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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

More Aid Ships Blocked Enroute to Gaza

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Protest against Israeli raid on aid shop to Gaza, Times Square , NYC

On September 28th, 2010, the Israeli Navy intercepted a boat carrying a group of Jewish and Israeli activists attempting to break the siege of Gaza to deliver symbolic humanitarian aid. The boat, named Irene, which set sail from Northern Cyprus on September 26th, was carrying nine Jewish activists from the US, the UK, Germany, and Israel, including one Israeli journalist. The 32-foot catamaran was carrying “children’s toys and musical instruments, textbooks, fishing nets for Gaza’s fishing communities and prosthetic limbs for orthopedic medical care in Gaza’s hospitals” the activists’ website stated. The organizers have stated earlier that the boat’s mission is to “unload its aid cargo in a nonviolent, symbolic act of solidarity and protest – and call for the siege to be lifted to enable free passage of goods and people to and from the Gaza Strip.” The boat was flying a flag holding the names of dozens of Jews, who support this action. Among the activists is 82-year-old Holocaust survivor Reuven Moskovitz who said prior to the boats departure that he felt it his duty to draw attention to situation in Gaza. “It is a sacred duty for me, as a [Holocaust] survivor, to protest against the persecution, the oppression and the imprisonment of so many people in Gaza, including more than 800,000 children,” the BBC reported. Andy David, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry, called the mission a “provocative joke” and stated that it was “unfortunate” that these organizations get involved in provocative behaviors that “contribute nothing and certainly don’t contribute to any kind of agreement.” He continued that, “If they were serious about wanting to transfer aid to Gaza, they could easily do so after undergoing a screening for smuggled weaponry.” The boat, which left on Sunday, was expected to arrive within 36 hours, if no Israeli interception was made. The activists stated, prior to their departure, that if such interception was to take place, they “will not engage in any physical confrontation and will therefore not present the Israelis with any reason or excuse to use physical force or assault them.” The Israeli military reported that it had taken over the boat “without incident” adding that “it is currently being led to the Ashdod seaport along with its passengers”. However, activists, who were released from questioning later that day, have given testimonies that counter the IDF’s claim that the interception was peaceful. Yonatan Shapira, an Israeli activist and former Israel Air Force pilot who was on board Irene, said that there were “no words to describe what we went through during the takeover” reported Haaretz. Adding that they were treated “atrociously” by some IDF soldiers and that there was “huge gap between what the IDF spokesman is saying happened and what really happened.” Eli Usharov, who is a reporter for Israel’s Channel 10, told Haaretz that the IDF “used a taser gun against Yonatan. He screamed and was dragged to the military boat,” affirming Shapira’s version of the events adding that some were handcuffed and put on the military boat. In May, another flotilla in route for Gaza, carrying humanitarian aid, was intercepted by Israeli commandos in international waters, resulting in the deaths of 9 activists. The flotilla raid was heavily criticized by the international community, forcing Israel to ease the terms of its blockade. Last Wednesday, the United Nations’ Human Rights Council concluded that Israeli forces committed serious violations of international law when they conducted their raid. The 57-page report stated that “the factfinding mission concluded that a series of violations of international law, including international humanitarian and human rights law, were committed by the Israeli forces,”. The report also described the circumstances of the deaths of “at least six of the passengers” as consistent with “an arbitrary and summary execution”. The report also declared that “The Mission is satisfied not only that the flotilla presented no imminent threat but that the interception was motivated by concerns about the possible propaganda victory that might be claimed by the organizers of the flotilla.” The Israeli government called the report “biased and as one-sided as the body that has produced it,”. Israel maintains that its soldiers were acting in self-defense after they were being attacked with metal rods and other items by the activists. Audrey Bomse, organizer of the convoy, told the BBC on May 31st that “all the boats were carefully inspected [for firearms] by the [Turkish] government before they left the port of departure”. The phenomena of aid ships to Gaza began in August 23rd, 2008, when the Free Gaza movement managed to break the Israeli blockade of Gaza for the first time since its initiation in June 2007. The phenomena gained more support after the December 2008-January 2009 Israeli offensive on Gaza, in which 1,400 Palestinians, mostly civilians, were killed and Gaza’s infrastructure was severly damaged. 10 Israeli soldiers and 3 civilians were also killed during the offensive.