I am one of the remaining veterans of the Haganah, who had served in the British Army and thereafter were among the initiators of the Ha’apala [illegal immigration] of Holocaust survivors, struggling with the forces of victorious Great Britain for the right to arrive at the shores of this country.Its warships and soldiers, those who had just fought and defeated the worst of all enemies, went over to attacking with fury and hatred our cockleshell boats which set to this country from the shores of Italy, full of survivors of the Nazi hell. The warships chased after them, closed around them, sometimes actually crushing them – and shot at them, killing and wounding many of their passengers. And now I have observed with horror and a broken heart the repetition of the same scenes – but with the roles reversed. It is the soldiers and sailors of the force which boasts of being the “Israeli Defense Forces” who are now the pursuers and killers. There is no limit to the disgrace, the cruelty and the hypocrisy which wrap our criminal acts with words of lie and malice. I am depressed to the bottom of my heart … how could we have fallen so low??? How did we become an unjust and cruel people, turning from persecuted to persecutor? Yes! It could have been expected! For 19 years we have “contented ourselves” with a system of a military government over the Arab minority which remained with us after the War of Independence, dispossessing and discriminating them. There followed the 43 years of intoxicating nationalist bravado, which spread through our people like an addictive drug after our victory in 1967, which brought the Greater Israel movement to the power which it since then holds in Israel. Our golden opportunity as victors, to make peace with the Palestinian people, vanished at once. The fascist Zionist regime, governing in the style of the Italian in North Africa, violent conquest and rapist settlement of the land of Palestine and its people… But with the latest move, the tragicomic charge of the ridiculous Zionist “armada” in an effort to tighten its stranglehold on an enclave of a million and half miserable Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, our arrogant little people have clearly gone too far. The huge burden of injustice and mad villainy with which Sicarii Israel is loaded brings about quick disaster. Already in the foreseeable future it is about to finally destroy Israel’s chances of survival. The “Mene Mene” of destruction is already inscribed in blood on our walls. Woe to our children, our grandchildren and great-grandchildren to whom we leave such a legacy… Dov Yirmiya Nahariya * The Sicarii were Jewish zealots of the First Century. In present day Hebrew the term refers to fanatic nationalists.
Who remembers the awed profiles of Ehud Barak in places like the New Yorker (by Amy Wilentz)? We were regaled with tales of how this genius used to take apart the gears of a clock and then reassemble it. It turns out that Barak himself is a broken clock who lacks even the redeeming virtue of bieng right twice a day,
Following decision to ease blockade on Strip, former prime minister’s associates blame defense minister for Israel’s ‘coriander and pasta policy’ which was harshly criticized by world. ‘He was the one who insisted on preventing the inflow of products with no security risk,’ one of them saysAttila Somfalvi Published: 06.21.10, 10:13 / Israel News Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Sunday night that the government “has taken the right decision for Israel from a security and political point of view” in significantly easing the siege on Gaza, which was imposed by the Olmert government. On Monday morning, the former prime minister’s associates said Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who served in the same role in the Olmert government, was fully responsible for the “coriander and pasta policy”. A state official who served in Ehud Olmert’s bureau said Monday morning that “Barak and Amos Gilad (head of the Defense Ministry’s Diplomatic-Security Bureau) insisted on maintaining this policy, which hurt Israel.” The sources said that Olmert and his associates had tried to convince Barak to change the list of products several times, but that the defense minister insisted on preventing the inflow of products which led to heavy criticism against Israel. According to the source, “Netanyahu is right in criticizing the pasta siege policy, but the one responsible for it, the person who came up with it and executed it, was Defense Minister Ehud Barak. “We appealed to him and to Amos Gilad more than once to change the policy and allow products, which clearly pose no security risk, to enter the Strip. The pasta case was the most outstanding case.” So why didn’t the prime minister intervene? “Time and again they told us that the coordinator of the government activities in the territories would determine the list of banned products. There were cases in which we managed to impose our stand, particularly when the world’s countries would appeal to us on deliveries and different products they sent.” Olmert’s associates added that Barak’s firm stand against changing the policy “caused diplomatic damage to Israel and weakened the ability to explain its stand on security-related issues. “When you prevent the entry of pasta, you can’t explain that it’s used to build bunkers. It weakens the claim on the things that are really dangerous. When you have coriander and iron on the same list, it’s hard to explain it to the world as a security risk, but Barak insisted.” The defense minister is on an official visit to the United States and was unavailable for comment.
NIGHT. UTTER darkness. Heavy rain. Visibility close to nil.
And suddenly – a flash of lightning. For a fraction of a second, the landscape is lit up. For this split second, the terrain surrounding us can be seen. It is not the way it used to be.
OUR GOVERNMENT’ action against the Gaza aid flotilla was such a lightning flash.
Israelis normally live in darkness as far as seeing the world is concerned. But for that instant, the real landscape around us could be seen, and it looked frightening. Then the darkness settled down over us, Israel returned to its bubble, the world disappeared from view.
This split second was enough to reveal a dismal scene. On almost all fronts, the situation of the State of Israel has worsened since the last flash of lightning.
The flotilla and the attack on it did not create this landscape. It has been there since our present government was set up. But the deterioration did not start even then. It began a long time before.
The action of Ehud Barak & Co. only lit up the situation as it is now, and gave it yet another push in the wrong direction.
How does the new landscape look in the light of Barak’s barak? (“barak” means lightning in Hebrew.)
THE LIST is headed by a fact that nobody seems to have noticed until now: the death of the Holocaust.
In all the tumult this affair has caused throughout the world, the Holocaust was not even mentioned. True, in Israel there were some who called Recep Tayyip Erdogan “a new Hitler”, and some Israel-haters talked about the “Nazi attack”, but the Holocaust has practically disappeared.
For two generations, our foreign policy used the Holocaust as its main instrument. The bad conscience of the world determined its attitude towards Israel. The (justified) guilt feelings – either for atrocities committed or for looking the other way – caused Europe and America to treat Israel differently than any other nation – from nuclear armaments to the settlements. All criticism of our governments’ actions was branded automatically as anti-Semitism and silenced.
But time does its work. New tragedies have blunted the world’s senses. For a new generation, the Holocaust is a thing of the remote past, a chapter of history. The sense of guilt has disappeared in all countries, except Germany.
The Israeli public did not notice this, because in Israel itself the Shoah is alive and present. Many Israelis are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors, and the Holocaust has been imprinted on their childhood. Moreover, a huge apparatus ensures that the Holocaust will not disappear from our memory, starting from kindergarten, through ceremonies and memorial days, to organized tours “there”.
Therefore, the Israeli public is shocked to see that the Holocaust has lost its power as a political instrument. Our most valuable weapon has become blunt.
THE CENTRAL pillar of our policy is our alliance with the United States. To use a phrase dear to Binyamin Netanyahu (in another context): it’s “the rock of our existence”.
For many years, this alliance has kept us safe from all trouble. We knew that we could always get from the US all we needed: advanced arms to retain our superiority over all Arab armies combined, munitions in times of war, money for our economy, the veto on all UN Security Council resolutions against us, automatic support for all the actions of our successive governments. Every small and medium country in the world knew that in order to gain entrance to the palaces of Washington, the Israeli doorkeeper had to be bribed.
But during the last year, cracks have appeared in this pillar. Not the small scratches and chips of wear and tear, but cracks caused by shifts of the ground. The mutual aversion between Barack Obama and Binyamin Netanyahu is only one symptom of a much deeper problem.
The Chief of the Mossad told the Knesset last week: “For the US, we have ceased to be an asset and become a burden.”
This fact was put into incisive words by General David Petraeus, when he said that the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict is endangering the lives of American soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. The later soothing messages did not erase the significance of this warning. (When Petraeus fainted this week at a Senate hearing, some religious Jews viewed it as divine punishment.)
IT IS not only the Israeli-American relationship that has undergone a fateful change, but the standing of the US itself is changing for the worse, a bad omen indeed for the future of Israeli policy.
The world is changing, slowly and quietly. The US is still by far the most powerful country, but it is no longer the almighty superpower it had been since 1989. China is flexing its muscles, countries like India and Brazil are getting stronger, countries like Turkey – yes, Turkey! – are beginning to play a role.
This is not a matter of one or two years, but anyone who is thinking about the future of Israel in ten, twenty years must understand that unless there is a basic change in our position, our position, too, will decline.
IF OUR alliance with the US is one central pillar of Israeli policy, the support of the vast majority of world Jewry is the second.
For 62 years, we could count on it with our eyes shut. Whatever we did – almost all the world’s Jews stood at attention and saluted. In fire and water, victory or defeat, glorious or dark chapters – the world’s Jews did support us, giving money, demonstrating, pressuring their governments. Without second thoughts, without criticism.
Not anymore. Quietly, almost silently, cracks have appeared in this pillar, too. Opinion polls show that most American Jewish young people are turning away from Israel. Not shifting their loyalty from the Israeli establishment to Israel’s liberal camp – but turning away from Israel altogether.
This will not be felt immediately either. AIPAC continues to strike fear into Washingtonian hearts, Congress will continue to dance to its tune. But when the new generation comes to man key positions, the support for Israel will erode, American politicians will stop crawling on their bellies and the US administration will gradually change its relations with us.
IN OUR immediate neighborhood, too, profound changes are underway, some of them beneath the surface. The flotilla incident has exposed them.
The influence of our allies is decreasing constantly. They are losing height, and an old-new power is on the rise: Turkey.
Hosni Mubarak is busy with his efforts to pass power to his son, Gamal. The Islamic opposition in Egypt is raising its head. Saudi money is trumped by the new attraction of Turkey. The Jordanian king is compelled to adapt himself. The axis of Turkey-Iran-Syria-Hisbollah-Hamas is the rising power, the axis of Egypt-Saudi Arabia-Jordan-Fatah is in decline.
BUT THE most important change is the one that is taking place in international public opinion. Any derision of this reminds one of Stalin’s famous sneer (“How many divisions has the pope?”)
Recently, an Israeli TV station showed a fascinating film about the German and Scandinavian female volunteers who flooded Israel in the 50s and 60s to live and work (and sometimes marry) in the kibbutzim. Israel was then seen as a plucky little nation surrounded by hateful enemies, a state risen from the ashes of the Holocaust to become a haven of freedom, equality and democracy, which found their most sublime expression in that unique creation, the kibbutz.
The present generation of idealistic youngsters from all over the world, male and female, who would once have volunteered for the kibbutzim, can now be found on the decks of the ships sailing for downtrodden, choked and starved Gaza, which touches the hearts of many young people. The pioneering Israeli David has turned into a brutish Israeli Goliath.
Even a genius of spin could not change this. For years, now, the world sees the State of Israel every day on the TV screen and on the front pages in the image of heavily armed soldiers shooting at stone-throwing children, guns firing phosphorus shells into residential quarters, helicopters executing “targeted eliminations”, and now pirates attacking civilian ships on the open seas. Terrified women with wounded babies in their arms, men with amputated limbs, demolished homes. When one sees a hundred pictures like that for every picture that shows another Israel, Israel becomes a monster. The more so since the Israeli propaganda machine is successfully suppressing any news about the Israeli peace camp.
MANY YEARS ago, when I wanted to ridicule the addiction of our leaders to the use of force, I paraphrased a saying that reflects much of Jewish wisdom: “if force does not work, use brains.” In order to show how far we, the Israelis, are different from the Jews, I changed the words: “If force doesn’t work, use more force.”
I thought of it as a joke. But, as happens to many jokes in our country, it has become reality. It is now the credo of many primitive Israelis, headed by Ehud Barak.
In practice, the security of a state depends on many factors, and military force is but one of them. In the long run, world public opinion is stronger. The pope has many divisions.
In many respects, Israel is still a strong country. But, as the sudden illumination of the flotilla affair has shown, time is not working in our favor. We should deepen our roots in the world and in the region – which means making peace with our neighbors – as long as we are as strong as we are now.
If force doesn’t work, more force will not necessarily work either.
If force doesn’t work, force doesn’t work. Period.
German gov’t ignores Israeli requests to block extradition from Poland of Uri Brodsky, alleged Israeli spy suspected of procuring a passport for the assassins of a top Hamas official, according to German press reports.By Haaretz Service The German government has said it will not intervene to stop an investigation into a suspected Mossad spy linked to the assassination of a Hamas official in Dubai, despite pressure from Israel, a German newspaper reported on Saturday. A German official told Der Spiegel his ministry was united in the belief that any investigation into Uri Brodsky should be “dealt with according to purely judicial considerations”. Brodsky, who was wanted by German authorities, was arrested on June 4 at an airport in the Polish capital Warsaw, provoking strong protests from Israeli diplomats. He is suspected of helping to procure a German passport for the killers of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, assassinated in a Dubai hotel room on January 19. But despite Israel’s demands, Germany will not invoke a law citing “overwhelming public interest” to halt the investigation into Brodsky’s role in the killing. The German government has asked Poland to extradite Brodsky for trial in Germany, something Israel had sought to prevent. “Our obligation is to protect him from extradition to Germany,” Israeli Industry, Trade and Labor Ministry Benjamin Ben-Eliezer told Der Spiegel. “But even if he does stand trial in Germany, it won’t compromise the good relations between Israel and Germany.” Brodsky is suspected of using a lawyer in the German city of Cologne to acquire the passport, and is believed to have traveled there in March 2009, using the cover name Alexander Verin. Credit cards used during his trip were also used by him under the name Brodsky, investigators say.
Public opinion is the main driver in Turkish policy on Israel-Palestine. Crises with Israel have always followed any Turkish perception that injustice is being done to the Palestinians.By Hugh Pope Myth-makers have been busily at work since the May 31 Israeli commando assault on the civilian Turkish ship Mavi Marmara on its way to try to break the Gaza blockade. Turkish versions of events have fabulous elements, to be sure. Few in Turkey seem to have realized the risks of putting political activists up against a security-obsessed Israel. And some Turks still believe that Ankara’s “zero-problem” foreign policy based on peace in the neighborhood can survive the collapse in relations with Israel, even though Turkey can no longer claim to be the only Middle East country with good ties to every regional party. However, these misconceptions pale beside those of some Israeli commentators, who point to the Mavi Marmara as Exhibit A in a deep-laid plan by “Islamist” Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to destroy a natural Turkish alliance with Israel, to seize leadership of the Muslim world, and to assert Turkish hegemony over former Ottoman domains in the Middle East – probably through the cat’s paw of aid organization IHH (Insani Yardim Vakfi ), branded as terrorists in cahoots with Al-Qaida. Whoa there! First of all, it was Israeli live fire that killed nine Turks on the high seas, with a 10th now dead in an Ankara hospital. Dozens more were injured. While the Turks would have been far wiser to employ purely passive resistance, it is clear that nobody on the Turkish side planned for bloodshed. For instance, Mavi Marmara organizers point out that no provision had been made for casualties. The headquarters of IHH is in a leafy suburb of Istanbul, the neat street outside decked out with flags from all over the world. In his modern office upstairs, Middle East coordinator Ahmet Emin Dag tries to put IHH’s attempt to break the Gaza blockade in context. Of IHH’s annual aid budget of $50 million, he notes, $20 million goes to Palestinians. And of this, he says, half goes to Gaza, and half to the West Bank and Jerusalem. Yes, IHH supports Hamas, publishes texts attacking Zionism, and tries to embody the sympathy of the overwhelming majority of Turks for the Palestinians. But no, Dag says, IHH is not just about Israel/Palestine, and not just about Hamas. How about IHH’s links to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party? Indeed, IHH shares the same conservative and religious base as the AK Party. But it is arguably closer to Erdogan’s more religious rivals, Saadet Party, and has links to groups on the nationalist right. Fethullah Gulen, the relatively progressive leader of a powerful informal religious movement in Turkey, in fact criticized the way IHH tried to break the Gaza blockade. A few days later a senior AK official publicly agreed with Gulen’s reproach and was loudly applauded by the party faithful. Erdogan’s government sympathized with attempts to break the Gaza blockade and allowed the ship to sail, but played no public part in its organization, screened the cargo and everyone who boarded it for weapons and made sure no politicians of any party or officials took part. In short – with most of Turkey’s leaders out of the country and the foreign minister preparing to meet Prime Minister Netanyahu in the U.S. – nobody wanted or was expecting violence on May 31. But the critics insist: Erdogan was spoiling for a fight, ideologically committed to anti-Israel policies. But this too is wrong. Erdogan’s rhetoric may often be pugnacious and out of date. But his ideology is not devoted to Israel’s destruction. Just over two years ago he entertained Israel prime minister Ehud Olmert to a long dinner in his official Ankara residence. Naively perhaps, but certainly sincerely, Erdogan believed that he had brought Israel and Syria to the brink of face-to-face talks or even a peace deal. Yet just days later, and having given no warning, Olmert launched Israel’s winter 2009 assault on Gaza. This was the turning point, not the outburst against President Shimon Peres in Davos a few weeks later. Erdogan’s policy in the Middle East is hardly “Islamist” either. Stability and prosperity through free travel, economic integration, and policy coordination looks more like the EU’s recipe for conflict resolution. Also, other beneficiaries of this policy have been Russia, Serbia and Greece. Turkey’s ties to Europe and the U.S. may have become less dominant, but that doesn’t mean Turkey has changed its fundamental direction. More than half of Turkey’s exports go to Europe, EU states account for 90 percent of foreign investment in Turkey, and more than four million Turks already live in Europe; in contrast, Middle East states take less than a quarter of Turkey’s exports, account for just 10 percent of its tourists and employ only 110,000 Turkish immigrant workers. Instead of building myths and Islamist bogeymen, Israeli commentators should note that public opinion is the main driver in Turkish policy on Israel-Palestine. Crises with Israel have always followed any Turkish perception that injustice is being done to the Palestinians: whether during the Six-Day War in 1967, the formal declaration of a unified Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in 1980 or the occupation of West Bank towns in 2002. The golden era in Turkish-Israeli relations in the 1990s was exceptional and coincided exactly with the years of the Oslo peace process. When Israel is again perceived as seeking peace, it will most likely find Turkey rapidly ready to do business once more. Hugh Pope is International Crisis Group’s Turkey/Cyprus project director and the author of “Dining with al-Qaeda: Three Decades Exploring the Many Worlds of the Middle East.” This Sunday at 7 P.M., he will speak about Turkey-Israel relations, at the Van Leer Institute in Jerusalem.
By backing the terrorist group against Israel, western countries are backing Hamas against Fatah and Islamist states against ME moderates.Since the navy’s May 31 takeover of the Turkish-Hamas flotilla, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and his advisers have deliberated around the clock about how to contend with the US-led international stampede against Israel. But their ultimate decision to form an investigatory committee led by a retired Supreme Court justice and overseen by foreign observers indicates that they failed to recognize the nature of the international campaign facing us today. Led by US President Barack Obama, the West has cast its lot with Hamas. It is not surprising that Obama is siding with Hamas. His close associates are leading members of the pro-Hamas Free Gaza outfit. Obama’s friends, former Weather Underground terrorists Bernadine Dohrn and William Ayres participated in a Free Gaza trip to Egypt in January. Their aim was to force the Egyptians to allow them into Gaza with 1,300 fellow Hamas supporters. Their mission was led by Code Pink leader and Obama fund-raiser Jodie Evans. Another leading member of Free Gaza is James Abourezk, a former US senator from South Dakota. All of these people have open lines of communication not only to the Obama White House, but to Obama himself. Obama has made his sympathy for the Muslim Brotherhood clear several times since entering office. The Muslim Brotherhood’s progeny include Hamas, al-Qaida and the Egyptian Islamic Jihad. Last June, Obama infuriated the Egyptian government when he insisted on inviting leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood to attend his speech at Al Azhar University in Cairo. His administration’s decision to deport Hamas deserter and Israeli counterterror operative Mosab Hassan Yousef to the Palestinian Authority where he will be killed is the latest sign of its support for radical Islam. Given Obama’s attitude toward jihadists and the radical leftists who support them, his decision to support Hamas against Israel makes sense. What is alarming however is how leaders of the free world are now all siding with Hamas. That support has become ever more apparent since the Mossad’s alleged killing of Hamas terror master Mahmoud al-Mabhouh at his hotel in Dubai in January. In the aftermath of Mabhouh’s death, both Britain and Australia joined the Dubai-initiated bandwagon in striking out against Israel. Israel considers both countries allies, or at least friendly and has close intelligence ties with both. Yet despite their close ties, Australia and Britain expelled Israeli diplomats who supposedly had either a hand in the alleged operation or who work for the Mossad. It should be noted that neither country takes steps against outspoken terror supporters who call for Israel to be destroyed and call for the murder of individual Israelis. For instance, in an interview last month with The Australian, Ali Kazak, the former PLO ambassador to Australia, effectively solicited the murder of The Jerusalem Post’s Palestinian affairs correspondent Khaled Abu Toameh. Kazak told the newspaper, “Khaled Abu Toameh is a traitor.” Allowing that many Palestinians have been murdered for such accusations, Kazak excused those extrajudicial murders saying, “Traitors were also murdered by the French Resistance, in Europe; this happens everywhere.” Not only did Australia not expel Kazak or open a criminal investigation against him, as a consequence of his smear campaign against Abu Toameh, several Australians cancelled their scheduled meetings with him. AND OF course, this week we have the actions of Germany and Poland. They are considered Israel’s best friends in Europe, and yet acting on a German arrest warrant, Poland has arrested a suspected Mossad officer named Uri Brodsky for his alleged involvement in the alleged Mossad operation against Mabhouh. Israel is now caught in a diplomatic disaster zone where its two closest allies – who again are only too happy to receive regular intelligence updates from the Mossad – are siding with Hamas against it. And then of course we have the EU’s call for Israel to cancel its lawful blockade of the Gaza coast. That is, the official position of the EU is that an Iranian proxy terrorist organization should be allowed to gain control over a Mediterranean port and through it, provide Iran with yet another venue from which it can launch attacks against Europe. For their part, the Sunni Arabs are forced to go along with this. The Egyptian regime considers the fact that the Muslim Brotherhood took over Gaza a threat to its very survival and has been assiduously sealing its border with Gaza for some time. And yet, unable to be more anti-Hamas than the US, Australia and Europe, Mubarak is opening the border. Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa’s unprecedented visit to Gaza this week should be seen as a last ditch attempt by Egypt to convince Hamas to unify its ranks with Fatah. Predictably, the ascendant Hamas refused his entreaties. As for Fatah, it is hard not to feel sorry for its leader Mahmoud Abbas these days. In what was supposed to be a triumphant visit to the White House, Abbas was forced to smile last week as Obama announced the US will provide $450 million in aid to his sworn enemies who three years ago ran him and his Fatah henchmen out of Gaza. So too, Abbas is forced to cheer as Obama pressures Israel to give Hamas an outlet to the sea. This will render it impossible for Fatah to ever unseat Hamas either by force or at the ballot box. Hamas’s international clout demonstrates to the Palestinians that jihad pays. THERE ARE three plausible explanations for the West’s decision to back Hamas. All of them say something deeply disturbing about the state of the world. The first plausible explanation is that the Americans and the rest of the West are simply naïve. They believe that by backing Hamas, they are advancing the cause of Middle East peace. If this is in fact what the likes of Obama and his European and Australian counterparts think, apparently no one in the West is thinking very hard. The fact is that by backing Hamas against Israel, they are backing Hamas against Fatah and they are backing Iran, Syria, Turkey, Hamas and Hizbullah against Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. They are backing the most radical actors in the region – and arguably in the world – against states and regimes they have a shared strategic interest in strengthening. There is absolutely no way this behavior advances the cause of peace. The second plausible explanation is that the West’s support for Hamas is motivated by hatred of Israel. As Helen Thomas’s recent remarks demonstrated, there is certainly a lot of that going around. The final plausible explanation for the West’s support for Hamas is that it has been led to believe that by acting as it is, it will buy itself immunity from attack by Hamas and its fellow members of the Iranian axis. As former Italian president Francesco Cossiga first exposed in a letter to Corriere della Serra in August 2008, in the early 1970s Italian prime minister Aldo Moro signed a deal with Yasser Arafat that gave the PLO and its affiliated organizations the freedom to operate terror bases in Italy. In exchange the Palestinians agreed to limit their attacks to Jewish and Israeli targets. Italy maintained its allegiance to the deal – and to the PLO against Israel – even when Italian targets were hit. Cossiga told the newspaper that the August 2, 1980 bombing at the Bologna train station – which Italy blamed on Italian fascists – was actually the work of George Habash’s Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine. Eighty-five people were murdered in the attack, and still Italy maintained its agreement with the PLO to the point where it prosecuted and imprisoned the wrong people for the worst terrorist attack in its history. Cossiga alleged that the deal is still in place today and that Italian forces in UNIFIL have expanded the deal to include Hamas’s fellow Iranian proxy Hizbullah. It isn’t much of a stretch to consider the possibility that Italy and the rest of the Western powers have made a similar deal with Hamas. And it is no stretch at all to believe that they will benefit from it as greatly as the Italian railroad passengers in Bologna did. True, no one has come out and admitted to supporting Hamas. So too, no one has expressed anything by love for Israel and the Jewish people. But the actions of the governments of the West tell a different tale. Without one or more of the explanations above, it is hard to understand their current policies. Since the flotilla incident, Netanyahu and his ministers have held marathon deliberations on how to respond to US pressure to accept an international inquisition into the IDF’s lawful enforcement of the legal blockade of the Gaza coast. Their deliberations went on at the same time as Netanyahu and his envoys attempted to convince Obama to stop his mad rush to give Hamas an outlet to the sea and deny Israel even the most passive right of self-defense. It remains to be seen if their decision to form an investigative panel with international “observers” was a wise move or yet another ill-advised concession to an unappeasable administration. What is certain, however, is that it will not end the West’s budding romance with Hamas. The West’s decision to side with Hamas is devastating. But whatever the reasons for it, it is a fact of life. It is Netanyahu’s duty to swallow this bitter pill and devise a strategy to protect the country from their madness. firstname.lastname@example.org
By DAVE LINDORFFKevin Neish of Victoria, British Columbia, didn’t know he was a celebrity until he was about to board a flight from Istanbul to Ottawa. “This Arab woman wearing a beautiful outfit suddenly ran up to me crying, ‘It’s you! From Arab TV! You’re famous!’” he recalls with a laugh. “I didn’t know what she was talking about, but she told me, ‘I saw you flipping through the Israeli commando’s book! It’s being aired over and over!’” A soft-spoken teacher and former civilian engineer with the Canadian Department of Defense, Neish realized then that a video taken by an Arab TV cameraman in the midst of the Israeli assault on the Freedom Flotilla to Gaza of him flipping through a booklet had been transmitted before the Israelis blocked all electronic signals from the flotilla. The booklet had pictures and profiles of all the passengers, and he’d found it in the backpack of an Israeli Defense Force commando. Neish, 53, was on the second deck of the flotilla’s lead ship, the Turkish Mavi Marmara, with a good view of the stern, when the IDF, in the early morning darkness of May 31, began its assault with percussion grenades, tear gas and a hail of bullets. He then moved to the fourth deck in an enclosed stairwell, from which he watched took photographs as casualties were carried down past him to a makeshift medical station. Several IDF commandos, captured by the passengers and crew, were also brought past him. “I saw them carrying this one IDF guy down,” he recalls. “He looked terrified, like he thought he was going to be killed. But when a big Turkish guy, who had seen seriously injured passengers who had been shot by the IDF, charged over and tried to hit the commando, the Turkish aid workers pushed him off and pinned him to the wall. They protected this Israeli soldier.” That was when he found the backpack which the soldier had dropped. “I figured I’d look inside and see what he was carrying,” Neish says. “And inside was this kind of flip-book. It was full of photos and names in English and Hebrew of who was on all the ships. The booklet also had a detailed diagram of the decks of the Mavi Marmara.” Meanwhile, he says, more and more people were being carried down the stairs from the mayhem above—people who’d been shot, and people who were dying or people already dead. “I took detailed photos of the dead and wounded with my camera,” he says, adding, “There were several guys who had two neat bullet holes side by side on the side of their head–clearly they were executed.” Neish smuggled his photos out of Israel to Turkey despite his arrest on the ship and imprisonment in Israel for several days. “I pulled out the memory card, tossed my camera and anything I had on me that had anything to do with electronics, and then kept moving the chip around so it wouldn’t be found,” he says. “The Israelis took all the cameras and computers. They were smashing some and keeping others. I put the chip in my mouth under my tongue, between my butt cheeks, in my sock, everywhere, to keep them from finding it,” he says. He finally handed it to a Turk who was leaving for a flight home on a Turkish airline. He says the card ended up in the hands of an organization called Free Gaza, and he has seen some of his pictures published, so he knows they made it out successfully. Neish says that claims that the Israeli commandos were just armed with paint guns and 9 mm pistols are “Bullshit–at one point when I was in the stairwell, a commando opened a hatch above, stuck in a machine gun, and started firing. Bullets were bouncing all over the place. If the guy had gotten to look in and see where he was shooting, I’d have been dead, but two Turkish guys in the stairwell, who had short lengths of chain with them that they had taken from the access points to the lifeboats, stood to the side of the hatch and whipped them up at the barrell. I don’t know if they were trying to hit the commando or to use them to snatch away the gun, but the Israeli backed off, and they slammed and locked the hatch.” “I never saw a single paint gun, or a sign of a fired paint ball!” he says.
He also didn’t see any guns in the hands of people who were on the ship. “In the whole time I was there on the ship, I never saw a single weapon in the hands of the crew or the aid workers,” he says. Indeed, Neish, who originally had been on a smaller 70-foot yacht called the Challenger II, had transferred to the Mavi Marmara after a stop in Cyprus, because his boat had been sabatoged by Israeli agents (a claim verified by the Israeli government), making it impossible to steer. “When we came aboard the big boat, I was frisked and my bag was inspected for weapons,” he says. “Being an engineer, I of course had a pocket knife, but they took that and tossed it into the ocean. Nobody was allowed to have any weapons on this voyage. They were very careful about that.” What he did see during the IDF assault was severe bullet wounds. “In addition to several people I saw who were killed, I saw several dozen wounded people. There was one older guy who was just propped up against the wall with a huge hole in his chest. He died as I was taking his picture.” Neish says he saw many of the 9 who were known to have been killed, and of the 40 who were wounded, and adds, “There were many more who were wounded, too, but less seriously. In the Israeli prison, I saw people with knife wounds and broken bones. Some were hiding their injuries so they wouldn’t be taken away from the others.” He also says, “Initially there were reports that 16 on the boat had been killed. The medical station said 16. There was a suspicion that some bodies may have been thrown overboard. But what people think now is that the the other seven who are missing, since we’re not hearing from families, may have been Israeli spies.” Once the Israeli commandos had secured control of the Mavi Marmara, Neish says the ship’s passengers and crew were rounded up, with the men put in one area on deck, and the women put below in another area. The men were told to squat, and had their hands bound with plastic cuffs, which Neish says were pulled so tight that his wrists were cut and his hands swelled up and turned purple (he is still suffering nerve damage from the experience, which his doctor in Canada says he hopes will gradually repair on its own). “They told us to be quiet,” he says. “But at one point this Turkish imam stood up and started singing a call to prayer. Everybody was dead quiet–even the Israelis. But after about ten seconds, this Israeli officer stomped over through the squatting people, pulled out his pistol and pointed at the guy’s head, yelling ‘Shut up!’ in English. The imam looked at him directly and just kept singing! I thought, Jesus Christ, he’s gonna kill him! Then I thought, well, this is what I’m here for, I guess, so I stood up. The officer wheeled around and pointed his gun at my head. The imam finished his song and sat down, and then I sat down.” While the commandeered vessels were sailed to the Israeli port of Ashdot, the captives were left without food or water. “All we were given were some chocolate bars that the Israelis pilfered from the ship’s stores,” says Neish. “You had to grovel to get to go to the bathroom, and many people had to just go in their pants.” Things didn’t get much better once the passengers were transferred to an Israeli prison. He and the other prisoners with him, who hadn’t eaten for more than half a day, were tossed a frozen block of bread and some cucumbers. On the second day, someone from the Canadian embassy came around, calling out his name. “It turned out he’d been going to every cell looking for me,” says Neish. “My daughter had been frantically telling the Canadian government I was in the flotilla. Even though the Israelis had my name and knew where I was, they weren’t telling the Canadian embassy people. In fact the Canadians–and my daughter–thought I was dead, because people had said I’d been near the initial assault. The good thing is that as they went around calling out for me, they discovered two Arab-born Canadians that they hadn’t known were there.” “Eventually they got to my cell and I answered them. The embassy official said, ‘You’re Kevin? You’re supposed to be dead.’” After being held for a few days, there was a rush to move everyone to the Ben Gurion airport for a flight to Turkey. “It turned out that Israeli lawyers had brought our case to the Supreme Court, challenging the legality of our capture on international waters. There was a chance that the court would order the IDF to put us back on our ships and let us go, so the government wanted to get us out of Israel and moot the case. But two guys were hauled off, probably by Mossad (the Israeli intelligence agency). So we all said, ‘No. We don’t go unless you bring them back.’” The two men were returned and were allowed to leave with the rest of the group. “I honestly never thought the Israelis would board the ship,” says Neish. “I thought we’d get into Gaza. I mean, I went as part of the Free Gaza Movement, and they had made prior attempts, with some getting in, and some getting boarded or rammed, but this time it was a big flotilla. I figured we’d be stopped, and maybe searched. My boat, the Challenger II, only had dignitaries on board including three German MPs, and then Lt. Col. Ann Wright and myself. At one point in the Israeli prison, all the violence finally got to this man who had witnessed more death and mayhem than many active duty US troops in Iraq or Afghanistan. “I broke down and started crying,” he admits. “This big Turkish guy came over and asked me, ‘What’s wrong?’ I said, ‘Sixteen people died.’” “He said to me, ‘No, they died for a wonderful cause. They’re happy. You just go out and tell your story.’” DAVE LINDORFF is a founding member of the new independent collectively-owned, journalist-run online newspaper ThisCantBeHappening.net