Jun 8, 2010

US Activists Onboard Flotilla Speak Out


US Activists Onboard Flotilla Speak Out

Ann | June 9, 2010 at 1:53 am | Tags: Paul Larudee | Categories: Israel, Palestine, Video | URL:

U.S.activists onboard a flotilla seized by Israeli commandos while trying to deliver aid to Gaza are speaking out. Paul Larudee, co-founder of the Free Palestine Movement, test=he was beaten six times while in Israeli custody.

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The Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf States and all of us are totally fucked.


The Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf States and all of us are totally fucked.

As Sir Richard Mottram famously said:

We're all fucked. I'm fucked. You're fucked. The whole [thing] is fucked. It's the biggest cock-up ever. We're all completely fucked.

I may have been uncomfortably close to the mark. And the quote from Sir Richard Mottram was dead on the money; if Senator Nelson is correct about the breach of fundamental well integrity, the game is close to over for the Gulf of Mexico. We shall see where this goes from Nelson's initial comment. But make no mistake, Nelson is a careful guy not prone to overt hyperbole, and he clearly understood the ramifications of what he was saying.

It also means, of course, that BP and the Obama Administrations continue to give the American public short shrift in the truth and honesty departments. How surprising.


Yeah, but I am absolutely convinced there is such a lack of integrity, from pretty much top to bottom, of the well that totally plugging it at the top just creates the blowout of whatever remaining seal they have with the cement at the wellhead. I believe they have a total clusterfuck in about every regard and are just not admitting it:

1) BP used, if not substandard, then very close to it, casing that under the circumstances was inappropriate. It is fragile.

2) They did not install somehow or another at least one major casing segment seal, and the remaining seals are now either completely blown out or on their way to it and as a result oil and gas flow is not only coming up the inside of the casing, but the outside of the casing between the casing and well bore walls in the rock.

3) BP specified a light and fluffy cement and, additionally, there may be significant breaches and voids making the cement job weak and disintegrating.

4) Even at best, the cement is in the upper depths of the well bore where the natural geologic rock structure is the loosest, weakest, most porous and fragile (hell some of it may effectively be silt). The oil and gas, which has a natural well pressure of 12,000 or so psi is going to erode and corrode through and around the cement and the porous well bore rock.

5) Being attached to the Deepwater Horizon rig by the riser, and perhaps drill string too, when all hell broke loose and it exploded, shifted and sank, it put various pressures and forces through attachment to the BOP in turn attached on the well casing head. This action may have kind of reamed out and loosened that whole situation making it even looser and more susceptible to 2 and 4 above.

6) The BOP, to the extent it had restrictions present initially, has now been eroded and reamed out by the long term flow of gas and oil upwards and then the caustic flow of drilling mud the other direction from the attempted Top Kill. It is totally fucked way worse than it even was initially.

7) The reservoir of oil in Macondo is way larger than most anybody realizes and certainly bigger than BP will admit. It is a huge mother lode. Could flow forever.

8) Did I mention that the natural well pressure may be as high as 12,000 psi??

The Gulf of Mexico, the Gulf States and all of us are totally fucked.

As Sir Richard Mottram famously said:

We're all fucked. I'm fucked. You're fucked. The whole [thing] is fucked. It's the biggest cock-up ever. We're all completely fucked.

I may have been uncomfortably close to the mark. And the quote from Sir Richard Mottram was dead on the money; if Senator Nelson is correct about the breach of fundamental well integrity, the game is close to over for the Gulf of Mexico. We shall see where this goes from Nelson's initial comment. But make no mistake, Nelson is a careful guy not prone to overt hyperbole, and he clearly understood the ramifications of what he was saying.

It also means, of course, that BP and the Obama Administrations continue to give the American public short shrift in the truth and honesty departments. How surprising.

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Paul Findley: Helen Thomas should be congratulated, not condemned


Paul Findley: Helen Thomas was quoted out of context


Paul Findley

Posted Jun 07, 2010 @ 11:31 PM


Fearless, decent seeker-of-truth Helen Thomas, 89, the pre-eminent challenger of political power for a half-century as dean of White House correspondents, has resigned her position with Hearst Newspapers. She acted in the wake of controversy that erupted when she told reporters "Jews should get the hell out of Palestine." While speaking plainly on behalf of the rule of law in occupied Palestine, her message was submerged when reporters gave it an anti-Semitic twist by quoting words out of context.

It is a sad finale to an unprecedented career in aggressive, constructive journalism. In her departure from the White House newsroom, America is the loser. The Washington press corps contains few with Thomas' talent in challenging power close-up.

The fiasco started when Thomas made an extemporaneous burst of passion at a White House briefing in late May. She declared, "Jews should get the hell out of Palestine." When asked where they should go, Thomas said they should "go home to Poland, Germany, America and everywhere else." Her intent was unmistakable: Jews are unlawfully residing in occupied Palestine and should leave. She made no reference to Jews in pre-1967 Israel, where all Jews can lawfully reside.

Out-of-context reports on her comments stirred angry controversy. Several commentators failed to report the words "America and everywhere else." This left Thomas' quoted words suggesting only Poland and Germany, countries identified with extermination camps for Jews in World War II, as the only destinations for those Thomas would expel. The warped reports led Diane Nine, her longtime literary agent and friend, to cut ties. She was uninvited after agreeing to be commencement speaker at a Washington, D.C., high school, and was falsely smeared as a bigot and anti-Semite by leaders of Jewish organizations. Time columnist Joe Klein wanted her moved from her traditional front row seat to the back at future White House news briefings. Former White House press secretary Ari Fleischer, who served President George W. Bush, told reporters she should be fired by employer Hearst Newspapers or at least lose her White House credentials.

Attempts to link Thomas' outburst to Nazi crematories are contemptible. In denouncing Thomas, Klein and others mention only Poland and Germany as places Thomas wants Jews now in Palestine to go. If they included "America and everywhere else," as Thomas actually stated, the attempted linkage of past Holocaust crematories would be blurred if not lost.

True to her reputation, Thomas spoke up for human rights, the fundamental property rights of Palestinians that are violated at an ever-rising pace in occupied Palestine by the government of Israel, with no serious opposition from the United States, Israel's main benefactor.

Thanks to an intimidated U.S. media, most Americans are unaware of the plight of Palestinians, who are all Arab and mostly Muslim. Almost all Jews who live in what is left of Palestine are euphemistically called "settlers" by U.S. media, not as unlawful occupiers. By residing in Palestine, they violate international law, Geneva Accords, and clear stipulations of the U.N. Charter. The rare exceptions are a handful of Jews who belong to a peaceful, independent sect.

This dark, undeserved cloud over the reputation of an unrelenting grand champion of human rights will have a silver lining if it awakens the American people to their own quiet, complicit role in Israel's sustained violation of Palestinian rights.

I offer unique credentials in defending Thomas. Although a lifelong admirer, I first met her in October 2009 at a dinner in Washington. When I greeted her, she addressed me as "They Dare to Speak Out Findley," using the title of my bestseller book published in 1985. At my invitation she spoke this past April to a capacity, enthusiastic crowd at Illinois College in Jacksonville. While hosting her at dinner the previous evening, I found her a delightful, warm, compassionate human being dedicated to equal justice for all.

For her edifying outburst, Helen Thomas should be congratulated, not condemned. It could prove to be one of her finest contributions in our nation's often-faltering quest for justice.

Paul Findley resides in Jacksonville. He served 22 years as a U.S. representative from Illinois. He is the author of "A. Lincoln: The Crucible of Congress" and four books on the Arab-Israeli conflict, the latest being a memoir tentatively titled, "Taking the High Road: Confronting Bias, Bigotry, War." It is scheduled for publication next spring by Lawrence Hill Books.

Copyright 2010 The State Journal-Register. Some rights reserved

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Israeli raid on flotilla endangers ‘lives of American soldiers’



She looks like a very nice lady

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:43 AM PDT


New York, Upper West Side, yesterday, photo by Mohammad of Vancouver.

'Pigs for Palestine'

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:30 AM PDT

Just look at this amazing post by Cecilie Surasky from a demo against the flotilla raid outside the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation the other day.

You will see a lot of Jews protesting Israel's actions silently, and look at the response. It's not considered, it's fearful and angry and hateful. There are numerous threats against the demonstrators. There is the Animal Farm scream that is in my headline, repeated and repeated. As Max Blumenthal says, American Zionism is turning into a tea party. This is exactly like the screaming I noticed at our silent demo outside the Waldorf IDF fundraiser back in March. The fervent lobby has lost its solid rank and file. It is left with the fringe.

