Canada steps up aid for UN agency for Palestinian refugees following US cut.

The easiest way to shut down UNRWA is to let the refugees return home

UNRWA and Palestinian refugees are being treated unfairly – Cartoon [AlArabi21News/Twitter]

Canada pledges $50m to UNRWA

Canada has announced that it is contributing $50 million to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).

Some $40 million would be allocated over two years to assist the health and education efforts of the refugee agency, a statement said.

Another $10 million is aimed at helping 460,000 Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon.

International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau said Canada’s new contribution would improve lives and “protect the human dignity” of millions of Palestinian refugees.

“This new funding to UNRWA is urgently needed, and it will bring some predictability to the agency as the needs on the ground are increasing,” Bibeau added.

UNRWA has been suffering from a budget deficit resulting from the ending of US funding.

The easiest way to shut down UNRWA is to let the refugees return home


Two boats packed with activists, politicians, and artists from around the world have set sail for the Gaza Strip as part of an effort to break a nearly decade-long Israeli blockade. The boats, named Amal and Zaytouna (“hope” and “olive” in Arabic, respectively), set sail on Wednesday from Barcelona, with only women comprising the crew for each vessel.




Images by Carlos Latuff

Women's Boat to Gaza

Women’s Boat to Gaza


This is the one Carlos drew when we 1st broke Israel's siege, 23/08/08 We arrived successfully 4 more times

This is the one Carlos drew when we 1st broke Israel’s siege, 23/08/08 We arrived successfully 4 more times


For the past two days, locals and international supporters have been flocking to attend the activities hosted by Rumbo a Gaza (Boat to Gaza) to mark the launch. Hundreds attended the events, including concerts, talks and non-violence training.


Related report from Mondoweiss

Two women’s boats set sail for Gaza in effort to break blockade

Allison Deger

Two vessels with all-female crews set sail for Gaza from Spain on Wednesday in an attempt to break the nine-year Israeli blockade on the coastal Mediterranean strip. The “Women’s Boat to Gaza” is the fourth of its kind, captained by women-only, with 30 female activists and high-ranking officials aboard the Arabic-named Zaytouna (“Olive”) and the Amal (“hope”)

The organization said in a statement the boats are on a course to pierce Israel’s maritime control over Gaza’s borders, and in doing so, raise awareness of conditions inside of the Strip.

“While our focus is on opposing the blockade against the Palestinian people of Gaza, we see this in the larger context of supporting the right to freedom of movement for all Palestinians,” the group said on their website. “The Occupation daily violates the rights of Palestinians to move freely around their country and to leave and return to their country, as guaranteed by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.”

Gaza is home to 1.8 million Palestinians, under siege since 2007. In the last decade, unemployment has soared to 42 percent, according to the World Bank. Gaza’s weak infrastructure already lacking basic services took a toll in the 2014 war, and of the funds promised to reconstruct, only half have been disbursed. 

Since 2014 Gaza’s southern crossing into Egypt has also mostly been shut down, with the exception of a few dozens of days of openings, leaving a majority of Gaza’s residents living in poverty reliant on aid parcels to survive. 

Notable passengers on the boat include Nobel Peace Laureate Mairead MacGuire from Northern Ireland, retired U.S. army colonel and State Department official Ann Wright, parliamentarian Marama Davidson from New Zealand’s Green Party, and playwright Naomi Wallace.

“We hope that people will put pressure on their governments to hold Israel accountable, to put sanctions on Israel for what it’s doing to the Palestinians and to tell them to lift the blockade,” Wright told the Middle East Eye before the ships left port in Barcelona two days ago.

“For us, as the women of the world, this fight is also important, it is important to show our rights and opportunities; to prove that we are able to send ships to the Gaza Strip; to show that we stand in solidarity with women and people in the area,” Palestinian-Spanish activist Jaldia Abubakra told Spanish RT.

In 2010 passengers aboard a boat in an aid flotilla charted toward the besieged Gaza Strip, the Mavi Marmara, were intercepted by Israeli commandos in an night-time raid while the boats were nearing the edge of international waters. The Israeli navy fired several rounds while commandeering the ship, killing 10 passengers including the husband of one of the sailors now aboard the Women’s Boat to Gaza, Çiğdem Topçuoğlu.

At the time Israeli officials claimed the ships were shuttling weapons. Ultimately, no such items were found stored. “Since no material aid is being provided, Israeli cannot claim the ships are bringing contraband,” the Women’s Boat to Gaza said.

The after effects of the raid disrupted relations between Israel and Turkey for six years. The two countries had a rapprochement earlier this year when they signed a memorandum of understanding. In the deal, Turkey agreed to absolve Israel of any civil or criminal penalties for the deaths of its citizens. Topçuoğlu came out against the agreement last spring. 

The two-boat flotilla left Barcelona two days ago with a sendoff from the city’s mayor. “Barcelona wants to continue to exercise the Mediterranean leadership for peace and human rights,” said a letter to the government of Israel from the Barcelona City Council.

The ships are due to arrive in Gaza during the first week of October. 


While Donald Trump continues his anti-Muslim incitement in the US, the first group of Syrian refugees lands in Canada, the first of 25,000 expected to arrive by February; PM Trudeau came to greet them: ‘They step off the plane as refugees, but they walk out of this terminal as permanent residents of Canada.’


Canada prime minister welcomes wave of Syrian refugees

The first military plane carrying Syrian refugees to be resettled in Canada has arrived in the country.

Welcoming the 163 refugees, new Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said his country was “showing the world how to open our hearts”.

The newly elected Liberal government has pledged to take in 25,000 refugees by the end of February.

Canada’s stance on the issue differs sharply to that of the US, which has been reluctant to take in migrants.

Another plane is due in Montreal on Saturday.

Immigration Minister John McCallum said all 10 provinces in Canada are in favour of accepting the refugees.

“This is a great moment for Canada,” he said. “This shows the way we really are. It truly is a non-partisan, national project.”

Since early November, hundreds of Syrians have already arrived in Canada via commercial aircraft.

A total of about 300 Syrians will arrive this week.

The Toronto Star, the country’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, ran a cover story on Thursday welcoming the refugees.

The US administration has said it will take in 10,000 refugees over the next year. Some Republican governors have unsuccessfully tried to keep them from coming to their states after deadly terrorist attacks in France and California.

Leading Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump said after the California attacks that all Muslims should be blocked from coming to the US, drawing condemnation across the globe.

Global News reporter Mike Armstrong has been taking photos of refugees at Canada’s refugee processing centre in Amman, Jordan.

Some families have been told they may move in weeks, he tweeted.

About 800 refugees are going through screening tests in Lebanon and Jordan daily, Mr McCallum said.

Mr Trudeau, who swept the 19 October Canadian elections, has a different stance on refugees from that of his predecessor, the conservative Stephen Harper, who did not wish to resettle more people.

Unaccompanied men will be excluded from the resettlement programme but officials said this had nothing to do with national security concerns.

“We want them to have a roof over their head, and the right support,” said Mr McCallum.

“It takes a bit of time to put that all in place. We’re happy to take a little more time than originally planned to bring our new friends into the country.”

Those who will be considered refugees include families, women deemed to be at risk, and gay men and women.




Settlers gone wild in the wild, wild West Bank …

A video on YouTube showed a masked man lunging at Rabbi Arik Asherman (pictured) [Flickr/Trocaire]

A video on YouTube showed a masked man lunging at Rabbi Arik Asherman (pictured) [Flickr/Trocaire]

Peace activist rabbi attacked by Israeli settler

Video shows moment masked attacker beats Rabbi Arik Ascherman while brandishing a knife in West Bank.

A video has emerged of the moment a settler attacked and beat an Israeli peace activist near the Palestinian village of Awarta in the occupied West Bank.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman, who heads the Rabbis for Human Rights organisation, was part of a group of Israeli and international activists attending an olive harvest at a Palestinian farm on Friday when he was attacked.

The Israeli news outlet ‘+972 Magazine’ reported that Ascherman and other activists noticed Israeli settlers stealing olives and setting fire to plants on the hillside.

When Ascherman went to put out the fire he was set upon by a masked man swinging a knife at him.

The video shows the masked man shouting at Ascherman and then throwing punches at him. The man, who later runs off up hill, lunges at Ascherman with the knife but does not stab him.

Al Jazeera contacted the Israeli military, which occupies the West Bank, and the Israeli police force, which deals with incidents between Israelis in the territory. Both said they were unaware of the attack.

On its Twitter account, Rabbis for Human Rights said the attack was unprovoked and had happened on Palestinian-administered land and not in Itamar, a nearby illegal Israeli settlement.



Another report HERE

Rabbi Helping Palestinian Olive Harvest Attacked by Extremist

Was there a report of this crime in YOUR daily western press?

I doubt it


Obviously some have not forgotten 

In a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, the rabbis and cantors referenced the 10,000 Jewish children that the United Kingdom rescued from the Nazis between 1938 and 1940.

Once we were in the same boat

Once we were on the same boat

Citing Kindertransport, 100 British Rabbis Demand Open Door for Refugees

More than 100 British Jewish clergy signed a letter urging the United Kingdom to take in more Syrian refugees.

In a letter to British Prime Minister David Cameron, the rabbis and cantors referenced the 10,000 Jewish children that the United Kingdom rescued from the Nazis between 1938 and 1940.

Two of the people delivering the letter Monday were themselves members of the Kindertransport rescue operation that brought Jewish children to the U.K, the British newspaper The Guardian reported.

Many of those who signed identified themselves as the children of Holocaust refugees.

“(W)e know that now it is our turn to open our gates to refugees who are fleeing from tyranny and evil, often with only the clothes on their backs, and their children in their arms,” the letter stated.

