Thursday, 2 September 2010

Today is the start of the European Cup.

                                   It was during the last European cup that Israel played against England at Wembley, and I tried to bring a Palestine team for some games against UK football league teams at the same time. My objective was to give the Palestinians opposition that would motivate them to practice and improve. We had a base at the University of Chester, who were providing specialist coaching, and we had  an ascending order of games culminating with a premier league game against Blackburn Rovers. But it didn't happen. The UK government refused them visas on the grounds that Israel might refuse them re-entry, if they let them out in the first place, so they would become refugees and become a burden on the state. Meanwhile Israel turn up to an official reception to play their leg in the European Cup, feted by the English FA. But why does Israel play in Europe whilst it is imprisoning another team, and why Europe anyway?
The reason Israel plays in Europe is the Oslo agreement. Palestine is not a 'country' as Zionists keep telling us, so is not entitled to a FIFA recognised team, whilst Israel could not get a game in Asia, where most countries boycotted it. So giving Palestine a team, as a concession for moving Israel to Europe was an obvious move to make in the Oslo settlement. Crucially, Israel gets to be treated as a 'normal' state where it matters most, in the west.
In this Cup, Israel play Malta tonight. They have a very easy group, their seeded team is Croatia, who they have beaten before, I think, and the second seed is Greece, a team very varied in quality. The winner of each group and the 5 best runners up qualify for the finals, and this must be Israel's best opportunity yet. Their other opponents are Malta, Latvia and Georgia (who despite the distance, really are in geographical Europe). And an appearance in the final play-offs is yet another step to normalising them as a country, and as a European Country at that. No wonder Israeli commentators like Gideon Levy and Illan Pape say that the Israeli public have closed their mind to Peace, seeing no need to get out of their chairs, and feeling comfortable in the world's acceptance of who they are, occupation and all.
As I said, I invited the Palestine youth team over, but they were refused visas by the UK Government. A practiced media expert could have made much more out of it than I did, but, still there was some media attention for it. I do not discount rumours that Israel threw their England game as a deal to get the banning result, you have only to read the commentaries on the game, and see what an appalling game Yossi Benayoun had, for instance, and England badly needed a win to retain credibility (they still didn't qualify). But whether or not, they played at Wembley and the Palestinians remained locked in Gaza.
Anyway, the amount of work in trying to organise the tour was astonishing, and the costs enormous, so I won't be trying it again. In any case, after the failure of that visit the situation changed dramatically for the team. They were not helped by the then president of the Pal's FA saying that my failure to get visas was a personal failure, because I was obviously not corrupt enough to pull the right strings, and, as he told me, nothing to do with the siege of Gaza, which didn't affect him personally much. There are still a very few people in Gaza, I very much regret to say, who feel that breaking the siege is just a matter of corrupt payments to the right Israelis rather than action to end the occupation for all. This corruption is, of course the reason why Fatah were punished in the elections, and Hamas elected, but our Pals FA president, sitting in his 5 star hotel in Qatar, paid for by the Emir, had not yet got that message, even though the 2006 world cup qualifying run came to an end for the Palestine team when Israel refused visas to half the team when they needed to get a good result against Uzbekistan, and they lost, and lost momentum. "Pah, he said, why would the British government be implicated in the siege of Gaza?"
The progress of the team was mentored by a Kuwaiti based Palestinian refugee businessman called Barakat, who persuaded many other businesses to invest in the team. They really thought that World Cup qualification was possible, and the team moved up the FIFA rankings from the bottom to 115th, nearly halfway. The enthusiasm was palpable and it was possible to image the world sitting up and taking notice. As their success grew, beating Taiwan 8-0, and drawing with in form Iraq 1-1, Israel suddenly refused to allow half the team to play against Uzbekistan, and that was the beginning of the end. They lost 3-0, and under similar sanctions, they failed to qualify through their remaining games. 
In 2007, in the next world cup, without Barakat's support, and with West Bank pressures, they lost their pre-qualification match with Singapore, at 'home' in Qatar, and failed to show up for the return leg in Singapore, probably because of Israel visa issues, but also shortage of money and organising ability. The Pal FA failed to organise Palestinian TV coverage of the Singapore game, and failed to inform Al Jazeera (in Qatar!) or to make the most of Al Jazeera's coverage when I accidentally organised it for them following a fortuitous meeting in my hotel. I presented a shirt from Blackburn Rovers, but the Pals insisted that it be off camera, thus alienating Blackburn who were looking to build support in the Middle East, and also failing to get the important message, that they have friends in the West, out to their supporters. What was the explanation for this behaviour? I don't know, but it didn't help the team, and if the President thought it helped his position with Israel or the West Bank Fatah Government, he was mistaken. It just made it easy for him to be replaced.
Israel could clearly see the propaganda value of a successful Palestine team, and were keen to stop it.
Tony Blair, Middle East envoy, also saw the propaganda value of the team, and that clubs in Gaza were still largely controlled by Fatah but delegates were moving towards Hamas, so it was that FIFA agreed to re-build a national stadium, but on condition was that there must be a new election for President and delegates. Then they ruled out all the Gaza votes because Hamas 'gunmen' were said to have intimidated the voters at one local Gaza club. As a result, all the delegates are West Bank Fatah, except the delegate for Qalqilya, who 'is in touch with Hamas'. As a result the emphasis of the team was moved to the West Bank, and the new stadium was built there, just outside the area Israel has zoned as part of "Jerusalem", so not being contentious in the current Peace talks when Israeli Annexation of Jerusalem is ratified. They did this rather than rebuild the Gaza stadium that Israel bombed.
And it was the old West Bank section of the FA (supposedly under control from Gaza, but encouraged by Blair and Israel to behave independently) who had also sabotaged 'my' tour by refusing to take part unless they got 50% of the players regardless of ability, and on refusal by the President, pulled out. (This sabotage made it much easier for the UK to refuse the team visas, since they were all from Gaza. The press often described it as 'A Gaza Youth Team', whereas it was the official U19 Palestinian National Team. I was asked by Channel 4 News whether it wasn't right that the team should be blocked to punish Hamas)
The new President of the Palestine FA, Jibril al Rajoub, is a Fatah hard man. He is a powerful general previously in charge of Internal Security. Blair wanted to get rid of most of these guys from Government in order to create a unified structure of armed forces control, and he had to find jobs for them. 
Unlucky FA! Since his appointment, many foreign players, such as Chile's Roberto Kettlun, that were so prominent in Palestine's dramatic progress towards the 2006 world cup, when they beat Taipei 8-0, have not been recalled, even when they request it, and some are now being recruited by Jordan instead. Conversely, however, Jordan has pressured the Palestine FA not to recruit Jordan based Palestinians (70% of Jordan citizens) and the Palestine FA appear to have agreed. A recent story concerns two Croats, the Sharbini Brothers, called up for the Singapore qualifier in 2007, but too frightened by death threats in Croatia to leave at that time, but who have not been recalled subsequently even though they have signalled a willingness to be so. One has been approached by Croatia, but both seem likely to play for Jordan, who has also approached them. The team is thus being downgraded to a non-threatening position, although they were scheduled to play a friendly against a league side in Belgium last year, but I'm not sure if it happened. There are plenty of UK clubs that would play them if the UK FA could be persuaded to invite them, but there is a strong link with the Israel FA in London, both officially and by Zionist individuals in senior positions.
And so the Israelis will strut the International stage, while the football mad Palestinians languish at 171 out of 207, positioned above the Comoros Islands and Somalia, their only scheduled fixtures being friendlies against Yemen away (played in Amman) and Iraq at home (played in Amman, despite FIFA promises about their home stadium). They have previously drawn with Mauritania, Sudan and the UAE, lost to China 3-1, and to Iraq 3-0, then 4-0
Still the West Bank got that new Stadium, and most Gaza players are allowed out of their jail to play, but generally not to train, although the Captain is still not allowed out - but then he is also no longer the Captain. The siege has been left out of the picture by these dealings, as Palestine is now not called unsafe by FIFA, so FIFA also now supposedly allow foreign teams to play in this Ramallah stadium, and both the men's and women's teams have played Jordan in friendlies, both ending in draws. Yet no other matches have been played in 'Ram', or are scheduled to be. 
Interesting and co-incidental that England's first game in its new Wembley stadium was against Israel. And while I have been writing this, Israel have beaten Malta 3-1. A hat trick by Yossi Benayoun, ex Liverpool, now Chelsea player. Well Done, how the Premier league has improved your play!  What a shame that the UK Premier league will never be allowed to employ Ramzi, the 65 times capped Palestine keeper. I don't how many of Benayoun's goals he would have saved, but I do know that he would give his life for the opportunity to be allowed to try.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Truth, What Truth?

When a Massacre is not a Massacre

When a truth is not a truth

I don't write poems but, in any case, poems are not poems.

Long ago, I was made to understand that Palestine was not Palestine;

I was also informed that Palestinians were not Palestinians;

They also explained to me that ethnic cleansing was not ethnic cleansing.

And when naive old me saw freedom fighters they patiently showed me

that they were not freedom fighters, and that resistance was not resistance.

And when, stupidly, I noticed arrogance, oppression and humiliation

they benevolently enlightened me so I can see that arrogance was not arrogance,

oppression was not oppression, and humiliation was not humiliation.

I saw misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.

But they told me that they were experts in misery, racism, inhumanity and concentration camps
and I have to take their word for it:

this was not misery, racism, inhumanity and a concentration camp.

Over the years they've taught me so many things:

invasion was not invasion, occupation was not occupation,

colonialism was not colonialism and apartheid was not apartheid.

They opened my simple mind to even more complex truths that my poor brain could not on its own compute like:

"having nuclear weapons" was "not having nuclear weapons,"

"not having weapons of mass destruction" was "having weapons of mass destruction."

And, democracy (in the Gaza Strip) was not democracy.

Having second class citizens (in Israel) was democracy.

So you'll excuse me if I am not surprised to learn today

that there were more things that I thought were evident that are not:

peace activists are not peace activists, piracy is not piracy,

the massacre of unarmed people is not the massacre of unarmed people.

I have such a limited brain and my ignorance is unlimited.

And they're so fucking intelligent. Really.

By Ghassan Hage, professor of anthropology and social theory at the University of Melbourne.

Saturday, 5 June 2010

Dear Stephen Mosley, new Conservative MP for Chester.

You have replied to my query via Amnesty International supporting human rights, but you did not reply to my question about the right to detain and try War Criminals that land on UK shores: here follows a link to an article by Robert Fisk which details not only the abuses of the Israeli Government, but the lies it tells.
In connection with the illegal assaults on unarmed aid ships, the last this morning, the Israelis have produced highly edited audio 'evidence', including 'evidence' in which the voice of an activist - Huwaida Arraf, known personally to me, who was not present on the Mavi Marmara, but was on Challenger 1 as confirmed by Newsnight - is heard, supposedly from the Mavi Marmara, to support their case. Their audio file is transparently a racist attempt to blacken the Peace activists. The doors to the wheelhouse on the Mavi Marmara were locked, only the crew were in there, which would not include Ms Arraf in any case: This is evidence given by Journalists on board the ship. Please note that the Israelis have searched. both bodily and materially, for all evidence from the voyagers and have destroyed all other videos taken on board, (although the foregoing link gives a summary of what the reporters say), and stolen the personal belongings of every individual that was forced to go to Ashdod. Most significantly, the Israelis have released no footage of any of the deaths or woundings, including of their own soldiers, although an Israeli soldier shooting a hand gun can be clearly seen in the last three seconds of this video:
Can you please confirm for me that:
1 You are not, or are no longer, a member of the Conservative friends of Israel
2 You will support the arrest and trial of Israel policy-makers responsible for these crimes of piracy and ethnic cleansing, if evidence is put before a magistrate by any citizen that makes a prima facie case to that effect, as is allowed under the current law. You will not change the current law.
3 That these deaths both ongoing in Gaza, and on the boats, and the cover up by this one sided onslaught of lies on the media by Israel will be condemned by you unequivocally.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Where Next? It's a surreal world.

