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August 20, 2008
WAWA Blog August 20, 2008:"Now, it's time for the world to escort us to Gaza" and "WAREHOUSING THE PALESTINIANS" by an onboard American-Israeli UPDATE: Aug. 23, 2008, 5 PM EST: Messages from Boats,  REUTERS LEADS


Free Gaza Project Already Big Success - Israeli Responses

by Anis Hamadeh, 22.08.2008

http://www.anis-online.de/1/ton/51.htm


The main objective of the Free Gaza Movement, currently sailing from Cyprus to Gaza, is to raise awareness about the inhumane conditions in Gaza and Palestine. Hundreds of articles and features in the international media prove that they have reached this aim even before they left Cyprus. And already they have provoked reactions that show the absurdity of the Israeli policy in the Gaza Strip, like Shlomo Dror's statement, a defence ministry spokesman, who is quoted in the Telegraph: "From my point of view this is some kind of pirate ship. You can demonstrate, that's OK with us. But you are not allowed to break international law." (1) So these nonviolent human rights activists, who do not even touch Israeli territory, are called law-breakers and pirates. As this Israeli official argues with the breach of international law the Free Gaza Movement has made a major point, because Israel's breaches of international law are legion and a routine procedure.

Here are the major violations of international law by Israel since 1948: illegal acquisition of land by force, practice of ethnic cleansing, illegal population transfer (settlements), illegal practice of collective punishment, practice of racism and apartheid, violation of Arab family unity, illegal military occupation, forbidding civilians the right to return to their homes following the end of armed conflict, illegal modification of local law, illegal de facto annexation, violations of right to self-determination, violations of human rights, violations of more than 100 UN resolutions. For the monitoring of breaches or suspected breaches especially of the Forth Geneva Convention see in particular B'tselem, Public Committee against Torture in Israel, United Nations Information System on the Question of Palestine, and Human Rights Watch.

Hamas is keen to exploit the boats, this is another argument against the maritime freedom fighters, e.g. in the Jerusalem Post (2). The topos behind this sentence is the one of applause from the wrong side. Nothing for Aristotelians, really, because this topos says: "When you say A, and the bad guy also says A, then you are a bad guy". Can the Human Rights be denied to the Palestinian people only because Hamas also wants them? What if Hamas wears shoes, do we have to go barefoot then? "Your action is that you are supporting the regime of a terrorist organization in Gaza, an organization dedicated to non-recognition of the State of Israel and its right to exist", wrote Noam Katz, director of the Public Relations Department of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. (3) When you are fixed on an enemy you will see everything in relation to this enemy. Children are no longer children, human rights workers no longer human rights workers and civil population no longer civil population. A cloud of demonization obscures the discussion and sometimes we even hear malicious allegations, according to which Hamas would lead this action, which is utter nonsense.

Talking about demonization: protecting or supporting terrorists is another vague accusation that can be derived from the official Isaeli responses and, of course, from the words of engaged laymen and bloggers. It seems as if pro-Zionist writers conceptualize Palestinians as (potential) terrorists and not as human beings. Search for "Free Gaza" in the blog world and you will see the most astonishing quotes. Supporting Palestinians in this realm is almost equal to supporting terrorism. The known German controverter Broder writes that "the Palestinians lack everything except ammunition". (4) The focus is on the "security threat" which clearly is a dehumanization of Palestinians and the reason why collective punishments of Palestinians are not seen to be illegal: they are simply not considered to be human beings. Thus the boats become things like "The Terrorism 'Exodus Ship'" (5).

Some American "specialists" have even argued that the Free Gaza Movement was launching an aggression against another state and would thus be "conspiring" to violate the U.S. Neutrality Act that is codified in section 960 of title 18 of the U.S. Code (6). But where is the aggression in this nonviolent action? All the boats are checked and the Israeli government was even invited to join the trip. Some people must really be afraid when they come up with such far-fetched ideas.

