Tel Aviv Rally Against Gaza Blockade;
Wave of Protests, Gov’t Condemnation

Waves of protests and governmental denunciations against Israel’s attack on the Mavi Marmara relief vessel last Monday washed over the world, even as Israel raided and captured another aid vessel, the Rachel Corrie. The demonstrations, while widespread, did not typically involve more than a few thousand persons in each city. The firmness and frankness of the governmental condemnations were often the real story.

Aljazeera English has video of the capture of the new ship:

Israeli authorities declined to allow cement into Gaza. The Rachel Corrie had been bringing it for reconstruction purposes, but Israeli authorities say that Hamas can use it to construct barricades.

In my view, the most important demonstration was the one held in Tel Aviv, sponsored by the Israeli Left, and consisting of some 6,000 activists. The horrific and also brain dead tactic of mounting suicide bombings against ordinary Israelis, adopted by some radical Palestinian groups in the first part of this decade, had killed the Israeli peace movement and given the Israeli Right the opportunity to capture the government and use its resources to intensively colonize Palestinian land. Despite what the US press keeps saying, a majority of Israelis has consistently supported trading land for peace in opinion polls. On Saturday, we heard once more from the decent Israeli left and center, who routinely call the ultra-orthodox who vote for Shas, a pillar of the Netanyahu government, “Taliban.” If the Palestinian leadership can restrain the radicals among them and go on cultivating non-violent tactics like the growing boycott of goods made by West Bank colonies, and preferring to import Turkish goods, they may finally have a winning formula.

Anger remained deep in the Turkish public according to polling, with over 60% wanting stronger Turkish government action against Israel. One pollster said, “The public is in such a state that they almost want war against Israel.” Even more scary, some Turkish intelligence analysts and officers appear to be entertaining a conspiracy theory that Israeli intelligence, Mossad, is hand in glove with the Kurdish Workers Party (PPP) terrorist group in its bombings of eastern Turkey.

In France, at least 17,000 protesters came out in various cities, including the capital, Paris.

The Northern Ireland government also condemned the raid and the siege of the people of Gaza even as small rallies were held in Belfast.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, as many as 5,000 protesters marched through the center of the city. And, the Scottish government issued a statement:

“The Scottish Government condemns the Israeli authorities’ actions that resulted in the tragic loss of life on the Mavi Marmara,” the statement read. “We have added Scotland’s voice to that of the wider international community in condemning it, and calling for the immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade of Gaza.”

Then, the Swedish Port Workers Union announced that its members would boycott Israeli ships and goods during the third week in June.

Thousands of protesters also came out in London. The satellite station Aljazeera English has video:

Whereas protesters and their governments were on the same side in the UK, in Germany the rallies were mostly sponsored by immigrant Turkish and Arab groups.

The demonstrations in themselves will have little impact on Israel’s policy toward the half-starved Gazans. After all, much larger demonstrations were unable to stop the 2003 invasion of Iraq or either the 2006 Lebanon War or the 2008-09 Gaza War. But the straightforward public condemnation of Israeli policies from so many highly placed governmental quarters strikes me as a new thing. And it could change policy.

22 Responses

  1. A buddy of mine informs me that various charities have offered to build/rebuild homes in Gaza using cement, thereby 1. getting homes rebuilt and 2. keeping cement out of the hands of Hamas, which would like to use the cement for constructing fortifications.
    Seems a bit insulting to have to outsource the use of such a basic building material, but how is that offer being received?

  2. I agree that “If the Palestinian leadership can restrain the radicals among them and go on cultivating non-violent tactics like the growing boycott of goods made by West Bank colonies, and preferring to import Turkish goods, they may finally have a winning formula.” I’m just not sure what they can win at this point.

    I am constantly reminded of the Palestine-Israel Action Group (Ann Arbor Quakers) map you published in March. You wrote: “The Israelis have steadily and determinedly usurped Palestinian territory throughout the last nearly a century, and by now it is highly unlikely that what is left of the Palestinian West Bank and the besieged, half-starving Gaza Strip can plausibly be cobbled together into a ‘state.’”

    And, it was two years ago that Jennnifer Loewenstein, wrote Brothers In Arms, The Triumph of US/Israeli Policy in Palestine, her thought-provoking CounterPunch article about Israel’s strategy in Palestine. (I believe I followed a link from Informed Comment to the article.)

    In the article, she writes about the apparent Hamas “victory” in Gaza: “While no one can foresee all of the events that might take place in a region as volatile as the Middle East, Hamas’ takeover in Gaza will ultimately benefit Israel and the United States. It will benefit Israel by giving it a free hand to destroy Hamas, permanently sever the West Bank from the Gaza Strip, and re-‘negotiate’ with its newly appointed ‘partners’ the remaining islands of economically unviable territory that will soon be entirely encircled by a concrete and barbed-wire wall, cut off from their supplies of water and fertile land, and separated internally by ‘Arab-free’ roads.