We are winning: the truth is getting out, and people understand that the status quo is not just "unsustainable" (Biden), it is unconscionable.

Israeli settler opens fire on schoolboys, wounding two 16-year-olds

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:20 AM PDT

And other news from Today in Palestine:

Land Theft and Destruction/Ethnic Cleansing
80 olive trees uprooted in Walaja
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Israeli bulldozers began overturning agricultural land and uprooting trees in the Al-Walaja, a village south of Jerusalem inside the 1967 Green Line, Palestinian landowners said.

Israel uproots 100 trees in WB
West Bank, June 8, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – Israeli occupation forces uprooted today tens of olive trees in Al-Loja town, in west of the West Bank city of Bethlehem.  The president of Al-Loja town, Saleh Khalifa, said the Israeli vehicles uprooted 100 olive and cypress trees which were planted for more than 100 years.  He added that the Israeli occupation has been bulldozing the area since two months to continue building some parts of the apartheid wall.

Israeli Troops Issue 10-day Eviction Orders To Palestinians In Jordan Valley
Five Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern part of the West Bank, received eviction orders from the Israeli military on Sunday, just days after Israeli settlers set up an illegal outpost on the families' land and took over a water well in the area. The eviction orders told the families to vacate their homes and land within ten days so that Israeli troops could occupy it.

Two More Families To Be Evicted From Sheikh Jarrah
The Kanabi and Siyam-Idkadk families recently received 45-day eviction notices, adding to the growing list of Palestinian residents being forced from their homes in East Jerusalem. The small neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah is at the frontline of Israel's efforts to Judaise the would-be Palestinian capital with dozens of permanent settlers installed, scores of forced evictions and weekly protests held in opposition. On Sunday, Palestine Monitor met with the latest families to be faced with losing their homes. Reporting from Michael Carpenter.

At Home With The Homeless
Sheikh Jarrah, East Jerusalem. Since 2008, 70 Palestinians from four extended families have been evicted from their homes. On May 29th, The Siyam-Idkadk and Kanabi families became the latest to be served with the dreaded document, instructing them to vacate the premises within 45 days or face crippling fines of 350 NIS per day. Photography by Rebecca Fudala.

Solidarity/Activism/Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment
The village of Al-Ma'sara shows their solidarity with the martyrs of the Freedom Flotilla
June 6th, 2010-- On June 4th, 2010, the village of Al-Ma'sara's regular weekly protest against the Apartheid Wall became a solidarity march with the martyrs of the Freedom Flotilla. Protestors raised flags of the countries that participated in the multilateral humanitarian effort to end the siege in Gaza and marched with a model ship.

Foreign activist detained in Beit Jala march
Four Palestinians were treated for breathing difficulties while a foreign activist was detained and severely beaten for participating in the weekly peaceful anti wall march in Beit Jala.

Arab artists delegation to visit Gaza
Gaza – Ma'an – The Palestinian Artists Union said Monday that all preparations were complete to receive a visiting delegation of Arab artists to the Gaza Strip on Wednesday.  Head of the Palestinian union Zakariyah Zein Ad-Din said "the visit is within the context of continued efforts to break the siege on Gaza and to show that artists care for Gaza, the Palestinian issue, and want to help solve the conflict."

Part 1: Huwaida Arraf interviewed 7-06-2010.wmv

Part 2 Huwaida Arraf interviewed 7-06-2010.wmv

Gaza activist denies 'terrorist' tag
Israeli authorities are defying international criticism of last week's raid on the Gaza aid flotilla, in which nine people were killed. They are now claiming that five passengers on board the Mavi Marmara were "active terrorists". Israel's "terrorist" list includes two Turks, one French, and two US citizens. Ken O'Keefe, a former US marine, who is on the list, is accused of being a "radical anti-Israel activist" whom the Israelis say wanted to "train a commando unit" for Hamas. But speaking to Al Jazeera's Veronica Pedrosa, O'Keefe denied the allegation.


Flotilla Captain Tells of High Israeli Aggression toward Female Passengers
06/06/2010 The captain of one of six boats in a flotilla raided by Israeli occupation forces to prevent aid reaching Gaza said commandos roughed up women passengers and humiliated others, in an interview published Sunday. "It was traumatic; we were obviously expecting some hassle from the Israelis -- but nothing like they dished out," the 55-year-old Cyprus-based British skipper, Denis Healey, told the Cyprus Mail.  He said that at about 4:00 am (0100 GMT) last Monday, as the aid flotilla steamed towards Gaza but while still in international waters, he saw the lights of Israeli patrol boats and helicopters. "We were travelling at around 18 knots, so we managed to hold them off for about 20 minutes; then they sent one of their bigger steel vessels so I thought they were going to ram us or shoot us with the gun on the front," Healey said.

Challenger I passengers: Commandos shot first
Tel Aviv - Ma'an - Alex Harrison, a British activist who participated in the Freedom Flotilla, was on the neighboring Challenger I when the Israeli army overtook the Mavi Marmara, leaving at least nine activists dead and dozens injured.

Remembering is not enough
For Holocaust survivor and Palestine solidarity activist Hedy Epstein, Remembering Is Not Enough is both the title of her autobiography and her life's credo.  Hedy, now 85, last saw her parents and extended family on May 18, 1939, at the age of 14, when she was sent from her native Germany on a kindertransport to Britain. Her entire family was denied emigration and was killed in the Auschwitz concentration camps.  Epstein has been working from Cyprus with the Free Gaza Movement, and many of her colleagues were among the activists on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attempting to bring humanitarian aid to the 1.5 million people under siege in Gaza when it was assaulted in international waters by the Israeli military. Sherry Wolf spoke to Hedy from Cyprus on June 3.

A Jew explains why he is leading flotilla protest
This afternoon at 5 in Middletown, Orange County, New York, a demonstration will be held to oppose the attack on the Gaza flotilla. Details below. One of the organizers is Goshen, N.Y., lawyer and activist Michael Sussman, who sent out this letter...

Spanish activists to prosecute Israel for its attack on Freedom Flotilla
Two Spanish activists intend to file a lawsuit against Israel for its deadly attack on Freedom Flotilla convoy, which led to the murder of nine civilian passengers and the injury of many others.

Lawsuit Filed Against State of Israel Following Flotilla Massacre
A French lawyer, Lillian Glock, has filed two lawsuits against the State of Israel on grounds of kidnapping and detention without reason.

Spanish pride parade doesn't want Israelis
Sources say pro-Palestinian groups led Madrid to cancel invitation extended to LGBT delegation.,7340,L-3901785,00.html

Palestinian trade unionists call on dockworkers to block Israeli trade
The Palestinian trade union movement, as a key constituent member of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC), calls on dockworkers' unions worldwide to block Israeli maritime trade in response to Israel's massacre of humanitarian relief workers and activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla, until Israel complies with international law and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza.

Activists call on public to boycott Israeli goods
FIVE IRISH citizens who were deported from Israel yesterday morning after their ship was taken over by Israeli defence forces have called on the Irish people to boycott Israeli goods until the blockade of Gaza is ended.  They have also called on the Government to put pressure on the EU to suspend the Euro-Med trade agreement with Israel. They have asked for the return of their boat, the MV Rachel Corrie , and for the humanitarian aid aboard all of the flotilla vessels, "rotting in the harbour" at Ashdod, to be sent to the people of Gaza.

Divestment Movement Gains Momentum In US And Britain
The largest labor union in Britain, Unite, has passed a resolution to divest from Israel, while another U.S. College, slain activist Rachel Corrie's school Evergreen College, has also voted for divestment.

Our tax dollars got a real workout last week--so why is the military aid check still so fat?
Just to state the obvious--this past week has put U.S. complicity in war crimes and acts of aggression committed by the Israeli military on display once again. Just a few examples of how hard your tax money was working this past week to violate human rights.

American hurt in West Bank protest is back in US (AP)
AP - A San Francisco Bay-area photojournalist is back in the United States after 15 months of treatment for a brain injury he suffered during a pro-Palestinian demonstration in the West Bank.*

Protests in USA Say "End The Blockade On Gaza"

UK anti-Israel protests spread to Egyptian embassy

Violence and Aggression
Death toll rises to 6 after Israeli navy shoots Palestinian divers off Gaza
JERUSALEM -- The bodies of two more Palestinians, whom the Israeli navy shot dead at sea, washed up on the Gaza Strip's shore Tuesday, bringing the death toll from the incident to six.

