Gaza responds to the freedom flotilla massacre
Posted: 31 May 2010

The following press release was sent out this morning:
We Gaza based Palestinian Civil Society Organizations and International activists call on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings in Israel’s attacks against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing for Gaza, and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.
We salute the courage of all those who have organized this aid intervention and demand a safe passage through to Gaza for the 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who have lost loved ones in the attack.
By sailing directly to Gaza, outside of Israeli waters, with cargo banned illegally by Israel, such as the 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies, the flotilla is exercising international law and upholding article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity.
The hardships of Israel’s closure of Gaza have been well documented by all human rights groups operating, most recently by Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluding that the siege 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.” The United Nations continuously states that only a fraction of the required aid is entering the Strip due to what it calls ‘the medieval siege’, with John Ging the Director of UNRWA in Gaza specifically expressing the need for the Flotilla to enter Gaza. The European Union’s new foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton has just reiterated its call for, “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza.”
The people of Gaza are not dependent people, but self sufficient people doing what they can to retain some dignity in life in the wake of this colossal man-made devastation that deprives so many of a basic start in life or minimal aspirations for the future.
We, from Gaza, call on you to demonstrate and support the courageous men and women who went on the Flotilla, many now murdered on a humanitarian aid mission. We insist on severance of diplomatic ties with Israel, trials for war crimes and the International protection of the civilians of Gaza. We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as any other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.
Signatory Organisations:
The One Democratic State Group
University Teachers Association
Arab Cultural Forum
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info
Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements
International Solidarity Movement
Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations
Palestinian Women Committees
Progressive Students Union
Medical Relief Society
The General Society for Rehabilitation
Gaza Community Mental Health Program
General Union of Palestinian Women
Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens
Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
Rafah Olympia City Sisters
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
Ajyal Association, Gaza
General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
Local Inititiative, Beit Hanoun
Union of Health Work Committees
Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip
Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
Al Awda Centre, Rafah

American Jewish Committee rushes to justify attack
Posted: 31 May 2010

from American Jewish Committee’s “Z-word” website

“The use of greater force from the start might have led to one or two hotheads getting killed but might well have kept the final body count down to more manageable proportions.”

And this:

“Judging from the pop-eyed rage expressed by some of those aboard towards the yahudiler I am not surprised matters have come to this. Some of the passengers were evidently longing for martyrdom.”

Thanks to Ben White.

How can Obama meet Netanyahu after this?
Posted: 31 May 2010

Update – Haaretz: Netanyahu cancels Obama meeting in wake of deadly Gaza flotilla clashes
My sifting of the news so far: NYT says at least 10 dead, Al Jazeera says at least 19 (and tens of thousands protesting in Turkey). Unconfirmed reports from Haifa hospital say 25-26 dead. AJE is most informative.
And apparently even Israel does not deny that this was in international waters:
From Al Jazeera (the clearest account I have read yet):

“Avital Leibovich, an Israeli military spokeswoman, confirmed that the attack took place in international waters, saying: “This happened in waters outside of Israeli territory, but we have the right to defend ourselves.”

Israel claims that the activists were armed but i) this seems extremely unlikely, and ii) if in international waters it would seem to be their right to have arms.
Alison Weir’s site, If Americans Knew, has list of names of Americans who were on the ships, including one who was a survivor of the attack on the USS Liberty! Connections must be made to the USS Liberty, but this is even worse because these are civilians.
Key question: Obama cannot meet with Netanyahu after this – can he? Is he *that* desperate for AIPAC support of midterm elections that he will ignore this and be nice to Netanyahu?
In Boston there is a protest today at the Park street T stop at 4, perhaps others now being planned.
Meanwhile Rich Siegel translates Turkish television:  
“We have spoken to several spokespersons from the governments of the people on board and all of them are showing their utmost digust”. Back to studio: “Can you in Gaza tell us more about the situation on the ships?” No, only unconfirmed rumours and unconfirmed echos from the Israeli press claiming 15, 20 dead and 2 wounded Israeli soldiers. The people in Gaza are still waiting on the coast in a sea of Turkish and Palestinian flags.
Off camera: Israeli tv claims that there are 16 dead while a top negotiator for the Turkish government has called an emergency meeting, a Turkish navy bigwig was present. The risk of a military confrontation is not very likely between the two naval powers though. Al Jazeera is saying that there are still scuffles going on on the Mavi Marmara because there seems to be some resistance from the people on the lower decks who are being ordered on the top deck by the Israelis. There is serious resistance on the lower decks. Mass protests are awaited in Turkey. Some Turkish professor says that Israel has become a symbol for barbarity today …

