The Tel Aviv regime has prevented five European parliamentarians from entering the Gaza Strip as the Palestinian enclave remains under an inhumane Israeli siege.
In a statement released on Wednesday, Neoklis Sylikiotis, a Cypriot Member of the European Parliament (MEP), denounced the Israeli obstruction of the lawmakers’ access to the Palestinian coastal sliver.
“The refusal of access to Gaza by the Israeli authorities to the European Parliament on arbitrary grounds is unacceptable,” the statement read.
However, Israel claimed that the MEPs were not among those allowed to enter the Gaza Strip.
Similar European delegations have been barred from Gaza since 2011 though a team led by the head of the European Parliament’s budget committee was allowed to visit once, the statement added.
“What is there to hide from us?” it further asked, condemning Israel’s “systematic” entry bans to Gaza.
It also called on the international community to pressure the Tel Aviv regime to lift the Gaza blockade that has been in place Since June 2007 and affected almost all the two million inhabitants of the enclave.
The World Bank and the United Nations say the Gaza siege has killed all exports and damaged the Palestinian territory’s economy.
Tel Aviv has waged three wars on Gaza since 2008, including the 2014 offensive that left more than 2,200 Palestinians dead.
Israel’s demolition plan ‘unacceptable’
Separately on Wednesday, Robert Piper, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, visited the Palestinian Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar in the occupied West Bank and voiced alarm over an Israeli plan to demolish structures there.
On Sunday, Israeli forces distributed demolition orders to 40 structures, including tents, huts and a school in the village.
According to Palestinian media outlets, Khan al-Ahmar residents were given until Thursday to vacate the village.
“Khan al-Ahmar is one of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank struggling to maintain a minimum standard of living in the face of intense pressure from the Israeli authorities to move,” Piper said in a statement. “This is unacceptable and it must stop.”
International bodies and rights groups say Israel’s sustained demolitions of Palestinian homes are aimed at uprooting Palestinians from their native territories, and expropriating more land for the expansion of settlements.
Tel Aviv is has accelerated its land grab and settlement construction activities in the occupied Palestinian lands after pro-Israel US President Donald Trump took office.
Israeli forces have demolished over 48,000 Palestinian homes and buildings since the 1967 occupation of the Palestinian lands, according to the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions.
The stark reality is that both solutions are impossible unless imposed from outside, and just where do we see any prospect for that?
By John Chuckman | Aletho News | February 22, 2017
Israel has created a terrible problem which it is incapable of solving. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so, paralyzed as it is by the heavy influence of Israel and America’s own apologists and lobbyists.
Trump’s suggestion of a one-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian conflict is welcomed by some because Israel’s settler policy is said to have made two states impossible, as it was most certainly intended to do. However, a little reflection on hard facts makes it clear that a one-state solution is just as impossible.
A single-state solution would be acceptable to all reasonable minds, but you only have to follow the news to know that Israel contains a good many unreasonable minds. Its early advocates and founders were, quite simply, fanatics, and its policies and attitudes were shaped by that fanaticism.
The Israeli establishment could simply not accept a Palestinian population with equal rights and the franchise as part of Israel. They could not do so because they have embraced an almost mystical concept of Israel as “the Jewish state.” Of course, the de facto reality of today’s combined population of Israel and its occupied territories is that Palestinians, who importantly include not just Muslims but many Christians, are already about half of the total.
And there are physical realities forming huge barriers against a single state, things of which many people are not aware. Very importantly, fertility rates in Arab populations are considerably higher than in the European Ashkenazi population which forms Israel’s elite. That has nothing to do with ethnic characteristics. It is a result of much lower levels of affluence influencing the behavior of people having children. It is a universal reality we see.
That’s why Arabic populations are such relatively young populations with a high proportion of children. When Israel bombs a place like Gaza or Lebanon, as it does periodically, it always kills many hundreds of children because they make a big share of the population. An advanced country like Japan has low fertility and traditionally is averse to much migration. It faces a future with an aging and declining population.
All older European and North American countries have fertility rates too low to replace their otherwise declining populations. America or France or Israel or similar states simply do not have enough babies to replace their populations. That’s a fundamental reality of advanced, affluent society. People with rich, demanding lives do not have large numbers of children, anywhere, knowing, as they do, that the few they do have will almost certainly survive and will better thrive with more concentrated resources.
That’s the real reason behind most countries’ immigration policies, not generosity or kindness. But, of course, Israel has a serious problem with immigration, too. As the “Jewish state” it is open to only one category of migrant, and that category of people makes a tiny fraction of the world’s population. Further, most of that tiny fraction live in comfortable, affluent places, far more desirable to live in than Israel – places like America, Canada, Australia, Britain, France, etc.
A single-state Israel would combine low fertility Europeans with higher fertility Arabic people, thus creating a long-term trajectory for a minority-Jewish state, a reality which would be repellent to all conservative Jews and many others, in light of the founding notion of Israel as a refuge from believed widespread anti-Semitism, plus the vaguely-defined but emotionally-loaded notion of a “Jewish state,” and, still further, the biblical myths of God’s having given the land exclusively to Jews.
You simply cannot make rational sense out of that bundle of attitudes and prejudices, yet you cannot get a rational solution to a massive problem otherwise, a problem, it should be noted, of Israel’s own deliberate making in the Six Day War. Likely, when Israel’s leadership started that war, they calculated that Palestinians would come to feel so miserable under occupation that they’d just pick up and leave over time. Moshe Dayan, one of the architects of the war, actually spoke along those very lines of keeping the Palestinians miserable so they would leave. But their calculations were wrong. Most people, anywhere, do not pick-up and leave their native place. Otherwise the world would be a constant whirlwind of migrations.
Although Israel does not discuss the relative population growth rate situation in public, authorities and experts there are keenly aware of the reality. It is difficult to imagine them ever embracing a single state for this reason. When you found a state on ideology and myths, as Israel was founded, you very soon bump up against some unhappy realities.
So, if there is not to be a Palestinian state, what are Israel’s other options? There seem to be only two.
One is to deport all or most Palestinians, an ugly idea which is probably also unworkable, although it has very much seriously been discussed among educated Israelis periodically. Apart from the Nazi-like connotations around such an act, who, on earth, is going to take literally millions of people from Israel? In the past, Israeli ideologues have seriously suggested both the country of Jordan and parts of Egypt contiguous with Israel as possibilities.
Can any realistic person believe those states stand ready to take millions of people in? No, of course not, but that hasn’t stopped the ideologues of Israel from going back to the idea again and again. Of course, there is the pure ethical problem of moving millions against their will and seizing all their property, but ethics have never featured large in Israel’s policies from the beginning.
The other solution is to re-create apartheid South Africa’s Bantustans, little enclaves of land with often undesirable characteristics into which you crowd all the people that you don’t want and declare that these are their new countries. We see this already in Israel, notably in Gaza, which really is a giant refugee camp much resembling a concentration camp with high fences and automated machine-gun towers surrounding it, the residents being permitted almost no freedom of movement or even economic activity, as for example Gaza’s fishermen being fired on by Israeli gunboats if they stray even slightly beyond tight boundaries in the sea.
The world would not long tolerate that approach no matter how much influence the United States might unfairly exert. After all, for a long time, the United States protected and cooperated with apartheid South Africa, always regarding it as an important bulwark against communism, anti-communism being the fervent secular religion of the day in America. This was so much the case that it even overlooked what it absolutely had to know about, apartheid South Africa’s acquisition of a small arsenal of nuclear weapons with the assistance of Israel, Israel always being keen to keep good access to South Africa’s mineral wealth.
Clearly, those two options are not solutions. Realities absolutely demand either a legitimate two-state solution – which Israel’s leaders have never truly accepted while giving it time-buying lip-service – or a one-state solution which is probably even more unacceptable to Israel’s leaders and much of its population, guaranteeing, as it does, the eventual minority status of Jews.
Israel has itself created a terrible problem which it is incapable of solving. That is why it has always been the case that the United States must pretty much dictate a solution, but it is unable to do so, paralyzed as it is by the heavy influence of Israel and America’s own apologists and lobbyists.
So, in effect, the world just goes around and around on this terrible problem, never doing anything decisive. The macabre dance of Israel and the United States we’ve had for decades yields today’s de facto reality of Israel as nothing more but nothing less than a protected American colony in the Middle East, one in which all kinds of international norms and laws are completely suspended, one where millions live with no rights and no citizenship. But, after all, colonies have never been places where the rule of law and human rights prevail, have they? Never.
GAZA – A Palestinian child was reportedly injured on Friday evening after being struck by an Israeli bullet in Beit Lahiya in the north of the Gaza Strip after Israeli forces opened live fire at homes in the area.
According to medical sources, the six-year-old girl was injured in her stomach, and described her injury as moderate.
The child was taken to al-Shifa hospital in Gaza city and was later transferred to a hospital in the north of the besieged enclave.
An Israeli army spokesperson told Ma’an she would look into reports on the incident.
The anti-Iran, anti-Syria US Washington, DC district court of the absurd illegally ordered both countries to pay $178.5 million in damages to the family of an Israeli infant killed in a 2014 vehicular incident.
Israel calls wars of aggression, lethal shootings of Palestinians, and other barbarous acts self-defense. It considers legitimate resistance against brutal occupation harshness terrorism – a knee-jerk response to all incidents, Palestinians automatically guilty by accusation.
The family in question has dual Israeli-American citizenship. Their three-month-old infant was killed when Palestinian Abdel Rahman Shaludi’s vehicle struck people at Jerusalem’s Ammunition Hill light-rail station in October 2014.
Israel accused him of ties with Hamas, illegally called a terrorist organization. It’s Palestine’s legally elected government.
Parents of the deceased child sued in the US district court, awarded a default judgment, the entire procedure a sham, a scheme to denigrate and punish Iran and Syria illegally.
Attorneys for the plaintiff claimed both countries support Hamas, their legal right if true. Based on this flawed judgment, the court ruled against them – an unjust decision Tehran and Damascus denounced, intending to pay nothing, now now, not ever, nor should they.
In March 2016, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hossein Jaberi Ansari denounced a US court ruling against the Islamic Republic for the US state-sponsored false flag 9/11 attack, assessing it $10.5 billion in damages to family members of individuals killed, as well as to insurers for costs incurred.
At the time, Ansari minced no words calling the ruling “ridiculous and absurd to the point that it makes a mockery of the principle of justice while further tarnishes the US judiciary’s reputation.”
The new ruling against Iran and Syria is just as spurious, offensive, and illegal. Neither country has had anything to do with incidents in Israel or America. Claiming otherwise is a despicable fabrication.
Stephen Lendman can be reached at email@example.com. His new book as editor and contributor is titled Flashpoint in Ukraine: How the US Drive for Hegemony Risks WW III.
Israeli navy ships attacked, several Palestinian fishing boats in the Sudaniyya Sea, northwest of Gaza city, on Thursday morning, causing one boat to capsize while a fisherman went missing in the aftermath of the assault.
The Palestinian Health Ministry in Gaza said the fisherman, identified as Mohammad Ahmad al-Hassi, went missing after the navy sank his boat, and that Palestinian search and rescue teams are trying to locate him.
The ministry added that the navy fired live rounds at the boats, then flooded them with high-pressure water cannons.
One of the fishers said several navy ships attacked the Palestinian boats less than four nautical miles from the Gaza shore, causing excessive damage to several boats, including the boat that sank.
The attack is part of repeated Israeli violations against the fishers on Palestinian territorial waters, in the besieged and impoverished coastal region, and have led to many abductions of fishers, and scores of casualties, including several fatalities.
As Western outrage erupts over the relentless destruction of Aleppo and its people, why is there no similar clamour for a halt to the more prolonged pulverising of Gaza and the continuing slaughter of civilians there?
The UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Matthew Rycroft, said the other day:
“Russia’s actions in recent weeks have exposed just how hollow Russia’s commitment to the political process is. Today we have seen that commitment for what it really is; a sham….
“I echo the words of the Archbishop of Canterbury who described the destruction of Aleppo as the absolute contempt for the human spirit, for the dignity of the human being…. There can be no military justification for aerial attacks that indiscriminately hit civilians, and their homes and their hospitals.”
Aleppo or Gaza: what’s the difference?
A few days later we were treated to the spectacle of our recently-appointed Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson calling for anti-war protesters to demonstrate outside the Russian embassy in London. Russia, he said, risks becoming a pariah nation and should be investigated for war crimes in Aleppo. He predicted those responsible for war crimes in Syria would eventually face charges before the international criminal court.
Johnson was speaking in a Commons debate in which he apparently rejected the idea of a no-fly zone, warning that we might have to confront and perhaps shoot down Russian and Syrian planes or helicopters that violate the zone. In other words: go to war. “We need to think very carefully about the consequences.” Too right, Boris. All the same, he’s looking at “kintetic” options such as military action as well as intensifying sanctions against the Assad regime and Russia. Perhaps he has forgotten how the last proposal for air strikes in Syria, in 2013, was thrown out by the Westminster Parliament.
One is immediately prompted to ask why Boris Johnson busies himself accusing Russia of war crimes and drumming up demos outside its embassy while remaining stoically silent about the diabolical crimes of top pariah state Israel. Shouldn’t he be at least evenhanded in his criticism of regimes that repeatedly violate all decent norms of human behaviour?
Why won’t Boris go “kinetic” over Gaza?
Israel and its terrorist founders have been slaughtering and robbing the Palestinian people for nearly 70 years. The Tel Aviv regime continues to illegally occupy Palestinian territory and keep its defenceless citizens bottled up in the shredded left-overs of their homeland, and even commits murder and piracy on the high seas to prevent visitors reaching them. Yet we’ve seen no NATO ships or warplanes off the Gaza coast, no no-fly zones imposed over the still-occupied Holy Land, no boots on the ground, and no arms or military advisers for the Palestinian resistance. In fact, nothing that could be described by Boris as “kinetic”.
Israel, whose “absolute contempt for the human spirit” is extremely profitable, simply doesn’t attract the same high-level indignation. So the evil regime’s demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes for so-called administrative and planning reasons, its wholesale destruction of businesses and infrastructure, its excessive violence against non-combatants, its abductions, imprisonments and assassinations, and especially its programme of blitzkriegs on Gaza slaughtering thousands including many hundreds of children, and reducing the place to rubble… they all go unpunished. None of these crimes can be justified on grounds of defence or security. And in the Palestinians’ case they have nowhere to run. They cannot escape. To the best of my knowledge Boris Johnson has never called for those responsible to be brought before the ICC. He hasn’t even threatened sanctions.
Nor is he likely to. For he’s a “very outspoken friend of Israel” according to former ambassador to London Daniel Taub. Yessir, “he is a very enthusiastic supporter, and his relationship with Israel goes back a long way”. Taub also says Johnson’s enthusiasm is such that “he jumped on our idea of an Israeli cultural festival in London, and thanks to his backing it will be happening next year”. We all know how eagerly Britain’s Foreign Office supports the EU-Israel Association Agreement despite Israel’s blatant violation of its key conditions from the very start.
On his visit to Israel last November some Palestinian groups refused to meet Boris after he dismissed British supporters of BDS (that’s the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement) as “lefty academics who have no real standing in the matter and I think are unlikely to be influential… ” BDS is civil society’s non-violent response not just to the international community’s inaction but the major powers’ perverse habit of rewarding Israel for its crimes. Boris said he couldn’t think of “anything more foolish” than to boycott Israel, which he described as “the only democracy in the region, the only place that has in my view a pluralist open society.”
So amusing. But if the boycotts are foolish and ineffectual, as Boris claims, why so many frantic efforts around the world to have BDS outlawed?
Let’s face it. Boris Johnson is a very senior member of the Conservative Party in which 80% of MPs, it is said, are signed-up Friends of Israel. As PM Theresa May recently proclaimed, “the Conservative Party would not be the Conservative Party without CFI [Conservative Friends of Israel].” They wax lyrical about the odious foreign power whose flag they wave in Parliament, as do their fellow stooges in Washington. The insane focus on regime-change in Syria is primarily for the benefit of Israeli expansionism, and the army of highly-placed useful idiots have their orders.
By being part of this grotesque admiration society, and one of Israel’s keenest rewarders, Boris has become the buffoon he always pretended to be. And nudging us towards a second cold war with Russia just to tick another box for Israel’s grisly ambition confirms him as dangerous as well as daft.
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy is part of a coalition with all of the companies and organizations that are signatories to this letter.
August 23, 2016
Mr. Daniel H. Schulman
President and CEO
2211 North First Street
San Jose, CA 95131
Dear Mr. Schulman,
We are writing to urge you to extend PayPal’s services to Palestinians living in the West Bank and Gaza thereby removing a major limitation on the Palestinian technology sector, one of the only bright spots in the overall economy. More importantly, extending PayPal services would resolve the current discriminatory situation whereby PayPal’s payment portal can be accessed freely by Israeli settlers living illegally (per international humanitarian law) in the West Bank while it remains unavailable to the occupied Palestinian population.
PayPal’s absence is a major obstacle to the growth of Palestine’s tech sector and the overall economy. While other payment portals are available, there is no replacement for the trust and familiarity that PayPal inspires among potential users, particularly those that are unfamiliar with Palestine-based companies. Without access to PayPal, Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others face routine difficulties in receiving payments for business and charitable purposes. Moreover, PayPal’s absence is problematic for the overall Palestinian economy as tech is one of the only sectors with the potential to grow under status quo conditions of the Israeli occupation which severely restricts the internal and cross-border movement of goods and people. Indeed, by entering the Palestinian market, PayPal has the opportunity to make a significant contribution toward alleviating the destabilizing unemployment rates of over 25% in the West Bank and 40% in Gaza.
We have been told that PayPal is concerned about the compliance investments required to enter the Palestinian market. We believe such costs have been greatly overestimated. The U.S. Treasury Department has spent a great deal of time working with the Palestine Monetary Authority to strengthen safeguards against abuse. PayPal currently operates in over 203 countries including places with major problems of corruption and terrorism like Somalia and Yemen. We are confident that Palestine will prove a much easier place to profitably do business than these and other markets that PayPal has already entered.
In addition to business reasons, there are also ethical reasons for PayPal to enter the Palestinian market. PayPal’s decision to launch its service in Israel for Israeli bank customers means that it inadvertently made its services freely available to Jewish settlers living illegally in the occupied West Bank. Palestinians living in close proximity to those settlers do not, however, have access as PayPal doesn’t work with Palestinian banks and Palestinians are unable to establish Israeli bank accounts. We believe a company like PayPal, whose actions in North Carolina reaffirmed its commitment to equal rights, would agree that people living in the same neighborhood ought to have equal rights and access to its services regardless of religion or ethnicity.
We understand that entering a new market can be complex and would be more than happy to work with you, the Palestinian Monetary Authority, and any other necessary officials to pave the way for PayPal’s entry to the Palestinian market.