Hell's Gate at Aroub Camp
A slew of settler-related violence struck the Hebron area last week. Two Palestinians died in separate incidents with settler vehicles on Sunday and Wednesday. Thursday morning an Israeli settler seriously injuring two 16-year-old boys after opening fire on a group of teenagers walking home from school. The unidentified shooter turned himself into Israeli authorities on Thursday night. Palestine Monitor interviewed one of the victims, Ibrahim Muhammad Biss at Al-Ahli hospital (Hebron), where he is recovering from a bullet wound to the abdomen. His close friend, Moataz Musa Omran Benat, remains in critical condition.

PCHR calls for probe into blast critically injuring Rafah child
Bethlehem - Ma'an - The Palestinian Center for Human Rights called for an investigations into the causes of a blast that left a child with critical injuries in the southern Gaza town of Rafah last Sunday, a statement read.  According to investigations conducted by PCHR, at approximately 6am on 6 June, an unknown object exploded in a area had used for training by resistance groups in Al-Mawasi, west of Rafah. As a result, Mohammed Fayez Dehleez, 15, was seriously wounded, resulting in the amputation of his legs and hand.

Israel detains two Palestinian boys in WB
West Bank, June 7, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) – Israeli occupation forces detained yesterday evening two Palestinian boys in Bethlehem and Hebron in the West Bank.  Israeli forces detained the boy Ahmad Abu Amira at one of the entrances of Al-Haram Al-Ibrahimi under the pretext of finding a knife with him.  In Bethlehem, Israeli occupation force detain a boy, his name is unknown, under the pretext of throwing stones at settlers' cars.

Israel detains 6 Palestinians in Hebron
Hebron, June 7, 2010 (Pal Telegraph) - The Israeli occupation forces (IOF) detained six Palestinians in Bait Omar and Al-Aroub camp in the West Bank city of Hebron.  Local sources reported that Israeli occupation forces detain three citizens in Al-Aroub camp. Ali Al-Badwi, Nour Al-Badwi and Ahmed Al-Badwi were detained after raiding their houses by the IOF.  IOF raided Bait Omar and detained Tamer Awad, 23, Saif Bhaer, 26 and Wasem Wahden, 15, the source added.
Clashes erupted in Bait Omar between the citizen and Israeli soldiers. They fired gas bombs toward the citizens which resulted in suffocating number of the citezens.

IOF soldiers detain 10 citizens in West Bank, 10 Jerusalemites
Israeli occupation forces (IOF) arrested ten Palestinian citizens in the districts of Al-Khalil, Nablus, Ramallah, and Jenin at dawn Tuesday.

Humanitarian Issues
In Brief: Destroying the last remnants of Gaza war
GAZA CITY Tuesday, June 08, 2010 (IRIN) - The UN Mine Action Team (UNMAT) in Gaza has completed the destruction of white phosphorus ordnance left over from the Israeli "Cast Lead" military operation in the Gaza Strip between December 2008 and January 2009.

The Siege
Counting the Cost - Israel's grip on Gaza
On this week's Counting the Cost: Israel's blockade of Gaza, ties between Israel and Turkey and global credit rating agencies.

Israel keeping basic goods out of Gaza: rights group (AFP)
AFP - An Israeli rights group on Tuesday said the military is still preventing basic goods like vinegar, coriander and toys from entering Gaza as part of a crippling embargo on the Hamas-run territory.*

DWO: Lift the siege on Gaza now
Doctors of the World Organization (DWO) called for lifting Gaza blockade in order to improve the living and health conditions of its inhabitants in the long-term.

'Syria, Turkey to cooperate to remove Gaza siege'
Damascus sources say Syrian president proposed new initiative to Turkish PM to use international pressure on Israel in order to lift Gaza blockade.,7340,L-3902100,00.html

Israel's Arab Helpers
Gaza barrier to be completed by end summer: Egypt official (AFP)
AFP - Egyptian construction of an underground barrier on the border with the Gaza Strip will be completed "by the end of the summer," a security official said on Monday.*

Egypt Prevents Nine Parliamentarians from Entering Gaza
The Egyptian Authorities stopped nine Egyptian Legislators at the Rafah Terminal who were trying to deliver construction supplies to Gaza.

Turkey's support of Hamas worries PA
The Palestinian Authority is concerned about Turkey's increased support for Hamas, a PA official in Ramallah said on Monday.  The official said that the PA leadership was "unhappy" with Turkey's policy toward Hamas, especially with regard to pressure to lift the blockade on the Gaza Strip unconditionally. "Turkey's policy is emboldening Hamas and undermining the Palestinian Authority," the official told The Jerusalem Post.

Palestinian minister: Boycott only against settlement products
Finance minister says PA enjoys excellent economic ties with Israel, wants to expand cooperation.,7340,L-3901780,00.html

Hamas says PA forces detain 8 supporters
Bethlehem – Ma'an – Hamas accused Palestinian Authority Preventative Security Services of detaining eight of the movement's affiliates in the West Bank, a party statement read Tuesday.  The supporters were detained in Nablus, Ramallah and Hebron, the statement read.

Israel's Attack on Humanitarian Convoy/Political Fallout and Other Flotilla News
Turkey pushes for condemnation of Israel (AFP)
AFP - Turkey sought a fresh condemnation of Israel over its deadly raid on Gaza-bound aid ships as regional leaders gathered in Istanbul Tuesday to discuss security in Asia.*

Erdogan to Assad: Israel Will Pay for Freedom Flotilla Crime
07/06/2010 A week after the Israeli massacre against a Gaza-bound Turkish ship, which left nine people martyred, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan assured Syrian President Bachar Assad that the Israeli enemy will pay for its massacre.  At a joint press conference in Istanbul with Assad, Erdogan said that his government was prepared to supply the Gaza Strip with "everything it needs," adding that Israel's blockade of the Gaza strip must end immediately.  "What happened on the flotilla is a crime against humanity," Erdogan said, referring to the Israel Navy raid on a Gaza-bound aid ship last week that left nine Turkish nationals dead. "Palestine and Gaza are a giant prison and this situation cannot continue," he said. "We can no longer remain silent and we will not be silent anymore regarding anything having to do with Gaza.

Erdogan: Time for action against Israel
The Turkish prime minister says it is not enough to merely condemn Israel's attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy, calling for a firm response to Tel Aviv.

Turkey's diplomatic offensive against Israel gains Muslim steam
Assad: Syria prepared to act against Israel's siege of Gaza; Erdogan: Turkey can give Gaza everything it needs if Israel lifts siege.

Crisis may hurt Turkish-Israeli trade (Reuters)
Reuters - The Gaza flotilla crisis between Israel and Turkey could disrupt a $3 billion trade channel that has been central to their once-strong alliance, Israeli and Turkish officials said on Monday.*

Senior Israeli Army Commander: Turkish Attempt To Break The Siege Would Be "Act of War"
A senior commander in the the Israeli military has stated that he believes that action taken by the Turkish government in protecting an upcoming flotilla to Gaza would be considered an act of war.

Israel's attack on Flotilla violates international law
In the aftermath of Israel's 31 May attack on the Freedom Flotilla that left nine dead and scores wounded, each side claimed their actions were protected under international law. While the Israelis cited self-defense, and the Flotilla passengers reiterated that they were peace activists on a humanitarian mission that were attacked in international waters where neither Israel (nor any other state) has any claim. Jinan Bastaki comments for The Electronic Intifada.

See also:  Links and Video about the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

Beatings, Abuse, Doctored Evidence Emerge
Allegation of a possible shoot-to-kill policy, amidst autopsies revealing repeated gun shots to the heads of the victims, are also part of an emerging pattern.

Kucinich cong'l letter says Israeli raid on flotilla endangers 'lives of American soldiers'
Dennis Kucinich is circulating a great letter on the flotilla attack that is already getting pushback from the National Jewish Democratic Council, which calls it "reckless."
Notice the emphasis on the strategic liability that Israel now represents. Wonder if he'll get any signatures. Excerpts follow.

Malaysian premier condemns Israel as 'gangsters' (AFP)
AFP - Malaysia's prime minister on Monday condemned Israel as "world gangsters" and said it should face the International Criminal Court over the deadly Gaza aid flotilla attack.*

Pan-Islamic group tells members to review Israel ties (AFP)
AFP - The Organisation of the Islamic Conference, the world's largest Muslim grouping, has appealed to its members to review their ties with Israel over a deadly assault on a Gaza aid convoy.*

Egypt confirms: We broke Gaza blockade
Cairo says Rafah crossing to remain open for humanitarian aid, restricted travel. 'We are not going to let the occupying power escape from its responsibilities,' Foreign Ministry spokesman says. Nine parliamentarians cross into Strip to 'express support for residents'.

