Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
In this video report for The Real News Network, Yousef Al-Helou speaks to Gaza fishermen, including survivors of recent Egyptian naval attacks, and the father of two fishermen who were arrested.
Many Palestinians in Gaza depend on the sea for their livelihood, but fishing has become increasingly difficult and dangerous as Israeli attacks on fishermen have reduced the zone where they can fish to just six nautical miles from Gaza’s shore.
This is a violation of the Oslo agreement which sets the fishing zone at 20 nautical miles.
For the past few years, Gaza fisherman were allowed to cross into Egyptian waters under the supervision of Egyptian forces, according to Nizar Ayyash, head of the Gaza fishermen’s syndicate.
This helped relieve the pressure as catches shrunk.
But since the 3 July military coup that overthrew Morsi, Palestinian fishermen from Gaza have come under unprecedented attack by Egyptian naval forces and at least three have been injured.
Ayyash said the attacks came without any warning. “We never expected from our Egyptian brothers to open fire on us,” Ayyash said.
Five others were arrested and an Egyptian military court sentenced them to a year in jail, allegedly for fishing in Egyptian waters.
In a new attempt to break Israel’s tight blockade, activists in Gaza are working to transform a fishing boat into “Gaza’s Ark” which will attempt to set sail from Gaza to export goods.
Due to the Israeli siege, virtually no Palestinian-produced goods are allowed out of Gaza.
A “security company” owned by an Israeli general who once fled the UK fearing a war crimes arrest boasts of major Palestinian and foreign firms in Ramallah as its clients.
The firm, Netacs Ltd., was founded and is co-owned by reserve Major-General Danny Rothschild, who commanded Israeli occupation forces in the West Bank in the 1990s.
Rothschild, who has defended the use of torture, also commanded Israeli occupation forces in southern Lebanon and worked in military intelligence.
Among the clients Rothschild’s firm lists on its website is the Palestinian conglomerate PADICO, which owns large swathes of the Palestinian economy, and whose chairman is the billionaire Munib Masri.
In 2011, Rothschild cut short a visit to London after warnings that he could be arrested in relation to war crimes.
Other clients Rothschild’s firm lists include the Ramallah Mövenpick hotel, the Bank of Jordan, Jordan Ahli Bank, Cairo Amman Bank, the Palestinian “security firm” Pal-Safe, Google and Colombia’s Bogota international airport.
In addition to security, Netacs advertises services including “Business Facilitation” and “Establishment of National Intelligence Organizations.”
Rothschild’s dealings date back to the early years of the Oslo accords, the 20th anniversary of which will be marked this week.
As Peter Lagerquist wrote in the Journal of Palestine Studies in 2003, Rothschild set up his firm in 1995, along with another officer, Gadi Zohar, and an intelligence agent named Samuel Ettinger.
Ettinger is still listed as an owner of Netacs. According to Lagerquist, “their business was based on privileged access both to the PA and the Israeli security establishment.”
In other words, they are occupation profiteers who peddle their influence with the occupation to help out Palestinian businessmen.
Zohar claimed to have very good relations with the PA and the Palestinian security services, as well as with PADICO, Paltel and other firms in Ramallah.
Netacs also worked for the now-defunct Casino near Jericho.
Another co-owner of Netacs is the Israeli army’s Lt. Colonel Avi Nudelman, who also heads the Israeli-Palestinian Chamber of Commerce (IPCC).
The IPCC is a body that prominent Palestinian businessmen, such as Rawabi developer Bashar Masri, and various PA figures, have worked closely with to help Israeli firms penetrate the Palestinian economy and profit even further from occupation.
Last year, the Palestinian Boycott National Committee censured PADICO’s Munib Masri for his close business ties to Israel, especially with Israeli tycoon Rami Levy, who builds supermarkets in illegal settlements.
The statement said:
The warm relations between a segment of Palestinian capitalists and Israeli capitalists, details of which have recently emerged, is one of the worst forms of normalization which provides the [Israeli] occupation a fig leaf to cover up its continued occupation, ethnic cleansing, racism, siege of Gaza, land confiscation and settlement construction, and denial of the right of return for Palestinian refugees.
The employment of Major-General Danny Rothschild by so many Palestinian firms, although apparently not new, has got to be a new low.
The first proclaimed leak from Secretary John Kerry’s efforts to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, as it is so often called, were published last week in the reputable London-based daily Arabic newspaper, Al-Hayat. The source is said to be from a posting from the website of the Palestinian Islamic Resistance Movement, Hamas, who claim the information was leaked to them by someone attending the tightly closed negotiating sessions. The validity of this claim and the contents of the leak are unverifiable and the infighting between Hamas and Fatah give both a vested interest to publicly damage the other, however, a read through the supposed leaked information makes anyone familiar with this issue take a worrying note.
The Al-Hayat article on the leak states that Secretary Kerry obtained Palestinian President Abbas’ approval on general parameters for the restart of negotiations, at meetings between the two in Amman on 17-18 July 2013, prior to Secretary Kerry’s announcement that negotiations would restart. According to the leaked document, “Kerry set a maximum period of time ranging from 6 to 9 monthswould be dedicated to bilateral Palestinian-Israeli negotiations … without anypreconditions,” beyond the principles listed below and whereby Jordanparticipates in meetings on refugees, Jerusalem and borders where necessary:
1. “The Separation Wall will serve as the security borders of the ‘Jewish’ state, and the temporary border of the ‘Palestinian’ state… Both parties will acknowledge and announce this.”
2. There will be “an exchange in disputed territories within the plan of the Separation Wall noted above, as agreed to by both parties and with the blessing of the Arab League Follow-up Committee, as specified by this Committee to Mr. Kerry during their last visit to Washington, ranging in size from eight to ten percent of West Bank lands.”
3. There will be also be a “freeze in the settlement projects at a number of outposts, as approved by the Israeli government, which does not apply to existing projects in large settlement communities located in the vicinity of Jerusalem and in the Jordan Valley, including the settlements of Ma’ale Adumim, Givat Ze’ev, Har Homa, Gilo, Neve Yacov, Ramat Shlomo, Ramat Alman, Kiryat Arba’, and other densely populated settlements.”
4. The document adds that “residents in frozen settlement communities will have the right to choose between Israeli citizenship, or Palestinian citizenship, or both, at the conclusion of negotiations,” and that “talks will culminate with a historic agreement … along the lines of the Oslo Agreement, during which both parties will announce the end of the historic conflict between their peoples, as well as full normalization with all Arab states, at a celebratory meeting attended by the Arab League and representatives of all Arab countries, announcing their approval of Israel’s establishment of a Palestinian state within the limits set out … above, according to agreements…. concluded by the two parties at the end of the negotiations, which will also entail Palestinian recognition of Israel as the state of the Jewish people.”
5. It adds that “at the end of negotiations some Palestinian families will be allowed to reunite in the West Bank, Rafah and Gaza, while others will have the right to compensation, or emigration … to Arab countries, especially the Gulf…” where they will be “…naturalized… utilizing the Right of Return Fund for this purpose.”
6. Concerning the status of East Jerusalem, the leaked document indicates that it will be “placed under an international administration (Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian) for ten years, whereby resident Israelis in East Jerusalem will have the right to choose their identity,” i.e. citizenship.
7. Furthermore, “Israelis and Palestinians agree to discuss the issue of land exchanges, in the West Bank and Jerusalem, through negotiating committees despite the non-core points of contention between the two parties… especially those points that are considered important by the delegation of the Arab League, including the proposal to grant citizenship to every Palestinian who has been resident in the Gulf for more than ten years.”
8. The document indicates that there will be a “discussion of executive steps in this agreement during negotiations within the time-limit mentioned above, and that its implementation will extend to ten years from the signing of the agreement.”