“We were heartened to hear that 20,000 refugees will be welcomed into the U.K. over the next five years,” the letter continued. “Yet we look again to World War II where we find that immediate action could have saved many more children’s lives. Let the Kindertransport be our inspiration. 10,000 legitimate refugees, at the very minimum, should be offered asylum in Great Britain in the next 6 months.”

The letter, which also urged the government to allow refugees to work in the U.K., said the British Jewish community is willing to find homes for refugees and raise money to feed, clothe and educate them. It was organized by Tzelem UK, an activist group that organizes Jewish clergy on social and economic justice issues

The letter also referenced the Exodus from Egypt: “As Rabbis and Cantors we regularly read the story of a band of refugees who escaped from a tyrant with only the clothes on their backs and a bit of flat bread. They crossed a sea, and they dreamed of a promised land. We call this the exodus, and it is our founding beacon for hope, and our constant reminder in every generation to open our hearts and our doors to the stranger at our gates.”


On the basis of our ethics and practice, we are denouncing what we witness in the aggression of Gaza by Israel. …. Just one sentence from An Open Letter For the People of Gaza, which resulted in Israel refusing admittance to the Strip to continue helping the wounded and sick.

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Gaza's Shifa Hospital during 2014's Operation Protective Edge (screen capture: YouTube) Read more: Israel bans co-author of Lancet letter from Gaza | The Times of Israel  Follow us: @timesofisrael on Twitter | timesofisrael on Facebook

Norwegian doctor Mads Gilbert at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital during 2014’s Operation Protective Edge (screen capture: YouTube)

A Norwegian doctor who has been critical of Israel has been banned from entering the Gaza Strip for life, with Israeli officials citing security reasons, Norway’s Verdens Gang newspaper reported Friday.


Israel bans co-author of Lancet letter from Gaza

Israel refuses entry to the Strip to Norwegian doctor who accused it of massacre, citing security reasons

A Norwegian doctor who has been critical of Israel has been banned from entering the Gaza Strip for life, with Israeli officials citing security reasons, Norway’s Verdens Gang newspaper reported Friday.

Dr. Mads Gilbert has been treating patients at Gaza’s Shifa Hospital for 30 years, VG reported, but on his most recent trip in October, Israeli soldiers at the Erez Crossing told him he could not enter.

Gilbert has called the decision “provocative, unreasonable and totally unacceptable.” The Norwegian Embassy in Tel Aviv said it was told the doctor was being prohibited from entering the Palestinian territory for “security reasons,” with no further justification given.

The Norwegian doctor himself believes the decision is punishment for his comments against Israel during the 50-day summer war in Gaza.

“I have never done anything wrong in Israel. I have never broken any Israeli laws or safety regulations,” he told VG. “This is not about me. It’s about the Palestinian population now being punished for my political views.”

The Israeli Foreign Ministry refused to comment, referring the newspaper to COGAT (The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories), which said it would look into the issue.

Gilbert was one of the authors of a letter published in the prominent medical journal Lancet during the recent Gaza conflict, which accused Israel of massacring Palestinians and overwhelmingly targeting women and children. The British journal’s editor Prof. Richard Horton later said — following a trip to Israel — that he regretted the letter and that it “did not convey the level of complexity that is the reality in Israel.”

In a 2001 interview with the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet, Gilbert stated that 9/11 occurred because of Western foreign policy and that he supported terror attacks within the framework of that “context,” claiming that “the suppressed have a moral right to attack the United States.”


Unlike the others, finally a recipient that knows the true meaning of Peace

Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai has announced that she will be donating the money she received as a World’s Children’s Prize laureate to UNRWA schools in Gaza, the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees announced on Wednesday. Continue 


Image created by  Gianluca Costantini

Image created by
Gianluca Costantini





As important as the food itself is the voice of hope — our voice! — telling our sisters and brothers in Gaza that we will not abandon them, and they are not alone. Especially now.
And spread the word to your friends.
Please go to Indiegogo and donate what you can for food aid to Gaza – today.

Online contributions HERE

Details of campaign in the following Jerusalem Post report ...

Founder of Israeli Palestinian

think tank campaigns to buy

surplus Israeli potatoes for Gazans


Online campaign aims to raise $730,000 needed to purchase

5,000-ton surplus of potatoes from Israel Vegetable Growers Association.


The founder of an Israeli Palestinian think tank who played an instrumental role in

the release of captive soldier Gilad Schalit is working on a new cross-border effort

amid conflict – the transfer of 5,000 tons of Israeli potatoes to civilians in Gaza.

After hearing the idea from Israeli agricultural expert Hillel Adiri, activist

Gershon Baskin, a columnist for The Jerusalem Post, launched an online

Indiegogo campaign aiming to raise the $730,000 necessary to purchase a

5,000-ton surplus of potatoes from the Israel Vegetable Growers Association,

he said. Due to union bylaws guaranteeing farmers a fair price for their labor,

the association cannot simply donate the potatoes.

“They can’t market these potatoes [in Israel] because then the market would

be flooded and the prices would go down,” Baskin told the Post on Wednesday,

explaining that such a scenario would not bode well for the farmers.

While nearly every year such surpluses occur, Baskin agreed that the

regulations of the associations are important in protecting the farmers’ interests.

“We don’t want our farmers to go bankrupt,” he said.

“We have pride in Israeli agriculture.”

Meanwhile, Adiri told the Post that European buyers were not interested in

purchasing more potatoes at the moment because there was also overproduction

there due to good summer growing conditions. Adiri, a senior technical

marketing adviser for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization,

has served a number of agricultural advisory roles both globally and at home –

including a past position as director-general of the Agriculture Ministry.

In light of this situation, Baskin is determined to raise the funds necessary to

buy the surplus potatoes and ship them to Gaza, calculating that $730,000 can

cover the purchase and shipping of 5,000 tons of potatoes.

As of Wednesday evening the “Emergency Food Aid for Gaza” campaign had

attracted a total of $49,236 worth of donations on Indiegogo.

In addition, Baskin said he had received another $10,000 in direct bank transfers.

“There’s more money coming in; it’s coming in every hour,” Baskin said, noting

that the money has come from about 600 donors, predominantly from the US

and Israel.

Meir Yifrach, head of the Israel Vegetable Growers Association, told the Post

that the association’s farmers were more than willing to sell the potatoes for

transport to Gaza for between NIS 0.40-0.50 per kilogram.

At the moment these potatoes are in refrigeration and can stay there until

September, at which point they could technically be sold to the Israeli market

for about NIS 1.60-1.70 per kilo, Yifrach explained. However, due to the

exorbitant electricity costs of cooling these potatoes, it is preferable to sell

them now for civilian use in Gaza and to sell fresh ones to the Israeli market

come September, he said.

The going price for potatoes today in Gaza is between four and six times the

price that Baskin would pay the association, according to his campaign.

Baskin has pledged that all contributions would go directly toward distributing

the potatoes to the neediest members of Gaza society, saying he and his team

members would be working with a “reputable international charitable organization”

that operates in the territory.

Potatoes are one of the main food sources in Gaza and are widely grown by

local farmers, Adiri said. But during the conflict, most of the crops spoiled.

“This will help the impoverished people in Gaza,” he said.

Along these lines, Adiri is also working with Israeli strawberry growers to

bring seedlings to Gaza. Strawberry farmers there buy mother plants from

Israel and plant them at the end of June or July in order to have them ready

to grow in greenhouses in September. Due to the conflict, however, the

irrigation systems failed to work and Gaza’s strawberry seedlings dried out.

“We have an alternative way to help them,” Adiri said. “They can get in

Israel, I hope, plants from Israeli nurseries ready for planting in September.”

As far as the potato transfer is concerned, donors must commit to their

contributions by August 16. The intention remains, however, to purchase

as much as the money allows, even if the total does not reach $730,000.

Baskin stressed that all conveyance of the potatoes to the citizens would

occur by means of international organizations and would be safely supervised

by a coalition of groups.

“You’re not going to use potatoes to make rockets,” he said.


Robust democracies do not just tolerate criticism; they welcome it as a part of freedom of expression.


Why does Israel feel threatened by humanitarian workers?

Anne Irfan *

Humanitarian workers habitually find themselves unwelcome, detained or turned back at Israeli-controlled border crossings. (Joe Goldberg)

The Israeli detention of and denial of entry Western activists, academics and humanitarian workers sympathetic to Palestinians has received particular attention in recent years, following the targeting of high-profile figures including Richard FalkNorman Finkelsteinand Noam Chomsky.

During the first week in February, I was on the receiving end of Israeli detention practices myself when I attempted to enter the occupied West Bank from neighboring Jordan via theAllenby Bridge border crossing.

Once on the Israeli-controlled side of the crossing, I was detained and interrogated for 12 hours before being denied entry and sent back to Amman. I have been given a five-year ban on entering Israel, the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip.

The Israeli authorities also detained and interrogated my friend and fellow traveler, who had never previously visited the region.

For those who follow events and developments in Palestine, my experience will be unsurprising; stories of random and unexplained clampdowns are depressingly familiar.

The opacity, lack of due process and disregard for human rights that characterize Israeli detention practices also typify the occupation authorities’ actions in the West Bank (including occupied East Jerusalem) and Gaza.

If the Israeli government will openly flout countless UN resolutions, it is hardly going to care about a traveler’s right to privacy.

Nevertheless, the nature and manner in which I was detained and interrogated remain of value for what they reveal about the Israeli occupation and how it continues to operate in 2014.


Most fundamentally, the Israeli detention of “undesirable” travelers provides a terrifying insight into the daily lives of millions of Palestinians, who go without the protections of a Western passport.

