Al Jazeera reports on Israel’s madness against Gaza flotilla

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Here’s how Israel sees civilians on unarmed boats

Here’s the initial Zionist spin of the Gaza flotilla (thank you Jerusalem Post):

IDF Navy commandos encountered fierce resistance early Monday morning as they boarded international aid ships on the way to Gaza to break the Israeli blockade of the Strip.

According to defense officials, upon boarding the ships the commandos were attacked by activists with rocks, knives and metal pipes.

The soldiers responded with crowd dispersion measures.

At one point activists succeeded in stealing the weapon of one of the soldiers, leading to an escalation in violence.

More news here, here and here.

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Live Turkish TV re Gaza flotilla

Watch live streaming video from insaniyardim at livestream.com
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Murder on the high seas

And it gets worse:

Israel Navy troops opened fire on pro-Palestinian activists aboard a six-ship aid flotilla sailing for the Gaza Strip, killing at least 10 and wounding several others after the convoy ignored orders to turn back, Turkey’s NTV reported early Monday.

NTV said between 10 and 15 people were killed, with over 6o wounded.

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Cause and effect in the Middle East

While Israel stands accused of actions like these:

An international children’s rights charity has said it has evidence that Palestinian children held in Israeli custody have been subjected to sexual abuse in an effort to extract confessions from them.

The Geneva-based Defence for Children International (DCI) has collected 100 sworn affadavits from Palestinian children who said they were mistreated by their Israeli captors.

Fourteen of the statements say they were sexually abused or threatened with sexual assault to pressure them into confessions.

Al Jazeera’s correspondent in the West Bank, Nour Odeh, met one of the children, identified only as “N”, who said he suffered sexual abuse at the hands of his interrogators.

Actions such as these will become more common, and rightly so:

The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) expresses its profound appreciation for the courageous positions in support of Palestinian rights taken by the membership of the University and College Union (UCU) at its Congress today in Manchester.  The UCU has again firmly and decisively established its unwavering commitment to the Palestinian civil society’s campaign for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against Israel until it complies with its obligations under international law and recognizes the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Making history in the international trade union movement in the West, UCU’s Congress also voted with an overwhelming majority to “sever all relations with Histadrut, and to urge other trade unions and bodies to do likewise.”  The UCU has today confirmed its established position that it is legitimate to denounce Israel’s oppressive policies and to hold the state and its complicit institutions accountable for human rights abuses, war crimes and ethnic cleansing.

The Histadrut’s long standing partnership in the Israeli state’s colonization, ethnic cleansing and racial discrimination against the Palestinian people, particularly its statement on January 13th, 2009 supporting Israel’s war crimes in the occupied and besieged Gaza strip, has been condemned by a number of trade unions, including the British Communications Workers Union (CWU) [1] and others in Belgium, Spain, France, Norway and around the world.  The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) has recently decided to review its relations with the Histadrut with a view to severing them.

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Obama knows that Hamas must be engaged and yet and yet…

Engage Hamas today or face guaranteed Middle East “peace” failure:

The United States is sending a succession of envoys to engage with Hamas but lacks the bravery to talk to the Islamist movement openly, its leader, Khaled Meshal, said in an interview with the Guardian.

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The how and why of boycotting a nation like Israel

The Guardian music blog publishes an interesting discussion about the rights, wrongs and issues over musical boycotts (South Africa, Israel etc):

Last week, Elvis Costello became the latest, though probably not the last, musician to pull out of a concert in Israel under pressure from various groups calling for a cultural boycott of the country over its mistreatment of Palestinians. Before him it was Gil Scott-Heron, whose recent London show was disrupted by protesters, and Carlos Santana. But Israel has by no means been struck off the international gig circuit: forthcoming attractions include Elton John, Mark Knopfler, Placebo, and Costello’s wife, Diana Krall. This is largely because there is no official cultural boycott of Israel equivalent to that imposed on South Africa during apartheid. Despite the rhetoric of the pro-boycott lobby, which talks of Israel’s “colonial apartheid”, it remains a matter of individual choice.

A successful boycott requires general consensus on two principles: one, that the cause is just, and two, that a boycott is an effective political tool. In the case of Israel, neither agreement yet exists. Talking to the Jerusalem Post before his U-turn, Costello argued: “The people who call for a boycott of Israel own the narrow view that performing there must be about profit and endorsing the hawkish policy of the government. It’s like never appearing in the US because you didn’t like Bush’s policies or boycotting England because of Margaret Thatcher.”

Costello could not be described as a Zionist hawk, and nor could Gil Scott-Heron. Leonard Cohen attempted to forge a compromise last year, when he donated proceeds from his Tel Aviv show to the Leonard Cohen Fund for Reconciliation, Tolerance and Peace, which helps bereaved Israeli and Palestinian families, and scheduled a concert in Ramallah. But the Palestinian authorities nixed the Ramallah show, calling it a phony gesture towards “balance”. Some pro-Palestinian campaigners applauded the cancellation; others regretted the “missed opportunity” to raise awareness.

We are not dealing here with either pro-settlement cheerleading or ignorant greed. These artists decry aspects of Israeli policy without wanting to shun the entire country. As Costello explained on his website: “I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government.” I have traveled to Israel to interview both Jewish and Arabic musicians, and met the kind of liberal Jewish Israelis, such as the rapper Sagol 59, that Costello is talking about. A formal boycott would punish hawk and dove alike. What about another group I met, the Arabic hip-hop trio DAM, who rage against government policy from their home in the Israeli town of Lod? A full, South Africa-style boycott would ban them from playing abroad too.

