Yes, there was a decision

The AP has just reported that Hamas leader in Gaza, Mahmoud Zahar, has just reportedly accused the late PLO leader Yasser Arafat of encouraging Hamas attacks in Israel after the failure of the Camp David negotiations in late July 2000.

Zahar is considered one of the “hard line” Hamas leaders, and certainly bitter [he has reasons to be — not the least because of a direct Israeli Air Force hit that killed one of his sons and injured his wife, and also of the death of another son in an IDF land incursion into Gaza in January 2008].

Arafat was invited to Camp David, along with Israel’s then-Prime Minister Ehud Barak, by former U.S. President Bill Clinton. Somebody at that time had the idea — it seems that this came from Barak advisors, and was supported by the U.S. — to just spring a full proposal on Arafat, and see how he reacted. The idea, it seems, was to make it easier for Arafat to accept a peace agreement. It didn’t work. There were two major problems for Arafat: the Israeli proposals for how to share the Old City of Jerusalem, and the Israeli proposals concerning the disposition of the Palestinian refugee question. He walked away, without giving any definite reply (signifying he wanted to keep his discussion, and his options, open).

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Great article, great man

I’ve kept this link open so I wouldn’t forget to write about it: Johann Hari’s profile in The Independent of Israeli journalist for Haaretz Gideon Levy. The title, catchy: “Is Gideon Levy the most hated man in Israel or just the most heroic?”

Levy was interviewed in Scotland as he was visiting to promote his new book, The Punishment of Gaza.

Here are some excerpts of what he told Hari: “ ‘My biggest struggle’, he says, ‘is to rehumanize the Palestinians. There’s a whole machinery of brainwashing in Israel which really accompanies each of us from early childhood, and I’m a product of this machinery as much as anyone else. [We are taught] a few narratives that it’s very hard to break. That we Israelis are the ultimate and only victims. That the Palestinians are born to kill, and their hatred is irrational. That the Palestinians are not human beings like us, So you get a society without any moral doubts, without any questions marks, with hardly public debate. To raise your voice against all this is very hard’.”

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Israeli FM Liberman tells UNGA that borders should be withdrawn to reflect "demographic reality"

Haaretz is reporting that “Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman on Tuesday presented the United Nations with his draft for a population and territory swap, as part of an eventual peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians”.

The Haaretz report, written by Barak Ravid, states that “Under Lieberman’s controversial scheme, part of Israel’s Arab population would be moved to a newly created Palestinians state, in return for evacuation of Israeli settlements in the West Bank”.

But it does not appear that Lieberman is proposing settlement evacuation at all.

No, there is no mention of population transfer. He is saying that everybody should just stay put, and just the borders will change.

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Footage shows Silwan settler guard

A videotape has been aired that casts “grave doubt” on the explanation given by Israeli settler guard who killed one [it is not clear if there was a also second death] Palestinian man a week ago at 4 am in Silwan.

UPDATE: It has now become clear that there was only one Palestinian death in this shooting.

The guard said his was was blocked, and he feared for his life. Israeli printmedia quickly reported that the victim had a record of being involved in previous “riots”.

Here is the new evidence, a report on Israel’s Channel 2 Television with film provided by Silwan’s Wadi Hilweh Information Center:

The Silwan Information Center has a brief post on this new evidence here.

The Israeli police “investigation” apparently accepted the version of the Israeli settler guard — in any case, he was arrested, but then released on bail within 24 hours

Our earlier report on this story is here.

Israeli Navy has now boarded Jewish Boat to Gaza

Haaretz is now reporting that the IDF has announced that its naval forces have boarded the Jewish Boat that wanted to go to Gaza. This is posted here.

According to Haaretz, “A navy boat shadowing the ‘Irene’ made radio contact with the activists late Tuesday morning, asking: ‘Where are you going? Where did you come from? What nationalities are on board?’ according to the [Jewish Boat to Gaza] website. The crew replied: ‘They came from Farmagusta, the nationalities on board are British, American, German and Israelis, we are going!’ the website said” …

They are reportedly now going to Ashdod.

The Jewish Boat to Gaza website says the last known location of the boat this morning was 31 47 N and 34 12 E [n.b. – in the vicinity of the pushpins labelled k4 and n on our next graphic further down, after this one]:


View Larger Map

They promise to update via google maps from their page, here.

