Sunday, June 28, 2015

Israel's "Moral Army" Captures Swedish Boat MARIANNE; Prime Minister Sends Sarcastic Letter to #FreedomFlotilla Sailors

Israeli forces intercepted the Gaza-bound boat Marianne late Sunday night, in what the Israeli Defense Forces said was a short operation free of any casualties. The boat is currently en route to Ashdod port.
The Swedish boat, which on Sunday afternoon was 150 nautical miles from the Gaza Coast, is carrying 20 activists, among them MK Basel Ghattas (Joint Arab List) and former Tunisian president Moncef Marzouki.
According to the original plan, after boarding the ship, the soldiers were to hand out a letter issued by the Prime Minister's Office, welcoming them to Israel and wondering why they sailed to Gaza and not Syria. "Perhaps you meant to sail somewhere else nearby – Syria, where Assad's regime is massacring his people every day, with the support of the murderous Iranian regime." The activists on the boat were then to be taken to Israel where they would be interrogated. After, they would be taken to the Ben Gurion Airport and flown out of Israel.  
Activists aboard the Marianne have said they are unarmed and will not forcibly resist IDF efforts to stop them from reaching their destination.   
Their plan was for the boat to approach the Gaza coast within 24 hours, during the day, and not at night, but flotilla organizers said Saturday that the Marianne would arrive either overnight or early Monday morning. The timing depends on sea conditions and the weather, since the Marianne is a small fishing vessel.
Two other boats that set sail Friday from Greek ports with the intent of joining the Marianne were forced to return to port by the Greek authorities, and the Marianne is expected to approach Gaza alone.
Ghattas on Sunday called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon to allow the Marianne to enter Gaza’s port.
In his letter to Netanyahu and Ya’alon, Ghattas wrote, “As you know, I declared my intention to participate in the flotilla to Gaza out of clear political motivations, because of my opposition to the ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip.” Ghattas added that “the blockade is illegal and contravenes international humanitarian law, in that it imposes collective punishment on Gaza residents.”
Ghattas wrote that along with the former Tunisian president, the vessel’s passengers included European parliament members, journalists, academics and writers. “All the passengers are peace activists and their sole purpose is to protest the closure of Gaza and to provide humanitarian aid – medical equipment to Shifa Hospital.”
Ghattas called on the Israeli officials “to order the security forces to allow the entrance of the Marianne and avoid the use of any forces, which undermines the ship’s humanitarian mission.”

Sunday, June 21, 2015

"Elbit & Thales, Partners in Crime, Denounced by BDS at the Paris Air Show"--Bien Fait! C'est Bien!

"A Reminder Both Political Parties are Morally Bankrupt"--Blog Post Inspired by C.J. Werleman

Pic Via @cjwerleman on Twitter

Find this campaign pin incredible?  Read this from Ted Glick's blog "Racism and Presidential Elections Since 1964: A Short History"
Cited books are "The Great Wells of Democracy," by Manning Marable, and "Nixon's Piano: Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton," by Kenneth O'Reilly. 
"By late May 1992 Bill Clinton had all but sown up his party 's presidential nomination, but in national polls he was running a poor third in the projected general election that was only months away, behind the incumbent president, George Bush, and independent candidate H. Ross Perot. What Clinton needed was an event to distinguish himself as a 'different kind of Democrat.' Following Reagan's model, he decided to manipulate the politics of race. . . Clinton had been scheduled to speak before the national convention of the Rainbow Coalition and, without informing Jackson in advance, decided to distance himself from the black community. Although the speech was designed to focus on issues such as urban enterprise zones and the earned-income tax credit, Clinton unexpectedly attacked the Rainbow Coalition's invitation to rap artist Sister Souljah to speak the previous evening. 'You had a rap singer here last night named Sister Souljah,' Clinton stated. 'Her comments before and after [the] Los Angeles [civil disturbances following the not guilty Rodney King verdicts] were filled with a kind of hatred that you do not honor today and tonight'. . . Clinton's rhetorical maneuver paralleled Ronald Reagan's attack against 'welfare queens' and George Bush's 'Willie Horton' advertisements. It was a strategically planned stunt, and it worked. Clinton followed it up with national interviews, explaining that 'if you want to be president, you've got to stand up for what you think is right.'" ([Manning] Marable, pps. 79-80)

But this wasn't the only instance of racial pandering. In January Clinton left New Hampshire prior to the primary vote to return to Arkansas to preside over the execution of Rickey Ray Rector, a black man who had killed a police officer 11 years earlier but who had shot himself in the head afterwards, leaving him with the mental capacity of a child. In March he posed with fellow DLC-er and Georgia Senator Sam Nunn for pictures in front of forty mostly black prisoners in their prison uniforms. "Jesse Jackson called it a moderately more civilized 'version of the Willie Horton situation.' Two weeks later, on the day after the Illinois and Michigan primaries, Clinton again showed he was a different type of Democrat by golfing nine holes, accompanied by a television camera crew, at a segregated Little Rock country club." ([Kenneth] O'Reilly, p. 410)

