Thursday, 30 June 2011

Knesset set to pass anti-democratic law making it illegal to call for a boycott of the Israeli state

From Mondoweiss

What will those modern-day McCarthys in the Israeli Knesset think up next?

By now we’ve all become accustomed to the creepy, liberty-limiting laws emerging every few months or so from the right-wing (though hardly always right-wing) precincts of the Israeli Knesset. I’m thinking, of course, of the Nakba law, the Loyalty Oath law, the law requiring NGO’s to declare their sources of funding, and so on and so on and so on. But the last few weeks have seen a flurry of anti-Democratic efforts that have been impressive even by the current Knesset’s standards. There was the bill proposed earlier this month by four right-wing members of Knesset that would give the government the power to disband existing NGOs and refuse to register new ones if they “deny the Jewish character of the State” – a clear jab at the country’s Arab population. More recently, on Sunday, two proposals were presented to the Ministerial Legislation Committee, each designed to limit the amount of money “political” NGOs can receive from foreign entities – and foreign entities, by the way, include the United Nations and the European Union.

Now there is “The Bill to Prevent Harm to the State of Israel Through Boycotts.” That’s right, a law that would make it a civil violation to call publicly for a boycott of the State of Israel.

The latest version of this law, which is a flagrant strike at democracy, free speech, and the right to resist, passed the Knesset’s farcically-named Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee on Monday. This means the bill has a strong chance of becoming law soon. The bill targets “anyone who publishes a public call for a boycott of the State of Israel” and threatens them with a fine to be determined by the courts. In addition, the bill takes direct aim at NGOs that support boycotts by threatening to retract or deny their tax exempt status. more

Texas governor wants to jail holocaust survivor and Alice Walker for taking letters to Gaza

(pic: Auschwitz survivor and pro-Palestine activist Hedy Epstein is being threatened with a three-year prison sentence by Texas governor Rick Perry)

The state of Texas is in the habit of jailing black people and, like the rest of the Deep South, has never been too keen on Jewish people either (yes, we remember the US civil rights movement), which partly explains the truly sickening remarks of the governor of that state who is demanding the incarceration of any US citizen who sails to Gaza with the flotilla. Not a word about Israel's illegal blockade and the continuing collective punishment of 1.5 million people. Story below from the Washington Post
AUSTIN, Texas — Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged the U.S. attorney general to take action Wednesday against Americans who plan to take part in a pro-Palestinian protest by sailing to the Gaza Strip to challenge an Israeli naval blockade.

Perry wrote that he had information that American citizens were aboard two U.S.-flagged ships that plan to challenge the blockade on the Gaza Strip. He urged U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to take legal steps to stop them from taking part, or to prosecute them if they make the attempt.

“The state of Israel is a friend and critical ally of the United States, and the only stable democracy in an increasingly unstable and hostile region,” wrote Perry, a vocal supporter of Israel who is considering a run for president in 2012. “These initiatives to breach Israel’s maritime blockade of the Gaza Strip is an unacceptable provocation.”

Under federal law, anyone who “prepares a means for, or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition” against a friendly country can be fined or jailed for three years. Perry also suggested that Holder prosecute the protesters for providing materials or assistance to a terrorist organization. more

US boat to sail 'imminently' despite Netanyahu's baseless claims about 'efforts to smuggle missiles'

(pic: US boat, The Audacity of Hope, awaits departure in Greek dock as part of Gaza-bound international flotilla [MaanImages/Mya Gu)

ATHENS, Greece (Ma'an) -- Organizers of a US boat participating in the Gaza-bound flotilla said Thursday afternoon that they hoped to sail "very very soon," with some expecting an immanent departure.

Speaking to reporters and passengers alongside the ship, organizer Anne Wright said "we will sail to challenge the naval blockade of Gaza ,we have ten ships, we have passengers aged 22-87 ... we have carpenters, retirees, acupuncturists; these are the people that the state of Israel fears."

Organizers stressed, following a press inspection of the ship, that the 3,000 letters from Americans to the Palestinians in Gaza were not "very dangerous cargo." more

Meanwhile Netanyahu continues with his fantastical rants in his very own parallel universe:
Speaking at IAF pilot's graduation, Netanyahu praises int'l leaders for working against Gaza-bound "provocation flotilla"; says Hamas holding Schalit in "criminal captivity".

