Monday, 27 June 2011

Scandinavian/Greek flotilla boat Juliano has propellor axel cut in act of sabotage, repairs underway


From the Christian Science Monitor
A ship jointly owned by Swedish, Greek, and Norwegian activists hoping to join a flotilla of activist vessels challenging Israel's economic blockade of Gaza, had its propeller cut while in Athen's harbor today. A spokesman contacted by the Monitor said that the damage was a deliberate act of sabotage.

Israel and its allies have been working hard to head off the planned flotilla, which is hoping to enter the waters off Gaza in the next week. Col. (ret) Ann Wright, who's organizing a US vessel named the Audacity of Hope for the flotilla, says her ship has been detained in Athens on spurious charges that it's not seaworthy. She says that charge was made by an Israeli legal group.

Now the Juliano is held up. Mikael Löfgren, a spokesman for Ship to Gaza Sweden, says the damage was discovered at 6:30 in the evening Athens time today, and that divers probably cut the propeller in the past 24 hours.

"The reports I'm receiving is that it's certain that it was sabotage," says Mr. Löfgren, reached by phone in Sweden. "The propeller and [propeller shaft] has been cut and we have divers that have filmed the damages. Experts have said there’s no doubt" that the damage was deliberate.

He says that repairing the damage will take a few days. As to who is responsible, he declined to speculate. "We simply don't know who did it, but it's obviously a hostile act," says Löfgren. more

Video report: Democracy Now exclusive from Greece - 'We are eager to get to Gaza'



Up to 50 Americans are set to sail from a Greek port on a U.S.-flagged ship that is part of an international flotilla carrying humanitarian aid and letters of support for Gaza’s 1.5 million Palestinian residents.

Its fate is now in limbo under the weight of U.S.-Israeli pressure and Greece’s economic turmoil. Israel insists it will enforce its blockade on Gaza, which it says is aimed at stopping weapons from reaching the Hamas government. “The Israelis have a right to interdict arms traffic.

We are bearing letters,” says Ray McGovern, former Senior CIA analyst and passenger on the U.S. aid ship. “How can these letters be considered a threat to security of Israel?” Democracy Now! producer Aaron Maté is in Athens to cover the journey of The Audacity of Hope, named after President Obama’s best-selling book. He and fellow producer, Hany Massoud, are the only journalists with the U.S. delegation. They file this exclusive report.

Video: Israel's intensive exploitation of resources aimed at de facto annexation of the Jordan valley


The Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area contains the largest land reserves in the West Bank. The area covers 1.6 million dunams, which constitute 28.8 percent of the West Bank. Sixty-five thousand Palestinians, live in 29 communities, and an estimated additional 15,000 Palestinians reside in dozens of small Beduin communities. Some 9,400 settlers live in the 37 settlements (including seven outposts) in the area.

Israel has instituted in this area a regime that intensively exploits its resources, to an extent greater than elsewhere in the West Bank, and which demonstrates its intention: de facto annexation of the Jordan Valley and the northern Dead Sea area to the State of Israel.

From B'Tselem - The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories

Dublin Demos: End the siege, let the flotilla through - Riverdance, don't dance for Israeli apartheid


The Irish Ship to Gaza Campaign have organised a demonstration in support of Freedom Flotilla 2 - Stay Human.

- Assemble: Tuesday 28 June 6.00pm at Central Bank Plaza, Dame St, Dublin 2

- March: Israeli Embassy, 122 Pembroke Rd

- Via: The Gaiety Theatre (South King's St) where Riverdance will be opening. Riverdance is scheduled to perform a series of shows in Israel in September, and the IPSC are organising a protest outside the opening night in the Gaiety at 6.30pm. The march will link up with this protest and go out to the Israeli Embassy.

The demonstration is supported by the Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign and Irish Anti-War Movement.

Support the Irish Ship to Gaza and the second Freedom Flotilla!

The Freedom Flotilla II, including the Irish Ship to Gaza and
the Mavi Marmara (which attacked in open waters last year by the Israelis with the loss of nine lives), sets sail for Palestine on or about the 28 June, with desperately needed supplies and equipment.

We are calling this demonstration to demand the Flotilla be given
unhindered access to the beleaguered people of Gaza and to focus the public and media attention on the mission, so as to help deter any repetition of last year's attack.