We very much look forward to hearing from you and working with you to ensure that Palestinian entrepreneurs, nonprofits, and others are free to participate in global commerce. Our point of contact in this matter is Ehsaneh Sadr, 408-306-2559, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gaza Sky Geeks
Partners for Sustainable Development
Applied Information Management (AIM)
National Beverage Company
Palestine Tourism and Investment Company
Americans for a Vibrant Palestinian Economy
Bethlehem Business Incubator
Advanced Technologies for Business
Al Nasher Technical Services
Baskalet game studio
Arab Palestinian Investment Company (APIC)
Siniora Food Industries Company (Siniora)
Unipal General Trading Company (Unipal)
Medical Supplies and Services Company (MSS)
National Aluminum and Profiles Company (NAPCO)
Arab Palestinian Shopping Centers (BRAVO)
Palestine Automobile Company (PAC)
Sky Advertising, Public Relations, and Events Management Company (Sky)
Arab Leasing Company (ALC)
Arab Palestinian Storage and Cooling Company (APSC)
Content Tech Inc.
BETHLEHEM – The Hamas movement called a visit by an International Criminal Court (ICC) delegation to the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel this weekend “pointless and useless” on Monday, after the delegation declined to include the Gaza Strip in their visit.
“It is regrettable that the ICC delegation yielded to the demands of the Israeli occupation to exclude the Gaza Strip from the delegation’s schedule, despite the fact that the Gaza Strip was the main site of Israeli crimes in 2014,” a statement released on the movement’s website said.
Various human rights groups have charged Israel with international war crimes and submitted several cases to the ICC related to Israel’s devastating 51-day assault on the Gaza Strip in 2014 that culminated in the deaths of more than 1,000 civilians. Meanwhile, critics have questioned the ICC’s ability to bring justice on issues related to Palestine in the face of Israel’s refusal to cooperate with the court, and have even faulted the ICC itself with playing a key role in the slow process of holding Israel accountable.
“As a result, Hamas considers the delegation’s visit pointless and useless. The visit has caused more pain and suffering for the families of victims who counted on the ICC to bring justice to them and bring the Israeli killers before the court.”
The fierce condemnation by Hamas, the de facto rulers of the blockaded Gaza Strip, came as the Palestinian Authority (PA)-governed occupied West Bank welcomed the delegation of the ICC’s Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) to the city of Ramallah on Saturday.
They were scheduled to meet with the committee that is charged with following up on ICC investigations, the state-run television network Palestine TV, and a Palestinian newspaper, according to the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO). On Sunday, the delegation will travel to the city of Bethlehem in the West Bank to attend an academic meeting at Bethlehem University. Meanwhile, the OTP also plans to visit Israel.
“The State of Palestine had officially requested the OTP visit Gaza, though it was declined. We hope that on their next visit the ICC delegation will visit other areas of the Occupied State of Palestine, including Hebron and the Jordan Valley,” the PLO’s ICC Higher National Committee said Friday.
The ICC’s decision to skip visiting the besieged Gaza Strip comes after the small Palestinian territory was was bombarded by a wave of Israeli airstrikes in recent days, and after Israel imprisoned activists aboard an all-female flotilla that attempted to reach Gaza this past week.
The flotilla was the fourth of its kind since 2010, when the first Freedom Flotilla was brutally attacked by Israeli naval forces, who killed ten Turkish activists aboard the Mavi Marmara ship.
No Israelis were ever charged for the killings on the Mavi Marmara, despite a case being filed at the International Criminal Court (ICC) charging Israeli officials with war crimes.
Meanwhile in August, the Israeli military closed 13 criminal investigations into cases of Israeli soldiers committing violations against Palestinian civilians during the 2014 Gaza war, without imposing any punitive measures, while some 80 incidents were closed without opening a criminal investigation.
The 51-day Israeli offensive, termed “Operation Protective Edge” by Israeli authorities, resulted in the killings of 1,462 Palestinian civilians, a third of whom were children, according to the United Nations.
According to a UN report, there were incidents in which hundreds of Gazans were killed at the same time, many belonging to the same family, when Israeli air forces bombed residential buildings — credible allegations that the incidents amounted to war crimes. … Full article
The Israeli navy has seized the Zaytouna-Oliva, a Gaza-bound aid ship, and is currently towing it towards the Israeli port city of Ashdod, according to the initiative’s organizers and reports in the Israeli media.
Sondos Ferwana, a media spokeswoman for the International Coalition for the Fourth Freedom Flotilla, told reporters on Wednesday evening that Israeli naval forces had “captured the ship”.
The Israeli military, for its part, confirmed the ship’s seizure in a statement.
“The Israeli Defense Forces managed to quickly seize the ship without causing any injuries among passengers,” the statement read.
According to the military, the crew of the Gaza-bound vessel had initially refused the navy’s orders to change course.
“This forced us to intervene and seize the ship before it violated the legal maritime closure imposed on the Gaza Strip,” the statement read.
According to reports on Israel’s Channel Two television station, the aid ship was intercepted — without resistance — some 80 kilometers off Gaza’s coast.
Ferwana, for her part, described the incident as “another act of Israeli piracy”, adding that all contact with the ship — which is carrying humanitarian aid and several female activists — had been lost.
“We don’t know the fate of the activists aboard,” she said.
Passengers on the Zaytouna-Oliva, which set sail from the Spanish city of Barcelona last month, include Irish Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Maguire, Swedish and Algerian lawmakers, a South African Olympic athlete and a Malaysian doctor.
The all-female initiative seeks to break Israel’s decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip and show solidarity with the women of Gaza.
Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, for its part, which has governed the Gaza Strip since 2007, condemned what it described “the Israeli occupation’s assault on the aid ship and its intimidation of the activists on board”.
In a statement, Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said the incident amounted to “an act of state terrorism” and another example of Israeli “aggression against the Palestinian people and those who show solidarity with the Palestinian cause”.
Barhoum went on to urge the international community to “put an end to Israel’s crimes”, stressing the need for immediate action “to lift the blockade and rescue the people of Gaza”.
In June of last year, Israeli forces intercepted the “Marianne” — which had been taking part in a similar initiative — and arrested all activists on board.
A similar Gaza-bound aid flotilla ended in tragedy in 2010 when the Mavi Marmara, a Turkish aid ship, was raided by Israeli commandos who killed 10 Turkish activists.
Since 2007, the Hamas-run Gaza Strip has groaned under a crippling Israeli/Egyptian blockade that has deprived its almost two million inhabitants of most basic commodities, including food, fuel, medicine and desperately-needed building materials.
In June, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon described the blockade of Gaza as “collective punishment”, which, he asserted, “suffocates its people, stifles its economy and impedes reconstruction efforts”.
Attacks on international agencies and arrests of Palestinian aid workers part of systematic Israeli assault
Two Palestinian UN and international NGO workers in Gaza, Mohammed al-Halabi and Waheed Bursh, have been targeted by the Israeli occupation for arrest and military prosecution in high-profile cases that seemingly aim to imprison not only these individual Palestinians, but also to pressure international agencies into a further separation and deeper division from the Palestinian people under occupation with whom they work, and towards control and authorization by Israeli occupation forces.
Mohammed al-Halabi, the operations manager for World Vision in Gaza, was arrested by Israeli occupation forces on 15 June as he crossed at the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing (to which he had already been given a permit by the Israeli occupation.) After being held incommunicado and under interrogation, facing torture and abuse for over a month and a half, Al-Halabi was accused in a showy statement of allegedly “diverting” up to $50 million USD to the Palestinian resistance organization and political party Hamas – based on a “confession.” Despite the allegations, World Vision noted that its “cumulative operating budget in Gaza for the past 10 years was approximately $22.5 million,” making the alleged amounts of money involved materially impossible. World Vision also noted that “Mohammad El Halabi was the manager of our Gaza operations only since October 2014; before that time he managed only portions of the Gaza budget. World Vision’s accountability processes cap the amount individuals in management positions at his level to a signing authority of US$15,000.”
Nevertheless, Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu issued a video message alleging that the Israeli occupation project “cared more” about Palestinians than Palestinian leadership organizations, particularly Hamas in Gaza. While the Israeli occupation state controls access to Gaza and entirely occupies its sea and skies, it claims to not have control or occupying power over Gaza. Nevertheless, the Israeli occupation state is imprisoning Al-Halabi for matters that – even taking their tortured “confessions” at face value – is seemingly entirely internal to Palestinians in Gaza and international organizations working with them.
It should be noted that the allegations against Halabi appear to be based entirely upon confessions obtained through torture and potentially the word of a collaborator or a “disgruntled employee” who disappeared from Gaza to Egypt after his firing from World Vision by Halabi; this is reflected in the clearly inaccurate financial amounts reported in coverage of this case. Perhaps because of the very weakness of the allegations themselves, Halabi will allegedly be tried in a “secret court,” reported his lawyer, Lea Tsemel. Despite the origins of the allegations (confessions obtained through torture) and their seeming physical impossibility, both the Australian and German governments suspended aid to World Vision. While World Vision has announced its trust in its staff, the cut in funds – and an Israeli freeze on its bank account in Jerusalem for the international Christian charity – has meant that over 120 local Palestinian staff have been laid off in Gaza and operations are suspended, where unemployment already ranges near 40% and poverty forces Palestinians to rely on international aid.
This is not the first run-in between the Israeli state and World Vision. Israel and its supporters in NGO Monitor attacked the Christian charity in 2004 for supporting Palestinian rights, thus “support for terror.” World Vision’s programs came under attack previously by Mossad-linked law firm “Shurat Ha-Din,” known for its pursuit of dubious yet fiscally draining lawsuits against opponents and critics of Israel around the world, Shurat Ha-Din attacked World Vision and other charities for their support for the work of the Union of Agricultural Work Committees, a land and water defense organization operating in the West Bank and Gaza that has been honored with the UN’s Equator Prize and is a member of the global peasant movement, Via Campesina. Shurat Ha-Din demanded an end to Australian support of World Vision, claiming that UAWC was a “front” for Palestinian leftist political party, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Shurat Ha-Din’s efforts were rejected in Australia and refuted both by the Australian government and World Vision itself. Still, the continuing focus on World Vision and its engagement with local Palestinian organiztions in Gaza appears to be a continuing thread in Israeli surveillance and repression.
While Halabi was arrested on 15 June, Waheed Bursh, a Palestinian engineer contracted by the UN Development Program (UNDP) was arrested one month later, also as he crossed the Beit Hanoun/Erez crossing, for which he had previously received a permit. The case of Bursh is particularly striking: over two weeks after his arrest, and several days after the public announcement of the allegations against Halabi, he was accused by the Israeli occupation of allegedly “diverting” rubble in Gaza created by the massive Israeli bombing of Gaza in 2014 for Palestinian use to shore up a port and jetty on Gaza’s north shore. The Israeli occupation accuses the rubble of being “diverted to Hamas,” but it is distinctly unclear if that simply means to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza, which is run by Hamas officials – and in any case, the UNDP itself reaffirmed that the rubble in question was directed as agreed to a civilian area and there “was no diversion.”
This case is, essentially, about whether Palestinians have the right to decide in any small way what to do with the massive rubble created when hundreds of thousands of Palestinians’ homes in Gaza were destroyed by Israeli bombs and warplanes – and that any individual Palestinian following Palestinian direction in such a case is subject to torture and imprisonment. Not only does Israel declare the right to bomb and destroy Gaza at will; it also declares the right and ongoing authority to determine the usage of the rubble created by its bombing and destruction.
The Bursh case highlights the insufficiency and the injustice of the UN “reconstruction program” for Gaza, which has seen both an extremely high level of inefficiency as only a small portion of the buildings destroyed in Gaza have been rebuilt, but also an extremely high level of utter disregard for Palestinian sovereignty and internationally-recognized rights, instead creating a program in which all access to funds and building materials is dependent on the approval of the Israeli occupation that destroyed those places to begin with.
The UN has argued that Bursh is immune from prosecution given his UN role, and that he acted according to the request of the Palestinian Authority. This case is not only about the imprisonment of one Palestinian engineer, but about who has the right to build with the rubble created by Israel’s bombs, and who decides: Palestinians, including their political forces? Or international organizations with the consent and oversight of the Israeli occupation? Or, perhaps more precisely, the Israeli occupation, with the work carried out by international organizations and highly subjugated Palestinian staff?
Both the Gaza reconstruction mechanism and the Halabi and Borsh cases highlight the severity of the ongoing Israeli occupation of Gaza as well as an apparent political priority of disempowering Palestinian non-governmental organizations and even staff of international organizations in any context in which they operate outside of complete Israeli control. While the Israeli occupation has generally supported the “NGOization” of Palestinian society as an alternative to Palestinian resistance organizations, these recent cases appear to indicate an intention for Israel to outsource not only the costs but also the repressive mechanisms of its occupation of Gaza to international organizations, thus requiring the dismissal and complete control of any local Palestinian staff empowered to make independent decisions.
Conditional aid that requires all staff at an organization not to be members of any organization on the US list of “foreign terrorist organizations,” such as that distributed by USAID, has commonly been discussed as a long-running problem in Palestinian civil society. The US FTO list includes major Palestinian political forces such as Hamas, the PFLP, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and even Fateh’s armed wing; similar lists are to be found in the European Union, Canada, Australia, the UK and elsewhere – although Hamas is currently fighting a legal case for removal from the EU’s list. Further, the overall impact of international donor funds in directing the priorities of Palestinian organizations away from Palestinian national liberation and towards “projects” and state-building amid ongoing occupation and oppression, and demobilizing the Palestinian national movement into “civil society” or “interest groups” has been the subject of intense discussion among Palestinian organizations and activists.
In Gaza in particular, the filing and heavy publicity surrounding the Halabi and Bursh cases seems to indicate that the Israeli state is pursuing an even heavier hand on all forms of Palestinian organization and even Palestinian roles in directing the work of international organizations. Palestinian organizations in 1948 Palestine have come under attack through new laws designed to block “foreign funding,” while the Balad/National Democratic Assembly political party, represented in the Knesset by Jamal Zahalka, Haneen Zoabi and Basil Ghattas, has been subject to a series of raids and arrests accusing them of undisclosed “foreign funds.” Of course, Palestinian organizations like Addameer Prisoner Support and Human Rights Association, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Center for Studies and other organizations in the West Bank continue to be subject to arrests, raids and other attacks by occupation forces, while Israel continues to threaten escalation against Palestinian civil society organizations supporting the growing boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement. Ben White in Al-Jazeera noted that “Israeli minister Gilad Erdan has claimed that the accusations against Halabi prove the government’s claim that ‘there are extensive ideological and monetary ties between terrorist organisations and delegitimisation organisations that work against Israel.’”
Ali Abunimah of the Electronic Intifada wrote, “But by spreading sensational allegations that a group as well-known as World Vision is ‘funding terrorism,’ Israel may seek to put other organizations and the Israel-friendly Western governments that fund them on notice that all their operations, especially in Gaza, are at its mercy. It may also be an effort to break growing solidarity for Palestinians in churches, where there has been a strong push to hold Israel accountable through boycott, divestment and sanctions.”
These allegations perhaps bear the closest resemblance to early-to-mid-2000s calls from the Israeli occupation and Western states regarding “corruption” in the Palestinian Authority under Yasser Arafat. Viewing the PA’s role in outsourcing the costs of occupation and suppressing Palestinian resistance as apparently insufficient, Israeli and Western charges of corruption and demands for higher levels of international and Israeli control led in part to the imposition of Mahmoud Abbas as a prime minister and the “Daytonization” of PA security forces under US command, removing Fateh loyalists and turning them into even more of a direct mechanism for security cooperation with the Israeli occupation.
Circumstances differ in that corruption in the PA was – and remains – a legitimate concern of Palestinians (although higher levels of Israeli and international control in fact exacerbated the problem and were opposite to the solutions demanded by Palestinians), while in these cases the arrests reflect entirely Israeli interests at the expense of Palestinians. However, the projected outcomes are similar in the re-orienting of international organizations as opponents and monitors of Palestinians and the escalation of international and Israeli control at the expense of even the most individual and basic levels of Palestinian control or self-determination.
The roots of the prosecution of Halabi and Bursh, the shuttering of World Vision’s programs and the threat of further raids and prosecutions against Palestinian staff of international organizations can also be found in the use of “foreign terrorist lists” by international states and bodies to criminalize Palestinian political life and resistance. While the United States, European Union, Canada, UK, Australia and other states are clearly not opponents of either state-sponsored or non-state violence when carried out by allies and agents, and while Palestinians are internationally recognized as an occupied people with rights to sovereignty and self-determination, Palestinian resistance organizations are routinely labeled as “terrorist.” In the post-Oslo era, the drive to redefine the Palestinian struggle from an anti-colonial national liberation movement into a “state-building project” and a “mediated conflict” with the Palestinian Authority as its reference has been used to criminalize and prosecute Palestinian organizing not only inside but also outside Palestine, while obscuring the nature of Palestinian reality today.
That governments such as those of Australia and Germany chose to cut funding to World Vision in response to these allegations rather than defend an occupied people under colonization and denounce the actions of a belligerent occupier abducting and accusing people under occupation of using funds and, indeed, the rubble created by the occupier’s bombing, in their own interest, indicates the enmeshment of these states with the Israeli state in a common support for settler colonialism, Zionism and racism in Palestine and internationally.
From the siege on Gaza – against which the Women’s Boat to Gaza today sails with the support of people’s movements and against the will of Western states and the Israeli occupation – to the imprisonment of over 7,000 Palestinian prisoners, it is nearly impossible to support fundamental Palestinian rights while labeling Palestinian resistance as “terrorist.” Attempts to do so are then only more vulnerable to attacks of this type – while local Palestinian staff attempting to serve their people within the context of international organizations are targeted for secret trials and persecution on the basis of torture-borne “confessions,” even if the charges themselves are materially incoherent or manifestly absurd. Thus, the international reconstruction mechanism in Gaza has only allowed a greater level of Israeli occupation and control of the Strip, while years after Israel’s bombing, Palestinians in Gaza are still living in shelters while their homes remain rubble.
International mobilization in defense of Halabi and Bursh is necessary. It is not enough to demand a “fair trial” when the charges and structure of prosecution exist only as a mechanism of colonialism. It is urgent to stand not only against the persecution of these Palestinian staff but against the entire framework that seeks to undermine Palestinian sovereignty, redefine resistance as “terror” and legitimize ongoing colonization and occupation.
Charlotte Kates is the international coordinator of Samidoun Palestinian Prisoner Solidarity Network. She coordinates the National Lawyers Guild’s International Committee and works with a number of organizations advocating for Palestinian rights.
Not long ago I came across an image—don’t remember where or why—in which celebrated writer and feminist Lena Dunham was clad in a red, white and blue shirt emblazoned all over with the name “Hillary.” It struck me as curious that someone held up publicly as an example of enlightened 21st century thought (I’m not aware of whether Dunham considers herself as such; perhaps she doesn’t) would feel comfortable broadcasting so unabashedly her affinity for Mrs. Clinton, so I looked into it further.
“Nothing gets me angrier,” Dunham said in January to a crowd in Iowa prior to that state’s caucus, “than when someone implies I’m voting for Hillary Clinton simply because she’s female.”
Fair enough; it must be insulting to have strangers imply, or otherwise assert, that her endorsement of Clinton can be reduced to a sort of blind gender loyalty. And to Dunham’s credit, she has attempted to spell out exactly what is it about Clinton she finds so enchanting. The least we can do is consider her own words on the matter.
It shouldn’t come as any surprise that Clinton’s “commitment to fighting for women” is at the top of the list. After all, it’s an important issue, one about which Dunham is ostensibly serious and which Clinton allegedly “comes at … from every direction.” For example: She “fights for equal pay”; she says she will “fight for more funding” of Planned Parenthood; she “stays current on prenatal-nutrition research”; and she “flies to countries where women are routinely denied basic freedoms … and puts their leaders on blast.”
Summing it up: “In a million ways, for women and girls in every walk of life, Hillary does the damn thing.”
Dunham is also fetched by Clinton’s alleged opposition to racism. “I’ve been moved,” she writes, “by the stories of people across the country who attest to Hillary’s decades of working for social justice in their communities.”
Gun control, “a feminist issue,” factors into the equation as well: “Hillary has a plan specifically to keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers.”
And lest her audience mistakenly perceive that she finds no fault in her favored candidate, Dunham would like us to know that she recognizes that Hillary has “made mistakes.” One such mistake, as Dunham sees it, is Hillary’s vote in favor of Bush’s invasion of Iraq. But while this was a “huge miscalculation,” Dunham is encouraged by her belief that Hillary “worked her heart out as secretary of state to make up for it.”
“Wouldn’t it be cool,” Dunham inquires rhetorically, “if everyone else who voted for that war did as much to promote peace and human rights around the world?”
One charitably assumes that Dunham either doesn’t know what she’s saying or doesn’t mean it. Otherwise she can and should be disregarded as yet another vulgar propagandist whose supposed empathy doesn’t extend beyond the margins of her own very narrow perspective.
Before continuing, I’ll make a distinction that shouldn’t have to be made because it’s self-evident: we are dealing with someone of a degree of cultural significance who has been enthusiastically campaigning for Clinton from the beginning; we are not dealing with someone prepared to cast a vote for Clinton because they are persuaded by the lesser-evil argument. These are two very different casts of mind and are not equally assailable.
There’s no question that Clinton professes to care about women, just as Barack Obama professes to oppose the proliferation of nuclear weapons, or Mrs. Clinton’s husband professed to believe that the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant he blew up was used by terrorists to produce chemical weapons. The question, of course, is whether we’re justified in taking them at their word. The historical record, as well as common sense, suggest that we’re not.
Dunham’s remark about Hillary flying around “to countries where women are routinely denied basic freedoms” to put “their leaders on blast” is interesting. There are two possibilities: either she fails to recognize the inanity of her own comment, or else she’s trusting that her audience will fail to recognize it. In the former case, she’s ignorant and irresponsible; in the latter she’s dishonest and hypocritical, and should be exposed as such.
Saudi Arabia, as all but the most uninformed of people fully understand, is world’s leading exporter of Wahhabism, the radical Islamic ideology that reduces women to chattel. According to this ideology—which, thanks to US foreign policy, can now be observed all over the Middle East and elsewhere—women are fit to be kept as sex slaves, fit to be genitally mutilated, fit to be punished for exposing their skin in public, fit to be punished (or killed) for resisting an arranged marriage, fit to be punished for being gang raped. With that said, the misogynistic thugs governing Saudi Arabia produce oil [and more importantly transfer global revenues from the sale of petroleum to Wall st.] and are hostile to Iran; ergo they are a crucial US ally.
As such, while serving as secretary of state, Clinton facilitated billions of dollars in munitions sales to Saudi Arabia; in fact, US arms exports to Saudi Arabia increased by 97 percent during this time. (Recall that, according to Dunham, Clinton is very concerned about keeping weapons out of the hands of those who are liable to use them against women.) These weapons are now being used to massacre civilians—including, of course, women and children—in Yemen and to bolster Saudi Arabia’s regional (and thus global) influence. When said influence increases, so too does Wahhabi-style persecution of women, a circumstance any feminist—indeed, any decent human—finds utterly despicable and ought to resist.
This, presumably, is one way in which Hillary “worked her heart out as secretary of state to make up for” her Iraq war vote.
Another way is perhaps her support for the 2009 military coup in Honduras, whereby, according to Greg Grandin of The Nation, “Clinton allied with the worst sectors of Honduran society.” Grandin’s article, a eulogy for a female activist in Honduras who was gunned down by political opponents, is of particular relevance considering Dunham’s assertion that Hillary is dedicated “to women’s reproductive health and rights” and moreover has a “holistic approach to protecting the vulnerable.”
Consider the following details regarding the rights of women following the military coup Mrs. Clinton helped to consolidate:
Despite the fact that he was a rural patriarch, [toppled president Manuel Zelaya] was remarkably supportive of “intersectionality” (that is, a left politics not reducible to class or political economy): He tried to make the morning-after pill legal. (After Zelaya’s ouster, Honduras’s coup congress—the one legitimated by Hillary Clinton—passed an absolute ban on emergency contraception, criminalizing “the sale, distribution, and use of the ‘morning-after pill’—imposing punishment for offenders equal to that of obtaining or performing an abortion, which in Honduras is completely restricted.”)
Elsewhere, Honduran feminists have spoken plainly about the devastating effects of the US-sponsored coup in their country. Believe it or not, many of them reject the idea that Clinton empathizes with their plight. Take for instance the words of Neesa Medina, of the Honduran Women’s Rights Center:
The 2009 coup had repercussions for sexual and reproductive rights for Honduran women…. As a member of a feminist organization severely affected by the support of the U.S. for militaristic policies of recent governments, I must say that it is important that voters take the time to do a critical structural analysis of all of the information in the campaign proposals and previous actions of those running for president. United States support for militarily invasive policies in other countries has a negative impact on the women in these countries.
The current dictatorship under [President Juan Orlando] Hernandez is part of [Hillary Clinton’s] creation. The misery doesn’t just affect women with more brutality, but also our bodies are exposed to the militarist ideology with which they uphold poverty and kill us; to the conservative fundamentalism with which they deny the exercise of our sexual autonomy; and to the possibility of being creative people and not just workers for their factories and way of life.
Clinton, to my knowledge, has yet to put the Hernandez regime, for which she and President Obama bear major responsibility, “on blast” for its abominable treatment of women.
There is also, of course, NATO’s military bombardment of Libya, a horrific and illegal policy decision—spearheaded by Clinton’s State Department—which effectively invited an assortment of misogynistic Islamic gangs to reap the benefits of the chaos sown by the removal of Muammar Gaddafi from power.
According to a March report by Human Rights Watch, Libyan women living in Sirte (now ISIS-controlled territory) endure extraordinary repression. The rule of the land is a hardline interpretation of Sharia Law, imposing unprecedented restrictions on Libyan women’s freedom. For instance, “all women and girls as young as 10 or 11” are required by law “to cover themselves from head to toe in a loose black abaya outside their homes, and to never leave without … a male relative such as a husband, brother or father.” If a woman is caught violating the dress code, her husband is either fined or flogged. Furthermore, “shop owners are whipped and fined and their shops are closed if they receive an unaccompanied woman.” And it perhaps goes without saying that men residing in Sirte are coerced into surrendering their daughters over to ISIS militants, who then force marriage and God knows what else upon the girl.
No doubt the women of Libya can appreciate Clinton’s image, in the eyes of the West, as a model feminist. Remember: she “does the damn thing” for “women and girls in every walk of life.”
In Gaza, where the Israeli government (with unilateral US support) has imposed an illegal siege for nearly a decade, 36 percent of pregnant women suffer from anemia, a direct result of the fact that a staggering 80 percent of Gaza’s Palestinian population is dependent on food-aid. Moreover, owing to regular IDF aggression against the besieged territory, as well as the Israeli government’s practice of administrative detention, women in Gaza are often left to support their families by themselves, all while being unable to find work.
“The siege affects us all, but it especially affects women,” said Tagreed Jummah, director of Gaza City’s Union of Palestinian Women Committees. “In recent years, more women have been forced to become heads of the family because their husbands have been killed, are in Israeli prisons, or are unemployed as a result of the siege. But the majority of these women have no means of earning money.”
In the summer of 2014, while Israeli missiles rained down on the people of Gaza (killing well over 1,000 civilians), Clinton gave an interview in which she dismissed international condemnation of Israel’s military aggression as “uncalled for and unfair”—just one of countless examples of her apologetics for Israeli terror. On that note, Hillary has promised that, should she win the election, she will invite Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (described by Middle East scholar Norman Finkelstein as a “certifiable maniac”) to the White House in her first month in office. Such is her empathetic concern for the men, women and children writhing under the heel of Zionist brutality.
All of this is readily available to anyone mildly curious about Clinton’s humanitarian credentials. One wonders, then, how someone like Lena Dunham, whose primary concern (ostensibly) is the oppression of women, can laud Mrs. Clinton as a person genuinely troubled by and committed to eradicating that very oppression wherever it exists. How, for instance, could she seriously characterize Clinton as a politician who fights to “promote peace and human rights around the world”? Could Dunham be that confused? Or is she merely ignoring facts inconsistent with her argument? Does she understand that her comments could easily (and not illogically) be construed as evidence of a racist disdain for people who happen to have been born outside of the United States?
Dunham ought to clarify whether she believes Palestinians, Hondurans, Libyans, Yemenis, etc. to be somehow unworthy of the human rights she speaks and writes so passionately about. If this is indeed the case, then her arguments in favor of Hillary Clinton, while morally and intellectually bankrupt, make perfect sense.
If, however, she is appalled to learn of her chosen candidate’s (at best) callous indifference to the fate of women in other parts of the world, Dunham should revise her position accordingly. After all, she communicates not only to a broad audience, but a broad audience of young people who by and large represent the future of Western liberalism. By simply ignoring the reality of Hillary Clinton’s worldview (and all of this could just as easily have been said of Barack Obama), Dunham is assisting the corporate media in breeding a generation of “liberals” whose compassion is terribly shortsighted, and who are thus liable to stand back and observe their leaders’ crimes with equanimity—so long as progress is being made on other fronts. When this sort of truncated empathy reigns, as history has repeatedly shown, there’s virtually nothing a wayward government can’t do. And as Orwell demonstrated, there is perhaps nothing more terrifying than an omnipotent state.
I’ll say it again, since reading comprehension varies: this was not written as a rejoinder to the argument that Clinton is preferable to Donald Trump or any other opponent; it was written in response to a relatively influential celebrity who has repeatedly attempted to cast Hillary Clinton as a champion of human rights, which is manifestly preposterous and, in my view, ultimately dangerous. Any number of individuals (celebrities, journalists and pundits alike) could have been substituted for Dunham in this context. One can vote for Hillary Clinton without telling half-truths about her sordid record.
Two boats with all-women crews set sail Wednesday for the Gaza Strip from Barcelona, Spain. They are planning to travel across the Mediterranean and break the Israeli blockade on Gaza by delivering much-needed medical supplies to the people of Gaza.
The participants in the siege-breaking boat hail from fifteen different countries and include members of Parliament and other dignitaries.
From Barcelona, the boats will travel to France, and one other port before heading to Gaza. This is just the latest of a series of boats that have tried to break the blockade on Gaza since Israel imposed the air, sea and land blockade in 2006.
The mayor of Barcelona, Ada Colau, arrived at the port on Wednesday along with hundreds of supporters, to offer her support for the mission of the Women’s Boat to Gaza trip.
The two boats have been named the “Amal”, which means ‘hope’ in Arabic, and “Zaytouna”, which means ‘olive’ in Arabic.
The list of passengers includes Tunisian MP Latifa Habashi; Malin Björk, a Member of European Parliament from Sweden; Ann Wright, a retired U.S. Army Colonel and former U.S. diplomat who resigned in 2003 in opposition to the invasion of Iraq; and Dr. Fauziah Modh Hasan, a Malaysian physician who has participated in many humanitarian missions with the Malaysian Medical Relief Society.
The Chairman of the Popular Committee to Support Gaza, Essam Youssef, said in a statement that the Women’s Boat to Gaza is “a humanitarian cry in the face of an illegitimate siege imposed on an innocent people that has been calling for years on the international community for help.”
He added, “Palestine will remain the axis of struggle not just in the Middle East but also in the world. Achieving justice for Palestine is the key to stability in the region and the world.”
Wednesday’s launch of the Women’s Boat to Gaza came just as the U.S. Congress authorized an unprecedented $38.5 billion aid package to Israel, despite acknowledging in the same session that Israeli settlement expansion in the West Bank has violated all signed agreements and international law.