Israel is fully entitled to work against attempts by the upcoming Gaza-bound "provocation flotilla" to smuggle arms into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said in a speech to graduating cadets of the IAF Pilot's Course at the Hatzerim Air Base near Beersheba on Thursday.

"Israel has the full right to operate against efforts to smuggle missiles, rockets and other weapons to Hamas's terror enclave. Hamas is a ruthless enemy, who maliciously harms our cities and children," Netanyahu said at the graduation ceremony. more

Sabotage of Irish Ship to Gaza M.V. Saoirse in Turkey 'an act of international terrorism'

Sabotage of M.V. Saoirse in Turkey
'an act of international terrorism'

The Irish-owned ship, the MV Saoirse, that was meant to take part in Freedom Flotilla 2 has been sabotaged in a dangerous manner in the Turkish coastal town of Göcek, where it had been at berth for the past few weeks. Visual evidence of the undership sabotage, which was carried out by divers, will be presented today at a press conference in Dublin at 11am in Buswell's Hotel. Photographs and video footage of the damage are available from the Irish Ship to Gaza campaign.

Concerns for the boat first emerged on Monday evening following a short trip near the Göcek marina and an inspection was carried out by divers and by skipper Shane Dillon on Tuesday morning. Evidence was found that the shaft of the starboard propeller has been interfered with and it was decided to take the boat out of the water for a further visual inspection. On Wednesday, the boat was put on land at a local shipyard and the extent of the sabotage was immediately visible.

The propeller shaft had been weakened by saboteurs who cut, gouged or filed a piece off the shaft. This had weakened the integrity of the shaft, causing it to bend badly when put in use. The damage was very similar to that caused to the Juliano, another flotilla ship, in Greece. The consequent damage would have happened gradually as the ship was sailing and would have culminated in a breach of the hull.

The Irish Ship to Gaza campaign believes that Israel has questions to answer and must be viewed as the chief suspect in this professional and very calculating act of sabotage.

Commenting on the attack from Göcek in Turkey, Dr Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza, who own the vessel, said: "This is an appalling attack and should be condemned by all right-thinking people. It is an act of violence against Irish citizens and could have caused death and injury. If we had not spotted the damage as a result of a short trip in the bay, we would have gone to sea with a dangerously damaged propeller shaft and the boat would have sunk if the hull had been breached. Imagine the scene if this had happened at nighttime."

He continued: "One of the most shocking aspects is the delayed nature of the sabotage. It wasn't designed to stop the ship from leaving its berth; instead, it was intended that the fatal damage to the ship would occur while she was at sea and this could have resulted in the deaths of several of those on board. This was a potentially murderous act."

Dr Lane, who was on board Challenger 1 in last year's flotilla, said: "The Freedom Flotilla is a non-violent act of practical and humanitarian solidarity with the people of Gaza, yet Israel continues to use threats and violence to delay its sailing. They attacked us in international waters last year; now they are attacking us in Turkish and Greek ports. There is no line that Israel won't cross."

"We will not be intimidated by attacks like this - it simply highlights the aggression that the Palestinian people of Gaza have to put up with on a daily basis. It strengthens our determination to continue until this illegal and immoral blockade is lifted."

Calling on the government and northern executive to demand safe passage for Freedom Flotilla 2, Dr Lane said: "The Irish government needs to publicly condemn this dangerous act of sabotage but it also should insist on the flotilla being allowed to make it to Gaza unhindered. Israel has no right to interdict the flotilla and even less right to carry out attacks against vessels in Greek and Turkish ports."

"It is important that everybody make their voices heard in solidarity with the people of Gaza and in support of the flotilla. The Israeli embassy should become a focal point for street demonstrations. These saboteurs came very close to killing Irish citizens."

Also speaking from Göcek, the skipper of the MV Saoirse, Shane Dillon, said: "The damage sighted and inspected on the starboard propeller shaft on the MV Saoirse had the potential to cause loss of life to a large number of those aboard. The nature of the attack and malicious damage was such that under normal circumstances the vessel would most likely have sunk at sea. If the ship was operating at high engine revs, the damage done by the saboteurs would have caused the shaft to shear and the most likely outcome would be the rupturing of the hull and the vessel foundering. If, as was intended, the vessel had proceeded to Gaza at reduced revs, the stern tube would have been forced off line and a large and rapid ingress of water would have resulted, sinking the vessel."