For all the fear and horror of my experience, I ultimately knew that the worst thing the Israeli authorities could do was detain and eventually deport me.

Palestinians have no such guarantee.

Moreover, during my detention and multiple interrogations I came face-to-face with the impunity and unaccountability of the system, maintained by way of total opacity.

On a superficial but symbolic note, all the Israeli occupation personnel wore badges with information in Hebrew only — a language which the majority of detainees and travelers through this crossing will not be able to read. We were given no information or explanations as to what was happening.

No recourse

When I was eventually informed that I had been denied entry, one reason given was “some information we found.” My request for further details was denied.

As anyone who has passed through a checkpoint in the West Bank will know, this impunity and arbitrariness is a central part of how the occupation works, and how it continues to exert power.

The time one has to wait, and whether or not one is allowed through, can all too often depend on the mood and character of whoever is on duty.

Entry can be denied with no reason and if this happens, there is no recourse.

My detention was also indicative of Israel’s increased targeting of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

I have previously volunteered in Bethlehem in a program organized by a British NGO; more recently I worked for the London-based charity Medical Aid for Palestinians (MAP).

My interrogators questioned me about this work at length, fixating particularly on pushing me to provide the names and contact details of Palestinians I knew in the West Bank (disappointingly for the Israeli staff, I was unable to oblige as nearly all the Palestinians I know are in the diaspora).

They were also interested in my journalistic work, asking me about the articles I have previously written for The Electronic Intifada.

While I had thought that a state facing a supposedly serious security threat might have a better use for its resources than interrogating a London-based humanitarian worker, it was interesting to discover just how gravely any work with Palestinians is regarded.

Unsurprisingly, my current employment with a poverty-relief organization that operates in sub-Saharan Africa was of little interest.

Strategic clampdown

On a similar note, the detention of international humanitarian workers is part of a strategic clampdown on non-violent activism. It was clear from how I was treated that the border staff did not believe I posed a physical threat.

I was frisked but not strip-searched and my belongings only went through the normal security checks. Although I was detained, interrogated and watched, I was not closely physically guarded.

Most of the time I was able to walk around the “waiting room” and go to the bathrooms without a guard accompanying me. My friend, who was also interrogated, was not searched at all throughout the detention period.

After 12 hours the Israelis announced that she was allowed to enter, although she chose to return to Jordan too.

This treatment is inconsistent if the border staff genuinely believed that I might pose a physical threat. It would appear that the intellectual threat is of greater concern.


Finally, the behavior of the Israeli border staff towards Westerners of Arab descent can be seen as a microcosm of the broader disregard with which Israel now routinely treats its international relations.

As a UK citizen, I remember the controversy that hit the headlines four years ago when it emerged that members of Mossad had carried out assassinations in Dubai on British passports, using identities stolen from people traveling through Ben Gurion Airport near Tel Aviv (“Britons queued at Ben Gurion airport as Israeli officials cloned passports,” The Guardian, 24 March 2010).

The incident sparked unprecedented fury, with the then foreign secretary David Miliband issuing a strongly-worded statement and expelling an Israeli diplomat from London (“Britain expels Israeli diplomat over Dubai passport row,” BBC News, 23 March 2010).

After this, the Foreign Office issued new guidelines advising Britons not to part with their passports when entering through Israeli-controlled frontiers (“Don’t hand passport to officials, FCO tells Britons travelling to Israel,” The Guardian, 24 March 2010).

Notwithstanding the diplomatic row with a supposed ally, identical policies continue to operate in Israel.

Despite the ostensible show of strength that is central to detention practices, what my experience has ultimately revealed is the insecurity that lies at the heart of the Israeli state.

Robust democracies do not just tolerate criticism; they welcome it as a part of freedom of expression.

We are all used to hearing that Israel is “the only democracy in the Middle East,” according to a whole range of definitions. For now at least, those definitions continue to be stretched to the point of being unrecognizable.

*Anne Irfan holds a masters degree in Middle Eastern history. She is based in London and works in international development.


Written FOR


 Image ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff
The President that did more to help the poor people in the United States than Obama himself ….

Hugo Chavez Gives Heating Aid to U.S. Poor Following Obama Budget Cuts

Read the full report HERE
Bella Ciao Dear Comrade

10 Memorable Hugo Chávez Moments

President Hugo Chávez was known for his grand overtures and bold attacks. A exceptionally gifted orator who relished media attention, he continually came up with show-stealing lines. Below are 10 of the many moments that made Mr. Chávez such a distinctive force in Venezuela and across the world.
Click HERE to see the multi media report from the New York Times
Cindy Sheehan adds the following tribute to a wonderful human being ….

In Loving Memory: Hugo Chavez Frias 1954-2013

Hugo Chavez Frias, Presente!
Cindy Sheehan
A wonderful human being has passed.
What do I do when I am angry, happy, or sad? I write.
Back in 2004, shortly after my son, Casey, was killed in Iraq, a grief counselor advised me to write a letter to my son in a journal every night. I filled up three journals in the terrible months after his death. I often wrote at his grave and those journals did help me deal with the unspeakable loss.
Today, I write from a great well of sadness, but not just for me, for the world. My dear friend in peace and justice, President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, just lost his fierce and valiant battle with cancer.
Many people know about Hugo Chavez, the president, and constant thorn in the side to El Imperio the meddlesome and harmful Empire to the north. But I want to eulogize Chavez the man I knew.
He was my dear friend and comrade in a way where we were united in the struggle for peace and economic justice and equality. It’s not like I could text him, or we would chat about current events, but whenever I had the privilege to be with him, warmth radiated from his heart and I was able to connect with him in very real and human ways. Compared to the palpable realness of Chavez, most of the US politicians I have met with are walking and talking ice sculptures.
The first time I met him in Caracas was in early 2006 at the World Social Forum. I had been invited to sit on the stage while he gave a speech to those gathered there from around the world. He introduced me as, “Señora Esperanza,” “Mrs. Hope,” in contrast to his nickname for George Bush: “Señor Peligro,” “Mr. Danger.” However, our brother, Hugo Chavez, was the one who gave us much hope.
I have met and interviewed so many people in Venezuela whose lives were immeasurably improved by the vision and dedication of Hugo Chavez. How can one put a price on going from being illiterate to being able to read? A 65-year-old woman told me her life was transformed by the adult literacy program. It really made me appreciate the fact that I have always known how to read (it seems). What would I have done without my best friends, my books? Wow. I guess Capitalism would tally the cost of educating one student and, of course education here in the US is now just another commodity, but the look of wonder in my Sister’s eyes was priceless!
Another woman showed me her perfect teeth in a huge grin. She told me that her teeth used to be so bad, that she would never smile before, but now, due to her new set of false teeth provided by the national dental program, she walks around grinning like a lunatic all day, which made me laugh with joy! Again, Capitalism would say: One set of false teeth equals X amount of dollars. I say, being able to smile after years of embarrassing humiliation is worth more than any amount of gold.
Those are just two stories out of millions and my heart breaks with sorrow for the People of the Bolivarian Revolution that must be even more devastated than I, today.
I witnessed Chavez the proud “abuelo” (grandpa) once on a long flight from Caracas to Montevideo that I took with them. We chatted about out “nietos” (grandchildren) and felt a mutual connection there. I hugged my grandbabies a little harder today when I found out that Chavez died, because I know the wonderful connection that he had with his. My heart breaks for his children and his family, and his brother, Adan, who seemed to be constantly at his side. It’s just a very hard day.
I was with Chavez in Montevideo, Uruguay, for the presidential inauguration of Felipé Mujica. I was amazed that Chavez could just plunge into the crowds and interact with the people without a phalanx of bodyguards, anti-aircraft missiles and assault weapons. His security detail was prepared, but not paranoid like up here in the Empire. Someone who is universally loved by the 99% need have no fear. Chavez had no fear.
Chavez’s courageous battle against the Empire was more successful than his battle against cancer. Chavez was able to inspire more leftist leaders in Latin America and my friends in Cuba will always be grateful for the friendship between Venezuela and Cuba. The struggle against neo-liberalism and the Empire has been far advanced under Chavez’s inspirational leadership.
This is a sad day and I am angry that the so-called leaders of my own country made Chavez’s life a virtual hell, but he survived one coup attempt and the many other attempts through the media and financing of his opposition to undermine the revolution.
When in the hell is this country going to mind it’s own goddamn business and realize that not every drop of oil belongs to our oil companies and not every democratically elected leader must pledge undying obsequiousness to the Evil Empire?
I am immensely proud of Chavez and I am immensely proud of the people of Venezuela who have worked with him to improve their lives and because they really understand the concept of “national sovereignty.”
I know the upper echelons of The Empire think they have won a victory today (if it didn’t give Chavez his cancer in the first place—don’t even start and say I am a “conspiracy theorist” everyone knows that the Empire is fully capable of it, they couldn’t kill him, or depose him, outright) and all the oil will now flow back into the hands of our big oil companies, but The Empire underestimates the people of Venezuela and their dedication to the Bolivarian Revolution and love for their leader, Hugo Chavez.
As we sorrowfully say, “vaya con la paz” to our Brother, Hugo Chavez, let’s also say, “long live the revolution.”
Chavez will never die if we honor his vision and continue our struggle against The Empire.
US Presidents come and go with destructive, yet boring and predictable regularity and are numbered for History’s convenience when they should all have had black and white striped clothing and be behind bars. However, it is my belief that Hugo Chavez Frias will go down in World History as one of the most significant figures of the early 21st Century and his passing is a tragic and profound loss to us all, as his life was an inspiration.
A-dios, Señor Esperanza.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart and soul. Your light is far too bright to be extinguished by something as cruel as death and your light shines in all of us whose hearts burn with revolution and love for all the people.
My life and our world are far better today because of your life and the struggle continues until victory! 


