It’s been 24 hours since we began watching live video of the Freedom Flotilla as it attempted to deliver 10,000 metric tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, and much remains murky. With the Israeli government refusing to provide information on the killed, injured and detained passengers – who included European legislators, medical personnel and activists, all civilians – we are left in the dark.
Of course, Israel is quite happy to spread around the latest Israei videos which claim to show the events on the ships as Israeli commandos attacked. Left out of those video accounts is the essential, core fact that the ships were in international waters at the time – and had in fact specifically decided to alter their course to avoid just such a confrontation during the night.
Many of us watching the live feeds from Turkish TV heard the announcement of the captains decision to shift his course shortly after the Israeli warships made initial contact when the flotilla was still 100 miles off the coast. We then saw the passengers take off their life vests and relax after the initial preparations made with the first Israeli radio message. We thought that things would be calm overnight. We were oh so wrong.
The IDF – forgetting that in a wired world, they do not have total control of what we see and therefore think – has been flogging a set of videos purporting to show the boarding and also provided handy onscreen notes in case US media doesn’t see it the same way. They’ve also provided random shots of slingshots and a few boards or pipes – just lying on what appears to be a ship’s deck but note carefully that they provide no footage of these “weapons” being used nor proof they even belong to the passengers.
Now consider this PR effort in the conjunction with the pre-flotilla effort Israel launched and which is well documented in the video above. Along with multiple lies about conditions in Gaza, the Israeli Government Publicity Office sent round an “ironic” press release recommending that journalists going to Gaza dine at an upscale restaurant, a claim made to counter any concerns about the desperate conditions in Gaza which had just been reported once again by the UN Relief Agency.
But just as many of us know the lie of today’s Israeli spin which claims Israel’s murder of up to 19 civilians was justified, the lie of the restaurant video effort was shown clearly when viewers saw Mahmoud Abbas dining in the Israeli video. Abbas has not been in Gaza since the launch of the Israeli siege and the video was years old.
Did some passengers resist the Israeli attack – perhaps. In fact some of the Turkish TV video appears to show one or two passengers pushing a commando against a door as he drops from the helicopter onto the deck. So we have the elite Israeli commandos, trained for weeks to board these vessels pushed about – and this justifies the killing of up to 19 civilians? Repeat after me: the passengers were aboard a legal vessel in international waters – not attacking Israel in any fashion – and never intending to land in Israel at all.
Or as Dror Feiler, an Israeli organizer of the flotilla said before sailing:
In an interview with Israel Radio, he said he’s considered the various scenarios: “Either they take over our ships and force us to come to Ashdod, or intercept and sink us — or we’ll make it to Gaza. If we make it, we will have broken the siege. If they sink us, they will be showing the true face of a country gone insane. And if they force us into Ashdod, then they will be exactly like pirates in the Gulf of Aden . . . they’ll be the new pirates of the Mediterranean.”
As of now, there are reliable reports of a death toll of up to 19, with at least 50 wounded and numerous journalists held without the ability to contact their employers. The PM of Ireland has rightly accused the Israeli’s of kidnapping Irish citizens and governments around the world are demanding explanations and information on their citizens as well as an independent investigation. People around the word have gathered to protest this new Israeli crime – from Iraq to Times Square.
The US however is simply asking Netanyahu to investigate – and parroting Israel’s own language – expressing regret at the loss of life. As I write this, the UN Security Council is still conferring behind closed doors with CNN I reporting that the US is blocking efforts to launch an independent investigation into Israel’s actions on the high seas.
US citizen Emily Henochowicz was shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister as she non-violently demonstrated against the Flotilla massacre
31 May 2010: An American solidarity activist was shot in the face with a tear gas canister during a demonstration in Qalandiya, today. Emily Henochowicz is currently in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem undergoing surgery to remove her left eye, following the demonstration that was held in protest to Israel’s murder of at least 10 civilians aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla in international waters this morning.
21-year old Emily Henochowicz was hit in the face with a tear gas projectile fired directly at her by an Israeli soldier during the demonstration at Qalandiya checkpoint today. Israeli occupation forces fired volleys of tear gas at unarmed Palestinian and international protesters, causing mass panic amongst the demonstrators and those queuing at the largest checkpoint separating the West Bank and Israel.
