Tuesday, July 17th | 5 Av 5778

July 11, 2011 9:01 am

Floating Some Ideas for the Flotilla Folk

avatar by David Harris

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Map showing the extent of the Gaza Strip Sea Blockade.

Now that the world has been treated once again to the sight of such selfless, humanistic, courageous, modern-day Martin Luther Kings and Rosa Parks, whose single-minded goal is to feed the hungry, unshackle the enslaved, and lift the downtrodden, allow me some additional suggestions beyond the lure of Gaza.

Let’s begin with Syria. The flotilla folk could be kept busy there for weeks. Why, with protesters against the Assad regime being arrested, imprisoned, tortured, shot, and killed right and left, where to begin? By marching in the streets alongside the demonstrators? Joining in the funeral processions? Banging on the gates of the prisons and torture chambers? Demanding access for foreign journalists to cover Syria’s street protests? Rushing to the Turkish border to lend a hand to Syria’s fleeing refugees? Or heading for Assad’s office, with a stop at his brother’s secret police operation, to confront the henchmen directly?

Millions of Syrians who wish to end the Alawite minority’s vise-like grip on the country might greet them with flowers.

And then, flush with the feel of the moment, the flotilla folk might head for Syria’s closet ally, Iran. By the way, en route, they should be sure to look towards those heading in the opposite direction. They might wish to wave to the government-ordered Iranians heading for Syria to assist Assad in his clampdown. Then again, perhaps I’m just the victim of the Western media slant, and in reality they’re nothing more than Iranian kindred spirits — Farsi-speaking “human rights defenders” and “peace activists.”

And once in Iran, where to begin? The flotilla folk might pay a call on the Baha’i, victims of relentless persecution by the regime for the practice of their peaceful way of life. Or they might check in on the many death-row inmates, since Iran ranks right up there in the use of capital punishment, including for children. Or how about challenging the regime on the treatment of those who dare protest Iran’s abuse of power? The prisons and cemeteries are full of dissidents who questioned the denial of basic human rights. And, while they’re at it, why not unfurl a few rainbow flags to stand up for Iran’s gay population. This assumes, of course, they’ve not bought President Ahmadinejad’s line, expressed at Columbia University, that there are simply no gays in the country. Apropos, that was the same memorable speech in which he declared Iran’s women the freest in the world.

And speaking of women, do the flotilla folk have any time for half the population of the region? As they make their way from country to country — whether by boat, bus or plane — how about a drop-in to Saudi Arabia? And be sure to include some driver’s ed teachers in the group. After all, the fact that Saudi women are not permitted to drive is bad enough, but, then again, that’s only the tip of the iceberg for the fate they’re consigned to. The flotilla folk might take a moment to learn about the concept of “honor killings” and then add a few lawyers to their ranks. Oh yes, and they should bring along a Christian Bible to conduct an open-air service in Riyadh to affirm the right of non-Muslims to live without fear in a kingdom where openly practicing a religion other than Islam can land you in serious trouble.

And then let them hop back on their “audacities of hope” to Gaza’s neighbor, Egypt.

After all, if Gaza is hell on earth, how to explain that the average life expectancy in the Arab world’s most populous nation is 1.3 years less than in Gaza? Egypt, then, to borrow from Dante Alighieri, must be a still lower rung of Purgatory. Pray, help Egypt’s unfortunate many, deprived of years of life.

And while in Egypt, how about highlighting the plight of its Coptic Christian minority, whose members suffer discrimination and murder, and whose churches have been burned? Surely, such violent persecution ranks high on the priority list, especially when it involves literally millions of people.

Now don’t bet the family farm that the flotilla folk will show up anytime soon in Egypt, Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else outside Gaza. The reason? Simple and obvious. If it doesn’t have an Israeli connection, they’re just not interested.

Why? Good question. Their single-minded obsession with Israel and all its alleged sins is worthy of in-depth psychological studies, just like their neglect of truly egregious examples of human suffering that don’t involve the world’s one and only Jewish state.

The predictable response of the flotilla folk and their ardent defenders will be that “two wrongs don’t make a right,” or that this is all a diversion from what’s going on in Gaza.

Well, no, two wrongs don’t make a right, but how to explain the thunderous silence of the flotilla folk — self-defined, modern civil-rights torchbearers — as basic freedoms are trampled on before their eyes in country after country, only to be met with telling indifference?

Just imagine how empowering it would be for those at grave risk to themselves, from Tripoli to Tehran, to know they have a lifeline of caring people prepared to risk their own life and limb in brotherly and sisterly solidarity!

But then again, life and limb would literally be on the line. The flotilla folk, even if they gave a fig for what’s going on in Syria or Iran, know full well that they wouldn’t stand a chance against regimes that have shown no respect whatsoever for the sanctity of human life. For all the demonization of Israel, they know they can count on the conscience of a democratic society that uses force — yes, according to a strict code of conduct — only as a last resort. If there are, however, flotilla folk who truly seek martyrdom, their chances, they should take note, do rise dramatically with an attempted protest at Assad’s office or Iran’s prisons.

And then there’s the diversion charge — all this being just a smoke screen to distract from what’s going on in Gaza.

And what exactly is going on in Gaza? Last I looked, Hamas was in charge. And last I checked Hamas was a genocidal group with the stated aim of killing Jews and destroying Israel. (And to the flotilla folk, a friendly warning — if you yourselves ever fell under Hamas’ rule, at a bare minimum say goodbye to the freedoms you purport to cherish.) It’s been labeled a terrorist organization by the US and EU. Even so, aid is arriving across two land borders — Israel and Egypt — and the UN is present in force.

The US, EU, and UN Secretary-General all publicly opposed the current flotilla attempt as totally unnecessary and, at the same time, deliberately provocative. Israel is out of Gaza by its own volition, and only shows up when it needs to respond, as any nation would, to violent and unprovoked attacks on its citizens from the Gaza side of the border. And most importantly, the fate of Gaza is ultimately in the hands of its residents. To pretend otherwise, as the flotilla folk do, is the ultimate infantilization of those who live there.

And yes, one can care about Israel and also care about the state of human rights in neighboring countries.

After all, if Syria or Iran had even a smidgen of the democratic safeguards that Israel does, they wouldn’t be remotely in the position they’re in today — and the region and the world would be far better off.

The flotilla folk could help, but they won’t. With no Israeli angle, there’s no appeal. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks understood the basic proposition that human rights are indivisible. If their legacy is alive today, as it needs to be, it’s certainly not in the hands of the flotilla folk.

For more information, visit ajc.org.

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  • PissedOffAmerican

    Medical Crisis Worsening in Gaza

    GAZA CITY, Jun 19, 2011 (IPS) By Eva Bartlett- “During the first years of the siege, we could still manage, but nowadays we have no alternatives,” says Dr. Hassan Khalaf, Deputy Health Minister in Gaza. “It is a major crisis: many health services have stopped, and I’m afraid this will spiral out of control, because Gaza doesn’t have the essential medicines and supplies needed.”

    Cancer, kidney, heart and organ transplant patients, as well as patients needing routine surgeries, including eye and dental surgery, have been suffering for the last five years under the Israeli-led, internationally-backed siege of the Gaza Strip. Year by year, the warnings of Gaza’s health crisis grow more dire, with the latest warning from Gaza’s Ministry of Health stating the Strip is at emergency levels of medical supplies.

    Following the democratic elections in 2006 that brought Hamas to power in Gaza, the population has been constrained under a siege which bans food items, construction materials, and school supplies among thousands of items. Medical supplies and equipment do not escape the blacklist, for years now depriving Palestinians in Gaza of basics like baby formulas, antibiotics, and MRI and X-Ray machines, which Israel reasons could be used for “terror” purposes.

    While alarming zero-stock levels of drugs were already being reported in 2007 – when 80-90 drugs of the 480 deemed essential were at zero – Palestinian physicians could still find ways around the shortages. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in November 2008 reported that “medical staff try to cope by using the next best solution which is not always a good one – for example, if they need tubes for a medical procedure, they will use a tube size smaller or bigger than the appropriate one.” While the alternatives were not optimal and could result in inadequate and painful treatments, there were at least alternatives. But with each year of the total siege on Gaza, particularly after the 23 days of Israeli war on Gaza in 2008-2009, the already dilapidated medical system in Gaza has been rendered more sickly. During the Israeli war on Gaza, Israeli warplanes bombed over half of Gaza’s hospitals, as well as 44 clinics and the medical storage facility of the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.

    In February 2011, an Israeli bombing destroyed a medical warehouse in Jabliya. “We lost a large amount of stocks we had finally received from Ramallah just a few days prior to the bombing,” says Dr. Khalaf.

    In June 2010, the World Health Organization (WHO) issued a call for “unimpeded access into the Gaza Strip of life-saving medical supplies, including equipment and medicines, as well as more effective movement of people in and out of the territory for medical training and the repair of devices needed to deliver appropriate healthcare and respond to the population’s humanitarian health needs.”

    The near-daily prolonged power outages take their toll on the health system, necessitating back-up, diesel-powered generators to run vital hospital machinery including dialysis machines, life support, incubators, and even refrigerators to keep medicines, vaccines, and blood plasma among other things from spoiling.

    In July 2010, the United Nations (UN) reported that “when power is cut during dialysis (each session lasts three hours) the patient has to be urgently disconnected from the machine to avoid blood clots, which is potentially fatal.”

    The UN report noted that “only 26 out of 57 primary health centers in Gaza are equipped with generators – three of them are out of order due to lack of spare parts and eight have no fuel most of the time. All others operate at less than one third of their capacity due to limited fuel supplies. All of the 13 hospitals in Gaza have generators, but as of the end of June, the fuel available for their generators was at only 20 percent of requirements.”

    But prolonged shortages of medical supplies have set-off new alarm bells.

    “During 2008, Gaza received less than half of the needed medicines and supplies,” says Dr. Khalaf. The WHO reported that in 2010 Gaza received even less, only 40 percent of the Strip’s needs transferred to Gaza. “As of now, in 2011 we’ve received only third of what is needed,” says Khalaf.

    With years of delays by both the Israeli-led siege and the Ramallah Health Ministry, Gaza’s zero-stock items list – now at 180 items – has grown as has the number of items temporarily re-stocked in hospitals and clinics.

    “We’re missing painkillers and anesthetics, cancer and epilepsy drugs, antibiotics, infant formulas, medicines for dialysis, even rubber gloves,” says Khalaf.

    The ministry’s warning is echoed by the WHO, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR), which noted on Jun. 13 that Gaza has not received medical supplies since February 2011. PCHR reports that the medical shortages affect “ICUs, nurseries of premature infants; operation rooms; anesthesia and recovery; emergency; cardiac catheterisation; hematology and oncology; nephritic diseases; and pediatrics.”

    According to Dr. Khalaf, hundreds of patients await “eye surgeries, endoscopic, vascular and pediatric surgeries, and neurosurgery” among others.

    A group of Norwegian doctors surveyed Gaza’s hospitals and clinics in February this year. Their study, reported in the Lancet, highlighted the difficulties for cancer patients in Gaza who receive only part of their chemotherapy treatments. Many have died as a result.

    “Oncologists said 100 of 260 cancer patients at Gaza’s largest hospital were unable to receive effective treatment because the required combination of several drugs was not obtainable,” reported the Lancet.



  • PissedOffAmerican

    three years of protesting Israel’s killing zone

    BEIT HANOUN, Gaza Strip, Jul 8, 2011 (IPS) By Eva Bartlett-
    It is another sweltering morning in Gaza. Despite the heat, a tenacious group of women, men and children gathers near the bombed Agricultural College in Beit Hanoun for the weekly march to the “buffer zone”, the 300 metres flanking the Gaza-Israel Green Line border which Israeli authorities have declared off-limits to Palestinians.

    Around a decade ago, Palestinian farmers could still access land up to 50 metres from the border. The Israeli-deemed “no-go zone” expanded over the years to 150 metres, then 300 metres, cutting Palestinian farmers from their orchards, crops and grazing land.

    A decade later, those orchards bulldozed by Israeli bulldozers, farmers now struggle to access land in some areas up to two kilometres along the 300 metre buffer zone violently rendered off-limits by the Israeli soldiers.

    Over 30 percent of Gaza’s agricultural land is not worked on because of the buffer zone. This is Gaza’s more fertile land, where olive, fruit, citrus and nut trees once flourished, along with wheat, barley, rye and other crops, providing much of Gaza’s needs.

    Gaza’s north has been particularly hard-hit over the years. And in the last three years, it is people from Gaza’s north which have led the non-violent demonstrations against the buffer zone.

    The popular Palestinian resistance song, Unadikum (I call to you), blares from Saber Zaneen’s cell phone through the megaphone from which in a few minutes Zaneen, 45, will broadcast the message against the buffer zone. Zaneen and Nassir are two of the founders of Local Initiative, the community group which leads these demonstrations.

    “We are a people’s resistance. We march for the farmers and the families living in the buffer zone,” Nassir says.

    “Many families have had their homes destroyed, their trees and crops bulldozed, and are prevented from working their land. This includes many families beyond 300 metres from the border,” he says.

    “This is the third year that we’ve marched on a weekly basis in different areas of the north,” says Nassir.

    The group of approximately two dozen marches towards Erez, flanking the road roughly half a kilometre to the west along which travel those fortunate few allowed to pass through the Israeli- controlled border crossing. Straight ahead is one of the many solid concrete military towers that dot the border, from the northwest to Gaza’s southeast. It is from this tower that Israeli soldiers’ shooting usually begins.

    “When we first began, we only ventured up to 300 metres from the border. But slowly we started getting closer to the border. On Palestinian land,” Nassir points out. “In some areas we have walked right up to the border.”

    On May 15, when non-violent popular demonstrations marking Nakba Day (remembering the 1948 forced expulsion of over 750,000 Palestinians from their land to make way for the Jewish state of Israel) took place in Lebanon, Syria’s Golan Heights and Gaza, this same small group of Beit Hanoun demonstrators were joined by what participants estimated to be 1,000 protestors. Over 100 protesters were injured, and one teenager killed by Israeli shooting and shelling from military towers and tanks on the unarmed protesters in Gaza.

    On Jun. 7, at the same small mound of earth with its two flags where we’ve paused for speeches and chants, Mohammed Kafarna, 19, was injured by Israeli-fired bullet shrapnel to his neck, thigh and abdomen.

    “They opened fire without warning,” says Nassir. “Mohammed was injured right away.”

    Aside from farmers and demonstrators, some of Gaza’s most desperately poor have been the victims of Israeli soldiers’ shootings and shellings, what Israeli authorities say are security measures.

    The many ruined houses near the border provide both rubble and metal, valuable in Gaza under siege which has let virtually no construction materials enter for the past five years. It is in these plots of destruction that Gaza’s collectors sift, risking unexploded ordinances or attacks from Israeli soldiers.

    Since 2010 alone, at least 11 Palestinian civilians have been killed in the northern Gaza border region, including: a 91-year-old farmer hit by Israeli shelling 600 metres from the border, a 64-year-old farmer shot several times in the heart while on his land 550 metres from the border, and an 18-year- old scrap collector on land 600 metres from the border.

    Well over 30 more civilians have been injured, the majority impoverished scrap collectors shot in the foot or leg by Israeli soldiers along the border. A number of these were as young as 14 and 15.



  • PissedOffAmerican


    “Emily Henochowitzc” ring a bell?

    “Tristan Anderson”???

    “Furkan Dugan”????

    How ’bout “Rachel Corrie”?

    Yeah, Israel’s treatment of peaceful protestors at B’iln, and elsewhere, is a stellar example of how to treat peaceful protestors, eh????

    Blind hypocricy and open racism is beginning to define Israel. And people are beginning to notice.

  • israelrocks

    To Alice Walker: You’re on a Ship of Fools
    Poem by Award winning writer Nanette Rayman-Rivera:


    Come! Sail away, come sail away, on your Audacity

    of Hope: your version of Gaza is not the real world. How can I leave

    you ignorant, sailing the ocean with a lack of clean clothes

    dreaming this wrong sort of thing, holding

    your letters, smugly

    preparing to announce your discovery!

    as the blaze of the Middle East sun

    truly does burn

    being wholly restrained by

    the spanking new mall dotted

    with wild orchids and aster

    by the rows upon rows of oranges and sweets.

    It makes no sense

    to come a’ courting Hamas, to resist

    the eternal fig of truth. It is not déclassé enough, the ruffle those letters make

    beating up the buntline: the soul

    wants to shimmer, but I doubt that you own one, in our comprehension of

    that idea. O Alice, feed your head,

    O Alice,

    Nazi-headed old nymph from Eatonton Georgia.

    Letter-carrier. Racketeer. Perjury Pimp.

    You will abandon your slander soon enough.

    Your liver-bellied letters and anti-Semitic lies,

    your shot-out eye and catawampus fervor,

    your love of Dylan and Martin Luther King, Jr.

    dissolves in your 100-proof blood.

    Do you think I’ll leave you in peace, bald as a cue

    ball and nude in the church pew, oblivious

    to the charter of Hamas, who would look under stones

    to find a Jew to stone. You must not know

    how many Qassam rockets we bear, the little suicide

    boys & the mortar attacks on Ashkelon falling

    down laughing even in August, in the middle of erev’s darkness. You become

    also responsible for these deaths.


    I am your huckleberry, your psychosis, your greasy stove, Israel’s pure heart,

    your Malcom X-ed out, I am the Euphorbia microsphaera growing

    from your mad-dog vessel by being poisonous: I am the pain

    warning the world: you must need love real bad

    to have abandoned the Jews

    in favor of Hamas, those heroic Jewish lambs turning

    tumbles in their graves, turning ashen in twilight, waves of wild echoes

    of Michael Schwerner and Andrew Goodman not permitted the use

    of earth , not anticipating the truncheons & bullets. I must remind you

    of those good ole’ boys of Neshoba County beating & shooting those Jews,

    the ones who saved you.

    So, you can withhold the lies heavy as rain and I’ll be happy

    with the hot nights that come so often here, while your flotilla soaks

    awkwardly into evil’s crescent moon. Israel’s sun rests in my

    eyes, I can always smell you.


    I can carry the words of Rav Kahane to foil you—

    Above all, it is not decency or goodness of gentleness that impresses

    the Middle East, but strength.

    You’re the river too lazy to spit out the sewerage, an annual midwife refusing

    to cut your fascist umbilical cord. You are the reaper, the cult-whore, dirty sock drawer,

    a cavern to fill with sterile manure. In the end, a hole to fill with fertile truth.

    I can’t carry Kahane’s words long enough to dissuade you,

    although you once married a Jew. Can you picture him

    as a boy, hovering in the doorway right by the Mezuzah, a picture

    postcard made ugly by you for your cargo. You spread your alfresco on ash,

    you say: What is to be done if the Israeli military murders you, where

    Code Pink will light every Muslim-sympathizing wretch at the wick

    of your self-righteous grody hokum.


    Look at me, a Jew, touching my eyes

    to make my soul calm, my fingers dry from Southern sun;

    in flat land, bursts of pink flowers, nameless—

    even here, even at the furthest point from Israel,

    even at my never-ending love for Yerushalaim,

    my hand wiping my face makes

    a figure, not of surrender,

    but one of Am Y’Israel Chai!

    and I know

    I am free to fly past

    your audacity.