The video in question …
A new video entitled “Harvesting Incitement” released by the Shomron Regional Council today on YouTube purports to show Palestinians and left-wing activists cutting down olive trees in a tactic meant to frame West Bank settlers as the perpetrators according to an unnamed witness in the video. “They cut down these trees to start a fire in the media or in their ovens. It’s suspicious because it comes close to the Jewish settlements. They get close enough it becomes a security problem as well,” the witness says. (From) ….. More HERE
And now the truth about the lies …

Lies about the olive harvest: The settlers against the intervention of human rights’ organizations for the Palestinians

Yariv Mohar
A girl from the West Bank town of Awarta watches as Israeli military jeeps approach her family’s olive grove, October 13, 2012 | Photo by: Ryan Rodrick Beiler/

On October 15th , circles among the settlers spread claims that Palestinians had staged the cutting down of olive trees near Eilon Moreh, attaching a film “Proof” to their claims of staging.  These are weighty assertions, but with little proof.  It is possible that a Palestinian might think that cutting down olive trees is so newsworthy that it is worth damaging trees for.  But it is extremely unlikely.  Therefore, the film presented by these circles raises a number of questions:

1.  In the settlers’ film, soldiers can be seen arriving in the area, and so we should expect Palestinians to be arrested for the crime of faking a “Tag Mehir.”  If no information has been received about such an arrest, it is reasonable to suppose that the soldiers did not see anything unusual in the Palestinians’ actions.  The Palestinians in the film are also not seen running away as the soldiers approach, as one would expect if they had done something wrong.

2.  Palestinians do remove small and medium sizes branches from the olive trees to prune the tree for agricultural reasons.  One must distinguish between such cutting and the harmful lopping off of large, central branches.

3.  The Palestinians have today complained about the cutting down of trees in the area, but in a totally different place from that in the film [according to B’Tselem’s first investigation – see more below].

  1. The film was shot in daylight, and – according to the noise – close to the road.  If the Palestinians had wanted to “stage” an incident of destroying trees, they would have probably done it in darkness in an area far from the road.

We are continuing to investigate what exactly happened, and if we are dealing with another lie on the part of extremist circles among the settlers.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman looks sadly at the trees that have been cut down in the orchards of Mayer, north of Ramallah.  Following the disturbance during the olive harvest, we approached the Minister of Defense with a request to stop the violence.

Rabbi Arik Ascherman looks sadly at the trees that have been cut down in the orchards of Mayer, north of Ramallah. Following the disturbance during the olive harvest, we approached the Minister of Defense with a request to stop the violence.

B’Tselem’s conclusion

Following is the conclusion of the preliminary investigation of B’Tselem into the matter:

We have been informed that a spokesman and witness from the settlers inSamariatoday distributed a film which shows, according to them, Palestinians destroying their own olive trees.  From an investigation into the “spin,” it has become clear – as expected – that it is groundless.

This morning, a group of olive harvesters from the village of Diral-Hatav went to their land, very close to where the settlement of Eilon Moreh has been established.  Ismail Ismail, one of the owners of the  land, told B’Tselem that, after a preliminary tour accompanied by soldiers yesterday, he worked with members of his family on their plot.  His cousin who was working on a nearby plot, took care of the trees, a treatment which included pruning branches. The Palestinians were working with an escort of three soldiers.  As their work progressed, they came to another piece of land where they discovered eleven trees had been destroyed and they called the soldiers.  The soldiers reported to the olive harvesters that the settlement guard  had complained that it was the Palestinians who had caused the damage.  In the argument that followed, the owners of the land told the soldiers that they were invited to watch the footage of the army security video facing the area, and that the pruning had been carried out in a different place.  The soldiers said that the camera was not working and asked the landowners to come to the Hawara  District Coordination Office on Thursday in order to issue a complaint.

Mr Ismail vehemently rejects the claims that he staged the damage to his property, and clarifies that he is prepared to go to the area and point out the two plots of land: the one where the pruning took place and the one where the trees were destroyed.

Written FOR


Activists from aid convoy enter Gaza
The activists entered Gaza from Egypt on Saturday.
EL-ARISH, Egypt – A delegation of 40 international solidarity activists from different countries entered the Gaza Strip on Saturday afternoon via Egypt’s Rafah crossing.

An Egyptian security source at the terminal said the activists were part of the international aid convoy Miles of Smiles 14.

The group left humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip which will be sent later.

The aid includes, according to the source, 14 vehicles for disabled people in addition to medicines and an x-ray machine. The cargo is being checked at Alexandria port.

The convoy reached the “Miles of Smiles” 14 to the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing in southern Gaza Strip.
Where about 41 of solidarity from the Arab and European countries, the convoy carrying medical aid, food and milk for children. The aid convoy arrived at the northern Sinai district on its way to the Gaza Strip.
Sources …. 1 and 2


Image is by Mahmoud Al Tamimi, 11. ‘’Art for Peace’’ project for Jerusalem children in Jerusalem
Doesn’t the assistance to individuals (even when there are thousands ) beautify the system?
The theoretical understanding that this is a repugnant system, and its overall rejection does not weaken their caring and commitment to individuals.

Does helping Palestinians beautify the occupation?

The women of MachsomWatch have helped some 5,000 people through the process of appealing their travel ban to Israel.

By Amira Hass

There is a thorn in the side of the Israeli prohibitions industry, in the guise of several stubborn and persistent women of retirement age. In a word: nudniks. They are the MachsomWatch volunteers, who during the past seven years have been offering their persistence in order to appeal the travel ban that the Shin Bet security service imposes on Palestinians who seek work in Israel.”

The MachsomWatch organization of female volunteers, which began over a decade ago with the monitoring of physical and administrative checkpoints on the West Bank, has developed various areas of expertise: travel bans for security reasons, the military courts, police fines, permits for reasons of health, restrictions in the Jordan Valley and more.

During their shifts at the checkpoints the women have come to know the Palestinian workers and tradesman who depend on Israel for their livelihood, and who one murky day discover that their exit permit has been revoked and a “security prevention” imposed on them. After becoming acquainted and having conversations with hundreds of people, and later with thousands, the women reject the automatic interpretation that the average Israeli attributes to the pair of words “security prevention”: “The Shin Bet knows what it’s doing. If the permit was revoked, that means that the man is dangerous.”

They began waiting for hours with the workers and tradesman who went to appeal the “security prevention” in the offices of the Coordination and Liaison Administration, and afterwards they helped to fill out forms and submit requests to overturn the prevention. They called everyone possible in the Civil Administration to find out why someone waits for hours and never gets to the window of a clerk, why he is not given a receipt for submitting the request, why a reply to a previous request doesn’t arrive, and why there are no forms in Arabic. They wrote letters to the officer of the employment department in the Civil Administration, to the Military Advocate General in Judea and Samaria, to the head of the Shin Bet and to the head of the Civil Administration.

The pestering brings results: To date they have helped some 5,000 people through the appeals process. The “security prevention” evaporated for 35 percent of them already in the initial stage of handling the case. Some go on to judicial institutions, despite the financial outlay. Attorney Tamir Blank is a partner to the women of MachsomWatch, whose volunteer work lowers the cost to the Palestinian worker. The security denial of about 70 percent of the 283 people who turned to the courts via MachsomWatch evaporated, usually before the deliberations stage.

On November 9, 2009 an officer in the Population Registry department of the Military Advocate General in Judea and Samaria wrote to them: “Recently our office has been receiving on a weekly basis a large number of copies of requests to revoke the “security prevention” of residents whose request to enter Israel for employment purposes was denied … Our office is not the authorized administrative institution for handling such requests … [and] complaints about the conduct of the Civil Administration. I ask that the sending of these copies be stopped. [They create] a burden on the fax machine and also waste precious ecological resources.”

The MachsomWatch activists had the fax number of the advocate general because until June 2007 he was, in fact, the address for appealing security prevention. Later the rule was changed and he stopped being the address, and again the rules were changed, then again something changed and there was a wave of cancellation of permits of veteran workers. Then for some reason, from July 2009 until March 2010 there was nobody to turn to in order to appeal.

The women faxed a reply to the officer: “Employers [who under the new procedures were asked to personally request that the security prevention of a Palestinian laborer be revoked] don’t receive replies. Attorneys don’t receive replies … The Coordination and Liaison Office offers no reply regarding the reason for the confiscation of a permit … [The workers] try to meet with a Shin Bet [representative], who makes them wait for hours and sends them away saying: ‘You aren’t needed.’ When a Shin Bet representative consents to meet with the Palestinian resident, the crushing statement is: ‘Help us and we’ll help you, and if not, you’ll never receive a permit.’ And when they appeal the prevention together with their employers there is no reply. There’s a sealed wall ….

“Israel’s control of the area is that of belligerent occupation, and therefore it has obligations toward [its residents], and among other things the obligation to take care of their welfare and their needs. Therefore along with the complaint about the ecological damage that we are causing, we would expect at least a minimal reference to the human damage …”

Kafkaesque sagas

A second report by this group of experts was posted on the MachsomWatch website, which sums up its activity since June 2007 and is called “Invisible Prisoners – Don’t Know Why and There’s Nowhere to Turn.” It was written by Sylvia Piterman, a retired senior economist.

She has reason for beginning the report with a scene from Kafka’s “The Castle.” There is no shortage of Kafkaesque sagas of individual Palestinians in the mazes of the occupation in our newspapers. But the report tells a saga of thousands. That is why throughout the report one can hear the refrain: There’s a method here, there’s a purpose behind the wholesale denial of permits and of restrictions of movement.

