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Israeli Navy seizes humanitarian aid ship in International Waters.

IMCista | 08.07.2009 11:12 | Palestine | World

Activists from Free and the International Solidarity Movement, determined to break the Israeli blockade on Gaza, gathered in Cyprus and set sail for Gaza on the ‘Spirit of Humanity’ on June 29th. The following morning, over 20 miles off the coast of Gaza, the boat was surrounded by Israeli Naval vessels who threatened to fire on the boat unless it turned around. The boat continued towards Gaza, and was then boarded by Israeli soldiers, who took control of the boat, and took all 20 passengers and the captain hostage, along with aid including building materials, medical supplies and childrens art supplies. By attacking the vessel in International Waters, and by preventing it from sailing into Gaza, Israel once again showed that it has scant regard for International Law, and confirmed that it is the de facto occupier of Gaza.

The majority of the prisoners were taken first to Ashdod, and then to Ramle Prison, accused of trying to enter Israel illegally. In fact the boat at no point entered Israeli Territorial waters, and nor did it intend to do so. Whilst in prison, the passengers were able to give a number of interviews, but the mainstream reporting of the incident has been patchy. Several of them have commented on the plight of the asylum seekers trapped in Israel’s immigration detention centres, some with no way apparent way out. The majority of the passengers have now been deported, and the charge that they attempted to enter Israel illegally has been dropped.[Interview with deportee] The boat remains in the hands of the Israelis. The Free Gaza movement is already fundraising in order to be able to undertake another journey as soon as possible.

Two activists who entered Gaza on a previous successful Free Gaza voyage, have been stranded at the Rafah Crossing since June 10th, despite having permission to exit from the Egyptian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. On the other side of the border, 100 US activists with $1m of medical supplies are trying to get in.

Previous Free Gaza Journeys: Free Gaza boats arrive in Gaza | Dignity sets sail for Gaza | Israel FIRES on Free Gaza Ship | International Witnesses speak from Gaza

The Spirit of Humanity and The Dignity in Cyprus
The Spirit of Humanity and The Dignity in Cyprus

At the end of 2008, the world watched as the might of the Israeli Military Complex was unleashed on the people of Gaza. 1 300 lives were lost, many thousands were injured and housing and infrastructure was destroyed. News coverage led to massive street protests as people expressed their outrage at the brutality of the invasion.

Six months later, Gaza remains in a desperate state, it’s borders closed much of the time, and very few goods getting through to allow reconstruction to begin. Whilst the people of Gaza remain trapped in despair, the mainstream media has moved its focus away, and Gazans once again are suffering out of sight of the rest of the world.



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Silence on Cynthia McKinney

10.07.2009 15:46

Editorial note:

The shallowness of what passes for Black leadership reveals itself most dramatically at times of outrage and death. “While Cynthia McKinney languished in an Israeli jail, black leaders mobilized to say and do absolutely nothing,” preferring to make themselves part of the Michael Jackson story. “The only national action requested by” Rev. Al Sharpton, “the president of the National Action Network, was a demand for a Michael Jackson postage stamp and a national day of mourning.


Silence on Cynthia McKinney

by Margaret Kimberley, Black Agenda Report, 7 July 2009

“Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were busy advising Michael Jackson’s family, too busy apparently to deal with any other issues.“

What country illegally kidnapped and then imprisoned a former member of Congress and a Nobel peace prize laureate? Was it Iran, Myanmar, or perhaps Sudan? The correct answer is “none of the above.” The rogue nation in question is Israel, the beneficiary of largesse forced from the pockets of millions of American citizens.

Former Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney, peace prize winner Mairead Maguire, and nineteen others were captured by Israel while on a humanitarian mission to bring food, medicine, and building supplies to Gaza. Their vessel, the Human Spirit, was intercepted in international waters and its passengers were taken to Israel and imprisoned for four days.