According to IMEMC, Israeli military officials said the Israeli Navy is "within its rights" to use force against the boats, as the Oslo Accords of 1993 (called "dead" by Sharon in 2001) would give Israel the responsibility for the territorial waters of Gaza: "But Palestinians contend that subsequent signed agreements, such as the Camp David Accord (2000) and the Gaza disengagement plan (2005) give the Palestinians the right to the use of their shoreline. Palestinian fishermen who fish off the coast of Gaza face constant harassment from Israeli warships stationed just off the coast, and are often fired upon with shells and missiles." (7) In a recent press release, the Free Gaza Movenmet writes: "As an Occupying Power, Israel has a responsibility for the well-being of the people of Gaza under the provisions of the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention. Israel has abused its control and responsibilities by wrongfully obstructing vital supplies and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza." (8)

The most revealing statements were published today. Israeli officials call the project "both non-humanitarian and a project designed to question Israel's right to exist. (...) Officials have pointed to the mission statement on the movement's website referring to Israel's foundation as the 'Nakba' (catastrophe) as proof of the true intentions of the organisers." (9) Here we can see the core of the problem, thanks to the Free Gaza Movement. If these two boats are considered to be a threat against Israel's existence, then we can clearly understand that this existence argument is nothing more than a hollow phrase designed to deny the Nakba and to protect the law of the jungle in this asymmetrical struggle of one of the most powerful armies in the world against the civil population of Palestine.

Apparently, we are in a time where the principles of international law and the human rights must be implemented anew. There is an extremely wide gap between what the international community says about the law and what the Zionist regime and its adherents say about it. Right now we are living in a jungle where the stronger army makes the law. Is this what we wanted?

Footnotes
(1) 19.08.08, Carolynne Wheeler: www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/middleeast/israel/2579827/Israel-to-treat-Gaza-peace-boats-like-pirates.html
(2) 18.08.08, Yaakov Lappin: www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1218710388004&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull
(3) www.freegaza.org/index.php?module=latest_news&id=baa2fa8868639ca6a09eec582f99a132&offset=

(4) 14.08.08, www.achgut.com/dadgdx/index.php/dadgd/article/ein_schiff_wird_kommen1/
(5) www.israelnationalnews.com/Blogs/Message.aspx/2969
(6) see e.g. www.jewishblogging.com/blog.php?bid=152743
(7) http://imemc.org/article/56592
(8) www.freegaza.org/index.php?module=latest_news&id=6a2cfc1e1566ec39c62254e90b97abf7&offset=
(9) The Jewish Community Online, 22.08.08,
http://thejc.com/articles/israel-plans-its-response-free-gaza’-ship



From Aug. 22 AM email from aboard the SS Liberty, written by American Paul Larudee


Admiral Marom’s Strange Proclamation

The signature of Israeli Navy Commander in Chief Admiral Eliezer Marom appears on a very odd document [see attached] Dated August 11th, 2008, it is not written on official stationery, nor is it addressed to anyone.

The document declares that the Israeli Navy is operating in a maritime zone off the coast of Gaza.  Was there any doubt that they have been doing so continuously since 1967?

It includes the sketch of a map and a series of coordinates (also attached) to define the zone, which includes all of Gaza coastal waters, and a major slice of international waters as well. 

It advises all foreign vessels to remain clear of this zone because of a “security situation” that is apparently so obvious that it requires no definition or explanation.

The only hint about the “security situation” is a reference to the delivery of humanitarian supplies to the civilian population in the Gaza Strip, which, according to the document, should be done only at the land crossings between Israel and the Gaza Strip (i.e. by Israeli permission only). 

Why is the Israeli Navy issuing a proclamation regarding the delivery of humanitarian aid by land?

The proclamation goes on to prescribe a set of protocols for vessels approaching the “maritime zone” and to prohibit vessels from entering Gaza because of the undefined “security situation.”

Finally, the document pronounces its benevolent intentions to ensure “safe navigation” and its neighborly undertaking to prevent vessels from approaching an area where their safety may be endangered. 

Endangered?  By whom?  By what?

There is, of course, an explanation for such a strange document, disseminated (as nearly as can be determined) to a narrow circle of maritime authorities. It is that the document itself is an embarrassment to Israel, which nevertheless feels compelled to issue it in some form, as a disclaimer for any forceful action that they might take against an unnamed threat.

The embarrassment is that the unnamed threat consists of the two converted fishing boats of the Free Gaza Movement, bought and refurbished in Greece, and flying the Greek flag.  On board is a contingent of forty-three crew and human rights advocates, sworn to nonviolence, as well as a modest cargo of hearing aids for Palestinian children in Gaza.  Among their ranks are a Greek member of parliament, an 81-year-old Catholic nun and the sister-in-law of former British prime minister Tony Blair.

