Thursday, June 10, 2010


June 10, 2010, Issue #643
Send event announcements to

Here are a few new events to supplement our June 6 calendar (below)

Friday, June 11, KINGSTON: Opposition to the immense power wielded in the United States by corporations, banks and Wall St. is the subject of a 12 noon rally in front of Democratic Rep. Maurice Hinchey's local office at 291 Wall St. Hinchey, a liberal, most likely agrees with the call of the organizers, the regional MoveOn Council: "Americans have had enough and we want change! We need to reduce the power of big corporations over our democracy." Information,

Saturday, June 12, WOODSTOCK: Did you know that the world's largest organic farming experiment has been going on for over 15 years in our neighboring island of Cuba? Here's a chance to "learn about the Greening of Cuba." A public forum and discussion on this matter will take place 5-7 p.m. at the Library, 5 Library Lane just off Tinker St. Nora Hammond Gallardo, who is associated with Pastors for Peace, will speak. In addition there will be information about the annual Peace Caravan to Cuba, which departs in July. Information, (212) 926-5757.

Friday, June 18, NEW PALTZ: A showing of the film "Under Our Skin" will begin at 8:15 p.m. at the Elting Library, 93 Main St. We are told this free public event is "a gripping tale of microbes, medicine and money, exposing the hidden story of Lyme disease, one of the most controversial and fastest growing epidemics of our time." The sponsor is New Paltz Neighbors for Peace. Information,

Saturday, June 26, NEW ROCHELLE: Westchester Women in Black will conduct a vigil in solidarity with the struggle of the Palestinian people for national and human rights. It will take place 2-3 p.m. at Main St. and Memorial Highway. They say, "The Gaza Freedom Flotilla tragedy demands that we step up our efforts." CodePink and WESPAC sponsor the event. Men, of course, are welcome. Information,

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

06-08-10 Activist Newsletter — Protests for Gaza

June 8, 2010, Issue #160A




2. ISRAELI PEACE MOVEMENT ON THE MARCH — 15,000 demonstrate in Tel Aviv.

3. THE U.S. CONGRESS ON THE FLOTILLA: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

4. "KILL A TURK AND REST" — Uri Avnery resurrects an old joke to make a trenchant point.


By Jack A. Smith, Activist Newsletter

A demonstration and public meeting took place in the Hudson Valley town of Middletown in Orange County June 7 to protest Israel's attack on the humanitarian aid flotilla a week earlier, and to demand an end to the Tel Aviv government's blockade of the Gaza Strip and its 1.5 million Palestinian inhabitants.

The 5-7 p.m. demonstration took place at the busy rush-hour intersection of Rt. 211 and North Galleria Drive, followed by an over 2-hour public meeting at nearby Wallkill Town Hall.

A total of 35 people took part in the demonstration, carrying such signs as "End the Siege of Gaza," "Israel Lies, Innocents Die," "Free Gaza," "Stop U.S.-Backed Israeli Attacks on Gaza," and "Free Palestine, End the Occupation."

The street protest was fairly large for a demonstration targeting the excesses of the right-wing Israeli government of Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, and the response from the drivers of the many thousands of cars passing by was more favorable than anticipated.

Gardiner resident Eli Kassirer, who has distributed leaflets elsewhere at several similar events to motorists awaiting a change of lights, said "this is the best reception I've ever gotten." This was also evident in the relatively frequent honks and thumbs-up in support of the action.

The meeting, which began at 7:30 p.m., attracted 40 attendees. The panel discussion was chaired by civil liberties attorney Michael Sussman, who leads the Orange County Democratic Alliance. He noted in an introduction that "Israel has a sustainable right to exist, but this was not a sustainable way to exist."

Speaking were author, activist and former Bard Professor Joel Kovel, whose most recent book is "Overcoming Zionism;" Felice Gelman, a member of the WESPAC Middle East Committee who participated in the Gaza Freedom March last January; Tarak Kauff, an activist and organizer from Ulster County who also took part in the Freedom March; and Lily Sussman, a graduate of Northeastern University who recently returned from lengthy travel and study in the Middle East.

All four called for an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, and offered different insights into resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and in building the U.S. movement to force a change in Washington's one-sided policy of support for Israel at the expense of Palestinian national and human rights.

Kovel focused on the brutality of the attack and the demonstrations in Israel that indicate a revival of the Israeli left. He expressed the view that the Zionist power structure in the U.S. greatly influences U.S. policy in the Middle East. Gelman focused on the counterproductive nature of the Gaza blockade from Israel’s own point of view, the role of the flotilla in serving as a microcosm of Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians, and the need for an international investigation. Kauff spoke about taking risks and cultivating a culture of resistance and escalating our truth-telling efforts. Lily Sussman spoke of her experiences in the Middle East and the need for people to understand how all the issues are linked.

The emergency protest was initiated by the Democratic Alliance, and co-sponsored by Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Middle East Crisis Response, Orange County Peace and Justice, WESPAC, Peace and Social Progress Now, and Hudson Valley Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Of interest was the support for the Orange County action from activists in Ulster County to the north, who accounted for about a third of the participants in the day's events. This sense of regional solidarity is a trend the Activist Newsletter supports and seeks to encourage in other Hudson Valley counties, especially in terms of peace actions (now that our movement is smaller) and the movement for Palestinian rights, which is still in the relatively early developing stage.



By the Activist Newsletter, compiled from various Israeli sources

The Israeli left and the peace movement united in Tel Aviv June 5 to oppose the government's seizure of the humanitarian flotilla heading for Gaza, and to demand the end of the 43-year occupation of the Palestinian territories.