“This is a system that is designed to continue and maintain the occupation. And for that purpose the population has to be kept afraid, in a situation of uncertainty and without social solidarity. The method is also designed to maintain a large reservoir of Palestinians … in order to enlist them [as informants to the Shin Bet], while cynically exploiting their most urgent needs,” writes Piterman.

It would have been worthwhile to add: The method is designed to reduce to a minimum the number of Palestinian workers in Israel, on the way to completing the policy of demographic separation that governments have been practicing since the early 1990s.

Another thing that the report outlines – and here, too, more details would have been welcomed – is the gradual inclusion of the Palestinian workers in Israel in the category of “foreign workers.” Israel is establishing many facts on the ground in order to create the false presentation that Areas A and B are a “state” rather than occupied territory. For example, the checkpoints are called “terminals” or “crossings.” Placing Palestinian laborers under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry (rather than the Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry, as used to be the case ) and treating them as though they were from Thailand and Colombia, are another such fact.

Doesn’t the assistance to individuals (even when there are thousands ) beautify the system? That is a question that comes up in the report, as in the constant conversations of the activists. This is a dilemma that faces every anti-occupation group in Israel. In the overall battle against a regime of privileges for Jews, Jewish Israelis exploit their superior rights in order to try and help people (usually of those classes which are not wrapped with money and connections ) in their daily dealings with the empire of prohibitions: to go to Israel for medical treatment, to overturn a home demolition order, to prepare a building plan, to dig a water cistern, to file a complaint with the police against settler harassment, to go to study, to visit a sick mother.

The theoretical understanding that this is a repugnant system, and its overall rejection does not weaken their caring and commitment to individuals.




Interview with the co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement
Also see THIS DesertPeace Editorial from the archives.
Huwaida Arraf with kids in Khan Younis.

Huwaida Arraf: ‘They have lies to spin; we have truths to tell’

by Yousef M. Aljamal

Yousef M. Aljamal of Gaza’s Center for Political Development Studies interviews with Huwaida Arraf, cofounder of the International Solidarity Movement:

Aljamal: First, could you please give us a brief introduction about ISM?

Arraf: The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) is a Palestinian-led movement committed to resisting the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land using nonviolent, direct-action methods and principles. We founded this international coalition to support and strengthen the Palestinian popular resistance by providing the Palestinian people with a resource — international protection and a voice — with which to resist, nonviolently, an overwhelming military occupation force.

The resources the Israeli government has at its disposal are well-known – over $3 billion in military aid from the U.S., hundreds of millions of dollars in private funds, and the unquestioned diplomatic support of the only superpower in the world exercised through its veto in the UN Security Council of any resolution that would compel Israel to abide by international law. The Palestinians also need strong resources.

We focus on providing support for the Palestinian unarmed resistance, not because we take a hostile view to the armed resistance, but rather because we believe that unarmed resistance is strategically more advantageous to Palestinians. Seeing as Israel is superior to us militarily, it’s better not to fight them in that arena, but rather in an arena where we are stronger, or at least where we have the possibility of building up our strength. This arena is that of the popular struggle, or the strategic unarmed resistance. I also must note, that while I, personally, and the ISM as an organization, recognize the Palestinian right to use armed struggle to resist occupation (even if we don’t engage in or actively support it), we strongly believe that armed resistance MUST adhere to international law. It is true that Israel frequently violates the laws that regulate armed conflict, but we do ourselves no service by doing the same.

The first ISM campaign was in August of 2001. At that time over 50 civilians from various countries came to the Occupied Palestinian Territory to engage in a 2-week, coordinated campaign of nonviolent direct-action against occupation forces and policies. Since that time we’ve had nearly 7500 civilians from all over the world come join us. Many of our volunteers come North America and Europe, but we’ve also had a number of volunteers from Latin America, Africa and various Asian countries. The socio-economic and age range of the volunteers is vast, with the average age being over 30. A number of volunteers have been over the age of 60 and we’ve even had people in their eighties join us.

Internationals joining the Palestinian struggle is important for 4 key reasons, and these form the foundation of the ISM:

1) Protection: an international presence at Palestinian civilian actions/protests can insure a certain level of protection for the Palestinian people engaged in nonviolent resistance. Palestinians acting/resisting alone are often met with harsh and even lethal forms of violence by Israeli occupation forces, including arbitrary, long-term arrest, beating, severe injury and sometimes even death. The Israeli occupation forces have succeeded to label every Palestinian man, woman and child as a potential terrorists and thereby justify their actions. No body holds Israel accountable for Palestinian lives, but foreign civilians do have governments responsible for them and are harder to label as “terrorists.” As such, when internationals are present with Palestinians at popular actions, lethal forms of violence are usually not used by most Israeli soldiers.

2) Message to the mainstream media:
The Palestinian struggle is not being accurately reported by the mainstream corporate international media. Example: When Israeli troops open fire and kill Palestinian civilians, it is often reported as “clashes” and very rarely by what it really is, Israeli forces opening fire on civilians. The mainstream media tends to show the Israeli – Palestinian conflict as one in which two sides are fighting over a piece of land and can’t live together, instead of the Palestinian struggle for freedom, dignity, and human rights that it is. Palestinians are inaccurately depicted as violent people who hate Jews and want to destroy Israel. Internationals of various social, national and religious backgrounds, joining Palestinians in the freedom struggle can help to dispel this notion. The ISM volunteers from all over the world that join us can reach out to their respective media sources and give Palestinians the voice that we don’t have.

3) Personal witness and transmitting of information:
International civilians joining Palestinians on the ground can bear witness and return home to talk to their communities about what is happening. We encourage volunteers to talk to their friends, family, and colleagues when they return home, as well as to organize larger speaking events where they can present what they experienced to community members and to the media. This information and education can then be used to lobby policy makers in an effort to change US foreign policy. Currently we have many ISM volunteers and groups actively engaged in local Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) efforts, which is a powerful form of nonviolent resistance that is having a psychological as well as a financial impact on Israel. The kind of eyewitness reporting that ISM engages in helps to generate more action in support of the Palestinian freedom struggle.

4) Break isolation / provide hope:
The occupation isolates Palestinians and cuts the Palestinian people off from the rest of the world and from each other. At the very least, international civilians have been able to raise the morale of the Palestinian people living under occupation by standing with them and saying, “you are not alone.” We feel that this helps create or return hope that is vital to our struggle – hope that Israel keeps trying to extinguish. Hope, that people acting together can change things, has been a cornerstone of our philosophy.

While the primary purpose of the ISM has been to engage in and support the Palestinian unarmed, civilian-based freedom struggle against occupation, at times when aggression of the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians has increased, the ISM took up a role in providing humanitarian assistance and protection by using their status as internationals to escort doctors, ambulances, schoolchildren and other civilians to work, hospital and school. We have also engaged in internationals only efforts to disrupt military operations. Prime examples of these include breaking through Israel’s military cordons to put internationals in the presidential compound as well as in the Church of the Nativity when they were both under siege in 2002.

Aljamal: Well, What is the role of ISM to encounter Israeli propaganda?

Arraf: As I mentioned above, ISM provides people from all over the world to come and see with their own eyes what is happening on the ground in Palestine and to take part in the popular resistance. This kind of first-hand experience is important to countering the Israeli propaganda machine in three ways: (1) it provides many people from different backgrounds speaking different languages to give eyewitness accounts from places where Israeli attacks and other atrocities take place. This increases the likelihood that journalists will get information that they might not otherwise receive, as well as gets information out about what is happening in Palestine using alternative media sources; (2) when the volunteers return to their homes, their first-hand experience, stories and pictures provide a compelling and hard-to-argue-with narrative for other people that would not otherwise get this kind of information; and (3) the experience ends up being life-changing for so many volunteers and therefore they are driven to work hard when they return to their countries. It is this drive that is behind a lot of the activism for Palestine on college campuses, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions efforts, and others.

I believe that all of the above combined plays a very important and effective role in countering Israeli propaganda. This is not to say that we’re “winning” but we have to remember that Israel spends upward of $1 billion per year on their public relations efforts, compared to almost nothing that we spend. They have professional public relations firms working for them; we have the free voices of the people. They have lies to spin; we have truths to tell. Their money and political power might buy them the mainstream media and the politicians, but not for long as we continue to inform and mobilize the masses…

Aljamal: Do Palestinian communities in the West play a positive role in exposing Israel’s crimes?

Arraf: This is not an easy question to answer. My direct experience is with the United States where, unfortunately for too long, we were disorganized and divided in addition to many members of the Palestinian community choosing to be apolitical. Add to this the fact that what was mobilized around generally had to do with raising money to provide aid to Palestine. While this is important, Palestinian communities in the west focused all of their energies (which have been limited) to responding to the crises that Israel is so good at creating. In other words, we have been, and largely still are, reacting and giving our money to aid and not the political efforts that might lead to a change in the situation that has left Palestinians in need of aid.

That said, I have noticed a shift in recent years and young Palestinian activists have been leading this shift.

Aljamal: You played a major role in breaking Gaza’s siege and brought dozens of activists to Gaza. You were one of the activists on The Freedom Flotilla that was attacked in the International waters in May 2010. Do you think that Israel has lost its reputation as “the only democracy in the Middle East” in the West after its attacks on Gaza in 2008-2009 and its attack on The Freedom Flotilla?

