I. Friday evening, a conference opened at the University of Pennsylvania, devoted to speakers, clinics, workshops and teach-ins on the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign, initiated on July 9th, 2005, by 171 Palestinian non-governmental organizations, in protest to continuing Israeli incursions upon Palestinian rights, particularly in the occupied West Bank. As one might expect, Zionist organizations have been either trying to stop the conference or demonize it since word got out it would happen. Even though people were strongly discouraged from attending, the event is unrolling without incident so far, with “a waiting list of 250.”
In the run-up week to the conference, notable luminaries and usual suspects showed up, to take one side or another. Here’s Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s endorsement:
–Professors at the University of Pennsylvania who support BDS are complicit with evil.
–Protecting Israel is one of the great human rights issues of the 21st century.
–(During the audience Q and A): Noam Chomsky and Norman Finkelstein hate America. They hate liberalism. They hate Western values. Make it clear that people who love liberty love Israel.
–Attacking Iran would not be preemptive, it would be reactive. Iran is already engaging in war with Israel. It has armed Hezbollah, Hamas….Israel has a right to attack.
–2 state solution would require a military presence in Jordan Valley in case there’s an incursion from Iraq. Iraq is becoming Iran. They take their orders from Iran.
Best-selling writer, videographer and journalist, Max Blumenthal, a U Penn alumni, wrote in the Daily Pennsyvanian on the same day, countering Dershowitz, and questioning the prominent neocon attorney’s credibility:
To counter the Penn BDS event, local pro-Israel groups including Hillel and the Philadelphia Jewish Federation have summoned the famed trial lawyer and Harvard University professor of law Alan Dershowitz to campus to keynote a Feb. 2 event: “Why Israel Matters to You, Me, and Penn: A conversation with Alan Dershowitz.” Penn’s Political Science department – which has pointedly refused to co-sponsor the BDS conference — will co-host Dershowitz’s lecture, where the professor has vowed to explain why he considers BDS to be one of the most “immoral, illegal and despicable concepts around academia today.”
The support Dershowitz received from the university and from pro-Israel groups that claim to abhor violence is ironic in light of Dershowitz’s record. Indeed, Dershowitz is an open advocate of torture who has urged Israel to destroy entire Palestinian villages, attack civilians and bulldoze their homes. Despite Dershowitz’s professed concern for political dissidents living under autocratic regimes, he has called for personal retaliation against Israeli academics who speak out in favor of BDS. Meanwhile, Dershowitz routinely smears high-profile critics of Israel’s 45-year-long occupation as evil anti-Semites — and worse.
In March 2002, during the height of the Second Intifada, Dershowitz published an article in The Jerusalem Post proposing a “new response to Palestinian terrorism.” According to Dershowitz, even the ironfisted tactics of then-Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon were not harsh enough. He urged Israel to adopt an explicit policy of collective punishment — a practice banned by international law. Dershowitz advised Israeli forces to arrange for “the destruction of a small village which has been used as a base for terrorist operations. The residents would be given 24 hours to leave, and then troops will come in and bulldoze all of the buildings.”
No less disturbing is Dershowitz’s recommendation that the United States adopt an official policy allowing federal law enforcement officials to torture criminal suspects. As long as an FBI agent received a “torture warrant,” according to Dershowitz’s rules, he was free to do as he pleased to the body of anyone in his custody. Dershowitz even offered torturers proposals for inflicting maximum pain. Among the methods he advised was “the sterilized needle being shoved under the fingernails,” an idea the journalist and former US intelligence analyst James Bamford described as “chillingly Nazi-like.”
For a list of some of the more important articles leading up to this watershed event, Mondoweiss has made one as part of their article on the first full day, including tweets coming out.
Last Wednesday at the amphitheatre in front of Oakland’s city hall, occupiers endorsed Boycotts, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) against the state of Israel in a 135-to-one vote. Oakland’s occupiers have recently experienced chemical dispersants, and a mass arrest, which took place over the weekend. Among those arrested was Noura Khouri, the Palestinian organizer who initiated the BDS proposal.
The general assembly (GA) was electric; Wednesday was the first time those arrested were present for an occupy meeting. Despite the several distractions, including barking dogs and a New York Times reporter snapping photographs, occupiers listened attentively as Khouri and two others discussed the “intimate relationship,” between local law enforcement and the Israeli military. “We are seeing the militarization of our local police forces,” Khouri said, continuing “they are using the same tactics, weapons and laws.”
Khouri, along with co-presenters Basima Sisemore and Deppen Webber, also touched on the use of chemical dispersants by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) and the Israeli military. “The same tear gas that is being used on the streets here against you all is being used in Palestine,” said Sisemore. And, in fact, a portion of the occupiers at GA had experienced tear gas during the weekend’s “move-in day” actions, a failed attempt to occupy a vacant building. Throughout the march the OPD fired tear gas, rubber-coated bullets, flash-booms, and smoke grenades, on protesters, including children and elderly. One producer of these “non-lethal” weapons is Defense Technology, which is also used by the Israeli military.
Our aspirations overlap; our struggles converge. Our oppressors, whether greedy corporations or military occupations, are united in profiting from wars, pillage, environmental destruction, repression and impoverishment. We must unite in our common quest for freedoms, equal rihts, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, and world peace.
However, occupiers did not need much convincing on why BDS should be endorsed.
This was an important event. Here’s a link to the video of the endorsement and the discussion that led up to it (about 25 minutes of open presentations), from Alison Deger’s excellent article on this.
From the beginning of the OWS movement, some have sought to characterize elements of its organization or participation as being “anti-Semitic.” As the movement has grown remarkably over the winter and gears up for Spring, some will attack this vote as the same. Look for articles coupling the burning of an American Flag at Oakland City Hall and this resolution within the same paragraph.
But as law enforcement forces at dozens of Occupy encampments and actions have shown over the course of this winter, and as the initiators of the Oakland proposal mentioned in their explanation of their move, our police are increasingly showing influence of what Max Blumenthal has described as the “Iraelification” of American law enforcement:
The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.
Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people. The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.
III. I hope to follow up on ramifications of the Occupy Oakland BDS resolution, and on the results of UPenn’s BDS Conference, as they are making postable videos of most speakers there. Meanwhile, here is the address Omar Barghouti, one of the founders of Global BDS, had taped for the conference:
Late Thursday night and early Friday morning, the vessels MV Tahrir and MV Saoirse tried to break the Gaza blockade. As most knew would happen, they were intercepted and boarded by Israeli military forces scores of miles inside international waters, and towed to Ashdod, where the 27 crew members and activists on board will be confined, then released.
That’s the drill. As the organizers of the latest of the continuing flotillas stated, they hoped to break the blockade, but knew their efforts, even if unsuccessful, would continue to bring attention to the human rights aspects of the illegal Israeli blockade of Gaza.
When the two boats were about 80 miles off the Gaza shore, someone using an OWS affiliated twitter account tweeted support, causing the following:
In the midst of this calm [as the two vessels saw morning coming], the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement posted a surprising and exhilarating tweet:
Moments later, the Twitter representative of the Canada Boat to Gaza posted an appreciative response, “We are thrilled to receive the support of#OccupyWallStreet Looks like only the 1% support the Israeli blockade of Gaza.” The Twitter-sphere flared up with expressions of praise and affirmation, proving that the 99% naturally link the struggle for the Occupation of Wall Street with the struggle against the Occupation of Palestine as two facets of a single universal liberation struggle.
