The Israeli government has dropped a threat to issue lengthy deportation orders against journalists aboard a Gaza-bound flotilla.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Monday that he ordered authorities to find a formula for the reporters if they are on a flotilla that violates Israel’s entry laws.
The Foreign Press Association, which represents hundreds of journalists working for international news organizations in Israel and the Palestinian territories, condemned the Israeli decision and urged the government to cancel the order.
“The government’s threat to punish journalists covering the Gaza flotilla sends a chilling message to the international media and raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press,” the FPA said in a statement.
The association’s lawyer, Gilead Sher, sent a letter to Helman demanding that the threat be rescinded.
“The state of Israel must make a clear distinction between those who carry out an action and those who cover it (as journalists),” Sher said in his note. Israel’s local journalists association also condemned the government’s letter.
In another brilliant scoop, Max Blumenthal reveals that the anti-semitic crazed rightwing Christian Zionist Hagee and his loony minions are funding the Israel Law Center’s effort to stymy the flotilla.
Who is Shurat Hadin, and what is their agenda? According to the group’s website, Shurat Hadin is a Tel Aviv-based law center that specializes in lawsuits against “terrorists.” Its founder, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, describes herself in her bio as a “human rights activist.”
I have discovered that a major donor to Shurat Hadin is the homophobic far-right Pastor John Hagee. In March 2010, I reported that Hagee appeared beside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a major rally in Jerusalem to denounce the two state solution and announce the financial contributions he and his supporters were making to Israeli organizations. Among the organizations Hagee said he had bankrolled was Shurat Hadin.
As the researcher and reporter Bruce Wilson has documented, Hagee preaches that the Jewish Rothschild family controls the US economy through the Federal Reserve and conspires to attack the American middle class by devaluing the dollar. In his 2006 book Jerusalem Countdown, Hagee claimed that a lineage of “half-breed Jews,” descended from Esau and which included Adolf Hitler, have persecuted full-blooded Jews throughout history. Hagee prophesied that God intended to exterminate that “half-breed Jew” line.
It’s one thing for a foreign power to press the Greek government to delay our voyage with red tape. It is quite another thing for enemy agents to operate on Greek territory. It is high time for the international community to put their foot down and say: Enough!”
On Saturday, 25 June, the French boat, Dignity / Karama, left the port of l’ile Rousse in Corsica, France, to meet up with at least nine other vessels sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade. Israel’s best efforts to stop our boats at port, including pressure on governments, threats against insurance and communications companies, intimidation of human rights defenders, frivolous lawsuits and other underhanded tactics, have thusfar failed. The Freedom Flotilla has set sail.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.”
“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…’
?’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.’
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”.’
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.
Significantly, Israel has increased the number of trucks permitted to deliver humanitarian supplies into Gaza prior to the departure of Freedom Flotilla 11 at the end of June. Such is the hasbarist audacity of Israel.
Israel’s announcement today that it is “allowing between 210 and 220” trucks into Gaza with humanitarian aid is a direct response to the pressure that the upcoming Freedom Flotilla II is creating. Since July 2007, Israel has kept the number of allowed trucks at 25% of what the pre-blockade numbers were and of what is required by Gaza residents. To date, Israel has not responded to calls by human rights organizations or the UN to increase the numbers. Only as a result of the mounting pressure from the Freedom Flotilla has Israel altered its policy. However, today’s allowance still falls 35% short of what is needed in Gaza.
Letting in more trucks is not enough. More trucks with food and medicine are only meant to give the appearance of an open Gaza. More trucks does not mean freedom; more trucks does not mean rebuilding the hundreds of homes and buildings that the Israeli military destroyed during Operation Cast Lead (only 12 of the trucks being allowed in contain construction material for UN projects); more trucks does not mean Gaza is not occupied and its residents subjected to collective punishment; more trucks does not mean that Israel has ended its cruel blockade; more trucks does not mean that Palestinians are any less imprisoned.
More trucks do, however, mean that Israeli farmers and merchants make money off the occupation. as most international agencies bringing aid into Gaza are forced to buy their supplies from Israel.
In contrast to the results of the latest flotilla’s pressure, and while Israel’s piracy and murderous acts against the first Freedom Flotilla were found clearly illegal and that Israel’s closure regime was considered “to constitute collective punishment of the people living in the Gaza Strip and thus to be illegal and contrary to Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention”.by the UN Fact Finding Mission appointed by the UN Human Rights Commision to investigate, UN chief Ban Ki Moon is adamant that “flotillas were not helpful in resolving the basic economic problems in Gaza, though the situation there remains unsustainable, and that assistance and goods destined to Gaza should be channeled through legitimate crossings and established channels.”
It isn’t just the sea that is blocked. Much of Gaza’s agricultural land, where farmers once grew crops and herded animals, has been placed off-limits by an Israeli security-justified buffer zone. These restrictions are compounded by the blockade.
“Protein intake for Gazans has plummeted, partly due to the blockade of the land and partly due to the blockade of the sea,” says Simon Boas, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization’s coordinator for the Gaza Emergency Programme.
Dov Weissglas, then-adviser to the Israeli prime minister, was quoted in 2006 as saying: “We need to make them lose weight, but not to die.” The policy seemed to be: make Gazans hungry enough to reconsider electing Hamas, but not starving to the point of a humanitarian – and therefore diplomatic – crisis.
Fishermen and farmers suffer the highest levels of food insecurity in the territory. “It’s the only group whose food insecurity is rising,” Boas says. El-Najjar’s family is one of 50 vulnerable families assisted by the FAO project to supplement their diets and incomes. His family now has all the fish it can eat from their 120 cubic metre pool. The rest he sells for about 10 Israeli shekels (Dh11) per kilogram – a price that is affordable for many here but one that earns him no more than a few hundred shekels per month.
Instead, most farms now rely on Iyad Deeb al Attar, who runs a hatchery near Beit Lahia in the northern Gaza Strip. Al Attar is something of an expert – he worked for 15 years in the Israeli cities of Haifa, Ashkelon and Ashdod as well as Dugit, an Israeli settlement that once stood not far from his current farm. When Israel pulled its army and settlers out of Gaza in 2005, it took the fish farms with them. Al Attar decided to start his own.
“The market needs 18,000 tonnes each year,” estimates al Attar. The tonnage of farmed fish produced in the Gaza Strip has doubled each year since 2007. This year, the output from Gaza’s fish farms is predicted to top 200 tonnes and is expected to continue to grow rapidly.
What we need is to produce our own fish food,” says Adel Jamel Atallah, director general of the fisheries department. Almost all the fish feed in Gaza comes from Israel, leaving the industry reliant on high-priced imports subject to Israel’s whim.
A basic machine to produce fish food pellets costs about $75,000. It requires expertise to make a pellet that has the right quantity of protein and still floats.
“But electricity is the main problem – it’s off about eight hours per day,” says Atallah.
Gaza suffers a massive power deficit and electricity is essential to run machines that pump oxygen into the water. Farmed fish can die in few hours without it. Some fish farms have human-powered systems using pedals to keep the water moving. Others simply throw their children in the pools as splashing around is enough to oxygenate the water, although those who can afford it use generators.
In addition to humanitarian aid and construction materials, The Audacity of Hope, the U.S. boat which will form part of Freedom Flotilla 11 will bear more precious cargo – “thousands of letters of friendship and solidarity with the people of Gaza from people throughout our country” and 34 passengers from 14 different states in the US according to U.S. Boat to Gaza co-ordinator, Leslie Cagan.
“Because Israel occupies Gaza, and accordingly has obligations under the Geneva Conventions, it cannot legally blockade Gaza.” Therefore, he continued, “attempts by the Israeli government to prevent ships from going to Gaza are equally illegal.”
This time around, the navy has been preparing rigorously for the operation, enlisting all of its Flotilla 13 commandos from the reserves and running different training models with various scenarios, from passive resistance – such as sit-downs – to potential gunfights and booby-trapped ships.
In addition to Flotilla 13 – better known as the Shayetet – the ships will be boarded by members of the Border Police’s Yasam Unit and the Prisons Service elite Masada Unit, both known for their expertise in crowd control and the use of non-lethal means to quell violent riots.
The teams will be supported by snipers – whose job will be to neutralize violent protesters before the commandos board the ships – with dogs from Oketz, the IDF’s canine unit, and operators from Yahalom, the elite unit from the Engineering Corps.
Several studies in Israel and one conducted by AIPAC and another by the Jewish National Fund in Germany show that perhaps as many as half of the Jews living in Israel will consider leaving Palestine in the next few years if current political and social trends continue
During the recent meetings in Washington DC between Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu’s delegation and Israel’s US agents, assurances were reportedly given by AIPAC officials that if and when it becomes necessary, the US government will expeditiously issue American passports to any and all Israeli Jews seeking them.
As the Freedom Flotilla heads for Gaza, the Israel hasbara machine is in full flight, with scary promotional vids peppering Youtube replete with powerdressing blue suit, gold tie and shifty eyes accompanied on twitter with a cascade of spammy tweets aimed at whomever brings up the flotilla term – messages of gourmet dining in Gaza abound.
Israel claims that there is no ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Every international aid organization working in Gaza has documented this crisis in stark detail. Just released earlier this week, Amnesty International’s Annual Human Rights Report stated that Israeli’s siege on Gaza has “deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law.”
Israel claims that its blockade is directed simply at the Hamas government in Gaza, and is limited to so-called ’security’ items. Yet When U.S. Senator John Kerry visited Gaza last year, he was shocked to discover that the Israeli blockade included staple food items such as lentils, macaroni and tomato paste. Furthermore, Gisha, the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, has documented numerous official Israeli government statements that the blockade is intended to put ‘pressure’ on Gaza’s population, and collective punishment of civilians is an illegal act under international law.
Israel claims that if we wish to send aid to Gaza, all we need do is go through ‘official channels,’ give the aid to them and they will deliver it. This statement is both ridiculous and offensive. Their blockade, their ‘official channels,’ is what is directly causing the humanitarian crisis in the first place.
According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter: “Palestinians in Gaza are being actually ’starved to death,’ receiving fewer calories per day than people in the poorest parts of Africa. This is an atrocity that is being perpetrated as punishment on the people in Gaza. It is a crime… an abomination that this is allowed to go on. Tragically, the international community at large ignores the cries for help, while the citizens of Gaza are treated more like animals than human beings.”
Israel claims that we refused to deliver a letter and package from POW Gilad Shalit’s father. This is a blatant lie. We were first contacted by lawyers representing Shalit’s family Wednesday evening, just hours before we were set to depart from Greece. Irish Senator Mark Daly (Kerry), one of 35 parliamentarians joining our flotilla, agreed to carry any letter and to attempt to deliver it to Shalit or, if that request was denied, deliver it to officials in the Hamas government. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press. We have always called for the release of all political prisoners in this conflict, including the 11,000 Palestinian political prisoners languishing in Israeli jails, among them hundreds of child prisoners.
Most despicably of all, Israel claims that we are violating international law by sailing unarmed ships carrying humanitarian aid to a people desperately in need. These claims only demonstrate how degenerate the political discourse in Israel has become.
However, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs own website “One Month of Calm Along the Israel-Gaza Border.” provides evidence that Israel successfully stopped rocket fire on June 19, 2008 with an Egyptian brokered ceasefire. Then the Israeli military launched an attack on Gaza on November 4, 2008 ending that ceasefire. Then, according to another Ministry of Foreign Affairs website , during the Israeli government’s 22 day Operation Cast Lead attack on Gaza that started on December 27, 2008, 776 rockets and morters landed in Israeli territory, a doubling of the intensity of rocket fire from Gaza from the previous peak, until a new cease fire was announced on January 18. Thus, it was Israeli government action that belies its supposed concern about the safety of Israeli civilians.
“It is simply not true that there is no humanitarian crisis. Actually two-thirds of the people of Gaza live in what the World Health Organization calls food insecurity,” Halper said. “More than 10 percent of the children suffer from chronic malnutrition. Goods like bananas, chocolate, beans and fresh meat are prohibited in Gaza. Each person in Gaza gets about half of the required calories for a normal life.”
“There are great problems with babies, iron deficiency with pregnant women. This is a controlled experiment in how to keep people hungry, to punish them, to keep them just a centimeter above the line of starvation,” the activist said.
“The thing behind it – and it’s true of the West Bank as well – that Israel is trying to impose a permanent occupation. Everything that Israel is doing is attempt to break the resistance and the will of Palestinian people, so in the end they give up and accept whatever Israel wants. But that is not succeeding”.
Again we are comfortably esconced in our Facebook cranny along with our near 1100 friends, a number which is matched with 1100 odd twitter followers, who are not necessarily the same folks. It was an interesting process to be reinstated to Facebook and our re-emergence marks the commencementt of a new online experiment – self-branding rather than brand branding 🙂 Enjoy!