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Irish Gaza activists to return home

An image released by the Israel Defence Forces shows Israeli soldiers boarding the Irish vessel the MV 'Saoirse', which was carrying activists towards Gaza.An image released by the Israel Defence Forces shows Israeli soldiers boarding the Irish vessel the MV ‘Saoirse’, which was carrying activists towards Gaza.

IRISH TIMES REPORTERS

The remaining nine Irish citizens detained after they tried to breach Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza over a week ago are due to return to Ireland today.

Five of the 14 flew into Dublin airport late yesterday after earlier failing to make a British Airways flight they were scheduled to travel on.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Eamon Gilmore said today he had some concerns around aspects of the activists’ detention and said he would follow this up with the Israeli authorities once all 14 had returned to Ireland.

The Irish embassy in Tel Aviv yesterday lodged two “firm protests” with the Israeli authorities over the treatment of Irish activists who missed two planned flights due to what the Israelis claimed were security procedures.

The Israeli embassy claimed the airline took a decision not to allow all seven on board. “The reasons for this decision are unknown to us, and must be sought from British Airways,” a statement from the embassy said.

A spokesman for British Airways, however, said the airline was due to carry only two deportees at the request of the Israeli authorities. He said those two arrived at the aircraft too late to make the flight.

Arrangements were then made for all seven to travel on a Lufthansa flight later yesterday afternoon.

Irish diplomats present at the airport, including Ambassador Breifne O’Reilly, made repeated requests to be allowed accompany the activists to the aircraft but these were declined by the Israeli authorities.

In the end, all but two of the seven activists, campaign co-ordinator Fintan Lane and university lecturer Zoe Lawlor, were allowed board the Lufthansa aircraft.

The Israeli embassy refused to provide an explanation for why Mr Lane and Ms Lawlor were prevented from boarding the flight, saying it could not refer to “the events which took place at Ben Gurion airport this afternoon because it has to do with security matters.”

It also blamed the activists for their predicament.

“Since the whole \[flotilla] episode was a mere provocation, then it is obviously in the interest of the participants – and certainly not in the interest of Israel – to prolong it as much as they can,” the embassy said in a statement.

“We can only express our earnest hope that these people leave Israeli soil as quickly as possible.” The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign branded what transpired at the airport “bizarre and cruel” and Irish diplomats privately expressed frustration.

Mr Lane and Ms Lawlor eventually succeeded in boarding a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul yesterday evening and are expected home today.

The remaining seven activists, including Socialist MEP Paul Murphy flew out of Israel on an El Al flight today.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kZbEawYPnkQ&feature=colike?]

Jailed for Sailing to Gaza, Challenging the Blockade

by Medea Benjamin and Robert Naiman

Two boats full of courageous passengers were on their way to Gaza when they were intercepted on Friday, November 4, by the Israeli military in international waters. We call the passengers courageous because they sailed from Turkey on November 2 with the knowledge that at any moment they might be boarded by Israeli commandos intent on stopping them—perhaps violently, as the Israeli military did in 2010 when they killed nine humanitarian aid workers on the Turkish boat named Mavi Marmara.

The boats—one from Canada and one from Ireland—were carrying 27 passengers, including press and peace activists from Ireland, Canada, the United States, Australia and Palestine. They were unarmed, and the Israeli military knew that. They were simply peace activists wanting to connect with civilians in Gaza, and the Israeli military knew that. Yet naked aggression was used against them in international waters—something that is normally considered an act of piracy.

The passengers on the boats were sailing to Gaza to challenge the U.S. – supported Israeli blockade that is crippling the lives of 1.6 million Palestinian civilians in Gaza. They were sailing to stand up against unaccountable power—the power of the Israeli government—that has been violating the basic rights of the 5.5 million Palestinians that live inside Israel’s pre-1967 borders or in the Occupied Territories.  They were sailing for us, civil society, who believe in human rights and the rule of law.

The Arab Spring – which has now spread to cities across the United States in the form of the “#occupy” movement, and has been echoed in protests against economic injustice in Europe and Israel as well – has fundamentally been a challenge to unaccountable power. Some countries experiencing this protest wave are dictatorships under military rule or ruled by monarchies; others are generally considered “democracies.” But in all instances the majority feel that they have been shut out of decision-making and have been harmed by policies benefiting a narrow elite with disproportionate power.

The blockade of Gaza’s civilians is an extreme example of unaccountable power. Palestinians in Gaza aren’t allowed to vote for Israeli or American politicians. But due to political decisions taken in Israel and the United States, Palestinians in Gaza are prevented from exporting their goods, traveling freely, farming their land, fishing their waters or importing construction materials to build their homes and factories.