No wonder Israel is embarrassed. 

Does Israel seriously consider the delivery of humanitarian aid to be a security crisis? 

Does the initiative of a small group of harmless people constitute such a threat? 

If so, what does that say about the kind of state to which Israelis pledge allegiance?

Finally, the declaration’s kindly words of interest for the safety of vessels traveling in the area hide the threat to use force against the motley flotilla that dares to challenge the entrapment of 1.5 million people in what has become the largest and most permanent concentration camp in the world, and to animate a civil rights movement where others see only a manufactured humanitarian
crisis.

Israel’s blockade of the Gaza coast is an affront to all peoples, but most especially the seafaring peoples of the Mediterranean, where people have lived, prospered and built great civilizations through access to the sea since time immemorial, not least in Gaza itself.  To deny Palestinians this resource is a human rights obscenity that Greeks, Italians, North Africans, Turks, and other seafaring peoples must unite to condemn.

Admiral’s Marom’s proclamation shows nothing so much as the desperation and paranoia of a regime that lacks the imagination and courage to embrace a project that harms no one and delivers hope as its primary cargo. 

It behooves Israel to welcome the Free Gaza initiative as a step towards mutual respect for the human rights of all persons who call the land of Palestine their home.

--Paul Larudee

Written and sent from aboard the SS Liberty, one of two boats heading to Gaza as part of the Free Gaza Movement.


Reuters: Activists sail to bust Israeli sea blockade on Gaza   

Fri 22 Aug 2008, 7:16 GMT 

By Michele Kambas 

LARNACA, Cyprus (Reuters) - International activists departed from Cyprus by boat on Friday in an attempt to run an Israeli sea blockade on 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza. 

The 44 activists sailed from the port of Larnaca in two wooden boats at 9:50 a.m. (7:50 a.m. British time). Hailing from 14 countries, they said they expected to reach the shores of Gaza, patrolled by the Israeli navy, on Saturday. 

"It has been 41 years since any boat has travelled in those waters, and we plan to be the first," said U.S. citizen Paul Larudee, one of the organisers of the "Free Gaza" campaign. 

A previous attempt by the Palestinian Liberation Organisation to sail to Haifa from Cyprus with Palestinian deportees failed in 1988, when a limpet bomb blew a hole in the hull of a ferry boat they had chartered. 

An Israeli army spokesman declined to say whether the navy had plans to intercept the ship before it reached Gaza. 

"We are following the developments," Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said. 

The activists include an 81 year old Catholic nun, the sister in law of former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and a member of the Greek parliament. Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, 84, initially scheduled to go, could not for medical reasons. 

They say they plan to deliver some aid to Palestinians in the Gaza strip, but that the main purpose is to highlight the living conditions of people suffering shortages of everything from food to fuel since an Israeli crackdown. 

"The siege that the Israelis have imposed on Gaza is not only illegal in terms of international law, it is also immoral," said Huwaida Arraf, a Palestinian with Israeli and U.S. citizenship. 

"Global institutions and the governments of the world know what is happening and are not doing anything about it," she said. 

SET SAIL 

Cyprus, which lies some 240 nautical miles west of Gaza, could not legally stop the departure of the boats. A Cypriot official, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters there had been "soundings" by Israeli authorities on whether the vessels could be prevented from sailing from Cypriot shores. 

"Provided documentation was in order they could sail. That's the law and we cannot break it," the Cypriot source said. 

Israel pulled troops and settlers out of Gaza in 2005 but has tightened security restrictions on the territory since the militant Islamic movement Hamas seized control there a year ago from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas' security forces. 

The Israelis completed a wall around the Gaza strip in 1996, and they credit the barrier with virtually halting suicide attacks from the coastal territory. 

Activists say their mission is a peaceful one. "There is this slow genocide going on in Gaza and nobody is taking any notice," said Yvonne Ridley, a British journalist and author. 

"When the Holocaust happened the whole world looked the other way while this atrocity against humanity was unfolding and it was often said we cannot allow this to happen again." 

(Additional reporting by Nassos Stylianou) 



http://africa.reuters.com/world/news/usnPIC225442.html





UPDATE Aug. 22, 2008
: Email from the SS Free Gaza & SS Liberty: On their Way to Gaza!

