Aletho News


Sabotage on the High Sea

Free Gaza Movement | 4 June 2010

Colonel Itzik Tourgeman told the Knesset Defense and Foreign Affairs Committee on Tuesday that two more ships are on their way to try and break the naval blockade of Gaza. The head of research in the operations division said, “The ships have not reached their target as of today because covert action was taken against them.”

We had suspicions about our two boats, Challenger 1 and 2 and their mechanical problems as they sailed toward the flotilla, but we were not going to say anything unless we could prove it. Turns out we didn’t have to prove it. Israeli mouthpieces did.

The Guardian ran a piece the same day, saying,

Israel gave strong indications today that its forces had secretly sabotaged some of the ships bound for Gaza as part of the freedom flotilla.

Matan Vilnai, the deputy defence minister, was asked on Israel Radio whether there had not been a smarter alternative to direct assault. He answered that “all possibilities had been considered,” adding: “The fact is that there were less than the 10 ships that were due to participate in the flotilla.”

An unnamed Israeli Defence Force source who briefed the Knesset’s foreign affairs and defence committee on the widely criticised armed interception of the flotilla at sea, also spoke of “grey operations” being mounted against the flotilla.”

We were lucky that our two captains were supurbly trained and able to offload the passengers safely.

So we are going to make sure the Rachel Corrie is well protected and that Israel is put on notice that anything that happens to her, the passengers and the crew will rest with Israel. As a result of these threats, we’re going to pull Rachel Corrie into a port, add more high-profile people on board, and insist that journalists from around the world also come with us.

And sabotage happens with more than deeds. It also happens with words. In today’s Haaretz, Barak Ravid reported,

“A diplomatic solution seems imminent to allow the humanitarian aid vessel the Rachel Corrie to dock without incident at the Ashdod Port. According to European diplomats and senior Foreign Ministry officials in Jerusalem, quiet messages have been exchanged over the past few days between Israel and the group operating the ship, to allow it to dock.”

This, too, is sabotage in writing. We called Haaretz and the reporter. He did not return our call.

We have no intention nor would we ever have any intention of ever docking in Ashdod.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | Comments Off on Sabotage on the High Sea

Freed Aussie scribes say Israeli commandos were like “hyenas hunting”

ANI | 3rd June, 2010

Two journalists from the Sydney Morning Herald, who were detained by Israeli commandos after being caught in the melee when commandos raided Gaza-bound Turkish aid vessels have described the Israeli commando’s behaviour while they prowled around the vessels as that of “hyenas hunting”, after being freed.

Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty were roughed up by the intimidating Israeli forces, Kate was even stuck by a stun-gun and suffered minor burns and bruises, however, she said her injuries were “minor” as compared to what the commandos did with the others on the ship.

McGeough claimed that one of the activists was held at gun-point and that the incident was “very ugly”, “testosterone-driven, and that the commandos had stood over activists in a “bullying” way, the Sydney Morning Herald reports.

The journalists’ cameras and other equipment were also confiscated by Israeli authorities in what they called “an absolute disrespect by Israel” for democracy and the fundamental rights of journalists.

McGeough said that he would challenge his deportation from Israel in absentia.

The Herald’s editor, Peter Fray, said he was elated that he could speak to McGeough and Geraghty and relieved that they were out of prison.

He added that the Herald would pursue all legal, moral, ethical and journalistic avenues to ensure his staff “are able to do their jobs as bona fide and excellent journalists”.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, War Crimes | 1 Comment

‘If you express solidarity with Palestinians, then you will have Palestinian experiences’

By Philip Weiss on June 3, 2010

Two thoughts on the meaning of the Israeli violence.

There is of course a big effort in the western press now to make the flotilla members into violent people, provocateurs, engaged by cool Israeli commandos. I must tell you my one actual experience of this dynamic.

In January, I attended a demonstration against the occupation in the West Bank village of al-Masara. I wrote about it here: “An English politician watches Israeli soldiers lose control at a peaceful demonstration and vows to bear witness.”

