Monday, June 28, 2010

Gaza Freedom Flotilla protest at Congressman Brad Sherman's office

Check out footage of a Gaza Freedom Flotilla protest at the office of Member of Congress Brad Sherman, who called for U.S. activists on board the flotilla to be prosecuted under the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The protest was attended by US Campaign staff, members, and supporters:

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

From Mondoweiss: "Daybreak outpouring of Bay Area picketers stops unloading of Israeli ship"

Powerful news from Henry Noor at Mondoweiss:

"If anyone had any doubts that the movement for justice in Palestine is growing by leaps and bounds, in numbers, breadth, and determination, check out what happened this morning in Oakland, CA:

• somewhere between 700 and 1,000 demonstrators from all over the San Francisco Bay Area made their way at 5:30 on a Sunday morning deep into the Port of Oakland to stage a spirited community-labor picket line in front of a berth where an Israeli freighter, the Zim Shenzhen, was due to dock;

• dock workers from Local 10 of the International Longshore & Warehouse Union refused to cross the picket line;

• under the terms of the ILWU contract, an arbitrator was summoned to the site, he upheld the legality of the dock workers' refusal to cross the line, and the company was compelled to cancel the shift and send the workers home.

Waving Palestinian and Turkish flags and chanting "Free, free Palestine - don't cross the picket line" and "An injury to one is an injury to all - the Israeli apartheid wall will fall," the demonstrators blocked three gates to the berth for more than four hours. The turnout was all the more impressive because the BART, the Bay Area subway system, doesn't even start running until around 8 a.m. on Sunday, and even after people got to the assembly point in West Oakland, we had to walk more than a mile to get to the berth.

The event was organized by an ad hoc coalition of dozens of community and labor organizations. The main leadership came from Palestinian-Americans and other Arab Americans, with the Bay Area branch of ANSWER also playing a key role. The idea arose in response to a call issued in the wake of Israel's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions, which asked workers around the world to stop unloading ships carrying Israeli goods.

For veteran Bay Area activists, today's victory echoed a historic milestone in 1984, when ILWU workers in San Francisco refused to unload a ship called the Nedlloyd Kimberley, because its cargo came from South Africa. Just 10 years later, Nelson Mandela was elected president, and apartheid - in its South African form - was dead.

With today's day shift cancelled, most of the picketers have now gone home to get caffeine, food, and rest, but we're not done yet: we're going back to the site at 4 o'clock this afternoon to put up another picket line, in hopes that the ILWU workers will again refuse to cross the line and unload the ship. If you're in the Bay Area, be there or be square - it's your chance to make history. Just head for the West Oakland BART at 4 to march or get a ride to Berth 58. There's more information here."

For more about boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) responses to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre, and how you can get involved, click here.

Fatima Mohammedi gives eyewitness account of Israeli military boarding of Mavi Marmara

Fatima Mohammadi is an Iranian-born American citizen, lawyer & activist. Here she recounts her experience on board the Mavi Marmara during the Israeli military's attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla:
Let your Members of Congress know how you feel about this brutal massacre, Israel's illegal blockade of the Gaza Strip, and what Congress must do to end it. Find local meetings, sign up, download resources for your meetings and more by clicking here.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

United Methodists in Northern Illinois Annual Conference vote to divest

Great news on the church divestment front: ST. CHARLES, ILL. June 15, 2010 – At its annual conference, the Northern Illinois Conference (NIC) of the United Methodist Church (UMC) voted to divest all holdings in three international corporations that profit from the occupation of Palestine. This action is in response to a plea by Palestinian Christians for action, not just words. Divestment is a nonviolent form of economic protest long-used by churches and other shareholders to encourage companies to end unjust practices. By selling its investments in Caterpillar (CAT), General Electric (GE) and Terex (TEX), the NIC expresses its commitment to do no harm with its investments and affirms the call of the UMC Book of Discipline to "avoid investments that appear likely, directly or indirectly, to support violation of human rights” (Paragraph 716). These three companies are among 20 targeted by many UMC conferences across the country because they (1) have a presence on occupied land, (2) are involved with the physical settlements, checkpoints and the separation wall, or (3) support activities of the Israeli military in the occupied territories. Connie Baker from the End the Occupation Task Force of the Board of Church and Society which brought forth the resolution stated: “We are resolute in our support of peace for both Israelis and Palestinians in the Holy Land and the rights of each to co-exist according to the principles set forth in the Geneva Conventions. It is a small step, but an important one.” The conference will also send a list of the 20 identified companies to the nearly 400 local churches in Northern Illinois and encourage them to consider divestment from any corporations on the list. For the list of targeted corporations, which was compiled by the New England Conference (UMC) Divestment Task Force, please click here.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Around the world, surge of BDS in response to Gaza Flotilla massacre (and how you can get involved)

