Louis Bohté, onze vorige voorzitter, schrijft ons vanuit Bethlehem
 

Beste mensen,

Vrede en alle Goeds.

Bethlehem, 6 juni 2010

 foto's

De confrontatie op volle zee tussen het konvooi met hulpgoederen en de Israëlische zeemacht was schokkend. Maar het is goed om eerst een stukje geschiedenis te beschrijven.

Eind 1987 werd Hamas opgericht met steun van Israël, die hierin de kans zag Arafat te ondermijnen.
In januari 2005 kozen de Palestijnen op verzoek van de VS en Israël Abbas tot opvolger van Arafat. Een jaar later waren er parlementsverkiezingen, die overtuigend door Hamas gewonnen werden. Het verraste, maar verbaasde niet. In het jaar, dat Abbas regeerde met een Fatah regering, heeft hij niets voor de Palestijnen voor elkaar gekregen. Fatah had de reputatie corrupt te zijn. Hamas had een goede reputatie dankzij de steun aan de armen.
Hoewel Hamas de absolute meerderheid in het parlement had, wilde het een regering van nationale eenheid. Fatah was hierop tegen. Hamas had twee redenen om op een regering van nationale eenheid aan te dringen. Zelf had Hamas geen bestuurservaring en president Abbas had de zeggenschap over de verschillende gewapende machten.
Twee maanden na de verkiezingen vormden Hamas een regering, maar bleef werken aan een regering met Fatah. In februari 2007 was de regering van nationale eenheid onder druk van Saudi Arabië een feit.
Op de voorpagina van de Jerusalem Post van donderdag 7 juni 2007 stond het bericht, dat Israël overwoog duizenden kalashnikovs en miljoenen kogels aan Fatah in Gaza te leveren.
Wat zou je Hamas adviseren, dit wetende?
Een week later gooide Hamas Fatah uit Gaza. De blokkade door Israël volgde.
De Zwitserse minister van buitenlandse zaken bemiddelde tussen Hamas en Israël. Hamas was bereid om een wapenstilstand in acht te nemen en na een periode van 15 jaar Israël officieel te erkennen. President Abbas maakte dit in december 2007 bekend. Aangezien Israël officieel niet met terroristen onderhandelt, kwam de bemiddeling ten einde.
Egypte bemiddelde een periode van kalmte tussen Hamas en Israël, die half juni 2008 voor 6 maanden inging. Begin november 2008 doode het Israëlische leger vijf Palestijnen in Gaza. Hamas wilde de kalmte verlengen, maar Israël begon op 27 december een oorlog tegen Gaza. Over deze periode vanaf half juni bericht het Goldstone rapport nauwkeurig.

Over het drama van afgelopen maandag vraag ik mij af, hoe professioneel aan beide kanten geopereerd is. Dat Israël zou ingrijpen, was volledig bekend. Derhalve vraag ik mij af, op welke wijze was de vloot hierop voorbereid. Welk beleid was er ontwikkeld bij een Israëlisch ingrijpen? Waarom waren stokken en messen toegelaten?
Een misser was de weigering om een brief van de familie mee te nemen voor de gevangen soldaat Gilad Shalit in Gaza.

Aan de andere kant vraag ik mij af hoe het Israëlische leger zich had voorbereid en met name op de overname van het passagiersschip met 600 opvarenden. Zo’n groep reageert anders 20 opvarenden op een boot, zeker als een zwaarbewapende legereenheid verschijnt voor het aanbreken van de dag. Uit een bericht van Uri Avnery blijkt, dat de voorbereiding van de tocht meer dan een jaar in beslag heeft genomen. De Israëlische inlichtingendienst moet geweten hebben, dat er veel Turken bij betrokken waren. Zij moet ook hebben kunnen inschatten hoe zij zich kunnen gedragen, als hun schip overvallen wordt.

Op het schip zat o.a. Henning Mankell, een Zweedse schrijver. Hij noteerde op 1 juni o.a. het volgende: "Een mythe over dappere en onfeilbare Israëlische soldaat is aan diggelen. Je kunt er aan toevoegen dat het ook nog gewoon dieven zijn. Want ik was niet de enige die zijn geld, creditcards, kleding, MP3-speler en computer kwijtraakte, maar velen met mij op het schip dat op een vroege morgen door gemaskerde Israëlische soldaten werd aangevallen. Die eigenlijk ordinaire piraten bleken te zijn". Dat de soldaten gemaskerd waren, zal wel bedoeld zijn om herkenning te vermijden. Maar dat roept op zich agressie op.

De aankondiging, dat hoe dan ook de boten naar de Israëlische haven Ashdod zou worden opgebracht ongeacht de inhoud, is in feite een vorm van kaping, zoals dat ook voor de kust van Somalië gebeurt. Israël beroept zich op oorlogszeerecht, maar dat betreft wapens en geen humanitaire goederen. Zie bijlage over zeerecht geplukt van de website van BBC. Op deze wijze voert Israël oorlog tegen een burgerbevolking, wat uiteraard verwerpelijk en verboden is.

Wat er op zee gebeurde vertoont een parallel met wat op de West Bank gebeurt. Als het Israëlische leger de West Bank binnenvalt zoals hier in Bethlehem, dan onderneemt de Palestijnse autoriteit niets om de bevolking te beschermen. Gebeurt dit overdag, dan gaat de jeugd stenen als hun ‘wapen’ naar de soldaten gooien en kunnen jongeren doodgeschoten worden. Zo zijn er al teveel martelaren gevallen.

De autoriteiten in de wereld laten het na op te komen voor de burgerbevolking van Gaza. Dit gat wordt nu gevuld door niet-goevermentele groep die nu op hun manier tegen de soldaten gevochten hebben met alle tragische gevolgen van dien. De Palestijnen zijn in een positie van rechteloosheid en dus van wetteloosheid gebracht. Dit eist slachtoffers.

Israël zegt, dat wekelijks 15.000 ton hulpgoederen naar Gaza. Dat is op een bevolking van anderhalf miljoen precies 1 kilo per persoon per week.

Op Al Jazeera is vier dagen lang in het discussieprogramma Inside Story de commandoactie besproken, waarbij ook van Israëlische zijde mee gediscussieerd werd. Op woensdag was een redacteur van de Israëlische krant Ha’aretz aan het woord. Hij vertelde, dat, toen Abbas premier was – van maart tot oktober 2003 -, hij aan autoriteiten in de VS vroeg, waarom zij Abbas niet steunden. Het antwoord was, dat Abbas niet sterk was.

Israël wijst een onafhankelijk onderzoek af. Dit is een zwaktebod. Juist omdat de Israëlische zeemacht buiten de territoriale wateren van Israël opereerde, is een onafhankelijk onderzoek de enige algemeen aanvaarde mogelijkheid.

Door deze gebeurtenis hebben al zo’n 20.000 Israëliërs hun vakantie in Turkije afgezegd. Maar ook een Amerikaanse rabbi heeft zijn reis naar Israël afgezegd. Zo ziek is hij hiervan.

Bij al dit geweld is het goed om te weten, dat bijvoorbeeld ook in Israël zelf een discussie woedt over een boycot van producten uit de nederzettingen. Husam vertelde, dat wie in Ramallah producten van nederzettingen verkoopt, de gevangenis in kan draaien. De leveranciers van die producten kunnen zwaardere straffen krijgen.

Ook op kleine schaal spelen zich drama’s af. Ik ken een knul van een jaar of 17, 18 sinds meer dan 7 jaar. Hij heet Mohammed en komt uit een groot gezin: 8 zonen en 4 dochters. Hij ging opvallen door het dragen van lang haar. Hij kwam in een Israëlische gevangenis terecht, vermoedelijk vanwege het gooien van stenen. Hij heeft er een aantal maanden vastgezeten. Nu loopt hij weer rond, maar als een zombie. Ieder straaltje plezier is uit zijn lijf verdwenen. Hij moet tot op het bot vernederd zijn geweest. Van de week kon ik even contact met hem maken.

Er is natuurlijk ook ‘gewoon’ nieuws. Toen ik Ra’eda sprak, beaamde ze, dat inderdaad haar moeder haar steunde. Ze vertelde een stuk familiegeschiedenis en één aspect is de moeite waard. Ze merkte, dat haar vader de laatste tijd in zijn voordeel veranderd is, omdat hij meer gerespecteerd wordt. Kennelijk is het elkaar respecteren een middel om geweld in te dammen.
Verder vertelde zij, dat haar oudste broer stevig voor haar opgekomen was, toen iemand over haar aan het roddelen was.
De volgende dag kwam zij met haar jongste zus Sheroek naar de geboortekerk. Het was wel later dan afgesproken, maar dat kwam door onverwacht bezoek van vriendinnen. Zo gaat het hier. Je laat niet merken, dat het bezoek ongelegen kwam.

