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Erdogan sailing soon to Gaza?
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Imagine that:

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is weighing the possibility of traveling to the Gaza Strip in order to “break the Israeli blockade,” the Lebanese newspaper al-Mustaqbal reported on Saturday, according to Army Radio.
Erdogan reportedly raised the idea in conversations with close associates and even informed the United States of his intention to ask the Turkish Navy to accompany another aid flotilla to Gaza. The Americans asked Erdogan to delay his plans, in light of tensions on the region, the Lebanese report said.

Moving from watching Fox News to understanding Palestine
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

During my experience with the Gaza Freedom March in late 2009 in Cairo, I spent time with a remarkable American woman and mother, Debbie Mardon. She once was a right wing, Fox News watcher but is now a fiercely passionate activist for Palestine.
Her transformation was documented in New York’s Indypendent newspaper last week and it makes for moving reading. People such as Mardon should be cherished, a woman able to unlearn years of anti-Arab propaganda to understand the complicity of Washington in the tragedy of the Middle East:

Last New Year’s Eve, Debbie Mardon did not celebrate with noise makers or confetti — instead, she headed to Cairo’s main square to participate in the Gaza Freedom March with her daughter Jenna Bitar, 18, and son Joel, 23.
Amid police violence aimed at protesters and Egyptian security forces blockading them inside their hotel, Debbie, 55, a native New Yorker, said that protesting in Cairo “was the scariest thing I’ve ever done in my life.”
It was an unlikely place to be for a previously apolitical mother who voted for George W. Bush and as recently as three years ago relied on rightwing radio hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh to help her make sense of the world.
More than 1,300 activists from 43 countries traveled to Cairo to take part in the Gaza Freedom March, a demonstration aimed at bringing attention to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.
Since 2006, after the Islamist movement Hamas won democratic elections, Israel and Egypt have completely blockaded this besieged coastal strip on the Mediterranean, only allowing in basic humanitarian aid. The situation worsened in December, 2008, when Israel invaded Gaza, eventually killing about 1,400 Palestinians, the majority of them civilians.
Debbie and her children, like the rest of the activists who participated in the Gaza Freedom March, were outraged at what many have labeled the “Gaza massacre.”
The three-year journey for Debbie, her husband Mahmoud and their two children from political indifference to passionate involvement in the Palestine solidarity community has brought them closer together as a family, and they now regularly attend demonstrations together.
For Debbie, things came to a head during the attack on Gaza in the winter of 2008-09. It was a personally harrowing time — both she and Mahmoud had lost their mothers and a good friend had been placed in a nursing home, and Debbie decided it was time to find out more about what was happening in Palestine.
She started attending talks and lectures about Palestine, and one in particular, featuring Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Columbia University, left an indelible impression.
“It was jaw-dropping. He showed us photos of dying and maimed children, children burned from the white phosphorous, and the photos had me in tears. Then he said, this suffering is not caused by a natural disaster, it is political, it is foreign policy and you can no longer be silent while your government supports this. After that I made an effort to find out how I could get involved,” Debbie said.

The “Jewish boat” moving towards Gaza
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Soon Israel will be faced with Jewish anti-siege activists fighting to break the blockade on Gaza.

Israel needs a mass movement of sanity (which is sadly lacking)
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

The peace movement, anti-occupation, anti-Gaza siege and rational Israelis do exist and they made their voices heard this weekend. If only more of them existed:

Thousands of demonstrators from across the left-wing of Israeli politics held a rally in Tel Aviv Saturday afternoon to protest 43 years of Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, and a government that organizers said is “drowning Israel”.
The protestors began their demonstration with a march from Rabin Square to the Tel Aviv museum, where speeches were held. The demonstration, which was held under the slogan “The Government is Drowning Us All”, was originally planned solely to protest the occupation, but following last Monday’s deadly raid on a Turkish boat attempting to break the Gaza blockade, the rally also addressed those upset about the government’s policies in regard to the Gaza Strip and the raid that left 9 foreign citizens dead and several IDF soldiers wounded.
Periodically during the course of the demonstration, dozens of right-wing counter protestors attempted to disrupt the proceedings, and at one point a smoke grenade was thrown at the rally. While the main rally was proceeding at the museum, counter protestors gathered in an adjacent patch of sidewalk and sang praise for the Israeli Navy SEALS and performed renditions of the Israeli national anthem.
As busloads of left-wing activists drove past at the end of the evening, counter protestors chanted “traitors”, “terror supporters”, and “go to Gaza” behind a wall of border patrolmen and YASSAM riot police.
Adam Keller a spokesman for Gush Shalom, one of the organizers of the event, told the Jerusalem Post that the demonstration “was an even bigger success than he expected” and said he believes the last week’s events increased the number of participants.
“Many people didn’t agree about to what level they oppose this government, but they feel suffocated by it, and feel that it is antagonizing the entire world.”
Keller’s sentiments were shared by Peace Now Head Yariv Oppenheimer who said that the demonstration was much larger than he expected and that it showed that “people are opposed to this government that is driving us towards international isolation.”
Oppenheimer added that he hopes the larger-than-expected rally leads to a new wave of opposition to the government, and praised what he said was a lack of anti-IDF slogans, placards, or sentiments at the rally.

Rachel Corrie is illegally boarded
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Looks like Israel’s trigger-finger was on holiday this Sabbath:

Israel Defense Forces soldiers on Saturday boarded the Gaza-bound aid ship “Rachel Corrie,” and directed it toward the the Israeli port city of Ashdod. The move came after warnings that Israel would not allow the vessel to reach Gaza, which is under blockade by Israel, and several days after an Israel Navy takeover of another boat headed for the Hamas-ruled coastal strip ended in violent clashes and the deaths of nine passengers.
The Cambodian-flagged Rachel Corrie – named for an American college student who was crushed to death by an IDF bulldozer in 2003 while protesting Israeli house demolitions in Gaza – was carrying hundreds of tons of aid, including wheelchairs, medical supplies and cement.

Israel has kindly released this video showing the seizure of the boat (again in international waters):

“The Israelis have behaved like pirates, no better than those who operate off the coast of Somalia”
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Bestselling Swedish author Henning Mankell, who sailed on the ships trying to break Israel’s Gaza blockade, shares his diary of the journey.

The far-right shows its proud side
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

Israeli dissident Neve Gordon on Israel’s fascist turn. Remind me how we share “values” with Israel again?

In Israel, almost all of the protests against the navy’s assault on the relief flotilla took place in Palestinian space. Palestinian citizens in almost every major town and city, from Nazareth to Sachnin and from Arabe to Shfaram, demonstrated against the assault that left nine people dead and many more wounded. The one-day general strike called for by the Palestinian leadership within Israel was, for the most part, adhered to only by Arab citizens.
In Jewish space, by contrast, business continued as usual. Except for a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Defence in Tel Aviv, which brought together a few hundred activists, the only site where there was some sign of a grassroots protest against the raid was on Israeli university campuses. While numerically these protests were also insignificant – there were fewer than 2000 demonstrators from all the different campuses, out of a student body of more than 200,000 – they were extremely important both because they took place within Jewish space and because the protestors were Jews and Palestinians standing side by side.
Perhaps because of the widespread international condemnation of the attack on the flotilla, the Israeli police were relatively careful when handling these protests. Their caution is particularly striking when compared with the police reaction during the war on Gaza. Twelve students from the Technion and Haifa University were nonetheless arrested, and one at Ben-Gurion University was detained by undercover agents.
There was a visceral response to these campus protests, however, from pro-government students. Counter-demonstrations were immediately organised, bringing together much larger crowds that rallied around the flag. While demonstrations and counter-demonstrations are usually a sign of a healthy politics, in this case the pro-government demos revealed an extremely disturbing trend in Israeli society.
A group of opposition students from Ben-Gurion University prepared a big banner on the street near their off-campus apartment: ‘15 Dead. The Israeli government, as usual, has its reasons, and the Zionist majority, as usual, extends its support.’ Their neighbours spat on them and called them ‘cunts’, ‘whores’ and ‘traitors who love Arabs’ until the students fled.
The following morning these students and their friends rolled the same banner down from the administration building, initiating a third wave of protests on campus. Both those opposing and those supporting the Israeli government use Facebook to tell their friends about these spontaneous demonstrations, and so within minutes a couple of hundred students from both sides of the fray had gathered and were shouting chants in the middle of campus.
A Palestinian student with a Palestinian flag was shoved and had his flag torn from him by some of the pro-government protesters, who were chanting: ‘No citizenship without loyalty!’ In response, the Jewish and Palestinian oppositionists shouted: ‘No, no, it will not come, fascism will not come!’ and ‘Peace is not achieved on the bodies of those killed!’
At one point a Jewish provocateur, who is not a member of any group (and could even be a police agent), raised his hand in the air: ‘Heil Lieberman!’ The response of the pro-government students was immediate: ‘Death to the Arabs!’ Luckily the university security managed to create a wedge between the protesters, and in this way prevented the incident from becoming even more violent.
Pro-government students interviewed in the press said they were ’shocked to see faculty members, together with students from the left and Arab students shouting slogans against Israel’. Their classmates posted pictures of the protests on Facebook, asking likeminded students to ‘identify their classroom “friends”’.
A Facebook group was created to call for my resignation: by the end of the day more than 1000 people had joined. As well as hoping that I die and demanding that my family be stripped of our citizenship and exiled from Israel, members of this Facebook group offer more pragmatic suggestions, such as the need to concentrate efforts on getting rid of teaching assistants who are critical of the government, since it is more difficult to have me – as a tenured professor – fired.
What is troubling about these pro-government students is not that they are pro-government, but the way they attack anyone who thinks differently from them, along with their total lack of self-criticism or restraint. If this is how students at Israel’s best universities respond, what can we expect from the rest of the population?

Some Swedes care about Palestine and show it
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

More progress:

Swedish dockworkers will launch a weeklong blockade of Israeli ships and goods arriving in the Nordic nation to protest Monday’s attack on a Gaza-destined aid flotilla.
Nine activists died after Israeli troops intercepted the convoy.
Swedish Port Workers Union spokesman Peter Annerback says workers will refuse to handle Israeli goods and ships during the June 15-24 blockade. The union has some 1,500 members and supports Ship to Gaza, which took part in the flotilla.
It says the reason for the blockade is “the unprecedented criminal attack on the peaceful ship convoy.”
It was unclear Saturday how much the blockade would affect trade between the two countries since the union still needs to identify cargos with Israeli origin.

Talk to Hamas now, says Turkey
Posted: 05 Jun 2010

While the New York Times calls for better relations between Israel and Turkey – and even urges Israel to end its siege on Gaza – Ankara has its own ideas about moving forward (via The Cable):

As the crisis over a deadly Israeli commando raid on a vessel carrying Turkish activists continued to command the attention of top officials in Washington, Jerusalem, and Istanbul, Namik Tan, the Turkish ambassador to the United States, called Friday for engaging Hamas in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
But in an unfortunate turn of phrase, Tan twice said Friday that the militant Palestinian group, which the United States and Europe have designated a terrorist organization, is a necessary and important part of the “final solution” to the conflict.
“For a final solution, you cannot ignore Hamas. That’s what we are saying,” said Ambassador Namik Tan. “This is not the first time that we are trying to bring this into the discussion. We have told this to the Israelis, to our American friends, to our international interlocutors, everyone. How could you imagine a final solution without Hamas?”
Tan’s choice of words aside, he was calling for Hamas to be included in final-status negotiations — a prospect many Israelis would find even more objectionable than his language. The U.S. position is that Hamas must recognize Israel’s right to exist, respect international agreements, and reject violence before it can be considered a legitimate player.
The ambassador’s comments highlighted the yawning gap between the positions of the Turkish government and that of the American and Israeli administrations, as tensions linger following this week’s Gaza flotilla incident.
Only yesterday, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, “I do not think that Hamas is a terrorist organization. I said the same thing to the United States. I am still of the same opinion. They are Palestinians in resistance, fighting for their own land.”
As the Obama administration continues to try to calm the situation and contain emotions following the Gaza flotilla incident, the Turkish government is doing exactly the opposite, raising the volume of its public calls for actions by both Washington and Jerusalem.
At his embassy Friday afternoon, Tan railed against Israel, made broad threats about the Turkish-Israel relationship, and professed deep disappointment with the Obama administration and its handling of the crisis.
“Israel is about to lose a friend … This is going to be a historical mistake,” he said, calling on Israel to make a public apology if its wishes to keep its ties with Turkey. “The future of our relationship will be determined by Israel’s action.”
Calling the Israelis “criminals,” he reiterated Turkey’s call for an international investigation. “It’s all criminal … Can you imagine a criminal investigating its own wrongdoing?”
The Obama administration has made clear it supports Israel conducting its own investigation, albeit with some unspecified international participation. “Can Israel, as a vibrant democracy, with strong institutions of government, conduct a fair, credible, transparent investigation?” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday. “The answer is yes. It is fully capable of doing that.”
President Obama spoke with Erdogan by phone and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had a two-and-a-half hour face-to-face meeting with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Tuesday. But while the two long interactions were helpful in getting Israel to release Turkish citizens, they didn’t produce any agreement on the overall issue, said Tan.
“There is no word of condemnation nowhere, at all levels. So we are disappointed,” Tan said. “We want to encourage the United States to take certain decisions in that regard.”
He also revealed that Davutoglu had been scheduled to have a meeting in Washington with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu before Netanyahu canceled his visit to deal with the fallout from the flotilla incident.
Asked about the next flotilla, currently headed to Gaza, Tan said that Turkey was not discussing it with either the U.S. or Israel. In fact, he professed not to be aware of it. “Is there another flotilla? Are there even any Turkish citizens on it? I have no idea.”

Major British union embraces BDS
Posted: 04 Jun 2010

Drip, drip:

Britain’s largest union, Unite, has unanimously passed a motion to boycott Israeli companies at its first policy conference in Manchester on Wednesday.
The motion, which passed unanimously, called the union “to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies”, while a boycott of Israeli goods and services will be “similar to the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid”.
Reflecting the University and College Union’s call at their Manchester conference earlier in the week, Unite will similarly host a “Palestine conference” to support trade union action against Israel.
But at odds with the UCU’s call to sever links with Israel’s trade union movement Histadrut, Unite delegates voted to keep solidarity links. Stephen Scott, director of Trade Union Friends of Israel, said that indicates a split within the pro-boycott movement, many of whom realise such a call “is all very dangerous stuff.
“It would be huge for another trade union movement to expel them even when they are a democratic organisation and pass all the criteria of being a member of the international trade unions.”
Nevertheless, Mr Scott added: “All round, you now have a major player supporting the boycott and the Palestinian Solidarity Campaign, and there is no resistance.”

See: www.antonyloewenstein.com

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