6srael Murders 19 Flotilla Members, 6 days before the June 6, 1967 six-day war's 43rd anniversary
(work in progress) FLAC/MP3
Zeer said in a press release on Monday on the sidelines of a massive demonstration in London protesting the Israeli attack on the freedom Flotilla that left dozens killed and wounded that the protestors wanted the world to know what the Israelis had done against unarmed solidarity activists.
He added that contacts are underway with European governments over the incident, adding that the international alliance would continue to expose the Israeli aggression before the entire world.
Thousands of Palestinians, Muslims, and foreigners had gathered in front of the British government premises in London to protest the Israeli bloody attack on the flotilla ships at international waters.
Participants hoisted Palestinian flags and placards denouncing the Israeli aggression.
Nineteen Activists Killed In Iqrael’s Attack On Freedom Flotilla
by Saed Bannoura - IMEMC
Under strict media blackout imposed by Israel on the number of casualties during the Israeli attack against the Freedom Flotilla, Israeli sources reported that 19 activists were killed in the attack and dozens were wounded.
Among the wounded were Sheikh Raed Salah head of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement, who suffered serious wounds, and head of the Lebanese delegation, Hani Suleiman, in addition to the Captain of the “Marmara” Turkish Ship, and a Turkish Legislator.
The attack started after the army violently boarded the Turkish ship and opened fire at the passengers before hundreds of soldiers attacked all ships at once and occupied them.
The ships were in International waters 20 miles away from Gaza waters. Israel claimed that its soldiers were attacked with knives and batons, and that one of the activists managed to snatch the weapon of one of the soldiers. It also claimed fifteen soldiers were wounded.
The Greek captain of the 800 Ship suffered serious wounds and was moved to an Israeli hospital for treatment. Reports revealed that he is demanding to be moved to his country.
The Israeli army and police declared high alert in all Arab cities fearing massive protests against the attack and against the shooting of Sheikh Raed Salah.
Israel is also weighing the possibility of closing the Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem in front of Muslim worshipers.
Israel is still not allowing the media to enter the make-shift prison in Ashdod where the activists are currently held, and towed the ships to its ports.
The number of casualties could be more than announced due to the ongoing Israeli media blackout.
Meanwhile, Qatar called on the Arab League to convene in order to discuss the Israel attack against the nonviolent activists.
European Union Foreign Policy Chief, Catherine Ashton, demanded an investigation into the deadly Israeli attack and expressed solidarity with the victims and their families.
She added that the EU rejects the Israeli siege on Gaza and added that this siege leads to escalation.
Turkey said that what happened cannot be repaired and will have a lasting impact on its relation with Israel especially since the vast majority of the slain activists are Turkish.
Hundreds of residents gathered in front of the Turkish embassy on Ankara, chanted slogans against Israel, demanded the government to cut its ties with Israel and carry practical measures against it.
Several leftist groups, and human rights groups, in Greece called for protests in front of the Israeli embassy in the country.
Turkey, Jordan, Greece, Spain, Egypt, Jordan, and Sweden summoned the Israeli ambassadors. South African also denounced the Israeli attack.
Israeli daily, Haaretz, reported that Turkey had officially recalled its ambassador to Israel.
The Al Jazeera reported that one of the ships is now in Ashdod port, while other ships are still approaching, and added that dozens of fundamentalist Israeli gathered in the area cheering for the Israeli attack and even distributed sweets to “celebrate the attack and the killing of the activists”.
Israel said it will not provide any information regarding the attack and the exact number of casualties until it brings all ships to the port and until its finalizes its statement.
Al Jazeera said that the bodies of several activists were transferred to an Israeli hospital in Haifa, and that one of the slain activists was shot by a live round in his head.
It in first response the White House said it was “sorry for the casualties” who fell in the attack.
White House spokesperson, William Burton, said that “the U.S deeply regrets the casualties” and that it is still “trying to understand all surrounding circumstances”.SEVİM SONGÜN,
ISTANBUL – Hürriyet Daily News
The families of those on the Gaza aid flotilla that was attacked by Israeli soldiers early Monday morning have rushed to the building of the Humanitarian Aid Foundation in the hopes of receiving good news about their loved ones. Some are relieved to see their relatives alive after the operation, although others are preparing for the worst. The wait has been particularly anxious, especially since no contact has been established with those on board.
As Aynur Akdeniz saw the first videos showing the attacks of Israel on the Gaza aid flotilla, she said she immediately switched off the TV to prevent her two children from seeing it. Her husband Mehmet Ali Akdeniz, 34, was on the ship.
After watching the news of an early morning Israeli army operation that killed as many as 19 people on a flotilla bringing aid to the Gaza Strip, Akdeniz rushed to the Humanitarian Aid Foundation, or İHH’s, building in Istanbul’s Fatih district.
The İHH was the main organizer of the aid shipments and its crisis management center, located at the top floor of the building, was bustling all day. Families rushed to the İHH building in the early hours of the morning and the press conference room was filled with crying families who watched developments on a television in the room.
Akdeniz said she was planning to travel to Gaza together with her husband, but they decided not to because of the young age of their children.
“My son is 4 years old and my daughter is 6. They packed 300 lollipops for their father to take to Palestinian children in Gaza,” she said through tears.
Although her children have still not comprehended the unfolding events, they are also worried, Akdeniz said.
“They are asking about their father and they are worried even though I didn’t let them see the attack videos on TV,” she said.
Like the other families gathered at the İHH building trying to obtain news from their relatives on the ship, Akdeniz said she was shocked by the attacks and that she was worried and crying.
“I did not expect that much cruelty. My husband even did not have a pocket knife on him,” she said. “It was a strict rule for all of them not to have anything that might be used as a weapon. But Israel was afraid of a few civilian people.”
Akdeniz said she heard from friends that they saw a man who looked like her husband and that he was alive after the attacks.
Of the nearly 600 people on the Mavi Marmara ship, roughly 400 were Turkish citizens, according to İHH Vice Director Yavuz Dede, who said the passengers included men, women, and an 18-month-old baby.
Sümeyye Sena Tezcan, a 15-year-old high school student whose mother, Demet Tezcan, was on the ship, said she was relieved when she saw her mother in images on TV. “She was running during the attacks and was helping wounded people.”
Tezcan said her younger sister gave her baby doll to her mother and told her to give it to children in Gaza.
When her mother left home on May 24 for Antalya in preparation for boarding the ship at the Mediterranean port, Sümeyye Sena Tezcan said it was an ordinary day for the family. The mother was excited about the trip and was looking forward to seeing Gaza for the first time when the family last saw her at the İHH building, according to the daughter.
“She told us to take care of each other before leaving. We were afraid, we were worried, but never expected something horrible like this could happen,” she said.
Preparing for bad news
But while some families rejoiced at the apparent safety of their loved ones, many others were much worried about the fate of their loved ones.