The headline sums it up. About 100 demonstrators, Israelis and Palestinians and internationals, marched toward an illegal settlement (Efrat) and the confiscatory wall. They were stopped by a line of Israeli soldiers, some of whom were young and obviously nervous, standing at a line of concertina wire. The demonstrators shouted at the Israeli soldiers. I saw fear on a couple of the young men’s faces. And before you knew it the Israeli soldiers were pushing people back forcefully, even dragging them, and then firing stun grenades at us.

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a stun grenade go off, but it’s pretty terrifying, the first time, when a soldier hurls a black cylinder and it explodes; you think it’s live. And I have seen reports that these grenades were used on board the boat.

The soldiers ran the demonstrators a half mile back into the village amid mayhem. The lesson of the experience was the one that English politician took away– Catharine Arakelian, a candidate for Parliament, whom I met– that the Israelis had turned a nonviolent demonstration into an out-of-control situation.

So when people say that flotilla passengers tried to lynch the Israeli soldiers, or started the violence, I find that extremely doubtful.

I saw the way that Israel turns to violence as a tool, outside its own borders.

The second thought I have is also from that trip to the Middle East.

When I was in Egypt with the Gaza Freedom March last December, blocked by the Egyptians from entering Gaza, an older member of the group said to me, “When you express solidarity with Palestinians, you will find that you have Palestinian experiences, and you will experience their bitterness.”

He meant that if you walked a ways in the Palestinians’ shoes, you’d experience actual persecution. You’d find that governments and authorities dole out to you some of what the Palestinians experience–from actual violence to being silenced. And so you’d understand the Palestinian experience– and try to hurry back into your privileged life.

This seems to me the lesson of the Turkish boat, and also of Emily Henochowicz, the 21-year-old Cooper Union student who was blinded by Israeli soldiers in a protest of the flotilla raid, whose face is now having to be reconstructed. All these people have now had doled out to them some of the violence and abuse — and lies — that has been the Palestinian experience since 1948.

Of course it makes their courage all the more impressive.

But more important, it shows that the Palestinian experience under fearful Israeli rule is not the experience of animals or terrorists. It is a human experience. It could be you.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Solidarity and Activism, Subjugation - Torture | Comments Off on ‘If you express solidarity with Palestinians, then you will have Palestinian experiences’

Israel’s Dilemma

The Phony Claim of Self-Defense

By NADIA HIJAB | June 3, 2010

Israel is stuck. For decades, it has used the same strategy to achieve its objectives and to rout all challengers: overwhelming force. When it meets violence with violence — even when it uses disproportionate force as in Beirut in 1982 and 2006 and Gaza in 2008 — Israel claims self-defense and usually manages to spin the facts its way. And, as it has not yet been held to account in any meaningful way, it has seen no reason to change its strategy.

But when it meets non-violence with violence, the strategy backfires. Israel is pitching the self-defense line to try to shield itself from criticism of its attack on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza convoy — but it’s not working.

You cannot claim self-defense when you have decided to send a thousand or so well-armed forces to board boats in international waters — vessels that were carefully searched before the voyage to make sure there were no arms. Or when you have killed up to 20 civilians and injured 54 others, while suffering no deaths yourself. If the situation were not so tragic, Israel’s spinning would be the stuff of comedy.

The visible crushing of peaceful activists usually has a powerful effect on world public opinion and this time it has pushed governments to take action to hold Israel accountable in a way that armed force has not. This is perhaps the most important contribution that those brave humanitarians have made to the Palestinian quest for justice.

And things will continue to unravel for Israel because it only knows how to use force to try to get its way. Ironically, Israel’s overkill has made the use of force so costly for those who favor armed resistance that the stage has been left clear for those who believe it is more effective to use civil resistance against a vastly superior armed force. It should be noted that Palestinian civil resistance is not new although it has recently been “discovered” by the mainstream media.

The first Palestinian uprising (Intifada) of 1987-1991 was almost completely non-violent and imposed itself on the world consciousness, making a powerful case for Palestinian rights. Unfortunately, the Palestinian leadership did not know how to translate the power it generated into diplomatic gains. And that uprising was just one of a series of major acts of civil resistance stretching back a century.

Today, acts of peaceful resistance are underway throughout Israel, the occupied Palestinian territories, and the rest of the world. And another outcome of Israel’s massacre on the Freedom Flotilla is that it will inexorably draw attention to the violent tactics Israel uses to counter these non-violent acts.

For example, many Palestinians and their international supporters have lost their lives and been injured in protests against the illegal Wall Israel has been building in the occupied territory since 2002. The most recent victim was May 31: 21-year-old Emily Henochowicz, a student at New York’s Cooper Union, had her eye knocked out by one of the tear gas canisters Israel’s armed force routinely fire at unarmed demonstrators. She and a group of Palestinians and internationals were demonstrating in the occupied West Bank against Israel’s assault on the Flotilla. An Israeli tear gas canister killed the peaceful anti-Wall activist Bassem Abu Rahme in April 2009 as he demonstrated against his village Bil’in’s loss of 60% of its land to Israel’s Wall and settlements — and critically injured American citizen Tristan Anderson just a few weeks previously.

Israel’s international standing is also further eroded by the violence it is using against its own Palestinian citizens as they pursue their non-violent quest for equality, most recently in its draconian arrest of community leaders Ameer Makhoul and Omar Saeed. Having incarcerated both for weeks without access to legal counsel and subject to such torture as stress positions and sleep deprivation, Israel now claims to have evidence through both men’s “confessions” of collaboration with Israel’s enemies — confessions they have since retracted as obtained under duress.

Israel’s word against Ameer Makhoul’s? When it weighs the word of a known user of indiscriminate force and terror against that of a prominent civil society leader, the world will know whom to believe.

The real dilemma for Israel is that all of the force it brings to bear is aimed at achieving the unachievable: Keeping the territories it occupied in 1967, illegal under international law; privileging Jews over non-Jews within Israel, in violation of the United Nations Charter and international conventions; and denying Palestinian refugees their right of return. There are only two alternatives for Israel: to make its peace with justice and equality, or to experience growing and costly isolation.

Nadia Hijab is a senior fellow at the Institute for Palestine Studies.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism | 1 Comment

Greece, Sweden back Iran declaration

Press TV – June 3, 2010

Seeking to lighten the mood over Iran’s nuclear program, Greece and Sweden have called for the implementation of the recent Tehran declaration on a potential nuclear fuel swap.

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou and Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt called for the implementation of the Tehran nuclear declaration in a telephone conversation with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki late Wednesday, IRNA reported.

Iran, Turkey, and Brazil signed a declaration in the Iranian capital on May 17, committing Tehran to shipment of 1,200 kilograms (2,640 pounds) of its low-enriched uranium in Turkey in exchange for 120 kilograms of 20-percent enriched nuclear fuel for the Tehran Research Reactor that produces radioisotopes for cancer treatment.

In their telephone conversation, the three high ranking officials also discussed the recent Israeli attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy and denounced the brutal assault against the Palestinian community.

The Israeli military attacked the Freedom Flotilla in international waters in the Mediterranean Sea early on May 31, killing at least 20 people, mostly Turkish nationals, on board and injuring about 50 others.

Israel also arrested nearly 700 activists from 42 different countries on board the Freedom Flotilla that were attempting to break the siege of Gaza in order to deliver humanitarian supplies to the long-suffering people of the coastal territory.

The official condemnations come as the pre-dawn attack by Israeli commandos on the Turkish-flagged Flotilla has sparked a torrent of international criticism against Tel Aviv.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism | 5 Comments

Lies, damned lies, and Israeli propaganda‎

Lies, damned lies, and Israeli propagandaBy Omar Radwan | Middle East Monitor | 02 June 2010

Following Israel’s murderous attack on the Freedom Flotilla taking humanitarian aid to Gaza, it is hard not to conclude that sections of the media in Britain and other Western countries have been desperate to find ways to justify the crime. On the BBC and Sky News, a frequent argument has been that Israel feels “isolated” by the international community and is in a “war” situation, and therefore feels that it has to take extraordinary measures to defend itself. To shore up this argument, these media outlets have, once again, repeated two tired fabrications; Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction and Israel’s blockade of Gaza was imposed in response to Hamas rocket attacks.

The reality is, of course, very different. Israel is not isolated by the rest of the world. On the contrary, unlike, say, Iran and Syria (and before 2003, Iraq) in the Middle East, Israel has not been subject to sanctions in any way by the international community. It remains the largest recipient of US financial, political and military aid, despite the much-hyped rift between the Obama administration and the right-wing Netanyahu government and was recently co-opted to the Organisation of Economic Cooperation and Development with the blessing of the European Union Nations. Nor is Israel in a war situation. None of Israel’s Arab neighbours pose a military threat to its existence and two of them, Egypt and Jordan, have full diplomatic relations with the Jewish state; Egypt cooperates actively with Israel in the siege of Gaza.

Israel’s blockade of Gaza is usually said to have started in June 2007, when Hamas took control of the territory after pre-empting a coup by a faction within political rivals Fatah, but Israel had been limiting the movement of goods and people into Gaza long before that. The rockets fired from Gaza are not a threat to Israel and are not the reason for the blockade. Israel conducts frequent and deadly raids into the Gaza Strip and the rockets are fired in response to these raids. These rockets are very basic and inaccurate, capable of causing limited damage; they are very rarely lethal and are the only “serious” weapon available to a desperate people who have been brutalised by Israel for years. What about the claim that Hamas is committed to Israel’s destruction? Hamas has offered Israel an open-ended ceasefire if it withdraws from the West Bank and lifts the blockade of Gaza; Israel has refused. The very fact that this “hudna” has been offered is de facto recognition of the state of Israel.

It is still not known exactly how many fatalities there were during Israel’s assault on the flotilla. Most news reports claim that nine or ten of the passengers were killed by the Israeli commandos, but other sources suggest that the figure could be as high as nineteen. Israel has imposed an information blackout designed to make sure that only its version of events comes out. As part of this “hasbara” campaign, the Israeli military issued a grainy black and white video, labelled helpfully, showing some of its soldiers being attacked with iron bars and chairs, with one being thrown from one deck to another, as they stormed it from their helicopters. This film has been played without comment on Sky News, the BBC and other channels. In addition, Israeli claims that the activists were carrying knives and stun grenades on their ship have been taken at face value and reported without comment all too frequently. The Israelis would have us believe that helpless commandos were attacked by unarmed “terrorists” masquerading as activists and the main news channels in Britain and other countries have been more than willing to repeat this message.

In this way, the murder of at least nine unarmed people by soldiers armed to the teeth is made to look natural and justifiable. The Israeli video is so surreal and unbelievable that it is barely worth commenting on. Apart from the fact that there is another, better quality video of an announcement made by an activist to his fellow passengers telling them not to resist because there is nothing they can do against the Israelis’ live ammunition, suffice to say that Israel has used this tactic before. During the war on Gaza, in order to justify its attacks on civilians, the Israeli army posted videos of rockets being loaded or fired, which later turned out to be faked. Even if we suppose that the latest “attack” video is authentic, isn’t it natural for people under attack to defend themselves? And yet the activists are being portrayed as thugs, hooligans and terrorists for doing so.

Israel has called the Freedom Flotilla an “Armada of Hate” and said that the activists on board are linked with Hamas, al-Qaeda, and “global jihad”; again, these absurd claims have been taken at face value by sections of the media. The Turkish humanitarian organisation, IHH, which has played a leading role in the flotilla, has been smeared in the Daily Telegraph as a front organisation for al-Qaeda, without any evidence being proffered. This charitable society operates legally around the world apart from Israel where it is banned, as are many other legitimate charities which support Palestinians in the midst of a desperate humanitarian catastrophe; no credible evidence is ever provided for these bans. They are seen by many as just another tool used by Israel to deny Palestinians much-needed aid.

The same DailyTelegraph story mentions that the flotilla has been endorsed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and the British Green Party MP Caroline Lucas. On board the flotilla were the Swedish bestselling author Henrig Mankell, the former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, Dennis Halliday and the founder of Northern Ireland’s “Peace People”, Mairead Corrigan Maguire. Did the Telegraph bother to ask why all these people endorsed and took part in a project organised by IHH if it was indeed an al-Qaeda front organisation?

One very important aspect has been played down amidst all this hostile media coverage – the dire need of the people of Gaza for the items on board the ships of the flotilla. Among other things the flotilla carried cement, building materials, school supplies and medical equipment. The admittedly limited quantity of aid on the convoy would still have been of immense value to the people of Gaza. The homes and buildings that Israel destroyed in its December 2008 assault on the territory are still in ruins because Israel has since blocked the import of building materials. In fact, there is a long and arbitrary list of items that cannot be imported: pencils, computers and other educational items, for example, are banned, as are many food items, such as canned fruit. The volume and category of goods permitted to be imported into Gaza are kept at a level low enough to create poverty, malnourishment and suffering but not too low to create a humanitarian catastrophe that will make Israel look bad in front of the cameras. Despite this, the statement by Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman that there is “no humanitarian crisis in Gaza” and that Israel is allowing thousands of tons of food and equipment in has been reported without comment. The organisers of the Freedom Flotilla have also been criticised by some for not accepting Israel’s offer to unload their ships in Ashdod so that the Israelis can deliver their cargo “through the usual channels”. They were, of course, supposed to believe that the same “channels” which have made the people of Gaza suffer for so many years would suddenly and willingly help to alleviate that suffering.

Media complicity in Israel’s crimes has long been accepted by analysts, and Israel has spent a great deal of money on promoting its side of the long-running conflict narrative through a sophisticated propaganda machine. This latest episode, however, has exposed the double-standards and lack of genuine objectivity by the compliant sections of the media. On BBC Radio 5’s “Up all Night” programme on 2 June, Bruce Shapiro, the executive Director of the Dart Centre for Journalism and Trauma at the Columbia University in New York City, said that in most cases, the “facts” which emerge within the first 24-48 hours of incidents like Israel’s hijacking of the flotilla are usually shown to be false with the passage of time. Should this happen in this case (and it has already been admitted by an Israeli military spokesperson that none of the passengers had any weapons on them prior to the assault), a lot of media outlets will be left with egg on their faces because they have allowed the Israeli side of the story to be pushed almost unchallenged. How long will it be before members of the public grasp the fact that they are being duped, say enough is enough, and demand a balanced media approach to this conflict?

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering | 6 Comments

Inside the flotilla attack

Farooq Burney, the Canadian director of Al Fakhoora, a Qatar-based charity for fostering education in Gaza, was among the passengers on board the Mavi Marmara, the Turkish boat boarded by Israeli commandos early Monday morning.

Mr. Burney, 37, was reached in Istanbul by The Globe and Mail’s Middle East correspondent, Patrick Martin, just before boarding a flight to Qatar.

Mr. Burney, where were you when the Israelis arrived, and what did you see?

I was on the main deck when the assault began.

Basically, we had just finished the morning prayer, when we saw two Israeli boats approach the ship. It was almost as if they had waited until we finished the prayer.

We knew something was going to happen because the Israelis had radioed our ship’s captain about four hours before to ask where we were going and so on.

We were expecting something to happen as a result of that, and certain people stayed up, while others went to sleep.

Did you stay up?

No, I went to sleep, but got up at 3:30. The attack began happening at about 4:10.

The first thing that happened was that someone on the Israeli boats threw gas bombs or something from the boats onto our deck. There was a very loud bang, a huge bang, and a lot of smoke. Some of the women started screaming when they heard the bang.

At that point, some people began spraying the Israelis with water, from fire hoses.

Had they gotten them ready before the attack?

Yes, they got them ready before.

As this was going on, a helicopter approached, and people knew they were going to try to take over the ship. Lots of people then tried to stand around the captain [on the bridge] to stand in their way.

I was not directly under the helicopter, but I could see things quite clearly: First one commando, then another descended.

People rushed the first commando and they overpowered him.

How? Did they use wooden clubs or metal rods or anything?

No, it was just basically hand-to-hand combat. You have to realize there were about 25 or 30 people fighting with this guy, and they overpowered him and disarmed him. Then they threw him onto the deck below.

And they didn’t use any weapons at all when they were doing this?

No, none at all.

What happened to the second commando?

They overpowered him too; also just with hand-hand fighting.

Did they throw him off the deck as well?

No, they locked him up in a room.

Then, at that point, a second helicopter came and tried to lower commandos onto the deck. But there were too many people on the deck by this time and they [the commandos] couldn’t do it. So it left.

Then, a third helicopter came…

How long after the second helicopter?

About two or three minutes later.

And that’s when they opened fire.

Who opened fire?

The Israelis.

And then bullets were flying everywhere. There were these sounds crack – crack – crack.

Multiple or single shots?

Multiple shots.

At this point, more commandos came on board.

Where from?

From helicopters…

More to come

June 3, 2010 Posted by | War Crimes | 1 Comment

IHH: Israel shoots Gaza activists dead

Press TV – June 3, 2010

Turkish organizers of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli naval commandos accuse Israel of shooting activists dead at a close range.

Bulent Yildirm, who heads the Foundation of Humanitarian Relief (IHH), told reporters at Istanbul airport how a journalist called Cevdet was killed by Israeli soldiers for no good reason.

“He was just taking pictures. He was shot at from no more than a meter and his brain exploded … one of our friends was shot even after he had surrendered,” AFP quoted Yildrim as saying.

He accused Israeli naval forces of killing “whoever they laid hands on” and even throwing some activists into the sea.

“We were given the bodies of nine martyrs, but we have a longer list. There are missing people. Our doctors handed over 38 injured, on our return they (the Israelis) said there were only 21 injured.”

The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Wednesday, saying it would set up an independent international probe into Israel’s “outrageous attack” on the six-ship aid convoy.

The Tel Aviv regime, which has backed its military’s use of lethal force as an act of “self defense,” dismissed the decision, saying the council lacked “moral authority.”

Israeli officials say nine people were killed in the Monday’s deadly attack, but reports by Palestinian sources put the fatalities at around 20.

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Solidarity and Activism, War Crimes | 1 Comment

Everyone Is NOT Released

By Free Gaza Team

(Cyprus, June 3, 2010) Yesterday, the The UN Security Council called for impartial, credible investigation of the Israeli attack on our boats. In addition, the council requested the immediate release of the ships as well as the civilians held by Israel. The media is reporting that all are being released which is simply untrue.

At least four Palestinian/Israelis, Free Gaza Movement board director, Lubna Masarwa, Sheik Raed Salah, leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Mohammed Zeidan, Chairperson of the High Fellowship Committee for Arab Citizens of Israel and Hamed abu Dabis are facing multiple serious criminal charges for their participation in a peaceful voyage to break Israel’s blockade of Gaza.

After a full day in court represented by excellent attorneys from Adalah, they were remanded until June 8, evidence of how seriously the situation is for these four human rights workers.

This illegal incarceration is just another example of Israel’s draconian policies. First, they boarded our ships, traveling in international waters and loaded with supplies to Gaza. They murdered at least nine of our passengers, wounded dozens more, then hijacked our boats and forced them into the port of Ashdod. They threw  600 passengers into detention. None of these passengers had any intention of going to Israel but were dragged to the country under force and then deported.

Now they have thrown four well-known human rights, religious and political leaders into prison for expressing support for their beleaguered brothers and sisters in Gaza.

Please contact: Audrey Bomse, Lawyer 00 357 96 48 98 05

Greta Berlin, 00 357 99 18 72 75


See also:

Israel sends home last of flotilla activists

The Independent – June 2, 2010

June 3, 2010 Posted by | Deception | Comments Off on Everyone Is NOT Released