Thursday, 16 June 2011

Israeli military threatens to kill activists heading to Gaza with Freedom Flotilla II


From the Washington Post
TEL AVIV — The Israeli military served notice Thursday that it will stop a flotilla of aid ships that is expected to set sail for the Gaza Strip later this month and warned that if soldiers were met with violence, there could be casualties among the activists on board.

The warning was delivered by a senior military officer at a briefing with foreign journalists. It was part of a diplomatic and media campaign that, along with publicized navy preparations, appears intended to head off the attempt by an international coalition of activists to challenge Israel’s naval blockade of Gaza. more

Settlers torch Bil'in olive trees, occupation soldiers stop villagers putting out the fires


RAMALLAH, (PIC)-- Jewish settlers torched tens of Palestinian olive trees in Bilin village land behind the separation wall west of Ramallah city, the popular anti wall committee said in a statement on Thursday.

The statement said that the fire started last night near a Jewish settlement, which was established on Bilin village land.

It pointed out that the Israeli occupation forces stationed at the wall’s gate blocked entry of fire brigades to extinguish the blaze, which led to the spread of fire.

The statement said that young men from the village gathered in front of the gate in a bid to help in putting off the blaze but the IOF soldiers prevented them and fired teargas at them.

The committee held the IOF responsible for providing protection for the settlers and for refusing to remove the wall as ruled by the Israeli high court four years ago. more

Israeli prison guards arrest mother as she visits her incarcerated son


From the International Middle East Media Center
Palestinian political detainees at the Israeli Eshil detention center torched their mattresses in protest to detaining a mother of one of them under the pretext of carrying “unpermitted luggage” for her detained son.

After detaining the mother, the Israeli Prison Administration cancelled visitation, moved the detainees back to their rooms, and forced their relatives out of the prison compound.

Following the attack, the detainees torched their mattresses to protest the imprisonment of the old woman.

The Prison Administration announced full alert and sealed all rooms preventing the detainees from leaving them. more

San Francisco Bay Area residents, including famed author Alice Walker, ready to sail with flotilla 2


From the Oakland Tribune
Three Bay Area residents, including author Alice Walker, will be among about 50 Americans to participate in a "Freedom Flotilla" later this month, challenging the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip. The flotilla follows a similar attempt last year that resulted in nine activists being killed in a clash with Israeli Defense Forces.

Walker, Henry Norr, of Berkeley, and Kathy Sheetz, of Richmond, say they will participate. Sheetz is already en route, and Norr is preparing to leave for a news conference Monday in New York and then travel to the area. No information was available on whether Walker has left.

The exact date of the departure of The Audacity of Hope -- the U.S. flagged ship being used -- is being kept secret for security reasons.

"Well, sure, it's scary," Norr said. "I've seen how the Israelis, when they have a problem, their first response is brute force. But all I can say is I don't think they're going to kill us. If they attack an American-crewed boat full of people like me, a diverse group of old and young people, it's not going to look good."

Daniel Morgan, director of public affairs for the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest, said the flotilla is being organized by, "radical anti-Israel elements, some of which have terrorist ties."

"The main purpose of this flotilla is to provoke Israel into a confrontation by trying to break the naval blockade on the Gaza Strip -- which is considered legal under international law -- and is necessary to prevent weapons from being smuggled to the terrorist organization Hamas, and used against innocent Israeli civilians," he said. more

Video: Passenger Kathy Kelly on why she is sailing with the US Boat to Gaza



Passenger Kathy Kelly talks about why she is going aboard the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end of the month.

Bio: Kathy Kelly, 58, co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, (www.vcnv.org) a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare. Since May of 2010, she traveled to Afghanistan four times, with delegations intent on learning more about conditions faced by ordinary people in Afghanistan, a country afflicted by three decades of warfare. Voices for Creative Nonviolence has been working closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteers in search of non-military solutions to end the war. In 2009, she lived in Gaza during the Operation Cast Lead bombing. She was also in Lebanon during and after the 2006 Israeli assaults on southern Lebanon.

From 1996 -- 2003, Voices activists formed 70 delegations that openly defied economic sanctions by bringing medicines to children and families in Iraq. Kathy and her companions lived in Baghdad throughout the 2003 "Shock and Awe" bombing. She was sentenced to one year in federal prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites (1988-89) and spent three months in prison, in 2004, for crossing the line at Fort Benning's military training school. She and her companions at the Voices home/office in Chicago believe that non-violence necessarily involves simplicity, service, sharing of resources and non-violent direct action in resistance to war and oppression.