Approximately four hours later, however, Occupy Wall Street’s tweet mysteriously disappeared from its home page on Twitter. The Twitter-sphere was instantly taken aback- “didn’t realize#OWS is non-political!!” remarked one tweeter, while another insisted that “If#OWS can not support#FreedomWaves and#Gaza then they should not compare themselves to#ArabSpring or#Tahrir.” The Canada Boat to Gaza, who earlier had nodded in satisfaction, now, shook its head in disappointment, offering, in the face of Occupy Wall Street’s fear of involving itself in the Israel-Palestine conflict, a few words by Desmond Tutu: “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”
Many tweeps asked “Why did @OccupyWallSt delete a tweet showing solidarity with #FreedomWaves?” or “@OccupyWallSt Did you seriously delete the tweet supporting #FreedomWaves WHY?” The closest official answer came from Daniel Sieradski, a new media activist who has been central to the OccupyJudaism activities. Sieradski explained, the “#FreedomWaves tweet was unauthorized, did not have reflect #OWS community consensus and was subsequently deleted.” He added, “#OWS does not have a position on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” and “#OWS is a consensus based movement. The GA has never discussed the I/P issue & even if it did, it would never reach consensus.” Sieradski acknowledged he was not speaking as a spokesperson from Occupy Wall Street but he had “heard what happened from people close to it.” I was not able to receive an official explanation from the Occupy Wall Street movement about why tweet being deleted.
I found out about this when Max Blumenthal tweeted the following:
Friday morning, there were a number of reaction’s to the tweet’s deletion. Ben Lorber’s article at Mondoweiss, linked to above, is a good place to find links to other coverage of the fallout.
What interested me most, while reading through the hundreds of comments to these articles Friday, is the discussion that seems to be going on at the organizational levels of the OWS movement on the relationship between OWS concerns about domestic economic and systemic issues and global ones. Some commenters at each of the three articles linked to above seem to feel that showing support for Palestinian rights, or our governmental and political relationships with Israel, will erode support for OWS and lead to further complaints in the media of anti-Semitism. Commenters have been countering that by arguing that military and foreign aid expenditures, and tax policies that allow 1%ers to invest in West Bank settlements and get tax write-offs, for instance, are domestic issues, not foreign.
My view is that OWS is durable enough to withstand showing public support for the human rights aspects of the situation in the occupied or besieged territories Israel oversees while it openly and illegally scoops up more of those lands almost daily. At the same time, as the movement eventually has to deal more with the global interconnectivity of so many processes of the economic injustices we want to see diminished, they should support the cause of civil and women’s rights to the point of including anything like Hamas in any critique of injustice.
There’s a compelling argument that being deflected from other timely and important issues, and into the Israel-Palestine arena, and the contentiousness participation in that so fully invites, can be crippling. However, if OWS is truly real, and has legs, this might be a good time for people to put on their thinking caps, and provide new creative ideas if I/P comes up.
Something that makes sense, rather than the absurd farce of supporting the “negotiation process” or ignoring it all.
[This is the extended version of the preface to Sunday's Firedoglake Book Salon, which was limited to about 1,000 words.]
I. Longtime journalist and award-winning author Joe McGinniss’ newest book, The Rogue, is the latest – but by no means last – book about Sarah Palin. Palin is not only the most famous Alaskan in history, she has uniquely combined political activity, celebrity, motherhood, grandmotherhood, a spousal relationship, borderline religious beliefs, professional victimhood, the American gossip universe, pop culture, legal obfuscation, new media and social networking. Increasingly known for being thin-skinned and somewhat lacking in spatial awareness, Palin, more than any American politician in a generation or so, almost begged McGinniss – or any investigative author – to move next door. As I wrote here last year, a couple of days after McGinniss was able to do just that:
[A]uthor Joe McGinnis, who is writing a critical book about Sarah Palin, was looking for a place in Wasilla to rent this summer, as he continues his research. He was offered the house next door to the Palins’ Lake Lucille cult compound-in-progress. He wasn’t looking for the place. It came looking for him. What would you do?
Having spent time with McGinniss at the crucial point between when he moved in, and the Palins’ reaction to their new neighbor set in concrete the scene for how the book played out, I can say that Joe really was hoping to be able to just be their next-door neighbor. He did not want to make waves, and was hoping to sit down with Sarah and Todd socially, perhaps professionally, and go through notes with them as work proceeded. I’m not kidding.
What ended up happening was another over-reaction by Sarah, similar to many those of us who had been watching her for a long time had witnessed before. Her facebook people went all professional victim for her and, to quote Palin in another context – “Game on!” Read the rest of this entry →
I met Max when he came to Wasilla, investigating Sarah Palin’s religious beliefs and those of her close followers. I live in Wasilla, so he stayed with Ms. ET and me. As I wrote in 2009, our son had just left for college in California, and we were empty-nesters for the first time. We took him in like a son, and would have loved it if he had stayed for weeks instead of days.
Since 2008, when I got to know this incredibly committed young researcher, we’ve kept in intermittent touch, and I headed the efforts to fund his return to Alaska in September, 2009, for talks about Republican Gomorrah.
I recently spent three weeks in Lebanon to research the Palestinian refugee situation and the effects of the uprising in Syria on the region. I will be writing extensively about my trip when I return from Israel-Palestine later this month. For now, I have posted my appearance on Transit, a current affairs/political interview program on Lebanon’s Future TV (the official network of the Hariri family’s Future Party). To my complete surprise, the producers decided to air the complete, uncensored “Feeling the Hate in Jerusalem” video in the middle of the interview. The video punctuated a lengthy discussion of issues ranging from AIPAC to the Tea Party to the Palestinian statehood resolution to Barack Obama’s disappointing presidency.
In London, last week, Max was interviewed by sternchenproductions. These interviews provide examples of why Blumenthal may be one of the most important young people covering global issues at this time. The producers divided their output into separate subjects that Max discusses.
What is most important about the three clips from the interview posted below is perhaps the depth Blumenthal’s sense of what journalism is deeply informs his approach to his craft, and his comments on the dilemma so many other journalists have failed to solve creatively. The three clips are fairly long, adding up to a half hour. It is well worth the time to watch, though.
The Role of the Media in the Israel Palestine Conflict:
Blumenthal’s reference to his being cut off from mainstream media access for being unwilling to be “collegial” resonates with Cenk Uyger’s piece on his withdrawal from MSNBC.
Christian Zionism in the USA:
“A figure of Jesus appearing in a deodorant stick.” Nobody explains the cynical relationship between Christian Zionists and settlement expansionists better than Max. The cynicism of this is more and more implicit in Max’s work over these past three years. Max’s take on an aspect of the cognitive dissonance of Israeli rightwing support of Glen Beck is almost poetry – “A symphony of anti-Semitic dogwhistles.”
As Blumenthal describes the MO of opposition to his work, fdl devotees might find a helluva lot to identify with. In the beginning of his summation, Max challenges NPR‘s Terry Gross to give his upcoming book, which will be about Palestine and Israel, the same time she gave his last one.
Max Blumenthal’s ability to look inward and outward about what he is looking at, learning, writing about, and taking to the next level, deserves a far wider audience than has been the case.
I. The Israeli government and military would prefer that no foreign nationals critical of the policies of that government be given any sort of forum that either brings public attention to abuses, war crimes and human rights violations against Palestinians, or humanizes the Palestinians’ plight in ways that seek to give the latter more freedom over the administration of their own affairs. Although most foreign nationals who want to help the Palestinians gain more freedom despise the thugs of Hamas and buffoons of Fatah, defenders of Israeli human rights abuses and war crimes unceasingly attempt to frame defenders of Palestinians as friends of Hamas. The reality is that the IDF and Israeli government need Hamas desperately, to keep propped up as a vicious boogeyman. They would rather have a few rockets rain down on their own people in Sderot, than have none at all.
