Saturday, 12 June 2010

Mavi Marmara - The Simple Questions the BBC Won' t Ask

Two excellent pieces. The first by Uri Avnery, the veteran Israeli peace campaigner. Uri is not an anti-Zionist and he opposes the Boycott campaign but he has consistently fought for a genuine Palestinian state alongside Israel (something which is impossible as this contardicts the purpose and aim of the West’s Middle Eastern rotweiller) and more important has consistently given support to the resistance of Palestinians under occupation.

Avnery asks all the questions the corporate media fails to ask. Simple questions at the heart of all Israel’s lies and deceptions. Absurd and infantile lies about how an unarmed ship of peace and human rights activists suddenly became turned into terrorists attacking the Israeli navy. We have seen an almost textbook example of Orwellian truth techniques at work. How Newspeak operates in practice. The killers become the victims of a ‘lynching’. The dead were ‘terrorists’ (naturally). Those injured and kills were ‘provoking’ their attackers - the very same arguments that used to be used to excuse rapists and pogromists.

Simple questions, the ones Uri Avnery asks, are the ones the lapdogs of the BBC daren’t ask. Questions such as why was the attack at night, why were all cameras and other evidence contradicting the Israeli version seized and not released to this day, why were 5 of those killed shot in the back, why as the video I post below shows, were 4 shots fired into Furkan Dogan, the American citizen who lived in Turkey.

There is a lot of stuff now coming out which the Israeli military, in all their stupidity, was unable to prevent leaking out. Here is a link to a quite horrific 15 minutes of video which shows quite clearly who was attacking who and it is clear that even before the ship was boarded it was under attack, and not just with paintballs.

http://tc.indymedia.org/files/flotilla-footage/index.html

http://vimeo.com/12429821

Meanwhile that great white hope Obama continues to preside over an Administration that continues where George Bush left off.

The article by Henry Siegman, who was National Director for 16 years of the American Jewish Congress is also interesting, not least for the comparisons he makes between what happened in Nazi Germany and attitudes to Jews and attitudes in Israel to the non-Jew. As he says, there is obviously no comparison between industrial murder on a mass scale, murders which were kept carefully hidden from most Germans and which occurred in Poland primarily. But there is a moral comparison, the turning of a blind eye, the acceptance of any and every justification for mistreatment of Jew and Palestinian, the labelling of ‘traitor’ to those Germans and Jews who dissent from Israel’s practices.

It is only those who are too cowardly to speak out, who make excuses and fear the slings and arrows of the Zionist PR machine, who hesitate to draw comparisons between what happened in Germany and Israel today, even when, at the same time, Israel’s politicians never hesitate to compare for example Hamas to the Nazi party. I refer in particular to the police state liberals of the Guardian’s Comment is Free and its erstwhile editor Matt Seaton.

Tony Greenstein

Who is Afraid of a real Inquiry?

Who is Afraid of a real Inquiry?

Uri Avnery June 12, 2010
If a real Commission of Inquiry had been set up (instead of the pathetic excuse for a commission), here are some of the questions it should have addressed:

1. What is the real aim of the Gaza Strip blockade?


2. If the aim is to prevent the flow of arms into the Strip, why are only 100 products allowed in (as compared to the more than 12 thousand products in an average Israeli supermarket)?

3. Why is it forbidden to bring in chocolate, toys, writing material, many kinds of fruits and vegetables (and why cinnamon but not coriander)?

4. What is the connection between the decision to forbid the import of construction materials for the replacement or repair of the thousands of buildings destroyed or damaged during the Cast Lead operation and the argument that they may serve Hamas for building bunkers – when more than enough materials for this purpose are brought into the Strip through the tunnels?

5. Is the real aim of the blockade to turn the lives of the 1.5 million human beings in the Strip into hell, in the hope of inducing them to overthrow the Hamas regime?

6. Since this has not happened, but – on the contrary – Hamas has become stronger during the three years of the blockade, did the government ever entertain second thoughts on this matter?

