One of the many Gaza-bound aid ships that Israel intercepts
Jewish Boat to Gaza boarded by Israeli forces
and taken toward Ashdod port
28 September 2010
Editor, Australians for Palestine
The Irene, a boat carrying nine passengers and aid for Gaza's population has been taken over by the Israeli navy and denied access to Gaza.
The boat is flying a British flag and its passengers include citizens of the US, the UK, Germany and Israel. Two journalists are also on board.
Last contact with the boat's captain, Glyn Secker, was at 0937 GMT, when their path had been cut off by a Destroyer. Recent reports from other news sources indicated that the boat has been surrounded and boarded. At this point they were less than 20 miles from Gaza's shore. Since then all phones went dead.
The occupied Gaza Strip's territorial waters end 12 nautical miles from shore, but the Israeli blockade is enforced at 20 miles from shore.
Israeli attorney Smadar Ben Natan who is representing the passengers has asked to see her clients immediately.
Local group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel has asked for permission to send an independent doctor to visit the passengers immediately, after hearing from organizers that at least one passenger suffers from serious chronic health problems and is in need of medical care.
Speaking from London, a member of the organizing group, Richard Kuper of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, has condemned the Israeli army's apparent action and said that this boat and its fate are a symbol of the chances for peace in the region. The way it is being treated by Israeli authorities indicates that they have no real intentions of reaching peace, he said. He called for worldwide support for the boat and its message of protest against the siege of Gaza and the occupation.
European Jews for a Just Peace, Jews for Justice for Palestinians (UK), Juedische Stimme fuer einen gerechten Frieden in Nahost (Germany), American Jews for a Just Peace (USA), Jewish Voice for Peace (USA), Jews Against the Occupation Sydney.
Jewish activists sail to Gaza in defiance of blockade
26 September 2010
[Catamaran Irene sets sail from Famagusta in Cyprus. 26 Sept 2010] Aid supplies on board the boat include nets for Gaza's fishing community
A boat carrying a group of Jewish activists has set sail from northern Cyprus aiming to breach Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip.
The 10m (32-foot) catamaran is carrying supplies including medical equipment, textbooks, nets and children's toys.
The activists - from Israel, the US, Germany and the UK - say they will not resist if Israel tries to stop them.
Earlier this year, Israeli commandos killed nine people in clashes on board a Turkish ship trying to reach Gaza.
Israel says its naval blockade is to stop weapons being smuggled to Hamas militants who run the territory.
The boat, named Irene, set sail on Sunday under a British flag with 10 passengers and crew. It could take up to 36 hours to reach the Gazan coast.
Richard Kuper, a member of the UK-based organising group Jews for Justice for Palestinians, said the boat was a symbolic act of protest and also a message of solidarity to "Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice".
"This is a non-violent action," he said.
"We aim to reach Gaza, but our activists will not engage in any physical confrontation and will therefore not present the Israelis with any reason or excuse to use physical force or assault them."
Among the activists is 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Reuven Moskovitz.
"It is a sacred duty for me, as a [Holocaust] survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children," he said.
Another passenger is Rami Elhanan, 60, an Israeli whose daughter Smadar died in a suicide bombing at a shopping centre in Jerusalem in 1997.
He said reconciliation with the Palestinians was the surest path to peace.
"Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am," he said.
However, Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Andy David called the protest "a provocative joke that isn't funny".
"It is unfortunate that there are all kinds of organisations involved in provocations that contribute nothing and certainly don't contribute to any kind of agreement," he said.
"If they were serious about wanting to transfer aid to Gaza, they could easily do so after undergoing a screening for smuggled weaponry."
Jewish Boat On its Way
Monday, September 27, 2010
Haaretz reported this week that a boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Germany, the U.S. and Britain set sail on Sunday for Gaza, hoping to breach Israel's blockade there and deliver aid.
9 Jews will participate in this brave mission: amongst them is Rami Elhanan, an Israeli peace activist whose daughter Smadar was killed in a suicide bombing in 1997. Elhanan rightly maintained that it was his moral duty to act in support of the Palestinians in Gaza because reconciliation was the surest path to peace. "Those 1.5 million people in Gaza are victims exactly as I am," he said.
Refusnik Israel Air Force pilot Jonathan Shapira, another passenger aboard the ship, told Haaretz that "we hope that the soldiers and officers of the Israeli navy will think twice before they obey orders to stop us." Shapira also reflected on recent Jewish history: "Let them remember the history of our people, and those who followed orders and later said we were only following orders."
Elhanan and Shapira make a lot of sense, for they speak in the spirit of humanism and universalism.
However: when it comes to Jewish political activism, there is always one `righteous person' who insists on providing a glimpse into what is still a deeply Judeo-centric agenda.
Richard Kuper, an organizer with the U.K. group, `Jews for Justice for Palestinians', said "one goal is to show that not all Jews support Israeli policies toward Palestinians."
Well done Richard. Let me get it right : amongst the Jewish population of 18 million people, worldwide -- all you have managed to apparently represent, speak for and collate, is 9 humanist souls who are not happy with Israeli policies.
I suggest to Jews -- and humanist Jews in particular -- to once and for all, drop the `not in my name' strategy : it is not going to work, and it doesn't make any sense either. Implementing such a tactic is as racist as the Zionist project, for it affirms the Zionist racial and collective attribution to Jews. It basically says, `look at me, I am nice in spite of being a Jew'. This common Jewish left tactic is, unfortunately, not as forceful as Zionism for Zionism is supported by the vast majority of world Jewry institutionally and spiritually.
Also, I would like to advise Mr. Kuper that the goal of a humanitarian mission to Gaza should aim at helping Gazans rather than make Jews look better.
I should be clear here : of course I wish the Jewish boat all success in accomplishing its sacred mission. I certainly go along with Shapira and Elhanan's call. It is very impressive to see heroic Israelis opposing their criminal government. Shapira and Elhanan are the seed of a future reconciliation. It is also important to see Jews around the world standing up against Israel.
However, if these Jewish activists are true humanists, they had better operate as ordinary people within the emerging solidarity movement. If these Jews are humanists, they had better accept the true meaning of universalism and stop buying into, and retaining aspects of Zionist racist philosophy and perhaps they should consider not solely operating in Jews only political cells.
'Jewish aid boat' leaves Cyprus bound for Gaza
By Caroline-Nelly Perrot (AFP)
Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
September 27, 2010
A boat carrying Jewish activists is scheduled to arrive in Gaza on Tuesday. Please see the following AFP report from Sunday September 26.
FAMAGUSTA, Cyprus — A boat carrying Jewish activists from Israel, Europe and the United States set sail on Sunday from Cyprus bound for Gaza, in a bid to run Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory.
The "Irene" left the port of Famagusta in the Turkish-held north of the divided eastern Mediterranean island in the early afternoon carrying eight activists, three of them crew members, and two journalists.
Reuven Moskovitz, an 82-year-old passenger who survived the Nazi Holocaust, told AFP he felt duty-bound to attempt the voyage in the small blue and white sailing boat, a trip expected to take around 36 hours.
"It is a sacred duty for me, as a survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children," Moskovitz said.
Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli former military pilot and crew member on the British-flagged sailing boat, said they were not seeking confrontation.
"We have a policy of non-violence and non-confrontation," he said.
"But if the Israeli army stops the boat, we will not help them to take it to Ashdod," he said of the southern Israeli port where other blockade runners have been taken after being stopped by warships.
Shapira told AFP by satellite phone that the vessel had left Cypriot territorial waters in the late afternoon.
Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak has repeatedly warned that Israel will intercept any ship nearing Gaza, which is run by the Islamist movement Hamas.
In May, Israeli forces intercepted a six-ship flotilla heading for Gaza but the raid went badly wrong and nine Turkish activists were killed, prompting a wave of international condemnation.
The "Irene" activists plan to raise multi-coloured flags bearing the names of dozens of Jews who support their action as the vessel nears Gaza, they said.
"The boat's cargo includes symbolic aid in the form of children's toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza's fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for orthopaedic medical care in Gaza's hospitals," said a statement from the organisers, Jews for Justice for Palestinians.
Richard Kuper, a member of the organising group, said "the Jewish Boat to Gaza is a symbolic act of protest against the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories and the siege of Gaza, and a message of solidarity to Palestinians and Israelis who seek peace and justice.
"Israeli government policies are not supported by all Jews," Kuper said.
Activist Rami Elhanan, who is also on board, said: "We are banging our head on a very hard wall of hatred. Our hope is to make little cracks on that wall, so that in the end it will fall.
"Whatever happens, the worst thing has already happened to me, I am not afraid of what is coming next," added Elhanan, who lost his daughter in a 1997 suicide bombing.
Holocaust survivor Moskovitz said he still remained a Zionist.
"The state of Israel was a big dream, and it has become reality. We have to make sure it does not become a nightmare," he said.
"I am a Zionist, I still believe I have a right to be here, but not to rob Palestinians from their land and steal the rights of 1.5 million people."
Last week, a report by the UN Human Rights Council found there was clear evidence to back prosecutions against Israel for killing and torture when its troops stormed the Mavi Marmara, the lead ship in the May flotilla.
In a scathing report, it also threw out Israel's argument that the aid activists were violent, thereby justifying the decision by Israeli forces to open fire.
Israel rejected the report out of hand as "biased" and "one-sided."
It says its commandos resorted to force only after they were attacked when they rappelled onto the deck of the Mavi Marmara, but pro-Palestinian activists on board say the soldiers opened fire as soon as they landed.
Hamas spokesman Ezzat al-Rashk, a member of the movement's political bureau, welcomed the report and called for Israel to be brought before international courts.
A separate inquiry into the incident has been set up by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, and several more inquiries into the raid are also being pursued by Israel and Turkey.
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