Forty-six international human rights workers are now sailing to Gaza through international waters with one overriding goal: to break the Israeli siege that Israel has imposed on the civilian population of Gaza .  Any action designed to harm civilians constitutes collective punishment (in the Palestinians’ case, for voting the “wrong” way) and is both illegal under international law and profoundly immoral.

Our mission is to expose the illegality of Israel ’s actions, and to break through the siege in order to express our solidarity with the suffering people of Gaza (and of the occupied Palestinian territory as a whole) and to create a free and regular channel between Gaza and the outside world.

Israel claims that since the “disengagement” in 2005 it no longer occupies Gaza .  However, the International Committee of the Red Cross and other international human rights organizations reject this claim since Israel still exerts effective control over Gaza .  As an Occupying Power, Israel has a responsibility for the well-being of the people of Gaza under the provisions of
the 1949 Fourth Geneva Convention.  Israel has abused its control and responsibilities by wrongfully obstructing vital supplies and humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza .

As Israel ’s 41-year occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip defies international consensus, and because Israel has grossly violated its obligations, we do not recognize Israel ’s right to stop us outside its own territorial waters, which we will not be approaching.  To remove any “security” pretense that Israel may raise, we have had our boats inspected and certified by Cypriot authorities that they carry no arms or contraband of any kind. 

We have invited Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni to join us on our voyage and, in fact, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs has itself told us the Israeli government “assume[s] that your intentions are good.”

We are human rights activists, invited to visit Gaza by our Palestinian partners, and each of us has vowed to do no violence, in either word or deed. If Israel chooses to forcibly stop and search our ships, we will not forcibly resist.  Such a search will be under duress and with our formal protest.  After such a search, we fully expect the Israeli navy to stand aside, as we continue
peacefully to Gaza . If we are arrested and brought to Israel , we will protest and prosecute our kidnapping in the appropriate forums. 

It is our purpose to show the power that ordinary citizens of the world have when they organize together to stand against injustice.  Let there be no doubt: the policies of repression against the civilian population of Gaza represent gross violations of human rights, international humanitarian law, and constitute war crimes. 

The goal of our voyage is to break the illegal siege on the people of Gaza, and end the Israeli occupation of Palestine.


For More Information, please contact:
JERUSALEM: Angela Godfrey-Goldstein
Tel. +972 547 366 393


CYPRUS: Osama Qashoo
Tel. +44 78 333 81660 / +44 79 779 3595





 FREELY STREAMING VIDEO from the SS Free Gaza and SS Liberty NOW availabl


http://www.freegaza.org


The boats are to arrive Saturday and will be met by Gaza fishermen in their boats and most likely the Israeli Occupying Navy.


 

MORE NEWS:

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/8/22/free_gaza_boats_set_sail_from


http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1218710388004&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull




Jeff Halper is an American Israeli, Founder and coordinator of ICAHD who moved to Israel from Hibbing, Minnesota during the Vietnam War years.


When he told his grandmother he was leaving the states, she warned him, "Israel is no place for a nice Jewish boy."

Jeff can no longer count the times he has been arrested for NONVIOLENT acts of civil disobedience against the occupation of Palestine and all of its evils, in particular, the destruction of Palestinian homes by Israel, who receive no compensation for their legally owned homes and land.


THE SIEGE OF GAZA: TOWARDS WAREHOUSING THE PALESTINIANS


by Jeff Halper

August 20, 2008

In a day or two, forty peace-makers from around the world, including myself, will sail from Cyprus to Gaza “to break the Israeli siege.” So rapidly does Israel alter the political, legal and physical “facts on the ground” in the Occupied Palestinian Territories that the very terms we use to describe them become obsolete almost as soon as they are coined. “Apartheid” is only the latest advance over the term “occupation,” which is still not accepted by Israel, which prefers to speak of “administered” or “disputed” territories. Other terms, such as “ethnic cleansing,” which characterized Israel’s policies in 1948, have only recently become legitimate, following the ground-breaking work of Ilan Pappe and Benny Morris in particular. “Siege,” which describes Israel’s policy towards many Palestinian places over the years – Gaza during repeated invasions, Jenin and almost all the Palestinian cities during Operation Defensive Shield in 2002, villages and even urban neighborhoods closed in by the Wall – became a formal reality in 2006, when Israel, supported by the US, Europe and the UN, imposed an economic siege on Gaza, in the wake of the democratic election of Hamas in January, 2006. Such a siege is patently illegal in international law, which forbids targeting civilian populations. Wrote John Dugard, then the UN’s Special Rapporteur on human rights in the Palestinian territories:

“The siege of Gaza is a form of collective punishment in violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention. The indiscriminate use of military power against civilians and civilian targets has resulted in serious war crimes.”
 