7. Has the blockade been imposed in the hope of freeing the captured Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit?

8. If so, has the blockade contributed anything to the realization of this aim, or has it been counter-productive?

9. Why does the Israeli government refuse to exchange Shalit for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, when Hamas agrees to such a deal?

10. Is it true that the US government has imposed a veto on the exchange of prisoners, on the grounds that it would strengthen Hamas?

11. Has there been any discussion in our government about fulfilling its undertaking in the Oslo agreement - to enable and encourage the development of the Gaza port - in a way that would prevent the passage of arms?


12. Why does the Israeli government declare again and again that the territorial waters of the Gaza strip are part of Israel’s own territorial waters, and that ships entering them “infringe on Israeli sovereignty”, contrary to the fact that the Gaza Strip was never annexed to Israel and that Israel officially announced in 2006 that it had “separated” itself from it?

13. Why has the Attorney General’s office declared that the peace activists captured on the high seas, who had no intention whatsoever of entering Israel, had “tried to enter Israel illegally”, and brought them before a judge for the extension of their arrest under the law that concerns “illegal entry into Israel”?

14. Who is responsible for these contradictory legal claims, when the Israeli government argues one minute that Israel has “separated itself from the Gaza Strip” and that the “occupation there has come to an end” – and the next minute claims sovereignty over the coastal waters of the Strip?

Question concerning the decision to attack the flotilla:

15. When did the preparation for this flotilla become known to the Israeli intelligence services? (Evidence on this may be heard in camera.)

16. When was this brought to the attention of the Prime Minister, the
Minister of Defense, the Cabinet, the Committee of Seven (in charge of security matters) and the IDF Chief of Staff? (ditto)

17. What were the deliberations of these officials and institutions? (ditto)

18. What intelligence was submitted to each of them? (ditto)

19. When, by whom and how was the decision taken to stop the flotilla by force?

20. Is it true that the secretary of the cabinet, Tzvi Hauser, warned of the severe consequences of such action and advised letting the flotilla sail to Gaza?

21. Were there others who also advised doing so?

22. Was the Foreign Ministry a full partner in all the discussions?

23. If so, did the Foreign Ministry warn of the impact of such an action on our relations with Turkey and other countries?

24. In light of the fact that, prior to the incident, the Turkish government informed the Israeli Foreign Ministry that the flotilla was organized by a private organization which is not under the control of the government and does not violate any Turkish law – did the Foreign Ministry consider approaching the organization in order to try to reach an agreement to avoid violence?

25. Was due consideration given to the alternative of stopping the flotilla in territorial waters, inspecting the cargo for arms and letting it sail on?

26. Was the impact of the action on international public opinion considered?

27. Was the impact of the action on our relations with the US considered?

28. Was it taken into consideration that the action may actually strengthen Hamas?

29. Was it taken into consideration that the action may make the continuation of the blockade more difficult?

Question concerning the planning of the action:

30. What intelligence was at the disposal of the planners? (Evidence may be heard in camera.)

31. Was it considered that the composition of the group of activists in this flotilla was different from that in earlier protest ships, because of the addition of the Turkish component?

32. Was it taken into consideration that contrary to the European peace activists, who believe in passive resistance, the Turkish activists may adopt a policy of active resistance to soldiers invading a Turkish ship?

33. Were alternative courses of action considered, such as blocking the progress of the flotilla with navy boats?

34. If so, what were the alternatives considered, and why were they
rejected?

35. Who was responsible for the actual planning of the operation – the IDF Chief of Staff or the Commander of the Navy?

36. If it was the Navy Commander who decided on the method employed, was the decision approved by the Chief of Staff, the Minister of Defense and the Prime Minister?

37. How were the responsibilities for planning divided between these?

38. Why was the action undertaken outside of the territorial waters of
Israel and the Gaza Strip?

39. Why was it executed in darkness?

40. Did anyone in the navy object to the idea of soldiers descending from helicopters onto the deck of the ship “Mavi Marmara”?