Arraf: No, I don’t think that Israel’s brutal aggression has anything to do with its reputation as “the only democracy in the Middle East.” We must remember that democratic governments commit unspeakable crimes. Just look at what the US and the UK have done and are doing to Iraq and Afghanistan, to name just a couple. Israel’s self-proclaimed status as the “only democracy in the Middle East” should be challenged from a more factual basis. First, Israel is not the only entity in the Middle East with democratic types of government. What about the Palestinian Authority and Lebanon? In terms of the former, we don’t have a country to call a democracy, but we do have democratic traditions. No one will deny that our 2006 elections were democratic, free, and fair (something Israel, with the support of the international community, punished us for when they did not like the outcome!); in terms of Lebanon, she’s more accurately described as a republic, which is actually better form of government than a democracy. A republic (which can be democratic) is governed under a constitution that places certain limits on the voice of the majority in order to protect the rights of the minority, something that a democracy does not do.

But even if one considers Israel a democracy, this doesn’t mean Israel is not guilty of horrific crimes, which must be stopped. Perhaps the best analogy to make here is to that of the United States prior to the late 1960s. Everyone recognizes that the US is a democratic country. Well, the U.S. was a democracy while it practiced slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries, and after that, continued outright racism against the black minority in the US, depriving black people of equal rights and opportunity, not to mention subjecting them to degrading and abusive treatment. Just because Israel may be considered a democracy for its citizens this doesn’t mean that it’s not occupying, oppressing, killing, and maiming; it doesn’t mean that Israel doesn’t practice racism against its minority population; and it doesn’t mean that Israel is not a colonial, apartheid regime, which is not only illegal, but a crime against humanity.

In terms of its 2008-2009 assault on Gaza – Operation Cast Lead, and its lethal attack on the Freedom Flotilla, Israel lost something more important than its reputation as a democracy. Israel lost its image of victimhood, and perhaps for the first time, was exposed clearly as a violent aggressor.

Aljamal: Does the Palestinian rift hinder ISM efforts to get the Palestinian voice heard in the West? How?

Arraf: Undoubtedly this rift hinders efforts. First of all, it allows questions about the divisions to be raised and detracts from the core issues. Second, it provides fuel for Zionists who love to point to the chaos in Palestinian society and our violence against each other in order to justify their repression and boost their colonialist claims. Third, it divides our community outside (albeit to a lesser extent) as it does inside.

That said, I’m going to point to a larger issue than the split between Fatah and Hamas. We have not been able to capitalize properly on the international solidarity movement with Palestine due to our lack of a unified representative leadership for our national liberation struggle. In theory, this leadership is supposed to be the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), but the PLO has been deliberately marginalized and for the past 18+ years existing in name only as an unelected and unrepresentative institution. This absence of a unified national resistance movement means that we also do not have a national strategy for effective resistance and are unable to communicate effectively with the solidarity movement what we want and what we want them to do to support us. To give an example of how this not only prevents us from taking full advantage of the solidarity movement but how it can actually be harmful to our efforts, I will refer to a UN Conference of Civil Society Organizations in Solidarity with the Palestinian People that I spoke at in 2002. I clearly remember an organizer of the Palestinian Solidarity Committee in South Africa telling us how they were working on promoting a boycott of Israel and even pressuring the South African government to cut relations with Israel. The South African government asked the Palestinian Representative Office in South Africa whether or not boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel was a demand of the Palestinian leadership? The Palestinian Ambassador said no. In this case, and in many others, the “official” Palestinian leadership hindered the ability of a solidarity organization to advocate for Palestine.

To make up for this absence of a unified national leadership with an effective strategy for fighting the occupation, Palestinians civil society has tried to step up and make their voices heard. The most successful example of this is the 2005 Palestinian Civil Society Call for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS). By releasing a statement and a call to action endorsed by over 170 Palestinian civil society organizations, we gave the solidarity movement some direction. So, Palestinian civil society has been trying to make up for what I consider a massive failure of our leadership. This is not enough however. I strongly believe that Palestinians, not only in the West Bank and Gaza, but also in 48 and all over the world need to focus on building or rebuilding a unified representative leadership to lead our national struggle forward. One of the ways to do this is by reviving the PLO and its institutions, starting with direct elections to the Palestine National Council (PNC).

Aljamal: You likely heard about “The Israel Project”, if Palestinians need to encounter such a project, what are the main points they need to shed light on?

Arraf: I don’t think that we need to focus on countering this project per se. We should focus on setting the agenda and shaping the debate. It is the Israel Project that should continue scrambling to devise ways to counter what we are doing. Everything the Israel Project produces is really empty and devoid of any truth, designed to manipulate people who don’t have accurate information and to give people that are already under the influence of the Israeli lobby hollow words and arguments to use to defend their support of Israel. This is all easily countered by facts and information that we put out.

If I would recommend that we take anything from the Israel Project, it is their focus on using language that resonates with the audience that it is trying to reach. This is one thing for us to keep in mind in our communications. Sometimes, we can really turn people away by using language that people might think is extreme, or that doesn’t mean much to them. Highly emotional language and images are understandable, but not very effective. This is not to say that we should not appeal to people’s emotions, we should, but through personal stories told in calm language. For example, an image of an elderly man standing in a cage that is one of Israel’s checkpoints can expose the racism and deliberate degradation that is part of Israel’s policies. People can relate to this, imagining their own fathers subjected to such humiliating treatment. Whereas if we show a picture of a bloody body, this will likely only inflame the emotions of those who already support our cause. Others will not relate this to a deliberate policy that is unjust, but rather to the unfortunate results of war. Israelis can show similar pictures.

Aljamal: If you have a message to the Palestinian young bloggers and writers who write in English, what would you say?

Arraf:I would say that I need to take advice from them! It’s wonderful that we have so many talented young writers. I don’t write much at all, which is a great weakness. I feel that our young Palestinian writers know better than me, but for the sake of stressing a few important points:

(1) Strive for accuracy: It’s often hard to get accurate information fast, but the more one focuses on her/his information accuracy, the more s/he will become a credible source of information, not only for the general public, but also for journalists. This is one thing we’ve tried to do with ISM volunteers. Because we have ISM volunteers in sensitive places where journalists do not often go, we have stressed the importance of getting accurate information that we can pass along to journalists in the hopes that they will report on actions and incidents. If you give a journalist wrong information, s/he will not be likely to use you as a source again. However, if you consistently provide accurate, reliable information, you will become a source for journalists and others, which can only be helpful in disseminating news about what is happening in Palestine.

(2) No need to exaggerate: This is another piece of advice we give to ISM volunteers. The things that happen in Palestine on a daily basis are bad enough, so there is no need to exaggerate anything. Tell it like it is.

(3) Personal stories: You want to try to relate to your readers and have them relate to you. I think this is best done through personal stories and experiences.

Aljamal: New Media motivated Arab youths express themselves, do you believe that Palestinians can make use of it to get rid of the occupation? How?

Arraf: New media, alternative media, social media – all of these can be used as tools in fighting the occupation. We will need more than media to get rid of the occupation, but effective use of various new media tools to communicate information and organize collective action can greatly strengthen us.

To get rid of the occupation, we have to change people’s behavior; we have to create situations where people’s actions that support the Israeli occupation are altered in order to weaken the occupation. For example – soldiers who refuse to serve in the Israeli army can help weaken Israel’s military capabilities; Israeli society that wakes up from it’s indifference or government-supporting trance can increase pressure on the Israeli government to alter its policies; governments that impose sanctions on Israel can weaken Israel’s political and economic power; people, organizations, and institutions that boycott Israel can create pressure on Israeli society to pressure its government, and create an image crisis for the Israeli state, etc. To motivate these and other sectors of society to act, we need to communicate effectively, and here, we use new media as a tool to disseminate information and to organize.

For example, as I talked about above, ISM volunteers go back to their home countries and spread the word about what’s happening in Palestine. We then want to transform this knowledge into action – to lobby government officials to change their policies and stop supporting Israeli occupation and apartheid, to boycott Israel, etc. So we use new media and other communication tools to inform, so that we can then turn that information and knowledge into action.

Also in terms of organization, we’ve seen how social media has helped to mobilize people. We can use social media tools to organize coordinated actions around the world designed to put pressure on Israel. But while social media can be a great organizing tool, I think that we should be careful about relying only on social media, especially for organizing local actions. We should not forget that many people don’t use the Internet, don’t use Facebook and Twitter as a source of information and we need to reach these people too. So, these media tools should be used in addition to other traditional means of communication

Aljamal: Why do you believe that one-state solution is the best one to the conflict?

Arraf: I actually do not advocate the one-state solution. This doesn’t mean that I support the two-state solution either. Rather, I take a “rights-based approach.” This means that I focus on the rights that we’re struggling to achieve and don’t spend time arguing about one state or two. In reality, I don’t care if it’s 10 states or no states, as long as the rights of Palestinians and all people are respected and implemented. This includes the right of our refugees to return and to compensation for their losses, the right to complete equality under the law, and other rights currently denied to Palestinians. As a political solution, one state would likely achieve this best. However, if two states were proposed that included the right of all refugees to return to their homes (even if not the exact homes they lived in) inside 48 Palestine, and guaranteed equality for all people, meaning that Israel would NOT be defined as a Jewish state, but a state that represented all her people equally, then that could also work. Since the two-state solution that has been and is currently talked about does not guarantee the above, in principle, I am opposed to it. But, instead of spending time arguing that one state is better, I choose to focus on the rights that we’re fighting for. This is my personal approach. I don’t argue that it’s the best approach, but I do feel that it focuses us on principles and rights, which are hard to argue with. For example, a Zionist argument against the one-state solution is that it seeks to wipe out Israel. Whereas it’s hard for a Zionist to say that they can’t agree to total equality of citizens within the state. I would say to a Zionist “no, I don’t want to wipe out Israel, but I want to be treated equally inside Israel.” This means that Israel cannot define itself as a Jewish state, because then it would need to maintain a Jewish majority. This means that it would need to take steps to ensure that Jews remain a majority, including preventing Palestinian families from reuniting, continuing to recruit Jews to bring to Israel while keeping Palestinians out, perhaps some day restricting the number of children Palestinians inside Israel can have!”