    Isn’t that just what has happened?

    • I’m sorry. Make that 3 years ago for Lowenstein’s article. I guess time flies when you’re having fun.

    • “. it’s utterly hypocritical for Israelis to wonder aloud why Palestinians
      don’t pursue a non-violent strategy. One obvious reason is that, whenever they
      have, Israel brutally represses it.” (Norman G. Finkelstein, 11 September
      2003)

      • But, surely, that’s the whole point. It is the brutal suppression of non-violent protest that passive resistance seeks to provoke. It might help if Islamic religious leaders would put death in non-violent resistance on the same level as death in violent resistance. What doesn’t help is counseling Palestinians to give up on non-violence because it provokes exactly the response from the Israelis it’s supposed to provoke.

  3. “Despite what the US press keeps saying, a majority of Israelis has consistently supported trading land for peace in opinion polls.”
    Has the US press said or implied otherwise?
    You are correct that the suicide bombings radicalized Israelis and led to more support for Likud. As did, and do, the rocket attacks. I’m not sure the Israeli majority ever rejected land-for-peace, but it didn’t seem that there was anyone on the Palestinian side willing to participate. The fence/wall pretty much stopped suicide bombings, and the rockets come only from Hamas-controlled Gaza, so I’m sure the public is way out ahead of Netanyahu and Liberman in willingness to negotiate seriously with Abbas. An important “however” is that the residents of the settlements themselves are not.
    As I said earlier, one of the few good things that might come out of the attempted blockade running is the fall of the Netanyahu government, or at least a major reshuffle that might give more power to other parties than Likud.

    • Why do Likudniks always ignore the facts? Hamas was willing to participate in 2008. It had a ceasefire with Israel which was holding – except that Israel was not upholding its part of the bargain: to allow the passage of goods into and out of Gaza. After around 5 months of this, Israel went a step too far and murdered several Hamas leaders with a rocket attack (how is it that Palestinians are the only ones described as “firing rockets”?) . This happened on US election day (I wonder why?) and the only mainstream newspaper to report it was the British “Guardian” as far as I am aware.

      The US press I read (NYT and Wapo) seem to think that Israel has always been there and that Palestinians are stealing Israeli land.

      While Israel had a government that could be described as “moderate”, even though it had people who said:

      “We declare openly that the Arabs have no right to settle on even one centimeter of Eretz Israel… Force is all they do or ever will understand. We shall use the ultimate force until the Palestinians come crawling to us on all fours.” Rafael Eitan, Chief of Staff of the Israeli Defense Forces – Gad Becker, Yediot Ahronot 13 April 1983, New York Times 14 April 1983.

      they had the support of the people of the US who were suitably propagandized by the MSM. Israel has always been radical – but was able to present itself as moderate. With a “right wing” government in power it may be possible to see light between the US and Israeli administrations.

      • If by Likudnik you mean me, you are very wrong.
        Hamas has never been willing to grant more than a short-term cease fire (to permit them to rearm and rebuild) nor to recognize Israel’s right to exist, i.e., the two-state solution.
        Israel’s rocket attacks are different from Hamas’s in that Israel targets known terrorists while Hamas shoots unguided rockets in the general direction of Israeli civilians. Even Goldstone recognizes the Hamas rockets as war crimes.
        Yes, there are many Israelis, including but unfortunately not limited to the settlers, who don’t recognize Arab rights to anything other than servitude to Israel. Those opinions are not the majority but they are a very noisy and influential minority. If those opinions prevail, Israel is doomed. You can quote opinions like that all day; Israeli politics being what it is (democracies have this kind of problem, you know), people holding those opinions may be in positions of influence. I can quote opinions all day of Palestinians who want to push the Jews into the sea but the Fatah government may be willing to move beyond that.
        Israel has not always been there, but then neither has “Palestine.” Jews and Arabs have lived there for millenia and land has changed hands, legally and illegally, for the entire time. And yes, Israel is radical–a Jewish state, what a radical concept.

  4. Sunday Morning News Pill: Yahoo front-pages a brand new, AP channeled Netanyahu chapter, plus a wheezy old CSM story dating from before the Racheal Corrie was even intercepted, then second-pages a story on numbers, wounds, and accounts of Mavi Marmara survivors, and reports of the number of dead who were shot in the back or head.

    In the newest chapter of his current novel, beloved author “Bubi” Netanyahu claims Turkish “activist” “thugs” were the ‘organized attack force’ on the Mavi Marmara. “Netanyahu did not say where the information came from. But Israeli military officials have claimed there is strong evidence that the men who fought the soldiers were hired mercenaries.”

    Once more the author’s keen insight into his American audience has left a reverberating chord. Where Bubi’s new information came from is of course entirely irrelevant to the telling of the story. Minor discrepancies such as whether the IDF contains hired mercenaries, the disappearance of any evidence conflicting with Netanyahu’s story line, the fabrication and alteration of video and audio evidence, the complete absence of seized weapons, the issue of less-than-black-skinned piracy on the high seas, and the vexing problem of how to describe a container of wheelchairs as terrorist weapons, are of no real concern to the readers of this author’s gripping tale.

    What will happen to Sasha? Will Lev be re-united with Mimsel? Stay tuned. Bubi at six!

  5. A few more protests and boycotts you left out Prof. Cole.

    – The British trade Union UNITE with 3 millions members.

    “Britain’s largest union, Unite, has unanimously passed a motion to boycott Israeli companies at its first policy conference in Manchester on Wednesday.
    The motion, which passed unanimously, called the union “to vigorously promote a policy of divestment from Israeli companies”, while a boycott of Israeli goods and services will be “similar to the boycott of South African goods during the era of apartheid”.

    Source: The Jewish Chronicle. link to thejc.com

    – Norway Trade Union calls for Norway pension fund Divestment from Israel.

    “Norway’s largest trade union federation, comprising almost one fifth of the entire Norwegian population, called on the State Pension Fund, the third largest in the world, to divest from all Israeli companies.”

    Source: ISM London link to ism-london.org.uk

    – The Pixies, The Gorillaz and The Klaxons all cancel concerts in Israel.

    “US alternative rock bank the ‘Pixies’ canceled their June 9 Tel Aviv show on Sunday, producer Shuki Weiss announced. The decision followed earlier cancellations by the ‘Klaxons’ and ‘Gorillaz’ following the death of nine Turks, when the Navy boarded ships belong to the Gaza-bound flotilla on Monday. ”

    Source: Jerusalem Post link to jpost.com

    – Swedish football team asks UEFA (European Football Governing Body) to cancel its match against Israel.

    “The Swedish Football Association announced Tuesday that it will appeal to European soccer’s governing body, UEFA, in a bid to cancel the scheduled appearance of Sweden’s U-21 team for a game in Israel this week. Israel and Sweden are due to meet in a critical match on Friday in the qualifying round for the 2011 European Championships.”

    Source: Haaretz link to haaretz.com

    – South Africa, Nicaragua, Turkey have all suspended diplomatic relations with Israel. Ireland has also expelled a security agent at the Irish Israeli Embassy over the previous Passport Forgeries with Sinn Fein/Socialist Workers/ some opposition Labour polititians calling for suspending diplomatic relations.

    Also Turkey had probably the biggest protests with an estimated 100,000 in Istanbul.

  6. There was a manifestation in Geneva too, the protester marched peacefully to the United Nation building, wearing shilds and chanting slogans. (a video can be seen here : link to tsr.ch) Supporting them and marching with them were two Member of Parliament. Their intent is to try to send a ship of goods to Gaza too (however that may take some months untill the funds are found). The purpose is to continue to send ships of goods to Gaza, untill the Israeli have to end the boycott. That peacefull strategy is the right one IMO and if the world mobilize itself against the Israelian blocus, they will have to end it. How many ships the Israelians will be able to stop ? How long can this last ? The only problem with this strategy is that it will probably cost a lot of money to send, say one ship a week to Gaza as long as necessary. The Western government have condemned the aggression and killing on the first ship; they are requesting an inquiry. But that is not enough, they should all participate in the shipping of goods to Gaza.

  7. the right has never missed an opportunity to make good on the oppositions’ errors.
    they are too smart to change and miss a chance to “prove” their point. and proving their point is all that matters.

    it will take strong counter measures to stop the “right” in Israel and the US. that i don’t see as happening. Both countries are owned and operated by the “right.”
    to expect humanity from these amoral leaders is fantasy.

    the feedback loop with the right is not going to be broken by wishful thinking.

    it will take vast amounts of destruction, more than we have seen yet.
    the crescendo may be the war in Iran, coming to a neighborhood near you.

    and of course, America will be on the Israeli side. humanity be damned!
    only Israelis have moral outrage.

  8. Israel offers a new photo seized from Mavi Marmara passenger as corroboration that the IDF attackers of the aid flotilla faced “deadly force”. Let’s see, one tall man with his mouth closed wearing a baseball cap and lifejacket, calmly taking movies of a bearded man with his mouth open and his finger in the air, and his other arm over the shoulder of a teenage male dressed up in army clothes with his mouth open in an apparent gasp, and some blood on his face, standing at the head of some stairs. Also a fat person in a relaxed pose with his hand resting lightly on a guard rail and his head obscured by the video camera, apparently just standing there.

    Plausible captions for this photo:

    Man with Finger in air: “Fred I told you to keep that damned camera away. Now look what you’ve done. You hit him on the head with it and the other nuts will think we did it on purpose. Do something useful for once and get a bandage.”

    “I said no more photos. They’ll think we’re taking advantage of them.”

    Implausible captions:

    “Don’t shoot me with your stupid gun disguised as a camera.”

    “If I put my hand in front of the camera like this and point my finger up it will make no sense.”

    IDF caption:

    “Once upon a time, Turkish terorists …”

    At least the AP legal department has the wit to say it is unable to verify anything at all about this photo.

    link to news.yahoo.com

  9. The UK government’s calls for the blockade to end are welcome and their importance should not be minimised. But the general mood at the London demonstration was not that we are on the same side as our government. Without any meaningful action to back up its expressed position, and with arms sales and preferential trade relations with Israel ongoing, most pro-Palestinian people in the UK take the government’s words to be empty, and see the British stance as one of a continuing and long-established de facto alliance with Israel.

    The fact that the governing party with strong pro-Israeli credentials feels it necessary to make these statements is a tribute in part to the gathering force of the pro-Palestinian movement in the UK. Tony Blair suffered politically for his support for Israel over the latter’s attack on Lebanon in 2006, and British politicians are now aware of the political costs of open support for Israeli atrocities. The hope is that increased activism can build on this, and force a change in policy as well as a change in language.

  10. For anyone interested, and Juan you should talk about this too, Max Blumenthal has a couple of really good posts about the IDF admitting to doctoring audio and video footage and retracting its claims that the activists had terrorist ties, with Al Qaeda at least.

  11. Finding out what happens to the seized cargoes may not be easy. Juan Cole links to a piece on cement, but according to this Israeli piece, all the cargoes have already been distributed to Gaza (!):

    link to israelnationalnews.com

    Meanshile, according to this piece Hamas will refuse to accept any of it unless the Turks agree:

    link to en.rian.ru

    I hope that concerned bloggers and independent news organisations keep their eyes on the cargoes as far as is possible, because unless and until another flotilla sails the disposition of the cargoes (and the captured ships) is the main game.

    • I just noticed this piece which indicates that the cargoes are being sent to Gaza (Al-Jezeera) (extract):

      “But the biggest irony in this tragedy is not just that the “weapons” Israel claims were on board have not yet materialised or been shown to the media, its that the aid, which Israel says Gaza does not need, and the aid which was on board the flotilla heading to Gaza and prevented by Israel from reaching its shores is now being delivered to Gaza by Israel as quickly as possible”.

      link to blogs.aljazeera.net

      True?? Corroboration?? Unsupported Israeli statement??

  12. Queen Rania (really, Queen of Jordan, the one that used to be a banker at Citi) says:

    “What do chocolate, cookies, A4 paper, potato chips, cumin, toys, jelly, nuts, dried fruit, nutmeg, and goats have in common? It’s a tricky one. If you’re a moderate, they have nothing in common. But if you are a hard-line Israeli politician, they are all potentially dangerous goods that could threaten Israel’s security. It seems that side of the political spectrum has won the argument, as all the above are items that the Israeli government has prohibited from entering Gaza.”

    “It’s understandable. I mean, you can inflict a lot of damage on your oppressors with a chocolate biscuit. And those paper cuts, boy, they can really hurt.”

    maybe you could get her to do a guest column now and then?

    read the whole story here:

    link to independent.co.uk

  13. Juan,
    I just wanted to make a technical suggestion. It would be nice to have a “print” link for each of your posts (unless you have good reasons against it). wordpress happens to have a very convenient plugin called wp-print that takes care of this elegantly. give it a try!

  14. In Ireland, the editorial in The Sunday Tribune has endorsed the call to boycott Israeli products. As far as I am aware this is the first such endorsement by one of the mainstream national newspapers.

    Irish foreign minister Micheal Martin has said that “the blockade has to be lifted”, and called the events of the past week a watershed in international treatment of the blockade.

    Meanwhile, the Israeli ambassador to Ireland cancelled an appearance before a parliamentary committee where he was due to defend his country’s actions, evidently deciding that silence was a better policy. Not surprising, given the incredulous reaction to embassy official Ruth Zakh’s hysterical radio rant.

  15. As someone who chipped in for two bags of cement to Gaza, can I be part of a class-action suit against Israel to recover the cost of all confiscated cargo? International law experts, help me out here.

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