We have been to Gaza before, where we have seen the devastation firsthand.  We have also been to Israel and the West Bank, where we have seen how the Israeli government is detaining Palestinians at checkpoints, building walls that cut them off from their lands, demolishing their houses, arbitrarily imprisoning their relatives and imposing economic restrictions that prevent them from earning a living. We have seen how Palestinians, like people everywhere, are desperate to live normal and dignified lives.
A UN Report released in September found that “Israel’s oppressive policies [in Gaza] constitute a form of collective punishment of civilians”, that these policies violate both international humanitarian and human rights law, and that the illegal siege of Gaza should be lifted.  The International Committee of the Red Cross also called the blockade of Gaza a violation of international law because it constitutes “collective punishment” of a civilian population for actions for which the civilians are not responsible. The Red Cross is a neutral humanitarian organization. It doesn’t usually go around making pronouncements on matters of public policy. The fact that it has done so in this case should be a strong signal to the international community that the blockade of Gaza is extreme and must fall.

History has shown us again and again that when political leaders decide it’s in their interest, then peace, diplomacy, negotiations are possible. Recently, Israel and Hamas – with the help of the new Egyptian government – successfully negotiated a prisoner exchange that had eluded them for five years. In speeches, the Israeli government “opposes negotiations with Hamas,” and in speeches, Hamas “opposes negotiations with Israel.” But when they decided it was in their interest, they had no problem sitting down at the table and hammering out an agreement.

If Israel and Hamas can negotiate an agreement to release prisoners, then surely Israel and Hamas can negotiate an agreement to lift the blockade on Gaza’s civilians.

But the people of Gaza can’t wait for political leaders to decide it’s in their interest to negotiate, so it’s up to us—as civil society—to step up the pressure. That’s what these waves of boats are doing. That’s what the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement is doing.

More than a year ago, President Obama called the blockade unsustainable. “It seems to us that there should be ways of focusing narrowly on arms shipments, rather than focusing in a blanket way on stopping everything and then, in a piecemeal way, allowing things into Gaza,” he said. That hasn’t happened. Why not? Why shouldn’t it happen now? What does blocking Palestinian exports from Gaza to Europe or keeping people from getting medical treatment abroad have to do with arms shipments?
The Israeli military stopped these two small ships carrying peace activists to Gaza, but they won’t stop the Palestinians who are demanding freedom, and they won’t stop the solidarity movement. We won’t stop challenging the blockade on Gaza’s civilians—by land and by sea– until the blockade falls. And we won’t stop challenging the denial of Palestinian democratic aspirations until those aspirations are realized.

Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of CODEPINK and Global Exchange. Robert Naiman is the Director of Just Foreign Policy.

source

Tahrir is sailing to Gaza

As Turkey Freezes Israel Ties, Critics Decry “Whitewashed” U.N. Report on Gaza Flotilla, Blockade

click on image
Amy Goodman

Gaza flotilla ship held by Greek officials

what do we do next?

http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/07/01/israel.gaza.flotilla/

(CNN) — One of the ships in a Gaza-bound flotilla was stopped Friday by Greek authorities, who warned that other ships headed to the Palestinian territory would also be blocked.

“The Audacity of Hope” — an American vessel — was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard roughly 20 minutes outside the port of Perama, according to CNN reporter Phil Black, who is on the vessel.

Dimitris Delavekouras, a spokesman for the Greek Foreign Ministry, confirmed that the vessel had been detained. Greek authorities warned earlier this week that all ships heading to Gaza would be stopped.

The ten-ship flotilla, which has faced a series of bureaucratic and technical delays, is a commemoration of the one-year anniversary of a similar flotilla that resulted in a clash in international waters with Israeli navy commandos that killed nine people, including an American.

The flotilla is intended to challenge Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza strip.

On Thursday, a flotilla organizer claimed another vessel — the Irish ship Saoirse — was sabotaged while anchored in Turkey’s territorial waters.

The propeller of the Saoirse was damaged by what coordinator Fintan Lane said was plastic explosives.

“We believe that plastic explosives were used to blow and weaken the propel shaft, and this would have sunk the ship in open sea,” said Lane.

Lane said the damage was similar to what happened to another flotilla boat docked in Piraeus, outside of Athens.

He called on the Greek and Turkish authorities to investigate what he called an act of terror.

CNN could not independently verify the claim.