Gaza, we are coming - despite pressure and threats of violence, flotilla will sail

(pic: Activists wave Palestinian flags onboard a ship named "Dignité - Al Karama" as it sails off the French island of Corsica on June 25 to join the new pro-Palestinian aid flotilla. Israel's security cabinet was to convene on Monday for a second day of discussions on how to stave off an international flotilla intending to breach the naval blockade of Gaza, local media said. [AFP/Murielle Kasprzak])

27 June 2011 | FREEDOM FLOTILLA II

Contact: Huwaida Arraf, Athens +30-694-781-5798

Greta Berlin, Athens +33 607 374 512

GAZA, WE ARE COMING - Despite pressure and threats of violence, flotilla will sail

On Saturday, 25 June, the French boat, Dignity / Karama, left the port of l’ile Rousse in Corsica, France, to meet up with at least nine other vessels sailing to Gaza to challenge Israel’s illegal blockade. Israel’s best efforts to stop our boats at port, including pressure on governments, threats against insurance and communications companies, intimidation of human rights defenders, frivolous lawsuits and other underhanded tactics, have thusfar failed. The Freedom Flotilla has set sail.

In the coming days the rest of the vessels in the flotilla, two cargo ships and seven other passenger boats, will leave from various ports to a meeting point in international waters from which the boats will sail all together towards Gaza. We will carry nearly three thousand tons of aid and hundreds of civilians from dozens of countries, including members of parliament, politicians, writers, artists, journalists and sports figures, as well as representatives of indigenous peoples and various faith groups.

Unfortunately some of our vessels are facing delays admittedly initiated by bogus complaints from the Israel Law Center, attempted sabotage of some boats, as well as administrative obstacles created by the Greek government in response to Israeli pressure. We call upon the Greek government not to become complicit in Israel’s illegal actions by succumbing to this pressure, and to join France in standing unopposed to the flotilla.

There is no question that Israel’s near hermetic closure of the Gaza Strip is illegal; this has been affirmed again and again by numerous international human rights bodies including the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. And, when prompted by the flotilla effort, international consensus has been unequivocal in the demand for the Israeli siege to end. There is no question that Israel’s closure policy has had a devastating effect on the occupied people of Gaza. This has also been well documented. The only question is why does the international community of states allow Israel to keep violating the law and rights of the Palestinian people with impunity?

Recent steps taken by Israel to address the concerns raised in the public eye by the Freedom Flotilla II – Stay Human initiative, including last week’s announcement of authorization for construction materials for 1,200 homes and 18 schools in Gaza, prove that flotillas work. However, this is not enough, as our effort is not simply about increasing humanitarian aid to Gaza. It is about freedom for Palestinians in Gaza and the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories. Calls by some world leaders for flotilla organizers to use “established channels” to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza show a fundamental disregard for Palestinian human rights. The Palestinian people do not want handouts from the international community; rather they demand liberation – a call we must all support.

Therefore, despite intimidation, pressure, and threats of violence from the Israeli government, which is not ashamed to boast that it will use snipers and attack dogs against unarmed civilians, we will sail. We are part of a growing movement, led by Palestinian civil society campaigning for their freedom, that Israel’s strong-arm tactics cannot stop. We call on our governments to do their utmost to protect their citizens as we take to the sea, without weapons, protection or threat of force, in defense of freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. Gaza, we are coming.

Free Gaza Movement


Below is an approximate list of the boats which will be joining the Freedom Flotilla II - Stay Human

Country, Name of Boat, Passengers, Journalists:

Spain, Gernicka, 30, 0
France, Louise Michel, 24, 6
France, Dignity, 10, 1
Australia/Belgium/Canada/Denmark/Germany, Tahrir, 48, 9
Italy/Netherlands, Stefano Chiarim, 65, 5
Ireland, Saoirse, 20, 2
European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza, , 15, 0
Greece/Sweden/Norway, Juliano, 25, 4
Greece/Sweden/Norway, Methimus #2 Cargo boat, 15, 0
United States, Audacity of Hope, 40, 10

Link to the list

Israeli cabinet meets for second day as it struggles to find a response to looming flotilla crisis


JERUSALEM (AFP) -- Israel's security cabinet was to convene on Monday for a second day of discussions on how to stave off an international flotilla intending to breach the naval blockade of Gaza, local media said.

On Sunday, ministers in the forum were told of the military's preparations for the 10-ship convoy which is expected to set sail from Greece later this week.

"Yesterday, the ministers decided not to allow the ships to anchor in the Gaza Strip, although they will be allowed to unload their cargo at [the Israeli port] of Ashdod or the Egyptian port of El-Arish," Israeli army radio said.

"If no weapons or ammunition are found, the cargo will be transferred in its entirety to Gaza."

Public radio said Cairo had already agreed to allow the ships to dock at El-Arish, a Mediterranean port which lies some 50 kilometers west of Egypt's border with Gaza. more

Netanyahu backing down on threat to ban foreign journalists for 10 years


Netanyahu seems to be now claiming, unconvincingly, that he knew nothing about the threats made to journalists sailing on the flotilla ships. So used to bullying Palestinians with impunity, he and his government presumably thought they could do the same with the world's media. Now they are hopefully backing down, but to late to undo the further tarnishing of the standing of the settler state in the eyes of the world.
(Reuters) - Israel said on Monday it was rethinking its threat to bar foreign journalists from entering the country for 10 years if they board a new aid flotilla that plans to challenge the Israeli naval blockade of the Gaza Strip.

"(Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu) heard about it on the news and asked to re-examine this issue because it's problematic," Deputy Prime Minister Moshe Yaalon said, referring to Sunday's warning from Israel's Government Press Office (GPO).

"I know the prime minister was as surprised as I was to hear this," he said, without disclosing who had made the decision to deliver the threat. more

Passengers of The Audacity of Hope now confident Greek authorities will allow US boat to leave


Contrary to reports in the Israeli press - see below - activists are confident all ships will indeed be sailing in the flotilla, including the US ship The Audacity of Hope.

For Immediate Release – Monday, June 27, 2011 (US Boat to Gaza)

U.S. Boat to Gaza Responds to Reports Israeli “Lawfare” Group Filed Complaint Delaying Departure of U.S. Boat

Passengers on The Audacity of Hope Now Confident
Greek Authorities Will Allow U.S. Boat to Leave

Contact:
In Athens: Donna Nevel 30-694-266-3713
In New York: Leslie Cagan 845-688-5646

Athens – Passengers on the U.S. Boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, said news reports that an Israeli “lawfare” group, Shurat HaDin, is behind the complaint delaying the departure of the U.S. boat from Greece substantiate the Americans’ assertions that the complaint is frivolous. The passengers expressed confidence that Greek authorities will now quickly dispense with the complaint and allow The Audacity of Hope to sail.

On Sunday, June 26, the Jerusalem Post reported: [1] “Sources in the Shurat HaDin (Israel Law Center) on Sunday took responsibility for lodging an anonymous civil complaint against the American-flagged ship, The Audacity of Hope, which is a part of the flotilla expected to sail towards Gaza later this week, Army Radio reported.” The Israeli group is known for making frivolous legal complaints against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, a form of political harassment known in the U.S. as “lawfare.”

“We reiterate that the boat we are leasing for this journey, after its refitting for the voyage to Gaza, was surveyed by a professional surveyor and successfully completed its sea trials,” said Ann Wright, an organizer and passenger on the U.S. boat. “There is no reason for any further delays on this matter, we are ready to sail.”

References:
1. “Report: Group says its responsible for flotilla complaint,” Jpost.com, 06/26/2011 21:45, http://www.jpost.com/Headlines/Article.aspx?id=226663

See below the report on Ynet claiming six ships have been 'detained'.

From Ynet News
Six ships which were slated to take part in the Gaza-bound flotilla are being detained by the Greek port authorities, Ynet learned Sunday night.

Senior officials in Jerusalem have confirmed the report, which followed a Sunday decision by Greece to stop the US vessel "Audacity of Hope" from participating in the sea-bound convoy.

While the organizers of the maritime convoy claim that more than 1,500 activists are set to take part in the initiative, it now appears that no more than seven ships, carrying 200-500 passengers, will participate in the flotilla. more

American Indian Movement activist 'Jimbo' Simmons joins flotilla in solidarity with Palestinians


Article and photo by Brenda Norrell at The Narcosphere

The American Indian Movement and the Free Palestine Movement announced that Bill “Jimbo” Simmons will be a member of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla Delegation.

Tony Gonzales of AIM-WEST in San Francisco said Sunday that Simmons, Choctaw, joins the flotilla in solidarity to break the blockade.

"AIM representative Jimbo Simmons, in solidarity with the Palestine Freedom Movement, is among the Gaza Flotilla delegates heading off in an effort to break the blockade,” Gonzales said.

“Watch this action unfold as AIM enters international waters bringing peace and extending its hand in friendship. Our prayers go out with the flotilla and with our brother Bill 'Jimbo' Simmons.” more