Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Pirates of the Mediterranean

By Yvonne Ridley*

NOT content with committing war crimes and human rights atrocities in full view of the world, Israel has now confirmed itself as a rogue state by launching into international piracy.

Dawn had not yet broken over the Mediterranean waters in which the SS Dignity was sailing when an Israeli naval gunboat appeared from the inky black and rammed the aid-bearing ship. The act of aggression on a peace mission was launched in international waters 90 miles off Gaza, without any warning to the captain of the Dignity or the crew.

Israel claimed the incident was an accident and that its naval officers had made numerous attempts to communicate with the Dignity. It was an accident that was to repeat itself three times.

Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor told one press agency that the naval vessel tried to contact the aid boat by radio for identification and to inform it that it could not enter Gaza. "After the boat did not answer the radio, it sharply veered and the two vessels collided, causing only light damage," Palmor said.

I wonder how many traffic cops around the world have heard that line from a drunken or reckless driver in the wake of a crash.

The Israeli spokesman then went on to accuse the international activists of "seeking provocation more than ever." Isn't it amazing how Yigal and Co suddenly go belly up and adopt a victim mentality? I wonder how he will react to the news that onboard the ship, among the cargo of much-needed medical supplies and humanitarian aid were TV crew s from CNN and Al Jazeera as well as other media. For goodness sake, the Dignity was on a peace mission, armed with nothing more than humanitarian aid – hardly a match for the tooled up, hi-tech Israeli Navy and its deadly arsenal.

Sorry to be so direct, but Palmor is a purveyor of deceit, a liar – and a very unconvincing one at that. You see all sea-faring people know that there is a certain radio channel and frequency which remains open 24 hours a day. I know myself, because the Israeli Navy used that exact same frequency on one of the two Free Gaza boats as they set sail back in August 2008 to break the siege of Gaza by sea. That emergency frequency carried messages of threats and intimidation as clear as a bell.

Radio communications were used without any difficulty on the Israeli Navy several times by human rights activists from the Free Gaza Movement warning the gunboats to back off when they fired at Gazan fishermen. The westerners were on the tiny fishing ships to stop the naval bully boys terrorizing the unarmed fishermen.

And by the way, what the hell is Israel up to by banning or trying to prevent boats from entering waters not in its territory? This is the Mediterranean. Just when did Israel assume complete authority of the Med?

It is also worth pointing out that Dignity was clearly flying the flag of Gibraltar, and was piloted by an English captain with a passenger list including revered politician Cynthia McKinney from the US. The Israeli Government Press Office director was faxed the entire passenger list and press release shortly after Dignity set sail. Cynthia is a former Congresswoman from Georgia, and the 2008 Green Party US presidential candidate. She was traveling to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict.

I know her and I can tell you she is one sassy lady. If the Israel Navy thinks this little incident is going to sink without trace then they truly are in for one rude awakening.

After reaching port safely in Lebanon, where thousands greeted the Dignity, Cynthia said: "Israeli patrol boats ... tracked us for about 30 minutes ... and then all of a sudden they rammed us approximately three times, twice in the front and once in the side ... the Israelis indicated that [they felt] we were involved in terrorist activities."

She was joined by another woman of substance, Dr Elena Theoharous MP, who is a surgeon and a Member of the Cypriot Parliament. She was going to Gaza to assess the ongoing conflict, assist with humanitarian relief efforts, and volunteer in hospitals.

Also on board is another good friend of mine, Caoimhe Butterly, an organizer with the Free Gaza Movement. She said: "The gunboats gave us no warning. They came up out of the darkness firing flares and flashing huge floodlights into our faces. We were so shocked that at first we didn't react. We knew we were well within international waters and supposedly safe from attack. They rammed us three times, hitting the side of the boat hard. We began taking on water and, for a few minutes, we all feared for our lives. After they rammed us, they started screaming at us as we were frantically getting the lifeboats ready and putting on our life jackets. They kept yelling that if we didn't turn back they would shoot us."