While Lane on Thursday did not outright blame Israel for the alleged sabotage, there have been a number of accusations by organizers about the government’s effort to block its flotilla.

A spokesman for Israel’s foreign minister said he was “not going to get inside accusations. They are vague. There is nothing behind them.”

“We have not concealed our case, our arguments, our diplomatic efforts. It’s all out in the open.”

The Israeli military Tuesday claimed flotilla participants had threatened to kill Israeli military personnel should their boats be boarded. They allege sacks of sulphuric acid were being stockpiled on boats to be used in attacks on Israeli commandos.

Flotilla organizer Medea Benjamin dismissed the allegations as ludicrous, saying: “They see this nonviolent, rag-tag group of ships as such a threat they’re using their entire propaganda apparatus, and their diplomatic and economic clout to try to stop 300 peace activists. It’s pathetic.”

In May 2010, the Mavi Marmara — owned by the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation, or IHH — and five other ships were on their way to Gaza with humanitarian aid and about 700 activists from various countries when the Israeli soldiers boarded it.

In clashes with Israeli navy commandos the nine people were killed.

An independent Israeli commission, led by retired judge Yaakov Turkel, later found that the Israeli commandos “acted professionally and in a measured manner in the face of unanticipated violence” when they seized the Gaza-bound aid ship.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters last Friday that she didn’t think the flotilla plan for this year “is useful or productive or helpful to the people of Gaza.”

“We have certainly encouraged that American citizens not participate in the flotilla,” she said, “and we are urging that all precautions be taken to avoid any kind of confrontation.”

Clinton’s comments followed an even harsher statement by State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland, in which she criticized what she called “irresponsible and provocative actions that risk the safety of their passengers.”

CNN’s Mitra Mobasherat and Alan Silverleib contributed to this report

SABOTAGE OF M.V. SAOIRSE IN TURKEY ‘AN ACT OF INTERNATIONAL TERRORISM’

