gaza

VIDEO: IDF Uses Armed Soldiers, Water Cannon to Board Freedom Waves Vessels

Earlier today, the two ships that compose the Freedom Waves flotilla to Gaza--the Saoirse and the Tahrir--were commandeered by the Israeli Defense Forces. The IDF has since released two videos.

One video portrays the boarding of both vessels and is heavily edited. Still, we can clearly see the use of a water cannon on the Tahrir, and armed soldiers boarding the Saoirse, with a water cannon close by. At the very end of this video, all the way to the right, you can see an IDF soldier raising his hand gun as he advances into the passenger section of the boat. At least one soldier looks to be carrying an automatic rifle. If this is the edited version released by the IDF themselves, what could be in the unedited version?

The second video is also heavily edited. It presents us with a view of the radio communication between the IDF and the Tahrir. Pay attention to the cuts--especially the audio cuts:

Here's a transcript:

IDF Soldier 1: Motor Vessel Tahrir, this is the Israeli navy. The Gaza area and coastal region is closed to all maritime traffic as part of a maritime blockade imposed for security purposes on the Gaza strip. Your attempt to enter the Gaza strip by sea is a violation of international law. We remind you that humanitarian supply may be delivered to the Gaza strip by land. You are therefore welcome to enter Ashdod port and deliver the supplied to the recognized land crossings."

[CUT]

IDF Soldier 2 (I believe this is one is different than the first): What is your destination?

[VIDEO CUT, POSSIBLE AUDIO CUT]

UPDATED: URGENT ACTION: Israeli Warships Seize Gaza Flotilla, Towing to Ashdod, Handing Activists to Police

UPDATE 11:30AM: The IDF is reporting that it has boarded the two ships that compose the Freedom Waves flotila--the Saoirse and the Tahrir-- and are now towing to Ashdod. Once there, the peace activists on board will be handed over to the Israel police. The boats were seized in international waters. One American, Kit Kittredge, is on board the Tahrir.

Now is the time to act. If you can, please call the State Department and the White House. If you can't call, please email President Obama and your representatives and tell them to press the Israelis to ensure the safety of those aboard the two ships!


November 4, 2011, 8:17AM: We have received word from the two ships en route to Gaza, the Saoirse and the Tahrir, that Israeli warships are approaching both ships. The Tahrir has received radio contact from the Israeli authorities, asking about their final destination. They replied, ‘the conscience of humanity’. When asked again, they said ‘The betterment of mankind’. Boarding and commandeering are imminent. On board the Tahrir is one American, Kit Kittredge.

The boats are presently 48 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza. The first flotilla to break the siege was intercepted about 35 nautical miles off shore.

Now is the time to act. Call the State Department and the White House and tell them to press the Israelis to ensure the safety of those aboard the two ships!

Call the State Department:

BREAKING: BOATS EN ROUTE TO GAZA SURROUNDED BY ISRAELI WARSHIPS

Contacts:
Jane Hirschmann 917-679-8343, 212-222-6721
Felice Gelman 917-912-2597
Medea Benjamin (in Turkey with ground crew) 90 531 888 8927

BOATS EN ROUTE TO GAZA SURROUNDED BY ISRAELI WARSHIPS

New York – November 4, 2011

At 7:43 am ground support crew lost contact with two ships, the Saoirse of Ireland and the Tahrir of Canada, carrying 27 civilian passengers, medical supplies and letters of support for the people of Gaza.

At 7:30 am the Tahrir was interrogated, via radio, by the Israeli Navy. The ships were approximately 48 nautical miles off the coastline, well into international waters. Asked by the Israeli Navy for their destination, Canadian activist Ehab Lotayef replied, “The conscience of humanity.” When they repeated the question, asking for final destination, Lotayef said, “The betterment of mankind.”

Israel has maintained a naval blockade of Gaza since June 2006. Numerous international organizations, including committees of the United Nations, have concluded the blockade is in violation of international law.

Press Release on US Boat to Gaza website.

Get the latest position of the Canadian boat to Gaza, Tahrir

This map was made by Benjamin Doherty at the Electronic Intifada. Get the embed code at the link and post the map on your website or blog.

You can also track the Tahrir here.

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."

Bxxxxxt the Sxxxxxxxxxs! Israeli Knesset Bans Free Speech for Jews

Monday, July 11, was a historic day for the movement to abolish the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem. The right-wing dominated Israeli Knesset gave the campaign to boycott the Israeli occupation a Good Housekeeping seal of approval - a hechsher, if you will - by passing legislation to punish it.