It was the largest oppositional protest in years. An estimated 15,000 demonstrators marched from Rabin Square at 7 p.m. to reach Museum Plaza an hour later for a mass rally.

There were several earlier protests as soon as the ships were seized May 31, but the largest attendance had been 2,000, also in Tel Aviv.

The right wing also demonstrated earlier in the week, mainly supporting the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) and denouncing Turkey because many of its citizens joined the flotilla. The IDF shot and killed nine Turkish members of the humanitarian delegation. A Turkish war memorial to its soldiers killed in Palestine during World War I was desecrated in Tel Aviv by rightist hoodlums.

The June 5 action was the product of a united front of all sectors of the broad Israeli peace camp. The groups included Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc), Peace Now, Yesh Gvul (There is a Limit), Meretz (a left wing social-democratic party), the Communist Party, Hadash (the Democratic Front for Peace and Equality), Banki-Shabiba (the Young Communist Guard), Physicians for Human Rights, Combatants for Peace (they are former Israeli and Palestinian fighters now collaborating for peace), and others.

The march itself — lead by leftist Knesset (Parliament) Members Muhammad Barakeh, Dov Khenin, Haim Oron, and Hanna Sweid, plus CP chairman Muhammad Nafah — jammed the streets with demonstrators, colorful signs, banners, and chants.

Virtually all the groups expressed some surprise at the large number of demonstrators. According to the organizers, the size showed that “people are opposed to this government that is driving us toward international isolation and a new war.”

The main slogan of the evening was "The government is sinking all of us — we must aspire for peace." The rally also issued a manifesto: "It's time to return to sanity and save our society from ruin. Without a solution of two states for two peoples and two capitals in Jerusalem, the whole region's future is in doubt."

Right wing groups sought to disrupt the protest. The Jerusalem Post reported: "While the main rally was proceeding at the museum, counter protestors gathered in an adjacent patch of sidewalk and sang praise for the Israeli Navy SEALS [involved in the ship assaults] and performed renditions of the Israeli national anthem. As busloads of left-wing activists drove past at the end of the evening, counter protestors chanted 'traitors,' 'terror supporters,' and 'go to Gaza' behind a wall of border patrolmen and riot police."

Here's the Gush Shalom account posted June 6: "A disaster was averted yesterday at Tel-Aviv’s Museum Square, when rightists threw a smoke grenade into the middle of the protest rally, obviously hoping for a panic to break out and cause the protesters to trample on each other. But the demonstrators remained calm, nobody started to run and just a small space in the middle of the crowd remained empty. The speaker did not stop talking even when the cloud of smoke reached the stage. The audience included many children.

"Half an hour later [as the rally ended}, a dozen rightist thugs attacked Gush Shalom’s 86-year-old [founder and leader] Uri Avnery, when he was on his way from the rally in the company of his wife, Rachel, and [spokesman] Adam Keller and his wife Beate Zilversmidt. Avnery had just entered a taxi, when a dozen rightist thugs attacked him and tried to drag him out of the car. At the critical moment, the police arrived and made it possible for the car to leave."

Avnery commented: “The violence of the rightists is a direct result of the brainwashing which has been going on throughout the last week. A huge propaganda machine has incited the public in order to cover up the terrible mistakes made by our political and military leadership, mistakes which are becoming worse from day to day.”

At the rally, Knesset member Barakeh, who is the chairman of Hadash, declared, “We will not let the crazy right wing push aside the left and the Arab sector into political isolation.” Knesset member Oron, of Meretz, told the crowd: " The Israeli government is causing a disaster for the country. The flotilla crisis reflects lack of judgment, idiocy, and stupidity; it cannot be detached from the overall conduct of the government."

The Israeli daily Haaretz interviewed Gush Shalom's Avnery for its June 7 edition. He told the reporter that the large size of the demonstration was particularly impressive "when you take into account the unprecedented brainwashing the country experienced during the week, when a near-totalitarian propaganda machine repeated a single picture and a single story, and prevented citizens from seeing or hearing anything else. We hardly saw anything except for a few minutes shot and edited by the Israel Defense Forces spokesman's office, which confiscated the films shot by journalists. The question may be asked: Why? What are they afraid of?"

Avnery also told the newspaper, "I see the demonstration as a new awakening [but] we have a long way to go."

— J.A.S.



By U.S. Campaign to end the Israel Occupation

June 8, 2010: Congress is back in session today from its Memorial Day recess, and is weighing in on Israel's assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Here's a review of some Congressional initiatives — the good, the bad and the ugly — and ways for you to take action:

The Good

On June 2, Rep. Dennis Kucinich began circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter, which states, in part, "Israel must account for our support, for the lives of our soldiers, for the investment of billions from our taxpayers. Israel owes the United States more than reckless, pre-meditated violence waged against innocent people."

