Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Israeli army dismantling section of 'separation wall' on Bil'in village land but 435 acres still lost

From the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

This morning army bulldozers began work to dismantle the fence in Bil'in. As early as 2007, after two years of weekly protests in the village and following a petition filed by the residents, Israeli high court declared the path of the Barrier illegal. The court ruled that the route was not devised according to security standards, but rather for the purpose of settlement expansion. Despite the high court's ruling four more years of struggle had to elapse for the army to begin dismantlement. During these years two people were killed in the course of the weekly protests and many others injured.

Yet even according to the new path, sanctioned by the high court, 435 acres of village land will remain on the "Israeli" side of the Barrier.

Mohammed Khatib of the village's popular committee said in response "On the ground, nothing has changed yet. All we know is that although the Israeli court officially pronounced our claims to be just, the army continued to protect the original route shooting and arresting protesters, thereby completely ignoring the ruling. We will continue to struggle until all the land is returned to our people and until we see an end to the Israeli occupation."

Although on 4 September, 2007, the high court ordered the state to come up with an alternative path for the existing Barrier in Bil'in within a reasonable period of time, many months elapsed and no new plan was offered. On the 29.05.08 the residents filed a petition to hold the state in contempt of the court due to this delay. In response to the petition, the state offered an alternative path. However, the plan failed to comply with the high court's ruling as the proffered path left a large area designed for settlement expansion on the "Israeli" side of the Barrier. The only difference between the two paths being that the latter offered to award 40 acres of land back to the residents.

A second petition claiming the alternative path not in accordance with court ruling was then filed. On 3 August 2008 the court declared that the first alternative path indeed fails to adhere to the ruling. The court ordered the state to come up with another alternative path.

On 16 September 2008 the state offered a second alternative path. This path also left a large area designed for settlement expansion on the "Israeli" side, offering to return a100 acres of village land to the residents. A lawyer for the residents asked that the state be held in contempt of the court for violating a court ruling for the second time.

On 15 Decemebr 2008 the high court ruled that the second alternative path was not in accordance with the original court ruling.

In April 2009 the state offered a third alternative path which left most of the area destined for settlement expansion on the "Palestian" side of the Barrier, thereby returning to the village 150 acres of 490 acres annexed by the original path.

Thanks to the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee

Australian Green Party hosts farewell event for flotilla activists at parliament building

See if you can spot the downright lies in this piece attacking Australian Green Party MP, David Shoebridge (pictured), for daring to host a send-off for flotilla participants in the parliament building.

From The Australian Jewish News
THE decision by Greens MP David Shoebridge to host a farewell function at Parliament House this week for activists preparing to set sail to break Israel’s blockade on Gaza has sparked outrage among Jewish leaders.

The activists – including former NSW Greens MO Sylvia Hale – are planning to board the so-called Freedom Flotilla II later this month. Their aim is to break the Israeli naval blockade and deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza, this is despite the fact that the border crossing between Egypt and Gaza is now fully open.

NSW Jewish Board of Deputies acting president Jeremy Spinak questioned why a state MP would encourage people to break the law of a legitimate government.

“It’s a sad state of affairs that the Greens are using Parliament House, with its proud history, to promote an event that will be in violation of international law,” Spinak said. “The organisers of the event know that the flotilla seeks to break a blockade, which is in place because of Hamas’ ongoing war on Israel.”

Shoebridge, however, has defended his actions.

As a co-convener of the NSW Parliamentary Friends of Palestine, he said the “multi-party” group of state MPs is “promoting peace and justice in the Middle East”.

“There is a long and proud tradition of the NSW Parliament being a place for free and open political discussion, including on matters that some view as controversial. That should be the role of any functioning parliament,” he told The AJN.

“The flotilla is a humanitarian assistance project to assist people who have been denied basic human rights.” more

Irish human rights activists vow to prevent Israeli forces boarding their aid ship

From Irish Ship to Gaza

By Sarah Stack

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

HUMAN rights activists trying to break the Gaza blockade have vowed to stop Israeli forces from boarding their ship.

Dr Fintan Lane, co-ordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, said crews in the second aid flotilla will make it difficult for officials to seize control of vessels, including the Irish-owned MV Saoirse.

Nine people were killed last year when Israeli commandos stormed the MV Marmara, a Turkish aid ship trying to break the naval blockade.

“If they attempt to board the ship, we will non-violently impede their progress,” said Dr Lane. “We will not facilitate their boarding party.

“We will not lay hands on them, we will not use physical measures against them. But we will lock down the ship and make it difficult to seize control.”

At least 20 Irish citizens, including former rugby international Trevor Hogan, are taking part in Freedom Flotilla II.

About a dozen aid ships bearing medical supplies, sports equipment and construction materials are due to meet in international waters some 16 hours from Gaza early next week.

Crew include skipper Shane Dillion, artist Felim Egan, former politician Chris Andrew and MEP Paul Murphy.

Almost €130,000 has been raised in Ireland to fund the humanitarian mission.

Hogan, who recently retired from rugby, said he was focused on getting to Gaza but had to be prepared for any eventuality.

“Anything we face is a fraction of what the Palestinians face on a daily basis and that gives me strength,” he added.

Dr Lane said threats by Israel to attack ships with snipers should be condemned by governments, including Ireland.

The Irish Anti-War Movement has also written an open letter to Foreign Affairs Minister Eamon Gilmore, demanding he publicly call on Israel to allow free passage of the Irish ship to Gaza.

Dr Lane said: “They are talking about engaging in a violent attack on human rights activists and it’s not good enough for people to say its too dangerous to go, because people in Gaza suffer this violence on an ongoing basis.”

This appeared in the printed version of the Irish Examiner Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Alice Walker speaks to CNN on why she's sailing to Gaza

From CNN International
Editor's note: Pulitzer Prize-winning author Alice Walker will join an international flotilla of boats sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel's blockade of the territory. Here, Walker, best known for her 1983 novel "The Color Purple," explains why she will be taking part.

Why am I going on the Freedom Flotilla II to Gaza? I ask myself this, even though the answer is: What else would I do? I am in my sixty-seventh year, having lived already a long and fruitful life, one with which I am content.

It seems to me that during this period of eldering it is good to reap the harvest of one's understanding of what is important, and to share this, especially with the young. How are they to learn, otherwise?

Our boat, The Audacity of Hope, will be carrying letters to the people of Gaza. Letters expressing solidarity and love. That is all its cargo will consist of. If the Israeli military attacks us, it will be as if they attacked the mailman. This should go down hilariously in the annals of history. But if they insist on attacking us, wounding us, even murdering us, as they did some of the activists in the last flotilla, Freedom Flotilla I, what is to be done?

There is a scene in the movie "Gandhi" that is very moving to me: it is when the unarmed Indian protesters line up to confront the armed forces of the British Empire. The soldiers beat them unmercifully, but the Indians, their broken and dead lifted tenderly out of the fray, keep coming.

Alongside this image of brave followers of Gandhi there is for me an awareness of paying off a debt to the Jewish civil rights activists who faced death to come to the side of black people in the South in our time of need. I am especially indebted to Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman who heard our calls for help - our government then as now glacially slow in providing protection to non-violent protestors-and came to stand with us.

They got as far as the truncheons and bullets of a few "good ol' boys'" of Neshoba County, Mississippi and were beaten and shot to death along with James Cheney, a young black man of formidable courage who died with them. So, even though our boat will be called The Audacity of Hope, it will fly the Goodman, Cheney, Schwerner flag in my own heart.

And what of the children of Palestine, who were ignored in our President's latest speech on Israel and Palestine, and whose impoverished, terrorized, segregated existence was mocked by the standing ovations recently given in the U.S. Congress to the prime minister of Israel? more

Turkey's secret talks with Israel and US provide context for IHH withdrawal from flotilla

Some interesting background on the IHH decision to pull out of Freedom Flotilla 2. From Hurriyet:
In the end the fact the Mavi Marmara would be heading for Gaza and thus causing a new crisis for Turkey at a time when its regional responsibilities are increasing, is not something Ankara could have risked. An unnecessary and untimely crisis has thus been averted.

This, of course, begs the question as to whether this will be a step in improving Turkish-Israeli ties. That does not seem likely any time soon since Israel has shed Turkish blood and as far as Turks across the board are concerned, must atone for it.

Israel however does not appear set to do this and so the strain will continue for the foreseeable future. more

And from Haaretz, confirmation of secret talks between Turkey and Israel and Turkey and the US:
Israeli and Turkish officials have been holding secret direct talks to try to solve the diplomatic crisis between the two countries, a senior official in Jerusalem said. The negotiations are receiving the Americans' support.

A source in the Turkish Foreign Ministry and a U.S. official confirmed that talks are being held, though in Israel the prime minister and foreign minister's aides declined to comment...

...In addition, the U.S. administration has held talks with senior Turkish officials, mainly to foil the flotilla to Gaza due later this month, but also in a bid to improve relations with Israel. more