Jordan asks Israel to return seized passports (AFP)
AFP - Jordan said on Monday it has asked Israel to return passports seized from Jordanians who were among passengers of the Gaza aid flotilla intercepted in a raid which cost nine lives last week.*

Knesset panel recommends revoking Arab MK's privileges
Decision to strip Balad MK Hanin Zuabi of privileges over Gaza flotilla participation passed by a majority of seven to one; Zuabi to Haaretz: We are victims of a witch hunt.

Senator Kerry: Israel not liability for US
Chairman of Senate Foreign Relations Committee tells ABC that despite policy-related tensions, Jewish state 'has every right in the world to make certain that weapons are not being smuggled into Gaza'.,7340,L-3900881,00.html

Israel awaiting 'green light' from U.S. for internal Gaza flotilla probe
IDF announced that it will conduct its own internal investigation into last week's botched raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla.

Israeli Pressures MV Rachel Corrie Passengers Not to Sue
As the activists kidnapped by the Israeli navy in international waters begin to be repatriated, sources in Israel claim that the process was delayed because the passengers of the MV Rachel Corrie would not sign documents pledging not to sue after their release. In the meantime, Israel is continuing to detain eight people from the Irish-flagged ship.  The Rachel Corrie was carrying eleven activists from Ireland, Malaysia, Britain, Cuba and the Philippines, plus a crew of eight. Around 550 tonnes of humanitarian aid was on board when it was stopped by the Israeli navy and forced to sail to Ashdod instead of Gaza.

Other Political Developments
Israel asked U.S. to increase weapons supply, Haaretz learns
Air force seeking more JDAM bombs, and larger emergency stores held by American army.

See above... Are American Weapons "benign?"   US doubts Iran has 'benign' intentions for Gaza (AFP)
AFP - The United States on Monday questioned the Iranian Red Crescent's decision to send aid ships to Gaza, saying Tehran's intentions toward the Palestinian territory were not "benign."*

Obama's new vision of Jewish state guarantees rights of Israeli Arabs
New National Security Strategy defines two-state solution in a way that differs from the terminology used by previous American administrations.

Obama to meet Abbas as Gaza fallout mounts (AFP)
AFP - Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will ask President Barack Obama Wednesday for "bold decisions" on the Middle East but US-led peace moves face a torrid climate after Israel's Gaza flotilla raid.*

Other News
Tibi gets threatening letter
New York-based Pulsa Di Nura organization sends Arab MK letter saying, 'You have 180 days to live. Your sudden death will be accompanied by terrible suffering and agony'.

Bnei Brak signs: Don't employ Arabs
Palestinian worker without permit discovered hiding last week leads to notices throughout religious town against employing Arabs.,7340,L-3900004,00.html

Abbas forces Sheikh Tamimi into retirement
Bethlehem – Ma'an – President Mahmoud Abbas announced the end of Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi's career as Palestinian Chief Justice and Supreme Judge on Monday, with sources citing corruption charges brought forward by whistle-blower Fahmi Shabana months earlier.

Inside Story - Egyptian-Israeli relations
Three decades after a peace treaty was signed between Egypt and Israel, Egypt's supreme court has upheld a ruling that strips Egyptian men married to Jewish Israeli women of their Egyptian citizenship. On this episode of Inside Story, we ask if relations between the two countries will ever truly be normalised.

Leftist Tali Fahima converts to Islam

Woman who had affair with al-Aqsa Brigades commander Zubeidi, served time for aiding terrorists converts to Islam at Umm al-Fahm mosque. 'From now on she is a full-fledged Muslim,' sheikh says.,7340,L-3902175,00.html

Racist rabbi dead, advocated genocide against Palestinians
Mordechai Elyahu, one of Israel's most racist and fascist-minded rabbis, died Monday, at the age of 81, Israeli sources reported.

Jewish settlers clash with Israeli police (AFP)
AFP - Israeli police came under attack by Jewish settlers in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday, after authorities demolished two buildings put up by settlers without authorisation, police said.*

Spain: Pro-Palestinian activists attack Israeli businessmen
Conference held by Spain-Israel Chamber of Commerce at Madrid's Autonomous University cut short after 200 protestors burst into hall chanting, 'Murderers, get out of Gaza'; one Israeli lightly wounded when police vehicle stoned.,7340,L-3902046,00.html

Media Bias
Pundits in Denial on Gaza Plight: 'No humanitarian crisis,' some media figures claim
The May 31 Israeli attack on the Free Gaza humanitarian flotilla has returned some media attention to the humanitarian crisis faced by 1.5 million Palestinians living under Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip. But some media figures have sought to deny the existence of a humanitarian crisis in Gaza at all.

Richard Greener: Helen Thomas Is Out Of Work - Good Thing We've Got A "Free" Press Here
Good thing we've got a "free" press here.  Helen Thomas is out of work. She's an old lady. She bad-mouthed Israel and the Jews. She's out of work.  Pat Buchanan is still working. He said, "This has been a country built, basically, by white folks." Forgetting about 248 years of the official enslavement of millions of Africans upon whose backs and corpses the entire South was built; the nearly slave, forced labor of the Chinese who constructed, by hand, the transcontinental railroad; and the massive contributions of people of many colors throughout the 20th century, including all the non-Caucasian war dead - none of these omissions cost Pat his job. But then, Buchanan isn't an old lady and he didn't say a single bad word about Israel or the Jews. He's still working.

Footage From Several Rallies Supporting The Murder of Humanitarian Activists
Pro-IDF, Anti-Turkish Rally in Tel Aviv (or a Glimpse Into Collective Israeli Derangement)
On June 1, 2010, thousands of Israelis gathered spontaneously in front of the Turkish Embassy in Tel Aviv to demonstrate in support of the Israeli Naval commando unit that killed nine passengers on the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish-backed boat from the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Egged on by the Israeli government and media, the demonstrators lashed out at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his support of the Marmara, accusing him and passengers on the ship of terrorist ties. Besides with the massacre of Turkish aid workers, the spectacle of massive Israeli protests against Turkey threatens to permanently rupture Israel's ties to its closest Muslim ally and further isolate the country on the world stage.

Stand With Us members shout Pigs for Palestine, threaten activists in San Francisco

How to end the blockade of Gaza, Stephen M. Walt
Back in May 1967, the Egyptian government led by Gamal Abdel Nasser ordered a blockade of the Straits of Tiran, cutting off Israeli shipping in the Gulf of Aqaba. This action crossed a "red line" for Israel, and was a major escalatory step in the crisis that led to the Six Day War. President Lyndon Johnson considered sending U.S. warships or some sort of international flotilla to challenge the blockade and defuse the crisis. But even though the United States had previously given Israel certain assurances about protecting freedom of navigation in the straits, Johnson ultimately declined to take decisive action to defend Israel's navigation rights. The United States was already bogged down in Vietnam and Johnson feared getting trapped in another volatile conflict. So he dithered, and Israel ultimately chose to go to war instead.

Obama should choose right over self-interest
Words fail me when it comes to describing how I feel about Israel's murder of civilians in international waters. There were over 600 men, women, children and a 1-year-old infant on the "Mavi Mamara" - one of six aid ships sailing to Gaza under the banner of the Free Gaza Movement in hopes of breaking the cruel, illegal blockade.

Israel's Flotilla Massacre: Made in the USA,  Phyllis Bennis
Decades of uncritical U.S. support—including, most recently, the Bush-initiated and Obama-implemented commitment of $30 billion of U.S. tax money in military aid to Israel over a decade--has ensured that Israel's military power (nuclear and conventional) remains unchallengeable.

Queen Rania of Jordan: The Hard-Line on Grocery Items, Queen Rania of Jordan
What do chocolate, cookies, A4 paper, potato chips, cumin, toys, jelly, nuts, dried fruit, nutmeg, and goats have in common?  It's a tricky one. If you're a moderate, they have absolutely nothing in common. But if you are a hard-line Israeli politician, they are all potentially dangerous goods that could threaten Israel's security. Well, it seems that that side of the political spectrum has won the argument, as all the above are items that the Israeli government has prohibited from entering Gaza. It's understandable. I mean, you can inflict a lot of damage on your oppressors with a chocolate biscuit. And those paper cuts, boy, they can really hurt.

