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Chomsky not aboard Gaza Freedom Flotilla, just Turks and...

by shergald Thu May 27th, 2010 at 11:44:23 AM EST

The Gaza Freedom Flotilla is on its way to Gaza. It consists of nine boats including three cargo vessels carrying tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and 700 passengers, dignitaries, government officials, and just plain old peace activists, a lot of them. 350 Turks from IHH, the world based Turkish humanitarian society, have joined the convoy.

Paul Woodward on Mondoweiss reported this disappointing news yesterday.

...Paul McGeough, who's on the Flotilla covering it for the Sydney Morning Herald and who reported the possibility, was just told by the chairwoman of the Free Gaza Movement that Noam Chomsky is not on board.

Drats. Well, just who is on board? And what other news organizations are covering the flotilla? That's not certain. But here is Turkish prime minister Ergodan speaking about the Gaza humanitarian situation. In response, Israel is now accusing Turkey of attempts to recreate the Ottoman Empire through its support of the Free Gaza Flotilla.

There are three cargo ships one of which is Turkish (below), plus another five or six passenger boats.


The crowd at send off

This latest email from the flotilla, however, describes some interesting developments. The latest in today's issue of Yediot Aharonot:

  • Except for the Naval Commandos, you should expect on the Gaza boats "Massada", the special anti-riot unit of the Israeli Prison Authority. They were given a special permission to operate outside the borders of Israel and against people who are not (yet) prisoners.

  • The Navy might start "Operation Sky Winds" already tonight, they might want to catch the different boats separately, before they all assemble.

There will be used electronic masking devices to prevent broadcasts of the confrontation (as could be expected - I hope you have some counter-measures)

- Netahyahu who is going off to France, Canada and the US has given authorisation. He feels that he has "defeated Obama" (that is the headline in "Ma'ariv") because he got an invitation to a meeting in the White House which would be friendlier than the one two months ago, and therefore he feels that he can do whatever he wants.

Israel is now stepping up its antiTurkey sentiments. Turkey was once an ally and friend of Israel, but after the December 2008 Gaza massacre, Israel lost all respect.

The anti-Turkish propaganda line is intensified. Alex Fishman, military commentator of "Yediot Aharonot" who is an unofficial spokesperson for the Israeli Army, says today that this is not really a continuation of the earlier  Gaza boats, this is a Turkish plot to open a regular shipping line to Gaza and deprive Israel and Egypt of the monopoly of controlling access to Gaza. If this flotilla is let through, Israel might as well give up the siege altogether. "This is not about 500 wheelchirs to Gaza, this is about the effective re-establishment of Turkish Imperial Power". He says that many of the people on the boats are idealistic if misguided, and if it was only them it might have been advisable to let them through. But this is quite different, the Turkish government is involved, it is an Islamic government so this is not just a Turkish plot but an Islamic one (there is a reference to the head of the Islamic movement in Israel, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, being present when the Turkish boats departed from Istanbul). Of course when faced with such an Islamic plot, there is no choice but to use force. "Putting Gaza under siege might not be the best policy, but it is the policy which we decided upon and we cannot let the Turks change it for us" (very interesting that Fishman is writing that, as I said he is close to the supreme command of the Israeli Armed Forces and they often use him to air their views).

The conclusion of Fishman "We have already lost the PR battle (the title of his commentary is "We have already lost"). Since the boats must be stopped anyway, the Navy should try to do is as quickly as possible, to reduce the length of the unfriendly footage.

Yes, it is about footage, about censorship and propaganda. Is there any US newspaper carrying this story? Not yet anyway.

  • There is a good interview from onboard with Dror Feiler "we don't want a confrontation with the IDF, but we are determined to get through, and will resist passively, it will not look good for soldiers to confiscate wheelchairs" and that morale on the boats is high and people are singing. Dror is really doing good work, avoiding very radical statments (no need for them, the whole action is radical enough in itself) and conveying just the right tone.

  • The special detention center seems to be within the Port of Ashdod. The police is worried that leftists will arrive from all over the country and make trouble, it is up to us here to make their fears come true.

  • They will want to expell the international activists from the country as soon as possible, and are worried that  the activists have already made contact with Israeli lawyers and will try to hold this up through the courts. No mention here of Palestinians, which day before yesterday were mentioned as also possibly arriving in this detention center. Palestinians may stay imprisoned much longer.

These are the highlights, you get a headline on the front page and the whole of Page 2 and 3.

Bye for now, good luck

Adam (Keller, Gush Shalom)

PS: Here is the latest from the government and the navy.

Developing story: a confrontation between Israel and Turkey. Stay tuned.

A. Timetable: The ships are expected to meet off the coast of Cyprus and to reach the Gaza Strip on the morning of May 29 (the exact time is not yet known).

  1. The Irish ship Rachel Corrie, which left Ireland on May 14 (Free Gaza website, May 22, 2010) has passed Portugal.

  2. The first IHH Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmaris, set sail from Istanbul on May 22. After 40 hours at sea it was expected to dock at the port in Antalya, where 500 passengers would get on board, and where it would be joined by two Turkish cargo ships. The three vessels will set said from Antalya on May 25 and should reach the Gaza Strip 24 hours later (IHH website, May 23, 2010).

  3. Four ships, two Greek and two Cretan, are expected to set sail from Greece on May 24 or 25. Three are passenger ships and the fourth will carry cargo. According to one report, they have encountered problems, including strikes, government intervention and pressure exerted on the organizers (Al-Jazeera TV, May 22, 2010). According to another, a Greek-Swedish cargo ship set sail from Athens on May 24 with equipment and media personnel on board (Safa News Agency, May 24, 2010).

  4. An Algerian ship carrying more than 4,000 tons of equipment set sail on May 22 en route to Istanbul to join the convoy. On board is a delegation of 22 people, among them ten members of the Algerian parliament representing various parties. There are also journalists and pro-Palestinian activists. The convoy coordinator in Algeria said that the passengers were determined to reach the Gaza Strip and that Israel's threats did not scare them (Kuwaiti News Agency, May 22, 2010).

B. The ships and passenger lists: At least nine ships are expected to reach the Gaza Strip, carrying between 800 and 1,000 passengers from 40 countries. The Turkish ship is expected to carry 600 passengers (most of whom were supposed to board in Antalya). They include members of parliament, human rights activists and media personnel, etc. A group of Israeli Arabs was also expected to join, among them Muhammad Zaydan, head of the Israeli Arab Monitoring Committee, Sheikh Ra'ed Salah, head of the northern faction of the Islamic Movement, Hamad Abu Daa'bas, head of the southern faction of the Islamic Movement, and Israeli Parliament member Hanin Zoabi, from Balad, a nationalist Arab political party. Rami Abdo, a member of Hamas' Popular Committee to Lift the Siege, said that some international activists had canceled their participation in the flotilla (Ma'an News Agency, May 20, 2010).

C. Media coverage:

  1. According to reports, the places vacated by activists who canceled their participation will be taken by foreign correspondents and media correspondents in order to broaden coverage of the event. The media covering the event from the decks of the ships include Al-Jazeera TV, Reuters, BBC Radio, Euro News, representatives from Bulgarian and Czech TV and a large number of correspondents from international newspapers and news agencies (Ma'an News Agency, May 20, 2010).

  2. Jamal al-Khudari, head of Hamas' so-called "Popular Committee for the Struggle against the Siege" said that it planned to send 100 small Palestinian boats to receive the flotilla when it arrived off the coast of the Gaza Strip as part of the media pressure Hamas plans to exert on Israel. The boats will fly Palestinian flags and those of the countries participating in the flotilla, and their passengers will include the heads of the Committee, jurists and groups of observers. Some of the boats will be allocated to journalists, media representatives and photographers.

D. Diplomacy statements from important figures: The spokesman for the Irish Green Party, who also personally supervised loading the equipment in the port in Ireland, said that holders of Irish passports were to be treated fairly and allowed to complete their mission. He said it was the least Israel could do after it recently unfair use made of Irish passports. Breifne O'Reilly, the Irish ambassador to Israel, met with Israel's foreign minister to receive Israeli assurance that it would allow the unloading of the equipment to proceed quietly and securely (Free Gaza website, May 21, 2010).

  1. Preparations in the Gaza Strip and statements from Hamas activists: Osama al-Isawi, transportation minister in the de facto Hamas administration, said that the transportation ministry and the labor and housing ministry were making the necessary preparations to receive the ships. He said that his ministry was coordinating with all the others. Yussef al-Munsi, public works minister, said that intensive work was being carried out to deepen the port (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 17, 2010).

  2. Hamas activists made various statements regarding the flotilla and Israel's expected objection to it:

A. Ahmed Yussef, who was appointed head of the "Government Committee to List the Siege and Receive the Delegations," has often been interviewed by the media. According to his claims, the flotilla is legal and that any Israeli attack on it would be a violation of international law. He said Israel would continue to threaten the flotilla but would not prevent it from reaching the Gaza Strip because such a step would have [a  negative] influence on its security and strategic relations with Turkey. He added that the flotilla had purchased two ships which could transport money, aid and building materials to the Gaza Strip (Al-Aqsa TV, May 22, 2010). In another interview he said that the flotilla would cause an international storm and that it would receive wide media and political coverage. He said that it would clearly show that Israel was imposing collective punishment on the residents of the Gaza Strip (Hamas' daily Felesteen, May 16, 2010).

B. Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri said that Israel's stated intention of attacking the flotilla was "thuggism." He called on the organizers to carry out the mission as planned without taking its consequences into consideration. He said  it was a historic event which would "expose Israel's crimes against the Gazans." He also said that it would reflect the fact that the Gaza Strip had become a "Mecca for various activists because of its firm stance and courage" (Hamas' Palestine-info website, May 19, 2010).

C. Jamal al-Khudari, head of the Popular Committee to Lift the Siege, said that the ships were a problem for Israel, which was debating what to do about them. He said that preventing them from reaching their goal would be "piracy and a violation of international law" (Da'wah website, May 18, 2010).

by shergald on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 12:14:22 PM EST
The Digital Ship to Gaza is following the journey of the "Free Mediterranean", part of the freedom flotilla to Gaza, with live webcasts and updated position maps.

Not great bandwidth, but you get some idea... I'd embed it here but it doesn't seem to be working

The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom - William Blake

by talos (mihalis at gmail dot com) on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 01:07:08 PM EST
Thanks for trying. The major news networks are not carrying anything.

by shergald on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 02:38:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Live streaming video here, with occasional commentary in English (but mostly in Turkish and Arabic).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Sat May 29th, 2010 at 04:26:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Some cynicism from Mondoweiss on the Israeli government's claim (read bullshit) that the Gazans are well fed:

Israel attacks the `gourmet' flotilla to Gaza
by Gisha on May 27, 2010

At a time when Israel's security officials should probably be focused on this week's extensive home front security drill, it seems that that most of their attention is being paid to the flotilla of ships on its way to the Gaza Strip, laden with humanitarian supplies. Frantic consultations between officials and the prime minister's top military chiefs of staff have taken place, an urgent meeting of a forum of senior government ministers was held, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has engaged in extensive activities, and an urgent press conference was held at the Erez border crossing. In particular, the Israeli government's public relations machine has been mobilized with the intent of persuading the public that there is no need for the flotilla, due to the fact that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is fine, the Strip's markets are abundant, and its gourmet restaurants are thriving.

Goods: Needs vs Supply 4/25/10-
5/25/10 (Source: Gisha) (see the graph at the link).

Of course, an initial question comes to mind - if there is such prosperity, then how exactly is the closure policy promoting Israel's goal to weaken the Hamas government? But beyond that, the government's message is likely to be confusing to the layperson. For example, if the economic situation in Gaza is so magnificent, as stated in the cynical message distributed by the Government Press Office yesterday - why does another public statement by the State of Israel proudly declare that 738,000 tons of humanitarian aid were transferred to the Gaza Strip last year? How, the reader might also ask, are these statements of prosperity compatible with the contradictory information frequently released by international organizations (organizations with whom Israel proudly declares itself to be cooperating)?

Is it not true that 80% of Gaza's population is supported by international aid organizations? Is it not true that the unemployment rate in Gaza is around 35%? And, how is the decisive statement that "Israel has taken measures to support trade and commerce" consistent with the sweeping ban imposed by Israel for the past three years on the entry of raw materials to industrial plants and factories in the Gaza Strip? Indeed, the ban is perpetuating a situation in which over 90% of industrial establishments are closed or are operating at less than 10% of capacity. Does the fact that Israel prevents the entry of margarine in large containers designed for the production of foodstuffs in Gaza, while it allows the entry of margarine in small packages (made in Israel) promote the economy in Gaza?

But what really may confuse the naive layperson are Israel's peremptory statements that there is no restriction on the entry of equipment into Gaza, except that which might be used by Hamas for terrorist activities. Based on this, the layperson may conclude that coriander, sage and children's toys constitute a security risk, given that Israel prohibits the transfer of these goods to Gaza. In addition, he or she might wonder whether shoes and clothes constituted a security threat for 2.5 years before having their status as a security threat recently removed. A layperson might further ask, if Israel's policy on the restriction of goods really benefits the people of Gaza, then why does Israel insist on refusing to reveal the secret of her success, arguing that producing documents explaining its closure policy will harm national security?

All of this is confusing not just to the layperson but also to the passengers on the ships. Israel states repeatedly, time and again that the organizers of the flotilla should transfer the goods "in accordance with procedure". Yet how are they to know what these procedures are, if Israel refuses to disclose them?

http://mondoweiss.net/2010/05/israel-attacks-the-gourmet-flotilla-to-gaza.html?utm_source=feedburner &utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+feedburner%2FWDBc+%28Mondoweiss%29

by shergald on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 02:36:44 PM EST
In the meantime, the Jerusalem Post reports:
The European "Freedom Flotilla" will have a surprise waiting when it reaches Israel's southern waters this weekend.

Israel advocacy non-profit StandWithUs plans to greet the European convoy with its own demonstration at sea.

The organization expects the flotilla of European left-wing activists to reach Israeli waters this weekend, although their arrival has been delayed.

A fleet of privately owned Israeli boats will leave the Ashdod and Herzliya marinas in hopes of surprising the European activists Friday at 1 p.m.

The counter flotilla ships will be covered in "Free Gaza from Hamas" banners and boat owners will wear blood stained tee shirts, representing Hamas's terror record.   The demonstration will be funded by StandWithUs and individual donors.

Chances are they will not be as well-behaved as the Turkish Flotilla, and will give them some good TV footage. They may complicate the job for the Israeli Navy.... (Ha'aretz reports on this as well, and seems to be aware that Turkey is not Europe).
by gk (gk (gk quattro due due sette @gmail.com)) on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 05:01:49 PM EST
Anything that will achieve greater publicity is welcome. The staples carried by the cargo ships will obviously be insufficient in the long term. But if the flotilla can stimulate publicity for the Gaza people and their suffering, then it will have been a success.

by shergald on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 05:19:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Livestream from the Ship to Gaza/Greek-Swedish contingent:

http://www.livestream.com/shiptogaza/share?utm_source=lsplayer&utm_medium=ui-share&utm_campa ign=shiptogaza&utm_content=shiptogaza

Sorry that the video itself will not load. It can be seen on this page.

by shergald on Thu May 27th, 2010 at 09:08:14 PM EST
The participation of a swedish writer and a swedish MP seems t have triggered some interest in swedish media. Which means that the story has been founded and if something happens it will in all probability get coverage.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 09:23:59 AM EST
I have the vague recollection that the Swedes had teamed up with the Greeks to send a ship to Gaza. SO I'm certain that there's a Swedish representation in the flotilla.

by shergald on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 01:35:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Israel's Disinformation Campaign Against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

This diary is a quotation of a defensive article by the Free Gaza Movement that attempts to straighten out the reality about the siege of Gaza, the flotilla now on its way to Gaza, and is quoted by permission.


28 May 2010


For over four years, Israel has subjected the civilian population of Gaza to an increasingly severe blockade, resulting in a man-made humanitarian catastrophe of epic proportions. Earlier this month, John Ging, the Director of Operations of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) in Gaza, called upon the international community to break the siege on the Gaza Strip by sending ships loaded with humanitarian aid. This weekend, 9 civilian boats carrying 700 human rights workers from 40 countries and 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid will attempt to do just that: break through the Israel's illegal military blockade on the Gaza Strip in non-violent direct action. In response, the Israeli government has threatened to send out 'half' of its Naval forces to violently stop our flotilla, and they have engaged in a deceitful campaign of misinformation regarding our mission.

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."[1]

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.[2] 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.[3]

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."[4]

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 deliver it to UN officials inside Gaza. As of this writing, the lawyers have not responded to Sen. Daly, electing instead to attempt to smear us in the Israeli press.[5] 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.[6]

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.

Despite its high profile pullout of illegal settlements and military presence from Gaza in August-September 2005, Israel maintains "effective control" over the Gaza Strip and therefore remains an occupying force with certain obligations.[7] Among Israel's most fundamental obligations as an occupying power is to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population. An occupying force has a duty to ensure the food and medical supplies of the population, as well as maintain hospitals and other medical services, "to the fullest extent of the means available to it" (G IV, arts. 55, 56). This includes protecting civilian hospitals, medical personnel, and the wounded and sick. In addition, a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law, as well as of the domestic laws of civilized nations, is that collective punishment against a civilian population is forbidden (G IV, art. 33).

Israel has grossly abused its authority as an occupying power, not only neglecting to provide for the welfare of the Palestinian civilian population, but instituting policies designed to collectively punish the Palestinians of Gaza. From fuel and electricity cuts that hinder the proper functioning of hospitals, to the deliberate obstruction of humanitarian aid delivery through Israeli-controlled borders, Israel's policies towards the Gaza Strip have turned Gaza into a man-made humanitarian disaster. The dire situation that currently exists in Gaza is therefore a result of deliberate policies by Israel designed to punish the people of Gaza. In order to address the calamitous conditions imposed upon the people, one must work to change the policies causing the crisis. The United Nations has referred to Israel's near hermetic closure of Gaza as "collective punishment,"[8] strictly prohibited under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. All nations signatory to the Convention have an obligation to ensure respect for its provisions.[9]

Given the continuing and sustained failure of the international community to enforce its own laws and protect the people of Gaza, we strongly believe that we all, as citizens of the world, have a moral obligation to directly intervene in acts of nonviolent civil resistance to uphold international principles. Israeli threats and intimidation will not deter us. We will sail to Gaza again and again and again, until this siege is forever ended and the Palestinian people have free access to the world.


1] Amnesty International, Annual Human Rights Report (26 May 2010);[2 "The pasta, paper and hearing aids that could threaten Israeli security," The Independent (2 March 2009)

[3] "Restrictions on the transfer of goods to Gaza: Obstruction and obfuscation," Gisha (January 2010)

4] "Carter calls Gaza blockade 'a crime and atrocity," Haaretz (17 April 2008),[5 "Gaza aid convoy refuses to deliver package to Gilad Shalit," Haaretz (27 May 2010)

6] "Comprehensive Report on Status of Palestinian Political Prisoners," Sumoud (June 2004); Palestinian Children Political Prisoners, Addameer,[7 Article 42 of the Hague Regulations stipulates, a "territory is considered occupied when it is actually placed under the authority of the hostile army," and that the occupation extends "to the territory where such authority has been established and can be exercised." Similarly, in the Hostage Case, the Nuremburg Tribunal held that, "the test for application of the legal regime of occupation is not whether the occupying power fails to exercise effective control over the territory, but whether it has the ability to exercise such power." Palestinians living in the Gaza Strip, like those in the West Bank, continue to be subject to Israeli control. For example, Israel controls Gaza's air space, territorial waters, and all border crossings. Palestinians in Gaza require Israel's consent to travel to and from Gaza, to take their goods to Palestinian and foreign markets, to acquire food and medicine, and to access water and electricity. Without Israel's permission, the Palestinian Authority (PA) cannot perform such basic functions of government as providing social, health, security and utility services, developing the Palestinian economy and allocating resources.

[8] John Holmes, Briefing to the U Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, 27 January 2009.

[9] Convention (IV) relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War. Geneva, 12 August 1949, Article I stating, "The High Contracting Parties undertake to respect and to ensure respect for the present Convention in all circumstances." See also, Legal Consequences of the Construction of a Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Advisory Opinion, I. C. J. Reports 2004, p. 136 at 138; http://www.icj-cij.org/docket/...

by shergald on Fri May 28th, 2010 at 01:33:59 PM EST

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