IRISH SHIP TO GAZA CAMPAIGN

The Irish-owned ship, the MV Saoirse, that was meant to take part in Freedom Flotilla 2 has been sabotaged in a dangerous manner in the Turkish coastal town of Göcek, where it had been at berth for the past few weeks. Visual evidence of the undership sabotage, which was carried out by divers, will be presented today at a press conference in Dublin at 11am in Buswell’s Hotel. Photographs and video footage of the damage are available from the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign.
Concerns for the boat first emerged on Monday evening following a short trip near the Göcek marina and an inspection was carried out by divers and by skipper Shane Dillon on Tuesday morning. Evidence was found that the shaft of the starboard propeller has been interfered with and it was decided to take the boat out of the water for a further visual inspection. On Wednesday, the boat was put on land at a local shipyard and the extent of the sabotage was immediately visible.
The propeller shaft had been weakened by saboteurs who cut, gouged or filed a piece off the shaft. This had weakened the integrity of the shaft, causing it to bend badly when put in use. The damage was very similar to that caused to the Juliano, another flotilla ship, in Greece. The consequent damage would have happened gradually as the ship was sailing and would have culminated in a breach of the hull.
The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign believes that Israel has questions to answer and must be viewed as the chief suspect in this professional and very calculating act of sabotage.
Commenting on the attack from Göcek in Turkey, Dr Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, who own the vessel, said: “This is an appalling attack and should be condemned by all right-thinking people. It is an act of violence against Irish citizens and could have caused death and injury. If we had not spotted the damage as a result of a short trip in the bay, we would have gone to sea with a dangerously damaged propeller shaft and the boat would have sunk if the hull had been breached. Imagine the scene if this had happened at nighttime.”
“Israel is the only party likely to have carried out this reckless action and it is important that the Irish government and the executive in Northern Ireland insist that those who ordered this act of international terrorism be brought to justice. This was carried out in a Turkish town and shows no respect for Turkish sovereignty and international law.”
He continued: “One of the most shocking aspects is the delayed nature of the sabotage. It wasn’t designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth; instead, it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and this could have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act.”
Dr Lane, who was on board Challenger 1 in last year’s flotilla, said: “The Freedom Flotilla is a non-violent act of practical and humanitarian solidarity with the people of Gaza, yet Israel continues to use threats and violence to delay its sailing. They attacked us in international waters last year; now they are attacking us in Turkish and Greek ports. There is no line that Israel won’t cross.”
“We will not be intimidated by attacks like this – it simply highlights the aggression that the Palestinian people of Gaza have to put up with on a daily basis. It strengthens our determination to continue until this illegal and immoral blockade is lifted.”
Calling on the government and northern executive to demand safe passage for Freedom Flotilla 2, Dr Lane said: “The Irish government needs to publicly condemn this dangerous act of sabotage but it also should insist on the flotilla being allowed to make it to Gaza unhindered. Israel has no right to interdict the flotilla and even less right to carry out attacks against vessels in Greek and Turkish ports.”
“It is important that everybody make their voices heard in solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of the flotilla. The Israeli embassy should become a focal point for street demonstrations. These saboteurs came very close to killing Irish citizens.”
Also speaking from Göcek, the skipper of the MV Saoirse, Shane Dillon, said: “The damage sighted and inspected on the starboard propeller shaft on the MV Saoirse had the potential to cause loss of life to a large number of those aboard. The nature of the attack and malicious damage was such that under normal circumstances the vessel would most likely have sunk at sea. If the ship was operating at high engine revs, the damage done by the saboteurs would have caused the shaft to shear and the most likely outcome would be the rupturing of the hull and the vessel foundering. If, as was intended, the vessel had proceeded to Gaza at reduced revs, the stern tube would have been forced off line and a large and rapid ingress of water would have resulted, sinking the vessel.”
Mr Dillon continued: “The shaft was filmed and photographed when the vessel was lifted from the water on Wednesday afternoon in a shipyard in the Turkish coastal village of Göcek. A local marine engineer inspected the shaft and his opinion was that the interference was the work of professional saboteurs intent on disabling the Saoirse. However, the most shocking aspect of the attack was that its intention was to cause failure of the shaft when the vessel was offshore and this shows a total disregard for human life.”
He ended: “It is also worth noting that the damage inflicted on the Saoirse was identical to that that caused to the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano, which was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus a few days ago.”
Pat Fitzgerald, a Sinn Fein member of Waterford County Council and chief engineer on the Saoirse, commented: “We were very lucky to discover this act of sabotage when we did. We felt vibrations from the shaft as we were returning to the berth on Monday evening following a short trip in the bay for refuelling purposes. Close inspection by divers on Tuesday and then on land on Wednesday revealed a large man-made gouge on one side of the propeller shaft. The integrity of the shaft had been compromised and a very serious bend had developed. This could have caused fatalities had we set to sea and almost certainly would have sunk the boat when the engine revs were increased. It was an act of sheer lunacy and endangered the lives of all on board.”
The sabotage has been reported to the harbour master in Göcek and Irish Ship to Gaza are asking for a full investigation by the Turkish police.
The repairs have yet to be fully costed but could be more than E15,000 and they will take some time, meaning that the Saoirse cannot participate in Freedom Flotilla 2.
However, six of the 20 crew and passengers aboard the Saoirse will transfer to another ship in the flotilla. The six Irish who will join the Italian/Dutch ship are Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza and a member of the Free Gaza Movement; Trevor Hogan, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player; Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin; Zoe Lawlor of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Hussein Hamed, a Libyan-born Irish citizen; and Gerry MacLochlainn, a Sinn Fein member of Derry City Council.
The MV Saoirse will be repaired and used in future flotillas to Gaza if they are needed.
PRESS RELEASE ENDS
For further information:
IRELAND
Phone Claudia Saba at 086 3938821, or Laurence Davis at 086 3605053
TURKEY
Phone Fintan Lane (Göcek) at 087 1258325, or 537557811 (Turkish number)


Niamh Moloughney
Irish Free Gaza Movement Coordinator
085-7747257/091 472279
www.freegaza.org
www.irishshiptogaza.org

— 

Flotilla investigation ignores Israeli evidence tampering

The conclusion of the Turkel Commission that Israel acted within international law and in self-defence during a deadly raid on a Gaza-bound flotilla of aid ships last May ignores substantial proof that Israel fabricated or tampered with evidence, charges the European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG).

A study sponsored in October by the International Bureau of Humanitarian NGOs (IBH) and the Friends of Charities Association (FOCA) found “multiple instances of Israeli officials creating false evidence to implement and bolster the government’s version of events. The Israel government also went to great lengths to prevent survivors from discussing the attack or proving their version of the event” by confiscating their film, computers, etc.

“It seems clear that the Turkel Commission relied primarily on evidence supplied by Israel,” said Mazn Kahel, director of the ECESG. “Yet, the FOCA report documented numerous instances of falsification, including manufactured imagery. All traceable efforts to obscure the details of the attack originated from within Israel and its champions. How can the commission’s conclusions be anything but highly suspect?”