Het wandelen door de stad is soms heel genoeglijk. Zo heb ik contact met een Bedoeïen, die op straat schoenen verkoopt. Zijn twee zoons van ongeveer elf en acht helpen hem daarbij. Het grappige is, dat deze man, Mohammed, mij Richard noemt. Die naam ligt hem kennelijk gemakkelijk in de mond. Opmerkelijk is alleen dat zijn jongste zoon weinig van mij moet weten, compleet het tegenovergestelde van zijn broer, die graag met mij dolt.

Donderdagavond had Husam zijn eerste publiekelijk optreden als toneelspeler. Zijn familie was erbij en het speelde zich in Ramallah af. Ik merkte dat het voor zijn jongste broer, Narjwan een hele belevenis was. Ik zag in hun huis hun poes, maar sterk vermagerd. Husam vertelde hem, dat het beest 20 dagen gemarteld was. Ik merkte op, dat Palestijnen niet weten hoe met dieren om te gaan, wat hij beaamde. Zijn broer Nour heeft veel zorg voor het dier. Husam vertelde, dat Nour veel aandacht heeft voor de zwakkere. Hij is zelf een stevige jongen van 13 maar gemakkelijk voor 15 aangezien kan worden. Hij heeft een artistieke aanleg voor muziek.

Husam vertelde nog iets, wat hij op de academie gehoord heeft. Een van de docenten had een cursus gevolgd in Tel Aviv. Daar ontmoette hij een Israëlische vrouw, die was opgevoed met de waarschuwing uit te kijken voor Palestijnen. Zij zouden erop uit zijn Joden te doden. Pas toen ze ging samenwonen, veranderde haar inzicht.

Het is hierbij goed op te merken, dat Arabieren hebben soms de neiging zich te buiten te gaan aan grootspraak, zoals “Wij drijven Israël de zee in.” Het is niet altijd gemakkelijk onderscheid te maken tussen grootspraak en wat werkelijk gemeend wordt.

Aan de andere kant toont dit verhaal aan, dat het verwijt aan Palestijnen, dat zij op school leren Joden te haten, niet klopt, maar eerder slaat op wat her en der binnen de Israëlische samenleving gebeurt. Ik ben ook een keer door een soldaat gewaarschuwd voor de Palestijnen. Palestijnen krijgen lessen in afkeer van Israëliërs door het gedrag van soldaten bij checkpoints en bij invallen, en van kolonisten

Soms gunnen mensen elkaar het licht niet in de ogen. Dat overkwam John van de souvenirwinkel. Al een tijdje heeft hij last van een man, die een paar deuren verder ook een souvenirwinkel heeft. Pas geleden is dat tot een uitbarsting gekomen heeft die man John met een koperen staaf geslagen en daarbij zijn pols gebroken. John en Mike, die samen de souvenirwinkel runnen, krijgen gemakkelijk bezoek van jonge mensen overal vandaan.

Het is leuk om te vermelden, dat ik met een Ghanese medebroeder naar de voetbalwedstrijd Nederland – Ghana heb gekeken.

Toen ik Jack opzocht, vertelde hij mij, dat er bij de UNWRA een staking gaande is. Palestijnen, die voor de UNWRA werken krijgen een veel lager salaris dan buitenlanders. Een buitenlander vangt meer dan $ 10.000 per maand. Palestijnen krijgen zo’n $ 600 per maand. Bovendien is de dollar minder waard dan een jaar geleden.

Als bijlagen heb ik een uitgave van het Joodse magazine Tikkun met commentaar op de gebeurtenissen van afgelopen maandag uit een breed spectrum van de Joodse gemeenschap. De baas van de Mossad erkent, dat door deze gebeurtenissen Israël meer en meer tot een last voor de VS wordt. Daar gaat een andere bijlage over. Ook is er een commentaar van oud Knesset lid Uri Avnery. Ik heb een chat contact met een franciscanes in Guatemala. Van haar kreeg ik een bericht doorgemaild over de dubbele ramp, die Guatemala getroffen heeft: een vulkaanuitbarsting en een tropische storm. Hierover kun je vele foto’s vinden op de volgende website: http://www.boston.com/bigpicture/2010/06/a_rough_week_for_guatemala.html

Groeten uit Bethlehem,

Louis Bohté

De foto's van deze week

Uri Avnery

June 5, 2010

                                               Kill a Turk and Rest

ON THE high seas, outside territorial waters, the ship was stopped by the navy. The commandos stormed it. Hundreds of people on the deck resisted, the soldiers used force. Some of the passengers were killed, scores injured. The ship was brought into harbor, the passengers were taken off by force. The world saw them walking on the quay, men and women, young and old, all of them worn out, one after another, each being marched between two soldiers…

The ship was called “Exodus 1947”. It left France in the hope of breaking the British blockade, which was imposed to prevent ships loaded with Holocaust survivors from reaching the shores of Palestine. If it had been allowed to reach the country, the illegal immigrants would have come ashore and the British would have sent them to detention camps in Cyprus, as they had done before. Nobody would have taken any notice of the episode for more than two days.

But the person in charge was Ernest Bevin, a Labour Party leader, an arrogant, rude and power-loving British minister. He was not about to let a bunch of Jews dictate to him. He decided to teach them a lesson the entire world would witness. “This is a provocation!” he exclaimed, and of course he was right. The main aim was indeed to create a provocation, in order to draw the eyes of the world to the British blockade.

What followed is well known: the episode dragged on and on, one stupidity led to another, the whole world sympathized with the passengers. But the British did not give in and paid the price. A heavy price.

Many believe that the “Exodus” incident was the turning point in the struggle for the creation of the State of Israel. Britain collapsed under the weight of international condemnation and decided to give up its mandate over Palestine. There were, of course, many more weighty reasons for this decision, but the “Exodus” proved to be the straw that broke the camel’s back.  

I AM not the only one who was reminded of this episode this week. Actually, it was almost impossible not to be reminded of it, especially for those of us who lived in Palestine at the time and witnessed it.

There are, of course, important differences. Then the passengers were Holocaust survivors, this time they were peace activists from all over the world. But then and now the world saw heavily armed soldiers brutally attack unarmed passengers, who resist with everything that comes to hand, sticks and bare hands. Then and now it happened on the high seas – 40 km from the shore then, 65 km now.

In retrospect, the British behavior throughout the affair seems incredibly stupid. But Bevin was no fool, and the British officers who commanded the action were not nincompoops. After all, they had just finished a World War on the winning side.

If they behaved with complete folly from beginning to end, it was the result of arrogance, insensitivity and boundless contempt for world public opinion.

Ehud Barak is the Israeli Bevin. He is not a fool, either, nor are our top brass. But they are responsible for a chain of acts of folly, the disastrous implications of which are hard to assess. Former minister and present commentator Yossi Sarid called the ministerial “committee of seven”, which decides on security matters, “seven idiots” – and I must protest. It is an insult to idiots.

THE PREPARATIONS for the flotilla went on for more than a year. Hundreds of e-mail messages went back and forth. I myself received many dozens. There was no secret. Everything was out in the open.

There was a lot of time for all our political and military institutions to prepare for the approach of the ships. The politician consulted. The soldiers trained. The diplomats reported. The intelligence people did their job.

Nothing helped. All the decisions were wrong from the first moment to this moment. And it’s not yet the end.

The idea of a flotilla as a means to break the blockade borders on genius. It placed the Israeli government on the horns of a dilemma – the choice between several alternatives, all of them bad. Every general hopes to get his opponent into such a situation.

The alternatives were:

(a)  To let the flotilla reach Gaza without hindrance. The cabinet secretary supported this option. That would have led to the end of the blockade, because after this flotilla more and larger ones would have come.

(b)  To stop the ships in territorial waters, inspect their cargo and make sure they were not carrying weapons or “terrorists”, then let them continue on their way. That would have aroused some vague protests in the world but upheld the principle of a blockade.

(c)   To capture them on the high seas and bring them to Ashdod, risking a face-to-face battle with activists on board.