Ask your Representative to "sign on" to this "Dear Colleague" letter and ask him/her also to have the State Department initiate an investigation into whether Israel violated the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) by clicking

Also, of note, on June 3, Rep. Barbara Lee and Rep. Keith Ellison sent President Obama a letter, calling on him to support an investigation into the attack and a lifting of the blockade of Gaza. LinkSee,57&itemid=2014

The Bad

On June 4, Rep. Ted Poe, who was featured in our recent video, "'The Twilight Zone' on Capitol Hill" began circulating a "Dear Colleague" letter which states that Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla was an "act of self-defense" against "extremist terrorists."See

Although Rep. Poe has not posted the text of his letter to his website and its language is reportedly still under consideration, there is no doubt that it should be opposed. Ask your Representative not to "sign on" to this letter by clicking

The Ugly

The American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) has posted a compendium of Congressional statements in support of Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. See

As wretched as many of these statements are, none are quite as disturbing as remarks reportedly made by Rep. Brad Sherman during a conference call organized by the Israel Project. On the call, Sherman invoked the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act and reportedly stated that he "will be asking the Attorney General to prosecute any American involved in what was clearly an effort to give items of value to a terrorist organization." See

The U.S. Campaign to end the Israel Occupation is at



[Editor's Note: Israeli peace leader Uri Avnery wrote a long article critical of the Tel Aviv government's decision to attack the humanitarian aid flotilla. The article appeared on the Gush Shalom (Peace Bloc) website June 5 — the same day as the massive united front peace march and rally in Tel Aviv. Here is an excerpt. After discussing the incident at length, including a comparison between the attack on the aid ships and the British government's 1947 attack on the ship Exodus carrying "illegal" Jewish immigrants to Palestine, Avnery wrote:]

This event points again to one of the most serious aspects of the situation: we live in a bubble, in a kind of mental ghetto, which cuts us off and prevents us from seeing another reality, the one perceived by the rest of the world. A psychiatrist might judge this to be the symptom of a severe mental problem.

The propaganda of the government and the army tells a simple story: our heroic soldiers, determined and sensitive, the elite of the elite, descended on the ship in order “to talk” and were attacked by a wild and violent crowd. Official spokesmen repeated again and again the word “lynching.”

On the first day, almost all the Israeli media accepted this. After all, it is clear that we, the Jews, are the victims. Always. That applies to Jewish soldiers, too. True, we storm a foreign ship at sea, but turn at once into victims who have no choice but to defend ourselves against violent and incited anti-Semites.

It is impossible not to be reminded of the classic Jewish joke about the Jewish mother in Russia taking leave of her son, who has been called up to serve the Czar in the war against Turkey. “Don’t overexert yourself,” she implores him, “Kill a Turk and rest. Kill another Turk and rest again….”

“But mother,” the son interrupts, “What if the Turk kills me?”

“You?” exclaims the mother, “But why? What have you done to him?”

To any normal person, this may sound crazy. Heavily armed soldiers of an elite commando unit board a ship on the high seas in the middle of the night, from the sea and from the air — and they are the victims?

But there is a grain of truth there: they are the victims of arrogant and incompetent commanders, irresponsible politicians and the media fed by them. And, actually, of the Israeli public, since most of the people voted for this government or for the opposition, which is no different....

This is Chapter 2 of [Operation] Cast Lead. [The reference is to the Dec. 27, 2008-Jan. 18, 2009, invasion of the Gaza Strip that resulted in the deaths of 14 Israelis, mostly soldiers, and 1,400 Palestinians, overwhelmingly civilians, followed by a near total blockade that in effect has made prisoners of the territory's 1.5 million residents.] Then we aroused most countries in the world against us, shocked our few friends and gladdened our enemies. Now we have done it again, and perhaps with even greater success. World public opinion is turning against us.

This is a slow process. It resembles the accumulation of water behind a dam. The water rises slowly, quietly, and the change is hardly noticeable. But when it reaches a critical level, the dam bursts and the disaster is upon us. We are steadily approaching this point.

“Kill a Turk and rest,” the mother says in the joke. Our government does not even rest. It seems that they will not stop until they have made enemies of the last of our friends.

— The entire article is at
— END —

Sunday, June 6, 2010

06-06-10 Activist Calendar

June 6, 2010, Issue #642
Send event announcements to


MIDDLETOWN: A rally, march and public meeting critical of the Israeli attack on a humanitarian flotilla bringing supplies to besieged Gaza this week will take place beginning at 5 p.m. at the intersection of Rt. 211 and North Galleria Drive. At 7 p.m. the demonstrators will march a half-mile to the Wallkill Town Hall at 99 Tower Drive for a 7:30 p.m. meeting. FOR FULL INFORMATION and directions see June 5 posting directly below this calendar.


Monday, June 7, OLD CHATHAM: Film and discussion, "God Grew Tired of Us: The Story of Lost Boys of Sudan," 7 p.m. at Powell House Quaker Conference and Retreat Center, 524 Pitt Hall Rd. From the organizers: This film "explores the indomitable spirit of three 'lost boys' who fled villages, formed surrogate families and sought refuge from famine, disease, wild animals and attacks from rebel soldiers. They enter a UN refugee camp, then move to America, where they build active and fulfilling new lives but remain deeply committed to helping the friends and family they have left behind." Free and Public. Information,, (518) 766-2992,

Tuesday, June 8, ALBANY: "Meet Your Newest Neighbors: Refugee Community Gatherings" at Albany Public Library, 161 Washington Ave. at 6 p.m. One of five gatherings in coming days that will introduce people to their new neighbors who arrived from all corners of the planet, after fleeing war and persecution (the website has full details). Learn about their perspectives on life, culture, and the knowledge that they have to share. Sponsored by: U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, the Catholic Charities Refugee Resettlement Program, and Albany and Rensselaer Refugees. Information, (518) 459-1790,,

Thursdays June 10, and June 24, WOODSTOCK: The Middle East Crisis Response group of Hudson Valley residents opposed to Israeli and U.S. policies toward the Palestinians meets 7-8:30 p.m. at the Library, 5 Library Lane, just off Tinker St. All welcome. Information, (845) 876-7906,,

