Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Aid ship nears Gaza as Israeli navy makes first contact - orders ship to Egyptian port

update: 17:28 GMT +1: Captain refuses to change course for El-Arish in the face of Israel's illegitimate demands. more

CAIRO — An Israeli military vessel confronted a Libyan aid ship Tuesday trying to breach Israel's three-year-old Gaza blockade and ordered it to divert to an Egyptian port, the Israeli military and organizers said.

The Gadhafi International Charity and Development Foundation said the Moldovan-flagged Amalthea, which left Greece on Saturday carrying 2,000 tons of food and medical supplies, refused to alter its course for el-Arish in Egypt and insisted it will steam on for Gaza. more

Haaretz reports that the Israeli navy has made contact with the aid ship Hope on its way to deliver aid to the people of Gaza. The captain has reportedly refused to be diverted to the Egyptian port of El-Arish.
...The ship, which left Greece on Saturday afternoon, was commissioned by the Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, headed by Saif Al-Islam Gaddafi, second son of Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi.

"The Ship's Captain was asked by the gunboat crew to go to El-Arish port instead, stressing that the vessel will not be allowed to go into Gaza at all," the foundation said in a statement on its website.

"The captain and the head of the foundation's team on board affirmed that the Ship's sole destination is Gaza, asserting that it is carrying humanitarian aid and has no other purpose whatsoever, while the gunboat is still present near the ship," it added. more

Interview with Greta Berlin founder of the Free Gaza Movement

Thanks to Intifada-Palestine.com
Greta Berlin (France/US, English) has been an advocate for justice for the Palestinians since the early 60s. She is the mother of two Palestinian/American children whose father was born and raised in Safad, Palestine and is a 1948 refugee. She has an MFA in Theatre and a bachelor’s in English and, when she’s not working with the Palestinians, has spent the past 32 years teaching engineers and scientists how to design and deliver presentations. In 2003, she volunteered with the ISM, working in several villages in the occupied West bank as well as manning their media office, then returned to work again in 2003, 05 and 07.

Elias Harb interviews Greta Berlin Co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement

Elias Harb: Can you tell us what motivated you to the Palestinian Cause and the Free Gaza Movement and when was the movement founded?

Greta Berlin: I married a 1948 Palestinian refugee from Safad and have two Palestinian/American children. I’ve been part of justice for Palestine since 1967. Once you go and see what has happened to the Palestinians (I call them the final victims of WWII, because they have paid the price for what Europe did to the Jews), it is impossible to leave. I am no longer married, my children are grown, I am still working for justice. more

EU-funded Gisha game highlights freedom of movement restrictions on Palestinians

Gisha - Legal Center for Freedom of Movement has released a game, helped with funding from the European Union that introduces players to the real world restrictions on freedom of movement between the West Bank and Gaza. The case of student Fatima Sharif, reported on earlier this week,highlights the impact on the lives of ordinary people; in her case, like many others, being refused the right to travel to attend university on the West Bank. Israel's approach to the movement of Palestinians is similar to the system of pass laws in Apartheid-era South Africa.
"Safe Passage", is the largest and most comprehensive new media project about human rights in Israel. It allows the user to experience interactively the restrictions on movement between the Gaza Strip and the West Bank and understand the grave consequences resulting from the separation of Gaza and the West Bank for people living in the two areas. "Safe Passage" makes innovative use of animation, Flash documents, video and a blog, and comprises a political and legal archive, including dozens of official documents that shed light on the military legislation and legal rulings since the 1990s, when Israel began imposing increasing restrictions on movement between the areas.

Users can choose one of three figures – a student, a businessman and a family man – to try to get to their chosen destinations. After each character's bureaucratic "adventures," the user can watch video clips and get to know the real people behind the characters. And most important - users can impact the situation, not only in the game but also on the ground, by addressing decision-makers. For those who don't want to play, it is also possible to watch the game as a movie.

Divisions in Israel: 18 families control 60% of the economy as war spending soars

Who benefits from the state of Israel? Not the majority of its people it would seem, with living standards under increasing pressure as the rich get richer - see above interview conducted by theRealNews senior editor Paul Jay (and text below). Add to this the burden of ever-rising defence expenditure, and, US aid notwithstanding, it's easy to see why the fundamentals of the economy are now being questioned.
PEACE PROCESS GOING NOWHERE, ISRAELI ELITE DOING FINE – 18 families control 60% of corporate equity says Israeli economist

Gideon Levy, a columnist in the Israeli newspaper Haaretz writes, "If there remained any vestiges of hope in the Middle East from Barack Obama, they have dissipated; if some people still expected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to lead a courageous move, they now know they made a mistake (and misled others)."

"The masked ball is at its peak: Preening each other, Obama and Netanyahu have proved that even their heavy layer of makeup can no longer hide the wrinkles. The worn-out, wizened old face of the longest "peace process" in history has been awarded another surprising and incomprehensible extension. It's on its way nowhere."

In spite of all of Obama's promise and promises, he winds up in the same trap. US policy in the Middle East depends on Israel as a pillar of its power in the region (along with Saudi Arabia and Egypt). The Israelis know it and even if Israeli policy weakens US influence in the Arab world, for strategic interests and domestic politics, Obama can't make a real move even if he wants to.

Canadians saw Prime Minister Harper an even more ardent dance partner for Netanyahu in Canada a few weeks ago. The Israeli PM was in Ottawa when commandos attacked the Turkish humanitarian aid ship and nine people were killed. Harper said nothing. Even the Americans said there should be an inquiry.

Lost in Obama's and Harper's swearing of allegiance to the Israeli people and the Jewish state is any discussion of just who is the current State of Israel good for? It's taken for granted that Israel exists to defend its Jewish population, but take a closer look.

When I was in Jerusalem recently, I interviewed Israeli economist Shir Hever of the Alternative Information Center. According to Hever, 18 families in Israel control roughly 60 percent of the equity value of all companies in Israel. The country has gone from being one of the most equitable in terms of distribution of wealth to one of the worst.

Hever says the Israel elite not only oppresses Palestinians, it is also exploits the majority of its Jewish population. A full video of the interview can be seen here. Here's an excerpt of the interview.


JAY: So, in talking to people in Israel, one thing I hear constantly is the fight here is about national identity, it's about the defense of the Jewish state. I don't hear very much about economics of Israel or the economics of occupation. So how does national identity relate to the economics here?

HEVER: Well, the economic reality of Israel, of course, plays a part in every aspect of Israel's existence-in the politics, in the society, and, of course, also in identity issues as well. The occupation of the Palestinian territories defines Israel's economy in a large way. About two-thirds of Israel's history, it has been occupying power, controlling Palestinian territories. But even before that occupation, Israel has created a very particular system of economic control, which is designed to promote the idea of a Jewish state. The Jewish state is not merely a cultural idea; it's not merely a symbolic idea; it's a material reality which is designed to redistribute wealth in order to draw as many Jews as possible to this area and to maintain a sustainable control of the Jewish population over a piece of land which is by nature bi-national.

JAY: Now, in terms of the Israeli economy, what percentile at the top controls the majority of the Israeli economy in terms of ownership?

HEVER: Israel is very centralized in terms of capital, far more than most developed economies in the world. About 18 families in Israel control roughly 60 percent of the equity value of all companies in Israel. So it's concentrated in the hands of 18 families. Of course, there are other rich people in Israel who control some more of that other 40 percent. more

Paul Jay is the CEO and Senior Editor of The Real News Network. He is an award-winning filmmaker, founder of Hot Docs! International Film Festival and was for ten years the Executive Producer of the CBC Newsworld show counterSpin.

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