I predicted a while ago on my blog that the involvement of Turkey would be crucial, even wondering if they would send a warship - and some sources now say that they will next time. But Turkey is not going to go off and do one, its hysteria is carefully controlled. It has far more leverage staying involved with Israel, if only to show the west - the US and The EU, that it is not a mullah run hysteria factory (Yes I know that Iran isn't either, but image is everything).
I really believe that we have a chance to end the siege of Gaza in practical terms as a result of this action. Egypt has opened its borders, and although they'll close again, they will not close as tightly. If Turkey restricts itself to outrage only in the specific area, then it will succeed in getting Nato to require Israel to allow independent patrols of the Gaza coast to stop ships and inspect for weapons, but weaponless ships of all trade will be permitted.
I floated this possibility with some Hamas low rankers in Gaza when I was there, and they insisted that the right to have arms is essential for a nation state, and so would resist independent shipping controls - what do you all think? An Independent Nation needs all its rights for sure, and Free but regulated trade would probably see the UN become the effective government of Gaza. It would be very hard for Hamas to motivate resistance from a prosperous community, which is one reason why I think that this is the route that Obama will take. But giving trade rights will eventually lead to a withering of controls and a drift into statehood after some years,whatever government runs it, in my opinion. But that is only Gaza.

Far more worrying is the the plan to absorb only the West Bank into a single state. Inbuilt Arab Minority, no way to stop the expansion of settlements and the impoverishment of arabs, no land or marriage rights, and job discrimination - One state only works if Arabs have a reasonable shot in a secular state of influencing the democratic process: Freedom is meaningless without access to power! But the west might be attracted to a solution that incorporates the west bank into Israel and gets rid of Gaza to loose international control, which would include Egypt, of course. (Ideally the Israelis would like to give Gaza away to Egypt, but Egypt won't do that, because the radical Gaza tail would wag the Egyptian dog). Can Palestine ever be united again with Israel's main nuclear plant directly geographically inline between them, and Fatah and Hamas being separated by such a large distance politically?

Moshe Arens, former Defense Minister, and noted Israeli hawk, has endorsed a one-state solution for Israel/Palestine. It can be achieved in a matter of months. Israel should formally annex the West Bank and offer the Palestinians citizenship. As he puts it:

Adding another 1.5 million Muslims, the population of Judea and Samaria, to Israel's Muslim population would of course make the situation considerably more difficult. Would a 30-percent Muslim minority in Israel create a challenge that would be impossible for Israeli society to meet? That is a question that Israeli politicians, and all Israelis - Jews and Arabs alike - need to ponder.

Unlike the dire predictions heard so often, Israeli sovereignty over Judea and Samaria would not be the end of the State of Israel, nor would it mean the end of democratic governance in Israel. It would, however, pose a serious challenge to Israeli society. But that is equally true for the other options being suggested for dealing with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. This option of Israeli sovereignty in Judea and Samaria merits serious consideration.

I'm glad that Britons are all safe, but why have they been sent to Turkey? Have you noticed that the media, and Israel, is making this entirely into a spat with Turkey? What about the appallingly weak British Reaction:

We need to maintain the pressure of international action, all forty countries. We have to let our government know that WE were involved, and we want them to care. There is no doubt that Israel would like to shunt all the anger through Turkey, and the propaganda has already started about the Turkish Islamic Relief Organisation IHH being a terrorist organisation. This talk must not be allowed to become the norm in the West.

Israel's strategy is clear - exploit the differences between the new Islamism in Turkish Society which sees IHH as a positive force for good, and the secular Old Guard, especially in the army, who see themselves defending Ataturk's legacy against religion, and are suspicious of Islamic institutions being successful. They will seek to promote civil war in Turkey, rather than accede to International sanctions, exactly as they have done in Lebanon, and of course, in Palestine itself.

If the Turks can be persuaded to fight amongst themselves, even just in the media, that will provide the route for the marginalisation of the current Government, and the excuse that the Zionist West wants to forget the whole thing. We will start hearing that Turkey is an undemocratic state etc.

The Foreign Secretary William Hague was very complimentary about Turkey in Parliament Yesterday, praising its mediation role with Iran and Syria, and almost criticising Israel for failing to make peace with Syria. There is no doubt that the anger at these deaths has made a deep and lasting change to the politics of Israel, and is all that is keeping natural zionists like Hague onside.

But when they are not being unutterably stupid, the Israeli Government will be attempting to explore the fault lines I've mentioned. We must keep our government up to speed with our anger, and onside with the Turks - its the best route for the Palestinians, I feel sure.

What Happened on Board the Mavi Marmara

OK, it's become clear, now, what happened on the Mavi Marmara. A Helicopter arrived, Four soldiers rappelled down onto the Mavi and were captured and disarmed, and these events were the ones that the Israelis filmed from above and that Turkish TV filmed from the ship. A second Helicopter then brought in more soldiers who fired directly onto the crowd before they landed. In other words, indiscriminate fire on unarmed civilians. There is little film of this from the boat for the obvious reason that the cameramen went inside when the firing started, but the Israelis will have it, just not releasing it.
This, of course only describes the events on boarding. Witnesses have consistently said, about all the boats, that the Israelis fired stun grenades, sound bombs and fired at them before even coming alongside.
Of course, it also explains how an Israeli soldier got shot by his own side. He was in the first wave, and he got shot by the second wave. Nobody is sticking to the original Israeli story about guns on board, the Israeli story now is it was an IOF weapon that was taken off a soldier.
Question: if the voyagers had wanted to kill the Israelis, and they had them in custody, then why didn't they just kill them?
Silver Lining: At least four Israeli Occupation Force Soldiers know, just for 2 minutes, what it's like to be a Palestinian. And if you whine and whinge like this when you are manhandled by unarmed civilians, IOF, then just think how a Palestinian Youth feels when he is assaulted by a Soldier with a taser, bayonet and machine gun. Now can you think of any reason at all why the world is very pissed off with you? NO?