9. Israel will also “release a number of Palestinian detainees have who spent twenty years or more in detention, and no longer pose a security threat.”
10. It also stipulates that “President Mahmoud Abbas will call for legislative and presidential elections in the West Bank after the public announcement of the Agreement, in anticipation of the possibility of the emergence of objections to it, and that the terms of the agreement will not fully be announced until after the start of negotiations and the preoccupation of Palestinians with the battles of the Legislative Council and the Presidency.”
11. It also says that “with the signing of the agreement at the end of the specified time-limit and the declaration of an independent Palestinian state, the Palestinians and Jordanians will, with the blessing of Israel and the Arabs, reach an understandings on the role of Jordanian security assistance … to the Palestinian Authority … to stand by its side and help it overcome potential internal or external dangers … as part of a Confederation, which will be announced in conjunction with a trilateral economic initiative, in which Israel will play an active role in its formation.”
Shocking, to say the least!
If these are anywhere near the truth, the region should be preparing for yet another major fallout, this time in Palestine and Israel, again.
If the U.S. and Israel continue to choose the game of might is right, then they should expect, sooner rather than later, a new generation of Palestinians to lookIsrael straight in the eye and say, “You win! You get it all Israel: Israel, theWest Bank, Gaza, Jerusalem, both east and west sides, all of the settlements, all of the water, all of the Jordan Valley, all of the electromagnetic spectrum, all of the airspace, and most importantly, you also get all of us. Now, we heard you have free health care in Israel; where do we pick up our medical cards? We also want some of that free education too.”
In other words, if the U.S. and Israel are adamant to throw into the sea international law, humanitarian law, UN resolutions, human rights, rights of refugees, and sheer common sense, then expect the Palestinians to redefine their self-determination from a struggle for statehood to a struggle for civil rights between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River.
In the words of the late Palestinian (and global) intellectual, Edward Said, it’s “equality or nothing.” What is it about these three simple words that are so hard to comprehend?
The recent exposure of National Security Agency monitoring of Americans’ emails, live voice communications and stored data cast suspicion once again on private surveillance contractors linked to Israeli intelligence services. One firm called Narus has provided the NSA with technology for almost a decade that enabled it to obtain and analyze at least 80 percent of communications made by Americans over online and telecom channels. What was Narus’ role in the latest scandal, and how far back does its history of spying go?
Deep Packet Inspection
Back in 2011, when Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak attempted to quell the Tahrir Square uprising by ordering telecommunications companies to shut down the Internet, the Obama administration slammed his regime, demanding that it immediately open up social media channels. The US also took the opportunity to promote the State Department’s $30 million Internet freedom project, which was aimed at providing dissidents with technology to stifle online surveillance in repressive states.
Tim Karr, the campaign director for the online freedom advocacy group Free Press, wondered what tools the Mubarak regime was using to target online dissidents. He discovered that Egypt had purchased Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) technology from Narus, a Silicon Valley-based high tech firm.
DPI is a computer network packet filtering system that allows administrators to collect any data that passes through an inspection point. Governments around the world rely on it to conduct spying and data mining on a massive level. “[DPI] is often called dual use because it can be used for legitimate purposes, by cops to ID terrorists, or for commercial purposes,” Karr told me. “But in the wrong hands it can be a tool that can be used to suppress online dissent, identify dissidents and even hunt them down.”
The information about Narus’ sales to Egypt was not hard to find; Karr discovered it right on the company’s website. Narus has also boasted about sales of DPI technology to serial human rights violators like the governments of Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and telecom subsidiaries of the Chinese government. Through a third party reseller, Narus was in negotiations to provide spying devices to the Qaddafi regime, but the deal fell through when Qaddafi was overthrown by the very people he had sought to monitor.
The exposure this month of the US National Security Agency’s Prism program, which uses DPI technology to monitor the phone and online communications of American citizens, eroded the credibility of US calls for Internet freedom abroad. “The Obama administration has tried to play both sides of this equation and the rhetoric it used during Arab Spring doesn’t square with our practices domestically in spying on our own citizenry,” Karr remarked. “There seems to be a double standard here.”
He added, “When people fear that their communications are being monitored, there is a chilling effect. So this is not just about privacy, it’s a freedom speech issue.”
In 2006, an AT&T technician named Mark Klein discovered a secret room inside the company’s windowless “Folsom Street Facility” in downtown San Francisco that was bristling with Narus machines. The now notorious Room 641A was controlled by the NSA, which was using it to collect AT&T customer data for data mining and real-time analysis. Thanks to the powerful NarusInsight system, the NSA was able to monitor 108 billion emails from AT&T customers per day.
The revelations set off a national scandal, confirming that the US government was spying on millions of citizens, and that major telecom and service providers were complicit. But no one was held accountable. Following a lawsuit filed against AT&T by the Electronic Freedom Foundation, Congress passed the FISA Amendments Act in July 2008, giving retroactive immunity to telecom corporations that assisted the NSA, and relieving them of any consequences for spying on Americans.
Cass Sunstein, an informal advisor to Barack Obama’s 2008 presidential campaign who now heads the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and who has urgedfederal law enforcement to “cognitively infiltrate” anti-government groups, was anoutspoken supporter of the retroactive immunity bill. With Sunstein by his side, Obama reversed his initial objections to the NSA’s domestic spying operations, voting as a Senator for retroactive immunity.
The vote allowed the NSA to expand its domestic spying operations, clearing the legal hurdles obstructing the creation of PRISM. The stage was set for the second term scandal that would leave Obama reeling.
“You have to demonize the source”
Well before Edward Snowden was a household name, there was William Binney, a high level NSA official who resigned in protest on October 31, 2001 after learning of the birth of a massive, post-9/11 domestic spying operation. I spoke to Binney three days after Snowden revealed himself as the latest NSA whistleblower.
“I couldn’t stay there [at the NSA] and be a party to that collecting data and spying on American citizens,” Binney told me. “And that court order from Verizon [that revealed the PRISM program] is a continuation of that.”
Like Snowden, who has been roundly demonized by pundits and Obama supporters, and may face an extradition order, Binney encountered a severe backlash when he resigned. “They want to avoid facing up to what the government was doing so you have to demonize the source,” Binney said. “We [NSA whistleblowers past and present] were all attacked. They attempted to indict us and frame us, they raided us with the FBI, they attempted to discredit us with all the standard tactics they use. It went nowhere but it allowed them continue doing what they were doing. And that’s the problem – they refused to recognize there even was a problem and now we won’t solve it.”
Binney told me that throughout the United States there are currently as many as 20 NSA black sites like Room 641A. Narus devices, he said, have been placed at fiber-optic convergence points, allowing the NSA to retrieve about 80 percent of data carried through telecom and online service providers. Binney emphasized that the devices do not only retrieve so-called metadata, which only offers general records of data, but that they gather the actual content of emails and calls. (“We can reconstruct all of their e-mails along with attachments, see what web pages they clicked on; we can reconstruct their (Voice Over Internet) calls,” said Steve Bannerman, the marketing director of Narus).
Thanks to PRISM, the NSA bas been able to “fill in the gaps,” Binney explained, gathering bulk data from communications the NSA might have missed with the NarusInsight system, especially those made between Americans and foreign countries.
The Israeli Connection
Binney told me that while he worked at the NSA in 1998, a freebooting agency colleague with pronounced pro-Israel views “shared” DPI technology with Israeli intelligence agencies. At the time, Binney was the chairman of the NSA’s Foreign Relations Advisory Council (FRAC), a board charged with reviewing the transfer of technology to foreign allies. To his chagrin, he was only made aware of the transfer to Israel after the fact.
“Usually when you share things you discuss them and have approval from FRAC – you have an agreement,” Binney said. “I was supposed to know about all the sharing that goes on. So when I found out about this I said, ‘Hey, if we’re gonna share it with Israel we should share it with other allies too and save them the money of having to develop it on their own. I didn’t have a problem with it, and I don’t know how he did it, but we had a process and he circumvented it.”