Boycotts are always blunt tools. South African apartheid remains the most potent example of a successful boycott, but even that was not without complications. Take the example of Paul Simon’s Graceland. A few years after the UN’s 1980 resolution establishing a cultural boycott, Simon traveled to South Africa to record with black musicians. He obeyed the letter of the UN boycott, which governed live performances but not recording sessions, and, he believed, the spirit because he was bringing money and publicity to black musicians, and presenting a more positive image of South African culture to the world.

But he was careless about the politics and refused to seek the ANC’s approval, thus triggering a bitter war of words with anti-apartheid campaigners. Lined up against him were Jerry Dammers (writer of the classic song Nelson Mandela), Billy Bragg and Dali Tambo, son of ANC leader Oliver Tambo. But he was supported by South African exiles, and tireless campaigners, Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela. Graceland was enormously popular among black South Africans and Masekela resented the stringent boycott: “Agencies overseas don’t feel that they have to consult with South Africans while they’re helping them. Like the cultural boycott – nobody approached us, nobody asked us!”

Simon handled the affair badly — “if he had come to us first and discussed this, none of this shit would have happened”, said Dali Tambo — but it exposed the cracks and ambiguities in the boycott. Anyone attending the Graceland revue at the Royal Albert Hall in 1987 experienced the bizarre sensation of passing noisy picket lines (which included the writer of “Nelson Mandela”) in order to hear Hugh Masekela perform the pro-Mandela Bring Him Back Home. The songs had the same message, but the musicians who wrote them were, at least temporarily, on opposing sides.

Last year, Jerry Dammers explained his hardline stance to me: “No matter how much you love South African music, the people who make that music are going to be better off when apartheid is abolished, so the message is solidarity.” But solidarity has its victims. At the same time as the Gracelands furore, the UK Musicians Union, which had maintained a boycott against South Africa since the 1960s, endeavoured to block UK shows by the Malapoets, a group of black Sowetans, and the multiracial Savuka, whose own anti-apartheid record, Asimbonaga, had in fact been banned at home. Once again, people with the same politics were forced to be at each other’s throats.

You might believe that the current Israeli regime is as brutal and unreasonable as Botha’s South Africa, and merits similarly extreme measures. And you might argue that the only way for any performer to protest Israeli policies is to avoid the country completely. But a boycott is a sledgehammer, not a scalpel, and it does not divide people neatly into right and wrong. There will be casualties.

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Israel opens fire on Gaza flotilla

If true, this is going to get much uglier:

Israeli forces have attacked a flotilla of aid-carrying ships aiming to break the country’s siege on Gaza, according to a Turkish aid agency being quoted by Turkish media.

At least two people were killed and more than 30 people injured, the report said early on Monday.

Footage from the flotilla’s lead vessel, the Mavi Marmara, appeared to show armed Israeli soldiers boarding the ship and helicopters flying overhead.

Earlier, the Israeli navy had contacted the captain of the Mavi Marmara, asking him to identify himself and say where the ship was headed.

Shortly after, two Israeli naval vessels had flanked the flotilla on either side, but at a distance.

Organisers of the attempted siege break, dubbed the Freedom Flotilla, then diverted their ships and slowed down to avoid a confrontation during the night.

They also issued all passengers life jackets and asked them to remain below deck.

Other latest news here.

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Battle of Big Thinking presentation on the Middle East

Back in March I spoke at Sydney’s Battle of Big Thinking about “Israel/Palestine reframed through the blogosphere”. My talk is now online:

Antony Loewenstein – Israel/Palestine reframed through the blogosphere from APG Australia on Vimeo.

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Deutsche Bank takes a stand over Israeli apartheid

What happens when Israel believes it can simply continue occupying Palestinian land. And note the welcome bravery of a German company who can reasonably expect a massive guilt trip over the Holocaust:

Following pressure from critics, Germany’s largest bank has divested from the Israeli firm that supplies technology for the West Bank security fence.

Deutsche Bank CEO Josef Ackermann announced at Thursday’s shareholder meeting in Frankfurt that the firm had sold all its shares in Elbit Systems, a major Israeli defense company. The company declined to cite a reason for divesting from Elbit, whose stock value has fallen some 30 percent this year.

But two groups critical of the West Bank security fence that had called on Deutsche Bank to divest from Elbit — International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War and Pax Christi, a Catholic nongovernmental organization that describes itself as a human rights and peace movement – issued a joint statement Friday calling their divestiture campaign “a major success.”

Israeli security officials say the fence, which separates Palestinians from Israelis and juts into West Bank territory, has significantly reduced the number of successful terror attacks since fence construction began in 2002. Palestinians say the fence constitutes a land grab by Israel in the West Bank.

Several years ago, the International Court in The Hague issued a nonbinding ruling saying the security fence violated international law. Over the years, Israel’s Supreme Court has ordered the route altered in some places.

Pax Christi and the international physicians’ group said Deutsche Bank should “not to profit any longer from the violation of human rights and international law through the construction of the Israeli wall on Palestinian lands.”

As of March 31, according to those groups, the bank still had more than 50,000 shares in Elbit, making it one of the Israeli company’s largest shareholders.

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Gaza Flotilla sails into a positive outcome

As the Israeli army approaches the Gaza Flotilla – great images, team, unarmed civilians versus Zionist soldiers in camo – it’s once again pitiful to see the ways in which Israel supporters are all about PR and spin (there’s no crisis in Gaza etc) rather than realising that this is a battle they will never win.

We’re now seeing protests about the flotilla in New York (against the Zionist supporting Max Brenner chocolate company).

Simply put, the world now knows far more about the reality in Gaza than before and about the brutish behaviour of the Israeli navy.

Here’s the livestream from the flotilla.

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Murdoch really does care about deaths in Gitmo

Who says Fox News never has a serious discussion about American torture?

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