Of course, the effect of this legislation will be to rejuvenate the Israeli peace movement ["Israeli Left launches public campaign against new law banning boycotts," Haaretz reports] and promote the boycott. It is a sign of the political bankruptcy of the Israeli Right that it is now condemned to take actions which promote the agenda of its opponents.

This month, the right-wing Israeli government shone a spotlight on its illegal blockade of Gaza when it made giving free publicity to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla the top Israeli government priority. Every day, it seemed, there was a new Israeli government statement calling attention to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, more outrageous than the last: 67-year-old Alice Walker was going to pour sacks of sulfur on Israeli soldiers and light them on fire; journalists who reported on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla were going to be banned from Israel for ten years.

What the Freedom Flotilla Was Really About: A Response to Christopher Hitchens

Last week, renowned author Christopher Hitchens published a column highly critical of those who attempted to sail to Gaza on the Freedom Flotilla earlier this month. In the article, he sharply questions the flotilla participants’ “political ambitions,” which he suggests are linked to those of Hamas, Hezbollah and even Osama bin Laden. Presumably, Hitchens would also claim that the International Committee of the Red Cross has ‘political ambitions’ aligned with Al Qaeda’s, because both groups support an end to the blockade of Gaza.

The column concludes with a challenge: “There is something about this that fails to pass a smell test. I wonder whether any reporter on the scene will now take me up on this.”

Challenge accepted. Although the flotilla was prevented from going to Gaza, this isn’t the end of activism to end the blockade, so Hitchens’ assertions about the true intentions of this activism are certainly still relevant. Let’s start with the first major claim he makes about the flotilla: “It seems safe and fair to say that the flotilla and its leadership work in reasonably close harmony with Hamas.”

He Gets It, But He Still Doesn't Get It: Reading Ethan Bronner in Athens

If you share in the project of reforming U.S. foreign policy so that it reflects the values and interests of the majority of Americans, then you care about the New York Times. Because of its role in influencing the coverage of other corporate media, the Times is a key gatekeeper shaping not only what the broad majority of the American public know about what our government is doing in the world, but also in determining to what perspectives about these policies the broad American public is exposed.

As a corollary, if you care about reforming U.S. policy towards the Palestinians' quest for self-determination, then you care about Ethan Bronner, because Bronner is the Times' Jerusalem bureau chief.

It was thus with keen interest that, as a passenger waiting in Athens earlier this week to board the U.S. boat to Gaza, The Audacity of Hope, I read Ethan Bronner's "news analysis" Sunday of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, "Setting Sail on Gaza's Sea of Spin."

With continued threats to Gaza flotilla, State Department warns participants, not Israel

With continued threats coming from Israel, a complaint traced to an Israeli organization aimed at docking the U.S. boat indefinitely, and the reported sabotage of another flotilla ship, the State Department ought to say or do something to avert the possibility of undeserved violence toward U.S. citizens sailing to Gaza.

But, of course, to date, the State Department has done just the opposite.

Last week, the State Department issued a travel warning to Israel, the West Bank and Gaza that sounded more fit for the Democratic Republic of the Congo than a close U.S. ally and purported bastion of freedom and democracy. The warning states,

Six members of Congress ask Secretary Clinton to ‘ensure the safety of all American citizens on board the Audacity of Hope’

For Immediate Release
June 27, 2011

Media Contacts:
Athens/en route to Gaza: Robert Naiman, U.S. Mobile: (217) 979-2857
Washington, DC: Kate Gould, (202) 657-4882 press [at] justforeignpolicy.org

WASHINGTON, DC: On Friday, June 24, six members of Congress wrote to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, asking her to "do everything in your power" to help "ensure the safety of all American citizens on board The Audacity of Hope." The letter, which was initiated by Representative Dennis Kucinich, notes The Audacity of Hope's willingness to open its cargo to "international inspection" and their commitment to "nonviolence and the tenets of international law."

The letter was signed by Representatives Dennis Kucinich [OH-10], William Lacy Clay [MO-1], Sam Farr [CA-17], Bob Filner [CA-51], Eleanor Holmes Norton [DC], and Barbara Lee [CA-9].

The letter is viewable online below or here.

Robert Naiman, Policy Director of Just Foreign Policy, issued the following response from Athens, Greece, where he is preparing to sail to Gaza as a passenger on The Audacity of Hope:

"This letter is historic, marking the first time members of Congress have publicly expressed concern for the safety of the U.S. passengers aboard The Audacity of Hope. This statement runs in stark contrast to Secretary of State Clinton's false accusation that we are trying to ‘provoke action by entering into Israeli waters', when in fact we have every intention of sailing to Gaza peacefully and avoiding Israeli waters entirely. We hope Secretary Clinton heeds this request from Congress and speaks out against threats from the Israeli authorities to attack us in our effort to break the illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip."