Worse Than a Crime – a Mistake
by Eric Margolis
June 12, 2010
Turks are still seething with rage over Israeli attack on a Turkish vessel trying to break the years-long blockade of Gaza. Four of the nine peace activists killed aboard the ship were Turkish citizens. A score of peace activists were wounded; some claimed they were beaten when in Israeli custody ashore.
`We are all Palestinians' read banners being waved across Turkey. Turks, a very nationalist and combustible people, are taking the Israeli attack as an assault on their homeland.
Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, accused Israel of a "massacre," warning, "Israel risks losing its closet ally in the Mideast if it does not change its mentality." By "mentality," Erdogan meant Israel's rightwing, Likud coalition of PM Benjamin Netanyahu, with whom relations have steadily worsened.
Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, a rising star in Turkey's politics, accused Israel at the UN of "terrorism" and "piracy." However, under international law, piracy is done by individuals, not states.
Israel's supporters have launched a furious, worldwide offensive, insisting Israel's naval commandos were only defending themselves and somehow victims of "terrorism." Blockading 1.5 million malnourished Palestinians prevents Gaza from becoming an Iranian naval and missile base.
Few outside pro-Israel circles agree with such hyperbole, to which Netanyahu is famously prone. His mantra that Israel had to defend itself mostly fell on deaf ears.
Britain's new conservative prime minister, David Cameron, called the Gaza siege, "completely unacceptable." UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Israel was punishing civilians, which constitutes a clear violation of the Geneva Conventions.
France's foreign minister, Bernard Kuchner, demanded Israel lift the siege and offered the attractive compromise of having all ships bound for Gaza searched for arms by French naval vessels.
French philosopher Bernard-Henry Levy accused Israel's Likud government of "political autism." Both men are Jewish. Israel's respected center-left newspaper Ha'aretz called the maritime raid "a disgraceful failure."
A leading Israeli thinker, Uri Avnery, who was assaulted in Israel this past weekend by rightwing thugs, called Netanyahu, "crazy."
The Obama administration, following previous US policy, blocked UN condemnation of Israel, further infuriating the Muslim world against the United States. This after the undiplomatic Hillary Clinton insulted Brazil and Turkey by sneeringly dismissing their sensible plan to diminish Iran's uranium stockpile.
Israel's worldwide condemnation was ironic because it has been attempting to divert international attention away from the frightful suffering of Gaza's people by beating the war drums about Iran's nonexistent nuclear threat. This policy has backfired.
The whole world is now looking at Gaza – whose wretched people hailed originally from land now occupied by Israel and have ended up crammed into the world's largest open-air prison camp. One would never learn from the news that Gaza's Hamas-led government is the Arab world's only fairly elected democratic government.
Israel's right-wingers have sailed their beleaguered nation into a political ambush that even the Wall Street Journal, the Likud Party's leading US voice, termed "one of Israel's worst public relations disasters in years."
The maritime fiasco further deepened Israel's growing isolation and dangerous, nuclear-armed bunker mentality.
As Uri Avnery said, Israel had isolated itself by trying to isolate Gaza.
Turkey has long been Israel's strategic ally and sole friend in the Muslim world. The Ottoman Empire had an honorable tradition of sheltering Jews from Christian persecution. Turkish–Israeli trade is close to $4.5 billion; some 80,000 Israeli tourists vacation annually in Turkey.
Until PM Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, or AK, was elected in 2007, real power in Turkey was wielded from behind a façade of parliamentary democracy by hard-line, rightwing generals of its powerful, 510,000-man armed forces.
Turkey's brass have overthrown four governments since World War II and once ousted Erdogan from office. They particularly detest his AK party, which espouses principles of Islamic welfare, cuts in defense spending, friendship with Greece, and joining the EU.
Turkey's dinosaur generals, and their allies in the security establishment, courts and academia, are militant secularist Kemalists who fear and loathe religious and political Islam that challenges their privileges and power base, look down on Arabs, and are ideologically close to Israel's rightwing military establishment. Israel has sold Turkey billions in arms deals, producing fat commissions for all involved.
Israel's crack air force trains in Turkey and had been planning to use Turkish airspace to attack Iran. The two nation's intelligence agencies cooperate closely.
After a series of intrigues collectively know as, "Ergenekon," the government has broken up cabals of far-right Turkish officers and civilian plotters trying to launch another military coup.