Selma Erkal, whose brother Şahin İbrahim Güleryüz, 42, was on the ship, came immediately to the İHH building as soon as she saw the videos on TV.
She said she saw her brother in the videos on TV. “He had fainted, his head fallen on his chest, and there were people trying to help him,” said Erkal, who believed her brother had been wounded.
“We wanted to believe that he is only wounded, but he could also be dead. He has two sons and we did not tell his wife what we saw. We wouldn’t know what to say,” said Erkal, who was waiting at İHH in hope of good news.
Like others, Erkal said she was expecting a response from Israel, although not one so fatal. “I did not expect such a wild intervention. They were all unarmed people carrying humanitarian aid.”
Hatice Çorluk, whose son Fevzi Çorluk, 24, was on the ship, said she had expected the Israeli army’s response.
Struggling to speak due to her anguish, Çorluk said Turkey had abandoned those onboard.
Neslihan Üstündağ, Fevzi Çorluk’s sister, said those on the ship had called for help many times during the night before the attack occurred. “But Turkey did not do anything. It could have sent a ship to help them.”
The members of the Çorluk family said they had been crying all day and that they simply wanted to receive good news about their loved one’s condition.
Hayrünnisa Abdurrahman, a mother of four, said she was afraid her husband, Abdülahad Abdurrahman, 40, could be dead.
“He is a man who cannot stand injustice. I fear that he might have intervened during the attacks to save people from Israeli soldiers,” she said through tears. Abdurrahman has four children.
Before leaving home, Abdurrahman told his wife that the journey could be potentially fatal and asked for her blessing.
When he boarded the vessel, he had no possessions that could be construed as a weapon except a sewing needle with which to repair any tears to his pants, she said.
Governments of several countries condemn Israeli attack on aid ship
The government of Turkey recalled its ambassador to Israel Monday, and a number of countries issued strong condemnations of the Israeli attack on humanitarian aid ships that left 19 people dead, according to the latest count. Greece, Sweden, France, Austria, Spain, China and Russia all condemned the Israeli attack and summoned the Israeli ambassadors in their respective countries to provide an explanation of Israel's actions.
items considered 'security risk' to Israel include dolls and crayons
The response from the US government was more guarded, with the White House spokesman ironically using the same words that the Israeli Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi used in response to the attack, “We deeply regret the loss of life”, leading some to speculate that the White House was coached by Israel on what to say in response to the attack.
The British government reiterated its previous statements that the Gaza aid flotilla should not have tried to enter Gaza without Israeli permission, but said that Israel was out of line in attacking the ship with violence in international waters.
A number of international dignitaries and parliament members from various countries have pointed out that The Israeli attack and abduction of 700 civilians from around the world has violated the following article of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea:
Article 87(a) provides for "freedom of navigation."
Article 88: "The high seas shall be reserved for peaceful purposes."
Article 89: "No state may validly purport to subject any part of the high seas to its sovereignty."
Article 90: "Every State, whether coastal or land-locked, has the right to sail ships flying its flag on the high seas."
The Israeli government made a statement on the attack, but the statement included claims that were proven to be false by video footage, including a false claim that the aid workers attacked the invading soldiers – Israel's own video footage that they claimed showed 'weapons' showed only marbles which were part of the aid shipment meant for the children of Gaza.By Cynthia McKinney
I am outraged at Israel's latest criminal act. I mourn with my fellow Free Gaza travelers, the lives that have been lost by Israel's needless, senseless act against unarmed humanitarian activists. But I'm even more outraged that once again, Israel's actions have been aided and abetted by a U.S. political class that has become corrupted beyond belief due to its reliance on Zionist finance and penetration by Zionist zealots for whom no U.S. weapons system is too much for the Israeli war machine, and the silence of the world's onlookers whose hearts have grown cold with indifference.
I recently visited the offices of IHH, the Turkish humanitarian organization that sponsored one of the Freedom Flotilla boats, and that was targeted by the Israelis for its murderous rampage. Reports are still coming in as to the full extent of the senseless Israeli violence. Of course, I expect Israel's apologists in the press and in the United States government to shift into high gear to support Israel's lying machine. Take note of their names. The 12,000 internet squatters/written word grenade throwers, hired by the Israeli Foreign Ministry to defend Israel and attack peace activists online, are already busy spreading their orchestrated disinformation in cyberspace. Be very careful what you read and believe from special interest press and the internet. You could be reading one of Israel's hired hacks. As a news diversion from what Israel has just done, I suspect that we can also expect to see a lot of historical footage of war's atrocities on television: today is Memorial Day in the United States, a day long ago set aside to remember the sacrifices of U.S. war dead.
I encouraged and supported U.S.S. Liberty veteran Joe Meadors's participation in the Freedom Flotilla. Unfortunately, the fate of the U.S.S. Liberty innocents on the high seas, while in international waters, has now been visited upon the participants in the Freedom Flotilla, in large measure because of the Congressional- and Presidential-level cover-up of the 1967 Israeli attack on that U.S. surveillance ship. Combined with the failure of just about every other effort to hold Israel accountable for its crimes against humanity, war crimes, genocide, and crimes against the peace. Belgium and Spain changed their domestic laws of universal jurisdiction after Israeli appeals to do so. The entire musical chairs gang of rotating Israeli leadership are war criminals. During my imprisonment in Israel for attempting to take crayons to the children of Gaza, I called Israel a failed state. If Israel is threatened by unarmed, humanitarian activists to the point of massacring them, then Israel is a failed state. Israel is a failed nuclear state.
Obama's most recent granting of an additional $205 million for Israeli "missile defense" is unconscionable, when in the same week, reports revealed for the first time, Israel's offer of nuclear weapons to apartheid South Africa. Just last week, a paper bearing the signature of former Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, was released by South Africa, revealing that in 1975, Israel could offer South Africa nuclear weapons "in three sizes." South Africa's then-Minister of Defense, P.W. Botha, was South Africa's signatory to the letter. This information would make the entire Obama Administration look sadly farcical as it points an accusing finger at Iran, except that U.S. obeisance to the Israeli bloodthirst is deadly serious. With deadly outcomes.
Earlier this month, Israel was granted admission to the Organization of Economic and Community Development (OECD), a direct affront to ongoing Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions (BDS) efforts across the world. Once again, Israel has thumbed its nose at the global community--with bloody results--because it can.
I am proud to serve on the Bertrand Russell Tribunal on Palestine. Its next sitting will be in London, where we will examine corporate complicity in Israel's crimes against Palestine. The Tribunal will sit from November 5 - 7. Please put this on your calendar. We all must do what we can, where we are to end wars against the people at home and wars against human rights abroad.
Finally, a friend just sent a message to me saying that the Israelis had lost their minds. Sadly, based on the past, the Israelis could very well conclude that they can do anything--imprison me for trying to take love to the children of Gaza and kill humanitarian activists trying to do the same--because they know, in the end, they'll get away with it. Instead, I would suggest that we are the ones who have lost our minds, our souls, our spirits, and our human dignity if we allow the Israelis to get away with murder--again--and we do nothing.