Enter Narus, the company named for the Latin word for “all knowing.” Founded in the Silicon Valley in 1997 by Israeli expatriates with alleged ties to Israel’s intelligence services, Ori Cohen and Stas Khirman, Narus has been shrouded in mystery since its inception.
A 2006 investigation by Haaretz into Cohen’s background was unable to establish a clear portrait of its subject, concluding that he was “hard to pin down.” Khirman, according to journalist James Bamford, worked in the past for Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries that specialized in advanced eavesdropping systems for Israel’s military-intelligence apparatus. (In 2010, Narus was sold to the Boeing Company, a multinational defense corporation that clearly saw a future in the online surveillance industry).
Sometime around 2002, Narus pioneered state-of-the-art DPI devices. “The timeline shows [DPI technology] was shared with Israel about five years before Narus came out with its devices,” Binney commented. “It certainly was a suspicious timing sequence.”
Another Israeli-linked tech company, Verint, is a subsidiary of the Israeli firm Comverse, which boasts a reputation as “the world’s leading provider… of communications intercept and analysis” technology. Among the many Comverse executives plucked from the ranks of Israeli army intelligence is the company’s founder, Jacob “Kobi” Alexander, an ex-Israeli intelligence agent who cashed in through Israel’s high-tech surveillance industry. Alexander’s lucrative careercollapsed in dramatic fashion when he was arrested for fraud in Namibia in 2006 after an international manhunt, and wound up handing over bank accounts worth $46 million to US authorities.
Just as AT&T relied on Narus systems, Verint’s DPI devices have been used to fulfill NSA requests for data from Verizon’s subscribers. And as Bamford explained in his 2008 book on the NSA, “Shadow Factory,” much of the data Verint and other private Israeli contractors gather from can be remotely accessed from Israel. “The greatest potential beneficiaries of this marriage between the Israeli eavesdroppers and America’s increasingly centralized telecom grid are Israel’s intelligence agencies,” Bamford wrote.
Journalist Christopher Ketcham speculated in a 2008 article that Israeli-linked firms like Verint and Narus could have implanted Trojan spy technology into their devices, providing Israeli intelligence services with a backdoor means of reviewing and analyzing data stored in secure NSA systems. Boaz Guttmann, an Israeli national police cybercrimes investigator, told Ketcham, “Trojan horse espionage is part of the way of life of companies in Israel. It’s a culture of spying.”
However, Binney dismissed the possibility of backdoor Trojan spying. “With any foreign equipment we bought we would make sure that there wasn’t anything planted in it like backdoors,” he told me. “I don’t think backdoors are a problem since they don’t have the bandwidth capacity and if it started happening it would have immediately showed up in service providers records.”
But no matter how much control the NSA exerts over the spying technology it procures from private contractors, there is little guarantee it can control the thousands of people who work in their offices. To understand how acute the problem could be, look no further than Edward Snowden.
Sydney’s Muslims and Jews may not see eye to eye on certain matters, especially those involving Israel, but last week the two communities found some much-needed common ground. Burial ground, that is.
With both communities facing a severe shortage of burial space at Rookwood Necropolis, believed to be the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere, the New South Wales State Government officially opened the last available land there to be shared by the two faiths.
The Harbor City’s Muslim population, which numbers more than 150,000, would have run out of burial space within months, according to officials.
The city’s 45,000-plus Jewish community would have managed in the short term.
The new 3.3-hectare site will have enough burial space for both communities for the next decade or more.
Half of the new lot will be reserved for about 4000 double-depth Islamic graves; the other half will be for around 2,700 single Jewish burial plots, said Katrina Hodgkinson, the Primary Industries Minister.
The two sections will be divided by small roads inside the cemetery, she added.
The development comes amid allegations of Hezbollah sleeper cells operating in Australia and a controversial call for an academic boycott of the Technion in Haifa by students at the University of Sydney.
Yair Miller, president of the New South Wales Jewish Board of Deputies, said the new burial site was proof of the healthy relationship between the two faiths in New South Wales.
“It needs to always be worked on but we have a very cordial relationship in NSW with most of the mainstream Muslim groups,” Miller said.
“The Jewish community is still in need of a long-term solution but we’re very, very thankful.”
Ahmad Kamaledine, the Muslim representative on the Rookwood General Cemeteries Trust, told local media: “Being able to see [members of] the Jewish and Muslim community being buried side by side and sharing the same ground will demonstrate the willingness of the community in Australia to work together.”
It was “vitally important for cultural and religious reasons” that the two communities had some certainty about where their loved ones would be buried, said Victor Dominello, the Minister for Citizenship and Communities.
Miller said he was not aware of any opposition within the Jewish community to the plan. “The model of a multi-faith cemetery is one we’ve lived with here in the last 200 years.
“These plots happen to be next to each other but are not intertwined. There are still roads between the sections, it’s a very big plot divided by internal roads so there’s no inter-burying.”
But Michael Burd, a vocal critic of Islamic extremism in Australia, said he was horrified. “When I read about this decision I very disappointed,” he said.
Referring to Lebanese-born Sheikh Yahya Safi, the Imam of Lakemba Mosque who was at last week’s official opening, Burd added: “Sheikh Safi presides over a mosque that is notorious for espousing hatred of Israel and Jews in Sydney. Our Jewish community representative who agreed to this joint venture should be ashamed of himself,” he said.
“I am not exactly happy about it,” added a Jewish woman from Sydney, who wished to remain anonymous.
“But then I am not happy either with all the Muslim interfaith rubbish the Board of Deputies gets up to either.”
Jeremy Jones, a former president of the Executive Council of Australian Jewry and a founder of the Australia National Dialogue of Christians, Muslims & Jews, said the local media’s interest in the story was out of context with decades of Jewish-Muslim relations.
“The biggest story here is that some journalists seem surprised that Jews and Muslims work together on such matters. It was more than 30 years ago when I began working with Muslims (and vegetarians) due to a mutual interest in having food ingredients labeled.”
The two faiths have collaborated on many other matters, such as anti-discrimination legislation, he added.
But Jones conceded that “extra special care” will have to be exercised by cemetery officials for certain high-profile burials.
“But there is no reason for any group to disturb or dismay one another,” he said.
A new major US arms deal with Israel is intended to further enhance the Hebrew state’s ability to strike Iran, even without direct American operational involvement. The multi-billion dollar package include anti-radiation missiles designed to take out enemy air defences, new sophisticated radar for fighter jets, KC135 aerial refuelling tankers and Osprey V-22 tilt-rotor transport aircraft.
The deal, however, will not include laser-guided bunker-buster bombs, according to The New York Times.
The deal was announced this week during the visit of US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel to Israel. Hagel reassured Israeli officials of America’s traditional commitment to Israel’s security and to maintaining its qualitative military edge over all its neighbours.
The KC135 tankers are reportedly capable of being used in long-range operations by Israel against Iran. The sale of the V-22’s would also mark the first time the aircraft have been released to any country outside the United States. The deal will be implemented in several months.
Seeking to appease his Israeli hosts, Hagel said maintaining Israeli military superiority was a top priority for the Obama administration. “President Obama has made not only maintaining but improving Israel’s military qualitative edge a top priority,” he said.
Hagel reiterated earlier statements concerning Iran, saying that all options for dealing with that country were on the table. The American official also said his country would continue to help Israel develop the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.
According to intelligence reports published by the Israeli media, the Iron Dome performed “much worse than expected” during last year’s brief war between Hamas and Israel. Israeli officials claimed then that the costly defence system scored an 80 per cent success rate, a claim strongly contested by the Hebrew media.
It is widely believed the continued funding by the US of further research pertaining to the anti-missile system vindicates reports about its dismal performance.