Furthermore, the attack was filmed by the journalists, and crew and passengers and no doubt we will see the full extent of that footage and the damage caused by Israel.

Of course Israel is always using the "Oops sorry it was an accident" routine. That's the excuse the Zionist State used when it hit the USS Liberty on June 8, 1967 with a flurry of bombs, murdering 34 American servicemen in cold blood. In the 40 year s since, those with the blood of those shipmates on their hands have gotten away with murder.

But try as they might to rewrite what happened onboard the Dignity and the Liberty, there are some memories which will not die. And what Israel has done to Gaza in the last few days will become an epitaph for the Zionist State. Israel's deplorable attack on the unarmed Dignity is a violation of both international maritime law and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, which states, "the high seas should be reserved for peaceful purposes."

Delivering doctors and urgently needed medical supplies to civilians is just such a "peaceful purpose." Deliberately ramming a mercy ship and endangering its passengers is an act of terrorism and piracy.

As I write this a funeral is being planned for five Palestinian sisters who were slaughtered in their sleep when an airstrike hit the next-door mosque in .Gaza. One of the walls collapsed on to their small asbestos-roofed home and they were all killed in their beds in the densley populated Jabalya refugee camp. The eldest sister, Tahrir Balousha was 17 years old, the youngest, Jawaher, just four.

Some hours earlier Israel's Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni told al Jazeera: "Hamas seeks to kill children; it fires at kindergartens, schools, civilians – because this corresponds with its extremist ideology. Our values are completely different," she said.

Her outrageous claim went unchallenged, like so many statements coming out of Tel Aviv do these days. In a way, Ms Livni is right – Israel's values are different. Hamas has killed no one's children but the Israeli cabinet members who have spent the last six months planning the Gaza massacre, have sent out their military on assaults which have killed children. The air and sea attacks, shells and missiles have killed lots of Palestinian children.

While today's continued military slaughter – and now piracy – underlines the fact that leaders in the international community seem unwilling or unable to halt the Zionist War Machine, there are international lawyers who think otherwise.

And that is why one by one, those responsible will one day be charged with war crimes ... the evidence is stacking up – Nuremberg would be quite a fitting arena to try the guilty but London, Paris, Berlin, Amsterdam or Madrid will do.

The Israelis might not acknowledge their guilt publicly, but Brigadier-General Aviv Kochavi has canceled a study sabbatical in London for fear of being indicted for "war crimes" and former IDF Southern Commander Doron Almog clung on to his passenger seat when someone from the israeli Embassy advised him not to put one foot on the ground at London's Heathrow Airport after a suit had been filed against him for "war crimes" during his stint as head of the IDF Gaza division from 1993-95 and head of the IDF Southern Command starting in 2000. IDF Chief of Staff Moshe Yaalon and former Shin Bent director Avi Dichter are two others who are advised not to leave outside Israel.

I understand fresh writs are being prepared for the next generation of Israeli war criminals and that includes all those involved in the Gaza massacres ... which could be anyone from a lowly reservist who has just been called up right through to the top ranks and beyond.

Like the Nazi and war crime hunters of the past, we must never forgive, never forget and never submit to the demands of morally bankrupt states and politicians.
* Yvonne Ridley and film-maker Aki Nawaz sailed to Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement on the first mission to break the siege. A documentary about the trip will be broadcast on Press TV in 2009. Yvonne is a co-founder of the newly-launched Stop Gaza Slaughter (SGS) coalition.

Sunday, 28 December 2008

Israel's massacre of Palestinians in Gaza

The fightback has begun

From Henry Lowi:

Gaza attacks like war crimes – Tutu

20 000 in anti-Israel protest in Cairo

2,000 protest over Gaza outside Israeli embassy in London

Arab protesters demand response to Gaza

See also:,7340,L-3646008,00.html

Will the Resistance direct its weapons against Israeli military targets, or exclusively against non-combatant Israeli civilians,? Will the Resistance disarm the people, expose the people to the slaughter and reinforce the Zionist political campaign for hearts and minds? Or will the Resistance fight the attacking army, and arm the people for their self-defence, and on that basis call for international solidarity?





Saturday, 27 December 2008

Eyewitnesses to Israeli war crimes in Gaza

International witnesses speak out from Gaza on Israeli atrocities

27 December 2008, Gaza, Palestine: Human rights defenders from Lebanon, the UK, Poland, Canada, Spain, Italy and Australia are present in Gaza and are witnessing and documenting the current Israeli attacks on Gaza.

Due to Israel's policy of denying access to international media, human rights defenders and aid agencies to the occupied Gaza Strip, many of these human rights defenders arrived in Gaza with the Free Gaza Movement's boats.

Free Gaza Movement boats have broken Israel's siege of Gaza five times in the past four months.

Eva Bartlett (Canada), International Solidarity Movement:
At the time of the attacks I was on Omar Mukhtar street and witnessed a rocket hit the street 150 metres away where crowds had already gathered to try to extract the dead bodies [from a previous rocket attack]. Ambulances, trucks, cars – anything that can move – are bringing the injured to the hospitals.

Hospitals have had to evacuate sick patients to make room for the injured. I have been told that there is not enough room in the morgues for the bodies and that there is a serious lack of blood in the blood banks. I have just learned that among the civilians killed today was the mother of my good friends in Jabalya camp.
Ewa Jasiewicz (Polish and British), Free Gaza Movment, writes:
Israeli missles tore through a children's playground and busy market in Diyar Balah. We saw the aftermath – many were injured and some reportedly killed. Every hospital in the Gaza Strip is already overwhelmed with injured people and does not have the medicine or the capacity to treat them. Israel is committing crimes against humanity, it is violating international and human rights law, ignoring the United Nations and planning even bigger attacks. The world must act now and intensify the calls for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel. Governments need to move beyond words of condemnation into an active and immediate restraint of Israel and a lifting of the siege of Gaza.
Dr Haidar Eid, (Palestinian, South African), Professor of Social and Cultural Studies, Al Aqsa University:
The morgue at the Shifa hospital has no more room for dead bodies, so bodies and body parts are strewn all over the hospital.
Sharon Lock (Australia), International Solidarity Movement:
The bombs began to fall just as the children were on the streets walking back from school. I went out onto the stairs and a terrified 5 year old girl ran sobbing into my arms.
Dr Eyad Sarraj, President of the Gaza Community Mental Health Centre:
This is incredibly sad. This massacre is not going to bring security for the State of Israel or allow it to be part of the Middle East. Now calls of revenge are everywhere.
Jenny Linnel (UK), International Solidarity Movement:
As I speak they [the Israelis] have just hit a building 200 metres away. There is smoke everywhere. This morning I went to the building close to where I live in Rafah that had been hit. Two bulldozers were immediately attempting to clear the rubble. They thought they had found all the bodies. As we arrived one more was found.
Natalie Abu Eid (Lebanon), International Solidarity Movement:
The home I am staying in is across from the Preventive Security compound. All the glass of the house shattered. The home has been severely damaged. Owing to the siege there, is no glass or building materials to repair this damage. One little boy in our house fainted. An eight-year-old boy was trembling on the ground for an hour. In front of our house we found the bodies of two little girls under a car, completely burnt. They were coming home from school. This is more than just collective punishment. We are being treated like laboratory animals. I have lived through the Israeli bombardment of Beirut and the Israel's message is the same in Gaza as it was in Beirut – the killing of civilians. There was just another explosion outside!
For more information on the Free Gaza Movment (FGM) or the International
Solidarity Movement (ISM), contact in the West Bank:
  • Adam Taylor (ISM): tel. +972 59 8503948
  • Lubna Masarwa (FGM): tel. +972 50 5633044

Sunday, 14 December 2008

Take Action: Lloyds TSB helps to enforce the siege of Gaza

In 2004, the Zionist-led Board of Deputies of British Jews, staunch defenders of Israeli crimes, accused the charity Interpal of involvement in “terrorism”, for which smear they had to later pay damages.

Lloyds TSB Chairman Sir Victor Blank is a governor of Tel Aviv University, Chair of UJS/Hillel, a member of the Advisory Board of the United Jewish Israel Appeal and is involved in Labour Friends of Israel. UJS/Hillel assists members of the pro-Israel Union of Jewish Students, a group that works to silence Palestinian voices on British campuses.

One Lloyds TSB director, Sir David Manning, is an ex-ambassador to both Israel and the USA and was Foreign Policy Adviser to Tony Blair during the planning for the invasion of Iraq.

Now Blank, Manning & Co. have moved against Interpal; Lloyds TSB has demanded that the Islamic Bank of Britain cease all dealings with the registered charity. By hitting Interpal’s banking facilities, Lloyds TSB aims to support Israel by shutting off the trickle of aid that Interpal has managed to get into occupied Palestine over the years of Israel’s brutal siege.

British bank customers, and those who support Palestinians’ right to existence, can oppose this sadistic move by Lloyds TSB. While Palestinians are facing Israeli bulldozers, snipers, torture chambers and denial of medicines and food, we have an opportunity to join in their resistance to the vast criminal alliance that is trying to crush them.
Join the planned protests outside Lloyds TSB branches in your area.
  • Organise a one- or two-person protest outside a Lloyds TSB branch near you (we’ll send leaflets and publicity materials).
  • Make sure local Lloyds TSB branches and cashpoints are kept covered with informational material, posters, stickers, etc.
  • Write, email and call Lloyds TSB to complain of their cruel move against the people of Palestine.
  • Donate to Interpal, however little, and send a message of support.
When Bush, Obama, Blair, Brown and Blank are united against the Palestinian people, we have a duty to join with Palestinians to resist the crime. The crime has now washed up on your doorstep at a Lloyds TSB Branch near you. You can make a difference.

Visit our website for more information, reports of protests and information on what you can do.

Order the above campaign stickers by emailing

Saturday, 13 December 2008

UN official calls Israel "apartheid" state

President of UN General Assembly urges Israel to be recognized as an apartheid state

The president of the UN General Assembly, Miguel d'Escoto, has referred to Israel as an apartheid state.

Phyllis Bennis analyses the significance of this identification as compared to South African apartheid and the popular resistance struggles worldwide that helped end it.

Isreali apartheid is built into a system of roads walls, and fences which create segregation of Palestinians and Jews both inside the West Bank and between the West Bank and Israel.

Gazan Palestinians are separated from Israel and West Bank Palestinians by the siege imposed by Israel after the election of Hamas.

Bennis analyses the validity of the term "apartheid" in the case of Israel and the proposed peace plan many Arab states have presented as a possible solution.

Phyllis Bennis is a senior analyst at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington DC. She is the author of Before and After: US Foreign Policy and the September 11 Crisis and Challenging Empire: How People, Governments and the UN Defy US Power. Her newest book is Understanding the US-Iran Crisis: A Primer.

Friday, 12 December 2008

Life under Israeli occupation

Testimonies from an occupied land

A documentary about life in Palestine and more especially in Nablus, the biggest city of the West Bank.

Surrounded by checkpoints, Nablus has seen during recent years its unemployment skyrock and more and more people live under poverty line.

The picture in refugee camps is even bleaker.

This is the story of Palestinians and Internationals trying to reach out to the world to end Israel's collective punishment of the Palestinians.

This movie is part of the Open Source Movies collection

Director: Frank Barat

Producer: Frank Barat

Audio/Visual: sound, color

Language: English

Contact Information:

Monday, 1 December 2008

Zionism in Leeds University campus, UK

Leeds University Union to vote on a motion to referendum which will label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups on campus.

Leeds University Union agreed last week, by a vote of 12 to 11, to send a motion to referendum which will label anti-Zionism as anti-Semitism and silence pro-Palestinian groups on campus.

The motion, shrouded in the language of combating anti-Semitism, is a reversal of a motion passed 2 years ago which gave Palestinian activists at Leeds University the rights enjoyed by their counterparts throughout the country. If passed, organisations which have an anti-Zionist platform, such as the Socialist Workers Party and the Palestine Solidarity Group will be prevented from receiving funding from the union and prevented from holding many of their events.

The motion claims, without providing any supporting evidence, that “Anti-semitism is increasing significantly both across the country and within universities and student unions.” and resolves to adopt the seemingly innocuous EUMC working definition of anti-Semitism. The EUMC working definition, which the British government has so far refrained from explicitly adopting has been seized upon by pro-Israeli groups across the country and used to silence criticism of Israel by claiming that anti-Semitism includes “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination”.

 If adopted, the motion will be shut down debate on the extent to which Israel should label itself as a state for the Jewish people as opposed to a state for all its citizens, such as the UK and all other liberal democracies. Thus an issue, which is openly discussed in academia, civil society and even within the Israeli government itself, will become forbidden on the Leeds campus.

Commenting on the motion, the Jewish peace group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians state that “We find this unhelpful, to put it mildly, and believe that it harms the struggle against antisemitism rather than helping it, by severely distorting what the real problems are.” They continue, “We hope that the University of Leeds Student Union will not be foolish enough to adopt the motion on the topic when it comes up for debate. It will do nothing to help counter the real dangers of antisemitism in our society because so much of the working definition is, in our view, misdirected“.

One of the many parts of the definition they opposed is the example of how ‘anti semitism manifests itself’: by ‘applying double standards by requiring of it (Israel) a behaviour not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation’. As another peace organization, European Jews for a Just Peace noted, ‘this is a formulation that allows any criticism of Israel to be dismissed on the grounds that it is not simultaneously applied to every other defaulting state at the same time …’

Jews against Zionism, an organisation which represents over 150,000 Jews world-wide commented that “One of the well-known tactics of Zionists to silence their critics is to accuse them of anti-Semitism. Of course, anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism are two separate things.”

They also take issue with another part of the working definition which classes “Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.” as anti-Semitic. They assert that whether it is anti-Semitic or not “depends if the accusation is made at the Jews in general, or at particular Jews. We are greatly pained when we hear blanket accusations against our people, or any people, for that matter. But certain Jews may, by their actions and words, demonstrate a greater loyalty to the Zionist state than to their own country. There is nothing wrong with pointing this out.”

A representative of the Leeds Student Palestine Solidarity Group commented that “Under current Union policy we are well within our rights to express our opposition to Zionism and defend the rights of Palestinians who suffer discrimination and human rights abuses on the basis of their race, within Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The passing of this motion would mean, however, a serious curtailment of the activities of the PSG on campus simply to satisfy the political views of another section of the student body. We believe that people should be allowed to hear both sides of the debate and make up their own minds.”

The motion will go to referendum the week beginning Friday the 28th of November and the results will be announced on Friday December the 5th.

To register your opposition to the motion contact:

University Secretary Roger Gair

University Vice-Chancellor Michael Arthur

Chief Executive of Leeds University Union Leslie Dixon

  • The status of Leeds University as an institution which encourages free thought.
  • The fact that the motion will shut down an area of perfectly legitimate debate.
  • That the reputation of Leeds University will be seriously undermined if this motion if passed.
  • Asking these officials to ensure that freedom of speech at Leeds is protected.

To learn more about how you can support the campaign contact the Palestine Solidarity Group at