By Stephen Lendman
The European Campaign to End the Siege on Gaza (ECESG) is "an umbrella body" of 34 European human rights and humanitarian organizations supporting the right of Palestinians "to live in peace and dignity," to be free from occupation, and to have "their own independent and sovereign state, (and) encourages all peoples of conscience and human rights advocates to intensify their efforts to highlight this life-theatening issue and end the catastrophe."
On its June 6 web site posting (savegaza.eu), ECESG reported that preparations for an even larger Freedom Flotilla Two are well advanced, and will be launched in the coming weeks, saying their mission is humanitarian, and others will keep coming until the siege is lifted and aid can enter freely.
Its members helped organize Freedom Flotilla One along with Free Gaza Movement (FG), Insani Yardim Vakfi (IHH), Ship to Gaza Greece, and Ship to Gaza Sweden. ECESG says that if governments won’t help, activist groups like them and others will keep working until justice for Palestinians is achieved.
It condemned the Freedom Flotilla 1 massacre, the appalling propaganda that followed, explained that more missions are coming, and said funding for "the first three ships" of Freedom Flotilla Two has been gotten, Campaign president Arafat Madi saying:
"The extensive calls are taking place to launch a new fleet to the Gaza Strip, involving many ships that will be carrying on board more aid and more peace activists than Freedom 1 which was carrying (10,000) tons of aid and hundreds of peace activists from more than forty countries around the world."
Other Aid Missions Planned
The Iranian Red Crescent Society is part of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the world’s largest humanitarian organization, comprised of 186 Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
On June 7, it announced it will send three aid ships to Gaza "by the end of the week," two with humanitarian supplies, the other with volunteer Iranian relief workers, and a plane with 30 tons of medical equipment. Iranian Red Crescent director Abdolraoof Adibzadeh said it will deliver aid through Egypt’s Rafah border crossing.
On June 1, Egypt opened it, saying it will be "indefinite (and) Additional crews at the harbor are working on carrying out the president’s instructions so that procedures for Palestinians to pass into Egypt can be implemented quickly." In addition, those with Arab or other passports, students enrolled to study abroad, and medical patients will be granted free passage in and out.
In December 2008, Iran’s Red Crescent sent a ship with food and medicine, then interdicted by Israel’s navy and prevented from reaching Gaza. This time, Iranian ships "reportedly" will escort the flotilla, setting up a possible serious confrontation.
Turkey also promised to send aid, this time with a naval escort and perhaps more after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he’s considering coming to break the siege and show solidarity with besieged Gazans.
Washington is trying to dissuade him. Israel called it a political maneuver. Erdogan perhaps is serious and intends to come. If so along with Turkish warships, it will be a significant development to watch.
Turkey also, along with Brazil, struck a deal with Iran to further process much of its enriched uranium, then return it as fuel rods for a medical research reactor. Erdogan also met with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at this week’s Istanbul regional security summit, prompting Council on Foreign Relations member Steven Cook to complain that he’s "running around the region doing things that are at cross-purposes to what the big powers (read Washington and Israel) want," then asked – "How do we keep the Turks in their lane?"
According to Bilgi University Professor Soli Ozel, "The Americans, no matter what they say, cannot get used to a new world where regional powers want to have a say in regional and global politics. This is our neighborhood, and we don’t want trouble. The Americans create havoc, and we are left holding the bag."
More Still Coming
Egyptian lawmaker, Hazim Farouq, said an Egyptian humanitarian convoy, with political party members, will head for Gaza next Monday, June 14, carrying construction and other materials. On board Freedom Flotilla 1, Farouq said the Arab League was determined to break the siege and open the Rafah Terminal to Gaza.
On June 6, after an extraordinary Arab League session, the Secretary General of the Interim Arab Parliament said a convoy of 44 of its members, accompanied by journalists, plan to break the Gaza siege through the Rafah crossing.
Arab Parliament Speaker, Adnan Omran, said the body will take immediate, urgent action to cut off all forms of overt and covert normalization, stop direct and indirect negotiations, and work to strengthen resistance against Israel.
He emphasized "the need to take urgent action before the competent courts to file lawsuits against the leaders of Israel in favor of freedom and peace activists from around the world, and to document this criminal incident to make these documents irrefutable proof of prosecution."
The Parliament also condemned Washington’s "justifi(cation of) Israel’s crimes, in particular the attack on the freedom flotilla." It also dismissed Security Council timidity that "clearly demonstrates bias and lack of credibility" as well as providing Israel cover.
The German-based Jewish Voice for Peace movement said it will send one or more aid ships in July, according to spokesperson Kate Leitrer, saying:
"We have one small craft so far….Getting another boat means more expenses, and we’re discussing this possibility." On June 6, the Israeli news service, Ynet.news.com, headlined "Jewish flotilla to break Gaza siege," saying:
Kate Leitrer announced, along with other supplies, it will carry school equipment, candy, and musical equipment with musicians aboard to teach Gazan children how to play.
"Jews have been to Gaza in the past," Leitrer said, "and they were treated in a friendly manner. We have also talked with them recently, and they are very keen for us to come. We are frightened by what happened on the Marmara, but if you are committed to do good things, you have to act. People were also killed in the fight against fascism."
Another organization member, Edith Lutz, said many Jews wish to come. "We began in Germany, but many have called us from England, Sweden and the US. There may also be another boat" with us, carrying reporters. Two years ago, Lutz was on the Free Gaza flotilla that arrived safely. She met Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh who told her Palestinians have nothing against Jews, just the illegal occupation.
On June 5, the Union for Good (UFG) umbrella organization of over 50 Islamic charities plans a land convoy with food, clothes, shoes, and other supplies it hopes to deliver through Egypt’s Rafah crossing "within a few days," urging other charitable groups to do the same.
On June 6, British MP and noted anti-war activist George Galloway announced he’s helping organize new land and sea convoys to break the siege, saying:
"After extensive discussion in Istanbul, I can announce that a land convoy will leave Britain shortly after the end of Ramadan in September and travel through Europe, down through Turkey and Syria into Jordan. We will ask the Egyptian government then to ensure passage from the port of Aqaba to Rafah and into Gaza."
"At exactly the same time, a flotilla of boats will be leaving to tour the countries of the Mediterranean before heading for Gaza. These combined sea and land convoys will be co-ordinated by Viva Palestina with other organizations in Britain and with our friends throughout the Middle East and in Turkey."
His announcement can be read on his web site: georgegalloway.com, with more information on Freedom Flotilla I.
Global BDS (Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions) Momentum Building
New reports keep surfacing in the wake of the Flotilla massacre, including:
— on June 4, South Africa’s Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU) announced a motion to declare every municipality in the country "an Apartheid Israel free zone" to ensure "no commercial, academic, cultural, sporting or other linkages whatsoever with the Israeli regime."
SAMWU also pledged support for the Coalition for a Free Palestine (CFP). Earlier, its sister union, SATAWU (South Africa Transport and Allied Workers’ Union) refused to handle Israeli goods at South African ports.
A Ynet.news.com/InFact Institute survey showed 40% of Norwegians are already boycotting Israeli products, and Norway’s health minister, Kristin Halvorsen, called for an international boycott on arms sales to Israel, in line with her government’s policy.
The University and College Union, representing about 120,000 teaching and related staff in UK colleges and universities, voted to support BDS efforts against Israel, saying:
The National Executive Committee’s Motion 30 condemned "the failure of the international community to confront the Israeli government over the humanitarian disaster it is continuing to perpetrate in Gaza and the continued development of illegal settlements in the West Bank."
Other motions also condemned Israel’s longstanding human rights abuses and the international community’s failure to hold its leaders accountable.
The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) called for an emergency June 5 Global BDS Day of Action (observed in New York and elsewhere), the 43rd anniversary of Israel’s Occupation. It also urged pressuring governments to implement arms and trade sanctions, and called on global transport and dock workers as well as unions to refuse to load, offload or in any way handle Israeli made products or shipments to the country.
Jews Against Zionism Condemn the Siege and Flotilla Attack
The International Jewish Anti-Zionist Network (IJAN) "strongly condemn(ed) Israel’s barbarous early-morning raid, carried out in international waters, on a maritime humanitarian convoy, during which Israeli soldiers attacked with live ammunition peaceful civilians on board, murdering at least fifteen according to the Israeli army, perhaps many more, and wounding scores."
IJAN "call(ed) on all governments to end Israel’s impunity, enforce international law and hold Israel accountable for its recurrent violations," and also asked Jews and civil society everywhere to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and demand the Gaza siege be lifted.
On June 7 UNWRA head, Filippo Grandi, appealed for more ships to come, saying he hoped the Flotilla "tragedy will be a turning point," in calling the Gaza siege "absurd, tragic and totally unacceptable," adding:
"It is terrible to say this but I hope that the tragedy could be a turning point, a watershed in terms of the blockade. I hope that world leaders, those who make decisions, open their eyes to the suffering of the Palestinians. (The) crisis is much bigger that just humanitarian. This is a crisis that encompasses every aspect of life: access to services, water and sanitation, poverty, the economy. (It affects) Gazans’ physical and mental health, and impoverishing the population in what is also known as the world’s largest outdoor prison."
Palestinian Centre for Human Rights (PCHR) Calls for All Nations to Support the Rule of Law and Accountability
During the May 31 – June 11 first Review Conference of the Rome Statute (attended by all State Parties to the International Criminal Court – ICC), PCHR asked all participants "to uphold victims’ rights and seek accountability for international crimes," saying those most serious must not go unpunished.
Israel long ago proved itself an out-of-control rogue state, and has been unwilling to "genuinely….carry out investigations and prosecutions." It’s thus up to the international community to do it and hold its officials accountable for their crimes of war and against humanity. The Rome Statute, UN Charter, and other international law demand no less.
"History has shown that as long as Israel is allowed to act with impunity, it will continue to violate international law. It is innocent Palestinian civilians who continue to suffer the horrific consequences." No longer can this be allowed to stand.
On June 5, French lawyer, Lillian Glock, filed two lawsuits (in Marseille and Ivory) against Israel, for kidnapping and detention without reason, on behalf of the French charity, the Committee of Charity and Relief for Palestinians. Six of its members were aboard the Flotilla are are suing over Israel’s violence, piracy, and abduction in international waters. According to Glock, the French judiciary has jurisdiction to hear cases brought, so she’ll press ahead with them.
Others are following her example. The European Campaign says enough evidence warrants bringing Israel to international justice, and intends to file lawsuits for acts of violence. According to Amin Abu Rashid:
"The campaign held meetings with a team of lawyers and legal personnel to carry out immediate practical measures to prosecute responsible Israeli officials and soldiers before international courts in the Netherlands for the crimes they committed against the Freedom Flotilla in international waters."
He expects to bring a strong case charging "crimes against world peace, crimes against humanity, (and) criminal offenses" in light of clear violations of the organizational charters of the International Criminal Court in The Hague.
Lawyers involved said Israeli military and political officials may be prosecuted, even in absentia, over crimes as grievous under peace as during war.
On June 8, the Palestinian Information Center reported that two Spanish activists, Manuel Tapial and Laura Arau, will file a lawsuit against Israel for attacking the Flotilla.
The Swedish legislature held an emergency Sunday session, discussing actions to take against Israel, one lawmaker saying:
‘How can the world’s countries be obliged to respect the international law if Israel’s violation….was condoned."
The body also demanded condemnation and global sanctions on Israel in response to its actions. So do 21 regional countries led by Turkey. Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak, called Israel’s officials "gangsters." According to the Israeli daily Yedioth Ahronoth, Tel Aviv’s justice ministry is preparing to face a wave of international indictments against Israeli soldiers, senior officers, and government officials. They can’t come a moment too soon.
– Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com. He contributed this article to PalestineChronicle.com.