Freedom Flotilla II: Final Thoughts – by Stephen Lendman
Palestinian analyst/advocate/author and former journalist Nadia Hijab is right, saying “(i)t was never about aid.”
In her article titled, “Freedom Flotilla II: No to a Kinder, Gentler Siege,” she said like earlier and new initiatives to come, it’s “a political act” against Israel’s illegal occupation/Gaza blockade – forced isolation, in fact, since 1988 “permit system” terrorism was instituted.
In 1991, closures began, “institutionalized” in 1993, then a 1994 electronic wall, and continued repression by lawless incursions, air attacks, home demolitions, targeted assassinations, mass arrests, daily intimidation, Cast Lead, and virtually anything Israel can dream up to collectively punish 1.6 million people, guilty of being Arabs, not Jews.
Flotillas and other humanitarian efforts aren’t about delivering “goods,” said Hijab. They’re about freedom, self-determination, and ending Israel’s lawless chokehold, violating international laws, norms and principles grievously for decades, complicit with rogue partners against justice, shamelessly supporting crimes of war and against humanity.
Blocked but not defeated, Freedom Flotilla II endorsers sent a July 10 open letter to European Commission President Joseo Manuel Barroso, saying in part:
“Squeezed between Scylla and Charybdid (twin evils), the zionist state of Israel and the ‘democratic’ Greece, our nutshell JULIANO with” European citizens from Sweden, Greece and Austria “on board still tries to (fulfill) its mission of peace and solidarity with the Palestinian people.”
Is isolating them behind “prison-walls” your choice, or is “freedom of the seas….freedom of expression, and the mandate of peace the (EU) constitutional treaty prescribed you to fulfill?”
It’s shameful that EU nations and other Quartet members bow subserviently to Israel, complicit with “its constant violations of Human Rights against the population of Palestine.”
“Don’t forget that history….always….punish(es) those who have allied themselves with the oppressors. In the name of the same (EU) democratic order,” global peace, and justice you and others endorse, “we therefore demand:
OUR RIGHT TO SAIL FREE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA WHEREVER WE WANT!”
On behalf of JULIANO participants, signed:
Dr. Leo Gabriel
International Council of the World Social Forum
Maria Pia Boethius
Member of Sweden’s Parliament
Swedish Professor of Sociology/Ship to Gaza participant
Greek Professor/member of the Hellenic Federation of University Teachers Associations Executive Committee
Greek Parliament member
America’s Media Pro-Israeli Bias
Typical distorted Flotilla reports came from Ethan Bronner, New York Times Jerusalem bureau chief, exposing his pro-Israeli bias like on July 2 headlining, “Setting Sail on Gaza’s Sea of Spin,” saying:
Some saw “a parallel with the Exodus, (when) Jewish refugees (tried) to break” Britain’s 1947 blockade. Others wondered why participants bring aid “when it is no longer needed.” Bronner obviously knows nothing about Gaza, perhaps never visited, and for sure doesn’t care.
“Still others,” he said “note the way the Israeli authorities portray the organizers as violent Islamists when most are middle-aged European pacifists.”
Correct, but not that “challenging Israel’s blockade (reflects) something else, part of an unstated effort to recast the Israeli-Palestinian narrative in extreme terms, (bringing) out the public relations demons on all sides.”
Bronner downplayed Israel’s May 2010 massacre, claimed enough goods now enter Gaza, ignored the deplorable humanitarian crisis, and said if activists want to deliver aid, they “should take it to either Israel or Egypt and it will be delivered by truck. Sea access must remain blocked to prevent weapons smuggling.”
In fact, Gaza is sovereign Palestine. So are its offshore waters. Israel’s blockade is illegal. Every state may defend itself, especially against rogue aggressors like Israel, committing regular atrocities by land, sea and air.
Moreover, Flotilla activism isn’t about aid. It’s about liberation, what Bronner, and others like him, don’t understand or support. Instead, he claims it’s about “delegitimizing Israel and killing its soldiers.”
Allegations like that and quoting Israel’s public diplomacy minister, Yuli Edelstein, saying “representatives of different terror groups” joined the Flotilla make yellow journalism look good.
Nonetheless, he continued, regurgitating other spurious claims, exposing his intellectual dishonesty the way Times writers always do. As a result, they present one-sided pro-Israeli, pro-war, pro-imperial, pro-corporate, anti-justice reports, opinions and commentaries, mocking equity, justice, democratic values, and real journalism – siding with villains, not victims.
Israel v. Flytilla Activists
An Israeli no-fly list prevented 200 or more from arriving. Others came and were targeted repressively. On July 10, International Middle East Media Center writer Saed Bannoura headlined, “Israel Deports 36 Activists, 82 Still Detained,” saying:
“Israeli Immigration spokeswoman Sabine Haddad” said 22 deported were Belgian, 13 German, and one Spanish, 82 others imprisoned in Beer Sheva, Al Ramla and Tel Aviv. Most are French. Others are American, Belgian, Spanish and Dutch.
They represent hundreds of “Welcome to Palestine” Campaign (WPC) activists, challenging Israel’s illegal blockade and occupation. On July 10, WPC said:
“Israeli authorities set stringent conditions for release of (WPC) prisoners. (Most) are still incarcerated under brutal conditions,” in Al Ramla and Beer Sheva detention centers.
“These friends of Palestine, among which there are minors and elderly persons with medical conditions, have been and are being mistreated and subjected to unnecessary brutality.” As a result, they began a hunger strike, protesting their illegal arrest, detention and mistreatment.
On July 12, WPC said members illegally imprisoned may rightfully refuse deportation for the following reasons:
— they’ll illegally detained;
— denying them entry to Israel is unjustified;
— deportation will normalize it and “create a precedent by which the Israeli authorities are ‘permitted’ to decide on who has the right or not to come visit Palestine;”
— WPC activists came to challenge Israeli lawlessness;
— doing so keeps the issue alive; and
— foreign governments and airlines should be pressured to explain and justify their complicity with Israeli crimes.
Arriving members were mistreated as follows:
“held together in one room and then attacked, forcefully handcuffed and dragged into separate transfer vehicles. They were then forcefully transferred to the (Al Ramla) detention facility….Lawyers have been trying to reach the Ministry of Interior to gain access to (them) to assure they receive their right to legal representation, to visits from their country consular staff, and to call their families.”
Moreover, supportive Israelis were denied entrance to Ben-Gurion Airport. Each visitor was asked to confirm travel plans or name arriving passengers they wished to meet – checked against inbound passenger lists.
Those who circumvented security procedures “were immediately attacked even as they peacefully” awaited WPC arrivals. Six, in fact, were arrested.
“We urge (everyone) to write to the media, to their governments, and to all fellow human beings,” saying: “enough is enough. Israel must be forced to respect basic human rights, allow free travel, (and) end apartheid and colonization.”
Urgently, “Western governments must insist that Israeli authorities release those they kidnapped, afford them all protections due them, and punish officials who mistreated our guests.”
The Free Gaza Movement and Palestinian Boycott National Committee (BNC) called for an “immediate embargo on Israel,” saying:
“Freedom Flotilla II, and Israel’s attempts to thwart it through outrageous acts of intimidation, lies, political pressure, threats of violence, and sabotage, has reminded the world (about) the criminal blockade on the Gaza Strip,” violating fundamental international law.
Israel is a lawless rogue state. “In the name of freedom, equality, justice and peace,” it must be held fully accountable, starting with a full embargo, followed perhaps by UN expulsion for violating its charter principles and dozens of resolutions.
A Final Comment
On July 12, US Boat to Gaza/Audacity of Hope participants Ann Wright and Regina Carey emailed that Greek authorities cut off electricity at 10AM Athens time, “leaving us with no power” in over 100 degree heat “inside the boat, and a Russian ship loading grain is spewing (it) and dust over the entire area.”
Since blocked from sailing, remaining passengers have effectively been imprisoned. Six stayed on board to protect the boat from sabotage. Four are over 60.
The Papandreou government sold out to Israel and Washington, partnering with lawless criminal acts.
Wright, Carey and others demand the right to sail, asking supporters to call Greek embassies, consulates and Washington embassy at 202-939-1300. Flood their switchboards with righteous outrage. Let them know millions care.
Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at email@example.com.
Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com and listen to cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests on the Progressive Radio News Hour on the Progressive Radio Network Thursdays at 10AM US Central time and Saturdays and Sundays at noon. All programs are archived for easy listening.