CPDS is a Gaza based non-profit organization facilitating Palestinians representing themselves “in the tongues of its own people”, to convey their own message to the world and enhance Palestine’s presence in world forums and international organizations.


Originally appeared AT


Without fanfare or publicity, a solidarity group from South Africa arrived in Gaza Thursday night. They brought 10 trucks of much needed medical and humanitarian supplies with them….
South Africa activists visit Gaza
GAZA CITY  — A solidarity group from South Africa arrived in Gaza Thursday evening, for a four-day visit they have called “Freedom for detainees.”

The 36 activists will meet with figures who work on the issue of Palestinian detainees in Israeli jail, a Ma’an correspondent said.

The group brought 10 trucks of medical and humanitarian supplies, entering through the southern Rafah crossing between the Gaza Strip and Egypt.

Reported AT


The Mystery (اللغز)


The song is performed by the newly created GYBO rap team and it’s dedicated to all the freedom fighters world wide, to all those who raised the palestinian flag to face zionism and specially to the passengers of the flotilla1, flotila2, flytilla, viva palestina convoys, road to hope convoy, Africa to Gaza, Asia to gaza and to our friends in the vik2gaza convoy.


From Uruknet



Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists on land and sea, armed with humanity and hope, will continue to break sieges of lands and minds. With conviction and the audacity to dream, we’ll reclaim justice for Palestine with fire and spark in our hearts and eyes filled with hope.

The most powerful weapon is our humanity

Dina Elmuti *

The “Welcome to Palestine” fly-in campaign is the latest example of Palestinians and their supporters confronting oppression. (Oren Ziv/ ActiveStills)


When I left Palestine a few weeks ago, I left behind more than the place I had come to call home, its generous people I had come to call family, and all the warm, exotic sights, smells, tastes and sounds of a world that revived my spirit, conscience, passion and will to live.

I left my heart behind. Driving away toward Tel Aviv, the Palestine I know and love began to fade into the background, as I quickly made one last mental map of the geography of occupation around me, evident in the carefully-plotted demarcations separating “us” from “them.” A world compartmentalized; the settlements, gates, trenches, and watchtowers confine my heart, leaving a caustic pang in my gut as I continued driving on my way through modern-day apartheid.

After passing an extensive security inspection at the checkpoint a mile outside of Ben Gurion Airport’s main terminal, my family and I were permitted entry into the airport where we stood in line, along with all the other Muslims, Arabs, and people of color, waiting and watching our baggage unpacked and inspected for the second time around, continuing to answer the same questions for the tenth time from the tenth person.

Watching every last thing unpacked and inspected with a chemical sniffing device, I realized that Palestinians are not the only ones strangled and imprisoned by this system of oppression and constant fear of existential threats. Israelis are too. Behind barbed wire and power-operated gates controlled by guard towers and security cameras, their lives have been reduced to the state of animals trapped behind metal cages in the zoos they’ve built themselves on the bloodshed and demolition of others.

A life consumed by fear, intimidation, and oppressive censorship not only dehumanizes the oppressed but the oppressor as well. As I watched the guards meticulously leaf through and swab the pages of my books for bomb residues or any other suspicious evidence, I pitied the ethnocentric hysteria and racial profiling creating Israel’s most dangerous threat and worst enemy: itself.

In recent days, hundreds of activists from all around the world flew in to Ben Gurion Airport. Dozens have been deported and dozens more are in detention for nothing more than accepting an invitation from Palestinians to visit them in the West Bank in a peaceful challenge to Israel’s apartheid.

They have refused to be bullied into omitting where they’ll be going or who they’ll be seeing. They won’t play the “tourist card” or hide their affiliation with a noble cause in exchange for a stamped visa by an oppressive state.

Standing on the side of justice is never something to fear, and to ultimately be liberated from our oppression, we must first have the courage to liberate ourselves from the inferiority complex that has debilitated us too long. And when we do, the look on the oppressor’s face will no longer strike fear into our hearts or nail us to the spot. Their voices will no longer petrify us, and we will no longer be uneasy in their presence or be made to feel guilty for crimes we did not commit.

If defending the lives of children, traumatized by being shot at while flying kites, by having to witness their families massacred right before their eyes, and by having their childhoods stolen before ever beginning for the crime of being born Palestinian, makes us criminals and terrorists, then so be it.

When the arrogance and mania of an occupier drive it to controlling the fate of innocent civilians suffering from renal failure, cancers, and diseases eating away at any semblance of the lives they’ve had to live under occupation by depriving them of necessary and proper medical treatment, then it becomes quite clear who exemplifies terrorism.

And when the life of one Israeli soldier held prisoner in Gaza continues to be deemed more valuable than the lives of 1.6 million people, half of whom are children, robbed of the basic necessities and freedoms we take for granted every day, then what we really should fear is the fear that has too often caused us to be silent or submissive in the presence of such oppression.

From those who continue to strengthen and expand the movement to free Gaza from an illegal, sociopathic siege; those partaking in popular resistance in the West Bank, to those who’ve been detained and criminalized for giving a voice to the voiceless, pro-Palestinian solidarity activists worldwide are no longer afraid of a state that is well on its way to global pariah status.

So whether or not a flotilla is ever granted permission to sail to Gaza by weak, opportunistic states, whether or not activists are denied entry by insecure bullies, and whether or not the hearts of corrupt leaders and sycophants at the UN, in Ramallah, Washington or Tel Aviv ever bleed for the injustice caused to the Palestinian people, the struggle has already succeeded in creating ripples that cannot be stopped as they grow into waves.

We’ll continue to circumvent media blockades, counter colonialism’s constant pursuit to distort and disparage through hasbara (propaganda).

True fighters needn’t impose suffering and misery on others through diabolical weaponry or fabricate the truth to maintain a sense of false security. They’re not driven by an obsessive need to maintain a sense of victimhood to victimize others, nor do they need to perpetuate paranoid fabrications to create external enemies out of anyone showing the least bit of dissent or resistance — like flotillas carrying letters and eighty-seven year-old Holocaust survivors.

They fight with the most basic and powerful of weapons, and that’s humanity. Palestinians and devoted activists have broken far more than an illegal blockade; they’ve broken through and exposed decades of propaganda and disfigured reality that allowed the world to stand by while people are persecuted and maimed. And millions of people all over the world have come to identify with the Palestinian struggle as a symbol for the struggle for freedom everywhere.

With every punitive, illegal measure it takes, Israel succeeds in exposing its rabid practices to the world, strengthening exactly what it set out to destroy and suppress in the first place — our resistance and will. And if for a second, any doubters think the Palestinian people, who have endured almost every type of inconceivable crime against humanity for 63 years now, are just going to concede, roll over and die, they have another thing coming.

Palestinians and Palestine solidarity activists on land and sea, armed with humanity and hope, will continue to break sieges of lands and minds. With conviction and the audacity to dream, we’ll reclaim justice for Palestine with fire and spark in our hearts and eyes filled with hope.

Come hell or high water, we’ll never lose sight and never give in. Our time of standing on the sidelines waiting for hegemonic states and cowardly puppet organizations to come and rescue us has ended.  We won’t wait around to ask permission to take back our self-determination and inalienable right to live with dignity. That ship has sailed, and it will arrive on the other shore.

*Dina Elmuti is a graduate student in social work in Illinois concentrating on relief and social services, human rights and health/mental health social work.

Written FOR


A scuba diver who examines the ship on a daily basis discovered Monday that the ship’s propeller shaft, which connects the transmission inside the vessel directly to the propeller, was cut off.
Irish Boat to Gaza ‘Copyleft’ by Carlos Latuff

Gaza flotilla activists: One of our ships was sabotaged

Israeli activist says his ship, which is docked in Greece’s Piraeus port, was found with its propeller shaft broken which he believes was a deliberate attempt at sabotage.

By Amira Hass

One of the ships due to participate in the Gaza flotilla was deliberately tampered with while it was docked in Greece’s Piraeus port, Gaza flotilla activists told Haaretz on Monday.

The ship, due to carry Greek, Norwegian, and Swedish passengers to Gaza, was found  with its propeller shaft broken, the ship’s spokesman Israeli activist Dror Feiler told Haaretz.

A scuba diver who examines the ship on a daily basis discovered Monday that the ship’s propeller shaft, which connects the transmission inside the vessel directly to the propeller, was cut off.

According to Feiler, there is no doubt that the action was a deliberate attempt at sabotage, which he believed also violated Greece’s sovereignty.

Even though the problem can be fixed, it is still unclear how long it would take, especially with Greece’s recently declared general strike on Tuesday and Wednesday.

This action adds to a series of delays that have kept the Gaza flotilla from sailing, including Greece’s determination to carry out additional non-routine examinations on several of the ships.

Earlier Monday, organizers of the Gaza flotilla accused Israel of pressuring Greece to halt the ships’ departure.

American activist Ann Wright told a news conference that Israel is mounting a “tremendous diplomatic offensive” to prevent the flotilla from setting sail.

Organizers urged the Greek government in a statement not to “become complicit in Israel’s illegal actions by succumbing to this pressure.”

Written FOR


Protesters urge Israel to lift Gaza blockade

Israel vows to stop international activists from breaking the siege on the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s security cabinet has voted to prevent an international flotilla from reaching Gaza, by any means possible.

The group of boats is due to leave Greece in a few days. Ehud Barak, the Israeli defence minister, says any resulting confrontation will be the responsibility of the organisers.

The Freedom Flotilla II is part of the “Free Gaza movement” – a coalition of human rights groups which sends ships to break Israel’s strict naval blockade of the Gaza Strip. In 2008 it successfully entered Gaza five times.

However, the movement has been intercepted on the past four voyages – including the lethal attack by Israeli forces on the Freedom Flotilla last year on May 31.

Nine people, mostly Turkish activists, were killed and many more injured.

Al Jazeera’s Barnaby Philips reports from the Greek capital, Athens.


One Small Victory as Israel steps back a bit….

Netanyahu rescinds decision to sanction journalists on board Gaza flotilla

PM changes tack: Israel won’t deport, bar foreign journalists aboard Gaza-bound vessels.

After a day in which every single news media outlet in the world seemed to weigh in, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu yesterday rescinded a Government Press Office decision to sanction any foreign journalist who participates in the Gaza Strip flotilla.

GPO director Oren Helman had announced on Sunday that any foreign journalist on the flotilla would be treated as an illegal infiltrator, meaning they would be deported and then barred from entering Israel for 10 years. But yesterday Netanyahu’s bureau issued a press release rescinding that decision.

“When the matter was brought to his attention, the prime minister directed that the regular policy against infiltrators and those who enter Israel illegally not be implemented,” the terse statement said. “It has also been agreed that members of the Israeli and international media will be attached to Israel Navy vessels in order to create transparency and credible coverage of the events.”

The Foreign Press Association, which had condemned Sunday’s decision for sending “a chilling message to the international media” that “raises serious questions about Israel’s commitment to freedom of the press,” welcomed yesterday’s reversal.

“We are pleased to see that Israel has recognized the value of allowing reporters to cover an important news event, and understands that journalists should be treated differently from political activists,” it said in a statement.

Sebastian Engelbrecht, a senior journalist from the German television network ARD, said that last year’s flotilla, in which nine people were killed, was the most widely covered news event in Germany; hence the media interest in this year’s sailing. Netanyahu, he added, did well to reverse course, as the attempt to bar journalists from covering the flotilla was “a provocation” unbefitting a democracy.

Last year’s flotilla, Engelbrecht continued, was “a terrible anti-Israel provocation,” and Israel should give thought to the mistakes it made in dealing with it. “A free press is a sign that Israel isn’t afraid and isn’t hiding anything,” he said.

Helman declined to comment yesterday.





INTERVIEW: Ray McGovern US Ship, Gerry MacLochlainn Irish Ship, and IDF Colonel Avital Liebovitz

Lia Tarachansky from RealNews interviews Israeli Defence Force Lieutenant Colonel Avital Liebovitz, Ray McGovern, a retired CIA officer on board the US boat to Gaza the “Audacity of Hope” and Gerry MacLochlainn, an Irish politician, on board the Irish boat the MV Saoirse.

Flotilla members spoke about the pressure the US and Israeli government put on Mediterranean countries to stop the Flotilla from sailing. Lieutenant Colonel Avital Liebovitz states that the IDF will avoid “personal contact” with passengers on the Flotilla.


Passengers on the Irish Ship to Gaza add their voices as well….


Irish Ship to Gaza passengers John Mallon, Phil McCullough and Charlie McMenamin send messages from on board the MV Saoirse:

Message from Belfast Friends of Palestine committee member John Mallon:

Well folks hope you are all good, everythıng ıs goıng well over here we are wıth the rest of our friends and comrades onboard the MV Saoirse. The Irısh flag ıs flyıng ın the wınd on your shıp which was paid for by the people of Ireland North and South. Please come out and support our comrades ın Derry and Belfast on Tuesday and Wednesday and above all else, STAY HUMAN :)





The passengers on board the MV Saoirse are asking for your support back home. Please, take ONE minute out of your day and ring the office of Eamon Gilmore, Tánaiste and Foreign Minister, to protest against the Israelis stopping our people from sailing. Tell him loud and clear to deliver a message to the Israelis to “LET THEM SAIL”

Eamon Gilmore’s office
+353 1 618 4037

All of the above via Derry Friends of Palestine



Israel has been open about its intentions to stop the flotilla using any means possible — including diplomatic avenues, lawsuits, and a media smear campaign. …. INCLUDING LIES
Complaint against US boat threatens Gaza voyage
By Mya Guarnieri
ATHENS, Greece  Organizers of the second Freedom Flotilla say that an administrative complaint has been filed against the US Boat to Gaza, claiming that the vessel is not seaworthy.
This could delay or altogether prevent the “Audacity of Hope” from leaving Athens.

The harbor master received notification of the complaint Thursday afternoon, two days after a group of suspicious persons showed up at the ship and began asking questions of the crew members, at one point offering money for the members to leave the ship unattended.

The complainant is unknown and a Greek lawyer representing the flotilla is working to obtain more details.

Israel has been open about its intentions to stop the flotilla using any means possible — including diplomatic avenues, lawsuits, and a media smear campaign.

Also Thursday, Greek port authorities made the unusual move of advising ship captains to steer clear of the coordinates that correspond with Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza.

The advisory included the warning, “Continuous electronic surveillance of the region of East Mediterranean will also take place in order to record, wherever possible, the movements of ships that will possibly participate in such an action.”

Both moves came in the wake of a US Department of State travel warning, issued Wednesday, which appeared designed to dissuade American activists from challenging Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip.

“U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to Gaza by any means, including via sea,” the travel warning reads. “Previous attempts to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and deportation by the Government of Israel.”

Speaking to reporters Thursday, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton remarked that the American leaders do not consider the flotilla “a necessary or useful effort to try to assist the people of Gaza.”

She added that the flotilla creates “a situation in which the Israelis have the right to defend themselves.”

The one-two punch of the US government’s attempts to distance itself from its citizens, and the administrative complaint filed against the US Boat to Gaza, spurred American participants to pay a visit to their embassy in Athens on Thursday afternoon.

As the group made their way through the city to the metro, Medea Benjamin — the Jewish-American co-founder of the anti-war group Code Pink — discussed the change of events with Ma’an.

“The statements that have come out of the State Department and Hillary Clinton’s statement have been atrocious because it assumes that Israel has the right to attack unarmed civilians who are on a humanitarian mission and that US has no control over Israel.”

Benjamin, a petite blonde with large brown eyes said the US had “no influence over this country that is our ‘best’ ally and that [America gives] $3 billion a year to? In addition to that that Israel says it has a right to protect itself from us? From us? I mean we’re taking letters, for God’s sake. And look at us — we are no threat to Israel’s security.”

More than half of the activists on the Audacity of Hope are women. Nearly 30 percent of the group is Jewish. Many of the participants are middle-aged or elderly. And the only cargo on the US Boat to Gaza is letters of support written to the Palestinian people.

“We are traveling on a mission that is seen in the eyes of most of the world as something that is worthy of the legacy of Martin Luther King,” Benjamin commented. “We are the freedom riders of this era.”

She called on the US government to put the safe passage of American citizens over the perceived interests of Israel, adding that it is Israeli policies that endanger Israel’s security.

Once inside the US embassy, the 36 American citizens sat in plastic chairs in a large waiting area of the visa section. It was off-hours and the clerks’ windows were empty.

One by one, participants gave their name, hometown, and asked the two US officials standing before them for their unequivocal support.

When an activist remarked that she didn’t expect the US government to help, an embassy official laughed and responded, “That’s a good expectation.”

Alice Walker, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and poet, commented, “I grew up in the South under segregation, under the state terrorism of apartheid. When I was in the West Bank and Gaza recently, it was like stepping back into that.”

Walker added that she didn’t want Palestinian children “to grow up feeling inferior.”

“Humanity cannot bear this,” she said, adding that Israel’s policies are harmful to the Jewish people and that she viewed the attempt to break the blockade as a move that benefits both the Israelis and Palestinians.

Speaking to US officials, Hedy Epstein, an 86-year-old Holocaust survivor, remarked, “I want to talk to you on a compassionate level. I’m Jewish, I was born in Germany, I left when I was 14 years old. My parents perished in the Holocaust.”

The Gaza Strip under Israeli blockade, Epstein continued, “is the largest open air prison in the world.” She mentioned the students who are unable to reach their universities and the residents who can’t get adequate medical care.

“Israel says it’s out of Gaza but it controls the air, land, and sea,” Epstein said. “And what are we bringing? Letters. So let us go.”

Reporting in HaAretz, Gaza bound Amira Hass reports the following today;
In preparations for Gaza Flotilla, passengers briefed how to face Israeli soldiers
Based on the experience of previous Gaza-bound boats, with the exception of the Mavi Marmara, the lecturer presents the options. “On deck you will be exposed to a few minutes of physical violence from the soldiers that will feel like a few hours,” he says.
Read the article HERE
Joseph Dana has a report today on +972;

Israel warns journalists against covering the Flotilla


Journalists from CBS, CNN, The New York Times, Democracy Now and The Nation (I am on assignment for the Nation) will be on board the US boat to Gaza, set to sail later this week from Greece. Previously, Israel warned activists on board the boat that they will be subject to a ten year ban from the State of Israel if the boats are intercepted by the state of Israel.

In a bold statement, the government of Israel has now extended the same warning to the press wishing to cover the flotilla. It has also stated that equipment will be impounded and additional fines could be levied against any journalists on board. Israel has said that it will ‘embed’ members of the press on Israeli navy ships sent to intercept the boats.  Army commandos are also being equipped with advanced recording devices to film any raids that take place aboard the flotilla ships. Israel has not released any footage collected by activists– it has confiscated all footage and has subsequently ‘lost’ all of the footage collected– on last year’s flotilla.


Read the rest HERE


Joseph speaks to Al Jazeera about the mission below …


« Older entries