Commentary

BREAKING NEWS: TWO BOATS WITH PASSENGERS FROM 5 COUNTRIES HAVE SET SAIL TO GAZA

BREAKING NEWS

For immediate release, November 2, 2011

Contact: In New York: Felice Gelman, 917-912-2597, 917 679 8343
At sea: phone numbers will be released when you call the above press contact

TWO BOATS WITH PASSENGERS FROM 5 COUNTRIES (INCLUDING THE U.S.) HAVE SET SAIL TO GAZA

Organizers say: “It is time to lift the siege of Gaza which deprives 1.6 million civilians of their rights to travel, work, study, develop their economy and be free.”

The Canadian ship Tahrir and the Irish ship Saoirse have successfully reached international waters, initiating the “Freedom Wave to Gaza.” The boats have embarked from Turkey and are on the Mediterranean Sea. In all, the 2 boats carry 27 passengers from Canada, Ireland, U.S., Palestine, and Australia.

Kit Kittredge on board the Tahrir was previously a passenger on the American ship, The Audacity of Hope, which attempted passage to Gaza last July. Kittredge says, “ The only obstacles in our way are Israel’s military and the complicity of the Obama administration but in our sails is the wind of worldwide public opinion which has turned against the illegal blockade.”

Ann Wright retired US army Colonel and former US Diplomat says, “We carry inspiration from the Arab Spring and the worldwide “Occupy” movements that are demanding freedom and justice. Where governments fail, civil society must act. As Americans we are fed up with our government’s unquestioning support of Israel no matter how violent, illegal and oppressive its actions. We will not stand by and watch $30 billion of our tax money committed to buying Israel weaponry used to carry out this illegal occupation of Palestine including the blockade of Gaza.”

Call the State Department, White House in Support of Freedom Waves Flotilla to Gaza

Call Secretary Hillary Clinton at the State Department: 202-647-5291

Call the White House: 202-456-1414

Talking Points:

- Gaza has been under siege since mid-2006, depriving 1.6 million people of their liberty and basic human rights.

- Although the siege has been condemned by the United Nations, the Red Cross, and many national governments as in violation with the Fourth Geneva Convention, nothing has been done to ease the plight of these civilians. Civil society has had to act where governments would not.

- Two ships with 27 passengers from 5 countries, including one American, are sailing to Gaza to confront the Israeli naval blockade, and to bring medical supplies and letters of support.

- As Americans we insist that our government (which sends Israel $3 billion in military aid every year) demands that Israel insures the ships’ safe passage and ends its illegal blockade of Gaza. There is absolutely no excuse to subject 1.6 million people to collective punishment.

When you're done ...

Email President Obama and Congress

Follow the status of the flotilla

Just go to our Facebook, Twitter, ustogaza.org, tahrir.ca, irishshiptogaza.org, and on DemocracyNOW.

Are you and your business ready to return to Libya?

So asketh the website of a British venture, Trango Special Projects, according to a New York Times article published this past weekend. The piece provides a snapshot of the avaricious intentions of the West for the newly-liberated Libya. The anticipation of profits and priority access for the Transitional National Council's NATO backers is described in a surprisingly frank fashion, especially for an article that was accessible from the website's front page:

Western security, construction and infrastructure companies that see profit-making opportunities receding in Iraq and Afghanistan have turned their sights on Libya, now free of four decades of dictatorship. Entrepreneurs are abuzz about the business potential of a country with huge needs and the oil to pay for them, plus the competitive advantage of Libyan gratitude toward the United States and its NATO partners.

The article is replete with gems from rapacious businessmen and other profiteers so mesmerized by the sparkle of opportunity in Libya that they speak without hesitation about the wonders before them. “There is a gold rush of sorts taking place right now,” said to David Hamod, the president and chief executive officer of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce, describing the scramble by European, Asian, and US companies to stake their claims in the new Libya.

In Defiance of Threats from US, Palestine Admitted as Full Member to UNESCO

Earlier today, in defiance of the United States and Israel, Palestine was admitted as a full member of the United Nations Education, Science and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by a vote of 107 to 14, with 52 abstentions. Those who voted in favor of admission included France and Belgium, along with China, Russia, Brazil, India, and most African and Arab states.

This overwhelming support for the Palestinians was manifested despite the fact that US law mandates a complete cutoff of US funding to any UN agency that admits Palestine as a full member. The US provides about $70 million in funding to UNESCO annually, accounting for roughly 22% of its yearly budget. Israel also plans to cut off its contribution, which is 3% of the agency's budget. That means that, with Palestinian admission to UNESCO, the agency will lose a quarter of its funding.

The UNESCO vote makes clear yet again that the United States is on the wrong side of world opinion on the issue of Israel and Palestine. And while it may be but a symbolic victory, it is a mighty one: it is a signal that threats and strong arming cannot forever stand in the way of justice.

Want to see something scary? Just look at who runs our foreign policy

If you haven't seen the video of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton reacting to reports that Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi had been killed, then you're in for a fright. That she mutilated a classic quote can be forgiven. But that the face of US foreign policy so brazenly invoked the notions of conquering and imperialism with respect to the US mission in Libya, that she laughed so freely over the death of a fellow human being, no matter how despotic he may have been, is quite disturbing.

Tags:

When NATO Leaves, Don't Forget Libya

Now that the UN Security Council has cancelled its authorization for the NATO mission in Libya, October 31 is expected to mark the end of the West's (overt) military involvement in the country. With this end, so too will likely follow the end of media and public interest. Without a zany dictator to hunt down and kill, the story that will begin to unfold will lack the Hollywood-esque adventure and intrigue that the former story enjoyed. It will also be a story that the mainstream media won't want America to know. But this story will be just as important—if not more important—for Americans to understand than the story that came before, especially with the Occupy Wall Street movement in the background, facilitating a general awakening to the influence of corporations on US policy. If the mainstream media gets its way, however, most Americans will continue to sleep comfortably in their beds at night, consoled by the belief that the United States did its part in freeing a people from oppression and tyranny.

Unfortunately, the only “people” for whom NATO and the United States intended to make Libya free were fellows like ConocoPhillips, Coca-Cola, Total, Occidental, Caterpillar and Halliburton. And now that Qaddafi is gone, they must be celebrating in the streets—or, rather, the Street. Occupiers: beware.

Some claim that the US had no economic interest in intervening in Libya since, after he abandoned his nuclear ambitions and after the US removed sanctions on his country, Qaddafi was “our man.”

The evidence, however, doesn't seem to support such a strong claim. While some US companies were able to break into the Libyan economy, some were thwarted, and it seems that everyone, to some extent, was disappointed.

NATO Mission In Libya: (Possibly) Hijacked Yet Again?

On Saturday, NATO Secretary General Fogh Rassmussen made a preliminary announcement that operations in Libya were going to end October 31. Confirmation of the departure date was supposed to occur at a meeting of the alliance today. However, that meeting has been delayed until Friday because Mustafa Abdel Jalil, leader of Libya's transitional government, has asked NATO forces to stay until the end of the year. The reason? To help keep pro-Qaddafi forces from causing trouble for the fledgling government.

And why not, right? The original UN mission has already been hijacked once. NATO was approved to provide a no-fly zone in order to protect civilians, an authorization which itself was founded on rather thin evidence that Qaddafi intended to massacre the inhabitants of Benghazi. The mission which NATO wound up pursuing, including offensive strikes on pro-Qaddafi forces, can pretty much be summed up as regime change. And now, if it does stay in Libya until the end of the year, NATO's mission will be distorted for a second time to protecting the transitional government.

Shalit is Free. Lift the Siege of Gaza Now.

In the world of principle and international law, the ongoing Israeli blockade of Gaza - which until now blocks Gazans from traveling to the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and blocks Gazans from exporting, farming, fishing, and otherwise earning their living - is a clear violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which bars the use of "collective punishment" against a civilian population living under occupation.

The International Committee of the Red Cross - a key guardian of the Fourth Geneva Convention - has stated this clearly. As Voice of America reported:

"The International Committee of the Red Cross says Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip breaks international law. The humanitarian agency said Monday that the blockade violates the Geneva Convention, which bans 'collective punishment' of a civilian population. "

Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 - on the Red Cross website - says: "No protected person may be punished for an offence he or she has not personally committed. Collective penalties and likewise all measures of intimidation or of terrorism are prohibited...Reprisals against protected persons and their property are prohibited."

"Protected persons" are defined in Article 4: "Persons protected by the Convention are those who, at a given moment and in any manner whatsoever, find themselves, in case of a conflict or occupation, in the hands of a Party to the conflict or Occupying Power of which they are not nationals."

All US Troops Leaving Iraq; Now, Let's Bring Them Home From Afghanistan

Earlier today, President Obama announced that all US troops except for about 150 attached to the US embassy will leave Iraq by the previously agreed upon deadline of December 31.

This is welcome news. Until this month, the US was in negotiations with the Iraqi government to leave thousands of US troops in the country indefinitely. The snag in the plan was the non-negotiable (from the US perspective) stipulation that US soldiers who remained be granted legal immunity. Apparently, members of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's own coalition could not stomach the demand.

Now that he has been forced to accept an immediate withdrawal, Obama is spinning this as fulfillment of his campaign promise to end the war in Iraq. But Obama won't be able to claim this particular achievement until he removes all contractors from the country. While the President did not address the issue of contractors in his speech, it is being reported that around 9,500 contractors--including 5,000 security contractors and 4,500 "general life support" contractors--will remain in Iraq after the remaining US troops depart.

So, while the roughly 39,000 US troops left in Iraq are coming home, over 9,000 contractors will remain.

Woolsey and Payne Coddle Dictator in Bahrain

Folks who claim that it doesn't matter who we elect to represent us in the House of Representatives or how we press them once they get there should be compelled to confront a new piece of evidence: a report from Bahrain of a recent meeting between a U.S. Congressional delegation and representatives of Wefaq, the largest political party in Bahrain. The report illustrates a key political fact about the world in which we live: some of the most progressive Congressional districts in the country, districts that won't elect a Republican unless the Democratic incumbent is caught red-handed in a major crime the week before the election, are represented by people who, when the curtains of big media are drawn, oppose the basic human rights that most Americans take for granted.

People in these Congressional districts could, if they wished, be represented in the House by people who are consistent supporters of human rights. The key obstacle to this development isn't ideology or corporate power per se. It's the lack of effective channels for communicating to voters what their Representatives in the House are doing on foreign policy issues. This lack is of course a symptom of corporate domination of the media. But the media isn't totally under the control of corporations, and thanks to the internet, we can now communicate with each other for free. So this problem could be solved through effective organization, and every progressive district in the country could be represented in the House by people who are consistent supporters of human rights.