Turkey's bullying military has been largely pushed out of politics, at least for the time being.
"Ergenekon" ruptured the secret Israeli–Turkish link and the dominance of the military. This allowed PM Erdogan to articulate Turkish public opinion by denouncing the killing of 1,300 Palestinians in Israel's heavy bombing of Gaza in 2008–2009, beginning the rapid souring of Turkish–Israeli relations.
Now, Netanyahu's bungling has shot Israel in both feet. To paraphrase Tallyrand, worse than crime, it was an error.
The world is demanding Israel end its brutal siege of hungry Gaza. If Gaza's Palestinians will stop firing their useless homemade rockets at Israel and negotiate a prisoner swap with Israel (Israel has been balking at the exchange ratio), the end of this siege, which bans even delivery of spices and children's toys, could be in sight.
However, Israeli–Turkish relations may never recover. Erdogan has emerged as the Muslim world's most important leader, embarrassing all those Arab leaders who did nothing about Gaza. Their only response to the maritime killing was to call another meeting of the ever-useless Arab League.
When Israeli's emotions cool down, they will see how rash and foolhardy Bibi Netanyahu, has been. He looks more each day like Israel's version of his good friend, George W. Bush.
Eric Margolis is contributing foreign editor for Sun National Media Canada. He is the author of War at the Top of the World and the new book, American Raj: Liberation or Domination?: Resolving the Conflict Between the West and the Muslim World.
Silencing Gaza flotilla activists in the United States
June 10 2010 by Cecilie Surasky under Gaza , IDF.
The Israeli government, with the aid of its many proxies- especially in the Jewish institutional world, is working overtime after the Mavi Mavera massacre to paint the Gaza flotilla participants as terrorists.
Apparently–jamming satellite communications, absconding with tens of thousands of dollars of equipment, confiscating every photo and video they could find, and releasing pathetically doctored "evidence" (thank you Ali Abunimah and Max Blumenthal and others) is not enough. Now groups are working to keep flotilla human rights activists out of the country.
Here's the stunning petition the NY Jewish Community Relations Council has put together to keep activists out. Mondoweiss has audio of retired US Colonel Ann Wright, who was just in NYC, speaking about what happened. She must be the person they're trying to keep out of the country. Good luck with that. So much for America-first.
[View flyer at above url]
JCRC motto: Meeting challenges indeed. Meanwhile, Iara Lee has even more footage that she and her cameraman were able to sneak off the boat. Unlike the IDF, she has the courage to let you see it unedited and raw.
US activist loses eye after being shot in face with tear gas canister
International Solidarity Movement
1 June 2010
US citizen Emily Henochowicz was shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister as she non-violently demonstrated against the Flotilla massacre
UPDATE 1 June, 8:30PM (GMT+2): Emily is recovering at Hadassah Hospital after two surgeries Monday night. She lost her left eye, three metal plates were inserted into her head/face, and her jaw is wired shut. The bone surrounding her eye socket, cheekbone and jawbone are all fractured. Emily was standing peacefully during a demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint Monday when Border Police fired a large number of tear gas canisters directly at the heads of Emily and another ISM activist.
31 May 2010: An American solidarity activist was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Qalandiya, today. Emily Henochowicz is currently in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem undergoing surgery to remove her left eye, following the demonstration that was held in protest to Israel's murder of at least 10 civilians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters this morning.
21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during the demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint today. Israeli occupation forces fired volleys of tear gas at unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, causing mass panic amongst the demonstrators and those queuing at the largest checkpoint separating the West Bank and Israel.
"They clearly saw us," said Sören Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer standing with Henochowicz. "They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face."
Henochowicz is an art student at the prestigious Cooper Union, located in East Village, Manhattan.
The demonstration was one of many that took place across the West Bank today in outrage over the Israeli military's attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla and blatant violation of international law.
Demonstrations also took place in inside Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem, with clashes occurring in East Jerusalem and Palestinian shopkeepers in the occupied Old City closing their businesses for the day in protest.
Henochowicz lost her left eye after being shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister
Tear gas canisters are commonly used against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank. In May 2009, the Israeli State Attorney's Office ordered Israeli Police to review its guidelines for dispersing demonstrators, following the death of a demonstrator, Bassem Abu Rahmah from Bil'in village, caused by a high velocity tear-gas projectile. Tear-gas canisters are meant to be used as a means of crowd dispersal, to be shot indirectly at demonstrators and from a distance. However, Israeli forces frequently shoot canisters directly at protesters and are not bound by a particular distance from which they can shoot.
