Tuesday, June 8, 2010

06-08-10 Activist Newsletter — Protests for Gaza

June 8, 2010, Issue #160A
jacdon@earthlink.net, P.O. Box 662, New Paltz, NY 12561




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 http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/641/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4025

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 http://lee.house.gov/index.cfm?sectionid=57&sectiontree=35,57&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 http://www.endtheoccupation.org/article.php?id=2645

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 http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/641/p/dia/action/public/?action_KEY=4025

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 http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/dia/track.jsp?v=2&c=9qa3grzuU1T%2FLadLKmvCMaaOnFSHAoPx

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 http://www.lobelog.com/rep-sherman-prosecute-u-s-citizens-involved-with-gaza-flotilla/

The U.S. Campaign to end the Israel Occupation is at http://www.endtheoccupation.org



[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 http://zope.gush-shalom.org/home/en/channels/avnery/1275739480/
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