Sunday, June 13, BEACON: The Beacon Sloop Club's annual Strawberry Festival will be held on the banks of the Hudson at Beacon Waterfront Park, 12 noon-5 p.m. Free sails on the Sloop Woody Guthrie, music, children's area, environmental displays, WDST giveaways, farmers' market, craft and food vendors, and the freshest strawberry shortcake you can get. Performers include The Strawberry Hill Fiddlers, Pete Seeger, Dan Einbender, E'lissa Jones and Mark McNutt, Cabin Fever, Kate Powers and Steve Einhorn, Jen Klapp. Free and public. Information (845) 463-4660, (845) 831-6962,

Sunday, June 13, NEW ROCHELLE: A 12 noon-3 p.m. Marriage Equality Day Rally will be held at Temple Israel of New Rochelle, 1000 Pinebrook Blvd. We're informed: "As a faith community, members felt it important to make a statement of solidarity for this important civil rights issue, particularly after the defeat of the marriage equality issue in New York State." Information, (845) 235-1800.

Sunday, June 13, and Saturday-Sunday, June 19-20, KINGSTON: Theater in a subway car? Yes, for three more performances at the Trolley Museum of New York, 89 E. Strand at the Rondout. The play is Bruce Grund's direction of Leroi Jones' (Amiri Baraka) explosive drama, "Dutchman." We're told by reader Linda Leeds that "The audience travels as passengers along with Laura Love-Kroll (Lula) and Lerone Simon (Clay) who brilliantly portray racial conflict and sexual tension that resonate in today's cultural and political reality." All performances at 7 p.m. Cost, $10. There are only 45 seats in this "theater," and no reserved seating. Museum: (845) 331-3399,

Sunday, June 13, NYACK: Today, locally, is Gay Pride Rockland day, 11:30 a.m.-5 p.m. at the Riverspace Parking Lot, 119 Main St. We're told: "This is an event for everyone — a free fun filled day, with street vendors, family activities, a 20' super slide, and a basketball clinic with former N.Y. Liberty player for K-12 youth. Balloons and local musicians contribute to the celebratory atmosphere. Community and religious leaders, elected officials and exciting performers make this a day not to be missed. Join us!" Information, (845) 634-5729, etc. 307,

Tuesday, June 15, HUDSON VALLEY to CUBA: If you are interested in possibly joining the annual Pastors for Peace Caravan to Cuba this July, contact and click on Cuba Caravan. It could be the trip of a lifetime. Travel through the U.S. for a week or two with one prong of the caravan, converge at the Mexico border and fly to Cuba for nine days, returning Aug. 3. Information, (212) 926-5757,

Wednesday, June 16, RHINEBECK: "Brown Bag Lunch Vigil for Healthcare Not Warfare" will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Meet at Rhinebeck Town Hall, 80 E. Market St. to carpool to Congressman Scott Murphy's office in Hudson. Sponsored by Progressive Democrats of America, Real Majority Project. Information, (845) 242-3571,

Thursday, June 17, GARDINER: Author, teacher and activist Joel Kovel will discuss his latest book, "Overcoming Zionism," and recent events including Israel's attack on the humanitarian flotilla last week and the siege of Gaza at a 7 p.m. public and free meeting at Gardiner Public Library, 133 Farmers' Turnpike. From the organizer: "Although the situation in Israel/Palestine seems frozen, it's actually highly dynamic and rapidly changing. In this talk Prof. Kovel will be analyzing the threads of change and draw out their implications. He will also describe the main options for change — the two-state versus one-state solutions to resolve Israeli-Palestinian differences — and weigh their merits and chances of being realized. Information,

Thursday, June 17, SARATOGA SPRINGS: Rally against British Petroleum at Rep. Scott Murphy's office, 487 Broadway, at 6. p.m., behind the slogan "No Bailout for BP, We Need Clean Energy." Part of a nationwide event promoting clean energy and insisting the corporation pay full expenses to clean up the Gulf of Mexico after the recent historic oil spill. is urging Congress to support legislation co-sponsored by Rep. Paul Tonko, and New York's two Senators. Murphy has not co-sponsored this legislation. Information,, (518) 583-4326,

Saturday and Sunday, June 19-20, CROTON-ON-HUDSON: The Hudson River Sloop Clearwater's Great Hudson River Revival will take place riverside at Croton Point Park, 10 a.m.-8:30 p.m. Explore and enjoy seven stages of music and dance, juried crafts and marketplace, green living expo, activist area, rides on small and large boats, including the Sloop Clearwater. Performers include: Steve Earle, Shawn Colvin, David Bromberg Quartet, Joan Osborne, Buckwheat Zydeco, and Pete Seeger, along with many others. Ticket prices: Children 12 and under, free with adult. Adults, $55 for one day (in advance; $80 at gate); weekend pass, $75 ($115, gate). Information, (845) 418-3596. Info and ticket purchase,

Saturday, June 19, ALBANY: The film, "Crude: The Real Price of Oil," will be shown 7 p.m. at First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany's Emerson Hall, 405 Washington Ave. This film depicts the legal battle against Chevron, regarding the contamination of the Amazon River in Ecuador. Free Admission, free refreshments provided by Honest Weight Food Co-Op. Part of the Solidarity Committee of the Capital District's film series. Information, (518) 426-0883,,

Saturday, June 19, NEW YORK CITY: Gay Pride Rally at Ramsey Playfield, Central Park, 72 St. and Fifth Ave. 4-8 p.m. This rally, which starts Gay Pride Week, will feature well-known performers and motivating speakers from the LGBT community. Free and public. For information about several major events during the week, including the annual march (see June 27 below),

Sunday, June 27, NEW YORK CITY: The Gay Pride March starts at 12 noon at 36th St. and Fifth Ave. in Manhattan. This popular event marks the 41st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots that in effect launched the LGBT struggle for equal rights. Information,

Friday, June 4, 2010

06-04-10 Emergency Demonstration


An emergency rally, march and public meeting critical of the Israeli attack on a humanitarian flotilla in the Mediterranean bringing supplies to besieged Gaza will take place Monday, June 7, in Middletown, Orange County.