The 2010 Gaza flotilla was brutally intercepted by Israeli naval forces. After taking the Turkish vessel, MV Mavi Marmara, the Israelis summarily executed several Turks, and then crafted a disturbingly false narrative about how heavily armed these evil, swarthy (read non-white “other”) Turks were. It fit the racist meme that abides so comfortably in the increasingly openly racist Israeli military and society at large. And, sadly, that same meme works well with the kinds of Americans who thrive on Fox News myths about swarthy people out of control.
The MV Mavi Marmara was taken violently on purpose. Had I been the commander of the naval operation, knowing for weeks that the MVMM would be among the mix of vessels, all I would have had to say would have been, “find me a way to peacefully stop the big Turkish cruise ship, or I will demote you,” and a solution would have been found within an hour.
Apparently, the Israeli military learned enough from 2010 that nobody was murdered this year. This is good. The 2011 flotilla organizers were, frankly, as unimaginative as possible, though. Expecting the Greek government to not react to the combined pressures of the U.S. and Israeli governments during an almost catastrophic internal crisis was a major strategic error.
But both the 2010 and 2011 flotillas have had an impact upon the people of the Gaza Strip that has been positive. The recent improvements in the amounts of needed goods entering Gaza is a direct result of continuing efforts by the movements sponsoring or being inspired by the flotilla movement. Some Israeli commentators and government officials have acknowledged just that. American citizen Furkan Doğan and his Turkish brothers did not give their lives in vain.
This weekend’s”Welcome to Palestine flytilla,” farcical on many levels, has not been covered well by the American media, but the Europeans, whose countries were the points of departure for the protesters, saw a healthy dose of coverage over the past three days. And so did firedoglake.
Nothing troubles Israeli policy makers in terms of their continuing expansion into new lands in the West Bank, outright theft of land and resources, and seemingly blasé murder of one innocent Palestinian after another, than when a foreign national objecting to these illegal practices is hurt or killed. Especially if that foreign national is white. (As clarification, I consider Turks white, for what it is worth, but watching Israeli and some American press coverage of Turkish issues, it appears some do not.)
II. On Sunday, July 10th, the wrongful death civil suit brought by the parents of Rachel Corrie against the Israeli Defense Forces, will see its last day of testimony:
Former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz – the final witness in the case – is scheduled to testify Sunday, July 10, in the Corrie civil trial against the State of Israel.
Colonel Zuaretz was the commanding officer of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade in 2003, when American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed. Troops under his command were responsible for the actions resulting in her killing. Zuaretz is the highest ranking officer called as a government witness in the civil trial who had command responsibility in Gaza. He is possibly the highest such officer ever to face cross examination in a civil suit regarding the actions of the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza during the second intifada. His testimony is expected to shed light on the Israeli military’s failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property in the region.
The trial began in March 2010, and has taken longer than expected, partially because of a strike by court workers in late 2010. A few of the revelations from the trial have been jarring. Here are the most notable:
On March 14, 2010, IDF forensic examiner Yehuda Hiss admitted to not allowing U.S. embassy personnel observe him conducting Corrie’s autopsy. His testimony revealed that the U.S. Embassy had lied to the Corrie family. Hiss also testified, rather disturbingly:
Dr. Hiss also disclosed that he had kept samples from Rachel’s body for histological testing without informing her family. Dr. Hiss admitted that he did not inform the family about their right to bury the samples and that the samples were likely to have been buried with other body samples from the Institute, but he was uncertain. This was the first time that the family of Rachel Corrie received confirmation that the Israeli Forensic Institute had indeed kept samples of her body, despite prior attempts to receive this information. Dr. Hiss has been the subject of a prior lawsuit in Israel brought by families for whom he did not return body parts and samples.
On March 15, 2010, British citizen and nurse, Alice Coy, a witness to Corrie’s death, testified that despite published IDF reports that there were no home demolitions ongoing where Corrie was killed, that certainly was not the case. She also testified that “When the Israeli Military interviewed her on April 1st about Rachel’s killing, the soldier who documented her testimony refused to record her statement that she believed the bulldozers were going to destroy civilian homes.” Eventually, the home Corrie tried to protect on March 16, 2003 was destroyed by an IDF bulldozer.
Who is Dr. Hiss? The chief pathologist of Israel for a decade and a half, Hiss was implicated by a 2001 investigation by the Israeli Health Ministry of stealing body parts ranging from legs to testicles to ovaries from bodies without permission from family members then selling them to research institutes. Bodies plundered by Hiss included those of Palestinians and Israeli soldiers. He was finally removed from his post in 2004 when the body of a teenage boy killed in a traffic accident was discovered to have been thoroughly gnawed on by a rat in Hiss’s laboratory. In an interview with researcher Nancy Schepper-Hughes, Hiss admitted that he harvested organs if he was confident relatives would not discover that they were missing. He added that he often used glue to close eyelids to hide missing corneas.
Max also wrote about the testimony that week of a Col. “Yossi”:
In a small courtroom on the sixth floor of Haifa’s District Court, a colonel in the Israeli engineering corps who wrote a manual for the bulldozer units that razed the Rafah Refugee Camp in 2003 offered his opinion on the killing of the American activist Rachel Corrie.
“There are no civilians during wartime,” Yossi declared under oath.
Yossi made his remarkable statement under withering cross examination by Hussein Abu Hussein, the lawyer for the family of Corrie
Col. Yossi’s statement of belief or of policy (he wrote a book on it, after all) is more troubling to me than that of Dr. Hiss. Essentially, Israel considers itself to be at war with not just Hamas, but with any government, any movement and any individual who seeks to “delegitimize” its expansionist policies and racist implementation of it. People like me, CTuttle and anyone else who is critical of these policies is a potential target for whatever might be deemed appropriate for us, should we get in the way.
One commander of the unit involved in the incident interrupted the testimony of the operator of the bulldozer that killed Rachel, telling him that the head of the Southern Command of the Israeli military ordered him to stop talking, not to sign anything and not to cooperate with the investigation. When asked if he considered this an intervention into the interrogation, the investigator testified that he did.
Though the camera posted on the border was taping 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the investigator testified that he did not see footage from the camera, nor did he ask to, stating that it was someone else’s responsibility.
When the trial resumed on September 5, 2010, a military police investigator, “Oded,” revealed that even though he had been assigned to investigate Corrie’s death, he was unqualified, and was not helped by the IDF, in any event:
Oded confirmed that a commander of the unit involved in Rachel’s killing interrupted the questioning of the bulldozer operator, telling him that Doron Almog, head of the Israeli military’s Southern Command, had ordered that the questioning cease. He also said that, in his experience, interference of this nature from military commanders was not uncommon.
When asked why he did not challenge the intervention, Oded said that as a junior investigator, it was not his place to do so. He was 20-years-old at the time, with only a high-school education and three-months of training in investigation.
Corrie’s case was the first civilian killing that Oded investigated from beginning to end.
Like El’ad [who testified in March], Oded stated that neither he nor any other investigator visited the site of the killing.
Oded’s testimony revealed that much of the conversation recorded by the bulldozer teams in the area of Corrie’s death had been in Arabic, and that he did not speak the language. More Israeli racism and dual standard came out:
Oded testified that none of the investigators interviewed any of the Palestinian witnesses – including medical personnel who examined Rachel immediately following the incident. When asked why, he said he did not think they could provide any useful information.
When the trial resumed on October 10, the Corries argued that witnesses from the IDF should be visible in court, rather than kept behind a screen:
Lawyers for the family of Rachel Corrie filed an appeal with the Israeli Supreme Court on Sunday, challenging a decision to allow soldiers to testify behind a screen in the lawsuit filed against the State of Israel for the unlawful killing of the American peace activist in Rafah, Gaza.
