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Freedom Flotilla 2 Assailed by Piratical Scuttlebutt

The US state department is fully complicit with Israeli criminality, with similar contempt for international law and human life. Nor does it have any idea of the medical “diet” which Israel has malignantly inflicted on the people of Gaza and the state of medical emergency declared by the Gaza health ministry on the 8th June with shortages of medical supplies since January 2011 noted by the World Health Organisation this month. There seems no comprehension by the US State Department of the impact of Israel’s illegal blockade on the people of Gaza. The tawdry ‘special relationship’ is cemented in the negation of the human needs of the civilian Palestinian population which under the Hague and Geneva Conventions should be met by the belligerent occupier, Israel.

“The U.S. State Department said Friday that attempts to break the blockade are “irresponsible and provocative” and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.

Israel’s ‘well-established means of delivering assistance’ are open to limited numbers of trucks with aid from Sunday to Thursday. Predictably, Israel ramped up deliveries yesterday (Thursday) no doubt to create a tenuous facade that 300 trucks a day are ‘normal’. Some weeks the crossings are completely closed. While Egypt opened the Rafah crossing for people several weeks ago, it closed it again after a few days. As revealed at Electronic Intifada:

There is no legal basis for Israel to intercept ships and prevent them from delivering humanitarian supplies, say experts in international law.

“Israel only has jurisdiction over its territorial waters of 12 nautical miles, and neither the waters off Gaza nor international waters are under its authority,” University of the Basque Country professor of international law Juan Soroeta told IPS.

“No UN resolution authorizes the Gaza blockade,” said Soroeta. “On the contrary, it is an illegal, unilateral measure imposed by force by Israel in the context of an equally illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.”

UN Security Council Resolution 1860, adopted on 8 January 2009, calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.”

But reports from the international humanitarian organizations working on the ground there confirm that this point is not being fulfilled.

The US State Department further rages:

Groups that seek to break Israel’s maritime blockade of Gaza are taking irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers. Established and efficient mechanisms exist to transfer humanitarian assistance to Gaza. For example, humanitarian assistance can be delivered at the Israeli port of Ashdod, where cargo can be offloaded, inspected, and transported to Gaza.”

On past record, there is no guarantee that aid if delivered to Ashdod will reach Gaza.

The 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid carried by the first Freedom Flotilla was confiscated by Israel along with the personal effects of the passengers and the reporters’ equipment.

None of the items were ever returned, making it “booty in the best pirate tradition,” said Spanish lawyer Enrique Santiago, who was involved in preparing the charges against Israel for the assault on the flotilla in international waters.

Israeli Ambassador Oren’s plaintive bleats to the US are laced with hyperbole and legal non-starters.

Oren attacked the organizers of the flotilla as “radical anti-Israel organizations…known also for anti-American activities.” He cited statements by the US State Department and UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon criticizing or condemning their actions. Then Oren claimed that the flotilla could simply deliver its aid through a “responsible organization” like UNRWA, or bring their materials through El Arish and allow Israel to offload it. “It’s not a fight between us and the people of Gaza,” Oren claimed. “It’s between us and the group Hamas which is determined to destroy the state of Israel.” (Never mind this Israeli government document). He went on to claim that Israel’s maritime blockade was “in full accord with international law,” though he did not explain how besieging a civilian population that was not actively engaged in a full-scale war against Israel comported with the 4th Geneva Convention or the San Remo Accords.

The US boat to Gaza is carrying letters of hope and compassion for the beleaguered citizens of Gaza, who have been subjected to Israel’s horrific collective punishment, a crime against humanity, for the past 1,473 days.

Author Alice Walker who is on the US boat writes “We will be carrying letters … expressing solidarity and love”. Other vessels with the flotilla will bear humanitarian aid, including construction materials, medical supplies and educational materials.

Such are the frightening things which according to Israel’s premier hasbara source, the IDF Spokesman, threaten Israeli civilians.

Scuttlebutt Updates

Three Brave Israelis Bound for Gaza
Since the blockade is both illegal and evil,

and since the world Establishment, including the US government, is enabling it, it is only natural that upstanding Americans and members of other nations want to challenge it. . It should be remembered that the Civil Rights movement in the United States was mostly illegal and its activists were frequently jailed, beaten, bitten by police dogs, and sometimes shot down by law enforcement.

Israel military ordered to stop flotilla
Greta Berlin who is with the US boat to Gaza says she “is frustrated. Greek government trying to stop us from leaving (read that to really mean the US and Israel), but they could not stop at least three boats from already going. Call the state department and demand that they let us sail. 202 647 4000. Ask for Hillary Clinton office.”
Frivolous Lawsuit Filed against Alternatives International for its Support of Freedom Flotilla

From Joseph Dana:

Early this morning, I discovered that a ‘private compliant’ had been filed against the US boat to Gaza. The compliant, it is still unclear who filed it, stated that the US boat to Gaza is not ’sea worthy’ and requires a detailed inspection.The harbor master where the boat is in port has declared that until the compliant is resolved the boat is not permitted to leave. Currently, lawyers representing the US boat are looking into the origins of the compliant and weather it was filed as a result of Israeli economic or diplomatic pressure on the Greek government. The boat is US flagged and registered in the United States.