The additional military aggrandisement is expected to further enforce the arguments of those in Israel who advocate striking Iran’s nuclear facilities unilaterally, ie without cooperation and coordination with the US.
Following talks with Hagel, Israel’s War Minister Moshe Yaalon, was quoted as saying: “One way or another, Iran’s nuclear programme will be stopped.”
Yaalon is no stranger to war given his role in murdering and maiming thousands of Palestinian civilians when he was chief of staff of the Israeli army in the mid-1950s.
Hagel’s visit to Israel is the first leg of a tour that will also take him to Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Both Saudi Arabia and the Emirates will also sign arms deal with Washington. Washington has always sought to promote Arab-Iranian contradictions at the expense of the Arab-Israeli conflict.
According to informed Israeli sources, the weapons these two countries will purchase from Washington will be of an inferior quality in comparison to those sold to Israel. Moreover, Washington will see to it that both countries will not try to transfer these weapons to a third country, especially one hostile to Israel.
FULL-FLEDGED ALLIANCE AGAINST IRAN: It is uncertain if the highlighted American-Israeli alliance against Iran will be brought to fruition by carrying out an Israeli or joint-Israeli-American strike against Iranian nuclear facilities.
Some commentators in Israel contend that US reluctance to supply the Hebrew state with more strategic weapons, such the bunker-buster bombs, may indicate that the US is trying to pacify Israel, and to convince Tel Aviv to give diplomatic efforts a chance to succeed.
However, one of the main goals — if not the main goal — of the current Israeli government is “to neutralise the Iranian danger”.
Israel, which possesses a large arsenal of nuclear weapons, along with their delivery systems, doesn’t face a real existential threat from Iran. This means that the hyperbolic and often phobic language used by Israeli officials and leaders to highlight the “Iranian danger” is intended largely to maintain the Israeli state’s military supremacy and hegemony in the region.
Moreover, it is widely believed that if Iran were to be allowed to possess nuclear weapons, this would trigger a nuclear arms race involving countries such as Saudi Arabia and Egypt. One Saudi official was quoted as saying in a press interview several months ago that “if Iran got the bomb, we would get it a few weeks afterwards.”
Thus, if this nightmarish scenario found its way to reality, Israel would then face not one Iran but many, as the possession of a nuclear deterrence by Arab countries would change the rules of the game of politics in the region to Israel’s disadvantage.
Earlier this month, the former head of Israeli Military Intelligence, Amos Yadlin, said that while an Israeli attack on Iranian nuclear facilities would only delay Iran’s nuclear capability, “this delay could be important because we may have a regime change”.
Yadlin added: “Israel has defined what the trigger is, what the red line is. Iran is already there.”
Nonetheless, most observers and experts doubt whether regime change in Iran would lead to a degradation let alone disappearance of the country’s nuclear programme. Other pundits argue that Iran’s nuclear programme has already reached the point of no return.
A final point: It is very likely that the new arms deal will further embolden Israel with regards to the Palestinian issue.
Last week, US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that the two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be dead within two years if action were not taken now.
“I believe the window of the two-state solution is shutting,” Kerry told the US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee. “I think we have some period of time, a year, a year-and-a-half. Or two years, or it is over.”
Past experience has proven that the aggrandisement of Israeli military might at the expense of Arab and Muslim countries in the region makes Israel more intransigent, and much less prone to make peace.
Google Inc. (GOOG), the world’s biggest Internet-search company, plans to offer free wireless Internet access in parts of New York’s Chelsea neighborhood, creating the largest public outdoor network in the city.
The Wi-Fi network, which doesn’t require a password, is available today, Google said in a statement. U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and other officials attended an event to announce the service in Chelsea, where Google has offices.
Google has been working with New York to foster a technology hotbed in the city. Last year it agreed to donate office space to Cornell University and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology for an engineering school while the institutions build a permanent home on Roosevelt Island.
“New York is determined to become the world’s leading digital city, and universal access to high-speed Internet is one of the core building blocks of that vision,” Bloomberg said at the Manhattan news conference. “Free Wi-Fi across this part of Chelsea takes us another step closer to that goal.”
Google also benefits from wider access to the Internet, which it uses to deliver services to customers and advertisers.
The new network is part of an effort to cultivate Silicon Alley, a concentration of startups in Manhattan. Wi-Fi will be available to thousands of New Yorkers between Gansevoort Street and 19th Street from 8th Avenue to the West Side Highway, according to a statement.
“We all know New York’s next job-growth engine is the tech industry,” Schumer said at the event. “This is the future.”
The project with Google is a small step in a city that has a long way to go before it can boast about its Wi-Fi service, said Gale Brewer, who heads the City Council’s Government Operations Committee and has advocated for free Internet service for more than 10 years. Thick walls in older buildings will prevent Wi-Fi signals from penetrating inside, she said.
“The city’s digital divide is growing, with people packing libraries to use computers because they can’t afford $50 subscription fees for Internet at home,” the councilwoman said. “We have citywide service for first responders; we should be able to create a firewall for use by civilians and provide this service citywide.”
The network will cost $115,000 to build and $45,000 a year to maintain. Google will cover two-thirds of those costs, with Chelsea Improvement Co., a nonprofit neighborhood development group, paying the rest. The service will be operated as a pilot program for two years, said Dan Biederman, Chelsea Improvement’s president.
The service will be free of advertising except for a message that Google is the provider, said George Townley, director of information systems for Chelsea Improvement.
Google has been hosting a free Wi-Fi network in its home town of Mountain View, California, since 2006. Last year, it introduced a fiber network in the Kansas City, Missouri, area to deliver connections the company says are 100 times faster than typical high-speed Internet lines.
New York would like to extend Wi-Fi to all neighborhoods eventually, said the mayor, who is the founder and majority shareholder of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
The delegation is led by Sen. John McCain of the Senate Armed Services and Homeland Security Committees and the 2008 Republican Presidential candidate and also includes Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE), and Christian Brose, a senior advisor on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
“Building in Jerusalem is not the problem of the world. A nuclear Iran is the problem of the world,” Netanyahu told the senators during the meeting, which took place in his office in Jerusalem.
According to a statement issued by the Prime Minister’s Office, the meeting dealt with the intensification of the sanctions against Iran.
It added that the Prime Minister Netanyahu thanked the Republican and Democratic senators for the “unwavering support of Israel in the Senate.”
Recently the paper put its English edition behind a paywall, requiring a subscription to read articles. But this link-up with the JNF is a new reason to make you think twice before handing over your money to Haaretz.
Subscription offer from liberal Israeli newspaper helps JNF, a “charity” implicated in ethnic cleansing
Israeli newspaper Haaretz is currently circulating this email. Subscribe to the paper’s digital edition during an upcoming Jewish holiday season and you will be helping the work of the Jewish National Fund, it promises.
The English edition of the liberal Zionist paper has a global reputation and is read and trusted by many Palestinian rights activists, who often look forward to the work of dissident journalists like Amira Hass and Gideon Levy.
Recently the paper put its English edition behind a paywall, requiring a subscription to read articles. But this link-up with the JNF is a new reason to make you think twice before handing over your money to Haaretz.
The ad promises that for each new subscriber to Haaretz, the JNF will plant a tree in the Carmel forests (in the vicinity of Haifa) to help replace those that were burnt down in huge 2010 forest fires.
But as Max Blumenthal wrote for The Electronic Intifada at the time, many of these trees were planted on the ruins of destroyed Palestinian villages – deliberately so in order to cover up Israeli crimes.
After 1948, when Zionist militias drove out 750,000 Palestinians by force, the new state of Israel destroyed hundreds of their villages hoping to ensure the Palestinian refugees could not return. In many cases, the JNF planted trees on the ruins.
Palestinians and their supporters have protested against the JNF with a group called Stop the JNF making some headway in the UK, for example.
Operating as a registered charity in many countries, the JNF is a long-standing Zionist institution with quasi-governmental status and authority over land in Israel – which it holds in trust for Jews only.
As well as a long history of planning for and implementing the ethnic cleansing of Palestine, stretching back to even before the 1948 Nakba, it’s also linked to more contemporary expulsions.
In the Naqab, it is involved in projects to “Judaize” the southern desert – known as the Negev in Hebrew. Palestinian Bedouin communities are being compelled to move into American Indian style reservations dubbed “development towns.”
The “unrecognized” village of al-Araqib, for example, has reportedly been destroyed by Israel and rebuilt more than 40 times since 2010.
In October 2012, Budour Hassan reported for The Electronic Intifada that JNF representatives raided the 5,000-strong town of Bir Hadaj (which is ostensibly “recognized”) alongside the interior ministry, handing out demolition orders. When local youths protested, police invaded, firing tear gas, rubber bullets and some live ammunition.
But globally, the JNF promotes itself as a “ecological” charity, playing down its involvement in these abuses against Palestinians. Haaretz focuses on this greenwashing narrative.
With thanks to Jonathan Cook for drawing attention to this email.
US backs Israel; UN calls for de-escalation
Obama speaks to Netanyahu, Morsi and reiterates US support for Israel’s right to self-defense; Ban Ki-moon discusses need to prevent further deterioration with two leaders*
But, mainly from the following essay;
The reality is that the White House is stuck with an Israeli government, with or without Netanyahu, that rejects an agreement with the Palestinians. As violence flares again in Gaza — as occurred in the run-up to the last Israeli election — it looks disturbingly like four more years of the same.
Barack Obama’s victory in the US presidential election last week was greeted with general unease in Israel.
Surveys conducted outside the US shortly before polling day showed Obama was the preferred candidate in every country but two — Pakistan and Israel. But unlike Pakistan, where the two candidates were equally unpopular, he scored just 22 percent in Israel against a commanding 57 percent for Mitt Romney.
Given these figures, it is unsurprising that Israel’s right-wing prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, made little effort to conceal his political sympathies, laying on a hero’s welcome for Romney when he visited Jerusalem in the summer and starring in several of his TV campaign ads.
Ehud Olmert, a former Israeli prime minister, accused Netanyahu of “spitting” in the president’s face, warning that Israel would now be exposed to Obama’s second-term wrath (“Olmert blasts Bibi on Iran, relationship with Obama,” The Daily Beast, 6 November).
The general wisdom is that the president, freed of worries about being re-elected, will seek his revenge, both for Netanyahu’s long-term intransigence in the peace process and for interfering in the US campaign.
Newspaper cartoons summed up the mood last week. The liberal Haaretz showed a sweating Netanyahu gingerly putting his head into the mouth of an Obama-faced lion, while the right-wing Jerusalem Post had Netanyahu exclaiming “Oh bummer!” as he read the headlines.
The speculation among Israelis and many observers is that an Obama second term will see much greater pressure on Israel both to make major concessions on Palestinian statehood and to end its aggressive posturing towards Iran over its supposed ambition to build a nuclear warhead.
Such thinking, however, is fanciful. The White House’s approach towards Netanyahu and Israel is unlikely to alter significantly.
Netanyahu’s bullish mood was certainly on display as voting in the US election was under way: his government announced plans to build more than 1,200 homes for Jewish settlersin East Jerusalem, the presumed capital of a future Palestinian state (“Israel pushes forward with 1,200 homes in East Jerusalem settlements,” Guardian, 6 November).
The reality, as Netanyahu understands well, is that Obama’s hands are now tied as firmly in the Middle East as they were during his first term.
Obama got burnt previously when he tried to impose a settlement freeze. There are no grounds for believing that Israel’s far-right lobbyists in Washington, led by AIPAC, will give the president an easier ride this time.
And as Ron Ben Yishai, a veteran Israeli commentator, noted, Obama will face the same US Congress, one that has “traditionally been a stronghold of near-unconditional support for Israel” (“Obama better for Israel,” Ynet, 6 November).
Obama may not have to worry about re-election but he will not want to hand a poisoned legacy to the next Democratic presidential candidate, nor will want to mire his own final term in damaging confrontations with Israel. Memories are still raw of Bill Clinton’s failed gamble to push through a peace deal — one that, in truth, was a far-more generous to Israel than the Palestinians — at Camp David in the dying days of his second term.
And whatever his personal antipathy towards the Israeli prime minister, Obama also knows that, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict aside, his policies in the Middle East are either aligned with Israel’s or dependent on Netanyahu’s cooperation to work.
Both Obama and Netanyahu want the Israel-Egypt peace agreement to hold. Both need to ensure the civil war in Syria does not spiral out of control, as the cross-border salvos in theGolan Heights have indicated in the past few days. Both prefer repressive West-friendly dictators in the region over Islamist gains.
And, of course, both want to box in Iran on its nuclear ambitions. So far Netanyahu has reluctantly toed the US line on “giving sanctions a chance,” toning down his rhetoric about launching an attack. The last thing the White House needs is a sulking Israeli premier priming his cohorts in Washington to undermine US policy.
A sliver of hope for Netanyahu’s opponents is that a disgruntled US president might still take limited revenge, turning the tables by interfering in the Israeli elections due in January. He could back more moderate challengers such as Olmert or Tzipi Livni, if they choose to run and start to look credible.
But even that would be a big gamble.
The evidence shows that, whatever the makeup of the next Israeli governing coalition, it will espouse policies little different from the current one. That simply reflects the lurch rightwards among Israeli voters, as indicated in a poll this month showing that 80 percent now believe it is impossible to make peace with the Palestinians.
In fact, given the mood in Israel, an obvious attempt by Obama to side with one of Netanyahu’s opponents might actually harm their prospects for success. Netanyahu has already demonstrated to Israelis that he can defeat the US president in a staring contest. Many Israelis are likely to conclude that no one is better placed to keep an unsympathetic Obama in check in his second term.
Faced with a popular consensus in Israel and political backing in the US Congress for a hard line with the Palestinians, Obama is an unlikely champion of the peace process – and even of the Palestinians’ current lowly ambition to win observer status at the United Nations. A vote on this matter is currently threatened for 29 November, with the Palestinian Authority’s President Mahmoud Abbas apparently hoping that the anniversary of the 1947 UN partition plan for Palestine will provide emotional resonance.
Meanwhile, all Israel’s main parties are battling for the large pool of right-wing votes. Shelly Yacimovich, leader of the opposition Labor party, last week denied her party was “left-wing,” in a sign of how dirty that word has become in Israel. She has studiously avoided mentioning the Palestinians or diplomatic issues.
And the great new hope of Israeli politics, former TV star Yair Lapid, has rapidly come to sound like a Netanyahu-lite. Last week he publicly opposed giving up even the Palestinian parts of East Jerusalem, arguing that the Palestinians could be browbeaten into surrendering their putative capital (“Lapid: If Israel stands firm Palestinians will give up on East Jerusalem,” Haaretz, 8 November).
The reality is that the White House is stuck with an Israeli government, with or without Netanyahu, that rejects an agreement with the Palestinians. As violence flares again in Gaza — as occurred in the run-up to the last Israeli election — it looks disturbingly like four more years of the same.
It seems that the tight Jewish stranglehold on the American government is not only preventing the Obama administration from pursuing a fair, rational and honest approach to the enduring Palestinian crisis, but is also inhibiting the formulation in Washington of an accurate and objective understanding of basic facts in and about the Middle East.
An example of this willful and unnecessary ignorance was a statement made recently by the US Ambassador for Middle East Peace David Hale.According to Hale, the Arab Spring could “sweep Hamas from power.”
“The Palestinians are no more immune to currents of change and demand for democratization, reform and freedom than any other people in the region,” he was quoted as saying.
“I think you will see those same forces affect Hamas because clearly their leadership is not characterized by any of those words.”
Hale’s words exude a lot of ignorance and misunderstanding of the facts and realities in the region.
First of all, the Palestinian people have been languishing under a sinister Israeli military occupation for 44 years, and no amount of “democratization” in occupied Palestine will change this fundamental fact.
The Palestinian people therefore need, first and foremost, freedom from the Nazi-like occupation before they can exercise democracy. Perhaps people like Hale can’t bring themselves to uttering the word occupation for fear of upsetting the Jewish lobby in Washington . He presumably could lose his job if he did, especially in a sensitive election year. Hence, the conceived phobic reaction.
Like most Palestinians, I am not against genuine democratization in Palestine. However, let us be honest and have no illusion: Without ending the evil Israeli occupation, no amount of democratization would really help the Palestinians attain their freedoms. The absence of democracy in Palestine is due to the presence of the occupation. Twisting this fact would be an expression of dishonesty and mendacity.
Does democracy practiced by inmates in a maximum-security jail bring freedom to prisoners? Yes, it might help them manage their daily life and routine inside the jail, but it won’t help them regain their freedom.
Likewise, the Palestinian people are not merely striving to enhance their daily life, though this is a legitimate and important task, if only to help Palestinians withstand the systematic and institutionalized oppression meted out to them by Zio-Nazism.
The Palestinian people want absolute and total freedom from the decades-old nefarious Israeli occupation.
Besides, since when did the US really show any serious concern about democratization in occupied Palestine or elsewhere in the Arab-Muslim region?
Didn’t the U.S. abruptly lose its composure and mental equanimity when Hamas won the Palestinian elections in 2006? Didn’t a U.S., under aggressive and frenzied Jewish pressure, acted rather spasmodically to strangle and throttle the Palestinians following the said elections which by the way the Bush administration itself had Okayed?
I am afraid I have bad news for Mr. Hale and his equally ignorant boss or bosses in Washington. Hamas is here to stay. Hamas, which only last week forced Israel to release hundreds of Palestinian prisoners from its dungeons and concentration camps, is strong and getting stronger:
Strong because it represents the true aspirations of most Palestinians for a better tomorrow; and stronger because an arrogant Israel driven by Talmudic insolence only understands the language of force, stubbornness and strength.
More to the point, a soft, obsequious approach toward Israel won’t take the Palestinians anywhere. It will only transform them into vanquished supplicants begging for their legitimate rights from an arrogant and rapacious Israel that is hell bent on stealing the remainder of Palestinian land.
The truth of the matter regarding the impact of the Arab Spring on Hamas is that it has not only vindicated the liberation movement’s approach toward Israeli occupation, but it has also created an auspicious atmosphere conducive to helping Hamas and the Palestinians as a whole expedite their goals.
The growing good chemistry between Hamas and Cairo is undoubtedly an auspicious development. The upcoming elections in Egypt, slated to start on 28 November, is expected to produce pleasant surprises if the nationalist and Islamist forces achieve victory in the polls and form the next Egyptian government.
Israel and her guardian-ally, the U.S., (the latter is getting weaker and bankrupt by the hour) know that hundreds of millions of Arabs and Muslims expect the next government in Cairo to find a real correlation between the Egyptian commitment to uphold the Israeli-Egyptian peace treaty and Israeli treatment of and behavior toward the Palestinian cause and people. I bet this is going to be a serious matter for Israel’s firsters and the Zionist shipyard dogs in Washington who think Israel’s interests come even before American interests.
In any case, the Islamists are simply coming, and Israel will soon become bereft of friends in this region, no matter what desperate feats Israel is trying. And Israel has only itself to blame.
The Israeli state, itself a crime against humanity (perhaps people like Hale would shake in fear while reading this shocking but veracious phrase) never really lost an opportunity to alienate Arabs and Muslims. The murderous Israeli modus operandi toward the Palestinians and other peoples in the region has generated a huge reservoir of hatred toward the Jewish state. The Arab masses, whether in Egypt or Tunisia or even Libya, will not waste anytime venting their frozen rage and accumulative frustration vis-à-vis Israel when they are given the chance to do so.
“Peace cannot be imposed – it has to be negotiated. Israelis and Palestinians sitting down together and working through these very difficult issues that have kept the parties apart for decades now; that is what I know is the ultimate goal for all of us – two states, side by side, living in peace and security,” he added.
In this image taken from Egyptian state television on August 3, 2011, Hosni Mubarak is wheeled into a holding cell in the court room in the police academy in Cairo. Photo by: AFP photo / Egyptian TV
Read the entire report HERE
BOYCOTT GREECE! NO PRODUCTS, NO TOURISM. GREECE HOVERS AT THE EDGE OF COLLAPSE. A BOYCOTT WILL PUSH IT OVER THE EDGE AND BRING DOWN THE GOVERNMENT THAT CHOSE TO ACT AS ISRAEL’S PRIVATEERS AGAINST A US-FLAGGED SHIP!
SPREAD THE WORD.
Add 520 to your Boycott List
By Amira Hass
The organizers of the Gaza-bound flotilla said Sunday that all operational ships will set sail on Monday, despite the numerous delays the flotilla activists had encountered in the past week.
The decision to depart on Monday was made following several days of deliberations on the subject, and the exact number of ships due to sail is still unknown.
In contrast to recent reports, most of the Gaza flotilla activists are still participating.
Moreover, activists in several countries of origin of the ships participating in the flotilla such as Canada and Belgium held protests in support of the Gaza flotilla and against the Greek government, which had issued an order to bar the ships from leaving Greek ports.
Eight of the ten ships due to participate in the Gaza flotilla were delayed over the weekend in various Greek ports, following an order by the Greek government to bar the departure of the vessels.
The activists as well as members of the leftist opposition in Greece accused the Socialist government of caving in to Israeli pressure. Greek Foreign Minister Stavros Lambrinidis said that the Greek government is preventing the departure of the vessels in order to avoid a ‘humanitarian disaster’ which will result from a violent confrontation with the Israeli navy.
The foreign minister also promised that he will continue to negotiate with the UN in order to find a solution to the flotilla crisis.
The Greek ban applies to all Greek and foreign vessels in Greek ports heading to Gaza.
The organizers of the flotilla were considering legal action to cancel the Greek ban on the departure of the ships. They were also trying to rally members of leftist parties in various countries and the European Parliament to convince the Greek government to change the orders.
Before the official publication of the instructions at 4:30 P.M. on Friday, the boat of the American delegation tried to set sail from the port of Perama without clearance from the Greek authorities. The ship was carrying 51 passengers, including five members of the crew and 11 journalists.
According to the flotilla organizers, the delays by the Greek authorities in granting permission to sail stemmed from political pressure.
The American ship, Audacity of Hope, named after President Barack Obama’s book, was blocked by a vessel of the Greek coast guard.
After the members of the American delegation were warned that their ship would be taken over by force they agreed to sail back to port, shadowed by the coast guard vessel.
Also from HaAretz….
*Lieberman admits Israel was behind the departure ban …. in a roundabout way
Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Sunday that the Gaza flotilla activists, who had accused Israel of purposely sabotaging their ships, are just trying to place the blame for their failure on Israel.
“The activists are trying to blame someone for their failure – no doubt they have watched too many James Bond films,” Lieberman told Army Radio in an interview. “There is an attempt to evade responsibility for their propaganda, as well as a lack of support from countries around the world.”
Lieberman also said that Israel was behind the Greek government’s decision to forbid the flotilla from sailing to the Gaza Strip. “Things do not just happen on their own,” he maintained, “the Quartet, the governments of Greece, and Cyprus object to the flotilla, understand the needs of Israel, and are acting effectively.”
However, despite the technical difficulties and the Greek government’s decision to forbid the voyage, the activists on board believe that it is only a matter of time before they leave for the Gaza Strip, declaring Sunday that they intend to set sail on Monday.
The Greek authorities have announced that they will not allow the ships to sail, as they believe the mission is “too dangerous.” The captain of the American ship, Audacity of Hope, will appear in court on Tuesday where he is be charged with defying the Greek ban, as well as endangering the lives of the ship’s passengers.
In the aftermath of the captain’s arrest, as well as the forced transfer of the ship to a Greek military naval base, the activists held a press conference wherein they blamed Israel for “exporting the siege on Gaza to Greece” and condemned Greece for “implementing the policies of the Israeli government.”
The Middle East Quartet issued a statement on Saturday that pleaded with those interested in transferring humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip to do so “through established channels so that their cargo can be inspected and transferred via established land crossings.” The declaration further called on all governments involved to “use their influence to discourage additional flotillas, which risk the safety of their participants and carry the potential for escalation.”
The U.S. Government Must Pressure Greece
to Let U.S. Boat to Gaza Sail
Release Captain John Klusmire
The departure of the U.S. Boat to Gaza - The Audacity of Hope - was first delayed by a complaint filed by the Israel Law Center and shown to be frivolous. Greek authorities then inspected the boat but, until the boat set sail five days later the, the results of that inspection has not been shared with the captain and his crew. Those results were not shared until the Hellenic Coast Guard stopped The Audacity of Hope some 20 minutes after it had left the dock on Friday, July 1. The Hellenic Coast Guard intercepted the ship and ordered that the ship stop. This order was obeyed. Commandos with drawn rifles ordered the ship to return. It is now impounded at a military dock in Athens and the captain has ben arrested.
Members of the U.S. Boat to Gaza have begun an open-ended fast calling on the U.S. government to defend our right to sail out of Greece. The fast has begun in front of the U.S. Embassy at 91 Vasilisis Sophias Avenue in Athens. Fasters delivered an urgent letter to the Embassy and plan to sleep overnight outside the Embassy gates.
We note that on June 24, passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza visited the Consul General in Athens, Deputy Consul General Kate Brandeis agreed that the U.S. Boat “had a right to sail to Gaza.”
Athens – Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, are asking Greek government officials to clarify whether the boat they are leasing is being blocked from leaving Greece because of an anonymous request of a private citizen concerning the seaworthiness of the ship or whether a political decision has been made by the Greek government in response to U.S. and Israeli government pressure. They specifically want to know if the U.S. is using its leverage at the International Monetary Fund over the implementation of an ongoing bailout of European banks with massive Greek debts to compel the Greek government to block the U.S. Boat to Gaza from leaving Greece.
On the morning of June 23, the American passengers learned that a “private complaint” had been filed against the U.S. Boat to Gaza, which is part of an international flotilla scheduled to sail to Gaza in the next few days. This complaint, its origin still unknown to the Americans, claimed that the boat is “not seaworthy” and therefore requires a detailed inspection. On June 25 a police order declared that until the complaint is resolved the boat will not be permitted to leave.
The passengers are wondering if Israel, which has extensive economic trade and investments in Greece, is using its clout to pressure the Greek government. “Israel has said openly that it is pressuring governments to try to stop the flotilla, and clearly Greece is a key government since several of the boats plan to leave from Greece,” says passenger Medea Benajmin. “It is unconscionable that Israel would take advantage of the economic hardship the Greek people are experiencing to try to stop our boat or the flotilla.”
Given the very close relationship between Israel and the U.S., and the public efforts by Israel to denounce and try to stop the flotilla, the passengers on the U.S. boat want to know if the Obama Administration is using U.S. leverage at the IMF to compel the Greek authorities to stop the U.S. boat from leaving Greece. Greece’s economic and political crisis is a result of extreme austerity measures imposed by the European Union and the largely U.S.-controlled International Monetary Fund. Past U.S. governments have used their influence at the IMF to impose political conditions on indebted countries that have nothing to do with restoring economic growth.
Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research in Washington, said: “Greece is not going to be able to meet the targets that it is pledging to the IMF and the European authorities. In this situation the IMF and therefore the U.S. government will have enormous leverage because the Fund and EU authorities will decide what will be acceptable benchmarks for Greece to receive future tranches of IMF/EU funding.”
“We are guests here,” said Robert Naiman, a passenger on the U.S. boat. “But we ask the Greek authorities to be honest with us. What is the origin of this complaint? Is the decision to stop our boat from leaving truly due to legitimate technical issues that can be resolved, or is it a sign that our boat will be stopped from leaving no matter what we do? What is the role of the Israeli and U.S. governments in the Greek decision to stop our boat from leaving?”
“We have a right to protest the blockade of Gaza,” said Ann Wright, an organizer and passenger on the U.S. boat. “To its credit, the Greek government, like the Red Cross, Amnesty International, and Oxfam, agrees with us that the blockade on Gaza must be lifted. But for years, the only effective international action to challenge the illegal blockade has been freedom flotillas. We call upon the Greek government, which agrees that our cause is just, not to stand in the way of our peaceful protest in pursuit of our shared goal of lifting the blockade. The boat we are leasing for this journey, after its refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor and successfully completed its sea trials. There is no reason for any further delays on this matter, we are ready to sail.”
Also read this related post by Joseph Dana
ATHENS: Israeli diplomatic and economic pressure is looming large over preparations of the second Gaza aid flotilla, set to sail from a number Greek ports at the end of the month. Israel has clearly stated that it will use every diplomatic and military avenue to maintain its naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. The events of the past few days in Athens confirm that Israel is making good on its claim. Learning from last year’s botched military operation against the flotilla– which left eight Turkish civilians and one Turkish-American civilian dead– Israel is seemingly applying pressure directly on the Greek government to stop the flotilla boats from setting sail.
Early this morning, I discovered that a ‘private complaint’ had been filed against the US boat to Gaza. The complaint, it is still unclear who filed it, stated that the US boat to Gaza is not ‘sea worthy’ and requires a detailed inspection.The harbor master where the boat is in port has declared that until the compliant is resolved the boat is not permitted to leave. Currently, lawyers representing the US boat are looking into the origins of the complaint and weather it was filed as a result of Israeli economic or diplomatic pressure on the Greek government. The boat is US flagged and registered in the United States.
The government of Greece has been on the edge of collapse due to expected European Union austerity measures which are overwhelmingly unpopular among the majority of the population. Demonstrations and riots have been rocking Athens for the past two weeks. Greek officials have confirmed that Israel and Greece have met in recent days to discuss various issues including the flotilla.
Given the fact that the Greek government is fighting for its political survival, it is unlikely that Greece would bend to Israeli diplomatic pressure. However, it is more probable that Greece would bend to direct Israeli economic pressure. Israel and Greece have a strong economic relationship which includes a joint gas pipeline project in the Eastern Mediterranean.
If substantiated, rumors that Israel is threatening the Israeli-Greek trade relationship could have profound effects on the economy of Greece which, in turn, would make implementing upcoming austerity measure much more difficult. Right now, these sentiments are merely rumors and the Greek government is maintaining silence on economic relations with Israel in connection with the Flotilla. What is clear is that Flotilla ships are being targeted in Greek ports and might not sail.
10 ships are expected to sail as part of the Gaza aid flotilla. Currently three ships, including the US boat, have had complaints levied against them. US boat organizers believe that Greece will attempt to delay the ships indefinitely by using a serious of bureaucratic measures such as endless safety checks and cargo inspections. Despite the setbacks, organizers are continuing with their nonviolence and safety training. They are hopeful that the Greek government will allow the ships to sail next week as initially planned.
The Israeli government is putting pressure on other Mediterranean countries from which the ships may sail late this month, although the exact date and place have not yet been revealed for security reasons.