But, then, Israel disregards international law with impunity. Witness its defiance of the International Court of Justice ruling regarding the Wall. Who, after all, is going to bring it to justice? 

The siege, however, is only the tip of the iceberg of a much more sinister development of Israel’s control over the Palestinians: “warehousing” an entire people.

Until recently one might have thought that using the term apartheid to describe the occupation was overstating the case. Warehousing makes even apartheid seem benign. Apartheid, like occupation, is conceived as a political issue which must be resolved by the parties with the intervention of the international community. Both apartheid and occupation possess a political dynamic: grassroots groups can resist, public opinion and political forces mobilize, appeals made to international law, human rights and the UN; competing political claims can be resolved. Warehousing, which best describes Israel’s “Occupation” after more than four decades, is a static system emptied of all political content; Israel casts its policies as a “war on terrorism” with no reference to occupation or a political conflict. Israeli control is a permanent “given” – unless the Palestinians accept a bantustan, “voluntary” apartheid being their only way out. In that they are pacified and contained behind barriers, the Palestinians can be “disappeared,” just as people were “disappeared” in Latin American under its military regimes. They become a non-issue, a state of status quo (another Israeli term for its policy towards the Palestinians). “What Israel has constructed,” argues Naomi Klein in her powerful new book, The Shock Doctrine,

is a system,…a network of open holding pens for millions of people who have been categorized as surplus humanity….Palestinians are not the only people in the world who have been so categorized….This discarding of 25 to 60 percent of the population has been the hallmark of the Chicago School [of Economics] crusade….In South Africa, Russia and New Orleans the rich build walls around themselves. Israel has taken this disposal process a step further: it has built walls around the dangerous poor (p. 442).

Warehousing is the best, if bleakest, term for what Israel is constructing for the Palestinians of the Occupied Territories. It is indeed worse than the apartheid-era South African bantustans. The ten non-viable mini-states established by South Africa for the black African majority on only 11% of the country’s land were, to be sure, a type of warehouse. They were intended to supply South Africa with cheap labor while relieving it of its black population, thus making possible a European-dominated “democracy.” This is precisely what Israel is intending – its Palestinian Bantustan encompassing 15% of historic Palestine, but with a crucial caveat: Palestinian workers will not be allowed into Israel, which has found a cheaper source of labor, some 300,000 foreign workers imported from China, the Philippines, Thailand, Romania and West Africa, augmented by its own Arab, Mizrahi, Ethiopian, Russian and Eastern European citizens. From every point of view, historically, culturally, politically and economically, the Palestinians have been defined as “surplus humanity;” nothing remains to do with them except warehousing, which the concerned international community appears willing to allow Israel to do.

Not only should the permanent warehousing of an entire people be of concern to the Palestinians and those who support them, it should, as Klein stresses, concern anyone troubled with warehousing as a global phenomenon. In fact, it may constitute an entirely new crime against humanity, one that affects, Klein says, those who have been judged irrevocably superfluous: the urban poor (more than a billion of whom are imprisoned in what Mike David, in his seminal book Planet of Slums, calls “global slums”), the rural poor, particular minorities, refugees and undocumented immigrants and, most recently, peoples, religions and countries demonized for political purposes as “evil” or “uncivilized.”  To the extent that what we call Israel’s “Occupation” is, in fact, a model of warehousing, it has implications far beyond a localized conflict between two peoples. If Israel can package and export its layered Matrix of Control, a system of permanent repression that combines Kafkaesque administration, law and planning with overtly coercive forms of control over a defined population hemmed in by hostile gated communities (settlements in this case), walls or obstacles to movement of various kinds, then, as Klein writes starkly, every country will look like Israel/Palestine: “One part looks like Israel; the other part looks like Gaza.” In other words, a Global Palestine.