"Bill Clinton calculated that he could not win in 1992 unless he used Sister Souljah to bait Jesse Jackson, put a black chain gang in a crime control ad, golfed at a segregated club with a TV camera crew in tow, and allowed that search for a serviceable vein in Rickey Ray Rector's arm." (O'Reilly, p. 420)
Clinton had a much easier opponent in 1996, Bob Dole, but he wasn't going to take any chances, so he "decided to use the issue of welfare as the vehicle to shore up his support among white male voters. Only days before the 1996 Democratic National Convention, Clinton signed the 'Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act,' with the stated goal of 'ending welfare as we know it.' . . . Clinton repeatedly criticized the lack of 'personal responsibility' of those on public assistance." ([Manning] Marable, p. 82)

"Yemen on the Brink of Collapse as End of Truce Looms" -- Shame on #USA, Allies to Saudi Arabia's Barbaric Bombers


Saturday, June 20, 2015

Palestine: New flotilla of boats in aid of Gaza prepare to set sail from Europe

Marianne Gaza flotilla
Members of the Freedom Flotilla Coalition aboard the Marianne of Gothenburg which is hoping to sail to Gaza
Pro-Palestinian activists are planning to set sail for the Gaza Strip as part of a flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's blockade of the territory, five years after a similar mission ended with the deaths of 10 Turkish activists.
The Swedish flagged Marianne of Gothenburg is one of at least three boats currently preparing to set sail from Italy at the end of June 2015 in a mission more symbolic than practical.
Kalle Ohlsson from the Freedom Flotilla Coalition told Al Jazeera that the boats would only be bringing small amounts of medical supplies and other aid including solar panels but it would attempt to normalise Gaza as a working port.
"Our aim is to end the siege of Gaza," said Ohlsson. "We want the Palestinians to know that we haven't forgotten about them. There are many crises in the world, but the situation in Gaza is also really bad, and we do remember them."
The other boats in the flotilla have not been named and Marianne is currently moving between ports in Sicily in a bid to keep its final departure point a secret in the hope it will enable it to evade potential sabotage. If successful in reaching Gaza the Marianne will be donated to local fishermen.
Turkish ship Mavi Marmara
Turkish ship Mavi Marmara, carrying pro-Palestinian activists, was raided by Israeli forces with the loss of 10 activists in 2010
Ohlsson admits to being concerned about Israel's reaction to the small flotilla.
"We're very concerned about safety," said Ohlsson. "We have a strict non-violence policy. We're hoping Israel won't use violence against us."
In 2010 Israeli forces carried out a botched raid on Turkish ship the Mavi Marmara, one of six boats trying to reach Gaza as part of a similar flotilla. A total of 10 Turkish activists died in the raid, leading to a diplomatic crisis between Turkey and Israel.
Israel imposed the blockade of Gaza in 2006, claiming it is essential to prevent weapons reaching militants inside the Territories. Pro-Palestinian activists say the blockade has created extreme hardship within Gaza, leading to a dire shortage of medicines and other essentials.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