Israel has warned foreign diplomats in Tel Aviv to get ready to “face the consequences,” says a statement issued by theRumbo a Gaza (Sailing to Gaza) Spanish civil society initiative.
The Israeli daily Haaretz revealed that the Israeli Defence Forces held a large drill for special commandos and snipers to prepare to intercept the flotilla.
Israel Navy commander Adm. Eliezer Marom said Jun. 19 that “The Navy has prevented and will continue to prevent the arrival of the ‘hate flotilla’ whose only goals are to clash with IDF soldiers, create media provocation and delegitimise the State of Israel.”
The boat that will carry 50 people from Spain – including this reporter – was named Gernika and will carry to Gaza a loose interpretation by Basque Country artists of the famous painting that Pablo Picasso painted in 1937 after German and Italian forces bombed the Basque village of Gernika (or Guernica) in northern Spain.
The Spanish government has avoided making statements on the issue. But Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiménez said the best way to help Gaza is by means of diplomatic pressure, not flotillas.
“We strongly advise against taking part in the Rumbo a Gaza initiative because of the grave danger that participants in the flotilla could face,” says a warning on the Foreign Ministry web site.
Israel started tightening its stranglehold on the Gaza Strip after Hamas won the January 2006 Palestinian elections, and imposed a full blockade in subsequent years, especially after the Operation Cast Lead military offensive launched in late 2008.
Israel argues the blockade is necessary for security reasons, while human rights groups counter that the siege amounts to collective punishment of Gaza’s 1.5 million mostly civilian residents and that it is illegal under international law.
Israeli authorities have prepared prisons to hold the participants of the flotilla, who will reportedly be arrested and thrown in jail for violating the blockade.
“Last year, 15 days before setting sail, we knew that if the international community did not act, a massacre would take place – which ended up happening,” activist Manuel Tapial, coordinator of the Rumbo a Gaza initiative in Spain and one of the participants in the 2010 flotilla, told IPS.
In the early hours of the morning on May 31, 2010, Israeli commandos firing machine gunsair-dropped from helicopters onto the first Freedom Flotilla’s flagship Mavi Marmara, killing nine and injuring over 50 of the civilians on board.
The rest of the 600 passengers were arrested and held without charges for a day and a half in Israel before they were deported.
There is no legal basis for Israel to intercept ships and prevent them from delivering humanitarian supplies, say experts in international law.
“Israel only has jurisdiction over its territorial waters of 12 nautical miles, and neither the waters off Gaza nor international waters are under its authority,” University of the Basque Country professor of international law Juan Soroeta told IPS.
“No U.N. resolution authorises the Gaza blockade,” said Soroeta. “On the contrary, it is an illegal, unilateral measure imposed by force by Israel in the context of an equally illegal occupation of Palestinian territory.”
U.N. Security Council Resolution 1860, adopted on Jan. 8, 2009, calls for “the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment”.
But reports from the international humanitarian organisations working on the ground there confirm that this point is not being fulfilled.
“We have repeatedly urged our governments and international bodies to use observers to inspect the ships and the humanitarian cargo and passengers they are carrying, both at port and at sea, but no one has yet responded to this proposal,” Tapial said.
The Mavi Marmara was expected to take part in Freedom Flotilla II, but its owner, theTurkish Humanitarian Aid Foundation (İHH), said the repairs of damages caused last year have not been completed and the ship is not in a condition to make the trip.
There has been speculation as to whether this decision has anything to do with secret talks held by Turkey and Israel.
But the fact that the flotilla is going ahead undermines the argument that the campaign was organised by the IHH, an Islamic charity, which Israel accuses of having links to terrorism.
At the same time, within Israel, “a public debate is taking place on what to do, with some arguing that we should be allowed in because we are civilians only carrying humanitarian aid, while the blockade, according to Israel, is only against weapons smuggling,” Tapial said.
Regardless of the difficulties, the Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human, named in honour of Italian peace activist Vittorio Arrigoni, who wasmurdered in April in Gaza, aims to deliver its humanitarian aid, including construction materials, medical supplies and educational materials.
TheU.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA) “informed us in a letter that they could not receive our deliveries, so that Israel could not accuse them of being part of the conflict,” Tapial said.
“But if we make it there, I am confident that they will accept the material, and that they will distribute it equitably,” he added.
The 10,000 tons of humanitarian aid carried by the first Freedom Flotilla was confiscated by Israel along with the personal effects of the passengers and the reporters’ equipment.
None of the items were ever returned, making it “booty in the best pirate tradition,” said Spanish lawyer Enrique Santiago, who was involved in preparing the charges against Israel for the assault on the flotilla in international waters.
International support for the second flotilla has only grown, with backing from thousands of personalities from around the world, such as Nobel Peace Prize-winners Rigoberta Menchú of Guatemala, Mairead Maguire of Northern Ireland, Jody Williams of the United States and Shirin Ebadi of Iran.
The four prominent peace and human rights activists called on U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to urge the governments of the countries concerned to take the necessary measures to guarantee the safety of those taking part in the mission.
Among the passengers aboard the American boat will be 87-year old Kindertransport survivor Hedy Epstein, and author and poet Alice Walker. In all it is expected that about 10 ships, carrying 1000 people from over 20 countries will take part.
Well, we do not believe that the flotilla is a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza. Just this week, the Israeli Government approved a significant commitment to housing in Gaza. There will be construction materials entering Gaza and we think that it’s not helpful for there to be flotillas that try to provoke actions by entering into Israeli waters and creating a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.
Clinton must know that Gaza is not part of what any country recognizes as “sovereign” Israeli territory, and therefore neither are Gaza’s territorial waters. Any boats entering Gaza’s waters would not in fact be entering “Israeli waters” as Clinton claimed. Clinton also, presuming she is properly briefed rather than misled, must also know that last year Israel attacked the Gaza Freedom Flotilla when it was in international waters and GPS data showed that it was actually heading away from Israel.
By invoking Israel’s supposed “right to self-defense” against civilian boats trying to reach Gaza, we must understand that Clinton is telling Israel the United States will not stand in the way of another military attack.
And by citing Israel allowing construction materials into Gaza to make the case that the flotilla is “unnecessary” because “aid” can reach the Palestinian people in Gaza, Clinton is engaging in the ultimate obfuscation.
People in Gaza have been reduced to penury and rendered dependent on aid by decades of Israeli occupation, siege and military attacks. The issue is not the delivery of aid but freeing the people by lifting the siege. It is an abhorrent position to suggest – as Clinton seems to – that if people in Gaza receive enough calories or a few building supplies then we should not be concerned about Israel’s siege. The Palestinian people of Gaza are not caged animals for whom sufficient care consists of shoving rations through the bars of their prison.
Israel’s siege is intended as a form of collective punishment and has been declared illegal by the ICRC.
Israel, as The Electronic Intifada reported, is engaging in military drills to intercept this unarmed civilian flotilla. In light of Clinton’s statements, if any blood is spilled it will not only be on Israeli, but also American hands.
Not content with tacitly encouraging Israeli violence, in another alarming development, the State Department has apparently threatened that Americans who board boats to Gaza could be jailed or fined for supporting terrorism. Haaretz reports:
The U.S. State Department said Friday that attempts to break the blockade are “irresponsible and provocative” and that Israel has well-established means of delivering assistance to the Palestinian residents of Gaza. It noted that the territory is run by the militant Hamas group, a U.S. designated foreign terrorist organization, and that Americans providing support to it are subject to fines and jail.
In effect, the US now seems to be defining any support for any Palestinians, including a besieged civilian population, as support for Hamas, and therefore support for “terrorism.”
This mirrors its use of such “material support” laws as a pretext to investigate and persecute Palestine solidarity, antiwar, and labor activists exercising their First Amendment rights at home.