“They clearly saw us,” said Sören Johanssen, a Swedish ISM volunteer standing with Henochowicz. “They clearly saw that we were internationals and it really looked as though they were trying to hit us. They fired many canisters at us in rapid succession. One landed on either side of Emily, then the third one hit her in the face.”
Henochowicz is an art student at the prestigious Cooper Union, located in East Village, Manhattan.
The demonstration was one of many that took place across the West Bank today in outrage over the Israeli military’s attack on the Gaza freedom flotilla and blatant violation of international law. Demonstrations also took place in inside Israel, Gaza and Jerusalem, with clashes occurring in East Jerusalem and Palestinian shopkeepers in the occupied Old City closing their businesses for the day in protest.
Henochowicz lost her left eye after being shot directly in the face with a tear gas canister
Tear gas canisters are commonly used against demonstrators in the occupied West Bank. In May 2009, the Israeli State Attorney’s Office ordered Israeli Police to review its guidelines for dispersing demonstrators, following the death of a demonstrator, Bassem Abu Rahmah from Bil’in village, caused by a high velocity tear-gas projectile. Tear-gas canisters are meant to be used as a means of crowd dispersal, to be shot indirectly at demonstrators and from a distance. However, Israeli forces frequently shoot canisters directly at protesters and are not bound by a particular distance from which they can shoot.
Moshe Yaroni on the Israeli response:
… every once in a while, things take a turn, and that turn is punctuated by a singular, stunning event. The murderous raid on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla this day was one such event.
I waited to start writing this until there was some official statement from Israel. I did that because I want to start off with Israel’s explanation for this horror. Here’s what the IDF spokesperson said, in part:
During the intercept of the ships, the demonstrators onboard attacked the IDF Naval personnel with live fire and light weaponry including knives and clubs. Additionally one of the weapons used was grabbed from an IDF soldier. The demonstrators had clearly prepared their weapons in advance for this specific purpose.
As a result of this life-threatening and violent activity, naval forces employed riot dispersal means, including live fire. Reports from IDF forces on the scene are that it seems as if part of the participants onboard the ships were planning to lynch the forces.
I am sure, as is always the case, there will be those who believe this version of events. But frankly, I can’t see how anyone can do so unless they are so desperate to justify Israel’s action here that they’ll believe anything. Let’s examine the IDF’s version of events.
We begin with the point that these were civilian ships and Israel boarded them with commandoes—soldiers who are disposed toward combat situations and are not meant to police unarmed civilians. They’re fighters, that’s their purpose. But the IDF claims that an assortment of international activists deliberately provoked a violent confrontation (using potentially deadly weapons, but which still leave them ridiculously overmatched) against heavily armed and trained soldiers in order to “lynch them.”
Does that seem remotely credible? It only seems so if you believe the activists on board these ships were willing to risk and actually sacrifice their lives in order to create a scandal for Israel. Of course, Israeli hasbara (propaganda) is well-practiced in casting all Arabs and Muslims as suicidal lunatics, aided by the suicide bombers who represent an infinitesimal percentage of those populations. But this collection of international activists, including many Jews, Americans and Europeans, apparently are also willing to give their lives, and rather cheaply, according to this story.
No, the IDF version of these events doesn’t begin to pass the laugh test… Full article
The Turkish aid vessel Mavi Marmara (Blue Marmara) was in international waters when it was attacked by Israeli ships and helicopter-borne soldiers on Monday morning. According to the Israeli government spokesmen, it was the Israeli soldiers who were themselves attacked, with knives, axes and guns, but it was 16 people on board who were killed, according to the estimates of the dead and wounded being made by midday. In fact, as film taken from the Mavi Marmara showed, it was the Israelis who attacked, swarming on the deck and wounding the captain as they took the ship over. The passengers were not armed. They were all checked before they boarded the ship in Istanbul and Antalya and none were carrying weapons. According to a Turkish customs official in Antalya: ‘Forty-two passengers boarded in Istanbul and 504 passengers got on the ship here. We spotted no weapons and there is no such record in our logs. We did not notice anything suspicious about the Mavi Marmara. Had our officers had any suspicions they would have reported it’.
In short, when the Israeli Foreign Minister, Danny Ayalon, said that arms were found on the ship he was lying. Even more hysterically, reaching even deeper into the barrel of falsehood, he accused the passengers of having links to Al Qaida and other ‘terrorist’ organisations. But there were no ‘terrorists’ on the Mavi Marmara, there was no live fire from the ship and there was no ‘lynch mob’ waiting for the soldiers, as the Jerusalem Post claimed. It was the Israelis who attacked. Heavily armed ‘soldiers’ swarmed on to the deck of the Mavi Marmara from naval vessels or were lowered on to it by helicopter. They began shooting straight away, terrorising the passengers as intended. If some of the attackers (three or four) were hurt it was because some passengers dared to defend themselves against armed assault. One soldier is reported to have been wounded by a passenger who grabbed his gun and turned it on his assailant but no passengers were carrying arms when they boarded the Mavi Marmara. The hundreds of people on board the ship are now on Israeli soil, having been kidnapped on the high seas. No doubt Israel will confiscate mobile phones and cameras, but it cannot hold these people for long and when they are free to tell their stories we will have a clearer idea of what happened on the Mavi Marmara.
Many of the dead were Turkish peace activists and in the coming days Turkey’s reaction to this attack on a ship flying the Turkish flag will be critical. Certainly nothing much can be expected from the US and European governments in defence of their citizens. In Ankara, however, the government issued a statement saying that the attack on a ship flying the Turkish flag may well have caused ‘irreversible damage’ to relations between the two countries. The relationship between the two countries has been deteriorating for years, reaching a low point several months ago when the last ambassador was summoned to the Foreign Ministry simply to be humiliated. For Turkey this might be the final straw. Why would it want to have any kind of relationship with a state that kills Turkish citizens? Thousands of Turks demonstrated in Istanbul’s Taksim Square on Monday afternoon. Basically Turks have had enough of Israel. They were shocked by Israel’s onslaught on Gaza in 2008 and stung by the humiliation of their ambassador and they will want very strong action from their government following this latest outrage.
To those who do not follow Middle Eastern history and politics Israel suddenly seems out of control. But it has been out of control for the six decades. It has never been in control. It has been allowed to run wild year after year. It is the embodiment of a rogue state. There is no country surrounding Israel that has not suffered a high civilian death at the hands of the Israeli ‘defence’ forces. Tens of thousands have died in Lebanon. Multiple thousands have been killed in Gaza and the West Bank. The killing of Arab civilians has been so normalised in Israel that individual deaths are scarcely mentioned. Israel will kill foreigners who get in its way but this slaughter of foreigners on the high seas is a new benchmark. This is a state that offers no hope for its own future and at this stage seems beyond redemption.
- Jeremy Salt is associate professor in Middle Eastern History and Politics at Bilkent University in Ankara, Turkey. Previously, he taught at Bosporus University in Istanbul and the University of Melbourne in the Departments of Middle Eastern Studies and Political Science. Professor Salt has written many articles on Middle East issues, particularly Palestine, and was a journalist for The Age newspaper when he lived in Melbourne.
NATO will hold emergency talks on Tuesday at Turkey’s request after an Israeli commando unit stormed an aid convoy en route to Gaza, killing at least 10 passengers, spokesman James Appathurai said.
“Planning is underway for a meeting… at the request of the Turkish authorities tomorrow afternoon,” Appathurai told the Agence France-Presse. The talks will gather ambassadors from the 28 NATO member countries at its Brussels HQ.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Santiago, Chile that his government was demanding the NATO council gather to address the deaths and accused Israel of committing “inhuman state terror” with its deadly raid on a fleet of aid ships bound for Gaza, the Turkish daily Hurriyye reported.
“It should be known that we will not stay silent and unresponsive in the face of this inhuman state terror,” Erdogan said in live televised remarks ahead of his departure from Chile to Turkey, cutting short a Latin American tour, the daily wrote.
“International law has been trampled underfoot,” he added.
Israel is not a member state of NATO. Meanwhile Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut a Canada trip short, and canceled a Washington meeting, saying he regretted the deaths caused in the incident but asserted that Israel had a right to defend itself, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
He further said that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip would continue, despite renewed international calls to immediately lift the siege following reports of the deaths.
When a civilian passenger ship comes under military attack in international waters, should we be surprised — or even critical — when some of the passengers mount a defense?
According to CNN, which has made itself into a mouthpiece for the Israeli Defense Forces, the flotilla massacre was a “skirmish”, which the dictionary defines as a “minor battle in war, as one between small forces.”
CNN/the IDF would have the world believe that Israel’s elite commandos unexpectedly met an armed force on the decks of the Mavi Marmara. Some of the Israeli soldiers were so afraid they jumped into the sea to save themselves from Arabic-speaking assailants, Israeli officials claimed.
Turkish officials have denied claims leveled by Israeli authorities that weapons were onboard one of the six aid ships attacked by Israel on Monday.
Officials from the Customs Undersecretariat said every passenger was searched before getting on the ship with the help of X-ray machines and metal detectors. Senior officials from the undersecretariat said Israel’s allegations were tantamount to “complete nonsense.”
Israel and its lackeys in the US media might try to characterize what happened in the Mediterranean today as an “incident,” or “skirmish,” or an “ambush.”
But if the IDF met “unexpected resistance,” what exactly did they expect? A reception committee with tea and breakfast? Didn’t they see the resistance the Viva Palestina convoy put up last year when challenged by Egyptian security forces?
The live video feed coming from the Mavi Marmara during its voyage from Turkey would have provided invaluable intelligence for the IDF and I have little doubt that they watched it carefully. A number of observations the Israelis must have made may have significantly influenced their calculations and miscalculations.
One of the striking demographic features of the group of passengers was the average age — having watched many hours of the feed, I’d put the average age at about 35-40 with a significant number of “retirees” — this was not a bunch of young hotheads.
Also, the group was overwhelmingly Middle Eastern and Turkish and male. The risk that Israeli violence would result in the death of another Rachel Corrie was relatively low.
Put together these two factors — the expectation that the age of the passengers might make them somewhat less volatile and the fact that they largely came from countries that Israel has less concern about offending — and you get the perfect cocktail for Israeli hubris.
As for the fact that elite Israeli soldiers can in one instant be portrayed as invincible and yet the next as hapless victims — that is a paradox that can be resolved only in the minds of Israelis.
In the eyes of much of the world, this was a massacre, the dead will be seen as martyrs, and the moral bankruptcy of the Jewish state revealed in sharper clarity than ever before.
Israel’s foes and allies close ranks in condemning deadly raid against aid ship heading for Gaza.
ANKARA – Shock and outrage swept the globe Monday after Israeli commandos stormed a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza, as Tel Aviv’s foes and allies closed ranks in condemning the deadly raid.
Police struggled to hold back an angry crowd of hundreds outside the Israeli consulate in Turkey’s biggest city Istanbul, while furious protesters shouted “Damn Israel” outside the residence of the Israeli ambassador in Ankara.
Turkey’s foreign ministry warned that the raid on the flotilla, which included Turkish vessels, may lead to “irreparable consequences” in bilateral ties.
“We strongly condemn these inhumane practices of Israel,” a written statement said.
“This deplorable incident, which took place in open seas and constitutes a fragrant breach of international law, may lead to irreparable consequences in our bilateral relations,” it said.
In Europe, condemnation was equally swift.
France said that “nothing can justify” the violence of Israel’s Gaza ship raid, and Franch President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday accused Israel of a “disproportionate use of force” in its deadly raid.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said he was “deeply concerned” about the deaths.
The European Union demanded Israel mount a “full inquiry” into the killing of at least 10 people in a raid on a flotilla of aid ships bound for Gaza.
EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton warned that Israel’s “continued policy of closure is unacceptable and politically counterproductive,” demanding “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening” of crossings to Gaza.
Greece withdrew from joint military exercises with Israel in protest at the raid, as it summoned Israel’s ambassador to demand an “immediate” report on the safety of about 30 Greeks on board the flotilla.
A Greek non-governmental organisation said Monday that Israeli forces in helicopters and inflatable boats fired on a Greek vessel in the aid convoy attacked while heading for Gaza.
“There was an attack with live bullets against the Greek boat Sfendoni and the Turkish boat Mavi Marmara, with helicopters and inflatable boats,” the Greek organisation said in a statement.
The NGO added that two Greeks were on the Mavi Marmara and 12 others with a Tunisian on Sfentoni, while 22 Greeks and eight Swedish nationals were on the Eleftheri Mesogeio.
Belgium’s foreign minister on Monday “invited” Israel’s ambassador to “explain” the decision to storm the Gaza-bound aid flotilla, his spokesman said.
Steven Vanackere “invited the Israeli ambassador to explain to him this afternoon how events unfolded,” and also to provide news of five Belgian nationals who were on board the flotilla, spokesman Bart Ouvry said.
Italy on Monday “deplored” the loss of civilian life in Israel’s raid on aid ships bound for Gaza.
“I absolutely deplore… the killing of civilians” in the assault on Monday, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters, describing the Israeli pre-dawn military action as “really serious.”
“An investigation must discover the truth about what happened,” he said. “We demand a serious and detailed investigation, and I think the EU must be involved so that it is directly informed of the findings.”
The bloody ending to the high-profile mission to deliver supplies to Gaza came on the eve of a meeting in Washington between President Barack Obama and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The democratically elected Hamas movement in the Gaza Strip Monday urged Arabs and Muslims to “rise up” in front of Israeli embassies across the globe in protest against Israel’s deadly raid.
“We call on all Arabs and Muslims to rise up in front of Zionist embassies across the whole world,” said Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri.
Ismail Haniya, the movement’s prime minister in Gaza, slammed the “ugly attack” in a statement in which he called for “the United Nations to protect the activists” on board the boats.
“We call on the Palestinian Authority to halt negotiations, direct or indirect, with Israel because of this crime,” said Haniya.
Palestinian Authority president Mahmud Abbas slammed the navy raid as “a massacre” and announced a three-day mourning period.
“We will have to take some difficult decisions this evening,” an official from his office told Palestinian television, without giving further details.
The Palestinian Authority also called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council “to discuss the piracy, the crime and the Israeli massacre,” said top negotiator Saeb Erakat.
Israel’s Arab community called a general strike in response to an Israeli naval operation and called for protests across the country.
In response, hundreds from across the political spectrum flooded onto the streets of the northern Arab Israeli city of Nazareth to protest against the bloody attack.
Kuwait’s parliament speaker condemned the raid on the flotilla, which was carrying 16 Kuwaitis including an MP, as a “heinous Israeli crime,” as the cabinet prepared for an emergency meeting.
Arab League chief Amr Mussa slammed the raid as a “crime” against a humanitarian mission, saying the 22-country body was consulting to decide on its next step.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said Monday he was “shocked” by the deadly Israeli raid and demanded Tel Aviv conduct a full investigation.
“I am shocked by reports of killings and injuries on boats carrying supplies for Gaza,” the UN chief said at a press conference. “I condemn this violence,” Ban added.
Swedish author Henning Mankell was onboard one of the ships in the Gaza aid flotilla which Israeli commandos attacked early Monday, the Swedish branch of Ship to Gaza said.
The 62-year-old, whose books about world-weary detective Kurt Wallander have sold more than 25 million copies worldwide and have been adapted to film and television, said he was partaking in the flotilla to show his solidarity towards the Palestinian people.
“I think that when one talks about solidarity, one must always know that actions are what proves destiny,” he told Swedish public radio last Thursday.
“It is with actions that we prove we are ready to support something we believe is important,” he said.
Swedish-Israeli artist Dror Feiler, the chairman of the Swedish “Jews for Israeli-Palestinian peace,” as well as nine other Swedes, including a member of parliament, were also participating in the flotilla.
It remained unclear whether any of them had been wounded in the attack.
The Netherlands expressed shock over the Israeli army’s deadly raid on aid ships and said it would ask Israel for “clarifications” about the incident which has triggered worldwide condemnation.
“I am going to ask today for clarifications from the Israeli ambassador to The Hague,” said Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen in a statement.
“I am very shocked over the deaths which are deplorable. The Netherlands wants an inquiry to determine exactly how this could have happened,” Verhagen said.
“What happened today, while the Israelis and Palestinians were just starting to relaunch talks, will not bring them closer to peace,” the Dutch minister added. “I hope that it will not lead to another deadlock in the talks.”
Foreign ministry spokesman Bart Rijs said he did not know if any Dutch citizens were on board the ships carrying aid to the besieged Palestinian territory.
Scholarly and well-researched, but appropriate for general readers.
Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism – By M. Shahid Alam
People have been against both the idea and practice of Zionism since its inception. Zionism is an ideology that has never earned the support of all Jews, and one that has never been accepted by the vast majority of Palestinians, Arabs, and Muslims. Zionism has likewise failed to achieve significant support in the so-called Third World, and has been almost uniformly rejected by black nationalists inside the United States. Yet Zionism has been successful insofar as its desire to create a Jewish-majority nation-state has been achieved. Despite its discursive self-image as a liberation movement, Zionist practice is colonialist and brutally violent.
In his latest book, Israeli Exceptionalism: The Destabilizing Logic of Zionism (Palgrave Macmillan), M. Shahid Alam explores these paradoxes with great skill and insight. Israeli Exceptionalism takes its place among a series of recent books that question the logic of Zionism. Most of these books argue in favor of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict; inherent in that argument is a rejection of Zionism. Alam takes a slightly different approach in his rejection of Zionism, one that is global in scope. He points out that “[a]s an exclusionary settler colony, Israel does not stand alone in the history of European expansion overseas, but it is the only one of its kind in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries” (14). Israel, in other words, is an anomaly: a settler colonial society still in thrall of the ideologies and racism of the nineteenth century. As with the European colonization of North America, Zionism conceptualizes itself as an exceptional force of good in history.
In response to this self-image, “Critics of Zionism and Israel—including a few Israelis—have charted an inverse exceptionalism, which describes an Israel that is aberrant, violates international norms with near impunity, engages in systematic abuse of human rights, wages wars at will, and has expanded its territories through conquest” (14). Much of Alam’s subsequent analysis focuses on Israel’s unsavory behavior, paying special note to the various discourses that justify Zionist aggression as a modern exemplar of civilizational splendor.
I eagerly recommend this book to anybody interested in the discourses and practices of Israeli colonization. It would also be of interest to enthusiasts of current affairs and geopolitics. I would describe the primary style of Israeli Exceptionalism as discourse analysis. Alam examines the geopolitical consequences of Israeli colonization and Zionism’s rootedness in multiple histories of ethnic cleansing. He calls his approach a dialectical analysis of Zionism’s destabilizing logic. Over the course of the book, Alam demolishes the ethical premises and mythologies of Zionism with considerable vim and impressive acumen. I especially enjoyed Alam’s criticism of leftist hero Noam Chomsky for his problematic views on the nature of Israeli power. All too often, writers are hesitant to critique icons, to the detriment of a shared sense of political and moral responsibility. Alam is more concerned with Zionism’s many victims than he is with upholding the mechanisms of political celebrity.
Israeli Exceptionalism is scholarly and well-researched, but appropriate for general readers. It is an important contribution to current discussions about the viability of Zionism and the future of Palestine. Alam writes with keen purpose and with an ethical point of view, one opposed to the injustices inscribed in Zionist logic, and one that is unfortunately still marginalized in North America. It is a point of view, however, that is increasingly gaining momentum as more and more people realize that opposition to Zionism isn’t deviant or disturbing, but perfectly in keeping with the anti-racist and anti-imperialist sentiment to which the vast majority of people in the world now adhere.
- Steven Salaita is author, most recently, of The Uncultured Wars: Arabs, Muslims, and the Poverty of Liberal Thought.
Professor Peter Erlinder, noted criminal defense lawyer and past president of the National Lawyers Guild, was arrested Friday morning in Rwanda for “genocide ideology.” Erlinder’s representation of high-profile defendants before the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has incurred the wrath of government officials, who have charged him with “negation of the Tutsi genocide” for mounting defenses of his clients that conflict with the government party line about who was responsible for the 1994 genocide.
The Rwandan government recently blasted the U.S. government for criticizing Rwanda’s restrictions on the media and human rights organizations in advance of the upcoming August national elections. A Human Rights Watch researcher had been barred from the country and several independent newspapers had been shuttered. Opposition supporters had been attacked and jailed.
Erlinder had recently filed a lawsuit in Oklahoma against Rwandan president Paul Kagame, which likely angered the government in Rwanda. Erlinder had traveled to Kigali, Rwanda to represent his client, Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza, who is also charged with “denying genocide.” Ms. Umuhoza happens to be opposing President Kagame in the forthcoming August elections. Since he arrived in Kigali, the government-sponsored media there has been very critical of Erlinder.