State attorneys made the highly unusual request in court on Thursday, October 7 arguing that they were necessary to protect the soldiers’ safety and prevent their images from being circulated. Haifa District Court Judge Oded Gershon granted the request, ruling that all but two soldiers, who were both already known to the public, would be permitted to provide their testimony hidden from public view.
Corrie attorneys opposed the motion, arguing that allowing the soldiers to testify behind a screen infringes upon the fundamental right to an open, fair and transparent trial. They argued that the government request was based on an overbroad security certificate issued by Defense Minister Ehud Barak in 2008, was not supported by concrete evidence to substantiate their concerns for the soldiers’ safety or security. The lawyers will also ask the Supreme Court to review Judge Gerhson’s decision not to allow the family to see the witnesses even if the public could not.
In over four hours of often confused testimony, Y.P. seemed to struggle to read and understand his own affidavit signed in April. He could not remember basic facts, such as the date of Rachel’s killing or time of day it happened. He repeatedly contradicted his own statements on the stand and testimony given to military police investigators in 2003.
Highlights of testimony include the following:
Y.P stated that after he drove over Rachel and backed up, she was located between his bulldozer and the mound of earth that he had pushed, corroborating photographic evidence and testimony from international eyewitnesses given to the court in March. His testimony calls into question that of the commander inside this same bulldozer, whose written affidavit states that Rachel’s body was located in a different location, on the far side of the mound of earth created by the bulldozer. In court, Y.P. was asked if based on this contradiction he wanted to change his testimony. He firmly stated no.
In testimony to military police investigators only three days after the incident, Y.P. said the blind spot in front of the bulldozer was 3 meters. In contradicting court testimony, he claimed the blind spot was 30 meters – ten times the distance first stated.
Y.P. knew about regulations that the bulldozer was not to work within 10 meters of people. He was aware civilians were present, but said he was given orders to continue working. He said I’ m just a soldier. It was not my decision.
He claimed he did not see Rachel before the event. Nor did he recall seeing her specifically at all that day, despite the fact that she had protested the bulldozer’s activity for several hours and was the only female activist wearing a bright orange fluorescent jacket.
The Corries were disappointed they could not see their daughter’s killer:
Following the driver’s testimony, Cindy Corrie stated, “It was very difficult not to hear or detect anything in this witness’s words or voice that suggested remorse. Sadly, what I heard from the other side of the screen was indifference.”
Cindy Corrie said yesterday she didn’t hear the driver express any remorse for what had happened. On reflection, I think this may not be as clear cut. While he certainly didn’t apologize, voice any regret or in any way reacted to the Corries’ presence in the same room with him, I was struck how he avoided using the first person when referring to Rachel’s death; asked to affirm his identity and role on the day, he said, “I was the driver of the bulldozer on the day she.. the girl.. was run over.” He maintained this alienation throughout the day; the closest he came to acknowledging his direct, personal role, was in the repeated phrase, “I understood I may have hit someone.” Perhaps this is just wishful thinking on my part, but I couldn’t avoid thinking this alienation signalled that like many a combatant, in some place within him, the driver understands exactly what he has done, and perhaps wishes that things have turned out otherwise; while distant, he certainly didn’t sound blasé.
After the Israeli court strike was over, and the courts caught back up, there were more sessions this spring.
On April 4, 2011, the trial resumed, with more confusing testimony by IDF personnel. One witness, Captain S.R, corroborated the accuracy of International Solidarity Movement witnesses, that has long been challenged by right-wing American and Israeli bloggers:
The commander of the unit that killed Rachel Corrie told a Haifa court on Sunday that he was ordered to continue bulldozer work even though it presented danger to civilians, including foreign activists, who were present in the area and could not be dispersed.
Known to the court as Captain S.R., the Bedouin officer said that he actually requested to halt bulldozer operations on the day Rachel was killed, because he thought civilians might be hurt, but was ordered to continue.
On the day she was killed, Captain S.R. radioed to Israeli army command and said that something from the bulldozer fell on Rachel. However, in court, he admitted he did not see the exact moment of the incident and that this was only a fleeting hypothesis. He said he reached Rachel’s body less than one minute after the incident and it was immediately clear by marks in the ground that Rachel had been hit by the bulldozer.
Captain S.R.’s testimony about the location of Rachel’s body after she was hit corroborated that of international eyewitnesses and the bulldozer driver, all of whom said that after the bulldozer backed up, Rachel’s body was located between the bulldozer and the mound of earth that it had pushed. This calls into question the testimony of the bulldozer commander, and the position of the State, that Rachel’s body was in a different location: on the far side of the mound of earth created by the bulldozer. Captain S.R. confirmed that evidence photos taken by the protesters that day accurately reflect the scene of the incident after Ms. Corrie was hit.
He confirmed that a female soldier viewed the site through a remote camera that day, and instructions could be given to his unit based on what was seen.
The Captain’s review of an interview he gave to Israeli Channel 2 TV’s “Uvda” program confirmed the existence of IDF video footage that has not been submitted into evidence by the State or provided to the Corrie family’s attorneys through discovery. The interview, aired on April 5, 2003, included a segment of March 16th, 2003 Israeli military video of the operations. His testimony confirms additional IDF video exists, even though the lead Military Police investigator responsible for obtaining evidence in the case stated firmly that there is no additional video.
He confirmed that a written document does exist that outlines regulations, specific to civilians, for a “removal procedure” – a set of instructions outlining how to remove civilians in situations such as these. Attorneys for the State continued to claim the regulation does not exist – in direct contradiction to the sworn testimony of their own witness moments before.
The testimony continued with “S.L., who in 2003 was head of the Mechanized Engineering Equipment Department.”
In an affidavit submitted to the court, referring to regulations, S.L. said, “in no way is the directive applicable to the operational conditions in which the bulldozer operated in this case.” However, in court on Sunday, he contradicted that assertion and admitted that regulations requiring that D9 bulldozers not operate within 20 meters of people did, in fact, apply.
When asked if there were “lessons learned” in response to this incident, he said he was unaware of any changes made in training and affirmed that to date, cameras to improve visibility have not been added to the bulldozers. He said the Israeli army experimented with cameras but found they were not a good solution because they were too easily damaged and because neither the bulldozer operator nor his commander had ability to pay attention to the cameras under operational circumstances. However, he confirmed that unmanned “drone” bulldozers with cameras attached were used by the Israeli army during the Lebanon invasion of 2006.
Deputy Battalion Commander Sh.R, a Major responsible for overseeing 450-500 soldiers in Gaza, said he was located about 1 ½ kilometers from the scene at the army’s Liaison Unit with Foreign Forces (Yaklaz), and that although the bulldozer work was under the direct ground supervision of Captain S.R., he was in a position to influence the work and was ultimately responsible for the decisions made that day. This was significant because in the preceding hearing, Captain S.R., a Bedouin officer who testified earlier in the week, told the court he requested to halt his work because of the presence of the protesters, and potential danger to them, but received orders to continue.
Major Sh.R, in his testimony, presented a hard doctrinaire IDF line. At the Rachel Corrie Foundation trial blog, the major’s assertion is challenged:
Sh.R. defined the “Philidelphi Route” not just as the narrow, Israeli controlled, military road running parallel to the Gaza/Egypt border, but rather as the entire width of land between the Egypt border and the first row of Palestinian houses inside Gazan territory. He also insisted that Palestinians in these houses were those digging tunnels, snipers attacking the military, or smuggling weapons, and that clearing and destroying homes was done only after it was “beyond a reasonable doubt” that homes were empty. His description, although emblematic of the Israeli military’s position regarding the area in 2003, completely ignores the fact, and credible documentation by U.N. humanitarian agencies and human rights groups, that the land was once filled with densely populated civilian homes, the first row of which receded rapidly as the Israeli military bulldozed row upon row of houses, widening the border’s buffer zone and claiming the newly razed Palestinian territory for its own. Comparative satellite photos from a 2004 Human Rights Watch publication titled Razing Rafah: Mass Home Demolitions in the Gaza Strip document this “wholesale destruction” of Palestinian homes along Gaza’s southern border.