Israel, then is in complete sync with both the economic and military logics of global capitalism, for which it is being rewarded generously. Instead of presenting the international community with issues that must be resolved – violations of human rights, international law and repeated UN resolutions, let alone the implications of the conflict itself – it is instead providing a valued service: it is offering a useful model of warehousing that can be applied to “surplus populations” everywhere, including right at home. Thus the siege on Gaza which, despite its illegality and outright injustice, garners international support. And we, the unarmed people from around the world who view Palestinians as people enjoying fundamental human rights, are forced to board old boats to do what our governments should be doing: breaking the siege and holding Israel accountable for its actions. 



FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: FREE GAZA MOVEMENT

SS FREE GAZA AND SS LIBERTY HAVE ARRIVED IN LARNACA, CYPRUS

 In UK:                 The Free Gaza Movement:                 +447818040982
                           Palestinian Solidarity Campaign:       +442077006313      
 On Board Ship:    Paul Larudee:                                   +306 981 234829   ( )
                           Osama Qashoo:                                +44 7833381660
 In Cyprus:           Ramzi Kysia: Greta Berlin                  +357-990 81767     ( )
                           Angela Godfrey-Goldstein:                 +972 547 366 393   ( )

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

At 8:30 am Cyprus time, the Free Gaza and the Liberty rounded the last corner of this lovely island, escorted by the Cypriot Coast Guard, and pulled into on the Northern side of the commercial port in Larnaca.

"We've been waiting a long time to unify our group, which has been split between Cyprus and Crete. We are excited to combine both groups who have worked so hard on this project and are so enthusiastic about setting out for Gaza. On the way in today, we had the Cypriot authorities escorting us. Now, it's time for the world to escort us to Gaza." Said Paul Larudee, one of the organizers.

After a thorough inspection of both boats, the port authority will let the 20 passengers from Cyprus on board to make final preparations, including a memorial service for the more than 5000 Palestinians who have lost their lives since September 2000 as well as the 34 sailors aboard the USS Liberty who were assassinated by Israel in 1967. They, like the Palestinians, will not be forgotten. That service should be on Thursday, August 21 just before the boats begin their final journey to Gaza.

"It was exhilarating to watch the boats come in after waiting so patiently over the past two weeks. Seeing the sail on the Free Gaza followed to port by the Liberty has been worth the wait. Now we will get the boats ready to sail to Gaza, because that is our final destination. We are looking forward to going as soon as possible. " Said a delighted Fathi Jaouadi, one of the passengers on board.

The boats will be in port for the next two days for media to photograph. The human rights workers on board will also be available for interviews.
 

#####
 
Greta Berlin
Media Team
Free Gaza Movement
357 99 08 17 67
http://www.freegaza.org
http://www.anis-online.de/office/events/FreeGazaSong.htm
http://www.flickr.com/photos/29205195@N02/






BREAKING THE BLOCKADE

radio editorial for KUNM by Iris Keltz

Aug. 18, 2008


If hope alone could keep ships afloat, there would be no reason to worry.

Two small unarmed boats, the SS Free Gaza and the SS Liberty are docked in Cyprus, waiting for the moment to sail through international waters to break the siege in Gaza and deliver much needed humanitarian aid, including hearing aids for children who have lost some or all of their hearing due to sonic booms from Israeli fly overs.

More than forty human rights activists from 17 different countries, 4 religions, including the international press, an 84 year old Holocaust survivor, a Nakbar survivor, (Palestinian who experienced the ethnic cleansing in '48), Tony Blair's sister-in-law and an 81 year old nun are waiting for the captain to say, Hoist anchor and caste off, Stormy weather has delayed their departure which was suppose to be last week.

Boats are often named for wish fulfillment.

Many of us grew up with the story of a ship called the Exodus led by a swashbuckling Jewish freedom fighter named Ari Ben Canaan. He broke the British blockade by sailing from Cyprus to Palestine and brought hundreds of Holocaust survivors to the promised land, like Moses. It was a fictionalized accounting of events that was read as truth.

History repeats itself.

Jeff Halper, the only Israeli on board, is an anthropology professor and activist, nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for his work with ICAHD, a group that rebuilds Palestinian homes demolished by bulldozers. An almost bald sixty something guy with a white beard has become a salty sea faring freedom fighter, more exciting than the fictional, fantasy person of my youth.


The SS Liberty honors a U.S. Navy ship attacked by Israeli fighter planes and torpedo boats on 8 June 1967. 34 American sailors were killed and 170 wounded. With the blessings of the families, ceremony to commemorate the slain American sailors is planned.

The boat named Free Gaza draws attention to the devastating consequences of the Israeli blockade on Gaza. Both ships represent the power of non-violent direct action to change inhumane governmental policies and both are decorated with red, green and black palestinian flags and lines of poetry by recently deceased Mahmoud Darwish.

Looking at photos of the waiting activists, I imagine myself smelling the salt air, swabbing the decks, cleaning the hole, studying charts and weather forecasts and patrolling the ship, day and night.

Everyone on board is putting their life on the line.

A communique from the activists report that their families have been receiving anonymous threatening phone calls. Everyone knows that a similar venture failed in 1988 when Israel disabled a boat and three activists were killed.

Tensions have been raised by the fact that the Israeli Foreign Ministry claimed that Israel is within its rights to use force against the boats and can detain, interrogate and arrest the passengers. (reported in Israeli newspaper, Ha?aretz 8/17)

Determined to break the Israeli blocade of Gaza, they do not intend to turn around even if faced with Israeli gun ships.

The safety of those on board depends on the watchful eyes of the world.


The people in Gaza cannot wait; they need medicine, food, drinking water. And they need it now.

Either Gaza is not under occupation as Israel claims and the boat will be allowed to pass safely through international waters, or, the world will witness that despite Israeli claims of unilateral withdrawal, Gaza is still controlled by land, air and sea.

Thousands of people in Gaza City wait anxiously on the beach, scanning the horizon for the boats to appear, like beacons of hope on the darkest night. To be on board from your laptop, contact:< >
http://www.FreeGaza.org





August 11, 2008: History Freely Streaming from on Board the SS LIBERTY and FREE GAZA
Read more...




Related articles:
# Israel fears European ship may sail to Gaza to 'break siege'
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1006191.html




# Israeli prof. joins 40 activists sailing to Gaza
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/1009414.html



Last update - 15:12 17/08/2008                
Israel may use force to halt boat trying to break Gaza siege
By Amos Harel


Defense officials favor forcefully blocking two boats which a group of U.S.-based activists plan to sail to Gaza to protest what they call "the Israeli siege on the Strip," Haaretz has learned.

According to the Foreign Ministry, Israel is within its rights to use force against the seafarers.

The subject of the Greek-flagged boats which the Free Gaza group said it would sail from Cyprus to Gaza this week prompted defense officials to hold a series of discussions; they said allowing the ships to reach the Gaza coastline could create a dangerous precedent. But the Israel Navy has not yet received any instructions on how to treat the vessels.
    
According to some officials, Hamas is keen to exploit the initiative by the activists - including Israeli professor and activist Jeff Halper - for its political needs, and could try to greet the seafarers with fishing boats.

The officials believe that Hamas views the drive as an opportunity to underscore the suffering of the civilian population because of Israel's policies. A position paper by the Foreign Ministry's legal department says Israel has the right to use force against the demonstrators as part of the Oslo Accords, which names Israel as responsible for Gaza's territorial waters.

An official in Jerusalem said the Foreign Ministry's paper means that security forces could detain the vessels upon entry to Gaza's territorial waters, arrest the passengers and haul the ship to Israel, where the detainees could be interrogated.

The organizers have reportedly raised almost $300,000 to finance the operation and recruited 60 people to sail on the ship. These include activists from several countries as well as journalists.

In conversations with their Israeli counterparts, Cypriot officials have expressed concerns about the boat departing from their shores, but say they can do nothing to prevent it. According to the information that has reached Israel, however, Cyprus is not the only point of departure under consideration; the ship might also sail from Turkey or Alexandria in Egypt.




Navy to repel Free Gaza Movement boats
By YAAKOV LAPPIN

The navy has been ordered to turn back two boats carrying 44 pro-Palestinian foreign activists who are attempting to "break the siege of Gaza," The Jerusalem Post has learned.


Officials said the navy had a number of options in dealing with the boats, which have set out from Crete, en route to Gaza, via a stop-over in Cyprus. The boats are due to approach the Strip in the second half of this week.

Israeli officials said Sunday that the Mediterranean waters around Gaza fell under Israeli sovereignty due to an agreement with the Palestinian Authority. Gaza has also been declared a combat zone, giving the navy the legal right to patrol the sea around the Strip, the officials said.