"Freedom Flotilla vows to break siege: 'This time we will reach Gaza'"--Cheers to #FreedomFlotilla
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- This summer, Swedish seaman Joel Opperdoes, 32, is not piloting cargo ships in the Baltic Sea. 
Instead, he is the sailing across Europe with five permanent crew members on a fishing trawler named Marianne.
Their final destination is the main seaport of the Gaza Strip, which has been under a jointly enforced Israeli and Egyptian blockade for the last eight years.
“I strongly believe in international solidarity,” Opperdoes told Ma’an from Lisbon, Portugal, where the boat stopped last week. “I am happy to use my professional skills for something good.”
Marianne, which left from Sweden on May 10, is one of the boats taking part in the third Freedom Flotilla Coalition.
While the fishing trawler was brought together by Palestinian solidarity groups Ship to Gaza Sweden and Ship to Gaza Norway, several other international NGOs support the campaign. All are united in their goal to end the siege of Gaza.
Violent Israeli response to past flotillas
Two other boats will join Marianne in the Eastern Mediterranean. To avoid problems of sabotage, details of the journey are being kept secret.
The coalition expects to reach Gaza by the end of June. Yet the two previous Freedom Flotillas never made it to the besieged enclave. In 2010, Israeli forces killed nine activists on board the Turkish ship Mavi Marmara while it was still in international waters.
In 2012, the Israeli army boarded another pro-Palestinian vessel, Estelle, off Gaza's coast and took all 30 passengers to the shore in Ashdod, Israel. Opperdoes was one of them.
“After long interrogations, they accused us of entering the country illegally and deported us,” he told Ma'an.
Deportation came with a 10-year ban from re-entering Israel. Although a long-time Palestinian activist, Opperdoes has never set foot in the occupied Palestinian territories.
'We will enter Palestinian, not Israeli waters'
The Israeli Foreign Ministry declared in May that Israel “will not allow unauthorized vessels to enter its territorial waters,” the Jerusalem Post reported.
Despite a slight easing of restrictions by Israeli authorities this year -- exports to Israel were increased along with travel permits for businessmen -- severe travel restrictions for the majority of Palestinians still remain in place, and entering Gaza is only possible by land via Israeli and Egyptian controlled crossings.
But Ann Ighe, a spokesperson from the Ship to Gaza Sweden, said the flotilla coalition would enter Palestinian, not Israeli, waters.
"We do not recognize Israel’s self-taken role of not only controlling everything that comes in and out of the Palestinian territories, but also of stopping people and blocking imports and exports,” she said.
“It is a very basic question of Palestinian independence, and of human rights.”
If the Israeli forces attack Marianne, which is sailing under the Swedish flag, it could lead to diplomatic repercussions between Israel and the European country.
“If Israel hijacks the boat, this will happen on Swedish territory,” Ighe said.
Relations between the two countries cooled off at the end of last year when Sweden officially recognized the state of Palestine. To protest the move, Israel recalled its ambassador from Sweden, although he returned to work a month later.
Trawler loaded with solidarity
The humanitarian situation in Gaza remains critical after last summer’s six-week long war between Hamas and Israel, which killed 2,220 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 73 Israelis, the majority soldiers.
Over 17,000 housing units were destroyed and 560 factories and businesses damaged in the war, according to Israeli rights group Gisha, and more than 10,000 Palestinians are still living in UN shelters, compounding a 42 percent unemployment rate in the territory.
“Thus far, not a single home destroyed in operation Protective Edge [summer 2014 Gaza war] has been rebuilt,” said Eitan Diamond, Gisha’s executive director.
On board, the Marianne is carrying one solar panel to al-Shifa hospital and medical equipment for Wafa hospital, both in Gaza City. If everything goes as planned, activists will also leave the fishing trawler for Palestinian fishermen to use.
“The people in Gaza never have electricity all day long. Solar panels could be a sustainable solution for the power shortage,” Ighe said.
The spokesperson admits that bringing only one solar panel is mainly a symbolic message. Sending humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip is already a double-edged sword.
“Aid is clearly needed, but at the same time foreign governments -- including Sweden -- are using their taxpayers’ money to finance the occupation, as Israel does not carry out its responsibilities as the occupying power,” Ighe said.
Spreading information about Gaza
Another objective of the Flotilla Coalition is to raise awareness about humanitarian conditions in Gaza. Marianne has stopped in several ports across Europe to meet with local activists, and has even hosted public figures and journalists on board.
Former Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki has confirmed he will be on board during the last phase of the journey, as the boat approaches the shores of Gaza.
“In every corner [of Europe], there have been people who do not know what is going on in Gaza,” Opperdoes, the captain of Marianne, said.
According to Gisha's executive director, Eitan Diamond, the first flotilla in 2010 had a “tremendous impact” and even forced Israel to alter some of its most repressive policies in relation to Gaza.
“I’m not sure if the third Flotilla will have the same sort of impact and whether or not it will reach Gaza,” the director said. “But what is clear is that there is a great deal of importance in highlighting the plight of the people of Gaza.”
All of the activists on board have declared that they will continue trying until the Israeli blockade is lifted. 
Only then can the people of Gaza set sail on a trip across Europe -- or even just reconnect with Palestinians in the West Bank, a mere 40 kilometers away.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Activists Mark 5 Years Since Israeli Flotilla Attack -- Maan News


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Activists in Gaza City on Sunday marked five years since Israel's deadly attack on the first Freedom Flotilla in 2010, a day after the ship leading Freedom Flotilla III arrived in the port of Bueu in Spain en route to Gaza.
Israeli naval forces killed nine activists On May 31, 2010 after they stormed six ships intending to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.
The incident took place in international waters and sparked international outcry.
Sunday's commemoration ceremony was organized by Miles of Smiles, an international Gaza aid campaign, and was attended by dozens of activists. 
The participants held up photos of the victims of the first flotilla and chanted slogans demanding freedom for Gaza and Palestine. 
They then sailed a short distance off the coast and threw roses into the water in honor of the victims, also raising the flags of the countries participating in the current flotilla. 
In a press conference in Gaza port, a spokesperson for Miles of Smiles, Ali al-Nazli, said the commemoration was part of ongoing efforts to end the blockade of Gaza. 
"We are here to say to Marmara martyrs," he said, referring to the Turkish ship aboard which the activists were killed, "we won’t forget you…and history won’t forget you." 
He also applauded the president of Miles of Smiles, Issam Yousuf, "who has been touring the capitals of the world to recruit support for Gaza and Palestine."
A trawler leading the third Freedom Flotilla arrived in Spain on Saturday after setting sail from Sweden earlier this month.
The ship, called the Marianne, will join other ships heading to Gaza in "a peaceful, nonviolent action to break the illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip," according to the Freedom Flotilla Coalition.
The Marianne is carrying a limited cargo of solar cell panels and medical equipment for the devastated Gaza Strip.
It will carry a crew of five people as well as "up to eight delegates as passengers in each section of the route," the FFC said, with these delegates to be announced along the way.
European MEP Ana Maria Miranda Paz will be one of the passengers when the boat leaves Bueu for Portugal, with a range of other public figures expected to participate in the flotilla, including former Tunisian President and human rights activist Muncef al-Marzouk.
Gaza has been under a crippling Israeli-administered military blockade since 2007.