In his continuing testimony, the major made an interesting assertion:
Sh.R. stated he knew unarmed protestors were in the area, but in his opinion, stopping the work was not an option. He said the protesters were not a threat to the force, but added that if every foreigner came to raise banners, terrorists would also come and he would lose his ability to control the region. He admitted that avoiding a precedent was a consideration in the decision to continue working. He stated that in his opinion, the protesters should have been barred from entering Gaza. [emphasis added]
Major Sh.R. said more than he may have intended. Additionally, his further testimony, linked to the deaths of other foreign nationals during the same time period as Corrie, is quite troubling. The Corrie Foundation article on this states:
Although, he described in testimony that regulations state you don’t shoot unless there is intent and means to hurt you, a written summary of events recorded in the daily operations log on March 16, 2003, stated, “those foreigners should be handled and their entrance into the Gaza Strip should be forbidden. Additionally, the work must continue in the area in question. The firing orders state that every adult person should be shot to kill.” Within seven weeks of Rachel’s killing, award winning journalist James Miller and activist Tom Hurndall, both British citizens, were shot and killed along the same two mile stretch of the Rafah, Gaza border.
One should realize that this corridor of densely packed civilian housing that the IDF was willing to kill so many people over, has since been abandoned by the IDF.
The local platoon commander that day, A.D, provided more information that should be troubling, in regard to Israeli military disregard of international law:
work, although he could not remember anything about the specific file that day.
The APC had a periscope from which they could see a longer distance from the vehicle.
Commander R.S. spoke frequently on the cell phone and, in order to use it, he had to remove his helmet. This contradicts earlier military testimonies that claimed helmets worn would never be removed and, thus, soldiers would not have heard the protesters shouting through the megaphone nearby.
He could not recall the specific safety instructions for the D9 bulldozer, but said the unit would continue working as carefully as possible. He believed work was allowed if protesters were within 15 meters of the vehicle, but not if they were within 5 meters.
He knew that the protesters were civilians and “Americans.”
He said there was a first aid kit within the APC, and he believed it was likely that the radio communications person in the vehicle was also a trained medic. However, he confirmed that the medical kit was not thrown to the protesters after Rachel was hit. Testimony made clear that no serious attempt was made by the military to provide medical assistance to Rachel at the scene prior to Palestinian medics evacuating her.
The soldiers offered no medical assistance. Corrie might have been saved, but was not.
This is consistent with the evidence provided by the video smuggled off of the MV Mavi Marmara by Iara Lee, which clearly showed both that the Israeli soldiers wounded and captured by resistors on that ship were immediately given medical assistance, and that the Israeli military refused any medical attention to the wounded Turks, as they went about assassinating at close range.
On May 22, former IDF spokesperson, Ruth Yaron took the stand. From the Corrie Foundation trial blog:
Yaron’s testimony focused on the International Solidarity Movement (ISM), in a weak attempt by the State to justify the military’s killing of Rachel by delegitimizing the organization’s mission of resisting the Israeli Occupation of Palestinian lands using only non-violent, direct action, methods. Rachel was an unarmed civilian, non-violently protesting against home demolitions in Rafah, Gaza, when she was killed. Yaron provided no first-hand knowledge of events, and relied heavily on second or third hand sources and hearsay.
Additional information about Yaron’s testimony will be released in the future.
Sunday is supposed to be this long trial’s final day of testimony. Scheduled is the former Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade Commander, Colonel Pinhas (Pinky) Zuaretz:
Colonel Zuaretz was the commanding officer of the Israeli military’s Gaza Division’s Southern Brigade in 2003, when American peace activist Rachel Corrie was killed. Troops under his command were responsible for the actions resulting in her killing. Zuaretz is the highest ranking officer called as a government witness in the civil trial who had command responsibility in Gaza. He is possibly the highest such officer ever to face cross examination in a civil suit regarding the actions of the Israeli military against civilians in Gaza during the second intifada. His testimony is expected to shed light on the Israeli military’s failures as an occupying power to protect civilian life and property in the region.
It will be some time before a decision is reached, and whichever way it comes out, it is certainly likely to be appealed all the way to the Israeli Supreme Court.
III. As Israel becomes more racist, as land confiscation in the West Bank ramps up, as Netanyahu dares our government to object in the run-up to major fundraising for the 2012 election, and as participants of this summer’s protests to Israeli occupation and apartheid policies seek to find ways to be more effective in the future, it is important to realize that Palestinians don’t resent that so much more attention was brought to Rachel’s demise, or to the flotillas and fytilla than has been brought to the deaths of thousands of Palestinians, Lebanese and others, at the hands of the IDF.
It is also important to note that in 2003, when Corrie was killed, perhaps murdered, there was no Hamas boogey man running Gaza. It was under control of the Palestinian Authority, and was being aggressively colonized by Israeli settlers, using the South African model, as they continue to do in the occupied West Bank.
This weekend the Israelis stopped hundreds of peaceful Americans and Europeans from merely getting off an airplane in Tel Aviv to go to the West Bank. Almost 100 are in jail right now. Some will be there for weeks. Alice Walker, who was on the American boat hoping to go to Gaza, the MV Audacity of Hope, was in the West Bank last spring. She wrote this:
I have been in Palestine for five days. It has been amazing. Deeply distressing and sad in many ways; but also filled with joy, with creativity, exuberance, and hope. Who knew there was so much life left in Palestine? That people are in love with literature and poetry? That young people are on fire about the novels and short stories they’re reading in their classes? As well as about the revolutions shaking the Arab world? That despite the hardships of occupation there is a sense among Palestinians that the world is changing and is at last capable of hearing them. And not just hearing them, but responding. And not only to their tragic and hair raising reports of the lethal Israeli occupation; an occupation as pathological as any ever to afflict humankind. No, the thought in the air around here resembles the brilliant red poppy one sees glowing between massive rocks, its roots somehow not crushed, that sings: Oh yes, I am still here, still red, still blooming as me, in spite of everything! And guess what? I have no desire to resemble these rocks that sit on top of me.
This is the peace of non-violent revolt which entails a radical dedication to non-abandonment of the peaceful self.
Long live all of us, and especially the Palestinian people: Tenacious, like the red poppy. Waving bright hope in the smallest wind. Blooming, joyful, retaining our humor and generosity to the stranger, but also our love of green grass and Spring.
Each of Earth’s peoples teaches the rest of us something: You demonstrate steadfastness: how to hold on, through lies, murder, brutal repression, breathtaking theft, unbearable despair, until at last, singing our own outraged and wild poppy song, we come to join you.
Eight years ago this week, as I sought permission from Rachel Corrie’s family to write music honoring her, Cindy Corrie wrote to me:
Our lives are fairly complicated these days, as I am sure you can imagine….. Our loss is great but creative responses like yours to Rachel’s life and death lift my spirits so.
The Corries continue their complicated fight to lift the spirits of the oppressed Palestinian people. Let us hope the Corries and the Palestinians get some overdue justice, for their children, who deserve more than what we now give them.
One thing that is apparent to those of us who have been involved in the struggle for Palestinian rights is that no lie told about Palestinians is too big to try to get away with. Any of us with close Palestinian friends, either those who live there now, or who have, for one reason or another emigrated, know that Palestinians, be they religious or not, are often more like you and me than we are ourselves.