41. During the deliberations, did anyone bring up the similarity between the planned operation and the British action against the ship “Exodus 1947”, which ended in a political disaster for the British?

Questions concerning the action itself:

42. Why was the flotilla cut off from any contact with the world throughout the operation, if there was nothing to hide?

43. Did anyone protest that the soldiers were actually being sent into a trap?

44. Was it taken into consideration that the plan adopted would place the soldiers for several critical minutes in a dangerously inferior position?

45. When exactly did the soldiers start to shoot live ammunition?

46. Which of the soldiers was the first to fire?

47. Was the shooting – all or part of it – justified?

48 Is it true that the soldiers started firing even before descending onto the deck, as asserted by the passengers?

49. Is it true that the fire continued even after the captain of the ship
and the activists announced several times over loudspeakers that the ship had surrendered, and after they had actually hoisted white flags?

50. Is it true that five of the nine people killed were shot in the back,
indicating that they were trying to get away from the soldiers and thus
could not be endangering their lives?

51. Why was the killed man Ibrahim Bilgen, 61 years old and father of six and a candidate for mayor in his home town, described as a terrorist?

52. Why was the killed man Cetin Topcoglu, 54 years old, trainer of the Turkish national taekwondo (Korean martial arts) team, whose wife was also on the ship, described as a terrorist?

53. Why was the killed man Cevdet Kiliclar, a 38 year old journalist,
described as a terrorist?

54. Why was the killed man Ali Haydar Bengi, father of four, graduate of the al-Azhar school for literature in Cairo, described as a terrorist?

55. Why were the killed men Necdet Yaldirim, 32 years old, father of a
daughter; Fahri Yaldiz, 43 years old, father of four; Cengiz Songur, 47
years old, father of seven; and Cengiz Akyuz, 41 years old, father of three, described as terrorists?

56. Is it a lie that the activists took a pistol from a soldier and shot him
with it, as described by the IDF, or is it true that the activists did in
fact throw the pistol into the sea without using it?

57. Is it true, as stated by Jamal Elshayyal, a British subject, that the
soldiers prevented treatment for the Turkish wounded for three hours, during which time several of them died?

58.. Is it true, as stated by this journalist, that he was handcuffed behind his back and forced to kneel for three hours in the blazing sun, that he was not allowed to go and urinate and told to “piss in his pants”, that he remained handcuffed for 24 hours without water, that his British passport was taken from him and not returned; that his laptop computer, three cellular telephones and 1500 dollars in cash were taken from him and not returned?

59. Did the IDF cut off the passengers from the world for 48 hours and
confiscate all the cameras, films and cell phones of the journalists on
board in order to suppress any information that did not conform to the IDF story?

60. Is it a standing procedure to keep the Prime Minister (or his acting
deputy, Moshe Yaalon in this case) in the picture during an operation, was this procedure implemented, and was it implemented in previous cases, such as the Entebbe operation or the boarding of the ship “Karin A”?

Questions concerning the behavior of the IDF Spokesman:

61. IS it true that the IDF Spokesman spread a series of fabrications during the first few hours, in order to justify the action in the eyes of both the Israeli and the international public?

62. Are the few minutes of film which have been shown hundreds of times on Israeli TV, from the first day on until now, a carefully edited clip, so that it is not seen what happened just before and just after?

63. What is the truth of the assertion that the soldiers who were taken by the activists into the interior of the ship were about to be “lynched”, when the photos clearly show that they were surrounded for a considerable time by dozens of activists without being harmed, and that a doctor or medic from among the activists even treated them?

64. What evidence is there for the assertion that the Turkish NGO called IHH has connections with al-Qaeda?

65. On what grounds was it stated again and again that it was a “terrorist organization”, though no evidence for this claim was offered?

66. Why was it asserted that the association was acting under the orders of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, when in fact it is close to an opposition party?