Just a few weeks back, we reported on a renewed wave of boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) activity against Israeli apartheid and occupation. That was before the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre. Now, as calls for governments around the globe to hold the Israeli military accountable for the killing of 8 Turkish citizens and one U.S.-Turkish citizen continue, and as Turkey, Nicaragua, and others have withdrawn ambassadors or suspended diplomatic ties, civil society groups are sending a clear message that accountability is the job of global citizens, not just states. American Jewish peace activist Anna Balzer writes at her blog:
"Far more significant than protests is the fact that worldwide disapproval has been transforming into concrete rejection of normalization with Israel, including major victories for the Palestinian movement for boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) on Israel until it complies with international law. This past week, the student body at Evergreen College voted to divest from "Israel's illegal occupation." Before she was run over by Israeli soldiers in a US-made Caterpillar bulldozer in Gaza, Rachel Corrie had attended Evergreen. Along with divesting, students have voted for a "Caterpillar free" campus. You can support the students by clicking here. A week before the flotilla, Italy's largest supermarkets COOP and Nordiconad announced a boycott of the Israeli produce company, Carmel Agrexco. Four days later, Deutsche Bank (Germany's largest bank, worth more than $1 trillion) announced divestment from Elbit Systems, an Israeli firm that supplies technology for Israel's military, settlements, and Wall (as well as the Wall between the US and Mexico). Deutsche Bank was one of the company's largest share-holders. The next day, it was announced that Sweden's largest national pension funds were also divesting from Elbit. (Norway did the same more than one year ago.) Going a step further, the Swedish Port Workers Union announced last Wednesday that it would temporarily stop handling Israeli cargo in response to the attacks on the flotilla. On the same day, Britain's largest union, Unite, passed a unanimous motion "to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies" and to boycott Israeli goods and services as in "the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid." Then yesterday, the Pixies canceled their upcoming concert in Israel in response to Israel's attack on the flotilla. Musical artists Klaxons and Gorillaz canceled as well. This on the heels of cancelations by Santana, Gil Scott-Heron, Snoop Dog, Sting, and Elvis Costello. These are but a few of the BDS victories that have happened just in the last month. The movement that officially began in 2005 crossed its first threshold in 2009 (having gained in four years the same momentum it took the BDS movement against South Africa 20 years to achieve), but 2010 has brought it to a new level."
There's more. In Norway, Kristin Halvorsen, Norway's health minister and head of the Socialist Left party, called on Tuesday for the international community to boycott arms trade with Israel, in line with Norway's existing policy, while 40% of Norwegians were polled in favor of boycotting Israeli products. In Sweden, there was talk of canceling an under-21 soccer game against Israel in response to the massacre, something that Turkey's under-19 soccer team had already decided. In South Africa, the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) agreed to an "escalation of the boycott of Israeli goods and call[ed] upon our fellow trade unionists not to handle them," as well as declaring that they would "not...allow any Israeli ship to dock or unload in any South African port." The South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) decided "to 'immediately work towards' making every municipality in South Africa "an Apartheid Israel free zone' by ensuring 'that there are no commercial, academic, cultural, sporting or other linkages whatsoever with the Israeli regime.'" Poet and 1983 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner Alice Walker has a pro-BDS piece in the Huffington Post. Former US Campaign National Organizer Noura Erakat has a piece in MERIP on BDS in the United States from 2001-2010. And the Nation is running an article on BDS by US Campaign Steering Committee member Adam Horowitz and Philip Weiss of the Mondoweiss blog. Many of these BDS victories are related to campaigns that the US Campaign's membership has voted to focus on, such as the Caterpillar vote at Evergreen and the Pixie's decision not to play Tel Aviv. So how can you get involved in this global movement for accountability and justice? Here are five quick ways! 1) Support Evergreen College's divestment and Caterpillar Free Zone votes by clicking here. Caterpillar bulldozers are responsible for much of the devastation of civilian and agriculture infrastructure in the Gaza Strip. The Goldstone Report found numerous instances of the Israeli military using these bulldozers as weapons during Operation Cast Lead. Many of the rebuilding supplies carried by the Gaza Freedom Flotilla could have been used to rebuild this damage. Click here to read more about the Caterpillar campaign. Recently US Campaign member groups organized an action at the Caterpillar shareholder meeting in Chicago. Click here to read more, and here to see a video of the protest including an interview with US Campaign Steering Committee member Jennifer Bing-Canar. 2) Sign a "Hang Up on Motorola" boycott pledge by clicking here. Motorola has the exclusive contract to provide the Israeli military with encrypted mobile phone technology. That means that the Israeli commandos who boarded the Gaza Freedom boats were likely communicating with each other using Motorola technology. Motorola also has close ties with Aeronautics Defense Systems (ADS), which makes drone aircraft that the Israeli military used during Operation Cast Lead. Click here to read more about the Motorola campaign. 3) Sign a "Stolen Beauty" Ahava boycott pledge by clicking here. Ahava is a cosmetics company with factories in illegal settlements in the West Bank. These settlements are part of the infrastructure of Israeli occupation and apartheid. Find out more about the Ahava campaign by clicking here. 4) Start a divestment campaign on your campus by clicking here. Evergreen College's divestment vote--and the incredible gains made at UC Berkeley and Hampshire college, among others--didn't come out of the blue. Divestment campaigns take organizing, coalition building, and a lot of hard work! Find our how you can start a divestment campaign when you return to your campus in the fall and download our Campus Divestment handbook by clicking here. 5) Sign up as a local BDS organizer by clicking here. Already signed a boycott pledge? Want to do more? Get materials and resources to be a local organizer for our BDS campaigns by clicking here.