As our governments have always done, when faced with the choice between several bad alternatives, the Netanyahu government chose the worst.

Anyone who followed the preparations as reported in the media could have foreseen that they would lead to people being killed and injured. One does not storm a Turkish ship and expect cute little girls to present one with flowers. The Turks are not known as people who give in easily.

The orders given to the forces and made public included the three fateful words: “at any cost”. Every soldier knows what these three terrible words mean. Moreover, on the list of objectives, the consideration for the passengers appeared only in third place, after safeguarding the safety of the soldiers and fulfilling the task.

If Binyamin Netanyahu, Ehud Barak, the Chief of Staff and the commander of the navy did not understand that this would lead to killing and wounding people, then it must be concluded - even by those who were reluctant  to consider this until now  – that they are grossly incompetent. They must be told, in the immortal words of Oliver Cromwell to Parliament: “You have sat too long for any good you have been doing lately... Depart, I say; and let us have done with you. In the name of God, go!”

THIS EVENT points again to one of the most serious aspects of the situation: we live in a bubble, in a kind of mental ghetto, which cuts us off and prevents us from seeing another reality, the one perceived by the rest of the world. A psychiatrist might judge this to be the symptom of a severe mental problem.

The propaganda of the government and the army tells a simple story: our heroic soldiers, determined and sensitive, the elite of the elite, descended on the ship in order “to talk” and were attacked by a wild and violent crowd. Official spokesmen repeated again and again the word “lynching”.

On the first day, almost all the Israeli media accepted this. After all, it is clear that we, the Jews, are the victims. Always. That applies to Jewish soldiers, too. True, we storm a foreign ship at sea, but turn at once into victims who have no choice but to defend ourselves against violent and incited anti-Semites.

It is impossible not to be reminded of the classic Jewish joke about the Jewish mother in Russia taking leave of her son, who has been called up to serve the Czar in the war against Turkey. “Don’t overexert yourself’” she implores him, “Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again…”
“But mother,” the son interrupts, “What if the Turk kills me?”
“You?” exclaims the mother, “But why? What have you done to him?” 

To any normal person, this may sound crazy. Heavily armed soldiers of an elite commando unit board a ship on the high seas in the middle of the night, from the sea and from the air – and they are the victims?

But there is a grain of truth there: they are the victims of arrogant and incompetent commanders, irresponsible politicians and the media fed by them. And, actually, of the Israeli public, since most of the people voted for this government or for the opposition, which is no different.

 The “Exodus” affair was repeated, but with a change of roles. Now we are the British.

Somewhere, a new Leon Uris is planning to write his next book, “Exodus 2010”. A new Otto Preminger is planning a film that will become a blockbuster. A new Paul Newman will star in it – after all, there is no shortage of talented Turkish actors.

MORE THAN 200 years ago, Thomas Jefferson declared that every nation must act with a “decent respect to the opinions of mankind”. Israeli leaders have never accepted the wisdom of this maxim. They adhere to the dictum of David Ben-Gurion: “It is not important what the Gentiles say, it is important what the Jews do.” Perhaps he assumed that the Jews would not act foolishly.

Making enemies of the Turks is more than foolish. For decades, Turkey has been our closest ally in the region, much more close than is generally known. Turkey could play, in the future, an important role as a mediator between Israel and the Arab-Muslim world, between Israel and Syria, and, yes, even between Israel and Iran. Perhaps we have succeeded now in uniting the Turkish people against us – and some say that this is the only matter on which the Turks are now united.

This is Chapter 2 of “Cast Lead”. Then we aroused most countries in the world against us, shocked our few friends and gladdened our enemies. Now we have done it again, and perhaps with even greater success. World public opinion is turning against us.

This is a slow process. It resembles the accumulation of water behind a dam. The water rises slowly, quietly, and the change is hardly noticeable. But when it reaches a critical level, the dam bursts and the disaster is upon us. We are steadily approaching this point.

“Kill a Turk and rest,” the mother says in the joke. Our government does not even rest. It seems that they will not stop until they have made enemies of the last of our friends.

(Parts of this article were published in Maariv, Israel’s second largest newspaper.)

FROM TIKKUN:

REVISED: Tikkun Magazine and the Network of Spiritual Progressives' Statement on Killings on the High Seas:

We regret and deplore the killings which took place as Israeli troops, in defiance of international law, boarded and assaulted, wounded many and killed some  of the participants in a flotilla seeking to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza (itself a morally outrageous policy) to bring humanitarian aid.

We ask all people of peace to participate in memorials for those who have been killed (and we call upon all synagogues around the world to say Kaddish for those people at their Shabbat services this coming weekend),  and for prayer for the speedy recovery of all those wounded in this attack (mostly peace activists, but also the Israeli soldiers who boarded the boats with violence and those who met them with violence). While it seems likely that some of those on the Turkish boat were ready to defend themselves with violence (we would have preferred if they had all been Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. and advocate that friends of Palestine swear off all violence) there was no violence until the IDF arrived on the scene. Nor would there have been had Israel allowed this flotilla to enter Gaza without attack.

To put this in perspective we have the following from Richard Falk, who was for many decades the Princeton University Professor who was widely recognized as one of the outstanding American authorities on International Law:

This was a shocking incident that involved a complete disregard of international law, in several respects. It was an act of naked aggression. It was done on the high seas. It was done in defiance of elementary humanitarian standards. It was known that this flotilla had no weapons. It was not a security issue by the remotest stretch of the imagination. If there was a right of self-defense, it belonged to the people onboard these ships. Israel, as the aggressing state and political actor, had no claim whatsoever of self-defense. It's an absurdity. And one can only imagine if another country that the United States didn't like had engaged in this kind of behavior, we would have been denouncing them or, worse, using force. One can only imagine what would happen if Iran had done something of this comparably outrageous character and sought to provide some kind of legal cover for it, while silencing those that actually experienced the incident.

So I feel that we've almost never seen such a direct confrontation with the most elementary principles of international law. And it is a disgrace that our government has decided to stand apart from all other countries in the world, including our normal European friends, and withheld a denunciation and a call for lifting the blockade, because one needs to appreciate that underneath this criminal act, which amounts to a crime against humanity, underneath this has been the almost three years of criminal blockade of the people of Gaza. The blockade is a direct violation of Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention that prohibits collective punishment. And this is one of the first examples where a civilian population has been locked inside a zone that has been subjected to this kind of mental and physical threat to subsistence and survival.

We invite all peace-loving people to attend a public memorial for those who died in this assault in Lafayette Park opposite the White House in D.C. on Sunday, June 13, at 11 a.m-2 p.m., sponsored by Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives, and many other groups, and which will include a larger consideration of U.S. policies. Memorial prayers and prayers for healing will be said at 1 p.m.

We call upon Israel to conduct an objective, credible investigation to determine all the levels of responsibility for this criminal act, and to punish those from the top of the government down through the IDF who were responsible, and to release all people who were on the boats, including the more than 80 people who were wounded by Israeli gunfire. Israel hasbara (public relations 'explanation" operation) is already working full time to put the blame on the people who sought to bring aid to Gaza, claiming that they were the violent ones and maybe even soon to be claiming that they were bringing military equipment or something of the sort.

Yet there was no need for any of this to have happened. Israel could have waited for the boats to arrive at shore and then sent military to search what was being brought to Gaza to ensure that it was in fact humanitarian aid. Or they could have asked for the U.N. to do that, and prevented the boats from docking until they agreed to a UN search of the cargo. Or, they could have simply let the flotilla in.  Moreover, as the Israeli peace movement Gush Shalom pointed out on May 31, the core of the issue remains Israel's attempt to starve and punish the entire population of Gaza for the activities of Hamas.

We call upon the international community to stop the blockade and, if necessary, to introduce an international force into Israel/Palestine to protect each side from the other, and then to implement the creation of a two state solution, freeing both sides from the violence of the other, and giving to each side the security and self-determination to which both sides are entitled. We call upon President Obama to use this moment to take decisive steps to create the Palestinian state while providing Israel with all necessary security, and providing the Palestinian people with protection from those in Israel who have used violence to prevent Palestinian national self-determination. We contnue to abhor and denounce those in Israel and those in Palestine and Gaza who resort to violence to achieve their ends, including some in Hamas and including some Israeli settlers. We acknowledge that the Israeli treatment of Gaza cannot be understood separate from the violent attacks on Israeli civilians from the shelling of Israeli cities from Gaza, nor that shelling understood apart from the blockade of Gaza by Israel, nor that violence from Gaza apart from the violence of the Occupation, nor the Occupation separate from previous acts of violence by Palestinians, nor that previous violence separate from the larger context of the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians by Israel during the founding of the State, nor that expulsion separate from the hostility of Palestinians to the creation of the State, and the story goes on and on. It's time to stop with the blame game and simply put an end to the struggle on both sides.

We continue to support the State of Israel's right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and for Palestine to exist as a homeland for the Palestinian people and the right of current Palestinian/Arab Israeli citizens to continue to reside in Israel as well as be accorded equal rights with its Jewish citizens. The violence must stop.

The peace process is going nowhere. The time for decisive action to impose a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict arrived decades ago, and must be grabbed now. What level of barbarity needs to happen for the U.S. and the international community to act decisively? How many more deaths?

We mourn the lives lost, the many who have been wounded, including both those on the humanitarian aid mission and Israelis sent by a crazed and irresponsible government into actions that put their lives in danger. Israel's security was never threatened by this flotilla of humanitarian aid, and it was only macho political motivations that led Israeli leaders to order this insane assault.

Israel deserves better than Netanyahu and Ehud Barak, and the world has to recognize that this current Israeli government will never bring peace or stability to the Middle East. While we continue to deplore Hamas and all that it has introduced into the equation, complicating attempts to make peace and doing what it could to stir hatred, and while we call on Hamas to free IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, we believe that the world and the Israeli people and the Palestinian people deserve peace and justice, and that it is our human obligation to bring that to the peoples of the Middle East.

A first step is to end the blockade of Gaza.We call upon all who protest Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza to maintain a strict non-violent discipline, and to affirm the humanity of all sides in this conflict (including that of soldiers in the Israeli army, religious fundamentalists both Muslim and Jewish and Christian, Gaza residents who tragically support Hamas, American Jews who walk lockstep with Israel, Israelis who shut their eyes to the suffering they are causing to the Palestinian people, and the list goes on), even as we insist on bold and compelling action to stop the conflict. May God guide the world to peace. 

--Rabbi Michael Lerner   RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org 

   For Media interviews: 510 644 1200

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The Gaza flotilla attack shows how far Israel has Declined

by David Grossman, Israeli novelist and author of See Under: Love 

No explanation can justify or whitewash the crime that was committed, and no excuse can explain away the stupid actions of the government and the army. Israel did not send its soldiers to kill civilians in cold blood; this is the last thing it wanted. Yet, a small Turkish organisation, fanatical in its religious views and radically hostile to Israel, recruited to its cause several hundred seekers of peace and justice, and managed to lure Israel into a trap, because it knew how Israel would react, knew how Israel is destined and compelled, like a puppet on a string, to react the way it did.

How insecure, confused and panicky a country must be, to act as Israel acted! With a combination of excessive military force, and a fatal failure to anticipate the intensity of the reaction of those aboard the ship, it killed and wounded civilians, and did so - as if it were a band of pirates - outside its territorial waters. This assessment does not imply agreement with the motives, overt or hidden, and often malicious, of some participants in the Gaza flotilla. Not all its people are peace-loving humanitarians, and the declarations of some of them regarding the destruction of the state of Israel are criminal. But these facts are simply not relevant at the moment: such opinions do not deserve the death penalty.

Israel's actions are but the natural continuation of the shameful, ongoing closure of Gaza, which in turn is the perpetuation of the heavy-handed and condescending approach of the Israeli government, which is prepared to embitter the lives of a million and a half innocent people in the Gaza Strip, in order to obtain the release of one imprisoned soldier, precious and beloved though he may be; and this closure is the all-too-natural consequence of a clumsy and calcified policy, which again and again resorts by default to the use of massive and exaggerated force, at every decisive juncture, where wisdom and sensitivity and creative thinking are called for instead.

And somehow, all these calamities - including Monday's deadly events - seem to be part of a larger corruptive process afflicting Israel. One has the sense that a sullied and bloated political system, fearfully aware of the steaming mess produced over the years by its own actions and malfunctions, and despairing of the possibility to undo the endless tangle it has wrought, becomes ever more inflexible in the face of pressing and complicated challenges, losing in the process the qualities that once typified Israel and its leadership - freshness, originality, creativity.

The closure of Gaza has failed. It has failed for four years now. What this means is that it is not merely immoral, but also impractical, and indeed worsens the entire situation, as we are reminded at this very hour, and also harms the vital interests of Israel. The crimes of the leaders of Hamas, who have held the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive for four years without once allowing the Red Cross to visit him, and who fired thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns and villages, are acts that must be firmly dealt with, utilising the various legal means available to a sovereign state. The ongoing siege of a civilian population is not one of them.

I would like to believe that the shock of Monday's frantic actions will lead to a re-evaluation of the whole idea of the closure, at last freeing the Palestinians from their suffering, and cleansing Israel of its moral stain. But our experience in this tragic region teaches that the opposite will occur: the mechanisms of violent response, the cycles of vengeance and hatred, Monday began a new round, whose magnitude cannot yet be foreseen.

Above all, this insane operation shows how far Israel has declined. There is no need to overstate this claim. Anyone with eyes to see understands and feels it. Already there are those here who seek to spin the natural and justified sense of Israeli guilt into a strident assertion that the whole world is to blame. Our shame, however, will be harder to live with.

 ==June 1, 2010

 ***********************************************************************

Israeli Force, Adrift on the Sea

By AMOS OZ

Published: June 1, 2010

ARAD, Israel

Related

FOR 2,000 years, the Jews knew the force of force only in the form of lashes to our own backs. For several decades now, we have been able to wield force ourselves - and this power has, again and again, intoxicated us.

In the period before Israel was founded, a large portion of the Jewish population in Palestine, especially members of the extremely nationalist Irgun group, thought that military force could be used to achieve any goal, to drive the British out of the country, and to repel the Arabs who opposed the creation of our state.

Luckily, during Israel's early years, prime ministers like David Ben-Gurion and Levi Eshkol knew very well that force has its limits and were careful to use it only as a last resort. But ever since the Six-Day War in 1967, Israel has been fixated on military force. To a man with a big hammer, says the proverb, every problem looks like a nail.

Israel's siege of the Gaza Strip and Monday's violent interception of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid there are the rank products of this mantra that what can't be done by force can be done with even greater force. This view originates in the mistaken assumption that Hamas's control of Gaza can be ended by force of arms or, in more general terms, that the Palestinian problem can be crushed instead of solved.

But Hamas is not just a terrorist organization. Hamas is an idea, a desperate and fanatical idea that grew out of the desolation and frustration of many Palestinians. No idea has ever been defeated by force - not by siege, not by bombardment, not by being flattened with tank treads and not by marine commandos. To defeat an idea, you have to offer a better idea, a more attractive and acceptable one.

Thus, the only way for Israel to edge out Hamas would be to quickly reach an agreement with the Palestinians on the establishment of an independent state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as defined by the 1967 borders, with its capital in East Jerusalem. Israel has to sign a peace agreement with President Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah government in the West Bank - and by doing so, reduce the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to a conflict between Israel and the Gaza Strip. That latter conflict, in turn, can be resolved only by negotiating with Hamas or, more reasonably, by the integration of Fatah with Hamas.

Even if Israel seizes 100 more ships on their way to Gaza, even if Israel sends in troops to occupy the Gaza Strip 100 more times, no matter how often Israel deploys its military, police and covert power, force cannot solve the problem that we are not alone in this land, and the Palestinians are not alone in this land. We are not alone in Jerusalem and the Palestinians are not alone in Jerusalem. Until Israelis and Palestinians recognize the logical consequences of this simple fact, we will all live in a permanent state of siege - Gaza under an Israeli siege, Israel under an international and Arab siege.

I do not discount the importance of force. Woe to the country that discounts the efficacy of force. Without it Israel would not be able to survive a single day. But we cannot allow ourselves to forget for even a moment that force is effective only as a preventative - to prevent the destruction and conquest of Israel, to protect our lives and freedom. Every attempt to use force not as a preventive measure, not in self-defense, but instead as a means of smashing problems and squashing ideas, will lead to more disasters, just like the one we brought on ourselves in international waters, opposite Gaza's shores.

Amos Oz is the author, most recently, of the novel "Rhyming Life and Death."

************************************************************************REPORTING ISRAELI ASSAULT THROUGH ISRAEL'S EYES

** Attack on humanitarian flotilla prompts little media skepticism **

FAIR
June 1, 2010

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4081

On May 31, the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of boats full of civilians attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip.  Reports indicate that at least nine and as many as 16 of the activists on board were killed, though details remain sketchy due to Israel's censorious limitations on media coverage.  Much of the U.S. media coverage has been remarkably unskeptical of Israel's account of events and their context, and has paid little regard to international law.

The *New York Times* (6/1/10) glossed over the facts of the devastating Israeli siege of Gaza, where 1.5 million people live in extreme poverty.  As reporter Isabel Kershner wrote, "Despite sporadic rocket fire from the Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute humanitarian crisis."

Asking Israel to explain the effects of its embargo on the people of Gaza makes little sense, especially when there are plenty of other resources available.  The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported (IRIN, 5/18/10):  "As a consequence of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, 98 percent of industrial operations have been shut down since 2007 and there are acute shortages of fuel, cash, cooking gas, and other basic supplies. . . . Water-related health problems are widespread in the Strip because of the blockade and Israel's military operation in Gaza, which destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure, including reservoirs, wells, and thousands of kilometres of piping. . . . Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2 percent. . . . In Gaza, Israel's blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized treatment. Israel's 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip's 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary healthcare facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.  Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment."

Those facts, though, aren't persuasive to everyone.  The *Washington Post*'s June 1 editorial page had one of the most appalling takes on the killings:  "We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders, and Turkish Islamic activists."

Many of the analysis pieces in major papers focused on the fallout for Israel and the United States, rather than the civilians killed or the humanitarian crisis they were trying to address.  The *Post*'s Glenn Kessler (6/1/10) framed the U.S. response, not the Israeli attack, as the complicating factor:  "Condemnation of Israeli Assault Complicates Relations With U.S."  Kessler lamented, "The timing of the incident is remarkably bad for Israel and the United States," while a *Los Angeles Times* account (6/1/10) called the raid "a public relations nightmare for Israel."  The *New York Times*' Kershner wrote (NYTimes.com, 5/31/10) that "the criticism [of Israel over the attack] offered a propaganda coup to Israel's foes, particularly the Hamas group that holds sway in Gaza."

Other news accounts presented misleading context about the circumstances leading to Israel's blockade.  Kershner (*New York Times*, 6/1/10) stressed that "Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza, where Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel's destruction, took over by force in 2007."  The Associated Press (6/1/10) reported that "Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza's borders after Hamas overran the territory in 2007, wresting control from Abbas-loyal forces" -- the latter a reference to Fatah forces affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas.

Both accounts ignore the fact that Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, which led the United States and Israel to step up existing economic restrictions on Gaza.  An attempt to stoke a civil war in Gaza by arming Fatah militants -- reported extensively by David Rose in *Vanity Fair* (4/08) -- backfired, and Hamas prevailed (Extra!, 9-10/07).

Much of the U.S. press coverage takes Israeli government claims at face value, and is based largely on footage made available by Israeli authorities -- while Israel keeps the detained activists away from the media (not to mention from lawyers and worried family members).  The *Washington Post* (6/1/10) reported the attack this way:  "Upon touching down, the Israeli commandos, who were equipped with paint guns and pistols, were assaulted with steel poles, knives, and pepper spray.  Video showed at least one commando being lifted up and dumped from the ship's upper deck to the lower deck.  Some commandos later said they jumped into the water to escape being beaten.  The Israeli military said some of the demonstrators fired live ammunition.  Israeli officials said the activists had fired two guns stolen from the troops."

As Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald wrote (5/31/10):  "Just ponder what we'd be hearing if Iran had raided a humanitarian ship in international waters and killed 15 or so civilians aboard."

The *Times*' June 1 report included seven paragraphs of Israel's account of what happened on board the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, where the civilians were killed; the paper reported that "There were no immediate accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship" because the Israeli based they were taken to "was off limits to the news media and declared a closed military zone."

The *Times* piece also showed little interest in international law, mentioning Israel's claim regarding the legality of their actions but providing no analysis from any international law experts to support or debunk the claim:  "Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade."

According to Craig Murray (5/31/10), former British ambassador and specialist on maritime law, the legal position "is very plain":  "To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal.  It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission.  It is rather an act of illegal warfare."

CONTACT:

New York Times
Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
public@nytimes.com
Phone: (212) 556-7652

Washington Post
Andy Alexander, Ombud
ombudsman@washpost.com
Phone: (202) 334-7582

************************************************************************

HA'ARETZ Editorial June 2, 2010

When a regular, well-armed, well-trained army goes to war against a "freedom flotilla" of civilian vessels laden with civilians, food and medication, the outcome is foretold - and it doesn't matter whether the confrontation achieved its goal and prevented the flotilla from reaching Gaza. The violent confrontation, whether caused by poor military planning or poor execution, resulted from flawed policy, wars of prestige, and from a profound misunderstanding of the confrontation's meanings and repercussions.

The grave political damage caused by the confrontation is all too clear. Relations with Turkey will probably deteriorate further, and there may even be serious damage on the official level. The proximity talks with the Palestinians, which started lamely and with low expectations, will have trouble proceeding, now that Israel has attacked a ship intended to aid Gazans languishing under a four-year siege. Hamas claimed an outstanding victory without firing a single rocket, Egypt is under redoubled pressure to undermine the siege by opening the Rafah crossing, and it's reasonable to assume Europe and the United States will not be able to let Israel get away with a mere reprimand.

All these developments are little surprise to anyone, and shouldn't have surprised the policy makers in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, it seemed no one could resist the temptation to show the Israel Defense Forces' strength in a place the IDF should not have been in the first place. Because the question was not who would win the confrontation, but who would win more public opinion points. In this test, Benjamin Netanyahu's government failed completely. Israel let its policy of maintaining the siege on Gaza become an existential matter. This policy boomeranged and cost Israel its international legitimacy.

The decision makers' negligence is threatening the security of Israelis, and Israel's global status. Someone must be held responsible for this disgraceful failure. There is no way to convince Israel's citizens and its friends around the world that Israel regrets the confrontation and its results, and is learning from its errors, other than setting up a state inquiry committee to investigate the decision-making process, and to decide who should pay for this dangerous policy.

************************************************************************

OPERATION MINI CAST LEAD

by Gideon Levy in Ha'aretz

Like in "Mini-Israel," the park where there is everything, but smaller, Israel embarked yesterday on a mini Operation Cast Lead. Like its larger, losing predecessor, this operation had it all: the usual false claim that is was they who had started it - and not the landing of commandos from helicopters on a ship in open sea, away from Israeli territorial waters. There was the claim that the first act of violence came not from the soldiers, but the rioting activists on Mavi Marmara; that the blockade on Gaza is legal and that the flotilla to its shores is against the law - God knows which law.

Again came the claim of self defense, that "they lynched us" and that all the dead are on their side. Once more the use of violence and excessive and lethal force was in play and once more civilians wound up dead.

This action also featured the pathetic focus on "public relations," as if there is something to explain, and again the sick question was asked: Why didn't the soldiers use more force.

Again Israel will pay a heavy diplomatic price, once which had not been considered ahead of time. Again, the Israeli propaganda machine has managed to convince only brainwashed Israelis, and once more no one asked the question: What was it for? Why were our soldiers thrown into this trap of pipes and ball bearings? What did we get out of it?

If Cast Lead was a turning point in the attitude of the world toward us, this operation is the second horror film of the apparently ongoing series. Israel proved yesterday that it learned nothing from the first movie.

Yesterday's fiasco could and should have been prevented. This flotilla should have been allowed to pass and the blockade should be brought to an end.

This should have happened a long time ago. In four years Hamas has not weakened and Gilad Shalit was not released. There was not even a sign of a gain.

And what have we instead? A country that is quickly becoming completely isolated. This is a place that turns away intellectuals, shoots peace activists, cuts off Gaza and now finds itself in an international blockade. Once more yesterday it seemed, and not for the first time, that Israel is increasingly breaking away from the mother ship, and losing touch with the world - which does not accept its actions and does not understand its motives.

Yesterday there was no one on the planet, not a newsman or analyst, except for its conscripted chorus, who could say a good word about the lethal takeover.

The Israel Defense Forces too came out looking bad again. The magic evaporated long ago, the most moral army in the world, that was once the best army in the world, failed again. More and more there is the impression that nearly everything it touches causes harm to Israel.

************************************************************************

VOICES FROM THE POLITICAL RIGHT:

Jonathan Mark is an editor at The Jewish Week, NYC's largest circulation Jewish newspaper

The Flotilla & How Hamas Is Worse Than Hitler

Posted: Mon, 05/31/2010 - 23:06

For all that we hear about the flotilla being a humanitarian mission, they refused the request of Gilad Shalit's father to even ask to see Gilad, who has not been visited by the Red Cross or any other humanitarian group in three years. Some people don't like it when the Palestinians are compared to the Nazis. In fact, in this respect they are worse than the Nazis.

Tagged: American government, Dachau, Fatah, Gaza, Gilad Shalit, Hamas, Hitler, Hizballah, Israel, Oslo, Red Cross, Ron Arad, Route 17

The International Law That Justified Israel's Actions At Sea

Submitted by Jonathan Mark on Tue, 06/01/2010 - 19:08

Israel was justified in its May 31 sea battle according to Section 5, clause 67 (a) of the San Remo Manual of International Law.

The law states:

67: Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they:

(a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture

Editor's Note: Below, a personal note from the author, Jonathan Mark, who, incidentally, is someone I love personally, has a great deal of integrity and intelligence and love of the Jewish people and Judaism and of humanity, even though I totally reject his political worldview. It remains important to me that I and we be able to affirm the humanity of others with whom we strongly disagree, and, as in the case of Jonathan Mark, when come upon a real mensch, a fully decent and good human being, that we recognize her/him even as we vigorously challenge his or her ideas. Below, Jonathan is responding to a note I sent him in which I acknowledged that we should also continue to mention freeing Gilad Shalit, but in which I mentioned that that should be part of an exchange to free all Palestinian prisoners as well:

Dear Michael,
The irony is your title "Israel's Moral Decline," but that everyone on the Jewish left (outside Israel) was oblivious to Shalit in the first place is evident of the Jewish left's moral decline, if anyone's. The Jewish left can't forget a single Palestinian olive tree uprooted by a settler but needs reminding that a Jew is being tortured. The left has its heart broken by the treatment of prisoners in Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, but needs reminding about Shalit who would love to be in Gitmo. The honest Jewish left has been so infiltrated and influenced by non-Jews, half-Jews, assimilated Jews and unaffiliated Jews, who feel no connection to the Jewish people that it takes Tikkun and J Street a couple of days to come around on Shalit -- even as it is to your honor that you did so eventually, in any case.

But I'd bet that if Israel was holding an Arab soldier in isolation, without visitors or humanitarian visits for nearly four years, in complete violation of the Geneva Accords, it wouldn't take any reminding for the rabbis for human rights or "spiritual progressives" to criticize Israel at every chance.

That this flotilla was "humanitarian" is a bigger fraud than Tawana Brawley. And I fully doubt your claim that Israel was criminal, in "defiance of international law." What international law are you referring to? According to Section 5 -- 67 (a) of the San Remo Manual of International Law, "Merchant vessels flying the flag of neutral States may not be attacked unless they: (a) are believed on reasonable grounds to be carrying contraband or breaching a blockade, and after prior warning they intentionally and clearly refuse to stop, or intentionally and clearly resist visit, search or capture."

Isn't that exactly what happened? The flotilla refused and resisted "vist, search and capture," was likely carrying contraband (weapons), was breaching a blockade no different than Kennedy's quarantine of Cuba in 1962, and the vessels were given prior warning and refused to stop. That puts Israel fully in the clear on every count. Israel offered to allow all the humanitarian materials on board to be sent into Gaza by land, after a search for contraband. But even when Israel is in accordance with international law, and all humanitarian codes of allowing materials into an area of conflict, Tikkun still can't bring itself to defend Israel without so cluttering the issue with so many qualifications as to strip the argument of any moral clarity.

I like that Grossman says, "The crimes of the leaders of Hamas, who have held the Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit captive for four years without once allowing the Red Cross to visit him, and who fired thousands of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli towns and villages, are acts that must be firmly dealt with, utilising the various legal means available to a sovereign state. The ongoing siege of a civilian population is not one of them."

Ok, so what are the legal means available to Israel, if Israel can't even peacefully stop and search a suspicious ship as would any Coast Guard in the world?

And check out what Israel has been allowing into Gaza <http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2007/Humanitarian%20supplies%20transferred%20to%20the%20Gaza%20Strip%2019-Jun-2007>

And this <http://www.mfa.gov.il/MFA/Government/Communiques/2010/Increased_humanitarian_aid_Gaza_after_IDF_operation_Jan_2009 -->

How is that an ongoing seige of a civilian population? Seriously, how is allowing all that in, hundreds of tons of food and medical supplies and generators, even jam and cocoa, basketballs and balloons, even air conditioning accessoires -- everything but weapons. How is that an illegal seige of a population that defines itself as being at war with you? I'd really be fascinated to hear your explanation.
With best regards,
Jonathan 

****************************************************

From the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, the largest circulation Israeli newspaper

Massacring the truth

Real issue surrounding flotilla is global media's refusal to grasp, reflect reality

Cori Chascione

Published: 

06.01.10, 22:22 / Israel Opinion

 

On Monday, Gaza flotilla "activists" used brutal violence masquerading as peace. Nonetheless, a disturbingly massive portion of the world has dubbed the events a "massacre" and an IDF atrocity.

Yet the facts are simple and straightforward: The IDF warned those aboard the Marmara that their presence in the area was not welcomed, in line with international law. The army encouraged the flotilla to sail safely, along with all of its humanitarian aid, to a different port. Yet the flotilla sailed on, and the IDF boarded the ship, as would any naval force contending with this situation.

Strong Stance

 

Israel, stop apologizing / Yoaz Hendel

 

'Peace activists' armed with bats, knives were determined to fight 'Zionists'

Full story

 

Navy soldiers were greeted with metal pipes, baseball bats, and knives. The violence was documented on various, widely circulated YouTube clips. Soldiers found weapons, not posters and flyers, encountering people who cried out for peace but fought ruthlessly. The troops then defended themselves, hitting back at those who attacked them. 

This tale is clear-cut. In fact, there isn't much to debate. Entering waters in a bid to breach a security blockade warrants a naval response. Completely unsolicited violence warrants defensive measures.

What's there to discuss?

Deluded global approach

The Gaza-bound flotilla flagrantly lied and disgraced the "peace" that many in the Middle East are wholeheartedly yearning for. The proof is on video, for all to see and hear. The real issue at hand is the refusal of the global media, among others, to grasp and reflect the reality in this region of the world.

The reality is that Israel is and has been attacked on several fronts, by various means - rockets, missiles, bombs, ships, and so on. Thankfully, the IDF is a competent military with soldiers who are able to respond appropriately in order to defend the nation that it serves.

Yet when the IDF defends itself and its people, media outlets use death tolls in order to accuse Israel of using disproportionate force or perpetrating "massacres." But death tolls do not tell the whole story. Just watch the video footage.

Unfortunately, global reaction highlights the deluded approach that much of the world takes at this time when it comes to our region. Yet the only massacre that occurred Monday was the brutal massacre of the truth. So long as so-called peaceniks wage war on peace and on the truth, and as long as the world buys into it, peace will remain unattainable.

************************************************************************

Plus a note from B'tselem on the Israeli Boycott and Blockade of GAZA

Americans should challenge this wrong-headed and destructive policy of the in the US. We prioritized this issue because:

The siege severely impacts the human rights of some 1.5 million civilians. It impinges their freedom of movement, their ability to work, their access to sufficient supplies of water, food, electricity and medicine and their ability to do business. It is a de facto form of collective punishment.
The fact that Gaza is controlled by the militant Hamas government takes it out of the context of the political process between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States. As a result Gaza is left largely outside American policy, which is limited to lobbying the Israeli government to allow more humanitarian supplies to come in.
The siege is a classic "March of Folly" - it does not further the official goals it was created to pursue: enhancing Israeli security or securing the release of the Israeli captive soldier Corp. Gilad Shalit. Nor has it gone any distance toward toppling the Hamas government. In fact, due to the tunnel economy that evolved as a result of the siege, and which Israel has no way to monitor, Hamas has increased its military capacity and enjoys the financial benefits from controlling all imports through the tunnels. On the other hand the siege hurts Israeli interests, both because Israel has no control over what enters Gaza and because Israel is viewed as a militant country that is willing to undermine the basic rights of millions.
Unlike many of the other human rights violations in the West Bank (for example the Settlement project) the siege is relatively easy policy to reverse by a unilateral Israeli decision. There is no Israeli lobby equivalent to the settler movement to contend with.

************************************************************************
This time we include a range of views, including some very right-wing Israelis. We trust our readers and believe that the best way to be appropriately ready to deal with the world of ideas is to know not only those you agree with but also the arguments of those with whom you disagree. And for us at Tikkun, that has sometimes led to us changing our perspectives on a particular situation or reality. We start with only one orthodoxy: to serve God by increasing love and generosity, peace and justice, ecological sanity and awe and wonder at the grandeur of the universe. How to apply that in the world is something we are continually learning, and we learn from many places that on the surface might not have seemed likely. So it's important to learn the views of many different kinds of people and many different orientations. If we don't do that more regularly, it is only because the perspectives of the Right are frequently being articulated in the media and in the political arena, and not only by rightists but by liberals who have unconsciously bought into their assumptions about the world. So, as we say of everything on our website and everything in our magazine, don't assume that what we print, we send out, or we post necessarily reflects our views. Only if it appears as our editorials in the magazine or in statements that say that these are the official views of Tikkun! And as you'll see, even the statement we sent out yesterday has been nunaced and defined more clearly, partly in response to our readers' comments emailed to me RabbiLerner@Tikkun.org.

Blessings,

Rabbi MIchael Lerner

************************************************************************

REPORTING ISRAELI ASSAULT THROUGH ISRAEL'S EYES

** Attack on humanitarian flotilla prompts little media skepticism **

FAIR
June 1, 2010

http://www.fair.org/index.php?page=4081

On May 31, the Israeli military attacked a flotilla of boats full of civilians attempting to deliver humanitarian supplies to the Gaza Strip.  Reports indicate that at least nine and as many as 16 of the activists on board were killed, though details remain sketchy due to Israel's censorious limitations on media coverage.  Much of the U.S. media coverage has been remarkably unskeptical of Israel's account of events and their context, and has paid little regard to international law.

The *New York Times* (6/1/10) glossed over the facts of the devastating Israeli siege of Gaza, where 1.5 million people live in extreme poverty.  As reporter Isabel Kershner wrote, "Despite sporadic rocket fire from the Palestinian territory against southern Israel, Israel says it allows enough basic supplies through border crossings to avoid any acute humanitarian crisis."

Asking Israel to explain the effects of its embargo on the people of Gaza makes little sense, especially when there are plenty of other resources available.  The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported (IRIN, 5/18/10):  "As a consequence of Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, 98 percent of industrial operations have been shut down since 2007 and there are acute shortages of fuel, cash, cooking gas, and other basic supplies. . . . Water-related health problems are widespread in the Strip because of the blockade and Israel's military operation in Gaza, which destroyed water and sanitation infrastructure, including reservoirs, wells, and thousands of kilometres of piping. . . . Chronic malnutrition has risen in Gaza over the past few years to reach 10.2 percent. . . . In Gaza, Israel's blockade is debilitating the healthcare system, limiting medical supplies and the training of medical personnel and preventing serious medical cases from travelling outside the Strip for specialized treatment. Israel's 2008-2009 military operation damaged 15 of the Strip's 27 hospitals and damaged or destroyed 43 of its 110 primary healthcare facilities, none of which have been repaired or rebuilt because of the construction materials ban.  Some 15-20 percent of essential medicines are commonly out of stock and there are shortages of essential spare parts for many items of medical equipment."

Those facts, though, aren't persuasive to everyone.  The *Washington Post*'s June 1 editorial page had one of the most appalling takes on the killings:  "We have no sympathy for the motives of the participants in the flotilla -- a motley collection that included European sympathizers with the Palestinian cause, Israeli Arab leaders, and Turkish Islamic activists."

Many of the analysis pieces in major papers focused on the fallout for Israel and the United States, rather than the civilians killed or the humanitarian crisis they were trying to address.  The *Post*'s Glenn Kessler (6/1/10) framed the U.S. response, not the Israeli attack, as the complicating factor:  "Condemnation of Israeli Assault Complicates Relations With U.S."  Kessler lamented, "The timing of the incident is remarkably bad for Israel and the United States," while a *Los Angeles Times* account (6/1/10) called the raid "a public relations nightmare for Israel."  The *New York Times*' Kershner wrote (NYTimes.com, 5/31/10) that "the criticism [of Israel over the attack] offered a propaganda coup to Israel's foes, particularly the Hamas group that holds sway in Gaza."

Other news accounts presented misleading context about the circumstances leading to Israel's blockade.  Kershner (*New York Times*, 6/1/10) stressed that "Israel had vowed not to let the flotilla reach the shores of Gaza, where Hamas, an organization sworn to Israel's destruction, took over by force in 2007."  The Associated Press (6/1/10) reported that "Israel and Egypt sealed Gaza's borders after Hamas overran the territory in 2007, wresting control from Abbas-loyal forces" -- the latter a reference to Fatah forces affiliated with Mahmoud Abbas.

Both accounts ignore the fact that Hamas won Palestinian elections in 2006, which led the United States and Israel to step up existing economic restrictions on Gaza.  An attempt to stoke a civil war in Gaza by arming Fatah militants -- reported extensively by David Rose in *Vanity Fair* (4/08) -- backfired, and Hamas prevailed (Extra!, 9-10/07).

Much of the U.S. press coverage takes Israeli government claims at face value, and is based largely on footage made available by Israeli authorities -- while Israel keeps the detained activists away from the media (not to mention from lawyers and worried family members).  The *Washington Post* (6/1/10) reported the attack this way:  "Upon touching down, the Israeli commandos, who were equipped with paint guns and pistols, were assaulted with steel poles, knives, and pepper spray.  Video showed at least one commando being lifted up and dumped from the ship's upper deck to the lower deck.  Some commandos later said they jumped into the water to escape being beaten.  The Israeli military said some of the demonstrators fired live ammunition.  Israeli officials said the activists had fired two guns stolen from the troops."

As Salon.com's Glenn Greenwald wrote (5/31/10):  "Just ponder what we'd be hearing if Iran had raided a humanitarian ship in international waters and killed 15 or so civilians aboard."

The *Times*' June 1 report included seven paragraphs of Israel's account of what happened on board the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, where the civilians were killed; the paper reported that "There were no immediate accounts available from the passengers of the Turkish ship" because the Israeli based they were taken to "was off limits to the news media and declared a closed military zone."

The *Times* piece also showed little interest in international law, mentioning Israel's claim regarding the legality of their actions but providing no analysis from any international law experts to support or debunk the claim:  "Israeli officials said that international law allowed for the capture of naval vessels in international waters if they were about to violate a blockade."

According to Craig Murray (5/31/10), former British ambassador and specialist on maritime law, the legal position "is very plain":  "To attack a foreign flagged vessel in international waters is illegal.  It is not piracy, as the Israeli vessels carried a military commission.  It is rather an act of illegal warfare."

CONTACT:

New York Times
Clark Hoyt, Public Editor
public@nytimes.com
Phone: (212) 556-7652

Washington Post
Andy Alexander, Ombud
ombudsman@washpost.com
Phone: (202) 334-7582

************************************************************************

From the Israeli newspaper Yediot Achronot, the largest circulation Israeli newspaper

Moshe Arens is a prominent member of Likud and served as Foreign Minister of Israel in a Likud government.

  • Published 00:44 02.06.10
  • Latest update 00:44 02.06.10

Is there another option?

Unlike the dire predictions heard so often, Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria would not be the end of the State of Israel, nor would it mean the end of democratic governance in Israel.

By Moshe Arens

All those who morning, noon and night insist that the current status quo, with the Israel Defense Forces policing the Palestinian populated areas of Judea and Samaria, is unsustainable should be desperately searching for other arrangements that might improve on the present situation. If they are hoping that an agreement will be reached between the Israeli government and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas that would open the way for such an improvement, they are likely to be sorely disappointed.
IDF soldiers checking a Palestinian taxi driver on Route 443 in the West Bank, May 28, 2010.

Photo by: Reuters

 

Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, does not recognize Abbas as its spokesman, and as for the Palestinian population in Judea and Samaria, their support for Abbas is questionable. In any case, he hardly seems to be in a position to make any commitments in his negotiations with Israel, or to implement any commitments he might undertake. His reticence to enter direct negotiations with Israel is a fairly good indication of his tenuous position. So if that is leading to a dead end, what then?

Americans should challenge this wrong-headed and destructive policy of the in the US. We prioritized this issue because:

The siege severely impacts the human rights of some 1.5 million civilians. It impinges their freedom of movement, their ability to work, their access to sufficient supplies of water, food, electricity and medicine and their ability to do business. It is a de facto form of collective punishment.
The fact that Gaza is controlled by the militant Hamas government takes it out of the context of the political process between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United States. As a result Gaza is left largely outside American policy, which is limited to lobbying the Israeli government to allow more humanitarian supplies to come in.
The siege is a classic "March of Folly" - it does not further the official goals it was created to pursue: enhancing Israeli security or securing the release of the Israeli captive soldier Corp. Gilad Shalit. Nor has it gone any distance toward toppling the Hamas government. In fact, due to the tunnel economy that evolved as a result of the siege, and which Israel has no way to monitor, Hamas has increased its military capacity and enjoys the financial benefits from controlling all imports through the tunnels. On the other hand the siege hurts Israeli interests, both because Israel has no control over what enters Gaza and because Israel is viewed as a militant country that is willing to undermine the basic rights of millions.

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Mossad Chief Meir Dagan (left) and MK Tzachi Hanegbi (right) at the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on June 1, 2010.

Photo by: Mihal Patel

Mossad chief: Israel gradually becoming burden on U.S.

Meir Dagan says Israel has turned from an asset to a burden; Senior IDF officer says the IDF didn't sabotage a Gaza aid ship in bid to avoid humanitarian crisis.

By Jonathan Lis

Mossad Chief Meir Dagan said on Tuesday that Israel is progressively becoming a burden on the United States.
"Israel is gradually turning from an asset to the United States to a burden," said Dagan, speaking before the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee.

Dagan said that the U.S. government has recently examined the possibility of coercing a settlement on Israel and the Palestinians, but retreated from the idea after realizing it would not lead to a peace agreement.  

 Meanwhile, a senior Israel Defense Forces officer also spoke at the committee meeting on Tuesday, explaining the details of the IDF's operation on the Gaza flotilla on Monday.

He said that the army had decided against sabotaging a ship in the Gaza flotilla at the center of Monday's deadly clashes, out of fear that the vessel would be stranded in the middle of the ocean and at risk of a humanitarian crisis.

The flotilla, carrying tons of aid, had set sail from Turkey on Sunday, with the intention of breaking Israel's blockade on the Gaza Strip. Israel said Monday that it had repeatedly asked the convoy to turn back, and offered to deliver the aid via land, both of which were rejected by the convoy. Israel Navy troops boarded five of the six ships without incident before dawn Monday, but clashes erupted on the sixth boat, and nine passengers were killed.

During his briefing on the operation to the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee, Colonel Itzik Turgeman hinted that the IDF had sabotaged the engines of the other five ships, saying that "they took care of them."

He also noted that soldiers found pistols in the hands of two of the activists who were killed, along with empty casings.

Turgeman said that at 4:20 A.M. local time Monday, IDF troops had observed the Mavi Marmara and as the deck seemed quiet, assessed that the passengers on board were sleeping. In reality, the activists were waiting for the soldiers armed with clubs and other weapons.

The committee also heard further details about the naval operation, including that the officer in charge had photographed the head of the Northern Branch of the Islamic Movement in Israel, Sheikh Raed Salah, and sent the photo to Israel in order to refute rumors that he had been wounded or killed during the clashes. Turgeman also said that Israeli Arab MK Hanin Zoabi had tended the wounded on the ship. 

Israel Navy forces approach one of six ships on an aid flotilla bound for Gaza on May 31, 2010

Photo by: Reuters

 

Israel as a Strategic Liability?

Jun 2, 2010

America’s ties to Israel are not based primarily on U.S. strategic interests. At the best of times, an Israeli government that pursues the path to peace provides some intelligence, some minor advances in military technology, and a potential source of stabilizing military power that could help Arab states like Jordan. Even then, however, any actual Israeli military intervention in an Arab state could prove as destabilizing as beneficial. The fact is that the real motives behind America’s commitment to Israel are moral and ethical. They are a reaction to the horrors of the Holocaust, to the entire history of Western anti-Semitism, and to the United States’ failure to help German and European Jews during the period before it entered World War II. They are a product of the fact that Israel is a democracy that shares virtually all of the same values as the United States.

The U.S. commitment to Israel is not one that will be abandoned. The United States has made this repeatedly clear since it first recognized Israel as a state, and it has steadily strengthened the scale of its commitments since 1967. The United States has provided Israel with massive amounts of economic aid and still provides enough military assistance to preserve Israel’s military superiority over its neighbors. The United States has made it clear that any U.S. support for Arab-Israeli peace efforts must be based on options that preserve Israel’s security, and its recent announcements that it will consider “extended regional deterrence” are code words for a U.S. commitment that could guard Israel, as well as its neighbors, against an Iranian nuclear threat.

At the same time, the depth of America’s moral commitment does not justify or excuse actions by an Israeli government that unnecessarily make Israel a strategic liability when it should remain an asset. It does not mean that the United States should extend support to an Israeli government when that government fails to credibly pursue peace with its neighbors. It does not mean that the United States has the slightest interest in supporting Israeli settlements in the West Bank, or that the United States should take a hard-line position on Jerusalem that would effectively make it a Jewish rather than a mixed city. It does not mean that the United States should be passive when Israel makes a series of major strategic blunders--such as persisting in the strategic bombing of Lebanon during the Israeli-Hezbollah conflict, escalating its attack on Gaza long after it had achieved its key objectives, embarrassing the U.S. president by announcing the expansion of Israeli building programs in east Jerusalem at a critical moment in U.S. efforts to put Israeli-Palestinian peace talks back on track, or sending commandos to seize a Turkish ship in a horribly mismanaged effort to halt the “peace flotilla” going to Gaza.

It is time Israel realized that it has obligations to the United States, as well as the United States to Israel, and that it become far more careful about the extent to which it test the limits of U.S. patience and exploits the support of American Jews. This does not mean taking a single action that undercuts Israeli security, but it does mean realizing that Israel should show enough discretion to reflect the fact that it is a tertiary U.S. strategic interest in a complex and demanding world.

Israel’s government should act on the understanding that the long-term nature of the U.S.-Israel strategic relationship will depend on Israel clearly and actively seeking peace with the Palestinians—the kind of peace that is in Israel’s own strategic interests. Israelis should understand that the United States opposes expansion and retention of its settlements and its efforts to push Palestinians out of greater Jerusalem. Israeli governments should plan Israeli military actions that make it clear that Israel will use force only to the level actually required, that carefully consider humanitarian issues from the start, and that have a clear post-combat plan of action to limit the political and strategic impact of its use of force. And Israel should not conduct a high-risk attack on Iran in the face of the clear U.S. “red light” from both the Bush and Obama administrations. Israel should be sensitive to the fact that its actions directly affect U.S. strategic interests in the Arab and Muslim worlds, and it must be as sensitive to U.S. strategic concerns as the United States is to those of Israel.

The United States does not need unnecessary problems in one of the most troubled parts of the world, particularly when Israeli actions take a form that does not serve Israel’s own strategic interests. This Israeli government in particular needs to realize that as strong as U.S.-Israel ties may be, it is time to return to the kind of strategic realism exemplified by leaders like Yitzhak Rabin. No aspect of what happened this week off the coast of Gaza can be blamed on Israeli commandos or the Israel Defense Forces. Israel’s prime minister and defense minister had full warning about the situation, and they knew the flotilla was deliberately designed as a political provocation to capture the attention of the world’s media in the most negative way possible. They personally are responsible for what happened, and they need to show far more care and pragmatism in the future.

Anthony H. Cordesman holds the Arleigh A. Burke Chair in Strategy at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C.

  • The UN Charter on the Law of the Sea says only if a vessel is suspected to be transporting weapons, or weapons of mass destruction, can it be boarded in international waters. Otherwise the permission of the ship's flag carrying nation must be sought.
  • The charter allows for naval blockades, but the effect of the blockade on civilians must be proportionate to the effect on the military element for the blockade to be legally enforceable.
  • A ship trying to breach a blockade can be boarded and force may be used to stop it as long as it is "necessary and proportionate".
  • An investigation, either by the UN or by the ship's flag-carrier Turkey, is required to find if the use of force was proportionate to a claim of self defense.

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