Testimony of Reporters on board the Mavi Marmara: I have changed this link reference, as Al Jazeera seem to have altered their pages -- Please don't do this Al Jazeera!!!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

I have read and re-read this poem today, and it helps me to shed the tears that it is necessary to shed for the dead. But I believe that they have not died in vain, though their families may disagree, for I believe that this marks the beginning of the end - albeit a long slow end - for Israel. Too often have they killed from a wanton lust to kill, to exterminate those inferior and in their way, but, really, the future belongs to those dead - and Death really has no Dominion, as these dead live on in the actions of the world. To Israel it will come to seem that they live even in the wind that blows the soil away, and in the face of the moon as it shines down on them, because they have died for the love of an oppressed people, killed by the envy and hatred of those responsible for the theft and dispossession of Palestine.
The link is to an article by Robert Fisk about the cowardice of Western Leaders, but these dead will haunt them forever.

And Death Shall Have No Dominion

And death shall have no dominion.
Dead men naked they shall be one
With the man in the wind and the west moon;
When their bones are picked clean and the clean bones gone,
They shall have stars at elbow and foot;
Though they go mad they shall be sane,
Though they sink through the sea they shall rise again;
Though lovers be lost love shall not;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

And death shall have no dominion.
No more may gulls cry at their ears
Or waves break loud on the seashores;
Where blew a flower may a flower no more
Lift its head to the blows of the rain;
Though they be mad and dead as nails,
Heads of the characters hammer through daisies;
Break in the sun till the sun breaks down,
And death shall have no dominion.

Dylan Thomas

ere is why I think it's appropriate:
This is not a poem about religious themes in any way. It is not about survival of the soul after death, and there is no redemption. No redemption except...... transcendently for the Human Race, ideas, even life itself. It is easy to read this as a poem in praise of the blindness of Evolution, the survival of life as a whole, not of any individual.
Even the transcendent survival of, say, Dylan's own poetry is not what this is about. It is about the lust of life itself, of love especially, and hunger and adversity as well as hope and joy, and the mad surreality, of the world in which it all takes place.

This is the reason that I have dedicated this poem to the dead on the Free Gaza boats that were attacked by Israel on 31st May 2010. They, "lying long, shall not die windily, twisting on racks when sinews give way, strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break; Faith in their hands shall snap in two, and the Unicorn evils run them through; Split all ends up, they shall not crack; And Death shall have no dominion."

Now they are dead, what they are can no longer be subjected to torture and recantation, the meaning of their lives is fixed in the meaning of their death, and they shall not feel the blows of a hard world trying to weaken them anymore - 'age shall not weary them' as Binyon said. Their achievements are now set in stone, and the meaning will live as long as people remember them, and, actually, longer than that.

"Where blew a flower may a flower no more lift its head to the blows of the rain; though they be mad and dead as nails, heads of the characters hammer through daisies; Break in the sun till the sun breaks down, and Death shall have no Dominion".

Life will succeed no matter what is done to stop it, when a flower dies, another grows, and it grows with the character of the land, the soil, the place where it is planted. It grows with the soul of the dead, who gave them birth, though they were never a father nor a mother, still they shape the future, and they speak beyond the grave, not even needing words.
We are all heroes, we all change society, and not even death can change it back, nor stop the hunger for life that drives us forward, and our children, and their children, and the rats that eat us, and evolution itself. The world will change, change by the actions of its heroes, and death will not defeat them. That is why this is such a fitting tribute to the Anonymous Dead of the Israeli Assault on the Free Gaza Humanitarian Flotilla.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Obama's big opening.

The BBC has moderated its story, but at the time of writing this, it still slants the story from the Israeli propaganda perspective, continuing to fail to mention that the boat was in international waters, even though it gives the distance off shore as 40 miles, it doesn't spell out the consequences of that for readers who don't realise that means it's outside Israel's jurisdiction. Its video is cut from the Turkish video streamed live from the Mavi Marmara - the Turkish Aid Boat - and seems to show a Passenger hitting a soldier who has just landed on board with a baseball bat, although it also shows other passengers being herded around by soldiers. This seems to justify its outrageous comment saying 30 passengers were injured (it doesn't mention the dead again after the headline) but 10 Israelis were injured - one badly!!! Actually 16 Passengers were gunned down by those poor injured lambs, BBC, were their injuries strained trigger fingers? If the weapons used by those on the boat were so vicious, why don't the Israelis get rid of their guns and use baseball bats instead?
If someone invaded my boat on the open sea, I would sure take to hitting them until they gave up their gun, I think. It is the responsibility of the invading force to save lives, the defenders have the right to defend themselves at all costs, although they had told the world that they were in fact unarmed, and would not start shooting. I'm damn sure that if Somali pirates killed crew members who were resisting their invasion with baseball bats, the international community would try the Somalis for murder, and give medals for bravery to the crew. What's different?
And so it is good to see that the International Relations Minister for the EU has said that the EU will have an Inquiry into these events, having previously said that the EU requires restraint by Israel and that the siege is illegal. Remember Turkey is a European power, with Candidate status in the EU. This Inquiry will certainly delay response to Israel for some time into the future, and nothing will happen unless the Americans give the lead - Spineless EU. But the range of sanctions available, such as the option of canceling preferential trade agreements would be a serious threat to Israel, hanging over their heads until the Inquiry is resolved. So if enough pressure is applied, Israel is going to have to make concessions.

Which makes all this Obama's great opportunity to show world leadership. When Netanyahu visits Obama this week, this is what Obama should say:
"We've told you before that the siege of Gaza must end, and normal life be permitted to begin there. We have offered ships to search merchant vessels for arms, but you have declined, saying you insist on doing the job yourself, because Gaza is a threat to you that fires rockets at you. So we took you seriously and have given you, for free, a rocket defence system which you extensively and successfully tested just last week. So now you don't have any need to be afraid of attack from Hezbollah or Gaza, so if we let you carry on like this, it begins to look to the world as if are complicit in collective punishment of Gaza, with repercussions for our relations elsewhere in the world - so you have simply got to learn the lesson that civilian lives cannot be terminated without consequences.
"Furthermore you have refused to even participate in a regional Nuclear Free Middle East Conference, and give up or at least declare your nuclear arsenal. The US has put significant resources into restraining Iran, at your request, and has voluntarily reduced nuclear arms to bring confidence to the rest of the world. So now its time for Israel to play ball. Stop behaving like a spoilt child and get behind all the International treaties that you haven't yet signed, like the Nuclear non-proliferation treaty.
"Attacking ships with US flags and citizens in International waters is unacceptable, and we will be stationing ships, jointly with our core ally Turkey - which has behaved with dignity and restraint - in the Mediterranean to ensure that it never happens again, and that while we will stop arms to Gaza, trade in everything else to Gaza will be FREE. This is for your own good, because you are our most important ally in the world, and we want to protect your image."
But will he? I don't think it is as wide of the mark as many of you who read this blog will. If good can come out of the decomposing bodies of the Turkish dead, this is it. Let's see.
If not, the struggle will go on. The struggle to end oppression is greater than the lives of any individual, including mine, and here is my epitaph to the Dead, in the words of Dylan Thomas:
"And death shall have no dominion.
Under the windings of the sea
They lying long shall not die windily;
Twisting on racks when sinews give way,
Strapped to a wheel, yet they shall not break;
Faith in their hands shall snap in two,
And the unicorn evils run them through;
Split all ends up they shan't crack;
And death shall have no dominion.

The Unbearable Lightweightness of the BBC

Israeli Commandos descended from a piece of String onto the Turkish Charity IHH's boat the Mavi Marmara 90 miles out to sea, as attested by the GPS aboard the flotilla's boats, being transmitted live to the world, and in full view of live TV coverage shoot unarmed passengers, without provocation.
But to the spineless BBC, the exact location of the interception is unclear, but Israel had warned the boats not to enter its waters, and the Israeli soldiers are 'fighting to control passengers'. Despite updating its news story to report that Israeli TV indicates 14 Dead, it forgot to update the bit that says : 'The footage showed a number of people, apparently injured, lying on the ground. This was part of its initial report that 'unconfirmed reports that 2 people are dead have been received'.
The BBC obviously beleives that Israeli TV can be quoted as a substantial source whereas Al Jazeera, Turkish LIVE TV and Live positional updates from the Boats themselves can be ignored. So long as Israeli propaganda is reported as if it is news, and news from Arab or other non Western sources are treated as propaganda even when they are actually filming live news, then we will never be able to trust this previously world renowned broadcaster.
Fuck you BBC, you disgust me beyond any sensible words.

I hope every one else will do what the Turks are doing very forcibly - protesting vigourously to your local Israeli Embassy. Here they are:

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

The stakes rise as FreeGaza flotilla dates get nearer

The BBC reports that Israel has arrested a man working for IHH in the West Bank, declaring the Organisation illegal, although no reason has been given for the statement.
The Prime Minister of Turkey is a founder of IHH, so this is no small matter. The reason is probably that Shin Bet, who say this:

"He was arrested on suspicion he had been working for a long time in Judea and Samaria [the West Bank] for the Turkish organisation IHH, which in 2008 was declared illegal in Israel, also that in his activity he assisted other organisations in Judea and Samaria which were declared illegal," the statement said.

"He was arrested on suspicion that his activities in Judea and Samaria risked the security in the area."

The statement also said his arrest was not connected to an IHH's attempts to break the blockade of Gaza by sea, planned for later this month."

want to prime the world community that anyone who tries to break the blockade of Gaza will automatically be a banned organisation. Everyone who works with IHH can now automatically be declared to be assisting a banned organisation, so in Israeli terms, that means everyone on the boats. Mind you I find it difficult to understand how he was allowed to enroll in the Hebrew University if he was known to belong to a banned organisation, and since he was the IHH representative in the West Bank, there really is no secret about it.

This particular FreeGaza trip will be a test, not just between Turkish and Israeli muscle, and subtlety in its use, but of Obama's resolve too. He wants to be friends with Turkey, so lets hope that he does not fall prey to the usual Israeli excuse about action to relieve Gaza's population being a threat to the Peace talks.

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Turkey sending ten boats to break Gaza Siege

Turkish Charity IHH is now a Joint Venture Operator with FreeGaza to send ten boats in Next Flotilla to break the siege.

The involvement of Turkish Charity IHH in becoming a joint venture partner in sending siege-breaking boats to Gaza ratchets up the pressure on Israel. Despite the bandaging of wounds following the humiliation of the Turkish Ambassador, when Turkey threatened to end diplomatic relations, Netanyahu has put his foot in it again, telling France that mediation with Syria depends on a mediator both parties can trust, such as France. This is a clear statement that Israel does not trust Turkey, since Syria plainly does. The snub is great, since Turkey were the mediators until recently, and were credited with making ground between the sides. Commentators feel that in reality Israel wants to kick Syria into the long grass, as it has done with Palestine. Prime Minister of Turkey Erdogan has, as a result, again blasted Israel, again raised Gaza as a symbol of Israeli aggression and racism.

Soon IHH will be sending Turkish boats with Turkish crews: will Turkey stand by while Israel stops and 'arrests' them, or turns them back? This is shaping up to a crucial standoff, and the stakes are very high, for if Israel loses face, Hamas will be strengthened in its belief that Israel only understands force, and never negotiates, since the UN and US and UK, come to that, have failed to negotiate any relief for Gaza as friends.
Turkey risks not only losing face, and looking weak if Israel is allowed to stop Turkish Merchant ships on a lawful activity, but if it intervenes, it must have a strong diplomatic hand to prevent the US and the UK from trying to get it out of the club of Israel Supporters called NATO, and marginalising it along with all the other Moslem states that have resisted Israel.

Below is an article from the Independent (UK) by Fisk, that shows how Israel is prepared to use the mass murder of 1.5 million people against Turkey, only when it suits it. Up to now it has supported Turkey's cover up of the Pogrom, because it wants the Holocaust of Jews to be unique. That way Jews are uniquely privileged to do things others are not. It is shocking how they put pressure on Armenian survivors of that Holocaust, that they will not even permit to be Israeli citizens, to speak out against Turkey.

My dream is that Turkey admits its Holocaust, its Shoah, its ethnic cleansing under Attaturk, bravely, and apologise, and compensate. Its recent re-establishment of relations with Armenia is a good first step. Let Turkey please show that it can settle the question of refugees displaced by ethnic cleansing fairly.
Then let it defend its blockade breaking boats as they strive to do the same for the people of Palestine.

Robert Fisk’s World: ❝Israel can no longer ignore the existence of the first Holocaust

Recognition of the Armenian genocide is a paramount moral and educational act

Saturday, 30 January 2010

While Israelis commemorated the second Holocaust of the 20th century this week, I was in the Gulbenkian library in Jerusalem, holding the printed and handwritten records of the victims of the century's first Holocaust. It was a strange sensation.

The Armenians were not participating in Israel's official ceremonies to remember the six million Jewish dead, murdered by the Germans between 1939 and 1945, perhaps because Israel officially refuses to acknowledge that Armenia's million and a half dead of 1915-1923 were victims of a Turkish Holocaust. Israeli-Turkish diplomatic and military relations are more important than genocide. Or were.

George Hintlian, historian and prominent member of Jerusalem's 2,000-strong Armenian community in Jerusalem, pointed out the posters a few metres from the 1,500-year old Armenian monastery. They advertised Armenia's 24 April commemorations. All but one had been defaced, torn from the ancient walls or, in at least one case, spraypainted with graffiti in Hebrew. "Maybe they don't like it that there was another genocide," George told me. "These are things we can't explain." More than 70 members of George's family were murdered in the butchery and death marches of 1915 – when German officers witnessed the system of executions, rail-car deportations to cholera camps and asphyxiation by smoke in caves – the world's first "gas" chambers. One witness, the German vice-consul in Erzurum, Max von Scheubner-Richter, ended up as one of Hitler's closest friends and advisers. It's not as if there's no connection between the first and second Holocausts.

But the times, they are a-changing. For ever since Turkey began shouting about Israel's slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza a year ago, prominent Israeli figures have suddenly rediscovered the Armenian genocide. Who are the Turks to talk about mass murder? Has anyone forgotten 1915? For George and his compatriots – there are in all 10,000 Armenians in Israel and the occupied West Bank, 4,000 of them holding Israeli passports – they had indeed been forgotten until the Gaza war. "In 1982, the Armenians were left out of a Holocaust conference in Jerusalem," he said. "For three decades, no documentary on the Armenian genocide could be shown on Israeli television because it would offend the Turks. Then suddenly last year, important Israelis demanded that a documentary be shown. Thirty Knesset members supported us. We always had Yossi Sarid of Peace Now but now we've got right-wing Israelis."

Maariv and Yediot Ahronot began to mention the Armenian genocide and George Hintlian turned up on Israeli television with Danny Ayalon – the foreign office minister who humiliated the Turkish ambassador by forcing him to sit on a sofa below him – and Knesset speaker Reuven Rivlin who said that Israel should commemorate the Armenian genocide "every year". The Israeli press now calls the Armenian genocide a "Shoah" – the same word all Israelis use for the Jewish Holocaust. As George put it with withering accuracy: "We have been upgraded!!!"

This piece of brash hypocrisy has not gone unnoticed by Yossi Sarid who has described how, a few months after Recep Tayyip Erdogan denounced the Gaza war, "an important Israeli personality telephoned me and said the following: 'Now you have to hit back at the Turks, to denounce them for the crimes they committed against the Armenians You, Yossi, have the right to do so...'" Sarid was appalled. "I was filled with revulsion and my soul wanted to puke," he wrote in Haaretz. "The person who telephoned me was an example of the ugly Israeli who had disgracefully been at the forefront of those who denied the Armenian Holocaust." So now "new tunes" – Sarid's phrase – are being heard in Jerusalem: "The Turks are the last ones who have the right to teach us ethics."

The bright side to this anguished debate is that one of Israel's top Holocaust experts bravely insisted – to the fury of then-foreign minister (now president) Shimon Peres – that the Armenian massacres were undoubtedly a genocide. Tens of thousands of Israelis have always believed the same; several hundred are expected to turn up at the Armenian commemoration on 24 April, and most Israelis refer to the Armenian genocide as a "Shoah" rather than the tame "massacres" hitherto favoured by the political elite.

Yet the most extraordinary irony of all occurred when the Armenian and Turkish governments last year agreed to reopen diplomatic relations and consign the Armenian Holocaust to a joint academic enquiry which would decide "if" there had been a genocide. As Israeli Professor Yair Oron of the Open University of Israel said, "I am afraid that countries will now hesitate to recognise the (Armenian) genocide. They will say: 'Why should we grant recognition if the Armenians yielded?' Recognition of the Armenian genocide is a paramount moral and educational act. We in Israel are obliged to recognise it." And American-Armenian UCLA Professor Richard Hovannisian asked: "Would the Jewish people be willing to forgo the memory of the Holocaust for the sake of good relations with Germany, if Germany were to make that demand?" George Hintlian described the Armenian-Turkish agreement – which in fact may not now be ratified by either side – as "like an earthquake".

We walked together in the cold afternoon through the darkened interior of the great Armenian monastery of Jerusalem with its icons and candles. George opened a cabinet to reveal a hidden staircase up which priests would creep for a secret week when invaders passed through Jerusalem. In this dank, pious place, Ronald Henry Amhurst Storrs, governor of British Mandate Jerusalem, would often sit to ponder what he called "the glory and the misery of a people".

Miserable it has been for thousands of Armenians here. Up to 15,000 lived in Palestine until 1948, many of them survivors of the first Holocaust. But 10,000 of these Armenians shared the same fate as the Palestinian Arabs, fleeing or driven from their homes by the army of the new Israeli state. Most lost their businesses in Haifa and Jaffa, many of them seeking refuge – for the second time – in Jerusalem. A few set out for Cyprus where they were dispossessed for the third time by the 1974 Turkish invasion. As George put it bleakly, "Today, 6,000 Armenians are residents of Jerusalem and the West Bank. They cannot travel and they are counted as Armenian Palestinians. For Israeli bureaucracy, they are Palestinians."

George himself is the son of Garbis Hintlian who, as a 17-year-old, survived the death march from his home at Talas in Cappadocia. "We lost my uncle – my grandfather was axed to death in front of him." After the 1918 armistice, he worked for the British, carrying files of evidence to the initial (but quickly abandoned) Constantinople trials of Turkish war criminals. To no avail.

And glory be, if the tables haven't changed again! Turkey and Israel have made up and become good friends again. Yossi Sarid anticipated this. "Let us assume that Turkey will renew its ties with Israel. Then what? What then? Will we also renew our contribution to the denial of the Armenian Holocaust?❞


Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Turkey refuses to lie down

It's great to hear that Turkey is standing up for itself in various spats with Israel, refusing to let its diplomats be humiliated in a row about how Israel is depicted in two different dramas on Turkish TV. Turkey says it is upholding its right to free speech and that what is inside its borders is none of Israel's business. Israel responds by summoning the Ambassador and belittling him publicly, and Turkey demands an unequivocal apology or it will break diplomatic relations tomorrow.
Turkey could be a major player in the liberation of Gaza. A Turkish NGO, but accompanied by many Turkish MPs, was on the Viva Palestina convoy, and it was the same Turkish NGO that procured the very expensive ferry that took the 200 vehicles to El Arish from Syria by sea after Egypt changed its mind at the last minute and sent the convoy back by this route. The Turks have a particular bee in their bonnet about Gaza, so the fact that the Government supported NGO have signed up to send two boats on the next FreeGaza voyage from Cyprus to Gaza is really exciting.
The Turkish boats will not be allowed to dock in Greek Cyprus because the G Cypriots do not recognise the breakaway Turkish sponsored state of North Cyprus. The EU has been trying to broker a peace deal, prior to the Greek part becoming part of the EU, but although the Turks voted overwhelmingly for it, the Greeks voted it down. As a result, only the Greek part was admitted to the EU.
So the Turkish boats will presumably travel separately and join at sea. The Cypriots, however, a small nation without much in the way of a Navy, are getting pissed off at the way that Israel has been stopping the FreeGaza boats, which their little government has invested a lot of time into. And as it stands, there is nothing to stop the Israelis arresting the whole flotilla of an expected six boats, just as they arrested or rammed various previous boats.
A Turkish Warship might stop them!
Turkey has a legitimate interest in this area and if a warship accompanied the boats, it would only be in accord with international law and the Geneva Conventions, which make it Israel's responsibility to allow the places they occupy to have a normal life, and failing which, anyone can legally run the blockade to relieve the humanitarian problems so created.
Turkey would be protecting its own merchant shipping, and would surely score Brownie points with G Cyprus for helping their boats too. As a major power in the area, Turkey cannot be simply overridden and ignored like Cyprus or even Greece - the flag of the last boat captured. The UK and US could hardly protest, since they proclaim a wish to lift the siege, and the reaction would be very interesting, to say the least.
Am I dreaming? Maybe, military brinkmanship can never be desirable, and responsible nations do not enter into it lightly - that's why we're so angry with Blair, who did. And the ISM, the ideology behind the FreeGaza group, are a non-violent movement that would prefer to sail to Gaza with a cargo of humanity so valuable that Israel dare not stop it without raising the wroth of the world. The ISM will work with everyone, but will not put itself under obligation to anyone, party or state. I doubt that FreeGaza will 'sign-up' to Turkish protection.
On the other hand, Israel is positively reckless in its military adventures, not just in its 'own' occupied territories, but in Lebanon, which it overflies daily, and in bombing Iran and Iraq and Syria; not to mention the assassination squads of which it is so proud, and which have killed many innocent people and snatched Vanunu (the man who told us about Israeli Nuclear Weapons) back from political Asylum in the UK and imprisoned him for life. And the world has so far failed to act even when hundreds of Europeans, including MPs, get attacked or arrested by Israel or by Egypt on their behalf. The UK Government failed to respond to MPs who asked that the Government protest to Israel when a British registered FreeGaza boat was rammed in what was clearly international waters. The impunity of the Israeli Military has to end, and I dare to hope that the present row over the content of Turkish television soaps may yet provide the Causus Belli for Turkey, already seething about the lack of substance in the condemnation of Israel over Gaza. Actually, there's a lot that can be done that's less than a warship.
With the next FreeGaza fleet scheduled to sail in the spring, I hope for interesting times.

Friday, 1 January 2010

A New Year

A Happy, Productive and Successful New Year to:

This posting is about Abd Rabo Husein, of Yibna, Rafah, but before his story, can I say Congratulations to all who have travelled out to Gaza on the Viva Palestina Convoy, or with Code Pink direct to Egypt, or by themselves to El Arish. May you be successful in this new Year. All have been subject to arbitrary Egptian actions. Those on Egyptian soil have been arrested or attacked by riot police, whilst the Viva Palestina convoy has been forced to return to Syria and set off by boat for Gaza from there via El Arish in Egypt. They could have driven to Gaza from Aqaba after a short ferry crossing to Taba or Nuweiba in a few hours, but this would have meant travelling along the Israeli border on a road closed to foreigners. Why is it closed just to foreigners? Think Israeli security demands, and a supine, greedy Egyptian Government.
This ludicrous demand by the Egyptians means the boat will have to sail past Israel, and then on past Gaza to El Arish. It thrilled me to think that three boats, 200 vehicles, 500? people, would be sailing within 30 miles of Gaza Port, and a little leftwards turn would sail them directly to their destination. But the Egyptians have thought of that, and decreed that only vehicles will travel by sea. People must fly.
My heart goes out to all those people who have given up a large slice of their time to try and break the siege of Gaza, and they deserve respect and support. Many participants will be constrained by time, and will soon have to return for work or study, but signs that people are hardening their positions comes from hearing of those now in their 5th or 6th day of hunger strike in Cairo.
A key moment in breaking British resolve to stop unlimited immigration by Jews into Palestine after World War II came with the arrival of the ship Exodus, which was turned back from Haifa, and which Zionist Terrorists threatened to blow up with all its passengers if it wasn't allowed to land. The UK Government gave in to this threat by terrorists, and effectively, by giving in, gave Palestine into the Zionist control. This episode has been an important learning experience for Palestinian armed groups too.
Let us not threaten to blow up the boat, but must it travel without passengers at all? And must it go to El Arish instead of directly to Gaza? And must the British Government continue to be completely spineless where Palestine is concerned? The Old Man, below, is a timely reminder of British impact in Palestine:

His name is Abd Rabo Hussein and he was born and lived in Yibna, in what is now Israel. He worked for the British military at Lod airport - what is now known as Ben Gurion Airport. When the Exodus Immigrants, and all of the other immigrants decided at the point of a gun that Palestine would become Israel and that Israel had no room for Yibna which would be cleansed of Palestinians and annihilated, he was turned from a British Asset into a stateless refugee. His work for the British Military, which, as in modern Day Iraq, would have made him a target for Jewish Terrorists, cut no ice with the UK Government, who refused to help him in any way. He fled to Gaza where he was settled in a tent in Rafah Refugee Camp (Yibna Section). When the partition of Palestine, and subsequent land grab by Israel, did not produce the expected return of refugees, and when the UK Government, despite UN resolutions, did nothing to facilitate return, these tents became permanent houses, no bigger than the tent plot provided by the UN:
This is still the case today, and this is one such house, the house of a young family who we see in their kitchen with their only form of heating and cooking.
After the dust from the wars following partition cleared, Mr Hussein found himself in Egypt. He hadn't moved, of course, but Gaza became an Egyptian province. At that time, before the Suez nationalisation, there were British Military bases in Egypt, and Mr Hussein thought that would be a good place to work. The British thought so too, and he was employed for several years in the plating shop and as an electrician on a RAF base near the Suez canal.
Once again the British were not interested in his welfare, simply his work output, and once again they abandoned him to his hovel in Gaza. Once back in Gaza he set up a small workshop, since he was a skilled fitter, and found a small prosperity. But then, after the 1967 'Six Day War', he found himself back in Israel once more, again without moving.
Israeli occupation brought mixed fortunes to the inhabitants of Gaza. It humiliated them, made trade and commerce subject to extreme difficulty, often costing ten times more in bribes to Israeli authorities to move stuff out of or into Gaza via the Israeli port of Ashkelon, than the shipping costs from Ashkelon to, say, China. But unskilled labourers could find work on Israeli settlements at poverty wages compared to Israel, but above average compared to Gaza. But that would not help a skilled fitter like Mr Hussein, so he continued to work in his shop:

He continues to work there today, doing the same work as when the Israelis were there, after they left, and now that he finds himself under siege. He makes the little cookers that the young family have in the picture above, although he can only do this if you can give him the metal from scrap or somewhere, since the import of all metal is prohibited. Living close to the tunnels, as he does, is no help if you don't have the money to buy the goods that come that way.
All his life he has been a hard worker, a skilled fitter, a loyal servant of the British Crown, a deeply law-abiding citizen, a refugee in a place that has been three different countries, none of which is his home, because his home has been stolen, like his country, and eradicated, at least physically. Now he is subject to three governments (Hamas, Fatah/Israel, the UN) at the same time! He is nearly 90 years old. He has no pension, no country takes responsibility for him, and he must work until he dies, although because he lives in a UN refugee camp, he will at least get basic rations and some healthcare.
Whilst rich Israelis sue Germans and others in International courts for property that their families often sold to Nazis (but, as they say, under duress) some of those Israelis live on Land and in Houses they stole from this man and his compatriots, without shame, without guilt, without any empathy. Having a relative who was in a concentration camp or who fled from the Nazis has become a badge that descendants think entitles them to steal what they like. But mostly, they are the descendants, why do they think their Father's suffering should entitle them to privilege, when they give such little care to those whom they continue to kill themselves in the Ghetto of Gaza?
Abd Rabo Hussein is still alive, and he wants to go home. He still remembers his English friend Sgt Cowell, from the plating shop, and would like to contact him.
Hedy Epstein, victim of the Holocaust, is also alive, and her memories of the Holocaust have persuaded her to be on Hunger Strike in Cairo in support of Mr Abd and all the other refugees and besieged Palestinians. Special regard must be directed at those whose suffering leads them not to demand this and that from innocent third parties, but to empathy with those now in a similar position.
I wish them both well, and a happy, productive and above all successful new year, and I hope that Mr Hussein can join Ms Epstein in having grim memories, but that are only memories, of events that have finally ended.