Up to 330 trucks to be allowed into Gaza through the Kerem Shalom crossing


GAZA CITY (Ma'an) -- Palestinian officials were notified Thursday morning that 320-330 truckloads of goods would be permitted to enter the Gaza Strip.

Palestinian liaison official Raed Fattouh said he was informed that the goods would include 20 motor vehicles, three loads of equipment for the Energy Authority, ten loads of iron pipes for the German development bank, and 45 truckloads of construction materials for USAID projects. more

Statement from the Freedom Flotilla II –Stay Human steering committee to the UN Human Rights Council


From the Free Gaza Movement

In September 2010 the international Fact-Finding Mission to investigate violations of international law resulting from the Israeli attacks on the Freedom Flotilla I concluded that the conduct of the Israeli military towards its passengers, when it was unlawfully intercepted on the way to Gaza on 31 May 2001, “demonstrated levels of totally unnecessary and incredible violence... It constituted grave violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law.” Unfortunately and incredibly, Israel is threatening to use even greater violence against Freedom Flotilla II, which will sail to Gaza the end of this month. Its threats have included the use of snipers and canine units. Even more deplorable, world leaders, rather than demanding that Israel halt its provocative behaviour towards us and refrain from once again attacking unarmed civilians, have called the Flotilla initiative a provocation and have asked countries on the Mediterranean to prevent us from sailing.

In its September Report, the Fact-Finding Mission concluded that the passengers on board our ships in May 2010, many of whom they interviewed at length, were “persons genuinely committed to the spirit of humanitarianism and imbued with a deep and genuine concern for the welfare of the inhabitants of Gaza.” The same spirit of humanitarianism compels us to again take action – even at the risk of serious injury or death – to confront massive injustice with global nonviolent action. For too long our national and international leaders have passively watched the tragedy of Gaza – of all of Palestine. The grossly unjust and unlawful blockade of the Gaza Strip and the ongoing belligerent occupation of the rest of Palestine – imposed by Israel and tolerated by the world community - is a stark case of states sacrificing principle and human rights for power and self-interest. For those who have any lingering doubts that a man-made crisis continues to Gaza, just yesterday the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights issued an alert indicating its extreme concern over the “running out of medications and contraction of health services in the Gaza Strip.”

The Fact-Finding Mission gave much thought to and called upon the international community to recognize some role for “humanitarian organizations who wish to intervene in situations of long-standing humanitarian crisis where the international community is unwilling... to take positive action.” It included in its broad definition of humanitarianism both types of organizations involved in the Flotilla: those that engage in activities taken to alleviate crises and those that take action to address the root causes of the crises. The Mission understood that “too often” humanitarian organizations, such as those behind Flotillas I and II, are “accused of being meddlesome and at worst as terrorists or enemy agents.” Today, these same humanitarian organisations and human rights activists are being accused of ‘provocation’ and Israel is threatening, once again, to unlawfully and brutally stop them. We therefore call upon the Human Rights Council to stand up to these Israeli threats, to defend our right to intervene in the long-standing tragedy which is Gaza and to expose and put an end to Israel’s illegal behaviour, which has too long been tolerated by the international community.

We are determined to sail to Gaza. Our cause is just and our means are transparent. To underline the fact that we do not present an imminent threat to Israel nor do we aim to contribute to a war effort against Israel, thus eliminating any claim by Israel to self-defense, we invite the HRC or any other UN or international agency to come on board and inspect our vessels at their point of departure, on the high seas, and/or on their arrival in the Gaza port. We will – and must – continue to sail until the illegal blockade of Gaza is ended and Palestinians have the same human and national rights those of us sailing enjoy.

Free Gaza Movement

Flotilla will sail to Gaza with or without Turkish support say organisers


From Haaretz
Organizers of the Gaza flotilla said Wednesday that they are determined to set sail even if the heads of the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) do not participate. The flotilla is currently scheduled to depart in one week to mark the anniversary of last year's raid of the Gaza-bound flotilla in which nine Turkish activists were killed.

"The Israeli attempt to link the flotilla to the desires of only the Turks is an intentional deception intended to influence public opinion," said sources from the coalition behind the flotilla.

