to defend our country: We shall not let anyone break the blockade to smuggle rockets to the terrorists in Gaza, who will then launch them to kill our innocent children.
This is a kind of record even for Netanyahu: not a single word is true. The flotilla is not carrying any weapons – the representatives of respected international media in the boats provide assurance of this. Also, I think we can rely on the Mossad to plant at least one agent in every boat. (After all, what am I paying my taxes for?) Hamas has not launched rockets for a long time – it has very good reasons of its own to keep the unofficial “Tahdiyeh” (“Quiet”) agreement.
If the flotilla had been allowed to reach Gaza, it would have been news for a few hours, and that would have been that. Israel’s total mobilization, the training of the naval commandos for capturing the boats, the acts of sabotage carried out in Greek ports, the immense political pressure exerted by Israel and the US on the poor, bankrupt Greek government – all this has kept this minor initiative in the news for weeks now, drawing attention to the blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Have international solidarity mobilizations drowned out Palestinian voices?
While this approach (focusing on international solidarity activists) is clearly effective, as evident from the volume of media invested in the stories and the plethora of images released, it is also reflective of a “colonialist,” patronizing perspective espoused by the media, whereby the subject itself, the Palestinians, are no longer even needed in the story. Instead, it is sufficient for a bunch of unknown Westerners to show solidarity with the Palestinian struggle in order to make it to the headlines.
By Mairav Zonszein
The Electronic Intifada
Over the last few weeks, media in this region was filled with images of people from all over the Western world holding up Palestinian flags and chanting “Free Palestine.” We’ve heard from the likes of Americans, like prize-winning author Alice Walker and former CIA official Ray McGovern (both passengers on the US boat to Gaza) about the importance of standing up for Palestinians in Gaza; we’ve heard about hunger strikes by Spanish and American citizens stuck in Greece after their boats were not allowed to sail; and we’ve seen videos of activists landing in Ben Gurion airport, declaring their intention to visit the occupied West Bank, being accosted by an Israeli mob and then detained and deported, all while chanting “Free Palestine.”
All these events have enormous significance as symbolic acts. They demonstrate to the world, through mass-coordinated events, the de facto command Israel has over the entire territory from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea and all its points of access, whether by land, air or sea. They also demonstrate the lengths to which Israel will go to maintain its control and the hysteria it generates on the home front in order to disguise its own political calculations as matters of security.
By Jillian Kestler-D’Amours
EAST JERUSALEM (IPS) - Widespread strikes across Palestinian civil society could be in store for East Jerusalem at the start of the next school year, as the municipality moves ahead with its current plan to implement an Israeli curriculum in Palestinian schools.
"I expect that the beginning of the new school year will not be a normal one. There will be lots of problems. There will be lots of demands, strikes," Samir Jibril, director of the East Jerusalem Education Bureau told IPS. "All (the Palestinian) institutions are going to stand hand-in-hand against this implementation. Even civil society is demanding to stop this plan by the Israelis."
In March of this year, the Jerusalem municipality sent a letter to private schools in East Jerusalem that receive allocations from the Israeli authorities. The letter stated that at the start of the 2011-2012 academic year, the schools would be obliged to purchase and only use textbooks prepared by the Jerusalem Education Administration (JEA), a joint body of the municipality and the Israeli Ministry of Education.
These textbooks are already in use in East Jerusalem schools managed by the JEA. According to Jibril, however, Palestinians in East Jerusalem have at all levels rejected the plan to use them in private schools, since it is viewed as being politically motivated.
"The real reason behind all this story of curriculum is actually political. We’re talking about a radical (Israeli) government that is trying to impose its own identity on the Palestinians in East Jerusalem. Knowing that Israel doesn’t recognise Palestinian identity, it is a political reflection rather than (for) any kind of educational or pedagogical (reason)," Jibril said.
Greek and foreign pro-Palestinian activists demonstrate in front of the Greek parliament against the Israeli interception in the international waters of a French yacht as it tried to reach Gaza in defiance of Israel's naval blockade on the tiny Palestinian territory. [AFP Louisa Gouliamaki]
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Fifteen activists held after Israeli forces intercepted their boat as they attempted to sail to Gaza will be deported on Wednesday, an Israeli official told AFP.
Sabine Hadad, spokeswoman for Israel's immigration service, confirmed that the 15 passengers, including 11 French citizens and others from Sweden, Canada and Greece, would be sent home.
"The 15 passengers were interviewed on Tuesday evening by our services and have voluntarily agreed to sign a document saying that they are ready to leave in 72 hours," Hadad told AFP.
"In principle, they will be placed on board flights leaving this Wednesday for Athens, Paris, Toronto and Stockholm," she said.
The 15 passengers, along with an Israeli journalist, were taken into custody on Tuesday afternoon, when Israeli naval forces surrounded the French-flagged Dignite Al Karama as it neared the coast of the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces boarded the vessel and sailed it and the passengers to the southern port of Ashdod, where the Israeli reporter -- Amira Hass of the Haaretz newspaper -- was released.
The remaining passengers were interviewed by immigration services in Holon, near the northern city of Tel Aviv.
The Dignite Al Karama was the only ship remaining from a 10-vessel flotilla that had planned to sail to Gaza this summer.
The plans for the full flotilla were called off after several vessels suffered damage that activists blamed on Israeli sabotage.
Greece refused to let boats docked at its ports set sail for the Palestinian territory.
The Dignite Al Karama had sailed from the Greek island of Kastellorizo on Saturday evening, telling coast guards it planned to head to the Egyptian port of Alexandria.
Greece said it was refusing boats permission to head to Gaza in order to protect the activists on board, after an attempt in May 2010 by a six-boat flotilla to reach the blockaded Palestinian territory ended in bloodshed.
Israeli commandos raided the ships as they neared Gaza, killing nine Turkish activists and prompting both an international outcry and a deep crisis in relations between the Israel and Ankara.
There is hope. (Noor Harazeen)
By Jeremy R. Hammond
The U.S. has long opposed any 'unilateral' action on the part of the Palestinians to seek fulfillment of their right to self-determination, and there is a very real threat that if the Palestinian Authority goes to the United Nations in September seeking international recognition of Palestinian statehood, the U.S. will respond by cutting or eliminating aid that the P.A. has come to depend on in order to function.
The P.A. must not bow to such threats, and the Palestinian people must take their case to the U.N. if their legitimate political aspirations are ever to be achieved. It won’t be an easy road to statehood, but the alternative is to return to the U.S.-led “peace process”, which is the process by which the U.S. and Israel have sought to entice the Palestinian leadership to back away from their 1988 Declaration of Independence and to prevent the establishment of a viable, independent, and fully sovereign state of Palestine.
The U.S. is not the “honest broker” it proclaims itself to be. It supports illegal Israeli policies financially, militarily, and diplomatically, and, all rhetoric to the contrary aside, it has long rejected the Palestinians’ right to self-determination.
Israel's siege mentality is asserting itself again. (Via Aljazeera)
By Jonathan Cook - Nazareth
It was an Arab legislator who made the most telling comment to the Israeli parliament last week as it passed the boycott law, which outlaws calls to boycott Israel or its settlements in the occupied territories. Ahmed Tibi asked: “What is a peace activist or Palestinian allowed to do to oppose the occupation? Is there anything you agree to?”
The boycott law is the latest in a series of ever-more draconian laws being introduced by the far-right. The legislation's goal is to intimidate those Israeli citizens, Jews and Palestinians, who have yet to bow down before the majority-rule mob.
Look out in the coming days and weeks for a bill to block the work of Israeli human rights organisations trying to protect Palestinians in the occupied territories from abuses by the Israeli army and settlers; and a draft law investing a parliamentary committee, headed by the far-right, with the power to veto appointments to the supreme court. The court is the only, and already enfeebled, bulwark against the right's absolute ascendancy.
By David K. Schermerhorn
In May, 2010 six ships rendezvoused off the coast of Cyprus and headed towards Gaza harbor in an attempt to bring supplies to the Palestinians and to break the Israeli blockade imposed in 1967. Within a day this international Flotilla was attacked by Israeli Naval forces 75 miles at sea. Nine passengers aboard the Turkish Mavi Marmara were killed and all the boats captured and taken to the Israeli port of Ashdod.
Among the ships was the U. S. registered Challenger 1. Its multinational crew and passengers were taken prisoners and eventually sent to an Israeli jail before being deported. Included with those captured was Ann Wright, a retired U. S. Army Colonel and former diplomat. Wright had resigned her commission in 2003 in opposition to our national military policies.
Upon her return to the U. S. Wright spearheaded a nationwide speaking tour designed to raise funds for a new boat to replace Challenger 1. Within six months she had sufficient monies for a replacement to join Flotilla 2 in 2011.
After considering various ships Wright and her associates selected a 45-year-old former Greek inter-island ferry, the Tinos Ski. The ship required some work but was essentially sound and capable of carrying 75 people from Greece to Gaza. It was registered in Delaware and renamed Audacity of Hope.
The new name echoed Barrack Obama’s 2004 keynote address to the Democratic Convention and his later best selling book of the same title. The eloquent optimism expressed in both venues did much to propel him to the nomination and later to his election. The title was derived from a sermon delivered by his former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, and referred to the subject of a painting by GF Watts, ‘Hope’ . “…her body scarred and bruised and bleeding, her harp all but destroyed and with only one string left, she had the audacity to make music and praise God…To take the one string you have left and to have the audacity to hope…”
The other day I received a listserve email from Greta Berlin, co founder of the Free Gaza Movement, titled Message in a Bottle. It was an informal yet touching email about some passengers from the Audacity of Hope sending messages in bottles to children in Gaza before they left Greece. Although she didn't mention it I recalled this Message in a Bottle video of children sending us messages to come to Gaza. Her simple email brought tears to my eyes and I wrote back and asked if we could publish it. I wanted to share it with you before sharing some of my thoughts (part rant) below.
By Ray McGovern
Become a Fan Become a Fan (61 fans) -- Page 1 of 3 page(s)
My co-passengers and I of the U.S. Boat to Gaza have now gone from "High-Seas Hippies," according to the right-wing Washington Times, to participants in a flotilla full of "fools, knaves, hypocrites, bigots, and supporters of terrorism," says Alan Dershowitz in his usual measured prose.
Poor Alan, he seems upset at our audacity not only to hope for humane treatment of the 1.6 million Gazans, who currently live under a cruel blockade, but to force the issue. To stop our boat before it could leave Greek waters, Israel's Likud government gave itself a self-inflicted black eye and again brought the oppression of Gazans to worldwide attention.
This time, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's government did not even have to kill people to add to Israel's growing "delegitimization" before the civilized world. Facing growing international condemnation, Netanyahu and his allies have reason to worry.
High-profile U.S. journalists often like to boast that they are free to cover whatever they want, but that is often because they choose not to cross certain lines that would otherwise upset powerful people or interests. Marquette professor Daniel C. Maguire points out areas that even MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow avoids.
By Daniel C. Maguire
To MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow: On your show of July 14, you spoke of your complete freedom to say what you want on your show and Bill Moyers gently demurred, speaking of restricting forces that hover over journalists.
Bill Moyers was correct. I cannot believe you don’t care, but you are not free to address on your show the political influence of the Israeli lobby (which is far broader than AIPAC, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee).
You are not free to invite John Mearsheimer or Stephen Walt, authors of The Israeli Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy. You are not free to talk of how their first article that preceded this book could not be published by The Atlantic even after the magazine commissioned it. The authors had to go to England to get it published.
AIPAC’s announced goal is to have “no daylight” between Israel’s needs and U.S. policy. You cannot address their ongoing success.
You are not free to invite Hedy Epstein, a Holocaust survivor who was on the Gaza flotilla on “The Audacity of Hope” to hear her side of the Israeli illegal occupation and continuing expansion in Palestine and in Jerusalem.
You’re not free to invite Ray McGovern, former CIA policy analyst who used to report in person to George H.W. Bush and other senior White House officials. McGovern was also on that ship.
Nor could you invite the captain of “The Audacity of Hope” who was imprisoned by Greece presumably at the command of the U.S. and Israeli governments. You can’t go there.
A Palestinian youth runs away from Jewish settlers during clashes outside the West Bank village of Asira al-Qibilya near Nablus July 3, 2011.
By Tom Perry
HUWARA, West Bank (Reuters)- Scorched hillsides and charred olive groves near Nablus pinpoint the latest acts of arson by hardline Jewish settlers against Palestinians who say they are ever more the victims of such attacks in the West Bank.
"The olive tree is the only source of income for farmers," said Mohammad Zeban, a Palestinian farmer, lamenting the damage inflicted on hundreds of olive trees by a recent fire near the village of Huwara. "They want to annihilate us."
Settler-related incidents resulting in Palestinian injuries and damage to property are up by 57 percent this year, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, which documents violence in the Palestinian territories.
Palestinian officials say that is a worrying sign of deepening hostility which they fear could trigger wider violence as hardline settlers increasingly appear to be a law unto themselves and frustration grows over the evaporating prospects for peace.
For Palestinians around Nablus, confrontations with ideologically-driven Israelis who have settled the area since the early 1980s have become routine in recent years. But this year has been worse than normal, say villagers.
Michael Coleman was one of three Australian participants in the Free Gaza Flotilla 2 which was blocked from leaving Greece. Michael was arrested by Greek authorities in the process but was released and has just returned to Australia. The two other Australians attempted to fly to Palestine but were detained in Tel Aviv. They have subsequently won their release through the courts and are trying to visit the occupied Palestinian territory.
by Prof Edward S. Herman
Global Research, July 12, 2011
The nuggets keep piling up as the United States continues its course toward the abyss, pulling the rest of the world with it. Imagine, 29 standing ovations for Benjamin Netanyahu’s May 24th speech by the members of the U.S. congress, who once again displayed their loyalty to a foreign state, their contempt for international law, their racism, and their support of Israeli apartheid and serious ethnic cleansing. Joseph Biden has stated publicly that he is “a Zionist” and that both when a member of the Senate and as Vice President helping Israel was his highest priority (“the center of my work as a United States Senator and now as vice president of the United States.”). It is now routine for U.S. politicians to openly pledge allegiance to Israel , and they readily turn over large resources to Israel at the same time as they are reducing them for U.S. citizens. (This applies fully to President Obama, who bragged to AIPAC that “Because we understand the challenges Israel faces, I and my administration have made the security of Israel a priority. It’s why we’ve increased cooperation between our militaries to unprecedented levels. It’s why we’re making our most advanced technologies available to our Israeli allies. And it’s why, despite tough fiscal times, we’ve increased foreign military financing to record levels. That includes additional support – beyond regular military aid – for the Iron Dome anti-rocket system.”)
The U.S. political leadership is also guilty of protecting Israeli violations of international law, war crimes, state terrorism, and disregard of UN resolutions and court decisions, including consistent support for Israel ’s systematic dispossession (ethnic cleansing) operations. How indignant these politicians (and the mainstream media) were over dispossession and ethnic cleansing in civil war-ridden Yugoslavia in the 1990s, and what a contrast with the standing ovations for ethnic cleansing carried out inside the tail that wags the flea-ridden dog! The words, behavior and actions of the fleas, if done in support of an Arab-dominated state, would be found immoral, in violation of anti-terror laws, and treasonous. The racist double-standard here is breathtaking.
By RAMZY BAROUD
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made a series of stern and fiery statements recently, giving the impression that war is somehow upon us once again. Oddly, Clinton's sudden reappearance into the Middle East diplomacy scene was triggered by the brave attempts of peace activists to break the siege on Gaza.
In recent months, as Arab nations settled old scores with their insufferable dictators, US foreign policy started taking a backseat. Attempts at swaying Arab revolts teetered between bashful diplomatic efforts to sustain US interests - as was the case with Yemen - and military intervention, as in Libya, which is still being marketed to the US public as a humanitarian intervention, as opposed to the war it actually is.
The indecisiveness and double-standards on display are hardly new.
By GREGORY ELICH
One can never have too much money. In the U.S., the top one percent of the population rakes in almost a quarter of the national income and enjoys 40 percent of the wealth. That class sees this as a problem. It is not enough.
For ordinary workers, the recession brought only economic hardship. But for corporate America, it meant one thing: opportunity. This is the chance to permanently mold the economy into something approximating the Third World model: vast wealth and privilege for those at the top, and unemployment, falling wages, and inadequate or nonexistent social services for the rest of society.
The recession ended two years ago, yet more than nine percent of the population remains without work. If one takes into account discouraged workers and part-time workers wanting a full-time position, nearly one sixth of the workforce is underutilized. For people of African descent, the situation is even more dire, with unemployment approaching a rate twice as high. Yet, a jobs program has never been on lawmakers' agenda.
Familiar scene at Qalandiya Checkpoint near Jerusalem. (Tamar Fleishman)
For three years now a UK medical journal, the Lancet, has been working with Palestinian health professionals and researchers to document the effects of stressful living - coping with economic difficulties and shortages, restrictions on movement, political tensions and fear of outside attack - and has just published its latest findings.
Restrictions on movement are an everyday irritant in the occupied Palestinian territory (oPt): Apart from tedious and humiliating searches at checkpoints, residents never know for sure how long their journeys will take, or whether, indeed, they can be made at all. But in a medical emergency these restrictions can be a matter of life or death.
Last year the Lancet’s collaborators described vividly the terror of women waiting to give birth during Israeli bombing raids on Gaza in early 2009: They knew they might need urgent medical care at a time when they were trapped in their homes during the attacks. This year another of their researchers has looked at what happens to women already in labour who are caught at oPt checkpoints.
As Americans celebrated their revolution, passengers on US boat to Gaza called for new US Declaration of Independence -- from Israel, demands Henry Norr
Eleven score and fifteen years ago, our Forefathers declared independence from Britain. We, the passengers on the SS Audacity of Hope, call for a new American Declaration of Independence.
So declared patriotic Americans from the decks of their ship which aims to relieve the siege of Gaza by Israel. It is currently confined to a Greek military pier near Athens, while its captain sits in jail.
Like the Founders in Philadelphia, the passengers detained in Greece recognise that, "When in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bonds which have connected them to another, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
Stuart Littlewood in London paints a chilling portrait of British grovelling to its ungrateful offspring
It doesn't look good. Our oh-so-moral international community, always poking its democracy-loving nose into any trouble spot that might threaten Western security (whatever that means) and always eager to mobilise its mighty weapons of war, is still reluctant to operate on the cancer it foolishly implanted into the Holy Land 63 years ago and which now menaces the world.
Instead, our heroes encourage it to grow and won't even protect the "caring services" wishing to soothe the excruciating pain suffered by the Palestinian victims.
And right now it's disappointing to find that the Free Gaza Flotilla's new international media office in London is not up to the job. It issued its first press release this week. An accompanying note told us that "the steering committee decided it didn't want a unified media strategy" -- a fatal mistake, surely, when faced with an aggressive campaign of distortion, disinformation and sabotage mounted by Israel and its massive stooge network to scupper the sailings. It also mentioned a letter to British prime minister David Cameron but didn't make the text available. And it revealed they still hadn't written to the Foreign Office. Unbelievable.
Outsourcing, aggressive and vocal diplomacy and ridiculous lies thwarted the flotilla, but they have not taken Gaza off the international agenda.
By Amira Hass
CRETE - Like an anti-Semitic caricature, Israel has extended its long tentacles around the globe in an effort to stop 10 decades-old ships from sailing to Gaza. Many Israelis interpreted this as a great victory.
The story could be read as follows: The Greek government wanted to save people whom it surely views as eccentrics and professional trouble-makers, even if naive, from a traumatic and perhaps even fatal experience. The Greek foreign minister rejected claims that Israeli pressure led his government to ban the flotilla's departure. He explained that Greece wanted to prevent a "humanitarian disaster" in the event of a clash between the Israel Defense Forces and the protesters.
Indeed, a Greek police officer - one of those who tried (in vain ) to discover from passengers on the Tahrir who was piloting their ship - did not beat around the bush. We wanted to save you from the Israeli army, he told one of them. The Jew of the blood libel, of whom one must be wary, has been replaced by an Israeli navy commando.
By Gale Courey Toensing July 5, 2011
Indian Country Today Media Network
Pulitzer-prize winner, Alice Walker and former Anishanaabek Chief Robert Lovelace aboard the Freedom Flotilla in protest of Israel’s illegal sea blockade of Gaza.
ATHENS—A First Nations leader, who was jailed for protesting uranium mining claims on his people’s territory, is now standing up against Israel’s illegal sea blockade of Gaza.
Robert Lovelace, former chief of the Ardoch Algonquin First Nation and a professor of Indigenous Studies at Queen’s University in Canada, is a passenger on Canada’s Boat to Gaza. The boat attempted to leave Greece for Gaza on July 4 but was stopped by the Greek coast guard. The U.S. Boat to Gaza was the first to attempt to leave Greece on July 1 and was also stopped by the Greek authorities.
The boats are participating in the second international Freedom Flotilla that aims to break Israel’s illegal blockage of the tiny Palestinian territory on the Mediterranean coast that is sandwiched between Israel and Egypt. The flotilla is a coalition of nonprofit, nongovernmental organizations from more than half a dozen countries that will soon sail through international waters to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza. The first flotilla which sailed last year ended in tragedy when Israeli commandos boarded the Turkish boat, the Mavi Marmara, and killed nine activists, including an American citizen.
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