The “Law Relating to the Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Ideology,” unique to Rwanda, defines genocide broadly and does not require that one have any link to a genocidal act. It punishes legitimate forms of expression protected by international treaties. Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and the U.S. State Department have denounced the law as a means for political repression.
In an interview shortly before he traveled to Kigali, Erlinder stated that Ms. Umuhoza was not in Rwanda in 1994 and the charges against her are not supported by a verdict of the ICTR.
Regardless of the merits of the case, however, it is unsupportable that an attorney be arrested and jailed for vigorously representing his client. In 1770, John Adams defended nine British soldiers including a captain who stood accused of killing five Americans. No other lawyer would defend them. Adams thought no one in a free country should be denied the right to a fair trial and the right to counsel. He was subjected to scorn and ridicule and claimed to have lost half his law practice as a result of his efforts. Adams later said his representation of those British soldiers was “one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested actions of my whole life, and one of the best pieces of service I ever rendered my country.”
Bar associations including the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) have condemned Erlinder’s arrest. “There can be no justice for anyone if the state can silence lawyers for defendants whom it dislikes and a government that seeks to prevent lawyers from being vigorous advocates for their clients cannot be trusted,” said NLG president David Gespass. “Government intimidation and interference with criminal defense lawyers is unacceptable in all its forms and it fundamentally undermines justice,” according to an NACDL press release.
Erlinder should be released immediately. He should be given immediate access to counsel and the charges against him should be dismissed.
Marjorie Cohn is immediate past president of the National Lawyers Guild and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law.
By Ann Garrison | Digital Journal | May 14, 2010
By Daniel Volman | Inter Press Service | April 03, 2010
By Andrew Oxford | Pulse Media | January 29, 2010
Britain’s premier scientific institution is being forced to review its statements on climate change after a rebellion by members who question mankind’s contribution to rising temperatures.
The Royal Society has appointed a panel to rewrite the 350-year-old institution’s official position on global warming. It will publish a new “guide to the science of climate change” this summer. The society has been accused by 43 of its Fellows of refusing to accept dissenting views on climate change and exaggerating the degree of certainty that man-made emissions are the main cause.
The society appears to have conceded that it needs to correct previous statements. It said: “Any public perception that science is somehow fully settled is wholly incorrect — there is always room for new observations, theories, measurements.” This contradicts a comment by the society’s previous president, Lord May, who was once quoted as saying: “The debate on climate change is over.”
The admission that the society needs to conduct the review is a blow to attempts by the UN to reach a global deal on cutting emissions. The Royal Society is viewed as one of the leading authorities on the topic and it nominated the panel that investigated and endorsed the climate science of the University of East Anglia.
Sir Alan Rudge, a society Fellow and former member of the Government’s Scientific Advisory Committee, is one of the leaders of the rebellion who gathered signatures on a petition sent to Lord Rees, the society president.
He told The Times that the society had adopted an “unnecessarily alarmist position” on climate change.
Sir Alan, 72, an electrical engineer, is a member of the advisory council of the climate sceptic think-tank, the Global Warming Policy Foundation.
He said: “I think the Royal Society should be more neutral and welcome credible contributions from both sceptics and alarmists alike. There is a lot of science to be done before we can be certain about climate change and before we impose upon ourselves the huge economic burden of cutting emissions.”
He refused to name the other signatories but admitted that few of them had worked directly in climate science and many were retired.
“One of the reasons people like myself are willing to put our heads above the parapet is that our careers are not at risk from being labelled a denier or flat-Earther because we say the science is not settled. The bullying of people into silence has unfortunately been effective.”
Only a fraction of the society’s 1,300 Fellows were approached and a third of those declined to sign the petition.
The rebels are concerned by a document entitled Climate Change Controversies, published by the society in 2007. The document attempts to refute what it describes as the misleading arguments employed by sceptics.
The document, which the society has used to influence media coverage of climate change, concludes: “The science clearly points to the need for nations to take urgent steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere, as much and as fast as possible, to reduce the more severe aspects of climate change.”
Lord Rees admitted that there were differing views among Fellows but said that the new guide would be “based on expert views backed up by sound scientific evidence”.
Bob Ward, policy director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at LSE, urged the other signatories to come forward. “If these scientists have doubts about the science on climate change, they should come out and speak about it.”
He said that the petition would fuel public doubt about climate change and that it was important to know how many of the signatories had professional knowledge of the topic.