While Turkish participation is crucial, that does not mean the flotilla will be canceled if the Turks do not participate, the sources said. The IHH is considering whether to back out of the Gaza flotilla because of tensions along the Syrian-Turkish border, Turkey's Hurriyet newspaper reported yesterday. more

Gaza students build racing car to enter UNRWA competition being held in the UK this July


Video from Al Jazeera, report below from BBC:
Students in the Gaza Strip have made a racing car they hope will compete in this year's Formula Student, a student engineering competition that takes place in the UK in July.

They built it at the Khan Younis Training Centre, which is operated by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency.

The students used locally made parts to manufacture their car and now are hoping to take part in the race against teams from 30 other countries.

7 Palestinian youths injured, two seriously in anti-wall protest west of Ramallah


RAMALLAH (Ma’an) – Seven Palestinians were injured, including two critically, Wednesday after an anti-wall protest turned into clashes between Israeli soldiers and young Palestinians in Deir Qaddis, west of Ramallah.

A rally headed from the village to obstruct Israeli bulldozers digging up private lands for the separation wall, a Ma'an correspondent reported. Israeli forces were heavily deployed in the area and tried to disperse the demonstrators, beating them with clubs and rifle butts.

However, several demonstrators managed to pass the soldiers and clashed with the bulldozer drivers. They succeeded in stopping the bulldozers before soldiers fired high-velocity tear-gas canisters and stun grenades at the demonstrators.

A witness said troops “brutally attacked the demonstrators with clubs and rifle butts, injuring seven.” Two young men sustained serious injuries and one of them fainted.

Paramedics managed to rescue them before they were detained. Maan

Donations urgently needed for Freedom Flotilla 2 New Zealand volunteer


From the New Zealand Palestine Human Rights Campaign

Dear Friends,

In May 2010, nine aid workers were killed by Israeli commandos when a humanitarian flotilla destined for Gaza was intercepted in international waters by the Israeli Navy. Israel’s naval forces continue to enforce an illegal and inhumane blockade of the Gaza Strip.

This month (June 2011), Freedom Flotilla Two (FF2), a coalition of vessels from Canada, France, USA, UK, Ireland, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Greece, Turkey and other countries, is to set sail in the hope of breaking the blockade. Palestine Human Rights Campaign Aotearoa/New Zealand (PHRC) is raising money to enable a New Zealander, Harmeet Sooden, to join the upcoming flotilla. Harmeet has been offered a place on the boat Tahrir (Liberation in Arabic) alongside delegates from Australia, Belgium and Denmark.

In 2004, Harmeet travelled to the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) to undertake human rights assignments with the International Solidarity Movement. The following year, Harmeet and three colleagues were kidnapped in Iraq while participating in an international Christian Peacemaker Teams delegation and held for four months. One member of the group, Tom Fox, was murdered. In 2008, while attempting to enter the OPT via Israel for the second time, he was denied entry, detained, assaulted and removed by Israeli authorities on the pretext of being a ‘threat to the security of the State of Israel’.

The Free Gaza Movement is one of the co-ordinators of FF2. Free Gaza was formed to raise public awareness and challenge the Israeli-Egyptian blockade directly, by sailing ships carrying human rights defenders and humanitarian aid to Gaza. Since August 2008, Free Gaza has made eight solo voyages; most recently, it took part in the fateful May 2010 flotilla as a member of a six-partner coalition. Free Gaza has several endorsers, including notable individuals such as Desmond Tutu and Noam Chomsky, and groups with which PHRC has had an association such as Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (www.pchrgaza.org), and the Palestine Medical Relief Society (www.pmrs.ps).

We aim to raise $10,000 ($5000 for airfare and basic living expenses, and a further $5000 to contribute towards the cost of purchasing the boat and cargo).

Thank you for your support.

Janfrie Wakim on behalf of PHRC, May 2011

Please make donations by direct deposit to PHRC 06 0145 0045138 00 or by sending a cheque to PHRC, Box 56150, Mt Eden, Auckland, New Zealand. All donations will be receipted (advice on internet deposits must be emailed to jwakim@xtra.co.nz)

If you have any questions, please contact Janfrie Wakim at jwakim@xtra.co.nz. For further information, please refer to:

PHRC – www.palestine.org.nz

Canada Boat to Gaza – www.tahrir.ca

Free Gaza – www.freegaza.org