What if Hamas Had Attacked Humanitarian Ships in International Waters?, Ed Kinane
This is a thought experiment. Just imagine that it was Israel in desperate need of humanitarian aid – perhaps in the wake of an earthquake or whatever.  Imagine further that a broad, well publicized effort involving citizens of dozens of countries had assembled a flotilla to carry humanitarian aid to the beleaguered nation.

Gaza Flotilla: Israel, the United States, and a Special Relationship, Sean Fenley
There seems to be a double standard in the application of the principles in the War on Terrorism. The inhuman acts that unbreakable allies perpetrate upon defenseless humanitarian aid givers, are apparently perfectly fine and good. It seems it is the activists' word, versus the Likudnik government of Israel at this point, and the Obama administration — like finely tuned clockwork — appears to be siding with the latter of the two.

What 1967, and 1948, tell us about today,  Michel Shehadeh
"Secure the children first. I want you all to know where to hide when the bombs fall," my grandmother instructed us. It was June 1967, and I was 11, during the Six-Day War between Israel and the Arabs. The victorious Israeli army was advancing. Soldiers from the fleeing Palestine Liberation Army filled our street. Vanquished, they were trying to figure out what to do, and how to get back to their families.

An Eye for an Eye, By JOHNNY BARBER
One week ago a young American woman, Emily Henochowicz, lost an eye while bearing witness to a clash between Palestinian youth and Israeli soldiers at Qalandia checkpoint on the border of Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank. She was attending a demonstration with the International Solidarity Movement in response to the murder of activists in international waters off the coast of Gaza by Israeli commandos.

'Increasingly vocal' Jewish left is taking over the American Jewish 'street', Philip Weiss
I try and keep up on the shift within the Jewish establishment, the "seismic shift" that a year or so back MJ Rosenberg predicted was coming, and that Peter Beinart's piece was the best evidence of. Well, the "Fundermentalist", the Jewish Telegraphic Agency's blog about philanthropy, written by Jacob Berkman, sent out an email to subscribers today (including our friend Jeff Blankfort) that included excellent reporting on American Jewish organizational response to the flotilla raid. Berkman describes the propaganda effort, but warns Jewish leadership to watch out.

Zionist Joke: What Have We Ever Done to Them?, Ira Chernus
There's one big difference I've noticed between the political Left and Right. Even in the worst of times, lefties have a sense of humor. So I wasn't surprised to see the grand old man of the Israeli Left, Uri Avnery, sum up his government's galling attack on the Gaza flotilla with an old Jewish joke. Avnery has been fighting his nation's militarist policies for longer than most of us have been alive. But at 86, he can still blend outrage with humor.

Huckabee said Palestinians should leave Israel, and he's golden, Philip Weiss
Are people rallying around an American icon demolished for one statement? Yes: A great piece at the Raw Story on the Helen Thomas execution, by Stephen C. Webster, showing the American double standard. And here is a generous farewell to Thomas from Amy Goodman (at 10:25-29:00)Memo to Chris Matthews, this is your story, man. Honor her, deplore the double standard that is corrupting our politics.

Thank you for your service, Helen Thomas
Veteran US press corp reporter Helen Thomas has announced her resignation in the wake of recent off-the-cuff comments she made to a roving rabbi with a camcorder. Add me to the list of those who are far more saddened by the overblown fallout surrounding her remarks than about the remark itself, only part of which was inflammatory.

Helen Thomas Is Out Of Work - Good Thing We've Got A "Free" Press Here
Good thing we've got a "free" press here.  Helen Thomas is out of work. She's an old lady. She bad-mouthed Israel and the Jews. She's out of work.  Pat Buchanan is still working. He said, "This has been a country built, basically, by white folks." Forgetting about 248 years of the official enslavement of millions of Africans upon whose backs and corpses the entire South was built; the nearly slave, forced labor of the Chinese who constructed, by hand, the transcontinental railroad; and the massive contributions of people of many colors throughout the 20th century, including all the non-Caucasian war dead - none of these omissions cost Pat his job. But then, Buchanan isn't an old lady and he didn't say a single bad word about Israel or the Jews. He's still working.

Monday: 21 Iraqis Killed, 72 Wounded
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, says al-Qaeda's power base in Iraq has been squeezed by a lack of funds and a power vacuum at the top. Despite al-Qaeda weakening, attacks continue to vex Iraq. At least 21 Iraqis were killed and 72 more were wounded in new violence. Also, Iraq lodged complaints with Iran over reports that Iranian troops have crossed the border and started to erect a new fort as part of their operations against Kurdish rebels.

Civilian toll of Iranian raids in northern Iraq enrages Kurds (McClatchy Newspapers)
McClatchy Newspapers - SULEIMANIYAH, Iraq — Outrage is growing in Iraq's northern Kurdish territories over renewed Iranian air and artillery strikes against Kurdish rebels in the remote Qandil Mountains, officials and residents said.
Witness - The Iraqi Candidate: The Result
Abdulrahman Dheyab, an Iraqi living in London, wanted to serve his home country, so he decided to return to Iraq to stand as a candidate in the 2010 parliamentary elections. With not much more than his convictions and a taste for grassroots politics, he travelled back to his home village and started his political campaign from scratch. Witness followed Abdulrahman from London as he returned home full of dreams. But the cut and thrust of Iraqi politics proved to be even dirtier than he expected. Now, in the second of two programmes, we pick up his story in the final weeks leading up to election day. Will he be able to realise his fervent dream, for which he has risked so much, or will his idealism turn out to have been misplaced?

Al-Qaeda Turns to Mafia Tactics in Mosul
The street emptied at the sound of gunfire, the men scattering in separate directions. A corpse was left behind, the lone victim of the shooting. After a few hours, someone covered its face with a sheet of paper - a gesture of respect for the dead.  This is Mosul, my home. Since 2003, I have worked as a reporter here, mainly for local newspapers. Stories of murder and abduction are part of my routine.

Report: Israel stealing Lebanese gas
As-Safir analyst says newly discovered Leviathan gas site extends into Lebanese territorial waters, believes Lebanon will defend its rights at site, meaning affair could lead to new conflict between Israel, its northern neighbor.,7340,L-3902180,00.html

Sayyed Fadlallah, Sheikh Qassem Call to Support Palestine
07/06/2010 Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Mohamad Hussein Fadlallah received on Monday Hezbollah Deputy Secretary General Sheikh Naim Qassem and discussed with him the general Lebanese and Islamic developments as well as the challenges faced by the Resistance path in the light of the latest developments in occupied Palestine and the ongoing Israeli terrorism against Palestinians and peace activists who're seeking to break the siege on the Gaza strip.  Sayyed Fadlallah and Sheikh Qassem stressed the necessity to back the Palestinian nation through all possible ways to put an end to the occupation.

Sleiman to visit Assad next week to discuss Israeli threat, Scud missile allegations
BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Sleiman will visit his Syrian counterpart Bashar Assad in Damascus on June 15, according to the Central News Agency. Sleiman discussed details of the visit with Syrian Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Abdel- Karim Ali who visited him at Baabda palace on Monday.

U.S. and Other World News
U.S. Soldier Arrested in WikiLeaks Inquiry After Tip From Former Hacker
The Pentagon confirmed Monday that it had arrested a soldier in Kuwait after a former hacker informed the authorities that he had boasted of having leaked helicopter gunship video from Iraq to WikiLeaks.

US Soldiers Implicated In Killing Of 3 Afghan Civilians, Army Says
FORT LEWIS, Wash. — Five soldiers from the same Washington state-based unit have now been implicated in the killing of three Afghan civilians, an Army spokeswoman said Monday.  The Army said Friday that Spc. Jeremy Morlock had been charged with three counts of premeditated murder and one count of assault.  On Monday, Lt. Col. Tamara Parker, a Joint Base Lewis-McChord spokeswoman, said "there is enough evidence to say that five may be charged," although Morlock is the only one charged so far.

Report says doctors helped refine torture methods
A prominent physicians group is charging that medical personnel were used to test and refine the effectiveness of waterboarding and other harsh interrogation techniques for terror detainees in U.S. custody under the guise of safeguarding their health.

Anti-War Democrat Marcy Winograd Challenges Rep. Jane Harman in California Primary
Voters in 12 states head to the polls today. Ten states are holding primaries — California, Iowa, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and Virginia. There's also a Senate runoff in Arkansas and a congressional runoff in north Georgia. Today we look at one race in particular: the congressional race in Southern California's 36h District where anti-war candidate, longtime activist and Progressive Democrat Marcy Winograd is challenging the 8-term incumbent Jane Harman, a conservative Blue Dog Democrat. Four years ago, Winograd challenged Harman and won more than 35 percent of the vote.

Adviser without portfolio, Walt tells Obama how to get back his Cairo form

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:08 AM PDT

Brilliant post. Steve Walt, the realist advocate for the prudent uses of American power, who is the best hope that the two-state-solution today possesses in the U.S., says the U.S. should break the blockade with an international flotilla. He touches on my point that it's not a humanitarian problem when he says we'd have to deal with Hamas. We should deal with Hamas. We talked to all the folks who resisted the U.S. occupation in Iraq, we are talking to the Taliban now. Double standard/Helen Thomas.

Note that Walt's post says not one word about the lobby. Till the last line (not in this excerpt), when he says that there's not a snowball's chance of hell of our following such a wise course. Who will give Walt some backup on this? Andrew Sullivan, Peter Beinart? Where is the new left-center in the American discourse? J Street? Can the alternative lobby speak out for Palestinian suffering in a real way.

why doesn't the United States use its considerable power to lift the blockade of Gaza unilaterally? It's clear that the blockade of Gaza is causing enormous human suffering and making both the United States and Israel look terrible in the eyes of the rest of the world. It has also failed to achieve any positive political purpose, like defeating Hamas. So why doesn't the United States take the bull by the horns and organize a relief flotilla of its own, and use the U.S. Navy to escort the ships into Gaza? I'll bet we could easily get a few NATO allies to help too, and if money's the issue, we can get some EU members or Scandinavians to help pay for the relief supplies. And somehow I don't think the IDF would try to stop us, or board any of the vessels.

The advantages of this course of action seem obvious. The United States has been looking both ineffective and hypocritical ever since the Cairo speech a year ago, and many people in the Arab and Islamic world are beginning to see Barack Obama as just a smooth-talking version of George W. Bush.

Huckabee said Palestinians should leave Israel, and he's golden

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:02 AM PDT

Are people rallying around an American icon demolished for one statement? Yes: A great piece at the Raw Story on the Helen Thomas execution, by Stephen C. Webster, showing the American double standard. And here is a generous farewell to Thomas from Amy Goodman (at 10:25-29:00).

Memo to Chris Matthews, this is your story, man. Honor her, deplore the double standard that is corrupting our politics.

Dan Schorr continues to shade his liberal legacy with unreconstructed Zionism

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 07:01 AM PDT

Saturday morning on NPR:

DAN SCHORR: Good morning, Scott. And what a world we inhabit on this balmy Saturday morning, where we have an oil blockade of our southern shores and a hate blockade of Mediterranean shores.

[SCOTT] SIMON: Do - you were able to listen to the report from Gaza. Do you think Israel is more or less likely to lift the blockade or change its policy?

SCHORR: I would not predict what Israel will do. They'll be very reluctant to do it. They assert their rights to conduct this blockade and to stop ships, even though they're in international waters. I think I don't want to be involved in having to judge that one.

In Helen Thomas case, the world sees a taboo being enforced

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 06:58 AM PDT

Moving statement on Helen Thomas's ejection by Ann El Khoury at Pulse:

[Thomas was] asked whether she has any comments about Israel, to which she replies: Tell them to get the get the hell out of Palestine. Remember, these people [the Palestinians] are occupied and it's their land. It's not Germany, it's not Poland." [Where should they go?] "They should go home, to Poland, Germany and America."

Not surprisingly, the part about the occupation gets buried in the brouhaha. My reading was that because she said Palestine she referred to the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) — including East Jerusalem — and in that case the illegal settlers, for many of us, should indeed move back to Russia, Poland, Israel 'proper' (internationally recognized 1967 borders) and the US. Part of the problem is the ambiguity: was she referring to Palestine as the whole of Israel? She might have but I doubt hers was the maximalist position. Even those who still advocate a two state solution as tenable should give her the benefit of the doubt unless she indicates otherwise.

Now this gutsy, plucky character who for me embodied what the real spirit of US journalism is and should be, far more than stenographers-of-power Press Corps colleagues in their prime, meets an undignified end to her career, with ignoble reactions...

To the rest of the world this will just add to the perception of hypocrisy and double standards applied to people who speak up about the Israel government's reprehensible actions. The shift of focus from the core of the issue of military occupation to an off-the-cuff remark — which I think just reflects her growing anger — will be noted. I penned a quick dissenting piece in her defense a few days ago and am glad to see a number of others (Real News' Paul Jay, Jack Ross at Mondoweiss) whose pieces I recommend. Glenn Greenwald also has a good piece contrasting the condemnation-fest directed at Thomas with the "total non-reaction in the face of the incessant and ongoing anti-Arab bigotry of The New Republic's Marty Peretz, or to the demands of then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey that the Palestinians leave the West Bank and go back to where they came from, and similar statements from Mike Huckabee (still gainfully employed at Fox News)."

All this plays into the hands of the Israel-right-or-wrong lobby. I realize part of what she said is offensive to a number of people because of the ugly connotations of the phrase 'go home' which has been allowed to overshadow and deflect attention from the core issue in her remark. Yet I would hope a sense of proportion and perspective prevails. The implications for freedom of speech in the US and for breaking a taboo about Israel in mainstream discourse are far greater than any offense part of her comment may have caused.  The Press Corps will be all the poorer now and it will reinforce the Israeli-status quo bias as the only game in town.

In a storied career, she has been a rare critical voice in the mainstream media, particularly during the last Bush administration. As Paul Jay notes in his defense of Thomas, "Her apology was not enough to stop calls for her head from those who have wanted to shut Thomas up for years."

Thank you for your service, Helen Thomas. May there be more like you to emerge in the media landscape. I hope you continue to speak up well after 90.

The nighttime attack on the chocolate flotilla

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 06:56 AM PDT

An overview of the flotilla initiative, the raid and its consequences, by Pamela Olson:

A flotilla of six ships carrying nearly 700 people from 40 countries set sail for Gaza last month to challenge the siege on the Gaza Strip imposed by Israel and Egypt. The passengers included aid workers, medics, members of the European Parliament, journalists, scholars, Nobel Peace Prize winner Mairead McGuire of Ireland, retired American Colonel Ann Wright, former Ambassador Edward Peck (who also served as deputy director of President Reagan's White House Task Force on Terrorism), bestselling Swedish novelist Henning Mankell, and Joe Meadors, a survivor of Israel's 1967 attack on the American intelligence ship, the USS Liberty.

The initiative took two years of organizing sponsored in part by Ireland, Greece, Malaysia, and a Turkish humanitarian organization called IHH. The tactical aim was to bring 10,000 tons of desperately-needed aid, including toys, electric wheelchairs, cement, notebooks, food, medicine, and medical devices, to the people of Gaza.

The strategic aim was to bring international attention to the blockade and help end it once and for all. The embargo began after Hamas won Parliamentary elections in January 2006. It was tightened when Hamas captured an Israeli soldier named Gilad Shalit in June 2006 to use as a bargaining chip to try and release some of the thousands of Palestinians held in Israeli jails, many of them children and a large percentage held without trial. The blockade reached devastating proportions in mid-2007 when Hamas took over the Gaza Strip by force of arms to pre-empt an attempted Fatah coup allegedly sponsored by the American government.

The aim of the embargo is to prevent weapons smuggling and pressure the people of Gaza to oust Hamas. It has banned virtually all exports from Gaza, destroyed the profitability of Gaza's agriculture, wiped out tens of thousands of jobs, shut down 95% of Gaza's industries, left more than 80% of the population dependent on food aid, prevented Gaza's fishermen from traveling more than three miles from the coast, and caused poverty and child malnutrition to skyrocket. It has trapped the vast majority of Gazans in the Strip with vanishingly few allowed to leave, even for desperately-needed medical care or to use scholarships won abroad. At least 28 have died for lack of access to medical treatment.

The arbitrary rules of the blockade have at various times—sometimes for years—prevented Gazans from importing cilantro, chocolate, dried fruit, fresh meat, notebooks, clothes, toys, fishing nets and ropes, chicks, hatcheries, musical instruments, clothing, shoes, and tea. It has also banned cement, making it impossible to rebuild the thousands of homes and schools damaged or destroyed by Israel's three-week bombing campaign in early 2009, which killed 1,400 Gazans, mostly civilians, including more than 300 children, and devastated their infrastructure. (Since the blockade began, rockets from the Gaza Strip have killed eight Israelis.)