Just like in the 19th century, when the American expansionist narrative was forced to paint Native Americans as “the other,”in order to justify their murder as we stole their lands, waters and mineral wealth, so now in the early 21st century, the Israeli expansionist narrative demands that Palestinians be painted as “the other,” as they are herded into increasingly smaller reservations, so that their wealth may be robbed.
Those of us who attempt to articulate how wrong this is are badgered from every direction, not just from the far right. The same was true as we exterminated the vast majority of our own indigenous population to make room for people to come to our “promised land.”
The number of lies Israeli government sources and supporters of that government have been caught up in these past ten days, in regard to the hard line being erected against the premise of the necessity of this year’s Gaza flotilla, is astounding. The bottom line, from that point of view, is that there is no need for Gaza’s borders to be open, as all the needs there are being met already, and that those who have a different point of view are enabling Hamas and every other possible entity, real or imagined, that might diminish international respect for Israel, and are therefore indulging in anti-Semitism, whether they understand that or not. The specifics of these lies and falsehoods are interesting, but the most recent is the accusation that Hedy Epstein is not actually a “Holocaust survivor”per se:
Epstein is many things a holocaust survivor is not one of them. She is a refugee from Germany the same that Einstein was and Dr. Ruth, the sex therapist was. To have survived the holocaust is to have a tattoo on your arm or to have been in hiding in an attic for years. One is not a survivor because you spent the war in a London orphanage.To equate her with survivors imbues her with the same level of suffering as Elie Wiesel, Primo Levi and Anne Frank. She says she is a survivor because her family died, well under that guise every Ashkenazi Jew and some Sephardi Jews are survivors too. The problem is that we let people like Epstein and the other “As a Jews”steal the narrative. We should confront them for what they truly are, usurpers of history, hate mongers and collaborators.
Last year, when Ms. Epstein attempted to participate in the late May flotilla, the same accusation was made. The reality, though, is that even the Holocaust History web site defines her as a “Holocaust survivor”:
1. Unfortunately there is some confusion and disagreement about what this term means.
2. Some people use a narrow definition, including only those who at the start of WWII were living in or citizens of an area that came under Nazi control. (Note that this does not mean that they ever actually lived under Nazi control; they may have escaped after the war started but before the Nazis actually arrived.) Others use a much broader definition. They include everyone who was living in such an area at the time Hitler came to power, even if they emigrated to a safe area long before the start of the war.
Even within the narrow definition, not every Holocaust survivor is a concentration camp survivor. Any Jew who survived in hiding, or by passing as a Gentile, or as a member of the Soviet army, would be a Holocaust survivor without being a concentration camp survivor.
Many Israeli lies last week were serious, but one of them, exposed by the Electronic Intifada, and further exposed by Max Blumenthal, was not only absurdly hilarious, it serves as an illustration of how dense Israeli propagandists can be. Here’s what they tried to pull off:
Here’s a link to the initial post on this at EI, where Benjamin Doherty appropriately tagged it as “pinkwashing”:
This is a transparent effort to justify the oppressive and criminal siege of Gaza—and possible violent Israeli attack on the upcoming Flotilla—by describing Palestinians as dangerous, violent homophobes and misogynists. Pinkwashing is a tactic that pro-Israel groups and the Israeli government have been consciously using to try to divide and co-opt the Palestine solidarity movement and its connection to other movements around the world. Pinkwashing is a phenomenon that Palestine solidarity activists have become vocal in resisting.
And here’s Max’s further investigation:
Since [the EI article], Doherty and I have gathered evidence suggesting that the video has links to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office, or is at least being promoted through an official government hasbara operation.
Earlier today, the Israeli Government Press Office promoted the apparent hoax video on Twitter. In the tweet, @GPOIsrael cited @guyseemann. I headed over to Guy Seemann’s twitter feed and found that he had only tweeted one item in his entire history: the pinkwashing anti-flotilla hoax. In fact, Seemann only joined Twitter on June 15, 2011. Then I took a look at Guy Seemann’s bio:
Guy Seemann studied government, international policy, philosophy and physics at American University in Washington, DC. Before moving to Israel, Guy worked for United States Senator Robert Menendez, and then as a special projects coordinator in the North Eastern campaign for then-presidential candidate Barack Obama.
Since the campaign and moving to Israel, Guy was awarded a fellowship to work with international journalists and diplomats at the Prime Minister’s Office, served as the international director for Lev Echad, and volunteered for the IDF. Guy will soon begin a new job at the Prime Minister’s National Security Council working on Iranian, US and UN policy.
Why would the Israeli GPO have tweeted at Guy Seemann, a Netanyahu aide who seems to have created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of promoting the pinkwashing hoax? And what was Seemann’s role in the video’s creation? How did Lazarus know about the video before it had garnered any media interest — and only a small handful of hits? These questions remain unanswered. However, the video’s promotion by an exclusive cadre of official Israeli hasbara entities and figures suggest the hoax was part of a desperate government operation designed to discredit the Free Gaza flotilla. I will be updating here as I learn more.
Update: Guy Seemann’s twitter page has disappeared and his bio has changed.
Israeli government efforts to paint flotilla participants as terrorists might work on the U.S. Senate and our State Department, but the U.S. media was surprisingly open to honestly reporting about this fuckup, including MSNBC and the Christian Science Monitor. Yet even though Doherty exposed the fraud on June 23rd, as recently as the 29th, media outlets were continuing to report Gershon’s hoax as fact.
A compilation of the disinformation dispersed by Israeli-tied sources appeared Thursday at the Institute for Middle East Understanding. It touches upon some of the material above, but also on some very serious, yet totally unsubstantiated allegations about flotilla participants. Those are that:
1) The flotilla is financed by organizations with ties to terrorism.
2) There is a hard core of terrorist activists embedded within the passengers and crew.
3) There is no humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
4) Participants intend to use chemical weapons upon Israelis when they attempt to board the vessels.
Each of these claims has been thoroughly debunked.
At the same time Israeli resources and compliant American outlets and politicians have created a massive disinformation campaign, the Israelis appear to be trying to pick off one flotilla vessel at a time before they even leave port. The Irish boat appears to have been sabotaged in such a way it could have killed people on board. The Scandinavian boat was dealt with similarly, but may be repaired in time. Max Blumenthal, among others, thinks this has all the markings of an Israeli operation. That the Israelis appear to be denying this is not surprising, as admission of involvement would be owning up to an act of war upon the nations who own the harbors that were invaded.
The Israelis are backing individuals and organizations seeking to cut the flotilla off from access to electronic communication during the journey. This also isn’t surprising, as last year’s flotilla message, at first controlled in the debris of the wake of the intercept by imagery created by the Israeli government, was ultimately discredited by the compilation of all surviving material from before, during and shortly after the interception, murders and boardings.
Although I am once again praying that nobody gets hurt or killed, the level of misinformation seriously promulgated by the Israeli government this past week leads me to believe that they want to make an example out of these people that will end flotillas once and for all, and that in the minds of those in control of the operation, that message necessitates bloodshed that will shock people into abandoning the idea once and for all.
Pursuant to a decision by the Minister of Citizen Protection Mr. C. Papoutsis, the departure of ships with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gazahas been prohibited today.
By orders of the Hellenic Coast Guard Head Quarters to all local Hellenic Coast Guard Authorities, all appropriate measures are taken for the implementation of the said decision.
Responding to that order, three Greek government vessels, one with a large contingent of heavily armed “commandos,” forced the U.S. vessel MV Audacity of Hope to return to a Greek port, which they are now entering. Not much news on other vessels, either already at sea, or attempting to leave ports.
