Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Another Harsh Winter in Gaza Awaits

Winter is coming, and it will be bitterly cold in Gaza. Many Gazans, whose houses were destroyed by the Israeli Defence Forces, have no shelter and will suffer terribly. Families still live amid the rubble of their homes with no resources to fix the damage.

With the sea blockaded illegally by the Israelis, the people of Gaza are literally imprisoned by these actions. Not only is Israel preventing building supplies from entering Gaza but also coffee, tea, paper, school books, toys for children, and thousands of other items. Palestine is not a poor country, and Palestinians are not a poor people. They are being forced into poverty.

"The blockade, although initiated by Israel, could not be successful if world governments, including Arab governments, were not complicit with Israel. At the Rafah crossing, aid was denied entry by the Egyptian government. Egypt destroyed the food and medicine by setting it on fire. This is proof that the purpose is to ethnically cleanse Gaza, allowing its people to die from starvation and curable disease as in Iraq where approximately 650,000 children died from the
results of economic sanctions," says Anisa Abdel Fattah, Chairperson of the Committee to Ban Economic Sanctions, whose conference in Washington, DC is planned for September 29.

The continuing failure of the international community to protect the Palestinians demands that we, as private citizens have to directly intervene to solve the crisis.

"When governments fail to protect human rights, civilians must step up. Civilians have a very important role to play, especially when government institutions fail to do their job in upholding the law and human rights," said Huwaida Arraf, Chairperson of the Free Gaza Movement, during a talk at the American University of Beirut. Ms. Arraf described how she was approached by an
elderly Gazan man who stopped her in the street.

"He had tears in his eyes. He said you gave us hope that our people, our family outside have not forgotten us."

A year ago, 44 ordinary people from 17 different countries sailed to Gaza from Cyprus in two small wooden boats. They did what our governments would not do: they broke through the Israeli siege.

During the last year, the Free Gaza Movement has organised seven more voyages, successfully arriving in Gaza on five separate occasions, bringing in journalists, human rights workers, parliamentarians and other concerned people. They took out dozens of Palestinian students and medical patients, and helped to reunite families separated by the siege. They remain the only ships to sail to Gaza in over forty-two years.

On three occasions, including the most recent attempt in June, the boats were blocked from entering by the Israeli navy.

Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories declared, "The landing of two wooden boats carrying human rights activists in Gaza is an important symbolic victory ... Above all, what is being tested is whether the imaginative engagement of dedicated private citizens can influence the struggle of a beleaguered people for basic human rights, and whether their courage and commitment can awaken the conscience of humanity to an
unfolding tragedy."

Former Malaysian prime minister Dr. Mahathir Mohamad, who met members of the Free Gaza Movement in Cyprus, was shocked at how tiny was the only fishing boat that they still have for future trips to Gaza. "Yet 25 people dared to sail in this tiny boat, sleeping on the open deck, being seasick, without proper food, and being made to face Israeli attacks… I don't think I would be able to endure the kind of discomfort and dangers faced by the activists of the Free Gaza
Movement. All I can do is give moral support to them…"

There is definitely urgency in raising funds for the purchase of the vessel because with winter approaching, the people of Palestine will be affected. "We want to carry building materials as we need to rebuild houses, because they (Palestinians) are now living in tents and when winter comes, it will be terrible for the old, sick and children. Many of them may die because of the

Ms. Abdulla, a banker from Bahrain who travelled by sea to Gaza with the group in 2008, said, "I think Arabs in particular should go. At the very least they should support the movement financially. Everyone is obliged to do something to stop this tragedy." Those who want to help the cause can visit www.freegaza.org.

Regardless of Israeli threats and intimidation, Free Gaza volunteers will continue to directly challenge the Israeli military with their small boats, concretely demonstrating that this siege has nothing whatsoever to do with security and is simply an illegal act of collective punishment.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National Association of Muslim American Women

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Disengaging America from the Israel Lobby

"No taxation by a foreign government without representation" is a basic American principle. Yet, the taxation currently endured by US taxpayers because of the Israel Lobby far exceeds the level of taxation by the British that led to the American Revolution. Pro-Israel organisations do everything possible to prevent Americans from openly discussing the fact that they are being taxed without consent.

Through subversion Israel advocates have orchestrated passage of the Patriot Act, Homeland Security abuses, and other erosions of civil liberties. Pro-Israel organisations file lawsuits to keep the question of Israel investments off local ballots. Jewish communal organisations bribe elected public officials with free trips to Israel to gain their support — even against the will of the majority of their constituents!

Financing Israel at the expense of basic American values victimises every citizen to benefit a very small sub-group of the population and also creates worldwide anti-US hostility, which puts all Americans at risk of terrorist retaliation. Obeying the Israel lobby goes against all logical American self-interest. Obeying Zionist pressure to invade several countries at once means watching America commit suicide, economically and politically, for the sake of Israel. Zionist activists are a real and present danger to the USA. They should be stripped of their US citizenship and sent to Guantanamo for interrogation.

America’s free press, justice system, and democracy are dependent upon the separation of American from Israeli interests. To survive, America must disentangle itself from the Zionist web of control. The common Zionist argument that Jews should get to keep what they stole just because they’ve been sitting on other people’s property for so many years is not a valid legal argument. International law as defined by the post-WW2 Nuremburg Tribunals does not confer upon occupiers any entitlement to “security.” Zionism is nothing less than a criminal ideology that completely rejects the fundamental American principle of sacred 
property rights.

America stands for equal rights, which applies to property and residency rights and other legal norms such as use of public transportation and voting. The US has acknowledged the injustice involved in colonising America at the expense of the native population. Even though economic disparities still remain, Native Americans have US citizenship and are allowed to rent, buy and sell property just like other citizens. This is not true for millions of Palestinian refugees who are denied any passports while they live under Israeli curfews and martial law. It is even against Israeli law for sympathetic Jews voluntarily to reconvey stolen property that they currently hold without legitimate title to the original, rightful owners. In general, Jews cannot even sell homes to Arabs. Yet Germany returned homes stolen from the Jews in World War II to their descendants.

Many Americans are aware that the subsidisation of the Israeli military at the expense of the US taxpayer puts all Americans at risk of retaliation. Yet the criminal acts begin right under our noses here in America by bankers and real estate agents. With the deep enmeshment of Israeli agents in the United States political spectrum, the Israel Lobby acts as a mafia facilitating the looting of billions of dollars via US military acquisitions from Jewish-owned defense corporations like General Dynamics and via capital transfers including ongoing complex beneficiary-obscuring transactions. In addition to ongoing US foreign aid for weapons purchase, the USA buys billions of dollars of weapons, declares the weaponry to be obsolete and then consigns it to Israel at practically no charge. Using full-scale militarised equipment supplied and paid for by the United States, the Israeli government uses US tax money to pay the IDF to force the non-Jewish Palestinian rightful owners to vacate their own property so that subsidised real-estate magnates can bulldoze the place to build suburban-style condos for foreigners outfitted with supplies from Home Depot and JCPenney.

As the Israeli government orchestrates increasing demand for Palestinian property, ordinary American Jews wishing to escape their credit card debts buy up stolen Palestinian property by means of mortgages that roll in existing indebtedness at subsidised interest rates. American Jewish purchasers can then resell the stolen properties at a profit and return debt-free to the USA with cash in their pockets. This outrageous criminal conspiracy takes place in broad-daylight generally under the aegis of taxpayer subsidised Zionist “charities” that encourage “Aliyah” (Jewish ascension to Israel).

Are American law enforcement officials investigating this racist organised crime network operating in full daylight? The Jews who move into this stolen property are participating in an international crime. The FBI should be attending all the Pro-Israel training workshops that take place on US soil and that promote both the subversion of all our basic national beliefs and also the looting of the US economy. The United States has no choice but to start investigating, arresting, charging, prosecuting, convicting and incarcerating American citizens participating in the Zionist settlement process.

Karin Friedemann is a Boston-based writer on Middle East affairs and US politics. She is Director of the Division on Muslim Civil Rights and Liberties for the National 
Association of Muslim American Women. Joachim Martillo contributed to this article