The blockade is a clear act of collective punishment, which is illegal under international law. And it has succeeded in neither turning Gazans against Hamas nor stopping Hamas from acquiring weapons. It has, in fact, led to the widening of a network of smuggling tunnels between Egypt and Gaza, in which goods (and presumably weapons) flow unchecked. Hamas levies taxes on these over-priced goods, and that along with the anger at Israel engendered by the blockade has only made Hamas stronger. The UN has called the siege 'medieval' and US Congressman Brian Baird has called for a modern-day 'Berlin Airlift' to lift the siege. Yet the governments of the world, led by the US, have been mostly silent about the illegal collective punishment of 1.5 million people, half of them children.

Civil society bravely stepped in to fill the void, to try to break the blockade with their own boats and bodies. The Israeli government called the Gaza Freedom Flotilla a "provocation." Filmmaker Iara Lee, who was on board one of the boats, responded that it was a provocation "in the sense that civil rights protesters in the American south who sat at segregated lunch counters represented a provocation to segregationists… Under an illegal siege, the delivery of aid to civilians is a prohibited act; the intent of our humanitarian convoy was to violate this unjust prohibition."

As the boats neared the eastern Mediterranean, the Israeli government was left to strategize about how to meet this challenge. Already nine ships had attempted to break the siege, and five were quietly allowed through. But after Israel's war in early 2000, the next four ships were stopped forcibly, one of them rammed and almost sunk. Instead of deterring the next aid convoy, it tripled everyone's resolve. The current convoy, the most ambitious of all, was the result. And more were scheduled afterwards, including a boat packed with European Jews who opposed Israel's blockade, who took the phrase "never again" both seriously and universally.

Live video feeds showed people talking and joking on the deck of one of the ships, eating and praying, knowing they were going into danger, though I doubt they knew how much. They knew the Israeli government would react, but they expected more of what had gone on before—being rammed, detained, beaten. Not nearly enough to stop many good of people from following their conscience.

They were surprised, though, when the Israeli army engaged them more quickly than they anticipated. Soldiers demanded that they turn back or follow them into the Israeli port of Ashdod where the Israeli government would inspect the aid and allow in what it deemed appropriate. Considering the whole point of the flotilla was challenging Israel's control over access to Gaza, this was a non-offer—more a request of surrender. The flotilla refused, believing that in the morning they would, at worst, be rammed, detained, beaten. It would be a spectacle, but not much of one. The boarding of the other boats and beating and detention of activists had hardly been covered in the news at all. At best, they would float past the Israeli navy while they watched helplessly, unwilling to stop a humanitarian effort by force and thus turn it into a news spectacle and a PR disaster. The American media had ignored all previous attempts to break the Gaza siege, and a few tons of concrete (which any Gazans who could afford it were getting through the tunnels anyway) wasn't really a serious threat to national security. The passengers on the flotilla would enjoy the legendary hospitality of Gaza, the people of Gaza, including hundreds of children maimed by Israel's bombing campaigns, would get much-needed help and moral support, and it would most likely be quietly ignored by the world at large. Still, Israel would have a harder time justifying its next attack on what would undoubtedly be an even bigger flotilla of siege-breakers. Israel's carefully-constructed justifications might collapse, and with it the siege itself. Which Israel, against all logic and evidence, would view as a catastrophic defeat.

It is difficult for most Americans to grasp the utter paranoia, often to the point of dangerous delusion, that most Israelis live under (with many spirited exceptions). As Anshel Pfeffer wrote in Israel's Haaretz newspaper, "The feeling of helplessness of a poor lonely victim, confronting the rage of a lynch mob and frantically realizing that these are his last moments, accurately reflect the current psychosis of the majority of the Israeli public." Most Israelis either refuse or are unable to see their own gross violations of international law or the suffering they cause. They only see an Arab world bent on annihilating them and an international community trying to delegitimize them. It doesn't seem to register that in 2002, the entire Arab League pledged peace and recognition of Israel if it obeyed international law and withdrew from territories occupied since 1967.

And it doesn't seem to register that when Europeans condemn illegal blockades that lead to humanitarian crises, this is not equivalent to wishing for Israel's destruction. It's true, though, that international law is a slippery slope. A UN resolution brought Israel into existence, but another UN resolution said the Palestinian refugees expelled from their homes in 1948 had a right to return. After endorsing the resolution that brought them into being, Israel has resisted every subsequent effort by the international community to bring some balance back to the equation—to base a resolution on the human rights of all, not the special rights of some.

Of course, breaking international law is also a slippery slope. First you break it with some refugees. Then the refugees organize to resist. So you break it in Lebanon for eighteen years. Then you wind up with Hezbollah. Then you break it to fight Hezbollah, killing thousands of civilians along the way. And Hezbollah gets stronger. Meanwhile, you break it with illegal settlements in the West Bank. Then, to shore up that violation, you break it with a Wall that steals farmers' land to make settlements more wealthy and secure. Farmers and their supporters organize to resist.

You must break them. Tear gas isn't enough. Beatings and arrests aren't enough. So you start shooting to kill. The Economist summed it up: "Israel is caught in a vicious circle. The more its hawks think the outside world will always hate it, the more it tends to shoot opponents first and ask questions later, and the more it finds that the world is indeed full of enemies." With each violation, Israel paints itself further into a corner, which forces it to slip further into depravity. Gradually, by degrees, so that most of Israeli society doesn't notice, each new violation is normalized, and each new act of resistance to Israel's violations is touted as a "threat to Israel's existence."

The end result is a state where Gazans eating chocolate is a danger to Israeli security and boats carrying humanitarian supplies are tools of Israel's destruction. And anyone who believes, however absurdly, that he is facing imminent destruction believes he is justified in fighting back by any means necessary.

So there was no morning for the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In the pre-dawn hours of May 31, while most of the activists were sleeping, Israeli commandos shot concussion grenades and rubber bullets (and possibly live ammunition) at the biggest boat, then abseiled from helicopters onto the deck to try and commandeer the vessel. They were in international waters, approximately 70 miles from the coast, where Israel had no jurisdiction. It was therefore an illegal act of piracy.

The passengers, armed with sticks they had pried off ship railings and deck chairs, acted to protect their ship. Perhaps they thought the concussion grenades being thrown at them were live, the rubber-coated steel bullets real. Certainly when I was struck with a concussion grenade at a non-violent protest in the West Bank in 2005, I was terrified it might kill, burn, or maim me. And rubber-coated steel bullets, which can sound terrifyingly real to someone who's not used to them, have been known to kill on numerous occasions, especially when fired from close range. Perhaps they thought the vaunted Israeli army would fight fair, would know how to deal with a crowd wielding sticks. Perhaps they expected nothing more than tasers, beatings, tear gas—normal crowd dispersal methods.

And they were willing to endure this to try to protect their ship in the middle of the night in waters where Israeli commandos had no legal jurisdiction. Or perhaps, as the Israelis allege, they simply rushed armed commandos, unprovoked, armed only with whatever tools they could find around the ship, hungry for a bloodthirsty, premeditated lynch. This doesn't strike me as very plausible, particularly now that profiles of the victims are beginning to emerge. Most are middle-aged family men, one a 19-year-old American citizen of Turkish origin who looks younger than his years. Autopsies have revealed that most were shot multiple times, except one who was shot in the forehead. Five of the dead were shot in the back or the back of the head. We'll know more when and if full details come to light.

So far what we do know is that Israel forcibly boarded a civilian boat not with police but with commando units trained to kill. Not in broad daylight, where much confusion and terror could have been avoided, but in the dead of night. Not with prior warning and clear intentions but with a hail of rubber bullets and concussion grenades. Not in Israeli or even Gazan but in international waters. And in the end, they killed nine civilians and wounded dozens more. Nine civilians: More than the total number of Israelis killed by Gaza's rocket fire during the entire three-year-plus blockade.

Whether this was a "trigger-happy display of incompetence or an attempt at deterrence that spun out of control," one would expect a government to express deep regret after such a badly mishandled operation, to apologize profusely to the families and the home countries of the slain, to contain the fallout as much as possible by releasing all footage (which will show the Israeli soldiers to be innocent if they are telling the truth) and opening the incident to a quick and thorough international investigation (which even a group of top Israeli Naval reserves officers has called for). Instead, we got the opposite.