The Greek interception, according to a tweet from US Boat to Gaza, was documented by more media than I was aware to be on board:
MT .@medeabenjamin Greek confrontation was done in full view of media on board: CNN, CBS, NYT, The Nation, Democracy Now
Also, Medea Benjamin has tweeted that the Greeks have told them they may leave on Saturday.
I. Last year, on the night of May 29-30, as the Gaza bound flotilla headed by the Turkish cruise ship, MV Mavi Marmara, approached the coast of the eastern Mediterranean, firedoglake was able to provide the best real time coverage of the interception and boarding of the vessels. I had started a live blog diary on the evening of the 29th, at MyFDL‘s predecessor, The Seminal. Siun was able to take over, with a front-page diary. Reading back through those diaries now sends a chill down my back:
In 2010 there wasn’t as much attention being drawn to the flotilla as there seems to be this year. For sure, the mainstream media is avoiding it as best possible, but the depth and width of discussion of the issues surrounding the perceived need for the 2011 flotilla in alternative media is heartening. There are many reasons for this.
The perception that Clinton endorsed possible Israeli violence against Americans is bolstered by the conduct of the U.S. Government in the wake of Israel’s attack on the prior Gaza flotilla, when Israel killed 9 people, including the unarmed 19-year-old American citizen (and Turkish citizen) Furkan Dogan. While most governments instinctively condemn the killing of their own unarmed citizens by foreign armies — Turkey was furious at Israel for months and world leaders in virtual consensus harshly condemned the Israeli aggression — the Obama administration almost immediately took Israel’s side, culminating with Joe Biden’s disgusting rhetorical question, posed before the American teenager was even buried: “what’s the big deal here”?
The United States on Friday warned activists against plans to send a new aid flotilla to challenge Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip, saying it would be irresponsible and dangerous. . . . “We underscore that delivering or attempting or conspiring to deliver material support or other resources to or for the benefit of a designated foreign terrorist organization, such as Hamas, could violate U.S. civil and criminal statutes and could lead to fines and incarceration,” [State Department Spokesperson Victoria] Nuland said.
Greenwald also is incensed (as am I) that a former Bush speech writer, Joshua Treviño, appears to be cheerleading for the IDF to kill Americans in the flotilla. Though some blog commentators and commenters see this as something new, a measure of last ditch desperation, it is not. There have always been some Americans whose blind support for Israel pushes them over edges. For instance, last year, in response to the 2010 flotilla debacle, Jennifer Rubin wrote at Commentary:
if you are not with Israel, you are against her. And if you do not oppose with every fiber of your being and every instrument at your disposal that which intends the Jewish state harm, you are enabling her destroyers.
Creepy, huh? Rubin is often like that. Perhaps this is part of why she got a job five months after that article at Commentary, at the Washington Post. Where she continues to be, uh, creepy.
II. Part of the reason for heightened interest in the 2011 flotilla is that the eastern Mediterranean of 2011 is different from that of a year ago. To the south of Israel and Gaza, Egypt is in the midst of throwing off decades of misrule by Gen. Mubarak. To the direct north of Israel, Hezbollah is a more powerful force in Lebanese politics than they were in 2010. And to the north of Lebanon, Syria is in upheaval that may lead to the demise of a regime even more onerous than that of Mubarak. The same tools we saw used by 2010 flotilla participants – blogs, facebook, twitter and cell phones (with their cameras) – were used extensively in the events in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrein and Syria.
On the surface it may seem that the events in Tunisia and Egypt are far more important than any issue the Gaza flotillas may actually be able to determine. However, both Egyptian and Israeli efforts to ease aspects of the siege of the world’s biggest open air prison camp can be partially credited to the heightened knowledge of what is happening in Gaza by the coverage of last year’s, and of this year’s flotillas.
The coverage Monday morning by Democracy Now, of flotilla preparations at the port of Piraeus, just south of Athens, which is in almost as much turmoil as Cairo was in February, showed that the kind of activism against the borg which the flotillas represent, is resonating in many settings:
So, in a sense, in 2010, the flotilla movement seemed somewhat isolated, representative mostly of continuing attempts to break the siege of Gaza. This year, it is part of a tremendous mix of grassroots activities aimed at challenging egregious governmental practices, in the eastern Mediterranean, and globally.
III. What I hope to do this year is get a diary going at MyFDL when the flotilla appears to be getting close to where the Israeli military forces will feel they have to respond. Siun here at fdl will be ready, as last year, to take the ongoing story to the front page. Max Blumenthal may help us directly. I’m hoping that Mondoweiss will be able to reflect what is happening more rapidly in 2011 than was the case there in 2010. They have mods, but no mods on the web are as awesome or as rapidly flexible as those of firedoglake. I may set up a diary at Daily Kos that directs people to fdl‘s coverage.
Wednesday, I’ll post a diary here that gives a comprehensive blog, twitter and facebook list for organizations and individuals who will be covering this historic encounter.
If you have ideas or suggestions that you think might help, please comment.
[image - captured Israeli commando being led down to the infirmary of the MV Mavi Marmara, for medical treatment, at the same time IDF forces were summarily executing Turkish and American captives on the top decks. Image attributed to Reuters, but taken by Kevin Neash of Victoria, BC]
Kenneth P. Vogel has written an article about recent attention paid to Sarah Palin, published last night for Politico.com, that reminds me of the Kuskokwim River – long, shallow, cold and murky. In it, Vogel mischaracterizes the overall impetus behind many who question the authenticity or viability of Sarah Palin:
This self-styled anti-Palin movement — whose members span the globe and are mostly but not exclusively liberals — has been behind some embarrassing revelations about the former Alaska governor, her family and allies. But some of their leading theories have been thoroughly discredited and earned them widespread criticism. (See: ‘Mama Grizzly’ Sarah Palin back on the prowl)
Yet that only seems to have hardened a commitment to accomplishing what they profess to be their ultimate goal: the absolute and complete exposure of Palin as a fraud unworthy of a role in American civic life. And now, with Palin edging back into the political spotlight in the face of flagging poll numbers, they believe that they are closer than ever to achieving it. (See: Poll: The incredible shrinking Sarah Palin)
Vogel concentrates on aspects of attention toward Palin by writers, journalists and bloggers that tend to be salacious, or controversial in ways one sees most often in coverage of celebrities. Beyond the gossipy bullshit that Palin relishes because it keeps people from looking more closely at how she has dealt with substantive issues, Vogel seems out of his league. Here’s his intro to author Geoffrey Dunn:
St. Martin’s Press has scheduled a May 10 release of “The Lies of Sarah Palin: The Untold Story Behind Her Relentless Quest for Power,” by Santa Cruz, Calif.-based author and documentarian Geoffrey Dunn, who has joked that he might need three or four volumes to adequately cover the subject matter suggested in the title.
He told POLITICO he decided to write the book after hearing stories from Alaskans about Palin’s “childhood through her governorship that were troubling to me.” He said his goal is to frame Palin’s career in the contexts of both an Alaska political scene “plagued by a culture of corruption” and also in “the larger tradition of American political populism and demagoguery.”
Update: For more information on what Global BDS is (the worldwide campaign to encourage boycott, divestment and sanctions of the Israeli state over treatment of Palestinians) please see the bottom of this essay.*
March 30 is Global BDS Day of Action 2011. According to the BDS Movement’s web site:
Activists in the Europe and North America held actions over the weekend as a contribution towards tomorrow’s Global BDS Day of Action. Looking at some of the planned actions, today is looking like it is set to be the biggest and widest day of action to date!
- Flashmobs and BDS demonstrations will take place in dozens of cities, from Rabat to Toronto, from Prague to Melbourne.
- The international campaign against the Jewish National Fund will be officially launched.