Concerned people throughout the Hudson Valley are urged to attend.

The rally, beginning at 5 p.m., will be held at the intersection of Rt. 211 and North Galleria Drive (directions below). At 7 p.m. the demonstrators will march a half-mile to the Wallkill Town Hall at 99 Tower Drive for a 7:30 p.m. meeting.

The meeting features a forum composed of Hudson Valley residents who will discuss the issues involved in the Israel-Palestine conflict and answer questions from the audience.

The forum includes author and former Bard Professor Joel Kovel, whose most recent book is "Overcoming Zionism;" Felice Gelman, a member of the WESPAC Middle East Committee who participated in the Gaza Freedom March last January; Tarak Kauff, an activist and organizer from Ulster County who also took part in the Freedom March; and Lily Sussman, a graduate of Northeastern University who recently returned from lengthy travel and study in the Middle East. All four have called for an end to Israel's blockade of the Gaza Strip, home to some 1.5 million Palestinians.

The emergency action was initiated by the Orange County Democratic Alliance, which is headed by civil liberties attorney Michael Sussman. Several Hudson Valley groups have co-sponsored the June 6 events in Middletown. They include Hudson Valley Activist Newsletter, Peace and Social Justice Now, Orange County Peace and Justice, WESPAC, Middle East Crisis Response, and Hudson Valley Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions.

Directions: Take the NYS Thruway to Newburgh exit 17, which leads you to Rt. 84 West. Take 84 to Rt. 17 going north one stop to exit 120, which is Rt. 211. Go right a short distance on 211 and it brings you to the rally site at Rt. 211 and North Galleria Drive. If you are unfamiliar with this route, as are we, leave a little extra time.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

06-01-10 Activist Newsletter


1. ISRAELIS PROTEST GOVERNMENT ATTACK — Demonstrations in four cities.

2. STATEMENT FROM ISRAELI PEACE MOVEMENT — Comments from Gush Shalom and Uri Avnery.

3. OUTLAWS OF THE MEDITERRANEAN — An analysis of the attack by the editors Middle East Repor

4. THE SHIP RACHEL CORRIE MV IS APPROACHING GAZA — The crew sent message at noon today.



The Israeli Peace Bloc (the Gush Shalom coalition), along with activists from other peace and left organizations, conducted demonstrations in Ashdod, Tel-Aviv, Haifa and Jerusalem May 31, hours after the right wing government attacked a humanitarian flotilla attempting to bring supplies to besieged Gaza.

The other groups included members of Peace Now, people from Meretz and Hadash, the Women’s Coalition and anarchists. All called in unison: “Security cannot be built / on the corpses of protesters!”

Here is an account of the Tel-Aviv protest from the Gush Shalom website June 1:

More than 2,000 people, old and young, gathered opposite the Ministry of Defense in Tel-Aviv in a spontaneous demonstration of anger and protest, after soldiers of the 'most elite units' of the IDF [Israeli Defense Force] were sent to attack the peace flotilla that was on its way to Gaza. The number of killed and injured from among the peace activists on the boats proved that the aim of the action was to frighten and deter anyone who would undertake to break the blockade in future.

Many of the demonstrators had themselves participated in the past in efforts to get food, medicines and building material into Gaza through the roadblocks, under the slogan “Break the Blockade!” They followed with sympathy the efforts of peace ships from several countries to do this by sea.

“Bibi, Barak / the blood of the activists is on your hands!” called one poster [referring to right wing Prime Minister Benjamin ("Bibi") Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, his Labor Party collaborator]. Others said: “The government is leading us all into suicide!”; “They shoot protesters too!”; “IDF / Terrorism in uniform!”; and “No to piracy / Yes to peace!”

A large force of police and Border Guard officers was deployed to protect the ministry, obviously out of fear that the protesters might try to storm the building. However, there was no violence, except for a few arrests.

Some dozens of the protesters came to the Defense Ministry straight from Ashdod, where they had been demonstrating at the gates of the harbor while the attack was still under way.

“The blockade imposed on 1.8 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, men, woman and children, is inhuman, immoral and illegal, and must be broken!” a Gush Shalom activist told the many media people who covered the demonstration.

Protests were conducted around the world. For a collection of photos from various countries, go to

From Gush Shalom, June 1:

"This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world, adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel's already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few remaining friends.

"Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza — but the provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy ships and commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the way of the aid boats and using deadly force.

"It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel did not 'disengage' from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there."

Uri Avnery, the former Knesset [parliament] member who founded Gush Shalom 17 years ago, denounced the Israeli action with this statement May 31:

"This night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command. A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and humanitarian aid activists

"Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all connection to reality could something like that — consider ships carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to attack them, shoot and kill.

"No one in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with."


From the Editors of Middle East Report

June 1, 2010: At 4 a.m. Eastern Mediterranean time on May 31, elite Israeli commandos rappelled from helicopters onto the deck of the Turkish-registered ship Mavi Marmara, part of an international “Freedom Flotilla” that had met in Cyprus and then set sail to deliver humanitarian relief supplies to the besieged Gaza Strip. The Mavi Marmara, the largest of the relief vessels, was carrying some 600 activists, mainly Turks but also others of diverse nationalities. The commandos fired live ammunition at some of the passengers, who Israel claims were lightly armed with metal rods or knives, and may have resisted the raid. Some reports say that other ships were also boarded and/or fired upon. The lowest reported death toll among the activists is nine, and the lowest number of wounded is 34.