Israel is justifiably given the rogue title because an even bigger rogue, the United States, is its only benefactor, to the tune of $7million per day. Israel has the sweetest deal in international relations. In return for being the recipient of more American foreign aid than the rest of the countries on earth combined, Israel gets to do as it pleases, including imprison people who would be treated as dignitaries anywhere else in the world.

Vice President Joe Biden explained it all to us. For once he should be thanked for his famous inability to keep his mouth shut. In a televised interview he said Israel can do anything it wants, including declare wars and kill people. The subject of discussion was Iran but the vice president said the same applies to any action Israel may want to take at any time against any one.

“Israel gets to do as it pleases, including imprison people who would be treated as dignitaries anywhere else in the world.”

"Look, Israel can determine for itself — it's a sovereign nation — what's in their interest and what they decide to do relative to Iran and anyone else."

“Look, we cannot dictate to another sovereign nation what they can and cannot do.” (Hopefully that last statement applies to nations other than Israel.)

While Cynthia McKinney languished in an Israeli jail, black leaders mobilized to say and do absolutely nothing. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton were busy advising Michael Jackson’s family, too busy apparently to deal with any other issues. Perhaps that explains their silence on the subject of McKinney and Maguire. McKinney’s former colleagues in the Congressional Black Caucus must have also been similarly occupied. They too went out of their way to say and do nothing about the illegal and immoral treatment of someone they should have defended very publicly.

The silence from the corporate media is, sadly, not at all surprising. The complete surrender of black American leadership is also sad and also not surprising, but is nonetheless disgraceful, and should not pass without comment. Cynthia McKinney was one of the first victims of the corporate takeover of the Congressional Black Caucus. She was targeted for defeat in 2002 by Zionists and other powerful forces determined to get rid of one of the few truly progressive members of congress.

“Cynthia McKinney was one of the first victims of the corporate takeover of the Congressional Black Caucus.”

The black caucus could have responded in any number of ways to prevent falling prey to McKinney’s fate. They might have insured electoral success by mobilizing their supporters, resurrecting movement politics and exposing the forces who would seek to undermine popular will. Instead they chose to capitulate, to go along to get along. They decided not to put up a fight for themselves or for their constituents, who were left without the representation they thought they were getting when they made their choices on Election Day.

As always, the result of capitulation is more capitulation, and it now spreads beyond the hallowed halls of Congress. The only national action requested by the president of the National Action Network, was a demand for a Michael Jackson postage stamp and a national day of mourning.

It is easy and safe to fight for what is palatable to the powers that be. Supporters of Cynthia McKinney, Mairead Maguire, and other defenders of human rights should never be dissuaded or discouraged from doing what is hard. If their struggle results only in silence, then it will have been in vain, and that would be the ultimate disgrace for the Gaza 21.

* Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com.

Margaret Kimberley
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Oh, the Humanity

12.07.2009 16:54

On June 30th the Free Gaza Movement boat, Spirit of Humanity, was
captured in international waters whilst en route to Gaza with a cargo
of humanitarian supplies and human rights witnesses. Not taking any
chances with a small boat carrying an unarmed crew of pacifists, eight
Israeli warships followed the Spirit, boarding her and taking the crew
hostage. At the time the boat was still some 19 miles from the coast,
well outside the 12 mile limit that marks the end of any
country's territorial waters.

Ten Israeli commandos stormed the ship and handcuffed everyone on
board. But despite being dressed up in full Navy SEAL combat gear,
these commandos hadn't quite earned their sea legs. Having
nicked everyone during slightly choppy weather, they proceeded to
throw up over the boat. Apparently this really pissed off the Spirit
of Humanity's captain.

The Israelis tried to spin the story that the boat was 'trying
to enter Israel illegally.' The mind boggles that the Israeli
propaganda machine has the balls to get away with such outrageous
rubbish as this. Not only did the ship's onboard GPS and
navigation equipment all prove that the ship was headed for Gaza, but
this is the Free Gaza Movement's boat (the clue's in the
name). Technically even the Israeli state isn't claiming that
Gaza is part of Israel (at the moment at least).

SchNEWS spoke to one of the Free Gaza organisers, Greta, based in
Nicosia, Cyprus. 'The 21 hostages were taken to an Israeli
immigration jail. They wanted to make the charges (illegal entry into
Israel) stick. But nobody signed anything, and they saw that this
tactic wasn't going to work. The Israelis have tried it all
before. They rammed one ship three times, and tried to capsize
another. These things didn't work, so I guess they figure
'maybe if we board them...' But it's not going to
happen. We're going back. But we won't go back with just
one ship next time, we'll take three or four.' To date
this is only the second boat that they've prevented from getting

After the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Occupied
Palestinian Territories (Richard Falk) spoke up by saying that Israel
had clearly violated the law, Israel quietly dropped the illegal entry
claim. They also, somewhat bizarrely, tried to claim that the ship was
illegally flying the Greek flag. The commandos tried to rectify this
by tearing up all the flags on board (bravo brave defenders of Zion).
This fact came as a surprise to the Greek owner of the ship.
He's currently in Tel Aviv negotiating the return of his vessel.
Despite the keenness of the Israelis to hold onto the Spirit of
Humanity, there are fairly strict rules about capturing the vessels of
other nations. These rules are variously referred to as Piracy,
Privateering or Acts of War (take your pick, Israel).
It's getting harder and harder to decipher Israel's game
these days. After kidnapping the passengers and crew of the Spirit and
throwing them in jail, they allowed them to keep their phones and call
the world's press from their cells. It's almost as if the
government revels in bad press.

Meanwhile, all the crew and passengers are out of jail and have
returned home. The UK detainees made it back last Monday (5th). The
Free Gaza Movement has plenty of people ready and waiting to brave
high seas and low tricks to break the brutal and criminal siege of
Gaza. They're short of cash however, and need activists around
the world to keep their missions to Gaza in the public eye.

* See

Schnews reposted
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Israeli soldiers say humanity absent in Gaza war

15.07.2009 11:24

Around 30 Israeli soldiers testify about their experiences in Operation Cast Lead

A new booklet by "Breaking the Silence" (15 July 2009)

"You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them."

Fifty-four testimonies of Israeli combat soldiers who participated in Operation Cast Lead reveal gaps between the reports given by the army following January’s events; the needless destruction of houses; firing phosphorous in populated areas and an atmosphere that encouraged shooting anywhere.

Half a year after Operation Cast Lead, the organization "Breaking the Silence" is announcing the release of a new booklet today (Wed. 7/15) that includes numerous testimonies by soldiers who participated in the operation. The testimonies expose significant gaps between the official stances of the Israeli military and events on the ground.

Among the 54 testimonies are stories revealing the use of "accepted practices," the destruction of hundreds of houses and mosques for no military purpose, the firing of phosphorous gas in the direction of populated areas, the killing of innocent victims with small arms, the destruction of private property, and most of all, a permissive atmosphere in the command structure that enabled soldiers to act without moral restrictions.

The booklet compiles the testimonies of about 30 reserve and regular combat soldiers from various units that participated in the fighting. The testimonies demonstrate that the soldiers were not given directives stating the goal of the operation and, as one soldier testifies, "there was not much said about the issue of innocent civilians."

Many soldiers said that they fought without seeing "the enemy before their eyes." "You feel like an infantile little kid with a magnifying glass looking at ants, burning them," one of the soldiers testified that "a 20-year-old kid should not have to do these kinds of things to other people."

"The testimonies prove that the immoral way the war was carried out was due to the systems in place and not the individual soldier," said Mikhael Mankin from "Breaking the Silence." What was proven yesterday is that through the IDF the exception becomes the norm, and this requires a deep and reflective discussion. This is an urgent call to Israel's society and leadership to take a sober look at the foolishness of our policies."

Breaking the Silence
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27.07.2009 15:32

The ship was NOT in international waters (these begin 200 nautical miles from the coast). The ship was in the Contiguous Zone/waters where Israel still had powers (although slightly reduced)