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Henry Siegman, Leading Voice of U.S. Jewry, on Gaza: “A Slaughter of Innocents”


Henry Siegman, president of the U.S./Middle East Project. He is the former executive director of the American Jewish Congress from 1978 to 1994 and former executive vice president of the Synagogue Council of America.

If 1.5 million Jews were locked up in Gaza, where would ‘Commentary’ be on violent resistance? by Philip Weiss on August 19, 2011

If memory serves, one of the lessons of Roger Fisher’s little book International Conflict for Beginners was “settle conflicts early and often.” This isn’t always possible, of course, but his basic insight was that unresolved conflicts are dangerous precisely because they provide opportunities that extremists can exploit, they harden perceptions and images on both sides, and most importantly, they can always get worse. ..

However one sees this situation, a key point to keep in mind is that this sort of thing isn’t going to stop as long as the occupation and the siege of Gaza persists, and as long as one people has a state of their own and the other does not. If the situation were magically reversed and a million-plus Israelis were being kept in the same condition as the Gazans, I’d be astonished if some of them didn’t try to take up arms against whomever was oppressing them. And I’ll bet Commentary magazine would think that such actions would be perfectly okay. That thought-experiment doesn’t justify the murder of innocents, mind you, but it may help us understand where such deplorable actions come from.

Israel Flotilla Raid w/ MJ Rosenberg of Media Matters Action Network

Easing of siege – ‘largely cosmetic and self-serving’

By Michael Jansen

Israel’s easing of the siege and blockade of Gaza is largely cosmetic and self-serving. Israel has opened the gates to all food and clothing items but only 150 lorry loads enter Gaza when the crossings are open. Consequently, the volume of goods entering Gaza has only increased from 17 per cent of the amount before Israel began to impose its blockade in 2006 to 25 per cent at the present.

Furthermore, Israel is not permitting Gaza to import the materials the strip’s 1.5 million Palestinians need most: cement, concrete, iron bars and building materials to reconstruct the houses, ministries, industries and infrastructure Israel destroyed in its 2008-09 war.

The UN Relief and Works Agency, which provides for Gaza’s 1 million refugees, complains that only a fraction of the building materials required urgently by the agency has been allowed into the strip.

Israel is also refusing to allow Gazans to import raw materials and machinery so that industrialists and businessmen can rebuild the economy, destroyed by Israeli restrictions and bombs. Only about 30 per cent of Gaza’s 4,000 factories and workshops are operational, many at reduced capacity and relying on supplies from smuggling tunnels stretching under the border with Egypt. Only a few hundred factories can be expected to restart work due to the easing of the blockade even though the European Union is set?to provide 22 million euros in start-up funds to around 900 businesses.

Until the economy is revived, unemployment will continue to hover around the 40 per cent mark. Of course, joblessness is far higher than 40 per cent, because a person is counted as unemployed only if he or she is still looking for a job. Thousands of Gaza’s former earners have given up hope and resigned themselves and their families to life on the dole.

It is ironic that Israel is making money by easing its blockade without actually helping the people of Gaza. Most of the articles allowed into the strip are Israeli manufactured or produced. Israeli industrialists, farmers and traders benefit. The Israeli state collects tariffs and transit dues. But trade will not really prosper unless Israel permits Gaza to revive its economy.

Gazans do not have the money to buy most of the high-priced products Israel is allowing in, such as milk powder for coffee and various kinds of breakfast cereals which Palestinians do not normally consume in any case. Hamas, which rules Gaza, should prohibit the import of such goods and insist that only goods actually needed by Gazans be allowed into the strip.

So far, the “easing” of blockade has, therefore, been an all-too-obvious fraud perpetrated by Israel with the objective of reducing international pressure to lift the blockade altogether. So far, few members of the international community have gone along with this charade. Even US President Barack Obama has said weakly that the blockade should be lifted, and not simply eased.

The pressure will not cease. The call for a lifting of the blockade by the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, during her latest visit to Gaza, reveals that the West is weary of Israeli intransigence. The success in Europe of the campaign to boycott Israeli goods, firms and academic institutions, and to withdraw investments from Israeli companies is gathering strength.

The right-wing Israeli parliament is so worried about divestment and boycott that it is contemplating legislation to outlaw boycotts and divestment and penalise Israelis and non-Israelis who engage in these activities, including by forcing them to pay compensation to those targeted.

The European demand for an end to the blockade was recently echoed by the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations meeting at summit level in Vietnam. Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Muhammad provided funding for three of the ships involved in the May flotilla that included the Turkish cruise ship where nine activists were killed when attacked by Israeli commandos.

Although the organisers of a Libyan ship, loaded with supplies for Gaza, agreed to off-load in Egypt’s El Arish port and to allow the goods to be transported to Gaza overland, there will be other ships, flotillas even, dedicated to the busting of Israel’s blockade. The Free Gaza movement that broke through in 2008 is planning a new voyage for September.

Canadian activists have begun raising funds to buy a boat to not only break through Israel’s navy but to enable Gazans to export their produce and manufactured goods to the rest of the world. The group, called Gaza Freedom March, is determined to open a sea route to the coastal enclave.

Niamh Moloughney
Irish Free Gaza Movement Coordinator
085-7747257/091 472279


Gaza Siege: Catastrophic, Not ‘Unsustainable’

By Miko Peled

There is still doubt in the minds of serious people about Israel’s attack on the Free Gaza flotilla and the events that lead to the death of 9 of the activists aboard. There can be little surprise of course because the commander of the Israeli Navy, Admiral Eliezer Marom, claims the mission was a success. According to him, thanks to the restraint shown by the Israeli soldiers no innocent activists were hurt, the soldiers returned safely to their base and “9 terrorists were killed.” So there are people, perhaps you event know them, who feel that we should “cut Israel some slack.” Well, I say no!

The people aboard Free Gaza flotilla were brave peace activists and were it not for a work commitment I would have been on that flotilla with them. The claims that they were connected to terrorist organizations are utter nonsense. They had three objectives: to bring much needed humanitarian supplies to Gaza, to provoke and embarrass Israel, and to get world attention to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Nine of these activists gave their lives to achieve this.

Armed Israeli commandos attacked the flotilla in international waters in an act of piracy. The people aboard the boat did what every navel officer would tell you was their duty: they heroically defended their ship and their cargo and, as we know, nine people gave their lives in this act of heroism. The Israeli commandos in panic and cowardice fired into the unarmed crowd, killing nine, and thus turned a mishap into an unspeakable tragedy.

Had I been able to go on the Free Gaza flotilla this would have been my third attempt to enter the besieged Gaza where Israel has imprisoned and is slowly starving 1.4 million civilians, including 800,000 children. Palestinians have never had an army, a navy, a tank or a plane, yet they are being held under siege and are constantly attacked, suffering countless civilian casualties, horrific disease and inexcusable misery.

There are claims that the activists upon the Free Gaza flotilla wanted to provoke Israel and that they were not merely innocent peace activist. Well, activism is meant to provoke. Activist is not sitting idly by and watching the world go around. Contrary to the myth many white Americans like to believe, when Rosa Parks boarded a bus and took a seat designated for white people she was not just an African-American woman who was tired. She was an activist who was on a mission; she was there to provoke a system that was rooted in the crime of systemic racist segregation with which parts of this country was plagued. When four African-American students staged the Greensboro sit in February 1960, they did not sit at the whites-only lunch counter just because they were hungry. If we recall MLK Jr., Mahatma Gandhi or Nelson Mandela it is clear that activism is meant to provoke and expose evil, to call attention to it and then to get rid of it. The siege on Gaza is one such evil. The people aboard the flotilla were doing the right thing.

One has to wonder what is worse, to commit a crime or to justify it? Who are worse, those who committed the Jewish holocaust, the Armenian genocide and the enslavement and murder of Africans? Or those who profit, justify or deny these horrors took place? Being Jewish and an Israeli myself, having had a father who was a general in the Israeli and having served in the Israeli army I say this: denying or justifying Israel’s actions is tantamount to denying or defending all crimes against humanity.

Sadly, all one hears from the US is that the situation in Gaza is “unsustainable.” One has to wonder how many opinion polls were taken and how many brilliant communications experts it took to come up with this bland, overcooked and useless expression. I am sure they had to get the Department of State, the Israeli Embassy and AIPAC to OK it before the President uttered this unbearably lifeless word. The situation in Gaza is not ‘unsustainable’, the situation in Gaza and in all parts of Palestine is catastrophic.

– Miko Peled is a writer and Israeli peace activist living in San Diego. His father was the late General Matti Peled, his grandfather Avraham Katsnelson signed the Israeli declaration of independence and his niece Smadar was killed in a suicide attack in Jerusalem. He is the co founder of the Elbanna-Peled Foundation.



Abbas to Obama: I’m against lifting the Gaza naval blockade

The Palestinian president reportedly told Obama that lifting the naval blockade of Gaza would bolster Hamas, a move that shouldn’t be done at this stage.

By Barak Ravid

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas is opposed to lifting the naval blockade of the Gaza Strip because this would bolster Hamas, according to what he told United States President Barack Obama during their meeting at the White House Wednesday. Egypt also supports this position.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu once more put off announcing the creation of a committee of inquiry into the naval commando raid on the Gaza Strip flotilla, and the matter will not be brought before the cabinet for a vote this morning.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. President Barack Obama
Photo by: Archive

Netanyahu and his advisers had hoped to announce the establishment of a committee of inquiry as early as yesterday evening for a vote in the cabinet today. Nonetheless, the Prime Minister’s Bureau said yesterday evening that the conditions have not matured for such an announcement “due to political reasons.”

Talks have been held with the U.S. administration and several European countries to rally support for the mandate of the committee of inquiry and approval of its makeup. The Americans have rejected – a number of times – Israel’s proposals and asked that a retired Supreme Court justice head the probe. The issue was resolved when Justice Yaakov Tirkel was proposed for the post.

The Americans have also been busy with the issue of sanctions against Iran at the United Nations Security Council and also with the visit to the U.S. capital by Abbas and so exchanges with Netanyahu’s bureau on the committee of inquiry were delayed.

Apparently, there is another cause for delay involving exchanges between the Americans, Israel and European countries concerning the proposed foreign observers on the committee of inquiry and their authority. One of the foreign observers on the committee will be a senior American jurist. Washington has made it clear that the administration would like at least two European observers to be involved in order to strengthen the legitimacy of the Israeli panel.

The issue of the Gaza flotilla and lifting the Israeli blockade of the Gaza Strip was the main topic of discussion between Obama and Abbas last Wednesday night.

European diplomats updated by the White House on the talks said that Abbas had stressed to Obama the need of opening the border crossings into the Gaza Strip and the easing of the siege, but only in ways that do not bolster Hamas.

One of the points that Abbas raised is that the naval blockade imposed by Israel on the Strip should not be lifted at this stage. The European diplomats said Egypt has made it clear to Israel, the U.S and the European Union that it is also opposes the lifting of the naval blockade because of the difficulty in inspecting the ships that would enter and leave the Gaza port.

Abbas told Obama that actions easing the blockage should be done with care and undertaken gradually so it will not be construed as a victory for Hamas. The Palestinian leader also stressed that the population in the Gaza Strip must be supported, and that pressure should be brought to bear on Israel to allow more goods, humanitarian assistance and building materials for reconstruction. Abbas, however, said this added aid can be done by opening land crossings and other steps that do not include the lifting of the naval blockade.

On Friday, Netanyahu met with Quartet representative Tony Blair in his office. This was the third meeting between the two during the last eight days, and centered on ways of easing the blockade on the Strip.

Senior Israeli officials and European diplomats say there is agreement that policy on the blockade should be altered, but this should be done carefully and discretely.

“There is agreement that no major declarations should be made so Hamas will not to be allowed to score points,” a source familiar with the talks with Blair said.


The Silent War: Israel’s Blockade of Gaza

Animation: Lift siege on Gaza, December 2009

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