Defensive ‘Times’ describes attack as ‘propaganda coup’ for ‘Israel’s foes’
Posted: 31 May 2010

The New York Times’ Isabel Kershner reports more than 10 dead and then offers the following grotesque commentary: “The criticism [of Israel over the attack] offered a propaganda coup to Israel’s foes, particularly the Hamas group that holds sway in Gaza.”
A coup is a blow. Is it possible for the Times to report who has suffered a blow here? Is the Times capable of supplying disturbing information from Israel without seeking to couch it in criticism of others? P.S. Kershner is an Israeli.

In Beirut– anger and devastation
Posted: 31 May 2010

I am angry. I am devastated.
I just returned from a protest in Beirut and people are outraged. When will this fearsome monster cease to exist? And how many innocents will it gnash and gnaw through before it’s over?
The Israeli Zionist death cult harvested 19 corpses somewhere off the coast of Gaza today. Peace activists, unarmed men and women were gunned down by fascists wrapped in the chauvinist victimology of Never Again.
The activists’ crime? The cause for their indiscriminate slaughter? Well, they f*cked with Israel. And no one f*cks with Israel.
This latest incident is another sign that the ghetto state is hurtling at greater and greater velocity toward earth-shattering catastrophe. The deployment of three nuclear submarines off the coast of Iran is cause for deathly worry. The viperous Israeli leadership has demonstrated time and again that its bloodlust is insatiable in the face of its hyper-paranoia. I think they genuinely believe that this is a zero-sum game. And everyone is trying to kill them. They’ve internalized Hitler and regurgitated Hiter and inculcated their youth with Hiter so that perversely, their youth is the Hitler youth. That’s how ugly young men indiscriminately murder peace activists.
The leadership is irrational and deranged. They project themselves and their genocidal fantasies onto the Iranian leadership. I am seriously concerned that Israel will murder hundreds of thousands of people before this is over, that they will annihilate Iranian men women and children with nuclear weapons. Their massacre on the high seas and their massacres in Gaza and Lebanon are portentous of that.
Ha’aretz tells us that, “Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon said earlier Monday that the organizers of the Gaza aid flotilla have connections to international terrorist organizations such as Hamas and Al-Qaida, and called the aid convoy a violent and provocative attempt to break the blockade on Gaza.”
Danny Ayalon, you and your fellows are the only terrorists here.
I beg the decent human beings in Israel to come out against their damnable government and damnable society before it’s too late. Wherever you are, WAKE UP FROM YOUR NARCOTIC SLUMBER AND DO SOMETHING!
There are no winners here. Zionism has damaged generation after generation of Palestinian and Jewish youth.
It’s hard not to despair.

Reports – 19 people killed, 30-60 injured in Israeli attack on freedom flotilla
Posted: 31 May 2010

Watch live streaming video from insaniyardim at

The above video is a live feed of Turkish television from the flotilla. If anyone can translate the Turkish, please post any relevant news in the comments.
Follow #flotilla on twitter for the latest updates.
Update (12:45 am 5/31/10): Haaretz is reporting: “At least 10 activists killed as Israel Navy opens fire on Gaza aid flotilla.” Al Jazeera’s Sherine Tadros just tweeted that Israeli Army Radio is saying “between 10-14 people killed on flotilla.” These reports are all unconfirmed.

We have a number of reports from the Mediterranean in the last few hours that the Israeli government is following through on its self-destructive and brutal determination to stop the freedom flotilla, and doing so at night. Live feed shows people still on deck. Isabel Kershner of the Times says Israeli boats have approached in international waters, intending to intercept. AP says that the Israeli navy is “stalk”-ing the flotilla. (Great for the rebranding campaign, huh?) Emails, rumors, follow:
From Iara Lee: israeli navy is already coming toward us/ we are still in intl waters and they are already here/ women are instructed to go downstairs/ men have gas masks and i am not sure what they are instructed to do….
From a friend of the flotilla: I was just told by Audrey, a spokesperson, that Israel told the captain that they’re expanding Israel’s territorial waters to 68 miles. The boats are at 70 right now with helicopters flying around. I think it’s going to be very difficult to get timely and accurate news at this point. Hope I’m wrong.
From Felice: The White House is directing callers to contact the State Department main switchboard and ask for the duty officer responsible for dealing with imminent threats of abduction of American citizens. Please call the State Department as well. 202-647-4000. You can remind them that American citizens are being attacked with American military aid given to Israel and tell them they have ample influence with Israel to keep the flotilla safe.
From Lubna, on board, to Greta
Urgent we have threat from israel (check out the HELP button on
What is happening?
Lubna: two israeli ships coming toward us me…. they contact the ship asked who we are and disappeared, now they getting close to the ship we can see them stay here 3 boats are coming not two 3 israeli boats we are 78 mile from israel
people here put on their life jackets, every body preparing here
we didnt expect them now, we thought they will arrive at the morning. 

Israeli version of events doesn’t pass laugh test
Posted: 31 May 2010

Moshe Yaroni dissects the Israeli response:
Here’s what the IDF spokesperson said, in part:

During the intercept of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants onboard the ships were planning to lynch the forces.

I am sure, as is always the case, there will be those who believe this version of events. But frankly, I can’t see how anyone can do so unless they are so desperate to justify Israel’s action here that they’ll believe anything. Let’s examine the IDF’s version of events.
We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”
Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.
No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test.
When I first heard confirmed reports of this massacre, I thought of the Kent State shootings in 1970. That horrific tragedy, like this one, was the result of a government using ridiculously disproportionate force against civil disobedience.
But at Kent State, the shootings resulted from high tensions and one person losing control, causing others to follow his lead. Was that the case here?

Haaretz columnist calls on Netanyahu to stay home
Posted: 31 May 2010

Noam Sheizaf summary:
2:30 PM: Israel Ch1 military reporter: Islamic leader Raed Salah “alive and well” – reports of him injured and in surgery are a case of mistaken id. 
2:15 PM: commentary round up:
Bradley Burston (Haaretz): We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege, which is itself becoming Israel’s Vietnam.
Aluf Ben (Haaretz): Netanyahu should stop US trip, come home and form an official commission of inquiry. excuses that activists were armed won’t work [Hebrew].
Ian Black (Guardian): Israel’s bloody interception of the Gaza flotilla looks like a disastrous own goal… this was a gift to Israel’s worst enemies.
Amos Harel (Haaretz): If rumors are confirmed that Muslim leader Raed Salah is among casualties of Israel’s raid on a Gaza aid convoy, the country’s Arab population could explode.
Glenn Greenwald (Salon): If Israel’s goal were to provoke as much disgust and contempt as possible, how could it do a better job?

Posted: 31 May 2010

When they threw Noam Chomsky out two weeks ago, I teared up. I guess at some level I’m a Zionist, or I believe in the goodness of the Jewish state, these are my people, they couldn’t be that bad. How could they do that?!
This reservoir of good opinion exists in almost all American Jews, I think, except for those who have spent a lot of time in the occupied territories and know better. Myself I haven’t spent much time there, and so I actually give them the benefit of the doubt (yes out of some portion of ethnic identification).
Susan Sontag said famously at Town Hall nearly 30 years ago that if you’d been reading the Nation and the National Review about the Communists for the last 30 years you’d have been far better informed by the National Review, they got it right. That Town Hall moment has arrived for sentient Americans, except now it is the New York Times versus Electronic Intifada, who is the more reliable narrator? What Americans have repeatedly denied about the nature of Israeli society has been exposed.

Double fault
Posted: 30 May 2010

A dirty job but someone has to do it: Susie Kneedler has been following the Tennis Channel’s unending praise of Shahar Peer, the Israeli tennis star. The latest:
More from the Hasbara–no, Tennis–Channel.  French Open Tonight re-ran the rhapsody to Shahar Peer, then interviewed Peer herself, who chatted with Bill Macatee about her transition from tennis “counter-puncher” to aggressor, then looked forward to her next match against Serena Williams.  How often will Monday’s contest tempt Tennis Channel to rerun its “apolitical” history?  Macatee reverted to the urgent, “going back to Auschwitz with your grandmother…must have been an unbelievable experience.”  Of course Peer assented, and the camera cut between her smiling face and scenes from the now-familiar screed. 
“Yeah, it was…a trip that I will never forget, and it’s much more–… I like playing tennis…, but it’s much more, I think, than being on the court….”
We get it: “Never forget” the truth that no competition–however challenging–can compare to the unimaginable peril of Nazi death-camps. 
Macatee reminded Peer about “the controversy in Dubai.  How has your life changed since that?”  Peer attested that “this year I did get the visa [from UAE] and it was really good, not only for tennis, for me playing there, but to show that we should not involve any politics in sport.” 
Peer congratulated herself that, “a lot of people did support me and also Tennis Channel did support me last year.  And I got a lot of support around the world and I think that was very important and that is why I was able to play this year.” (Never forget, Tennis Channel is owned by Ken Solomon, a guest of AIPAC last year.)
Asked which players inspired her, Peer named, among others, Monica Seles.  Seles survived being stabbed during a German tennis match.  Macatee inquired whether tennis is popular in Israel;  Peer replied, “it depends when [Israelis] have good players….I hope we’re going to get another.” Perhaps Peer will support efforts to nurture Israeli-Palestinian citizens into champions?  But kids in Gaza and the West Bank may be out of luck.  If Israel embargoes necessities as harmless as “fishing rods, musical instruments, writing implements, notebooks, newspapers, toys,” [http://palestinechronicle. com/view_article_details.php? id=15964],” how can tennis racquets be allowed?  Those new strings are pretty lethal.   
Macatee pontificated that “sports have traditionally broken down barriers in the world of international relations, but sometimes political differences spill over into the field of play.  Israeli tennis star Shahar Peer, the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor, found herself in the middle of an age-old dispute that had very little to do with tennis.  Her stand on this volatile issue would not only elevate her game, but change the way international tennis is conducted.”   Cue testimonial.  Afterward, Macatee gushed, “Quite a story: the 23-year-old Israeli making a difference representing her country and her sport,” then showed Peer’s victory, cast as one “underdog” over another.  Macatee’s abstractions conveniently omit Israeli’s attack on Gaza only a month before the Dubai flap. 
The Tennis Channel’s obsession with Peer’s past distracts from sport to boost sympathy for one player, and her country–conflating Israel alternately with tradition (Judaism) and modernity (skyscrapers). Peer’s father Dovic tells us that he hopes “Shahar being denied a visa…in 2009…had nothing to do with religion, meaning Muslims against Jews.”  Do Israel’s boosters really want to equate a visa denial with universal “forces of injustice” and Nazism?  In tennis and in politics, such smashes can ricochet.   


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