- New initiatives, resources and campaigns will be launched by groups all over the world.
What is a flashmob?
Here’s one, early today from March 26th, creatively protesting in Grand Central Station:
What is the international campaign against the Jewish National Fund?
Max Blumenthal has managed to document several aspects of the JNF’s ongoing activities inside Israel itself (as opposed to his documentation of Israeli activities in the occupied territories of the West Bank) that remind me of government actions against black citizens in South Africa in the 60s, 70s and 80s. Here’s a video Max ran at his blog last month “depicting the 17th(!) pogrom against the Bedouin village of Al-Arakib by the criminal syndicate known as the Jewish National Fund and the End Timers at GOD TV,” as Max described it.
The campaign against the JNF has been described by the International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network:
A key pillar of the colonization of Palestine – from the founding of the State of Israel to the present – has been the Keren Kayemet LeIsrael (KKL), commonly known in English as the Jewish National Fund (JNF). The JNF enjoys charity status in over 50 countries. This is despite its role in the on-going displacement of indigenous Palestinians from their land, the theft of their property, the funding of historic and present-day colonies, and the destruction of the natural environment.
Land Day 2011 will welcome the launch of internationally coordinated campaigns to challenge the JNF-KKL. As part of the global movement for Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), in solidarity with the Palestinian liberation struggle, and until such time as the State of Israel respects and implements international law, the Palestinian BDS National Committee and many other organizations call on global civil society to join in a campaign to challenge the JNF.
Why should firedoglake take a position for or against the BDS movement?
I was not in favor of the idea until 2010, even though I have been arguing for and working for Palestinian rights since late in the last century. What changed my mind in 2010?
1. The continuing expropriation of Palestinian lands inside Israel itself, in East Jerusalem and in countless places in the West Bank.
2. The growing strength of the ultra far right in Israeli politics and government ministries. Just this week the Knesset passed a new “Citizenship Law” that, although watered down from the initially proposed “Loyalty Oath” legislation, leaves much room for further implementation of apartheid policies or worse against Palestinians who are Israeli citizens:
Initially, Israel Beiteinu pushed for legislation requiring a loyalty oath to a “Jewish and democratic” state, but the current law was the compromise that the faction managed to secure from the coalition.
“Another promise made by Israel Beiteinu to its voters has been fulfilled,” responded Lieberman minutes after the vote. “Without loyalty, there can be no citizenship. Any person who harms the country cannot enjoy the benefits of citizenship and its fruit. The law will help confront the phenomenon by which there are those who take advantage of our democracy in order to undermine it, and by which those who are called citizens collaborate with the enemy.”
In a gibe at Arab MKs who presented outspoken and impassioned opposition to the bill, Lieberman added that “unfortunately, we are witness to these incidents even among members of the Knesset.”
3. The brazenly unlawful and unnecessary attack on the MV Mavi Marmara, the hundreds of deaths or injuries in 2011 of Palestinians, almost half of them children, and the continuing insinuation of Israeli-based interest groups into American politics helped spur me toward supporting BDS.
4. Already, before I supported BDS, I felt strongly about the negative effects of Israeli-centric American policies. I was asked this 15 months ago:
I don’t understand your preoccupation with Palistine. How about giving some balanced blog space and advocacy for the oppressed people of countries such as North Korea, Tibet, China, Sudan, Somalia, Myanmar, etc.?
Also, and importantly, there is no large body of American people who openly believe that we need to foster violence in North Korea, Tibet, China, Somalia, Venezuela, Cuba, Sudan or Burma, so that we may enable the second coming of Jesus Christ, and implement a new age. And there is no cynical tie-in between Columbian politicians who hope to bring money to their country because of some apocolyptic religious myth, and American fundamentalist sects who total in the tens of millions of misguided believers.
I’ve come to actively support the global BDS movement. I encourage others to do the same. I would like to hear the thoughts of readers on whether or not this might be a laudable goal for fdl to also pursue.
*Update: Here is a statement about the origins and goals of the Global Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign against the Israeli Government policies against the Palestinian people:
On July 9 2005, a year after the International Court of Justice’s historic advisory opinion on the illegality of Israel’s Wall in the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT), a clear majority of Palestinian civil society called upon their counterparts and people of conscience all over the world to launch broad boycotts, implement divestment initiatives, and to demand sanctions against Israel, until Palestinian rights are recognised in full compliance with international law.
The campaign for boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) is shaped by a rights-based approach and highlights the three broad sections of the Palestinian people: the refugees, those under military occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, and Palestinians in Israel. The call urges various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law by:
Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
The BDS call was endorsed by over 170 Palestinian political parties, organizations, trade unions and movements. The signatories represent the refugees, Palestinians in the OPT, and Palestinian citizens of Israel.
Just off the phone with the office of David Rittberg, the Executive Director of the Bronfman Center for Jewish Student Life at New York University. David wasn’t in, but a staff member assured me he will be returning my call. We’ll see.
I called David to find out what the “serious safety and security issues” are that have led the Bronfman Center to cancel what they had described on Tuesday as an “extremely unique opportunity to hear from an IDF Navy Seal who was one of the first Israelis to board the Mavi Maramara ship during the Turkish Flotilla incident last May.”
Max Blumenthal alerted many of us to this upcoming event late Tuesday on a facebook post:
Bringing an actual participant in the flotilla massacre to NYU? Now that’s rich!
In response to Students for Justice in Palestine’s increasingly successful “Israeli Apartheid Week,” zionists at NYU have put together “Israeli Peace Week.” And in a truly disgusting move, they have included – and advertised – a navy seal who was one of the first on board the Mavi Marmara. See below for part of the original email, which presents the war criminal as “an extremely unique opportunity.”
We need to send an unequivocal message that war criminals are not welcome on our campuses. Help Students for Justice in Palestine at NYU protest outside the building, and please forward this message, rsvp on facebook, and post/invite friends.
I’ve been looking for evidence that what Isaacs and NYU SJP were organizing might be considered a “serious safety and security issue,” and have found none yet.
Perhaps the cancellation had more to do with my comment at Mondoweiss, which led the comments at their article on this IDF Navy SEAL’s appearance:
Max Blumenthal put up a facebook post about this last night. I wonder if there’s a way to compare this IDF seal to images that were smuggled out by Iara Lee and others, to see if he was in the vicinity of Furkan Doğan at the time of the latter’s death. If so, could the IDF seal be detained and questioned under oath about what he knows? Are any Mavi Marmara passengers going to be there to see if they can ID him for possible crimes against any U.S. citizens aboard who survived?
The level of protest being planned for this event by NYU SJP appears from published reports to have been typical of the kinds of pushback both pro- and anti-Zionists groups engage in routinely at controversial events:
Mobilize against Mavi Marmara War Criminal @ NYU Thursday!
In response to Students for Justice in Palestine’s increasingly successful ”Israeli Apartheid Week,” Zionists at NYU have put together ”Israeli Peace Week.” And in a truly disgusting move, they have included – and advertised - a navy seal who was one of the first on board the Mavi Marmara. See below for part of the original email, which presents the war criminal as “an extremely unique opportunity.”
We need to send an unequivocal message that war criminals are not welcome on our campuses. Help Students for Justice in Palestine at NYU protest outside the building, and please forward this message, rsvp on facebook here, and post/invite friends.
Meet: 6pm, outside of Silver Center (100 Washington Sq E, 10003)
I’m going to continue looking into this. If there were rational security concerns, we should certainly support the decision on the part of the presenters. However, it appears at this time that the presenting organizations began to realize it was really a fucking stupid idea to put this possible poster boy for what has become so, so wrong with Israeli military actions up on the stage for all to see in the plain light of public view.
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