I am calling on the people of the United States to change course now.
On this Memorial Day 2010, I am stunned and outraged beyond belief while mourning the dead of the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza.
- Cynthia McKinney is a former United States Representative and the 2008 Green Party nominee for President of the United States. She contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.By Ahmad Amr
If you think about it, Israel's calculated murder of peace activists on a mission to break the siege of Gaza makes perfect sense. A lot of observers were baffled that Netanyahu’s government inflated the importance of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla which was delivering vital humanitarian aid to the largest concentration camp in the world but had the secondary mission of publicizing the brutal and illegal siege of Gaza. To casual observers, it seemed like Israel’s belligerent posture was amplifying the international media attention given to the flotilla. It seemed so counter- productive for the Israelis to hand the peace activists what amounted to a nuclear powered bull horn.
The only excuse that Netanyahu and Lieberman could make for their seemingly irrational obsession with the supply ships was that the peace activists on board where delegitimizing Israel. The Israelis couldn’t make the usual ‘security’ arguments about terrorist threats - not with so many unarmed European Parliamentarians and peace activists on board. So they dreamed up a new category of criminals nobody has ever heard of before - de-legitimizers. There are millions of decent people who abhor Zionism and view Israel as a racist state. Israel and her supporters can argue with that, but since when has delegitimizing Israel been a capital crime that justified piracy on the high seas?
The flotilla was in international waters when it was assaulted - seventy miles from its destination. It was a pre-dawn raid and, in an operation of this sort, the darkness elevated the risk of inflicting unnecessary casualties. Quite a few journalists were on board and the dark offered the Israelis a veil to ward off any cameras that could clearly document that the violence was premeditated.
The overwhelming evidence suggests that this Israeli raid was planned, perfectly timed and achieved its desired objective - to scuttle a scheduled meeting with Obama. What else would explain the hurry? Was there a clock ticking away? The answer to that question is yes. Only a few precious hours remained for Netanyahu to weasel his way out of an appointment at the White House. That might help explain the smug self-satisfied look on Netanyahu’s face when he announced the cancelation of the visit.
The scheduled meeting at the White House was no ordinary tete-a-tete. It was a carefully orchestrated event. A week earlier, Obama had dispatched Rohm Emanuel to Jerusalem to butter up Netanyahu. According to news reports, Israel's prime minister was given "unequivocal assurances" from the US President that an accord agreeing to talks on a nuclear weapons-free Mideast would not endanger the Jewish state. The assurances included a significant upgrade of Israel's strategic and deterrent capabilities and a promise that no UN resolutions would be adopted that would hurt Israel’s ‘vital interests.’ One has to presume that Obama’s promises included blanket amnesty for last year’s war crimes in Gaza. As a bonus, Netanyahu stopped in Europe to pick up membership in the OEDC - making Israel the only wealthy country in the world to get lavish American aid.
Of course, Obama and the Europeans expected a little reciprocity and a more flexible Israeli posture in the proximity talks with the Palestinians. It was Netanyahu’s turn to give a little. There was talk in the press of a love fest where a ‘new and improved’ Netanyahu would make an appearance and be willing to make a few hard choices to end the interminable conflict. The Israeli Prime Minister who opposed Camp David, the Oslo agreement and the withdrawal from Gaza was under pressure to deliver the goods.
Sabotaging peace initiatives is something the Israelis excel at and Netanyahu is a skilled practitioner of obstructionism. Lest we forget, he secured the position of Prime Minister by putting together the most right wing coalition in Israeli history. He leads a government that is made up of pro-settler parties and outright expultionists. Freezing settlements or withdrawing from the West Bank or making any kinds of concessions on East Jerusalem would unravel his government.
Netanyahu didn’t have much of a choice in the matter. There was a strategic imperative to create a crisis to justify cancelling the meeting with Obama. Murdering the peace activists on the high seas was a high risk maneuver and it came at a well calibrated cost. Let’s first dispel the rumor that Israel is or has ever been concerned with its international reputation. Notice that it was Netanyahu who cancelled the White House appointment. Why the rush to get back to Israel? Was there any better way to do a little damage control than by making a few concessions in Washington in front of the fawning lenses of pro-Israeli CNN cameras? But the White House was the last place the Israeli Prime Minister wanted to be. And if all it took was piracy and murder on the high seas, it was a price Netanyahu was willing to pay.
Israel’s has a well established record of planning and executing premeditated atrocities. They’ve shot Libyan passenger planes out of the sky and carpet bombed Gaza, South Lebanon and Beirut. One can go down the list of infamous massacres from Sabra and Shatilla to Jenin to Deir El Yassin, Qibya and a hundred other places where they’ve slaughtered innocents. Aside from the attack on the Liberty, the only thing that distinguishes this latest war crime is that the victims were not Palestinians or Arabs. With the assistance of the Jewish Lobby and their well-placed partisans at FOX noise and CNnothing, Israel always manages to wipe the incriminatory blood stains off its garments and make a miraculous recovery as the perpetual victim.
Anybody with half a brain should be able to figure out that this most recent Israeli atrocity was premeditated. Netanyahu will pay a price and there will be a price to pay but it will be paid in short term currency. Obama might or might not figure out that he gave away the store and walked away empty handed but with mid-term elections on the horizon, he’ll still shield Israeli leaders from accountability for their war crimes. Relationships with Turkey will be strained and a few European foreign ministers will fume. The United States had no problem figuring out how to react to piracy with the Achille Lauro, but all they can muster up in response to this latest act of Israeli state terrorism is a benign statement of ‘concern.’ Washington might even work up the courage to ask the Israelis to conduct an inquiry. Israel will be ostracized for a few weeks but Netanyahu will have accomplished his goal by derailing yet another peace initiative and winning additional time to continue building settlements and dispossess the Palestinians of their native soil.
- Ahmed Amr, the former editor of NileMedia.com, is the author of “The Sheep and The Guardians - Diary of a SEC Sanctioned Swindle.” He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.By Jeremy Salt – Ankara
The Turkish aid vessel Mavi Marmara (Blue Marmara) was in international waters when it was attacked by Israeli ships and helicopter-borne soldiers on Monday morning. According to the Israeli government spokesmen, it was the Israeli soldiers who were themselves attacked, with knives, axes and guns, but it was 16 people on board who were killed, according to the estimates of the dead and wounded being made by midday. In fact, as film taken from the Mavi Marmara showed, it was the Israelis who attacked, swarming on the deck and wounding the captain as they took the ship over. The passengers were not armed. They were all checked before they boarded the ship in Istanbul and Antalya and none were carrying weapons. According to a Turkish customs official in Antalya: 'Forty-two passengers boarded in Istanbul and 504 passengers got on the ship here. We spotted no weapons and there is no such record in our logs. We did not notice anything suspicious about the Mavi Marmara. Had our officers had any suspicions they would have reported it'.
In short, when the Israeli Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, said that arms were found on the ship he was lying. Even more hysterically, reaching even deeper into the barrel of falsehood, he accused the passengers of having links to Al Qaida and other 'terrorist' organisations. But there were no 'terrorists' on the Mavi Marmara, there was no live fire from the ship and there was no 'lynch mob' waiting for the soldiers, as the Jerusalem Post claimed. It was the Israelis who attacked. Heavily armed ‘soldiers’ swarmed on to the deck of the Mavi Marmara from naval vessels or were lowered on to it by helicopter. They began shooting straight away, terrorising the passengers as intended. If some of the attackers (three or four) were hurt it was because some passengers dared to defend themselves against armed assault. One soldier is reported to have been wounded by a passenger who grabbed his gun and turned it on his assailant but no passengers were carrying arms when they boarded the Mavi Marmara. The hundreds of people on board the ship are now on Israeli soil, having been kidnapped on the high seas. No doubt Israel will confiscate mobile phones and cameras, but it cannot hold these people for long and when they are free to tell their stories we will have a clearer idea of what happened on the Mavi Marmara.
Many of the dead were Turkish peace activists and in the coming days Turkey's reaction to this attack on a ship flying the Turkish flag will be critical. Certainly nothing much can be expected from the US and European governments in defence of their citizens. In Ankara, however, the government issued a statement saying that the attack on a ship flying the Turkish flag may well have caused 'irreversible damage' to relations between the two countries. The relationship between the two countries has been deteriorating for years, reaching a low point several months ago when the last ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry simply to be humiliated. For Turkey this might be the final straw. Why would it want to have any kind of relationship with a state that kills Turkish citizens? Thousands of Turks demonstrated in Istanbul's Taksim Square on Monday afternoon. Basically Turks have had enough of Israel. They were shocked by Israel's onslaught on Gaza in 2008 and stung by the humiliation of their ambassador and they will want very strong action from their government following this latest outrage.
To those who do not follow Middle Eastern history and politics Israel suddenly seems out of control. But it has been out of control for the six decades. It has never been in control. It has been allowed to run wild year after year. It is the embodiment of a rogue state. There is no country surrounding Israel that has not suffered a high civilian death at the hands of the Israeli 'defence' forces. Tens of thousands have died in Lebanon. Multiple thousands have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank. The killing of Arab civilians has been so normalised in Israel that individual deaths are scarcely mentioned. Israel will kill foreigners who get in its way but this slaughter of foreigners on the high seas is a new benchmark. This is a state that offers no hope for its own future and at this stage seems beyond redemption.
- Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.
Israel created deep discomfort in the West after Mossad agents used fake European passports to assassinate senior Hamas member Mahmoud El-Mabhouh earlier this year in Dubai.
And today, Israel committed a massacre in international waters when its navy commandos stormed the Gaza-bound aid ships and killed at least 19 unarmed activists. 700 Arab and European activists were on board the boats with ten thousand tons of aids and supplies for the besieged Gazans.
"We are Italian, Irish, Canadian, Greek, Tunisian, German, Australian, American, English, Scottish, Danish, Israeli, and Palestinian. We are of all ages and backgrounds. We have years of experience volunteering in Gaza and the West Bank at the invitation of Palestinians. But now, because of the increasing stranglehold of Israel's illegal occupation of Palestine, many of us find it almost impossible to enter Gaza, and an increasing number have been refused entry to Israel and the West Bank as well.
We want to break the siege of Gaza. We want to raise international awareness about the prison-like closure of the Gaza Strip and pressure the international community to review its sanctions policy and end its support for continued Israeli occupation. We want to uphold Palestine's right to welcome internationals as visitors, human rights observers, humanitarian aid workers, journalists, or otherwise.
We have not and will not ask for Israel’s permission. It is our intent to overcome this brutal siege through civil resistance and non-violent direct action, and establish a permanent sea lane between Gaza and the rest of the world."
This is the motto and aim of the Free Gaza Movement which has sent the "Freedom Flotilla" of six ships to bring humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip only to be forcefully stopped by Israeli occupation forces.
Israel was quick to allege that the activists on-board the ships are ‘militants and extremists.’ "The flotilla of ships on its way to Gaza was an armada of hate and violence," charged Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon at a press conference on Monday morning. "It was a premeditated and outrageous provocation" and its organizers had ties to global Jihad, al Qaida and Hamas,” continued Ayalon.
Israel and Ayalon’s terrorists are in the eyes of the world prominent passengers including European MPs, authors, journalists, religious figures like former Greek-Catholic archbishop of Jerusalem, Monsignor Hilarion Capucci, leader of Islamic movement's northern branch in the occupied territories Sheikh Raed Salah who has been very seriously injured in the Israeli attack.
Among the volunteers whom Israel consider terrorists and extremists are
· Annekarijn de Jong (29),Weesp, Holland. A Dutch PhD researcher at the School for Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), department of Anthropology. Her research interest are popular protest, human rights and for her fieldwork research she spent 16 months in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including occupied East-Jerusalem and Besieged Gaza.
· Inge Neefs (26), Ghent, Belgium. She studied educational sciences and holds a masters degree in anthropology. Recently, she spent three months in the West Bank as an activist supporting the "non-violent resistance" of Palestinians against Israel's military occupation.
· Hedy Epstein (86); St. Louis, Missouri, USA. She worked for the American government, first with the U.S. Civil Censorship Division and then as a research analyst at the Nuremberg trial.
· Katherine Elliott Sheetz (63), Mass., USA. She is a Registered Nurse with a master's degree in sustainable development. She has worked on human rights, health and food security, most often in Haiti.
· Caoimhe Butterly 31. She’s an Irish human rights activist & the Free Gaza Movement's Gaza coordinator. Caoimhe lived in the Jenin refugee camp for a year in 2002 before being shot by Israeli occupation soldiers, then deported. She has worked with human rights organizations, social movements, NGOs, prisoner rights campaigns and as a volunteer on ambulance services during the massacres in Gaza in December and January, and was a witness to war crimes and white phosphorous attacks, Caoimhe went to Gaza on the second trip in October 2008, then stayed as one of the two Free Gaza coordinators there.
· Denis Halliday, 69, (Ireland). He was the UN Assistant Secretary-General from Humanitarian Programme in Iraq to support the Iraqi people struggling1994-98. Halliday served UNDP from 1964-94 in Iran, New York, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Samoa, New York again and finally as head of the UNDP Regional Office in Thailand.
· Mark Daly 37, Kerry, Ireland. He is an Irish Senator and a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs, the Seanad Spokesman on Overseas Development, the Deputy Government Spokesman on Innovation, and the Coordinator for the National Forum on Europe.
· Shane Dillon (36), Dublin, Ireland. He is an Irish Seafarer. He has served as Chief Officer on Irish and British merchant ships, and is now based in Dublin.
· Fiachra O Luain 28, Carndonagh, Ireland. He is an Irish Peace Activist. Fiachra was an independent candidate in the 2009 European election. He hopes to help build new consensus in Europe and the Americas about the gravity of the situation in Gaza.
· Alex Harrison (32), London, UK. She is a solidarity worker living between London and the Middle East. She lived and worked in Balata, Nablus in the West Bank during the intifada. When she tried to visit family in Palestine in 2006 and 2008, the Israeli authorities denied her entry. She is determined to return to Palestine and plans to work do long-term human rights monitoring in Gaza.
· Ewa Jasiewicz (31), London, UK, Poland. She is an experienced journalist, community and union organizer, and solidarity worker. Her articles have appeared in The Independent, The Guardian, Le Monde Diplomatique, Red Pepper, and Z Net, among others. She worked with the ISM in Palestine, and with Voices in the Wilderness in Iraq.
· Lubna Masarwa (32) is a Palestinian activist. She works as a community organizer for Al Quds University focusing on educational rights for the thousands of Palestinian children in East Jerusalem who have no schools. She also works with the community of East Jerusalem in their struggle against the Israeli government’s policy of ethnic cleansing Palestinian families through home demolitions and forced displacement.
· Huwaida Arraf (33), Ramallah, Palestine / Washington D.C. / Detroit. She is a Palestinian with American citizenship. She graduated from the American University Washington College of Law, where she focused her studies on international human rights and humanitarian law. In 2001 Huwaida co-founded the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), which has twice been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize.
· Annette Groth 56, Berlin, Germany. She is a member of Parliament in the German Bundestag and Human Rights Policy Spokeswoman for the LEFT Party Parliamentary Group. She serves on the Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid Committee, as well on the Economic Cooperation and Development Committee.
· Inge D.M. Höger 59, Herford, Germany. She is a member of Parliament in the German Bundestag, serving on the Defence and Health Committees. She is the political spokesperson for the LEFT party.
· Matthias Jochheim 61, Frankfurt, Germany. He is a physician and psychotherapist. He is Deputy chair of IPPNW Germany, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War .
· Norman Paech 72, Hamburg, Germany. He is a LEFT Member of Parliament in Germany's Bundestag, as well as Professor of Public Law at the University of Economics and Political Science (HWP) in Hamburg.
· Mairead Maguire 66 Belfast, Ireland. She is a Nobel Peace Laureate (l976) and Co-founder of Peace People, Northern Ireland. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for her work for peace and a nonviolent solution to the Ethnic/political conflict in Northern Ireland. Mairead has travelled many times to the occupied territories of Palestine to support the nonviolent peoples’ movement for Human Rights, International Law, and Self Determination of the Palestinian people. Maguire was shot with a plastic bullet whilst participating with Palestinians/Israelis/Internationals in a peaceful protest March to the Wall in Bilin, in April, 2007. She was on Board ‘Spirit’ when Israel hijacked the Boat in International Waters, taking all 2l humanitarian passengers to "Israel", where they were arrested, detained for a week in an Israeli prison and then deported.
Those and many other Nobel Prize-awarded activists were onboard the flotilla who came from several countries to stand with the Gazans and express solidarity with the besieged people. They are not terrorists, they are not extremists, they are not militants, they are people who denounce tyranny, Israel’s tyranny.Commentary by Khaled Amayreh
As I write these words, around Sunday’s midnight, 30 May, 2010, some of the most noble men and women under the sun are sailing toward Gaza in rough seas in a gesture of hope and selfless love that is meant to say to the people of Gaza “You are not alone.”
Needless to say, these brave men and women, these known and unknown soldiers deserve our utmost admiration and appreciation. They are acting on behalf of humanity, a humanity that has nearly succumbed to callous apathy and criminal indifference toward its weak and its poor.
After all, Gaza today is very much like Ghetto Warsaw of 1943. The comparison might raise some eyebrows here and there, but the truth, in case people still care about it, is that Gazans are completely dependent on the good will of the peoples of the world for their very survival.
If they approach the wall of death on the Israeli side, they are summarily killed by indifferent bullets fired by an Israeli soldier who is likely to have been taught in his neighborhood synagogue or local yeshiva (Talmudic School) that non-Jews are virtual animals whose lives have no sanctity whatsoever.
And if they seek life westward, e.g. through the tunnels, they are gassed or killed by the criminal hands of a depraved regime that has demonstrated more skills in groveling, like a meek dog, before Zionism than in providing bread to its own citizens.
In the meanwhile, Israeli leaders are threatening to violently confront the messengers of love and good will who have come from distant lands to show solidarity with the people of Gaza who have been thoroughly savaged by the very people who have the Chutzpa to claim themselves as “a light upon the nations” when in reality they have demonstrated ad nauseam that they are actually an abomination, a cancer upon the world.
In short, we are talking about a showdown between the forces of evil and darkness, represented by the goons of Judeo-Nazism, people like Benyamin Netanyahu and Avigdor Lieberman, and, on the other hand, the forces of hope, love, peace and justice, which these sublime human beings represent.
Well, from experience, we realize that the Nazis of our time in Tel Aviv are capable of embarking on the worst scenario.
Indeed, a state that is capable of raining White Phosphorus on the heads of Gaza children can’t be expected to act gracefully toward messengers of peace carrying milk powder to the blockaded children of the coastal enclave.
In the final analysis, we are talking about a breed of evil-minded people who would consider a smile on the face of a Gaza child a security threat?
Israeli leaders have been spreading disinformation and dark propaganda around the freedom flotilla. Lieberman, the manifestly fascist foreign minister of the Zionist regime has been claiming that the Freedom Flotilla is besmirching Israel’s image as if that image needed any further besmirching after the virtual genocide in Gaza 18 months ago.
Other Zionist thugs have had the audacity to call the great men and women of this mission “terrorists.”
Well, Never minds. These are the same Zionist thugs who have been calling their victims similar epithets because the Palestinians are refusing to disappear and are still fighting for their freedom from Zio-Nazism despite the passage of more than six decades of oppression and criminality.
The Zionist Kriegsmarine may very well gang up on the civilian ships transferring relief materials to the besieged people of Gaza. One even can’t rule out the possibility that some activists might get hurt.
In the final analysis, violence, coercion and cruelty are the natural trademarks of Zionism. This is the way they think they can feel virile and manly…by starving and killing children and posing for a photograph right beside the kill.!!
None the less, this is already going to be a losing battle for the nefarious state. Exposing the cruel, or more correctly the Nazi nature of Israel, will be a victory for the forces of freedom and humanity and a definitive defeat for the forces of cruelty and hate.
The Freedom Flotilla is really dividing the world according to its moral conscience. There are those who would rise up in solidarity with the people of Gaza, irrespective of any political ramifications that they might have to incur consequently. Turkey and a few other countries represent this camp par excellance. To its people and leadership, we say a big thank you.
And then there are those who are watching, waiting to see how this episode will unfold. These are the morally-confused, people who are blind in this world and will be blind in the hereafter.
And then there is the whoring western world and its numerous puppets, including the US government, and some European states, such as Germany and Italy and probably the government of France as well, which are reluctant to force Israel to lift the sanctions on Gaza for totally unjustifiable reasons.
As to the Jewish people, apart from a small minority which deserves admiration, they seem to prefer to worship the Golden Calf rather than obey Moses an Aaron.
I am saying this because supporting Israel right or wrong is an act of paganism and idolatry.
True, Israel is tormenting the people of Gaza, indeed most Palestinians. This may make you happy. It might please you as it may make you powerful and important.
But Israel is also killing your humanity, by making you insensitive to her crimes against another people, the helpless Palestinians. How many times did your Bible exhort you to refrain from tormenting the “stranger” amongst you because you yourselves were “strangers” in the Land of the Pharaoh?
This is why you should wake up before it is too late.
Khalid Amayreh is a journalist living in Palestine. He obtained his MA in journalism from the University of Southern Illinois in 1983. Since the 1990s, Mr. Amayreh has been working and writing for several news outlets among which is Aljazeera.net, Al-Ahram Weekly, Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA), and Middle East International. He can be reached through email@example.com.
This time, the Israeli war machine may have gone too far for international public opinion to stomach. In the early hours of 31 May, before daybreak, Israeli commandos stormed the international civilian aid convoy heading for Gaza. Between 20-24 volunteers on board have been killed and at least 50 injured, according to various reports, but the number of casualties has risen rapidly from the initial reports of two dead. The final death toll could be greater.
The actions by Israeli forces have been condemned by governments around the world. European governments, including those of Belgium, Ireland, Italy, Germany, Norway and Sweden have summoned their respective Israeli envoys over the incident. Turkish prime minister Recep Erdogan is reported to have cut short a trip to South America and his country is said to have recalled its ambassador to Israel in protest.
In a tired-sounding script, Israeli government spokespeople claimed that its forces were acting in self-defence after they were attacked by aid workers wielding knives when they boarded the main ship – a Turkish vessel – in the six-ship convoy. One Israeli commando was stabbed, Israeli TV reported.
Within minutes of the interception, Israeli forces blacked out all communications from the flotilla, which is carrying 700 civilians from 50 countries, including Britain, Ireland, Turkey and the US. The aid convoy – dubbed the Gaza Freedom Flotilla – had a high-profile assembly in Turkey last week before departing from Cyprus for the Palestinian coast on Sunday. Backed by several governments, including that of Turkey, and counting among its numbers at least four European MPs, a Nobel laureate and journalists from various news media, the aid convoy had declared itself to be a civilian, humanitarian relief operation.
The flotilla was attempting to ferry some 10,000 tonnes of aid material, ranging from medicines, building materials to school equipment, for the 1.5 million Gazans who have been besieged by Israeli military for three years, ever since they democratically elected the Hamas government. After the Israeli onslaught on Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009, in which more than 1,400 people – mainly civilians – were killed, the Palestinian territory remains a disaster zone, with its population living under tents and having to resort to smuggling vital materials via underground tunnels, which the Israeli air force frequently bombard. The Gazans’ only other lifeline is via tunnels into Egypt on their southwestern border, but these, too, are routinely attacked by Egyptian forces.
The Israeli government had denounced the Freedom Flotilla as “provocative” even before it departed and warned that it would be intercepted – despite the fact that the convoy had declared that it would be entering Palestine from international waters in the Mediterranean, well away from Israeli territory.
While the Israeli naval interception was clearly well planned, its accompanying blackout of communications was evidently not swift enough, failing to prevent Turkish satellite TV footage broadcasting for several minutes what was taking place. Those images relayed by international media nail the lie in the Israeli version of events. (Whether the US media do so will be telling.)
Taken from different angles on various positions of the vessel, the TV images show the following:
The convoy was intercepted at around 5am local time, some 150 kilometers (90 miles) off the coast of Gaza in international waters.
Israeli commandos are seen hauling themselves on to the aid ship. The commandos were armed with assault rifles and handguns, wearing helmets and full body armor. It appears that the passengers and crew are unaware of the intrusion. The Israeli personnel were able to assemble without any opposition; they seemed casual in their movements, then raising their guns in assault mode, covering each other with pointed weapons before filing off to their intended target area on the ship. Other images show an Israeli military helicopter hovering over the convoy and high-speed marine dinghies approaching.
Chaotic scenes ensue. Aid workers are seen lying on decks wounded with what appear to be gunshots. Some of the injured – all clearly civilian in appearance – are lying motionless and unconscious, presumably dead. Other aid workers are shown trying to assist the wounded. One woman is seen carrying a blood-soaked stretcher amid the mayhem.
Some of the footage shows a melee of aid workers scuffling with Israeli commandos. None of the civilians are shown to be carrying knives.
Of course, there is hardly anything new here – Israeli forces using disproportionate violence, killing civilians with impunity. But on this occasion, the murderous incident is not in some poor ghetto in the Gaza Strip hidden from the full view of the world. Up to now, Israeli disinformation could afford just enough wriggle room to sow doubts over such events. The cynical phrases of “terror suspects” and “self defense” parroted by the western mainstream media served to give the Israeli government and its backers in Washington a degree of political cover for otherwise heinous conduct.
Hence, the United Nations’ Goldstone report on human rights violations by Israel during the Gaza offensive could be rebuffed by Tel Aviv and Washington because Israel was responding “in self defense to rocket attacks”. The crushing to death of American peace activist Rachel Corrie in 2003 by an Israeli military bulldozer was “a tragic accident”. The assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhoub by Mossad agents in a Dubai hotel in January of this year could be brazened out because, well, the victim was an official of Hamas – the government of Gaza whom the Israelis and the Americans refuse to legitimize and treat as “terrorists”.
Nevertheless, all of these crimes – in addition to the warmongering towards Iran over trumped allegations of nuclear ambitions from the only state in the Middle East to possess nuclear weapons and possess them illegally – has seen the political and moral position of Israel and its US patron gradually diminish to the point of contempt in the eyes of the world.
In attacking the Freedom Flotilla, Israel and the US are now in danger of losing whatever shred of credibility or pretense they may have had with regard to the roots of conflict in the Middle East.
What the world has witnessed is an outrageous act of sea piracy bordering on an act of war that transgresses the diplomatic rights of 50 countries and the premeditated, cold-blooded murder of civilians.
At the same time that world powers are demanding a tough response to the alleged attack by North Korea on a South Korean warship in which 46 seamen died, public opinion will likewise see the appropriate demand for the same legal standard applied to Israel.
The US government stands to be severely exposed by this latest, most glaring crime against humanity. No mealy-mouthed US censure of its client will placate world anger that is inevitably pushing governments, especially the increasingly critical governments of the non-aligned movement, including Turkey and Brazil, to apply international law on the US-Israeli war machine.
Washington is so bound up by mendacious contradictions in its support for the Israeli war machine while at the same time posturing for international standards to be imposed on others such as Iran and North Korea – this latest outrage by its favorite criminal client will surely impose a diplomatic maneuver on Washington that even the great escape artist Houdini could not defy.
Finian Cunningham is a journalist and musician www.myspace.com/finiancunninghammusic
Israel cannot live without creating crises. Tel Aviv's strategy is to respond to a crisis by creating another one. This policy helps the Zionist regime to buy time by cashing in on the new crisis, and forget the previous one or seek to tackle it with the help of its allies.
Attacking the aid flotilla for Gaza is part of the same strategy. Israel knows well that if the boats make it into Gaza, the next convoys will be on the way, shattering Israel's hope of maintaining a full blockade on 1.5 million Palestinians in Gaza. Killing is the first option considered by the Israeli regime and army to settle an issue. Israel is no stranger to murder, even before it was founded. Over 60 years on since the Zionist regime proclaimed its establishment, not even one day has passed without news of an individual or individuals being killed by Israeli forces.
The Israeli raid on the Gaza peace convoy is not justifiable, whatsoever. To justify the brutal attack, however, certain Western media and governments announced, as usual, that Israeli troops had opened fire in self-defense. This comes as the authority in charge of Israeli prisons had already said it was preparing to take peace activists into custody, just in case. Israeli official circles had even announced earlier that the Israeli regime itself would take charge of delivering the international aid supplies to Gaza, and that the boats crewed by peace activists had no right to enter Gaza port. To avoid any operational problems, Israel once again bombarded Gaza's already-demolished airport. Everything had been pre-planned for killing.
The attack on the Gaza aid flotilla comes at a time when the wind is blowing against Israel. A few days ago when the Israeli premier was in Canada, participants at the NPT Review Conference unanimously issued a document, calling on Israel to open up its nuclear facilities to IAEA inspectors and sign up to the NPT.
The Obama administration frowned upon the idea of singling out Israel, and US officials announced they would not allow the next NPT conference in two years time to put Israel on the agenda. However, Netanyahu should not forget that the White House nonetheless gave the thumbs up to the NPT statement.
Maybe the US wants to use the document to ratchet up pressure on Iran to engage with the P5+1, but many believe the document has been in Iran's favor, given the fact that the US-backed plan on new UN sanctions against Iran has been a nonstarter. Brazil, Turkey and Lebanon, which currently hold seats on the UN Security Council, have announced they will not vote for the new sanctions resolution.
The document and calls on Israel to join the NPT will always be there. To tackle the crisis and eliminate the possibility of "nuclear ambiguity" melting away, Israel selected the same option that a notorious murderer would chose: professional killing. Armed-to-the-teeth Israeli soldiers raided the aid convoy and opened fire on the peace activists who were resisting arrest.
"Israel's right to self-defense" is a phrase also regurgitated by former US administrations when referring to the massacre of Palestinians at the hands of Israeli troops. It is embellished with "the need for self-restraint" rhetoric, and that's all. European governments also roundly condemn the attack, without specifying any punishment for the perpetrators. The new crisis coupled with reactions from Turkey as well as other Muslim and Arab nations together with Tel Aviv's response will, for a long time, deflect attention from the Israeli nuclear question and George Mitchell's new trip to the Middle East.
Israel is in hot water. Imposing an official blackout on the footage of the Israeli attack on the peace convoy won't be of any help to the Zionist regime. The waters off Gaza have time and again been mixed with Palestinians' blood.
Nevertheless, Israel needs to bend over backwards to cleanse the Gaza waters of non-Palestinian blood.
Israel, embarrassed by its naval forces’ bloody interception of Gaza-bound ships carrying humanitarian relief materials for besieged Gazans, has been spreading disinformation and outright lies to justify the ostensible massacre.
Dozens of people were either killed or injured when special Israeli naval units stormed and opened fire on a Turkish ship around dawn Monday.
The Gaza Freedom Flotila were carrying hundreds of peace activists from more than 50 nationalities, opposed to Israel’s Nazi-like siege of the Gaza Strip.
The manifestly criminal attack on the civilian ship is already generating angry reactions around the world, with dozens of countries denouncing the attack as constituting “criminal piracy.”
A spokesman of the Turkish government warned that Israel would have to face consequences of its criminal act.
Greece, many of whose nationals took were taking part in the Freedom Flotilla, has suspended an aerial exercise with the Israeli air-force.
Meanwhile, Israeli officials have resorted to spreading lies and disinformation in order to save its image following the criminal assault on the Gaza Flotilla freedom.
One Zionist official, Dany Ayalon, claimed that the flotilla was “an armada of hate and violence,” a claim rejected and denied by one of the flotilla organizers, Huweida Arraf, as “obscene and pornographic lies.”
Ayalon accused the organizers of having “connections to international terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al-Qaida.”
He called the convoy a “violent and provocative attempt to break the blockade on Gaza .”
Ayalon, who has been described as “a psychotic case,” claimed that stashes of weapons were aboard the ships.”
The Israeli media, acting as mouthpieces for the Israeli government, spoke of “clashes” on board the Turkish vessel.
The Israeli foreign ministry said it was launching a public relation campaign aimed at limiting the political and public relations damage following the bloody incident.
Another Israeli official, War Minister Ehud Barak, also made manifestly mendacious charges, blaming the victims for their own death at the hands of Israeli forces.
Angry reactions to the flotilla massacre came from Palestinian leaders in Israel.
Knesset member Mohammed “praised” the victory of the Israeli navy over unarmed men and women carrying powder milk to besieged Gaza children.
Barakeh added: "Any government that puts itself outside international and humanitarian law will consign itself to the garbage can of history.
Talab al-Sana, another Arab Knesset member, said the flotilla massacre had "exposed the ugly face of Zionism, the violence and aggression of the government of Israel ".
Sana described the interception as an act of state terror against a humanitarian mission and called for Israel's leaders to be tried for war crimes.
"This event proves you don't have to be a German to be a Nazi," he said.
Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described the Israeli attack as “a real massacre.”
Nabil Sha’aat, a Fatah official, called the attack “a war crime, a crime against humanity committed in international water.”
He blamed the silence of the international community for this “Nazi-like criminality perpetrated by this hateful, racist state.”
Shaath was speaking in Ramallah Monday afternoon during a rally in solidarity with Turkey.
Shaath said 15 of the 16 people killed aboard the Turkish ship were Turks.
It is quite astounding that Israel has been able to create over the past 12 hours a news blackout, just as it did with its attack on Gaza 18 months ago, into which our main media organisations have willingly allowed Israeli spokespeople to step in unchallenged.
How many civilians were killed in Israel’s dawn attack on the Gaza-bound flotilla of aid? We still don’t know. How many wounded? Your guess is as good as mine. Were the aid activists armed with guns? Yes, says Israel. Were they in cahoots with al-Qaeda and Hamas? Certainly, says Israel. Did the soldiers act reasonably? Of course, they faced a lynch, says Israel.
If we needed any evidence of the degree to which Western TV journalists are simply stenographers to power, the BBC, CNN and others are amply proving it. Mark Regev, Israel’s propagandist-in-chief, has the airwaves largely to himself.
The passengers on the ships, meanwhile, have been kidnapped by Israel and are unable to provide an alternative version of events. We can guess they will remain in enforced silence until Israel is sure it has set the news agenda.
So before we get swamped by Israeli hasbara let’s reiterate a few simple facts:
* Israeli soldiers invaded these ships in international waters, breaking international law, and, in killing civilians, committed a war crime. The counter-claim by Israeli commanders that their soldiers responded to an imminent “lynch” by civilians should be dismissed with the loud contempt it deserves.Today Israel chose to direct its deadly assault not only at Palestinians under occupation but at the international community itself.
* The Israeli government approved the boarding of these aid ships by an elite unit of commandoes. They were armed with automatic weapons to pacify the civilians onboard, but not with crowd dispersal equipment in case of resistance. Whatever the circumstances of the confrontation, Israel must be held responsible for sending in soldiers and recklessly endangering the lives of all the civilians onboard, including a baby and a Holocaust survivor.
* Israel has no right to control Gaza’s sea as its own territorial waters and to stop aid convoys arriving that way. In doing so, it proves that it is still in belligerent occupation of the enclave and its 1.5 million inhabitants. And if it is occupying Gaza, then under international law Israel is responsible for the welfare of the Strip’s inhabitants. Given that the blockade has put Palestinians there on a starvation diet for the past four years, Israel should long ago have been in the dock for committing a crime against humanity.
Will our leaders finally be moved to act?
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are “Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East” (Pluto Press) and “Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair” (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.Editorial, The Electronic Intifada, 31 May 2010
|Israeli naval ships flanking the Mavi Marmara.|
|Israeli soldiers aboard the Mavi Marmara.|
|A passenger aboard the Mavi Marmara carries a bloody stretcher.|
Early this morning under the cover of darkness Israeli soldiers stormed the lead ship of the six-vessel Freedom Flotilla aid convoy in international waters and killed and injured dozens of civilians aboard. All the ships were violently seized by Israeli forces, but hours after the attack fate of the passengers aboard the other ships remained unknown.
The Mavi Marmara was carrying around 600 activists when Israeli warships flanked it from all sides as soldiers descended from helicopters onto the ship's deck. Reports from people on board the ship backed up by live video feeds broadcast on Turkish TV show that Israeli forces used live ammunition against the civilian passengers, some of whom resisted the attack with sticks and other items.
The Freedom Flotilla was organized by a coalition of groups that sought to break the Israeli-led siege on the Gaza Strip that began in 2007. Together, the flotilla carried 700 civilian activists from around 50 countries and over 10,000 tons of aid including food, medicines, medical equipment, reconstruction materials and equipment, as well as various other necessities arbitrarily banned by Israel.
As of 6:00pm Jerusalem time most media were still reporting that up to 20 people had been killed, and many more injured. However, Israel was still withholding the exact numbers and names of the dead and injured. Passengers aboard the ships who had been posting Twitter updates on the Flotilla's progress had not been heard from since before the attack and efforts to contact passengers by satellite phone were unsuccessful. The Arabic- and English-language networks of Al-Jazeera lost contact with their half dozen staff traveling with the flotilla.
News of the massacre on board the Freedom Flotilla began to emerge around dawn in the eastern Mediterranean first on the live feed from the ship, social media, Turkish television, and Al-Jazeera. Israeli media were placed under strict military censorship, and reported primarily from foreign sources. However, by the morning the Jerusalem Post reported that the Israeli soldiers who boarded the flotilla in international waters were fired upon by passengers. Quoting anonymous military sources, the Jerusalem Post claimed that the flotilla passengers had set-up a "well planned lynch." ("IDF: Soldiers were met by well-planned lynch in boat raid")
The Israeli daily Haaretz also reported that the Israeli soldiers were "attacked" when trying to board the flotilla. ("At least 10 activists killed in Israel Navy clashes onboard Gaza aid flotilla")
This narrative of passengers "attacking" the Israeli soldiers was quickly adopted by the Associated Press and carried across mainstream media sources in the United States, including the Washington Post. ("Israeli army: More than 10 killed on Gaza flotilla")
Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon stated in a Monday morning press conference that the Israeli military was acting in "self-defense." He claimed that "At least two guns were found" and that the "incident" was still ongoing. Ayalon also claimed that the Flotilla organizers were "well-known" and were supported by and had connections to "international terrorist organizations."
It is unclear how anyone could credibly adopt an Israeli narrative of "self-defense" when Israel had carried out an unprovoked armed assault on civilian ships in international waters. Surely any right of self-defense would belong to the passengers on the ship. Nevertheless, the Freedom Flotilla organizers had clearly and loudly proclaimed their ships to be unarmed civilian vessels on a humanitarian mission.
The Israeli media strategy appeared to be to maintain censorship of the facts such as the number of dead and injured, the names of the victims and on which ships the injuries occurred, while aggressively putting out its version of events which is based on a dual strategy of implausibly claiming "self-defense" while demonizing the Freedom Flotilla passengers and intimating that they deserved what they got.
As news spread around the world, foreign governments began to react. Greece and Turkey, which had many citizens aboard the Flotilla, immediately recalled their ambassadors from Tel Aviv. Spain strongly condemned the attack. France's foreign minister Bernard Kouchner expressed "profound shock." The European Union's foreign minister Catherine Ashton called for an "enquiry."
What should be clear is this: no one can claim to be surprised by what the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights correctly termed a "hideous crime." Israel had been openly threatening a violent attack on the Flotilla for days, but complacency, complicity and inaction, specifically from Western and Arab governments once more sent the message that Israel could act with total impunity.
There is no doubt that Israel's massacre of 1,400 people, mostly civilians, in Gaza in December 2008/January 2009 was a wake up call for international civil society to begin to adopt boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel similar to those applied to apartheid-era South Africa.
Yet governments largely have remained complacent and complicit in Israel's ongoing violence and oppression against Palestinians and increasingly international humanitarian workers and solidarity activists, not only in Gaza, but throughout historic Palestine. We can only imagine that had former Israeli foreign minister Tzipi Livni indeed been arrested for war crimes in Gaza when a judge in London issued a warrant for her arrest, had the international community begun to implement the recommendations of the UN-commissioned Goldstone Report, had there been a much firmer response to Israel's assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai, it would not have dared to act with such brazenness.
As protest and solidarity actions begin in Palestine and across the world, this is the message they must carry: enough impunity, enough complicity, enough Israeli massacres and apartheid.