Mr Dillon continued: "The shaft was filmed and photographed when the vessel was lifted from the water on Wednesday afternoon in a shipyard in the Turkish coastal village of Göcek. A local marine engineer inspected the shaft and his opinion was that the interference was the work of professional saboteurs intent on disabling the Saoirse. However, the most shocking aspect of the attack was that its intention was to cause failure of the shaft when the vessel was offshore and this shows a total disregard for human life."

He ended: "It is also worth noting that the damage inflicted on the Saoirse was identical to that that caused to the Greek/Swedish ship, the Juliano, which was sabotaged in the Greek port of Piraeus a few days ago."

Pat Fitzgerald, a Sinn Fein member of Waterford County Council and chief engineer on the Saoirse, commented: "We were very lucky to discover this act of sabotage when we did. We felt vibrations from the shaft as we were returning to the berth on Monday evening following a short trip in the bay for refuelling purposes. Close inspection by divers on Tuesday and then on land on Wednesday revealed a large man-made gouge on one side of the propeller shaft. The integrity of the shaft had been compromised and a very serious bend had developed. This could have caused fatalities had we set to sea and almost certainly would have sunk the boat when the engine revs were increased. It was an act of sheer lunacy and endangered the lives of all on board."

The sabotage has been reported to the harbour master in Göcek and Irish Ship to Gaza are asking for a full investigation by the Turkish police.

The repairs have yet to be fully costed but could be more than E15,000 and they will take some time, meaning that the Saoirse cannot participate in Freedom Flotilla 2.

However, six of the 20 crew and passengers aboard the Saoirse will transfer to another ship in the flotilla. The six Irish who will join the Italian/Dutch ship are Fintan Lane, national coordinator of Irish Ship to Gaza and a member of the Free Gaza Movement;Trevor Hogan, former Ireland and Leinster rugby player; Paul Murphy, Socialist Party MEP for Dublin; Zoe Lawlor of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign;Hussein Hamed, a Libyan-born Irish citizen; and Gerry MacLochlainn, a Sinn Fein member of Derry City Council.

The MV Saoirse will be repaired and used in future flotillas to Gaza if they are needed.

Ireland: Claudia Saba at 086 3938821, or Laurence Davis at 086 3605053
Turkey: Phone Fintan Lane (Göcek) at 087 1258325, or 537557811 (Turkish number)

US Senate passes resolution to stop aid to Palestinians if UN statehood vote goes ahead

Just in case anyone was under the misguided impression that the US is an honest broker in the Middle East, this news from the US Senate should clear up the confusion:
The United States Senate has passed a resolution threatening to suspend financial assistance to the Palestinian Authority if its leaders "persist in efforts to circumvent direct negotiations by turning to the United Nations or other international bodies,” and called on U.S. President Barack Obama to veto a UN vote on unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state.

“Palestinian efforts to gain recognition of a state outside direct negotiations demonstrates absence of a good faith commitment to peace negotiations, and will have implications for continued United States aid,” the resolution declares. more
So Palestinians must recognise an Israeli state but the Palestinians themselves are not even allowed to have even a theoretical one, which is all that a UN resolution in practice will mean, because, of course, Israel still occupies Palestine.

189 dunums of Palestinian land south of Nablus seized as 'state property' by Israel

NABLUS, (PIC)-- Israeli authorities have notified the residents of the Palestinian Qaryut village south of Nablus that they would seize 189 dunums of local farmland, said West Bank Jewish settlement official Ghassan Daghlas.

The official added that the authorities have restricted entry of the land and have declared it state property. more

Jordanians buy $800,000 boat for Gaza flotilla - carrying medical aid and construction material

Some really good news. Jordanian activists now have a boat ready to join the flotilla.
AMMAN, Jun 29, 2011 (AFP) - Arab activists have purchased a boat to join a Gaza-bound aid flotilla aimed at breaking Israel's five-year blockade on the Palestinian territory, a leading Jordanian unionist said on Wednesday.

"Arab contributors have bought in Greece a 560,000-euro ($805,000) boat that can take up to 200 passengers to join the aid flotilla to the Gaza Strip," Wael Saqqa, former head of the Jordan engineers' union, told AFP.

"The boat has been registered under the name of Nur company, established for the purpose of purchasing the boat," said Saqqa, adding 35 Jordanian activists would join the flotilla.

The vessel was expected to set sail for Gaza on Thursday, along with other ships.

"But it might be delayed because there is a general strike in Greek ports," Saqqa said, adding the boat would carry medical aid and construction material. more

Irish ship to Gaza not able to join flotilla due to extensive sabotage by Israeli agents

From Irish Ship to gaza

Terrible news has reached us in the early hours of Thursday – the Irish Ship To Gaza, MV Saoirse, has been SABOTAGED, presumably by agents of Israel. The damage is extensive, and indeed, if it had gone undetected apparently may have been lıfe-threatenıng if the ship had been at sea.

This is an unacceptable act of aggression against an Irish vessel (which is sovereign Irish territory), against the Freedom Flotilla, and most importantly against the people of Palestine which this flotilla was intending to reach in an act of humanitarian solidarity.

Full details of the extent of the sabotage, including photos and video of the damage will be made available to the press later today.

The Irish Ship To Gaza have called an EMERGENCY DEMONSTRATION for tomorrow in response to this outrageous act. We are calling on people to assemble at 6pm at the Spire in O’Connell Street. From there we will march to the Israeli Embassy and stage an overnight sit-in outside (so bring sleeping bags etc). We intend to shut down the Israeli Embassy!

We need this demo to be as loud as possible, so if you have drums, bodrans, whistles, whatever, please bring them along.

This act of sabotage against a peaceful humanitarian civil society mission (which has been paid for by 1000s of ordinary Irish people) must be protested in the strongest terms possible.

Irish Ship to Gaza

And more at the Irish Times, confirming the ship will no be sailing die to the extensive sabotage.

Israel withdraws phone calls, conjugal visits, education and other rights from Palestinian prisoners

From Arab News
RAMALLAH: The Israeli Internal Security Minister Yitzhak Aharonovitch on Wednesday announced that Israel will start revoking the Palestinian prisoners’ privileges.

The Israeli Channel 10 television quoted Aharonovitch as saying that the Israeli Prison Service (IPS) will bar the prisoners from enrolling in university studies. Israel holds some 6,700 Palestinian prisoners in 23 jails and detention camps.

He added that the IPS will block the cellular reception in jails to prevent Hamas prisoners from communicating with the movement’s prisoners in other Israeli jails and with the Hamas leaders in Gaza Strip.

The minister added that the prisoners will not have the right to conjugal visits or vacations.

According to the minister, the measures are part of the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to take away prisoners’ privileges in order to pressure Hamas into releasing kidnapped Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit, who is still held in Hamas captivity since June 2006.

Netanyahu’s decision came in response to Hamas’ refusal to let the International Committee of the Red Cross International Red Cross (ICRC) visit Shalit.

Hamas said the ICRC should also consider the suffering of 7,000 prisoners in Israeli jails. more

Haaretz columnist pleads with his government to allow flotilla to proceed to Gaza

Ex IDF medic Bradley Burston, writing in Haaretz, pleads with Netanyahu and Barak to let the flotilla reach Gaza. Unfortunately his pleas are likely to fall on deaf ears. The Israelis are being led by fools.
Once again, as it did a year ago, in making a decision to fight the flotilla, Israel is defending not itself, but the siege. This, at the expense of its own international standing, at the expense of its very freedom to defend itself.

There is nearly nothing which more effectively delegitimizes Israel - and makes Israel look more like an uncaring blockhead state - than does the siege of Gaza. The siege benefits Hamas in a thousand ways and Israel in none. But there is one thing that does the work of delegitimization even better: attacking civilians in order to protect the siege.

Enter the 21st century. Before it's too late. You're not young commandos anymore. Grow up. Do your nation a favor - act your age. The flotilla is not a terrorist fleet. It is not an arms shipment. The flotilla is, however, a statement about Israel, a judgment of its policies, and, in the end, the verdict will come directly from you.

The cargo of the flotilla consists of this message: Israel is callous, brutal, insensitive to civilians, heedless of human rights, wholly in the wrong. Last year, from start to finish, all the proof of this that the flotilla organizers and participants needed, was supplied by you.

It's not too late this time. Last time, you shrugged off the flotilla as unimportant, then, back flipping from blunder to blunder, leapt blindly into a decision of rash incompetence that proved lethal...

...Mr. Netanyahu, Mr. Barak, the flotilla is very much a test of Israel. You invest a great deal of thought over Israel's capabilities of deterrence. You expend enormous effort in seeking ways to combat delegitimization. This time, show strength. Let Israel pass the test. Let the flotilla sail to Gaza. more