The ECESG insists that only an independent commission – not one led by a retired Israeli Supereme Court judge – that examines all evidence, including the testimonies of the flotilla passengers, can conduct a proper investigation of the Israel Defense Force attack May 31 on six ships in international waters. Nine people on board the Mavi Marmara flotilla ship were killed, and many others injured.

The ECESG will participate in a second large flotilla due to set sail for Gaza in the spring. “Israel’s actions in the past and its threats regarding the future won’t deter us,” said Mr. Kahel. “We will not stop until Israel’s siege of Gaza ends and the 1.5 million people regain their freedom.”

The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) is an umbrella group of 34 European human rights and humanitarian organisations that have come together to collectively pressure the international community and Israel to end the siege on Gaza’s civilian population.

 

source

Next Time on the High Seas: Netanyahu’s Options

 

Written by: Palestine Chronicle

 

By Richard Lightbown

On 26 December thousands turned out in Istanbul to welcome the Mavi Marmara back to the port. A large banner on the starboard side featured photos of the nine martyrs from the Israeli raid. The ship had spent more than four months in Iskenderun where forensic experts had checked out the bullet holes that Israeli operatives had filled and painted over. Blood stained clothing and heaps of ransacked baggage have been cleared away. No doubt the railings cut by activists for the makeshift defence of the ship have now been replaced, and perhaps the six kitchens have been restocked with knives and utensils to replace those taken to display to the world’s media as proof of a premeditated ‘lynch’ of Israel’s well-equipped and highly-trained elite special forces.

Already it has been announced that the ship is to leave on the first anniversary of the raid on 31 May 2011 in a renewed attempt to break the blockade. The need in Gaza remains acute.  The Palestinian Centre for Human Rights reported on 18 October that Israel maintains a total ban on raw materials and construction materials necessary for reconstruction. (It is still unclear whether the 3,500 tons of cement from the flotilla was ever allowed to reach Gaza.) On 9 July the same NGO had stated that 86,000 homes and 900,000 tons of concrete were needed to make good the damage from Operation Molten Lead and provide for population growth.

Gisha reported on 21 December that bureaucratic delays to permits for construction materials had thwarted international projects to build schools, hospitals and infrastructure, while projects administered by the Hamas government were using materials entering through the tunnels from the Egyptian border. In the five months between July and December 744 truckloads of cement, gravel and steel had entered the Strip via the Israeli crossings, compared with 900 tons (equivalent to 36 truckloads) which pass each day through the 30-40 tunnels intended for construction materials.

Despite Israel’s well publicised easing of the blockade the number of trucks allowed into Gaza in October was on average only 34% of pre-June 2007 levels. The Palestinian Trade Centre reported on 14 October that fuel imports were markedly below the estimated needs. Cooking gas was particularly affected since it cannot be piped through the tunnels from Egypt. Exports allowed out of Gaza between January and September this year amounted to a mere 80 truckloads, stifling any meaningful recovery of the economy.

The Turkish government has made no objection so far to the announcement from the humanitarian organization IHH to make a renewed challenge of the illegal Israeli blockade. And why should it? As Huwaida Arraf explained at the Free Gaza press conference in Rome on 13 December:

“The International Committee of the Red Cross has said that Israel’s closure of Gaza is a violation of international law. States have an obligation to end this violation of international law. Therefore states have an obligation not to stop us, to let us go to Gaza.”

‘Us’ in this case refers to organizations from the USA, Canada, Norway, Holland, UK, Italy, France, Spain, Ireland, Malaysia and Turkey. This is a far cry from two tiny vessels and 42 activists that began this snowball in 2008. Nothing it would seem is going to stop this movement from sailing for Gaza. But what will Israel do this time?

There will no doubt be diplomatic pressure. The Republic of Cyprus can be expected to again refuse access to the flotilla, and no doubt the U.S. administration will find some spurious reason to disapprove of the operation. Maybe the shambles that is the stalled peace process will be wheeled out once more as an excuse for disapproving of solidarity with the Palestinian’s claim for justice and human rights. We can expect at least three Nobel peace laureates to disgrace themselves and to side with injustice again.

The organizers will know to watch their vessels closely for sabotage. Both of the cabin cruisers suffered steering faults on the way to the rendezvous for the last flotilla and only managed to reach harbour with difficulty. One of them, the Challenger II, also had a problem with the bilge pump, and did not manage to set sail for Gaza. Sabotage to the Rachel Corrie’s propeller and exhaust also resulted in delays and repairs costing £37,000.

Mossad can also be expected to get at least one spy onto the flotilla this time. Advance information of the emergency channel on the Mavi Marmara would have been a major help to the IDF in its attempt to control media sources during the last raid. The Israeli government was seriously embarrassed by news headlines reporting 16 dead at 06:00 GMT on 31 May and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs will be keen to avoid a repeat of this negative PR. Both sides will have learnt lessons from their experiences last time and there will be a keen battle of wits to control information sources this time around. This time too major media outlets may even decide to come to the party since the story is becoming too big to bury. (For the sake of journalistic integrity it is to be hoped that the BBC will not chose to send Jane Corbin. However the presence of at least one BBC journalist on board may render it impossible for the corporation to fabricate another propaganda piece to match Panorama’s Death on the Med.)

The Free Gaza Movement is again declaring its intention to carry out non-violent resistance against any illegal assault. The IHH president, BülentYildirim, appears unrepentant for his previous statements, so a forceful defence of the Mavi Marmara will again be a possibility in the event of an Israeli attack. Israel will know this and will be evaluating the choices. These appear to be more limited this time. The diplomatic fallout with Turkey has still not cleared and the Turkish government remains steadfast in its demand for an apology from Israel. Legal actions are also underway in various European courts and in the International Court of Justice for compensation and criminal prosecution. The threat of legal action has already prevented Defence Minister Ehud Barak and deputy Prime Minister Dan Meridor from travelling to Europe since the raid. The subject of ‘de-legitimisation’ was mentioned several times by witnesses to the Turkel Commission, to the extent that maybe even Benjamin Netanyahu will be starting to see a connection between Israel’s criminal behaviour and the way its citizens are welcomed overseas: (maybe!).

Mr Netanyahu’s first choice is to let the flotilla pass, and by doing so open up a seaway to Gaza for importing desperately needed construction materials, open up the export market which will stimulate the economy, allow Gazans their human right to travel, and allow the free passage of world citizenry into the enclave to see first-hand Israeli snipers attacking Gazan farmers and gunboats attacking fishermen. In effect this will begin the de-occupation of Gaza. (And why does Israel insist on occupying Gaza?)

His second option is to attack, risk a major military stand-off with Turkey (to the great embarrassment of NATO) and prove to the world that the first attack was not an error of judgment. This will do wonders for the BDS movement and might even kick-start it in North America.

Alternatively can the commandos attack it this time without wholesale bloodletting? Clambering up the stern from Zodiacs seems an impossible task when faced with defenders wearing gas masks (from the ship’s fire-fighting equipment) and using fire hoses. This proven defence will be difficult to overcome without the use of extreme violence. Or will the navy chief be willing to authorise live fire from helicopters before boarding on a second occasion, knowing that this has already been declared an unlawful act contrary to the Fourth Geneva Convention by the UN Human Rights Council Fact-Finding Mission (and knowing that he can personally be held criminally responsible)? If not, what other options does he have available to seize the top deck against persons determined to exercise their legal right of defence (and who know what strategy was employed on the previous occasion)?

The compromise might be to try to disable the ships. This is widely seen as a high risk strategy. Chief of the General Staff Gabi Ashkenazy told Turkel that there were no safe options to boarding, and commentators have questioned the safety of disabling a ship on the high seas that is carrying more than 600 civilians. If a bungled attempt causes the ship to sink or founder with serious loss of life Israel could become a pariah state overnight and the UN might be forced to oversee the sea route into Gaza.

An unstoppable force seems to have been unleashed here. As on the Indian subcontinent, in southern Africa and in the American south, this movement for civil rights is not going to be frightened off. It is not going to go away. It is not going to wither and die. That the vast majority of Israeli citizens were misguided enough to have supported the terrorism against the last flotilla only underlines the corrupting influence on Israeli society of the illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. For Israel to escape its internal decay and destruction it has to give up its role of occupying power and a defining moment in its history now approaches. If not with this flotilla, then with the next or the one after…At some stage soon, the unstoppable force will engulf the blockade. The sooner that happens the better it will be for Israel, the better for the opportunities for peace in the Middle East and the better for the tragic victims in Gaza for whom freedom and justice have been denied for far too long.

– Richard Lightbown has researched a review of media sources on the flotilla raid and a critique of BBC Panorama’s programme ‘Death in the Med’. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.

About the author:Palestine Chronicle 

The Palestine Chronicle publishes news and commentary related to the Middle East Peace

Israel Flotilla Raid w/ MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters Action Network

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