The details are unclear, because Israel took custody of the entire flotilla and everyone on board, dragging the ships to the port of Ashdod, where the wounded are being treated and everyone else “processed” at a detention center prepared for the purpose. Communications with all the aid vessels were cut shortly after the raid, and journalists have strictly limited access to the Ashdod facility, which is located in the section of the port belonging to the Israeli navy. The news blackout has been near total, but official Israeli sources have made it known that those of the activists who are unhurt will be deported, except a handful who refused to sign deportation orders and will be jailed. Seven hundred activists in total were aboard the flotilla.

Reaction to the raid, from Turkey to the European Union to the UN, has been swift and (almost) universally condemnatory. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called it an act of “state terrorism.” Turkey currently sits on the UN Security Council, which convened an emergency meeting. That meeting went into closed session as night fell on May 31. Meanwhile, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri dubbed the raid a “crazy move.” EU countries have summoned Israeli ambassadors to demand an explanation. “No one in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the government and army spokesmen come up with,” said Uri Avnery, a former member of the Israeli Knesset and leader of the Gush Shalom peace group in Israel. Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu canceled a visit to Washington scheduled for June 1 — perhaps in tacit agreement with Avnery, though it seems at least possible that President Barack Obama did not wish to be seen “standing with Israel” on this occasion. Publicly, in any case, the White House remains the odd man out, saying only that it “regrets the loss of life” and is “working to understand the circumstances of the tragedy.”

Much is unknown for certain about the commando operation, but it is nonetheless a moment of clarity in the ongoing drama surrounding Israel’s 43-year occupation of Palestinian lands and its 10-year siege of Gaza, which has been tightened to a stranglehold since the Islamist party Hamas won the 2006 Palestinian legislative elections. Once again, Israel has made the asymmetry of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict crystal clear. With this raid upon a peaceful ship on the high seas, Israel has made clear its disdain for international law -- and its contempt for the notion that it will be held accountable for its violations. Israel will persist in this behavior until someone, and that someone is the United States, ends its impunity.

The “Freedom Flotilla” was a convoy of six ships, three bearing passengers and three cargo, organized by the Free Gaza Movement, a coalition of Palestine solidarity activists from Europe, North America, the Middle East and elsewhere. Two additional boats are being held in reserve in Cyprus. The Free Gaza Movement grew out of the first effort to bring aid by sea, in August 2008, when what organizer Huwaida Arraf called “two humble boats” arrived in the coastal strip with a shipment of hearing aids for Gazans deafened by the sonic booms of Israeli warplanes. Subsequent convoys have delivered other goods, despite attempts by the Israeli navy to deter them. In the summer of 2009, Israel interdicted an aid vessel and diverted it to Ashdod.

The activists are motivated by the desire to “break the siege of Gaza” and “raise international awareness” of Gazans’ plight, according the movement’s website. In one of eight “points of unity” on the site, the group members pledge: “We agree to adhere to the principles of nonviolence and nonviolent resistance in word and deed at all times.” These tactics, expressing activists’ frustration with the official international community’s inaction on Palestine and aiming to embarrass Israel in the global media, are in line with the peaceful campaigns of Palestinians and Israelis to stop construction of Israel’s wall in the West Bank. They also resemble the goals of the International Solidarity Movement, a group founded by Arraf and her husband Adam Shapiro that housed internationals with Palestinians in the West Bank (and, previously, Gaza) as witnesses to everyday excesses of occupation.

Arraf, a Palestinian-American, was aboard a smaller ship of the “Freedom Flotilla,” along with as many as 12 other U.S. citizens, possibly including an ex-ambassador and also Code Pink activist Ann Wright, a retired Army colonel. Three German members of Parliament embarked on the boats, as well as nationals of Britain, Ireland, Greece, Canada, Belgium, Sweden, Australia and Israel, perhaps among other countries. The precise passenger lists of the seized boats are unknown, due to logistical confusion in port in Cyprus. According to Shapiro, Holocaust survivor Hedy Epstein, who was scheduled to travel to Gaza, remained in Cyprus, as did the Irish Nobel laureate Mairead Corrigan. Among the passengers who did depart is Hanan Zu‘bi, a Palestinian citizen of Israel and member of Knesset. Thus far, the blackout has covered up her whereabouts as well.

On board the Mavi Marmara were hundreds of Turks affiliated with the Foundation for Human Rights and Freedoms and Humanitarian Relief (known by its Turkish acronym, IHH), an Islamist organization whose relationship with Turkey’s “soft Islamist” ruling party, the AKP, is fraught. Close to the AKP’s more overtly Islamist precursor parties, which were banned by the Turkish courts, the IHH views the AKP as defectors who are insufficiently vocal in their engagement with “Islamic” issues, notably Palestine. The government did nothing to stop the IHH from departing for Cyprus, despite warnings from its nominal ally Israel, for fear that its own “Islamic” credentials might be further questioned. Early reports say that six Turks are among the dead, meaning that this incident will reverberate loudly in Turkish politics.