10 ships are expected to sail as part of the Gaza aid flotilla. Currently three ships, including the US boat, have had complaints levied against them. US boat organizers believe that Greece will attempt to delay the ships indefinitely by using a serious of bureaucratic measures such as endless safety checks and cargo inspections.

Anti-Flotilla video fraud linked to PM Netanyahu’s office, official Israeli hasbara agents Doherty and I have gathered evidence suggesting that the video has links to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, or is at least being promoted through an official government hasbara operation.
Netanyahu staffer confirms to EI he promoted pinkwashing video
Danes to join new Gaza flotilla

Related Links

Mini flotilla in Dutch canals to support the departure of the Freedom Flotilla 2
Arab ship to participate in Gaza Freedom Flotilla II
Nobel laureate appeals for safe passage for Gaza flotilla
MEP joining flotilla tells EI: EU’s honest broker image “a sham”
The Under-Secretary-General reported that,

despite overall calm over the past 10 weeks, two rockets and two mortars had been fired into Israel from Gaza in the past month. Israel had conducted six incursions and one air strike, a Palestinian civilian had been killed by mortar fire while approaching the border fence at night, and two others had been injured by Israeli forces.

However, Mr. Pascoe welcomed Israel’s approval, earlier this week, of $100 million to build 1,100 housing units in Khan Younis and Rafah, as well as 18 schools of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), among other construction projects. It had brought the total value of approved United Nations reconstruction in the past 15 months to $265 million. “We continue to stress that the market in aggregate, steel bar and cement can and should be liberalized by the Israeli authorities,” he said.

He noted that on 25 May, Egypt had announced extended working hours and eased procedures at the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, but the Egyptian and de facto Hamas authorities had faced difficulties in implementing the changes. Efforts to combat weapons smuggling through the tunnels continued. On illegal settlement activity, he said that, according to Israel’s Central Bureau of Statistics, 1,774 units had been under construction in the West Bank during the first quarter of 2011, excluding East Jerusalem. In the past month, the Ministry of Defence had approved an additional 294 units in the settlement of Beitar Ilit, he said, adding that settlement activity also continued in East Jerusalem.

Expressing concern that continued demolitions in Area C were displacing Palestinians from their communities, he said the Israel Defense Forces had destroyed 81 Palestinian structures in the West Bank, including two in East Jerusalem, displacing 260 people. In addition, Israeli settlers had attacked Palestinians and their property in the West Bank, resulting in 13 Palestinian injuries and extensive material damage

Richard Falk, the UN Special Rapporteur on the occupied Palestinian territories,

commenting two days after Israel announced it would allow the UN to bring in material for school and housing construction, said the blockade is “a deliberate policy of collective punishment which is legally indefensible and morally reprehensible.”

On Tuesday, the Israeli Government approved the delivery of $100 million in building materials for 1,200 homes and 18 schools in UN-run projects in Gaza. Yesterday Robert Serry, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, called the announcement a “significant step.”

Referring to the recent media reports of widespread health problems in Gaza, Mr. Falk said the situation of health care there is “as nothing short of catastrophic.”

Sailing to Gaza/Cap sur Gaza
BDS and Israel’s Battle for Legitimacy
Amb. Michael Oren dishes out anti-flotilla “marching orders” in Jewish Federations call
With the Gaza Aid Flotilla

“Israel has pulled out the stops in trying to get the flotilla to stop before it begins by threatening the Greek economy,“ said Ann Wright, a retired State Department official and former Army colonel who is the main organizer of the US boat to Gaza. Sitting in the lobby of the noisy Athens hotel, she added, “Greece is caught in the middle. There is tremendous public support for the flotilla, but the government is getting pounded by the Israelis.” Not naming her sources, Wright, visibly exhausted from a year of organizing for the flotilla, contended that “Israel is going to try to sink the Greek economy if they allow the flotilla to sail from Greek ports.”

In response to the growing pressure, the Greek foreign ministry released a public statement on June 22 regarding its own citizens sailing with the flotilla. According to the statement, the ministry “urges Greek citizens as well as Greek-registered vessels not to participate in the new flotilla headed for the Gaza port.”

“Everything is explained in great detail,” foreign ministry spokesman Georgy Delavekouras told me over the phone from his office in Athens, referring to the statement. However, the statement is vague and does not say whether Greece will stop Gaza-bound ships registered in other countries.

Confirming that meetings between Greece and Israel have taken place recently over “many issues, including the flotilla,” Delavekouras said the Israeli government has not applied economic pressure. When pressed on the nature of the Israeli-Greek discussions, he simply referred to the statement.

Israel is doing everything possible to avoid a repeat of last year’s flotilla debacle, when Israeli commandos stormed the largest of six boats, the Turkish-flagged Mavi Marmara, and killed nine passengers, including one Turkish-American citizen, as they seized control of the ship.’

“Apparently, the State Department subscribes to the view that Israel’s anticipated violence against unarmed protesters is an immutable act of nature,” said Hagit Borer, a professor of Linguistics at the University of Southern California and a passenger on the U.S. boat. “This is a remarkable attitude, coming from a government that provides the Israeli government with billions of dollars in military aid…’

Report of the international fact-finding mission to investigate violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, resulting from the Israeli attacks on the flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian assistance* [pdf]
ICRC information on Gaza from Mathilde De Riedmatten, deputy head of the ICRC’s sub-delegation in Gaza
Robert Lovelace is an Algonquin presence with the Freedom Flotilla
Gisha’s tack on the naval blockade, with link to their position paper.

?’Does Israel have the right to intercept the expected flotilla?
As an occupying power in the Gaza Strip, Israel may prevent ships from reaching the Gaza shoreline. However, exercising this power imposes on Israel an obligation to allow the passage of goods and people through other means, in order to respect the rights of Gaza residents to a normal life, including the right to engage in dignified, productive work and economic, educational and cultural development. The overall closure policy, of which the maritime closure is part, is unlawful due to the restrictions it places on civilians.’

‘The blockade IS illegal no matter what Israel claims

An expert legal opinion on International Maritime Law and the Gaza blockade’

‘”The legal position is plain. A vessel outwith the territorial waters (12 mile limit) of a coastal state is on the high seas under the sole jurisdiction of the flag state of the vessel. The ship has a positive right of passage on the high seas. The coastal state can regulate economic activity exploiting the resources of the seas and continental shelf up to 200 miles, the extent of the continental shelf, or the agreed boundary, but there is no indication of fishing, oil drilling or analagous economic activity in this case. The vessel is entitled to free passage.”
‘”This right of free passage is guaranteed by the UN Convention on the Law of the Seas, to which the United States is a full party. Any incident which takes place upon a US flagged ship on the High Seas is subject to United States legal jurisdiction. A ship is entitled to look to its flag state for protection from attack on the High Seas.”
“Israel has declared a blockade on Gaza and justified previous fatal attacks on neutral civilian vessels on the High Seas in terms of enforcing that embargo, under the legal cover given by the San Remo Manual of International Law Applicable to Armed Conflicts at Sea.”

“There are however fundamental flaws in this line of argument. It falls completely on one fact alone. San Remo only applies to blockade in times of armed conflict. Israel is not currently engaged in an armed conflict, and presumably does not wish to be. San Remo does not confer any right to impose a permanent blockade outwith times of armed conflict, and in fact specifically excludes as illegal a general blockade on an entire population.”

“It should not be denied that Israel suffers from sporadic terrorist attacks emanating from Gaza.

However this does not come close to reaching the bar of armed conflict that would trigger the right to impose a limited naval blockade in terms of San Remo. To make a comparison, in the 1970′s and 1980′s the United Kingdom suffered continued terrorist attack from the Irish Republican Army, with much more murderous impact causing many more deaths than anything Israel has suffered in recent years from Gaza. However nobody would seek to argue that the UK would have had the right to mount a general naval blockade of the Republic of Ireland in the 1970′s and 1980′s, even though the Republic was undoubtedly the base for much IRA supply and operations. Justifications of Israeli naval action against neutral civilian ships by San Remo is based on special pleading and an impossibly strained definition of the term “armed conflict”.’

Israel’s Siege of Gaza and Attacks on the Humanitarian Aid Flotilla – Legal Background
6, count em 6, members of Congress sign letter to Clinton expressing concern for ‘safety’ of US citizens on flotilla
Humanitarian Crisis in the Gaza Strip – Facts & Statistics
Israel offers compensation, refuses apology in secret talks with Turkey – these talks are spun in Haaretz.

Palestine / Israel Links

Fayyad to Israel: Give Palestinians freedom or right to vote
The diamond industry’s double-standard on Israel
NSW government MLC slobbers his adoration for apartheid : ‘Secord also encouraged people who support Israel to visit a Max Brenner outlet and make a purchase “as an act of solidarity and defiance against the BDS”.’
Another day, Another Appeal! At this time, the refrain of Palestinian people subsisting under the boot crescendoes and cries for justice – that song is the roots of the blues and so too, punk. International musicians can be a powerful force for change by respecting Palestinian civil society’s call for boycott. Then the Palestinian song demanding justice, freedom and equal rights for all can be heard loud and strong.
Jerusalem Arab Housing Plan Blocked By Zionist Right
Who funds birthright?

In a deliberate bid to co-mingle sex, violence, and nationalism — do these people plan to imitate the SS, or does it just happen? — Birthright’s planners self-consciously try to bind Jewish youth to Israeli youth in the most visceral way possible.

Australia Links

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