The activists who survived the assault were arrested by Israel, roughed up and humiliated, their film and videos confiscated. Israel released only heavily-edited clips of what happened that night, and so far the testimonies of the survivors have been mostly kept out of the mainstream discourse. There was no apology. And they've refused to release the captured footage or cooperate with an international investigation. They've insinuated that IHH, a Turkish humanitarian organization, is linked with terrorism, although Israel is the only country in the world that believes this. They claimed some on board had ties to Al Qaeda, then quickly retracted it when confronted by journalists asking for evidence.

They released an apparently-doctored audio tract that tried to make it sound like one of the ship's passengers responded to the Israeli Navy's hail with anti-Semitic, pro-9/11 nonsense. And they released a video by Caroline Glick, the Deputy Managing Editor of the Jerusalem Post who served as assistant foreign policy adviser to Netanyahu in 1997-98, in which Jewish Israelis portrayed Arabs as grotesque stereotypes and mocked the dead and injured. "This was not the 'Love Boat,'" Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced in what can only be described as history's most tone-deaf attempt at humor. "It was a hate boat." Israeli spokesman Mark Regev assured the BBC the slain Turkish aid workers were "dead-set on confrontation."

As if 600 civilians, including women and children, fancied their chances against the Israeli army. As if Ambassador Peck and Colonel Wright, with 60 years of government service between them, were simply useful idiots unknowingly undertaking a terrorist mission along with a diabolical plan to lure Israeli commandos on board ships in order to beat them with sticks. But why would the Israeli army and government engage in something so outrageous, in full view of journalists and internationals, including European members of Parliament, and then blatantly lie about several aspects of it? Well, it wasn't the first, and likely won't be the last, incident where unarmed aid workers, journalists, and activists have been attacked, maimed, and killed by Israel under questionable circumstances.

Why did they bulldoze Rachel Corrie in full view of international activists? Why did they bomb UN buildings full of civilians in Gaza and Lebanon? Why did they destroy an American school in Gaza? Why did they attack the USS Liberty in 1967, killing 34 US servicemen? Why did they shoot out the eye of a young American woman in the West Bank just hours after the bungled Mavi Marmara raid? And why did they get away with it?

The last is a question for another day. But the fact is, they did get away with it. All of it. And they are managing the news cycle yet again with every expectation that no one of consequence will care about nine dead Turks by next month. "This is not surprising," wrote Israeli professor Ilan Pappé. "The Barak-Netanyahu-Avigdor Lieberman government does not know any other way of responding to the reality in Palestine and Israel. The use of brutal force to impose your will and a hectic propaganda machine that describes it as self-defense, while demonizing the half-starved people in Gaza and those who come to their aid as terrorists, is the only possible course for these politicians. The terrible consequences in human death and suffering of this determination do not concern them, nor does international condemnation."

It all sounds preposterous. Because it is. And it's time the madness stopped. Israel must be held accountable. Words like 'justice' and 'international law' are not dirty or anti-Semitic. They are the only things that can bring a modicum of sanity back to a region that has fallen down too many slippery slopes. The first step is ending the illegal blockade with provisions that accommodate Israel's legitimate security concerns, and allowing the people of Gaza to live a dignified life with a functioning economy. The next is reaching a deal for the release of Gilad Shalit, negotiating a comprehensive ceasefire that includes halting illegal settlement expansion on the West Bank, and setting the stage for meaningful peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians.

Israel has a chance for peace if it relinquishes the West Bank and Gaza for a Palestinian state. If it doesn't, it knows it faces a one-state struggle. And both options are politically impossible in an increasingly right-wing Israel, hunkering in its bunker of self-fulfilling paranoia. So it fights. And kills. And waits for someone to save it from itself.

When neocons say Gaza is not a humanitarian crisis, they're right

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 06:51 AM PDT

It's not about wheel chairs and cardamom and textbooks. "This is not a humanitarian problem," we were told repeatedly a year ago in Gaza. No, it's a man-made problem, a political problem created by Israel and the United States: the complete denial of the right of self-determination to a people, the fact that Palestinians are not allowed to come and go, that 1.5 million people are being imprisoned because a majority voted for someone that others disapprove of.

This is the essential issue, a political impasse involving occupation; and it began, politically, 63 years ago when the Arab states were not consulted about the future of Palestine despite Roosevelt and Truman's repeated promises that they would be. And it was compounded the following year when the refugee camps in Gaza were created by the Nakba, and the world said, Let them go back to their homes, and Truman said, Let them go back to their homes, and Israel said No, let the Arab world take care of the refugees, we like a Jewish majority here.

Is there starvation, malnutrition, and homelessness in Gaza? Yes there is. But it springs from political disfranchisement. And if everyone was fat and sheltered in Gaza, per Netanyahu's glorious "economic peace" for the West Bank, there would still be a crisis. Of basic human rights. The American tea-party colonists who cried "Taxation without representation" didn't need the supplies on that boat; they wanted to control their political destiny. 

Ilan Pappe makes related points in the Independent

But Barak and Netanyahu, and those around them, know too well that the blockade on Gaza is not going to produce any change in the position of the Hamas and one should give credit to the Prime Minister, David Cameron, who remarked at Prime Minister's Questions last week that the Israelis' policy, in fact, strengthens, rather than weakens, the Hamas hold on Gaza. But this strategy, despite its declared aim, is not meant to succeed or at least no one is worried in Jerusalem if it continues to be fruitless and futile.

One would have thought that Israel's drastic decline in international reputation would prompt new thinking by its leaders. But the responses to the attack on the flotilla in the past few days indicate clearly that there is no hope for any significant shift in the official position. A firm commitment to continue the blockade, and a heroes' welcome to the soldiers who pirated the ship in the Mediterranean, show that the same politics would continue for a long time.

...The international response is based on the assumption that more forthcoming Palestinian concessions and a continued dialogue with the Israeli political elite will produce a new reality on the ground. The official discourse in the West is that a very reasonable and attainable solution is just around the corner if all sides would make one final effort: the two-state solution.

Nothing is further from the truth than this optimistic scenario. The only version of this solution that is acceptable to Israel is the one that both the tamed Palestine Authority in Ramallah and the more assertive Hamas in Gaza could never ever accept. It is an offer to imprison the Palestinians in stateless enclaves in return for ending their struggle.

Thus even before one discusses either an alternative solution – a single democratic state for all, which I support – or explores a more plausible, two-state settlement, one has to transform fundamentally the Israeli official and public mindset.

Kucinich cong'l letter says Israeli raid on flotilla endangers 'lives of American soldiers'

Posted: 08 Jun 2010 06:35 AM PDT

Dennis Kucinich is circulating a great letter on the flotilla attack that is already getting pushback from the National Jewish Democratic Council, which calls it "reckless." Notice the emphasis on the strategic liability that Israel now represents. Wonder if he'll get any signatures. Excerpts follow:

The State of Israel's conduct, attacking a Turkish ship in international waters, constitutes an act of belligerence against Turkey, which at one time Israel considered an important ally. It also undermines United States' troops efforts in Iraq, since your administration's efforts to achieve stability in the region and to withdraw troops from Iraq has depended upon Turkey's cooperation through use of its air bases.

In its violent commando raid on the Mavi Marmara, the government of Israel showed no concern as to how its conduct may affect the lives of defenseless, innocent people, its friends and allies, and in particular the United States. The United States must remind Israel as well as all of our other friends and allies:

It is not acceptable to repeatedly violate international law.

It is not acceptable to shoot and kill innocent civilians.

It is not acceptable to commit an act of aggression against another U.S. ally.

It is not acceptable to continue a blockade which denies humanitarian relief.

It is not acceptable to heighten tensions in a region while the United States continues to put so much blood and treasure on the line.

The State of Israel's action necessitates that the United States, which
is Israel's partner in the region, begin to redefine its relationship
and to establish such boundaries and conditions which are sufficient for
mutual respect and cooperation.

It is incumbent upon Israeli officials to bring forth the truth about
the planning for and the attack upon the Mavi Marmara.

No one questions the right of Israel to defend its border, but that
defense does not extend to shooting innocent civilians anywhere in the
world, anytime it pleases.

Israel must account for our support, for the lives of our soldiers, for the investment of billions from our taxpayers. Israel owes the United States more than reckless, pre-meditated violence waged against innocent people.
The attack on the Mavi Marmara requires consequences for the Netanyahu
Administration and for the State of Israel. Those consequences must be
dealt by the United States. They must be diplomatic and they must be
financial. The U.S. can begin by calling for an independent
international inquiry of the Mavi Marmara incident.

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