Spin doctors in Israel have been working fast and furious to mold the metanarrative (grand narrative) of what happened aboard the Mavi Marmara. The American mainstream media has mostly concentrated on Israeli allegations that some of the activists were carrying weapons and thus posed a threat to the lives of the highly trained Israel Defense Forces (IDF) commandos. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman told European diplomats that the ship’s passengers were “terrorist supporters who fired at IDF soldiers as soon as the latter boarded the ships.” An IDF-distributed video, shot from a helicopter, shows what appears to be a melee on deck and says the activists tried to “kidnap” a soldier. The goal is to spread the story that the commandos acted in self-defense. To this tale, Adam Shapiro replies, “Our understanding is that Israeli soldiers fired first.” In Ashdod, the Associated Press briefly glimpsed one American passenger, who blurted out, “I’m not violent. What I can tell you is that there are bruises all over my body. They won’t let me show them to you,” before being hustled away.

Again, minus the carefully impounded testimony of the activists themselves, it is difficult to know what exactly precipitated the shooting. It is certainly clear that the raid itself was no panicking naval captain’s improvisation, but was approved by the Israeli security cabinet under the imprimatur of Defense Minister Ehud Barak. According to the IDF’s official statement, “This IDF naval operation was carried out under orders from the political leadership to halt the flotilla from reaching the Gaza Strip and breaching the naval blockade.”

The dispute over who started the on-board combat misses the point, however. From a legal point of view, the Israeli operation was completely out of bounds and Israel is the aggressor. The raid occurred in international waters, meaning that Israel violated the convoy’s right of free navigation. Richard Falk, an international legal scholar and the UN Special Rapporteur for the Occupied Palestinian Territories, says that the raid is “clearly a criminal act, being on the high seas.” Falk explains that storming a peaceful boat is akin to a home invasion, with the aggravating circumstance that the invaded space in this case was packed with goods intended to alleviate human suffering. “The people on these boats would have some right of self-defense,” Falk continues, as they were the ones who were under unprovoked attack. Israel’s claim of self-defense is preposterous, no matter who threw the first punch, because Israel’s self is not located at sea.

Before the convoy sailed, Israeli passenger Dror Feiler speculated that if the Israeli navy tried to stop the ships by force, “they’ll be the new pirates of the Mediterranean.” The Free Gaza Movement has echoed this charge, as has the Financial Times in its May 31 editorial denouncing “this brazen act of piracy.” This particular accusation will not stick, for the simple reason that by maritime law a state cannot commit piracy, but again it is important not to get tangled up in words. Israel has no legal leg to stand on, because it mounted a military assault upon a civilian boat (which is not, by any conceivable law, barred from carrying knives and metal rods) in waters not its own.

In part because of the murky details, early commentary on the commando raid has focused on the atmospherics. Everyone except the Israeli state and its kneejerk defenders, like the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), believes that Israel has done itself a great disservice, at least in public relations terms. Writing in the May 31 edition of Ha’aretz, columnist Bradley Burston lamented that Israel’s foes have switched the spotlight onto the blockade of Gaza, Hamas or no Hamas. Burston continued: “We are no longer defending Israel. We are now defending the siege. The siege itself is becoming Israel’s Vietnam.” On the Huffington Post website, M. J. Rosenberg, formerly of the liberal Israel Policy Forum, quoted blogger Moshe Yaroni saying that the incident is “Israel’s Kent State.”

The operation comes on the heels of the kerfuffle caused by a lengthy essay by Peter Beinart titled, “The Failure of the American Jewish Establishment,” which appears in the June 10 issue of the New York Review of Books. Beinart is the former editor of the pro-Israel magazine The New Republic, and a slowly recovering liberal hawk who backed the 2003 invasion of Iraq (for which he has repented) and authored A Fighting Faith (2004), a book calling for a revival of Cold War bellicosity in liberal foreign policy thinking. His essay lambasts the likes of AIPAC for maintaining its “Israel, right or wrong” stance amidst the rise of blatantly illiberal political forces in Israel and the continuation of the settlement project. Beinart is worried that the pro-Israel reflex will corrode Israel’s support base among American Jewry. “For several decades, the Jewish establishment has asked American Jews to check their liberalism at Zionism’s door,” he writes, “and now, to their horror, they are finding that many young Jews have checked their Zionism instead.” The editors of Foreign Policy were so struck by the essay that they commissioned eight responses.

The hand wringing among Israel’s backers in the U.S. will intensify as the crisis unfolds. The chorus will rise that Israel has overreacted or miscalculated; much blame will be laid at the door of Netanyahu, who is an easy target because of his brusque demeanor and pointed defiance of the Obama White House on settlement construction. Netanyahu, it will be said, has made a “crazy move” and placed the all-important U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” in jeopardy.

It is more plausible that the Netanyahu government calculated this maneuver precisely, exploiting the Free Gaza Movement’s gift of Memorial Day timing, when the Obama administration would be on vacation and hence readily able to make do with a grunt of “regret.” For decades, Israel has tried the patience of the official international community with its military adventures, but whenever that patience has run out, Washington has stepped in to spare Israel the consequences. The glaring example at present, the commando raid excepted, is the winter 2008-2009 assault on Gaza, when Israel bombarded the tiny strip for over a month, killing some 1,300 Palestinians, and claiming as justification the ineffectual rocket fire of Gazan militants. The Obama administration stymied any Security Council consideration of the UN report on that offensive, by retired South African jurist Richard Goldstone, protecting Israel from investigations of possible war crimes. Compared to the carnage in Gaza itself, the casualties among the Free Gaza Movement are few. Israel is counting on the U.S., once again, to deflect the international furor over its actions and enshrine the principle that Israel can do whatever it wants, legal or not, to the Palestinians and those who try to help them.