Israeli occupation forces boarded the Mavi Marmara, one of six ships on the Freedom Flotilla at 5 a.m. this morning, opening fire on the hundreds of unarmed civilians aboard. No-one aboard the ships were carrying weapons of any kind, including for defense against a feared Israeli attack in international waters. At least 9 aid workers aboard the ship have been confirmed dead, with dozens more injured. The assault took place 70 miles off the Gaza coast in international waters, after the flotilla was surrounded by three Israeli warships.
The Freedom Flotilla, carrying 700 human rights activists from over 40 countries and 10,000 tonnes of humanitarian aid, was headed for the besieged and impoverished Gaza Strip. The Israeli blockade on Gaza, combined with the illegal buffer zone, has put a stranglehold on the territory. 42% of Gazans are unemployed, and food insecurity hovers around 60% according to figures from the Palestine Centre for Human Rights.
Sheikh Raed Salah reported shot in head during Flotilla massacre;
in critical condition
Bethlehem – Ma'an - Sheikh Raed Salah was critically injured by Israeli forces that attacked the Freedom Flotilla Monday morning, and was receiving treatment at Israel's Tel Hashomer Hospital for gunshot wound to head, sources said.
Israeli military sources said Salah was injured but not critical, and claimed he was not carrying identification.
Salah is the leader of the northern branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel. Massive protests are expected in the north, with Palestinian citizens of Israel already labeling the incident an attempted assassination.
The leader announced his participation in the flotilla at a conference in Germany three weeks ago, where he called on Palestinians in the diaspora to continue to fight for their right of return.
Salah was recently banned from entering the Al-Aqsa Mosque following allegations that he had assaulted an Israeli officer in 2007 during protests at the holy site, where he led activities against Israeli excavations around Al-Aqsa Mosque compound. He called on both Muslim and Christian clerics to hold a meeting in East Jerusalem to put forward their opposition to excavations. However, the meeting was banned by Israeli authorities claiming the organization which behind the event, Al-Aqsa Foundation, was affiliated with Hamas.
Organizers insisted on holding the meeting, and they moved it to another hotel, but Israeli forces intervened and broke up the gathering. Salah then told the British Guardian newspaper "it was a childish behavior on the part of Israeli security forces…"
Salah was acquitted of all charges last month.
In May 2003 Salah was arrested and detained by Israel forces on charges of funding Hamas, serving two years in Israeli jail. Upon his release a travel ban was placed on him, preventing him from leaving Israeli-controlled borders and requiring him to check in with police every month.
Sheikh Salah have made several comments about the Jewish connection with the Western Wall confirming that it was part of Al-Aqsa compound. Salah was quoted by the electronic website of the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Aharonoth as saying "The Western Wall - on all its various parts, structures and gates, and all the names these parts, structures and gates are called – is an inseparable part of the al-Aqsa compound. He who says that the Jews or the Israeli establishment has any right to al-Aqsa, even to just one stone - this is an abominable attack, a falsehood, completely baseless."
Israeli MP's terror on aid ship: "Plan was to kill activists and deter future convoys"
By Jonathan Cook in Nazareth
2 June 2010
Jonathan Cook reports on the eyewitness account of an Arab member of the Israeli parliament who says that Israeli warships fired on the Gaza-bound aid flotilla "a few minutes before commandoes abseiled from a helicopter directly above them", and suggested that some unarmed peace activists had been executed while others were deliberately left to bleed to death.
An Arab member of the Israeli parliament who was on board the international flotilla that was attacked on Monday [31 May] as it tried to take humanitarian aid to Gaza accused Israel yesterday [1 June] of intending to kill peace activists as a way to deter future convoys.
Haneen Zoubi said Israeli naval vessels had surrounded the flotilla's flagship, the Mavi Marmara, and fired on it a few minutes before commandoes abseiled from a helicopter directly above them.
Terrified passengers had been forced off the deck when water was sprayed at them. She said she was not aware of any provocation or resistance by the passengers, who were all unarmed.
"Israel had days to plan this military operation... They wanted many deaths to terrorize us and to send a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza."
Haneen Zoubi, Arab member of Israeli parliament
She added that within minutes of the raid beginning, three bodies had been brought to the main room on the upper deck in which she and most other passengers were confined. Two had gunshot wounds to the head, in what she suggested had been executions.
Two other passengers slowly bled to death in the room after Israeli soldiers ignored messages in Hebrew she had held up at the window calling for medical help to save them. She said she saw seven other passengers seriously wounded.
"Israel had days to plan this military operation," she told a press conference in Nazareth. "They wanted many deaths to terrorize us and to send a message that no future aid convoys should try to break the siege of Gaza."
Released early yesterday by police, apparently because of her parliamentary immunity, she said she was speaking out while most of the hundreds of other peace activists were either being held by Israel for deportation or were under arrest.
Three other leaders of Israel's large Palestinian Arab minority, including Sheikh Raed Salah, a spiritual leader, were arrested as their ships docked in the southern port of Ashdod. Lawyers said that under Israeli law they could be held and questioned for up to 30 days without being charged.
Contradicting Israeli claims, Ms Zoubi said a search by the soldiers after they took control of the Marmara discovered no arms or other weapons.
It was vital, she added, that the world demand an independent UN inquiry to find out what had happened on the ship rather than allow Israel to carry out a "whitewash" with its own military investigation.
Ms Zoubi spoke as Palestinians inside both Israel and the occupied territories observed a general strike called by their leaders. A statement from the High Follow-Up Committee, the main political body for Israel's Palestinian citizens, described the raid on the flotilla as "state-sponsored terrorism".
Demonstrations and marches in most of the main Palestinian towns and villages in Israel passed off quietly. Local analysts described the mood as angry but subdued, not least because of the openly hostile climate that has developed towards Palestinian citizens since crackdowns on their protests during the Israeli attack on Gaza 18 months ago.
"...right-wing parties launched their first attacks on Ms Zoubi, demanding the revocation of her immunity and her expulsion from the parliament. Danny Danon, a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party, called for her to be "tried for treason'."
However, police were reported to have been put on high alert, with thousands of extra officers drafted into the north, where most Palestinian citizens live.
On Monday, clashes between protesters and police broke out close to Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem's Old City and in the northern town of Umm al-Fahm after false rumours circulated that Sheikh Salah, the leader of Israel's main Islamic Movement, had been killed in the Israeli naval operation.
Even before the attack on the flotilla, the country's Palestinian minority, a fifth of the population, had been braced for a backlash from the government and Jewish public for its leaders' participation in the flotilla. As the ships set sail, Ynet, Israel's most popular news website, had asked whether Ms Zoubi was an "MP in the service of Hamas".
But faced with the severe diplomatic fall-out from Israel's killing of peace activists, Israel's Palestinian leaders warned that they were likely to come under even fiercer criticism in coming days.
Yesterday right-wing parties launched their first attacks on Ms Zoubi, demanding the revocation of her immunity and her expulsion from the parliament. Danny Danon, a member of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu's Likud party, called for her to be "tried for treason".
In her statement on the attack, Ms Zoubi said that at 4 a.m. on Monday she had seen at least 14 Israeli boats surround their ship 130 kilomtres out at sea, in international waters.
She said the passengers had been gripped with fear at the noise and confusion as the commandoes abseiled on to the deck. "I did not believe we were going to survive more than five minutes," she said.
Taleb al-Sana, another Arab MP, supported Ms Zoubi's contention that Israeli claims that the commandos shot only at the passengers' legs were false. "I have visited the wounded in hospital and they all have shot wounds to the head and body," he said.
Adalah, a legal centre for Israel's Arab minority, said nine lawyers had been given limited access yesterday afternoon to the hundreds of activists detained in the southern city of Beersheva and were trying to take testimonies "in very difficult circumstances".
Its lawyers and human rights groups were also trying to track down who had been injured and where they being treated.
"Our view is that Israel is intentionally trying to obstruct this work and is enforcing an information blackout," said Gaby Rubin, a spokeswoman for Adalah.
Jonathan Cook is a writer and journalist based in Nazareth, Israel. His latest books are "Israel and the Clash of Civilisations: Iraq, Iran and the Plan to Remake the Middle East" (Pluto Press) and "Disappearing Palestine: Israel's Experiments in Human Despair" (Zed Books). His website is www.jkcook.net.
A version of this article originally appeared in The National, published in Abu Dhabi.
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