US Campaign offers condolences at Turkish Embassy

Last week, US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey joined representatives of many other civil society organizations including CODEPINK, Friends of Sabeel North America, Viva Palestina, and Veterans for Peace in offering our condolences for the nine Turkish citizens (one of whom was also a U.S. citizen) killed by the Israeli military aboard the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. We met with the Sulemein Gokce, the Deputy Chief of Mission of the Turkish Embassy, who expressed his gratitude as we offered support, condolences, and cards for the families of those killed. He informed us that the Turkish government has asked the Israeli government not only for an investigation, apologies, and reparations for the family of those killed, but for an end to the siege on Gaza. You can echo these demands by emailing Congress and the White House. Mr. Gokce went on to tell us that the search for truth and justice in regards to the flotilla massacre would be an "arduous process," but that "we must not give in to pressure." "We can't fail," he said, "because a failure here would be a failure for humanity." These are powerful words, and a powerful motivating message for our movement. Don't let humanity down: take action today. Check out photos from the day: US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey and Farrah Hassen stand with a CODEPINK banner outside of the Turkish Embassy. Representatives of CODEPINK and other human rights and peace organizations gather outside of the Turkish Embassy Medea Benjamin of US Campaign member group CODEPINK offers condolences to the Turkish Deputy Chief of Mission -- Here are photos and information nine people who were killed by the Israeli military on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla are, h/t to Lawrence of Cyberia:
1. Ibrahim Bilgen, 61, an electrical engineer from Siirt. Member of the Chamber of Electrical Engineers of Turkey. Ran as a Saadet (Felicity) Party candidate in the Turkish general election of 2007 and the Siirt mayoral election of 2009. Married with 6 children. (link - link - link - link)
Ibrahimbilgenn2
2. Ali Haydar Bengi, 39, ran a telephone repair shop in Diyarbakir. Graduate of Al-Azhar University, Cairo (Department of Arabic Literature). Married to Saniye Bengi; four children - Mehunur (15), Semanur (10) and twins Mohammed and Senanur (5, pictured below). (link - link - link - link)
Ali haydar bengi Bengi twins
3. Cevdet Kiliçlar, 38, from Kayseri. A graduate of Marmara University's Faculty of Communications; formerly a newspaper journalist for the National Gazette and the Anatolia Times. For the past year he was a reporter and webmaster for the Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH). Married to Derya Kiliçlar; one daughter, Gülhan, and one son, Erdem.
See him participating in an IHH African relief project here. See his Flickr photos here. (link - link - link - link)
Cevdet Kiliçlar_2
4. Çetin Topçuoglu, 54, from Adana. Former amateur soccer player and taekwondo champion, who coached Turkey's national taekwondo team. Married to with one son, Aytek.
See Çetin Topçuoglu's Facebook page here. (link - link - link - link)
Çetin Topçuoğlu
His wife, Çigdem Topçuoglu (below, right), was also aboard the Mavi Marmara, but survived. (link - link - link - link)
Çetin and Cigdem Topçuoğlu
5. Necdet Yildirim, 32, an IHH aid worker from Malatya. Married to Refika Yıldırım; one daughter, Melek, aged three. (link - link)
Necdet yildirim
6. Fahri Yaldiz, 43, a firefighter who worked for the Municipality of Adiyaman. Married with four sons. (link - link - link)
Fahri Yaldiz Fahri Yaldiz family2
7. Cengiz Songür, 47, from Izmir. Married to Nurcan Songür; six daughters and one son. (link - link - link - link - link)
Cengiz Songür_2
8. Cengiz Akyüz, 41, from Iskenderun. Married to Nimet Akyüz ; three children - Furkan (14), Beyza (12) and Erva Kardelen (nine). (link - link)
Cengiz Akyüz_2
9. Furkan Dogan, 19, in his senior year at Kayseri High School where he was awaiting the results of his university entrance exams; hoped to become a doctor. Loved chess. Son of Dr. Ahmet Dogan, Assoc Prof at Erciyes University. A Turkish-American dual national, with two siblings. (link - link - link - link - link - link - slideshow)
Furkan Dogan

Iara Lee on Democracy Now: "New Video Smuggled Out from Mavi Marmara of Israel’s Deadly Assault on Gaza Aid Flotilla"

Filmmaker and Gaza Freedom Flotilla passenger Iara Lee, of US Campaign ally Cultures of Resistance, spoke today to Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez of Democracy Now! and showed previously unreleased footage of the attack on the flotilla. The graphic footage shows chaotic scenese of passengers scrambling to treat gunshot wounds in an improvised below deck medical center, while above deck people used megaphones to ask for medical aid. The footage will be unveiled today at a press conference at the United Nations, but here is a sneak peak at the footage, as well as the eyewitness report of the attack from Iara Lee:

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Another one for the Twilight Zone: Israel "eases embargo" to allow snack food (but not concrete, wheelchairs, musical instruments, fishing rope...)

Members of Congress apparently aren't the only ones living in a Twilight Zone. Reuters this morning reports (emphasis added):
"Israel is easing its Gaza embargo to allow snack food and drinks into the Palestinian enclave, Palestinian officials said Wednesday, following an international outcry over Israel's raid on an aid flotilla."
Here's the list of prohibited items from Gisha, the Israeli Legal Center for Freedom of Movement, which includes cement, plaster, tar, wood, glass containers, dried fruit, coriander, fishing rods, nets, rope, size A4 paper, sewing machines, toys, fresh meat, cattle, chicks, newspapers, musical instruments, writing implements.... The absurdity of this list of items would almost be funny, if it wasn't so sickening, so obviously intended to collectively punish an entire population, if the situation in Gaza wasn't so horrendous. Tell Congress and the White House that this monstrous blockade must end by clicking here. Gisha notes that "It is not possible to verify this list with the Israeli authorities because they refuse to disclose information regarding the restrictions on transferring goods into Gaza," and highlights the fact that the the "ban on the entry of raw materials into the Gaza Strip is part of the policy Israel calls "economic sanctions" or "economic warfare", and which human rights organizations call "collective punishment."

GRITtv and Democracy Now report on Israeli efforts to control narrative, coverage of Gaza Flotilla massacre

Yesterday we posted on some of the many reasons why an Israeli "self-investigation" of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla attack would be a farce. Check out clips from GRITtv and Democracy Now! on the Israeli PR efforts to control press coverage of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre: See the latest action alerts, resources, and media coverage of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla by clicking here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

U.S. now wants international investigation of Gaza flotilla attack (and about a hundred reasons Israel can't investigate itself)

Ha'aretz is now reporting the the United States wants an international investigation rather than an entirely internal Israeli probe into the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre:
" "International participation in investigating these matters will be important to the credibility that everybody wants to see," said U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Crowley on Tuesday. "We are discussing with Israel and others the prospective nature of international participation in the investigation. And we're sharing different ideas on how to best accomplish that." "We want to see an impartial, credible, prompt, thorough investigation. We recognize that international participation, which lends itself to countries and entities being able to vouch for the results of the investigation - will be an essential element to putting this tragedy behind us," he went on to say."
That means that emails calling for an international investigation are more important than ever in order to bolster this effort--click here to send an email! This news comes as evidence continues to accumulate that the Israeli government has been putting out a heavy batch of misinformation, doctored evidence, and outright lies to defend its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Here's a few of the most egregious reasons why the Israeli government can't be trusted to investigate itself: 1) Glenn Greenwald at Salon.com covers the way in which Israel confiscated journalist's footage, released heavily edited footage, refused to release raw footage, and other journalistic manipulations. The Guardian has more on Israel's footage tampering. 2) Inter Press Service covers the Israeli media blackout of abducted journalists and wounded flotilla activists, as well as contradictions between eyewitness accounts and the version of events being propounded by Israeli pundits. 3) Max Blumethal reports on the IDF's admission it doctored an audio clip purported to be a radio communication between Israeli naval vessels and the flotilla, and comments that "The lesson of the debacle is that nothing the IDF says can be trusted by anyone." Blumenthal also notes that Israel was forced to retract its claim that activists on board the flotilla were affiliated with Al Qaeda, although the "terrorist" smear is still being used in an attempt to discredit activists. The Washington Post quotes Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan in response to this allegation: "If there were any terrorists, then why were they set free?" The U.S. State Department, in a press briefing on June 2, noted that the United States could not validate any links between the Turkish humanitarian organization IHH and Al Qaeda, contrary to Israeli claims, and that IHH is not listed as a terrorist organization by the United States. So much for the vaunted intelligence sharing between the U.S. and Israel? 4) Israeli military claims about the nature of the military response have also repeatedly proven to be inaccurate or deliberately misrepresented. These include Israeli claims that soldiers were armed only with paintball guns, that they were shot at from the ship, and that they did not shoot until attacked. In addition to eyewitness accounts that the Israeli military fired on the flotilla ship before boarding, no evidence that soldiers were fired on has been produced; the early claim that an IDF soldier had been shot with a non-IDF gun was later contradicted by an IDF soldier who claimed he drew his 9mm to shoot at an attacker (the same gun that supposedly was not an IDF weapon); and autopsies show that most of those killed were shot multiple times at point-blank range in what the Guardian says "undermines Israel's insistence that its soldiers opened fire only in self defence and in response to attacks by the activists." 5) Finally, numerous reports point to the misrepresentations and propaganda that the Israeli government has put forward about the situation in Gaza. This post by Charles Davis at the firedoglake blog sums it up well: "So all the equipment the IDF found was equipment they regularly allow to enter Gaza, except for all the equipment they found that they regularly forbid to enter Gaza." Of course, all of this is almost secondary to the main point--if the Israeli government has proof that it acted in self-defense and in accordance with international law, why not submit that proof to an independent, international investigation? Instead, the Israeli government is insisting on releasing heavily edited, incomplete footage, distorting evidence, and propagandizing--proving, in case there was any doubt, that a transparent, fair, and accurate "self-investigation" is out of the question. The fact that the Israeli government is going to such lengths to distort the record just reveals a deep seated fear of international law. E-mail the White House and Congress now, and let them know that Israel can't investigate themselves any more truthfully than BP can.

Making our voice heard: Protestors carry US Campaign signs at White House rally

(Photo by Ricky Carioti from the Saturday, June 5 edition of Washington Post)

Media Coverage and Major Victories

Hi folks, We know that you all have been busy responding to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre. Thank you for all that you do for justice, human rights, and peace. We just wanted to share with you that we've been compiling media coverage of the US Campaign and member groups during this crisis. Check it out, and let us know if your organization has received media coverage that we can include. In the midst of emergency responses to the attack on the flotilla, there have been major developments and victories related to the ongoing priorities of the US Campaign. Here's three examples: 1) Former UN Assistant Secretary General Dr. Peter Bourne has asked the US State Department to rule on Israel's use of U.S. weapons in attack on Gaza Flotilla, and he credits the US Campaign with the research; check it out by clicking here. 2) Evergreen College students voted by 79.5% to divest, and by 71.8% to establish a Caterpillar free campus Please send emails to the school encouraging them to carry out what the students have vote for. 3) The Pixies canceled their upcoming conference in Israel--the direct catalyst being the flotilla, but the groundwork for which was laid by the US Campaign and member groups in response to a call from Boycott Within. Great work everyone--may these victories give us new energy and motivation for the ongoing struggle! Thanks, peace, David

Monday, June 7, 2010

Our tax dollars got a real workout last week--so why is the military aid check still so fat?

Just to state the obvious--this past week has put U.S. complicity in war crimes and acts of aggression committed by the Israeli military on display once again. Just a few examples of how hard your tax money was working this past week to violate human rights: 1) The attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla killed 9 Turkish nationals, one of whom was a U.S. citizen of Turkish origin. (National staff of the US Campaign participated in a delegation to the Turkish Embassy in Washington, DC to express condolences for those who were killed in the attack).

The United States has provided the Israeli navy and air force with weapons through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) budget allocations that were, or may have been, used in this attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israel Air Force used three Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to transport its commandos to the ships. The Israel Air Force is reported to have 49 of these combat helicopters.

In addition, the United States has transferred additional weapons to the Israeli Navy that may have been used in violation of the AECA during its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In July 2008, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Israel of four littoral combat ships (LCS-I variant), associated equipment, and services valued at up to $1.9 billion. The Israeli Navy is also reported to have three Sa’ar 5-class corvettes built in the United States. Press reports also indicate that Israel may have used U.S. guns, ammunition, night vision goggles, and crowd dispersal weapons in its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

All of this has led Dr. Peter Bourne, a former Assistant Secretary General of the United Nations, to call on the U.S. State Department to investigate possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act in the flotilla attack.

2) Emily Henochowicz, a dual U.S. and Israeli citizen, was shot in the face while protesting the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre at the Qalandia Checkpoint in the West Bank. She has lost an eye and had to have facial reconstruction urgery performed in a Jerusalem hospital before returning home. The Obama Administration has demanded that Israel investigate the incident (because the Israeli military is so good at investigating itself...ugh).

The high-velocity tear-gas canister which injured Emily Henochowicz was likely of U.S. origin as well: in FY2007 alone, the US gave Israel 121,991 pieces of teargas and riot control agents valued at $1,654,536.

(The Steering Committee of the US Campaign has sent a letter to Emily expressing our support and "strongest solidarity...in this time of pain, recovery and healing.")

3) Meanwhile, Israeli military attacks on the Gaza Strip continued. Five Palestinians were killed a day after the flotilla massacre, and this morning the Israeli military killed four 150 yards off of the shore of the Gaza Strip. These killings, like the killings of nonviolent Palestinian activists such as Ahmad Dib and Basem Abu Rahme, received little attention in U.S. media.

That's a lot of (ugly) work for your tax money. But you've got to wonder--with a workout like that, why is the check still so fat? Find out more about U.S. military aid to Israel and how you can work to end it by clicking here.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Justice for All? A Tale of Two Victims: Leon Klinghoffer and Furkan Dogan

US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner, writing at Huffington Post:

In October 1985, four Palestinian gunmen from the Palestine Liberation Front (PLF) stormed an Italian cruise ship on the Mediterranean, holding its approximately 700 vacationers hostage while demanding the release of their comrades-in-arms from Israeli prison.

The hijacking of the Achille Lauro, during which the hijackers killed an elderly, wheelchair-bound Jewish-American man--Leon Klinghoffer--and then threw his body into the sea, ranked as one of the most ignominious acts ever committed by Palestinians.

President Ronald Reagan vowed swift action, promising that "we're going to do everything we can to see that they [PLF hijackers] are brought to justice." Indeed, the "Old Gipper" was as good as his word. After Egypt mediated an end to the hostage crisis by freeing the passengers in exchange for the hijackers' safe passage to Tunisia, the United States scrambled F-14 Tomcats from the aircraft carrier USS Saratoga and forced the airplane carrying the hijackers to land at a NATO base in Sicily. After a brief diplomatic stand-off over jurisdiction between Italy and the United States, the hijackers were prosecuted and imprisoned in Italy.

To determine whether the Pledge of Allegiance's promise of "justice for all" holds true in all circumstances, compare Reagan's aggressive response to the killing of a U.S. citizen on the Mediterranean Sea to the tepid response of the Obama Administration in the same scenario.

On May 31, Israel interdicted, boarded, and assaulted the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, comprised of six ships carrying 700 international humanitarian activists and 10,000 tons of desperately needed humanitarian supplies to the 1.5 million blockaded Palestinian civilians living under Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip, in the international waters of the Mediterranean.

During this attack, Israel killed nine civilians, injured dozens more, and abducted hundreds against their will to Israel for detention and deportation. Of those killed, one was a U.S. citizen, Furkan Dogan, a 19 year-old student whose body was riddled with four gunshots to the head and one to the chest. At least two other U.S. citizens, Huwaida Arraf and Dr. Paul Larudee were beaten by Israeli forces, the latter of whom required hospitalization. Later that day, Israeli forces in the occupied Palestinian West Bank shot a 21 year-old U.S. citizen, Emily Henochowicz, in the face with a tear gas canister during a nonviolent protest against the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. She is currently recuperating in a hospital after losing an eye and undergoing facial reconstruction surgery.

In the Obama Administration's most comprehensive statement to date on the injuring and killing of these U.S. citizens, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated on June 3:

"Protecting the welfare of American citizens is a fundamental responsibility of our government and one that we take very seriously. We are in constant contact with the Israeli Government, attempting to obtain more information about our citizens. We have made no decisions at this point on any additional specific actions that our government should take with respect to our own citizens."

It doesn't sound as if the Obama Administration will be scrambling fighter jets anytime soon to arrest Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak for ordering these attacks against U.S. civilians.

Since the Obama Administration is having trouble deciding how to punish Israel for injuring and killing U.S. citizens, here's a suggested first step: launch an investigation into whether Israel violated the Arms Export Control Act (AECA).

The AECA stipulates that weapons provided by the United States can only be used by foreign countries for "internal security" or "legitimate self-defense." Since Israel engaged in act of aggression in international waters, it is self-evident that Israel violated this law.

The United States has provided the Israeli navy and air force with weapons through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) budget allocations that were, or may have been, used in this attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israel Air Force used three Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to transport its commandos to the ships. The Israel Air Force is reported to have 49 of these combat helicopters.

In addition, the United States has transferred additional weapons to the Israeli Navy that may have been used in violation of the AECA during its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In July 2008, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Israel of four littoral combat ships (LCS-I variant), associated equipment, and services valued at up to $1.9 billion. The Israeli Navy is also reported to have three Sa'ar 5-class corvettes built in the United States.

Press reports also indicate that Israel may have used U.S. guns, ammunition, night vision goggles, and crowd dispersal weapons in its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. The high-velocity tear-gas canister which injured Emily Henochowicz was likely of U.S. origin as well.

How much longer should the United States be expected to underwrite $30 billion in weapons for Israeli military occupation and apartheid toward Palestinians, when these weapons are being misused not only to perpetrate terrible human rights abuses against Palestinians, but against U.S. citizens as well?

A finding by the Obama Administration that Israel violated the AECA would be the first step towards accountability and sanctions, both of which are necessary to halt Israel's intransigence in the face of ever-expanding global opposition to its policies.

Learn more about the devastating impact of U.S. military aid to Israel, how much money your community provides, what that money could be used for instead in your community, and how to take action to end military aid to Israel by clicking here.


Josh Ruebner at Israeli Embassy protest: "Israel is acting like a caged animal"

US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner interviewed at protest at the Israeli Embassy (note that this protest took place before it was revealed that among those killed by the Israeli military is a U.S. citizen, Furkan Dogan) :

Josh Ruebner on Israel's Growing Desperation from Press Action on Vimeo.

Find a protest near you by clicking here, and take action by clicking here.

Gaza Freedom Flotilla Massacre -- Emergency Protests Continue, find one near you!

Emergency protests and rallies in response to the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and the ongoing siege of 1.5 million Palestinians in the Gaza Strip continue. There are protests on Friday, June 4 in Washington, DC, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Oklahoma City, and Raleigh, among many others. Find one near you by clicking here. Email Congress and the White House to demand a full, independent investigation; the lifting of the siege on Gaza; and an end to U.S. military aid and support of acts of aggression and war crimes by clicking here. Find more action items, resources, and media coverage by clicking here.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Josh Ruebner: Obama Must Do More to Hold Israel Accountable for Gaza Blockade

The following analysis provided by US Campaign National Advocacy Director Josh Ruebner: On a March 2010 visit to Israel/Palestine, during which Israel announced plans for the construction of 1,600 additional housing units in its illegal colonies in occupied Palestinian East Jerusalem, an irate Vice President Joe Biden pledged that the Obama Administration would hold Israel “accountable for any statements or actions that inflame tensions or prejudice the outcome of talks.” Israel’s May 31 act of aggression on international waters against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, an operation which killed nine humanitarian activists, injured dozens, and resulted in the abduction, detainment, and deportation of hundreds, has tested the Obama Administration’s commitment to its pledge of accountability. Israel’s combined naval and air assault against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla, an international convoy of six ships laden with 10,000 tons of desperately needed humanitarian aid for the 1.5 million blockaded Palestinians of the occupied Gaza Strip, exposed the piratical nature of Israel’s attempt to stifle international activism to break its illegal blockade of Gaza, as well as its flouting of the UN Convention on the Laws of the Sea specifically and international law generally. In its response to Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla to date, the Obama Administration has combined a reticence to directly condemn Israel’s actions with recognition that Israel cannot continue the current intensity of its blockade of the Gaza Strip in the long-run. The subsequent ledger tallies up the positive and negative aspects of the Obama Administration’s response so far. On the Positive Side * The United States indirectly condemned the attack via the United Nations. The U.S. Mission to the United Nations agreed to the text of a Security Council statement condemning Israel’s attack, and insisting upon a “prompt, impartial, credible and transparent investigation conforming to international standards.” White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs reiterated U.S. support for this statement during a June 1 press briefing. * The Obama Administration has conceded that Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip cannot proceed as currently structured. The worldwide condemnation of Israel’s attack on the flotilla and its blockade of the Gaza Strip have finally broken through the Obama Administration’s heretofore piecemeal advocacy efforts to press Israel to allow in certain additional items through the blockade. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton dubbed the situation in Gaza “unsustainable and unacceptable” in a June 1 press conference. After the attack on the flotilla, the State Department also for the first time insisted that Israel allow reconstruction materials into the Gaza Strip. * The State Department has poked holes in Israel’s propaganda. Israel has made risible claims that the organizers of the Turkish contingent of the flotilla were affiliated with international terrorist organizations such as al-Qaeda. The main Turkish organization involved in the flotilla, IHH (Humanitarian Relief Foundation), is not listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the United States, as confirmed by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Crowley, who pointedly refused to validate Israeli claims, during his June 2 daily press briefing. * The United States has distanced itself from Israel’s attack. In response to a question from the Washington Post, the State Department confirmed that it had multiple communications with Israel prior to its attack, during which “We emphasized caution and restraint given the anticipated presence of civilians, including American citizens.” The diplomatic niceties of this statement notwithstanding, its import is to publicly signal that the United States considers Israel’s attack disproportionate and unacceptable. On the Negative Side * The Obama Administration has refused to directly condemn Israel’s attack. In contradistinction to virtually every other country in the world, the United States has repeatedly declined to censor Israel. President Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hours after the attack, and only went as far as expressing “the importance of learning all the facts and circumstances around this morning's tragic events as soon as possible.” Explaining why the United States voted against a June 2 UN Human Rights Council resolution condemning the assault, Assistant Secretary of State Crowley stated “we considered this to be a rush to judgment. I would call attention in the resolution that it actually condemned the attack by Israeli forces before Israel or anyone else has had the opportunity to fairly evaluate the facts. So that is the reason why we voted no.” By this same reasoning, wouldn’t the Obama Administration be premature in its condemnation of British Petroleum (BP) for the ongoing Gulf of Mexico oil spill catastrophe? * The United States has fought hard against internationalizing the investigation. The Obama Administration is displaying an unbelievably naïve faith that Israel can investigate and punish itself for its violations of human rights and international law. In a June 1 press conference, Deputy U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations Alejandro Wolff stated that the United States has “every confidence that Israel can conduct a credible and impartial and transparent, prompt investigation internally.” This same reasoning was deployed a day later by the State Department to rationalize the United States voting against the UN Human Rights Council setting up an independent fact-finding mission. Just as BP can’t be trusted to investigate and punish itself for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, and just as it is completely apropos for an outside body—the Department of Justice—to lodge criminal charges against it, neither can Israel be trusted to investigate and punish itself for its own criminal acts. * The Obama Administration is still not opposed to Israel’s blockade of Gaza per se. Although the State Department has issued positive statements pressuring Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza, it has not denounced the blockade itself. As is widely recognized, Israel’s blockade of the 1.5 million Palestinian civilians who live under Israeli military occupation in the Gaza Strip is an illegal form of collective punishment, which is considered a war crime under Article 33 of the Fourth Geneva Convention. U.S. attempts at making Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip more palatable only renders the United States a colluding partner in Israel’s war crime, an act which in and of itself is a violation of the United States’ responsibility to enforce the terms of the Geneva Conventions. At times, the Obama Administration has even displayed a shocking callousness regarding the seriousness of Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and ignorance about the severity of its blockade of Gaza. Speaking on the June 2 edition of the Charlie Rose Show, Vice President Biden wondered aloud, “So what's the big deal here?” before going on to insinuate that humanitarian activists were really arms smugglers and that Israel would surely let in reconstruction materials into Gaza of its own free will. This mixed bag reveals an Obama Administration deeply conflicted about how to respond properly to Israel’s attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and its ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. On the one hand, it is clearly not pleased with Israel for the viciousness of the assault and understands that a full-scale blockade is no longer tenable. On the other hand, it has reverted to the default U.S. position of shielding Israel from accountability in international institutions and refraining from critiquing Israel’s odious underlying policies. To live up to its promise to hold Israel accountable, the Obama Administration must do much more in response to the attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and its ongoing blockade of the Gaza Strip. The following are four policy recommendations that, if implemented, would bring United States policy into alignment with the rest of the international community and principles of human rights and international law: 1) Directly condemn Israel's attack against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla and support an international investigation of it. 2) Initiate a domestic investigation into Israel’s violation the Arms Export Control Act (AECA), and immediately end all military aid to Israel as a consequence of it violating this law. The AECA stipulates that U.S. weapons can be used only for “internal security” or “legitimate self-defense.” Since Israel engaged in act of aggression in international waters, it is self-evident that Israel violated this law. As additional details of the attack emerge, it is also becoming clear that Israel misused U.S. weapons to injure and kill U.S. citizens. Israel killed Furkan Dogan, a 19 year-old U.S. student, with four bullets to the head and one to the chest, and beat at least two U.S. citizens, Huwaida Arraf of Washington, D.C., and Dr. Paul Larudee of El Cerrito, California, the latter of whom required hospitalization. Another U.S. citizen, Emily Henochowicz, was shot in the face with a tear gas canister by the Israeli military while protesting the flotilla massacre near the Qalandia Checkpoint in the West Bank. She is recovering in Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and has lost her eye as well as requiring reconstructive surgery. The United States has provided the Israeli navy and air force with weapons through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) budget allocations that were, or may have been, used in this attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. According to the Jerusalem Post, the Israel Air Force used three Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters to transport its commandos to the ships. The Israel Air Force is reported to have 49 of these combat helicopters. In addition, the United States has transferred additional weapons to the Israeli Navy that may have been used in violation of the AECA during its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. In July 2008, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DCSA) notified Congress of a possible Foreign Military Sale (FMS) to Israel of four littoral combat ships (LCS-I variant), associated equipment, and services valued at up to $1.9 billion. The Israeli Navy is also reported to have three Sa’ar 5-class corvettes built in the United States. In addition, press reports indicate that Israel may have used U.S. guns, ammunition, night vision goggles, and crowd dispersal weapons in its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. Israel’s misuse of U.S. weapons in its attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla is only the latest in a long string of human rights abuses committed by Israel with U.S. taxpayer-funded arms. During the Bush Administration, Israel killed more than 3,000 innocent Palestinian civilians, according to the Israeli human rights organization B’tselem, often with U.S. weapons. This hardly seems like a solid moral return on a $30 billion taxpayer investment in Israeli occupation and apartheid. To learn more about how much money your community gives to Israel in military aid, what that money could be used for instead to fulfill unmet needs in your community, and how you can take action to end military aid to Israel, click here. 3) Pressure Israel to end its illegal blockade of the occupied Palestinian Gaza Strip. 4) End U.S. support for Israel's illegal occupation of the Palestinian West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza Strip. Next week marks 43 years since Israel occupied these Palestinian territories. Israel’s barbaric assault on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla has refocused the world’s attention on the urgency of ending Israel’s illegal blockade of Gaza and its decades-long occupation of Palestinian territories. Moral outrage at Israel’s actions—and U.S. support for them—can be turned into constructive action by clicking here.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Huwaida Arraf: "We didn't fight back"

US Campaign Advisory Board member Huwaida Arraf, a passenger on one of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla ships, spoke to Laura Flanders of GRITtv about the Israeli attack on her ship. The interview also includes commentary from Norman Finkelstein and Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on the Occupied Palestinian Territories:

St. Louis PSC protests flotilla massacre

St. Louis Palestine Solidarity Committee, a project of US Campaign member group St. Louis Instead of War, joined the global protest of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre yesterday:
"Yesterday, June 1st, STL-PSC members and other outraged members of the St. Louis joined together at Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill’s office to protest the Israeli military’s massacre of the Gaza Freedom Flotilla. A good crowd of around 100 people came out to tell Claire McCaskill that the tacit USA support for Israel’s brutal treatment of peaceful humanitarians is not acceptable, nor is its illegal occupation of Palestinian lands and siege on Gaza."
Check out video of the protest:

Nadia Hijab: "Israel is stuck"

US Campaign Advisory Board member Nadia Hijab writes at Agence Free Press:
"Israel is stuck. For decades, it has used the same strategy to achieve its objectives and to rout all challengers: overwhelming force. When it meets violence with violence -- even when it uses disproportionate force as in Beirut in 1982 and 2006 and Gaza in 2008 -- Israel claims self-defense and usually manages to spin the facts its way. And, as it has not yet been held to account in any meaningful way, it has seen no reason to change its strategy. But when it meets non-violence with violence, the strategy backfires. Israel is pitching the self-defense line to try to shield itself from criticism of its attack on the Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza convoy -- but it’s not working. You cannot claim self-defense when you have decided to send a thousand or so well-armed forces to board boats in international waters -- vessels that were carefully searched before the voyage to make sure there were no arms. Or when you have killed up to 20 civilians and injured 54 others, while suffering no deaths yourself. If the situation were not so tragic, Israel’s spinning would be the stuff of comedy."
Read the full article here, and see more media coverage updates here. Find out how to take action by clicking here.

Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck: "Let these people free"

Former U.S. Ambassador Edward Peck, who was abducted by Israeli commandos while attempting to gain access to the Gaza Strip as a passenger of the Freedom Flotilla, spoke at a rally yesterday that was organized by US member groups and allies and attended by US Campaign national staff and interns. Check it out:

"We object to this being done in our name!" -- American Jews for a Just Peace protests in Philly

Yesterday we posted about US Campaign member groups responding to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre across the nation. Here's video from an action organized in Philadelphia, PA by US Campaign Member group American Jews for a Just Peace:

US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey on RT America: "This attack is a symptom of a continuing lack of accountability"

Watch US Campaign National Media Coordinator David Hosey interviewed on RT Today about U.S. responses to the Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre:
For more news coverage, click here.
For a more in-depth analysis of the role of the Obama Administration in UN Security Council deliberations, by US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis, click here.

Al Jazeera: "Israel's Gaza PR Offensive"

Sherine Tadros of Al Jazeera dissects the Israeli government's PR misrepresentations of the Gaza crisis:

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

US Campaign national staff and member groups respond to Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre across the United States

Across the United States, US Campaign member groups and allies have been taking to the street to demand truth and justice after the Israeli military's brutal attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.
A list of ongoing protests is available at the Gaza Freedom March website.
The US Campaign has created a web section dedicated to emergency responses to the massacre and acts of aggression directed against civilians in international waters by the Israeli military. Click here to take action, here to download resources for protests, and here to see US Campaign staff, board members, and members in the news.
In Washington, DC, staff and interns from the US Campaign National Office have attended protests at the Israeli Embassy and the White House. Check out an article about these protests on the DC blog DCist, and check out this video that was included in a Ha'aretz report about the attack:
At Huffington Post, US Campaign Steering Committee member Phyllis Bennis writes from Istanbul:
"No one disputed that Israel has the military power to assault and overpower the boats, to force them away from Gaza's shores and to arrest the hundreds of activists on board. Decades of uncritical U.S. support - including consistent use of the Security Council veto to protect Israel from being held accountable for its crimes in the United Nations, and most recently the Bush-initiated and Obama-implemented commitment of $30 billion in military aid to Israel - has insured that military power, nuclear and conventional, remains unchallengeable in the region and beyond. U.S. complicity in the massacre is beyond question....For now, we mourn for our friends and colleagues, we continue to demand information on the victims and demand that the surviving activists and their ships with all their humanitarian cargo be immediately released so they can join the rest of the Flotilla already underway and continue to Gaza. And as we mourn, our full demands must be for the immediate lifting of the criminal blockade of Gaza - the end of the blockade, not simply allowing a few additional items in under Israeli control. And then we must demand full international accountability, including criminal liability, for the Israeli officials, both political leaders and military commanders, who are responsible for the Flotilla Massacre. The United Nations, the International Criminal Court, and every national government should be prepared to investigate and to arrest those responsible."
Read the full article here, and click here to take action now!