Perhaps, nonetheless, Israel did miscalculate. Free Gaza Movement members not on the boats are stunned by Israel’s violence, and mournful at the losses in their ranks, but heartened by the alacrity and sharp tone of world reaction to the raid. The next step for the activists, says Shapiro, will be to decide when and where to sail with the two aid vessels still in Cyprus. Gael Murphy of Code Pink predicts that Palestine solidarity networks will be “moved to action” more concerted and determined than before.

In Israel-Palestine, the burning question is the fate of Sheikh Ra’id Salah, a resident of Umm al-Fahm and the leader of the Islamist Movement in Israel. Salah was a passenger in the “Freedom Flotilla,” and Arab media reports have said that he was injured or even killed by the commandos. Many observers believe that if Salah was hurt there will be massive demonstrations by Palestinians both inside and outside Israel, perhaps sparking confrontations and giving Israel the opportunity to reassert control over the crisis and the coverage of the conflict in general.

In Turkey, the government cannot ignore popular protests over the attack on the Mavi Marmara, the largest of which have taken on a religious dimension. On May 31 crowds of Islamists in Istanbul blocked the Trans-European Motorway linking the European and Asian continents, upstaging the faster-moving, but smaller gatherings of leftists. Both the IHH involvement in the convoy and Erdogan’s impassioned denunciation of the raid have painted the AKP into a corner. They must show the Turkish public that they will stand up to Israel and its U.S. patron in the diplomatic arena, and also that they will not abandon the mission of relief for Gaza. The AKP government has canceled three joint Turkish-Israeli military exercises, recalled its ambassador from Tel Aviv and repatriated the national youth soccer team from Israel. Erdogan promised to order a Turkish naval escort for the next flotilla, and with elections not far off in 2011, he may be hard pressed to renege. At the same time, the AKP cannot be completely comfortable in the role in which it has been cast, which increasingly requires it to face down not only the state-secularist establishment in Turkey but also the country’s mightiest friends in Washington. The Obama administration is already irked by Ankara’s brokering, with Brazil, of a nuclear deal with Tehran.

The destination of the boats, Gaza, stands at risk of being overshadowed by the deadly scuffles off its coast. It is there, however, that the situation is most dire. The “Freedom Flotilla” was carrying, among other items, cement for the reconstruction of the 6,400 Palestinian homes that were razed or damaged in the winter of 2008-2009. The World Health Organization counts some 3,500 families as displaced by the bombing, more than a year later. The Israeli assault exacerbated the effects of the years-long siege, which has sent the already impoverished strip into downward spirals of human misery. In May 2008, the WHO estimates, 70 percent of families were living on less than $1 a day; 10.2% of Gazans were chronically malnourished; and 67% of young people were jobless. These numbers have certainly worsened since the data was collected, due to the bombing, and to subsequent Israeli and Egyptian crackdowns on the smuggling of goods through tunnels underneath the Gazan-Egyptian border. (Egypt responded to the attack by temporarily opening the Rafah gate to permit the imprisoned people of Gaza, at least those with money, some access to consumer goods denied them by the Israeli government.

What of the response of Barack Obama? The path of least resistance, sure to be greased by Congress, would be to instruct his UN envoy to spurn Turkish and other demands for Israeli accountability. With the assistance of the American media, it may not be so difficult for the White House to pretend that this naked display of unlawful violence was just a “tragedy” occurring in the heat of the moment. The media, after all, is bleating insipidly about the effects this episode may have on the Israeli-Palestinian “peace process.” Obama is likely to face little domestic pressure to put a stop to Israeli impunity and back a full and impartial investigation, though UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for one. And having just slapped down the Turkish-Brazilian deal with Iran, Obama may be ready to do all his damage to U.S.-Turkish ties at once. It may be harder to avoid a conversation about lifting the indefensible blockade of Gaza, which Assistant Secretary-General Oscar Fernandez-Taranco described as “counterproductive and unacceptable” before the Security Council on May 31. One thing is certain: If Obama chooses the former course and shields Israel from international scrutiny, no speech, however silver-tongued, will persuade the world that his Middle East policy is different from his predecessor’s.


By Michel Chossudovsky

Following Israel's criminal raid in international waters on May 31, the Rachel Corrie MV continues to sail towards the Gaza coastline in defiance of Israeli threats. The ship is determined to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza.

[The ship is named after Rachel Corrie, the 24-year-old American women member of the International Solidarity Movement who was crushed to death in 2003 by an Israeli Army bulldozer. She was attempting prevent the government-ordered demolition of a Gaza house owned by a Palestinian family.]

At noon today (June 1), I received the following message from Christopher Chang and Ram Kardigasu, on behalf of the Malaysian and Irish peace activists, who are on board the Rachel Corrie:

"MV Rachel Corrie is now the sole ship on the international freedom flotilla moving towards Gaza.

"The Malaysian and Irish peace and humanitarian activists aboard share their deepest grief and sense of lost with the loved ones of those killed and injured in the illegal action undertaken by Israel on Monday in the international waters of the Mediterranean.

"In the names of our friends, we are more determined than ever to continue into Gaza with our humanitarian cargo and our support for the blockaded and suffering people of Gaza. We expect Israel to respond to the international condemnation of its violence by not impeding by any means the safe passage of the Rachel Corrie.

"We appeal to the international community and United Nations to continue to demand Israel our safe passage into Gaza.

"Jointly issued by Malaysians and Irish on board the Rachel Corrie. [Sent on behalf of the humanitarian activists on aboard the Rachel Corrie by PGPO land team — Ram Karthigasu and Christopher Chang." [PGPO stands for Perdana Global Peace Organization, which is part of the Free Gaza Freedom Flotilla mission.]....

— To read the full article: