Saturday, 2 July 2011

US boat to Gaza seized, captain jailed - passengers determined to sail and free captain

U.S. Boat to Gaza Seized by Greek Authorities and Captain Jailed

Passengers Determined to Free Captain and Set Sail Again

Athens--After a two hour stand off at sea, the U.S. Boat to Gaza - The Audacity of Hope - was seized by the Greek Coast Guard and forced to return to the port of Piraeus under military escort. The boat's captain has been put in jail, charged with disturbing sea traffic--which includes endangering the lives of those on the ships-- and disobeying a police order to remain at dock. The crew is being detained on the boat, which is being held at a military dock just outside Athens. Most of the 36 passengers remain on the ship in solidarity with the captain and crew.

Ann Wright, retired U.S. Army Colonel, responded strongly to the arrest of the American captain of the U.S. Boat to Gaza. "I think it's outrageous what the Greek government is doing to our captain who was taking a group of Americans to challenge the illegal Israeli blockade. We call on the Greek government to release our Captain and dismiss all charges."

Yonatan Shapira, a crew member on The Audacity of Hope and former Israeli Air Force captain, said the captain of the U.S. Boat should be praised, not condemned for his actions. "The captain acted out of concern for the safety of the passengers and boat by taking us away from the Greek port where other flotilla boats are being sabotaged," Shapira said.

After five days of stalling, the Greek authorities produced the results of the inspection of the boat, which took place on Monday, June 27. The Greek government inspected the boat on the basis of an anonymous complaint alleging that the boat is not seaworthy. The anonymous complaint later turned out to have been filed by the Israel Law Center. The list of infractions cited on the inspection report included such things as technical details regarding the construction material of the hull and the fact that the private inspection report emailed to the authorities was unsigned. "None of these alleged infractions are actually regulations that boats are required to meet," said group's Greek lawyer Emmanuel Stephanakis. "It's obvious that these are politically motivated, baseless charges calculated to stop the U.S. Boat to Gaza from sailing."

"This shameful chapter in Greek history is symbolized by Prime Minister Netanyahu thanking his Greek counterpart Prime MInister Papandreou for his cooperation in helping thwart the flotilla, and by the fully-armed and masked Greek commandos at sea, pointing their guns at unarmed American civilians singing "We are a gentle, loving people," says passenger Medea Benjamin.

The other boats in the flotilla that are docked in Greece have been denied permission to sail due to a variety of bureaucratic obstacles the Greek authorities have thrown in their way. Greece's Civil Protection Authority confirmed Saturday the ban on departures of ships "with Greek and foreign flags from Greek ports to the maritime area of Gaza" was in place until further notice. Two of the boats have had physical damage done to them as well. All vow to pressure the Greek government to grant them permission to sail, and have activated their international networks. In the United States, the phones at the Greek Embassy and Consulates were so busy that callers could not get through.

While deeply disappointed that they have not yet been able to sail to Gaza, the passengers feel they have been successful at exposing the ongoing plight of the people of Gaza and the inhumanity of the Israeli government. "The success of the flotilla is shown by the huge expenditure of financial and personnel resources by the Israeli government to counter 10 civilian, unarmed ships with 300 citizen activists who simply want to sail to Gaza out of concern for the people of Gaza," says jazz musician and passenger Richard Lopez.

For regular updates follow the US Boat to Gaza on Twitter: and visit the US Boat to Gaza website.

The day of victory: Bil'in celebrates the removal of Israel's apartheid wall

(pic: Rani Burnat - Bil'in)

From Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bil'in

For the first time after nearly seven years of resistance and struggle of the residents of Bil'in, the people of the village and a large number of participants from neighboring villages could hold the Friday prayer on the land that has been retrieved 2 days ago.

Also, many Palestinian leaders, including: Abbas Zaki, member of the Central Committee of Fatah, Qais Abu Laila, member of the Democratic Front, Hisham Abu Raya, member of the Palestinian Liberation Front, Fadwa Barghouti, member of the Revolutionary Council of Fatah and many of the leaders and supporters of the Palestinian national movement, as well as dozens of international activists and Israelis joined the celebration.

The local Sheik spoke conducted the Friday prayer and held a speech for the brave people of Bil'in, praising the strength of their will and their attachment to their land, shown by their resistance to the occupation army.

He said that the land can only be retrieved through resistance, patience and faith in the complete victory. He also praised the foreign assistance and continuous support for the Palestinian cause.

After the prayer, the participants in the march went to have a huge celebration in the natural reserve of Abu Lemon, waving Palestinian flags and banners of the various factions, and singing national songs to express their joy about the victory and the big dream to end the occupation of all Palestinian territories.

In a speech, Abbas Zaki, member of the Central Committee of the Fatah movement encouraged the people of Bil'in and praised their heroic struggle during the past seven years.

This victory was the result of the sacrifices made by the people of Bil'in, he said. After they reached the protected area, they built the first house there after the removal of the wall.

After many years of not seeing any big groups of Palestinians so close to their residence, the inhabitants of the nearby illegal settlement were watching the celebration and the building of the first house with great attention and surprise.

The people of Bil'in are now planning to build more houses, in order to protect the land from the greed of the occupation and the settlers.

Friends of Freedom and Justice - Bil'in

US pushes Turkey and Israel into secret talks to weaken UN report on Mavi Marmara massacre

What bribes is Washington offering the Turkish government to get them to forget about the eight Turkish citizens (and one American-Turkish citizen) who were killed at the hands of Israeli commandos? From Ynet News:

WASHINGTON – Israel and Turkey are holding secret talks in an effort to soften the conclusions of the Palmer Report, issued by a United Nations panel appointed to probe the events of the May 2010 Gaza-bound flotilla.

According to information obtained by Ynet, sources in Washington claimed that Israel's representative to the UN inquiry committee Yosef Ciechanover, his Turkish counterpart and other officials were crisscrossing between Jerusalem and Ankara in an attempt to use the report's conclusions to improve relations between the countries.

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The sources also noted that the American administration was applying pressure on both sides to end the prolonged feud, and therefore postponed the publication of the committee's final report, which was headed by former New Zealand Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and former Colombian President Alvaro Uribe.

According to the sources, if Israel and Turkey reach mutual understandings, the United Nations may decide to moderate the reports' conclusions and refrain from assigning direct blame on one of the sides. Ynet

Occupation authorities in Jerusalem announce more illegal settlement building

OCCUPIED JERUSALEM, (PIC)-- Israeli sources say the Jerusalem municipality is planning on erecting some thirty settler houses in the East Jerusalem district of Ras al-Amud.

The municipality has given locals sixty days to file petitions against the construction decision before it would discuss and finally approve the decision, said the Israeli leftist group Peace Now.

The group said the construction would take place on Ras al-Amud’s main road some 50 meters from the local police station.

If approved, settlers would be enabled to broaden their existence largely in the Palestinian neighborhood, Peace Now warned, adding that the structures would be ensued by an increase in security and infrastructure and would therefore change the neighborhood. more

Weekly report on Israeli human rights violations in Occupied Palestinian Territories(23– 29 June 2011)

(pic: PCHR - Israeli soldiers arrest a human rights defender during a peaceful demonstration against the construction the annexation wall in Nabi Saleh village near Ramallah)

From the Palestinian Center for Human Rights

Israeli Occupation Forces (IOF) Continue Systematic Attacks against Palestinian Civilians and Property in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT)

· IOF continued to use force against peaceful protests in the West Bank.

- A Palestinian civilian was wounded.
- IOF arrested two human rights defenders and 6 Palestinian civilians.
· Israeli gunboats opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats in the Gaza Strip.
- A fishing boat was damaged, and IOF arrested two fishermen, but released them later.

· IOF conducted 31 incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank.

- IOF arrested 21 Palestinian civilians, including 7 children a Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council, a human rights defender and a journalist.

· Israel has continued to impose a total siege on the OPT and has isolated the Gaza Strip from the outside world.

- IOF arrested 3 Palestinian civilians, at military checkpoints in the West Bank.
- IOF arrested a physically disabled young man at Beit Hanoun (Erez) crossing in the Gaza Strip.

· IOF have continued settlement activities in the West Bank and Israeli settlers have continued to attack Palestinian civilians and property.

- At least 100 graves were bulldozed in a cemetery in East Jerusalem.
- IOF demolished two barnyards and will in Arab al-Rashaida village near Bethlehem.
- IOF confiscated a plot near Hebron to establish an aircraft strip.
- IOF destroyed irrigation networks near Hebron
- IOF uprooted 300 olive trees in Deir Estia village near Salfit.

Greece: the USA's new colony - Palestinians slam Greece for enforcing Israel's illegal Gaza blockade

(Pic: protest outside the US embassy in Greece yesterday [1 July] - Maan)

From Maan

DAMASCUS (AFP) -- The Hamas movement on Friday denounced Greece after its coastguard intercepted a US vessel which tried to sail to Gaza to break Israel's blockade of the coastal strip.

In a statement issued by its political leadership in Damascus, the group described the action as "inhumane" and said Greece had played into Israeli hands.

"This is inhumane action, is contrary to international regulations and norms," said the statement by Hamas, a copy of which was obtained by AFP.

"Barring this aid from reaching the Gaza Strip is done as a result of pressure imposed by the Zionist occupiers," referring to Israel.

Hamas also called on the EU parliament and human rights organizations "to put pressure on the Greek government" to allow a planned flotilla of aid boats to set sail from Greece to Gaza.

The Israeli-imposed blockade of Gaza "is unjust... and a mark of disgrace on the forehead of humanity," it said.

Earlier Friday, Greek coastguard officials intercepted the Audacity of Hope as it tried to set sail for Gaza in defiance of a Greek ban, to challenge Israel's naval blockade of the Palestinian enclave, an activist on board said.

The boat, which carrys 3,000 letters of support for Palestinians, left behind nine other ships which had planned to join the 2011 Freedom Flotilla II which hopes to leave for Gaza on Sunday. more

Greek authorities may charge captain of US flotilla boat

(pic: The Audacity of Hope leaving port yesterday before being turned back by Greek commandos)

Well, it would appear that the Greek government has turned into a colony of the US (and Israel) much sooner than any of us could have imagined. Not content with selling off large chunks of the coast and many of the islands - in total privatising 20 per cent of the countries assets at the behest of the EU and IMF - they are now attempting to show to their new rulers how loyal they are by sending commandos to intercept a ship carrying letters to the children of Gaza. Shame on Greece and its so-called socialist government.

From US Boat to Gaza

July 1 - 9 pm (NYC time)

Sorry for the delay in getting this to you all.

As you know, earlier today [1 July] the U.S. Boat to Gaza - The Audacity of Hope - was stopped by the Greek Coast Guard. After a stand off that unfolded over several hours a 2nd Greek Coast Guard boat arrived. This boat carried heavily armed Greek commandos and this shifted the dynamic. Soon after a decision was made to bring the boat back to a dock in Athens, not the same one the boat had previously been at.

Once docked we learned that the Greek authorities are most likely going to bring some type of charges against the captain of our boat, and that should happen tomorrow (Saturday) morning. In solidarity with the captain, most of the passengers and other crew members decided to spend the night on the boat. We do not yet know what their plans are for tomorrow, or what the next steps in all of this will be. As soon as we find out we will get word to you all.

The good news today [1 July] was the tremendous outpouring of calls and emails sent to the Greek Embassy in Washington, DC as well as Greek consulates around the country. Many people have also contacted the U.S. State Dept. urging them to stop supporting the Israeli efforts to undermine the flotilla.

Please be sure to check our website for regular updates and to sign up for Twitter and Facebook notices.

Thanks everyone for your support and great work today!

Canadian Boat to Gaza boarded by Greek coastguard - now banning all boats from leaving

Greece has now banned all Gaza-bound vessels from leaving after having intercepted The Audacity of Hope and now boarding the Tahrir, the Canadian boat. From the Pacific Free Press
As it attempts to sail, the Canadian Boat to Gaza, the Tahrir, blockaded in Greece

Greek coast guard are now on board the Tahrir attempting to arrest Sandra Rush, Jewish Canadian member of the Canada boat to Gaza Steering Committee, who is refusing to surrender boat's registration papers.

Efforts to stop Freedom Flotilla 2 - Stay Human from sailing have included diplomatic pressure and manipulation, economic blackmail, bureaucratic obstacles, baseless and slanderous allegations against the flotilla and the delegates, and sabotage of at least two vessels.
"The world watched as an intensive campaign to prevent the Tahrir and the entire Freedom flotilla II from sailing was underway. We have been unjustly and duplicitously treated." said Irene MacInnes of the Tahrir organizing committee.

"The government of Israel, shamefully with the tacit support of the Harper government, is doing everything in its power to maintain the blockade. Today, as a result of the concerted efforts of the 4th largest military power in the world and its backers, we have been prevented from sailing to Gaza. Yet we will persevere in our attempts till the blockade is lifted."

"Israel has in effect extended the illegal blockade of Gaza to Greek ports, using the Greece's economic difficulties to influence the government's position", said David Heap of the organizing committee. more