Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Israeli Navy Attacks Boat, Kidnaps Human Rights Workers… & More!


I have been meaning to write for months and have much to report from my last trip to the Middle East. Thank you for those who have written with concern… I returned safely and have been speaking and organizing locally in conjunction with the ongoing struggle on the ground. There is much to be excited about and much to do! Most urgently, I want to focus this first email on Gaza (Note: there are 3 separate items):

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[23 miles off the coast of Gaza, at 15:30pm today] - Israeli Occupation Forces attacked and boarded the Free Gaza Movement boat, the "Spirit of Humanity," abducting 21 human rights workers from 11 countries, including Noble laureate Mairead Maguire and former U.S. Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney (see below for a complete list of passengers). The passengers and crew are being forcibly dragged toward Israel.

"This is an outrageous violation of international law against us. Our boat was not in Israeli waters, and we were on a human rights mission to the Gaza Strip," said Cynthia McKinney, a former U.S. Congresswoman and presidential candidate. "President Obama just told Israel to let in humanitarian and reconstruction supplies, and that's exactly what we tried to do. We're asking the international community to demand our release so we can resume our journey."

According to an International Committee of the Red Cross report released yesterday, the Palestinians living in Gaza are "trapped in despair." Thousands of Gazans whose homes were destroyed earlier during Israel's December/January massacre are still without shelter despite pledges of almost $4.5 billion in aid, because Israel refuses to allow cement and other building material into the Gaza Strip. The report also notes that hospitals are struggling to meet the needs of their patients due to Israel's disruption of medical supplies.

"The aid we were carrying is a symbol of hope for the people of Gaza, hope that the sea route would open for them, and they would be able to transport their own materials to begin to reconstruct the schools, hospitals and thousands of homes destroyed during the onslaught of "Cast Lead". Our mission is a gesture to the people of Gaza that we stand by them and that they are not alone" said fellow passenger Mairead Maguire, winner of a Noble Peace Prize for her work in Northern Ireland.

Just before being kidnapped by Israel, Huwaida Arraf, Free Gaza Movement chairperson and delegation co-coordinator on this voyage, stated that: "No one could possibly believe that our small boat constitutes any sort of threat to Israel. We carry medical and reconstruction supplies, and children's toys. Our passengers include a Nobel peace prize laureate and a former U.S. congressperson. Our boat was searched and received a security clearance by Cypriot Port Authorities before we departed, and at no time did we ever approach Israeli waters."

Arraf continued, "Israel's deliberate and premeditated attack on our unarmed boat is a clear violation of international law and we demand our immediate and unconditional release."

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Call, Email, Fax, and/or Text the contacts below to demand the release of the passengers!

Ask them what crime is being committed by delivering toys, medicine, and olive trees to be the people of Gaza?

Israeli Ministry of Justice
tel: +972 2646 6666 or +972 2646 6340
fax: +972 2646 6357

Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs
tel: +972 2530 3111
fax: +972 2530 3367

Israeli Prime Minister's Office
Mr. Mark Regev
tel: +972 5 0620 3264 or +972 2670 5354

Contact the Red Cross (below) to ask for their assistance in establishing the well-being of the kidnapped human rights workers and help in securing their immediate release!

Red Cross - Tel Aviv
Ms. Yael Segev-Eytan
tel: +972 3524 5286
fax: +972 3527 0370
Send a TEXT to +972 52 275 75 17

Red Cross - Jerusalem
Ms. Anne Sophie Bonefeld
tel: +972 259 17 900
fax: +972 259 17 920
Send a TEXT to +972 52 601 91 50

Red Cross - Geneva, Main
tel: +41 22 730 3443
fax: +41 22 734 8280

Red Cross - Geneva, Middle East Section
Ms. Dorothea Krimitsas
tel: +41 22 730 25 90
Send a TEXT to +41 79 251 93 18

Red Cross - Geneva, Media
Mr. Florian Westphal
tel: +41 22 730 22 82
Send a TEXT to +41 79 217 32 80

Red Cross - USA:
tel: +1 212 599 6021
fax: +1 212 599 6009

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For a list of the 21 kidnapped passengers from the Spirit of Humanity and for more information, visit: www.FreeGaza.org

Free Gaza Media Team:
Cyprus: Greta Berlin (English)
tel: +357 99 081 767 / friends@freegaza. org
Cyprus: Caoimhe Butterly (Arabic/English/ Spanish):
tel: +357 99 077 820 / sahara78@hotmail.co.uk


2. AAPER has launched the Gaza Human Rights Campaign (GHRC) calling on our elected officials to:

a. Call for a State Department investigation into Israel's use of U.S.-supplied and financed weapons during its offensive against Gaza, and
b. Urge Israel to lift the blockade against Gaza and resume unfettered humanitarian aid to the 1.5 million Palestinians of Gaza

Contact your representatives at: http://www.gazahumanrights.org/c.irLOK3PDLmF/b.5148051/k.B19F/EmailFax_ Your_Rep/siteapps/advocacy/ActionItem.aspx

Join the CHRC Facebook Group at http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=45082128316 and invite your friends to join too!


3. For anyone who didn't see the follow-up posted in early February on my blog about Barbara Lubin's story from Gaza, here it is below:

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Dear readers,

When I first received Barbara Lubin's story from Gaza, I wrote her to ask how she, I, or someone on the ground could research the story to get all the facts. The MECA office informed me that Barbara had told the story to someone on the phone who wrote the letter, but in the confusion and bad/intermittent phone connection there were several misunderstandings. One of MECA's contacts in Gaza investigated the story to get all the facts. Here is what he found:

"The story happened in Bourij Camp in the middle of the Gaza Strip. The Israelis [army] called the woman, Manal Albatran, and told her that they wouldn't kill her or her husband Hussein Albatran, instead they would make them die of sadness because they would kill her children. The next day they shot her house with a rocket killing her and 5 of her children.

"The dead:
Manal Albatran 30 years old
Walaa Albatran 12 years old
Islam Albatran 11 years old
Belal Albatran 10 years old
Ezz Albatran 8 years old
Ehsan Albatran 7 years old

"The father who is an employee at an UNRWA school and the youngest child were saved. This is the real story and I hope the amount of victims will convince others to believe the crimes we face. Thanks a lot for your appreciated visit and I hope to see you again soon.

"Regards, Talal Abushawish"

The information uncovered by Mr. Abushawish is clearly different from the story initially reported by Barbara. I am sorry to have relayed something that had been miscommunicated. In contrast, the reality of hundreds of mothers and children killed and families destroyed in the massacre is no legend. Let's hope that professional reporters and investigators are permitted (not denied entry) to follow-up on this family's tragedy--and all the others--to bring the facts to light and eventually to an international court of justice. We owe it to the victims to report every incident as accurately as possible. Thank you to everyone who encouraged me to seek the details of the story.

In peace,


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