The officials dismissed the claim by the Free Gaza Movement organization, which organized the boats, that they were on a humanitarian journey. They said Hamas was keen to exploit the boats to undermine Israel's blockade of Gaza.

The boats are expected to pass from international waters into waters within Gaza territory, unload equipment and pick up Palestinians living in the Strip, before setting sail again. A confrontation was not expected as the activists have stated they were not seeking a standoff, the Israeli officials said.

Speaking from Cyprus last week, Free Gaza spokeswoman Gretta Berlin said the activists "do not intend to turn around" if confronted by the navy.

"Why should we turn around? Israel doesn't own that property. We have been invited by the people of Gaza," she said.

"We'll stand in line, link arms, and tell them they're not wanted," Berlin added.

Israeli officials did note that Gazan fishing boats had access to the waters.

The boat journey was largely a publicity stunt, the Israeli officials said, adding that its organizers were hungry for international and Israeli media attention. So far, the Israeli media had shown the most interest in the boats, the officials added.

Meanwhile, a spokesman for the Free Gaza Movement, Ramzi Kysia, has claimed that a member of the movement, Lauren Booth, received a threatening phone call at her home in France on Thursday.

"An anonymous man called my home in France as my daughters played hide and seek in the garden. This stranger spoke to my husband, warning him that 'your wife is in great danger. These ships will be blown up.' My husband asked how it was this person had obtained our private home number. No response was forthcoming, but the illicit threats carried on," Booth said in a message posted on the group's Web site.


The 40 fearless global citizens of FREE GAZA are now in a no-lose situation.  

If they get through, they will bring hope to the voiceless innocent people caught in the crossfire of violence between Israel and Militants, deliver hearing aids to children, offer basic medical care and stand in solidarity with the suffering innocent and demand justice; human rights and international law for all.

If the Israeli Navy stops the SS FREE GAZA and SS LIBERTY, international publicity will erupt and that will help expose the true nature of the siege and its effects on the innocent people caught in the crossfire of violent retaliation.

Please if you can donate anything to help the fearless crew:
http://www.freegaza.org

Please also alert your media to follow the efforts of 40 committed global citizens out to change the world for the better and thank you for doing something.  




UPDATE: August 21, 2008
Despite Israel's blockade, boats in Cyprus pass inspection for Gaza protest
By The Associated Press


LARNACA, Cyprus - Cyprus will allow two boats carrying members of a U.S.-based activist group to sail for Gaza in defiance of Israel's blockade of the Palestinian territory, authorities here said Wednesday.

The two wooden sailboats have passed a safety inspection, Cyprus' Merchant Shipping Director Serghios Serghiou said.

He said the boats have also been given safety certificates from Greece, where the vessels are registered.

We have not prohibited the departure of the boat, Serghiou told The Associated Press.

Protest organizer Paul Larudee said the boats - the 21-meterFree Gaza and 18-meter Liberty - will set sail around midnight tonight from Larnaca port for the estimated 30-hour trip.

Members of the Free Gaza protest group said some 40 activists from 16 countries, including 81-year-old Catholic nun Anne Montgomery, will attempt to break the blockade Israel imposed on Gaza last year in a bid to set a precedent for others to follow.

They plan to deliver 200 hearing aids to a Palestinian charity for children and hand out 5,000 balloons.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Arye Mekel said the ministry had told activists in a letter that all humanitarian aid should be delivered through Israeli-controlled border crossings. But Mekel refused to say how Israel would respond if the activists tried to break the blockade.

Thomas Nelson, 64, said the group expects the Israeli navy to intercept the boats and arrest those onboard. The Portland, Oregon-based attorney said activists plan to resist any attempts to arrest them in a non-violent way.

Nelson said there is no security threat to Israel here, except the truth and Israel is afraid of the truth.

Nelson said lawyers from the U.S.-based National Lawyers' Guild would file legal action against Israel in an appropriate legal forum if Israeli authorities kidnap activists in international waters.



   
 
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The Paradoxical Commandments
by Dr. Kent M. Keith

People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered.
Love them anyway.

If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
Do good anyway.

If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies.
Succeed anyway.

The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow.
Do good anyway.

Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable.
Be honest and frank anyway.

The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds.
Think big anyway.

People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs.
Fight for a few underdogs anyway.

What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight.
Build anyway.

People really need help but may attack you if you do help them.
Help people anyway.

Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth.
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