67. If it was in fact a terrorist organization known to the Israeli
intelligence services, why was this not taken into account during the
planning of the operation?

68. Why did the Israeli government not announce this before the attack on the flotilla?

69. Why were the words of one of the activists, who declared on his return that he wanted to be a “shahid”, translated by official propaganda in a manifestly dishonest manner, as if he had said that he wanted “to kill and be killed” (“shahid” means a person who sacrifices his life in order to testify to his belief in God, much like a Christian martyr)?

70. What is the source of the lie that the Turks called out “Go back to
Auschwitz”?

71. Why were the Israeli doctors not called to inform the public at once about the character of the wounds of the injured soldiers, after it was announced that at least one of them was shot?

72. Who invented the story that there were arms on the ship, and that they had been thrown into the sea?

73. Who invented the story that the activists had brought with them deadly weapons – when the exhibition organized by the IDF Spokesman himself showed nothing but tools found on any ship, including binoculars, a blood infusion instrument, knives and axes, as well as decorative Arab daggers and kitchen knives that are to be found on every ship, even one not equipped for 1000 passengers?

74. Do all these items – coupled with the endless repetition of the word “terrorists” and the blocking of any contrary information – not constitute brainwashing?

Questions concerning the inquiry:

75. Why does the Israeli government refuse to take part in an international board of inquiry, composed of neutral personalities acceptable to them?

76. Why have the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense announced that they are ready to testify - but not to answer questions?

77. Where does the argument come from that soldiers must not be called to testify – when in all previous investigations senior officers, junior officers and enlisted men were indeed subjected to questioning?

78. Why does the government refuse to appoint a State Commission of Inquiry under the Israeli law that was enacted by the Knesset in 1966 for this very purpose, especially in view of the fact that such commissions were appointed after the Yom Kippur war, after the Sabra and Shatila massacre, after the podium of the al-Aqsa Mosque was set on fire by an insane Australian, as well as to investigate corruption in sport and the murder of the Zionist leader Chaim Arlosoroff (some fifty years after it occurred!)?

79. Does the government have something to fear from such a commission, whose members are appointed by the President of the Supreme Court, and which is empowered to summon witnesses and cross-examine them, demand the production of documents and determine the personal responsibility for mistakes and crimes?

80. Why was it decided in the end to appoint a pathetic committee, devoid of any legal powers, which will lack all credibility both in Israel and abroad?

And, finally, the question of questions:

81. What is our political and military leadership trying to hide?

Israel’s Greatest Loss: Its Moral Imagination

If a people who so recently experienced such unspeakable inhumanities cannot understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions are inflicting, what hope is there for the rest of us?

By Henry Siegman June 11, 2010

Following Israel’s bloody interdiction of the Gaza Flotilla, I called a life-long friend in Israel to inquire about the mood of the country. My friend, an intellectual and a kind and generous man, has nevertheless long sided with Israeli hardliners. Still, I was entirely unprepared for his response. He told me—in a voice trembling with emotion—that the world’s outpouring of condemnation of Israel is reminiscent of the dark period of the Hitler era.

He told me most everyone in Israel felt that way, with the exception of Meretz, a small Israeli pro-peace party. “But for all practical purposes,” he said, “they are Arabs.

Like me, my friend personally experienced those dark Hitler years, having lived under Nazi occupation, as did so many of Israel’s Jewish citizens. I was therefore stunned by the analogy. He went on to say that the so-called human rights activists on the Turkish ship were in fact terrorists and thugs paid to assault Israeli authorities to provoke an incident that would discredit the Jewish state. The evidence for this, he said, is that many of these activists were found by Israeli authorities to have on them ten thousand dollars, “exactly the same amount!” he exclaimed.

When I managed to get over the shock of that exchange, it struck me that the invocation of the Hitler era was actually a frighteningly apt and searing analogy, although not the one my friend intended. A million and a half civilians have been forced to live in an open-air prison in inhuman conditions for over three years now, but unlike the Hitler years, they are not Jews but Palestinians. Their jailers, incredibly, are survivors of the Holocaust, or their descendants. Of course, the inmates of Gaza are not destined for gas chambers, as the Jews were, but they have been reduced to a debased and hopeless existence.

Fully 80% of Gaza’s population lives on the edge of malnutrition, depending on international charities for their daily nourishment. According to the UN and World Health authorities, Gaza’s children suffer from dramatically increased morbidity that will affect and shorten the lives of many of them. This obscenity is a consequence of a deliberate and carefully calculated Israeli policy aimed at de-developing Gaza by destroying not only its economy but its physical and social infrastructure while sealing it hermitically from the outside world.

Particularly appalling is that this policy has been the source of amusement for some Israeli leaders, who according to Israeli press reports have jokingly described it as “putting Palestinians on a diet.” That, too, is reminiscent of the Hitler years, when Jewish suffering amused the Nazis.

Another feature of that dark era were absurd conspiracies attributed to the Jews by otherwise intelligent and cultured Germans. Sadly, even smart Jews are not immune to that disease. Is it really conceivable that Turkish activists who were supposedly paid ten thousand dollars each would bring that money with them on board the ship knowing they would be taken into custody by Israeli authorities?

That intelligent and moral people, whether German or Israeli, can convince themselves of such absurdities (a disease that also afflicts much of the Arab world) is the enigma that goes to the heart of the mystery of how even the most civilized societies can so quickly shed their most cherished values and regress to the most primitive impulses toward the Other, without even being aware they have done so. It must surely have something to do with a deliberate repression of the moral imagination that enables people to identify with the Other’s plight. Pirkey Avot, a collection of ethical admonitions that is part of the Talmud, urges: “Do not judge your fellow man until you are able to imagine standing in his place.”

Of course, even the most objectionable Israeli policies do not begin to compare with Hitler’s Germany. But the essential moral issues are the same. How would Jews have reacted to their tormentors had they been consigned to the kind of existence Israel has imposed on Gaza’s population? Would they not have seen human rights activists prepared to risk their lives to call their plight to the world’s attention as heroic, even if they had beaten up commandos trying to prevent their effort? Did Jews admire British commandos who boarded and diverted ships carrying illegal Jewish immigrants to Palestine in the aftermath of World War II, as most Israelis now admire Israel’s naval commandos?

Who would have believed that an Israeli government and its Jewish citizens would seek to demonize and shut down Israeli human rights organizations for their lack of “patriotism,” and dismiss fellow Jews who criticized the assault on the Gaza Flotilla as “Arabs,” pregnant with all the hateful connotations that word has acquired in Israel, not unlike Germans who branded fellow citizens who spoke up for Jews as “Juden”? The German White Rose activists, mostly students from the University of Munich, who dared to condemn the German persecution of the Jews (well before the concentration camp exterminations began) were also considered “traitors” by their fellow Germans, who did not mourn the beheading of these activists by the Gestapo.

So, yes, there is reason for Israelis, and for Jews generally, to think long and hard about the dark Hitler era at this particular time. For the significance of the Gaza Flotilla incident lies not in the questions raised about violations of international law on the high seas, or even about “who assaulted who” first on the Turkish ship, the Mavi Marmara, but in the larger questions raised about our common human condition by Israel’s occupation policies and its devastation of Gaza’s civilian population.

If a people who so recently experienced on its own flesh such unspeakable inhumanities cannot muster the moral imagination to understand the injustice and suffering its territorial ambitions—and even its legitimate security concerns—are inflicting on another people, what hope is there for the rest of us?

Henry Siegman, director of the U.S./Middle East Project, is a visiting research professor at the Sir Joseph Hotung Middle East Program, School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former Senior Fellow on the Middle East at the Council on Foreign Relations and, before that, was national director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994.


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