Here is a graphic of where the Mavi Marmara was attacked and boarded on 31 May, kindly prepared for us by our friend Alethia Kallos, after the Freedom Flotilla fiasco. The interception point, then, was out on the high seas in the eastern Mediterranean, at 32° 00′ 29.80 N and 33° 50′ 15.35 E:

Alethia Kallos graphic of blockaded Gaza maritime area and Flotilla intercept point

The interception point is interesting because it indicates that the Israeli military establishment has taken the advice reportedly given by the Israeli Foreign Ministry before the 31 May fiasco involving the Freedom Flotilla — which was not to intercept the Flotilla on the high seas but rather close to, if not at, the defined limitations of the declared Israeli naval blockade of Gaza Strip.

After the fiasco, there was also shocked criticism from commentors, who noted that the Israeli legal defense offered at the time was that the IDF had a right to stop, anywhere in the world, any ship intending to violate its declared blockade. This could have been interpreted to mean that Israel was effectively threatening to mount a missile attack on a ship in a Cyprus harbor before embarking for Gaza — or at an even earlier point, in fact, at any port around the world.

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Israeli warships now escorting boat of Jewish activists who were heading to Gaza

As the Irene approached the declared limits of the Israeli naval blockade of Gaza’s maritime space, which extends 20 miles from the shoreline straight out to sea in the eastern Mediterranean, an Israeli warship approached. Within a half hour, the Israeli Navy was reportedly escorting the small ship.

At 10h42 this morning, the Jerusalem Post reported: “The army established contact with the captain, and asked him where we are headed,” Rami Elhanan said. “The navy asked to bypass the ship from 5 miles to the right, and we complied. We said we are headed to Gaza and sailing under the British flag”” Elhanan added. Elhanan also reported that the captain was not told that the boat will be stopped. “I have no idea when, if at all, we will be intercepted,” he said. This is posted here.

UPDATE: Elhanan told YNet (see below) that “We are surrounded by at least 10 Navy ships. They are probably going to collide with us any minute. They are demanding that we stop and threatening that if we fail to do so, it may end with casualties. We are moving forward in full force, hugging each other and singing songs”…

Israeli authorities have said they intend to stick to their policy of bringing the boat to Israel’s southern port of Ashdod for “the usual”.

There are reportedly 10 activists, some of them Israeli, and a symbolic amount of cargo destined for Gaza, on board the 33-foot British-flagged catamaran.

Another option, presumably before the point of interception, would have been to say that they were going to the Egyptian port of El-Arish.

But, the Jewish Boat to Gaza wants to go … to Gaza.

The Jerusalem Post reported shortly after 10 a.m. that the Captain, Glynn Secker, “says his boat is about 25 miles (40 kilometers) from Gaza and that expects the navy to intercept the Irene within the next hours. The Israeli military said Tuesday it would not intervene until the boat tries to breach the blockade”.

YNet has reported that “The IDF announced it would notify the captain that he will not be allowed to proceed to Gaza, and that troops would raid the small boat only if it tried to breach the blockade”. The ship’s Captain, Glynn Secker, said: “We will not obey them, we will not help them … But we will not confront them physically. We will engage in no violence”.

According to the YNet report, here, the ship would have docked in Gaza withing three hours.

Itamar Shapira told YNet “The IDF has not spoken to us yet, but we have understood that it declared it would stop us 40 kilometers from the shore“…

Reuven Moskowitz, the 82-year-old Holocaust survivor who is one of the founders of Neve Shalom, an Israeli Jewish + Arab coexistence enterprise, told YNet that “We are an extraordinary people. We are only sorry that they plan to stop us and remind everyone that a true hero is one who tries to turn an enemy into a friend … In any case we refuse to recognize the IDF’s right to arrest us in Gaza’s territorial waters when all we want to do is bring them harmonicas, toys, and some medicine” …

A beautiful newborn baby boy

This photo, posted on the Jerusalem Post website, shows the beautiful new baby boy who was born after his mother, an Israeli settler, was shot and injured, as was her husband, while driving on Road 60, “near Hebron” according to news reports, in the southern part of the occupied West Bank:

newborn baby boy - JPost photo courtesy --

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The baby was delivered in a hospital in the Israeli city of Beersheva by Ceasarian section before the mother’s bullet wounds, apparently to her foot or lower leg, were treated.

The mother and the father are both 35 years old. According to the JPost report, the first-time father said: “This was not how I planned on bringing a child into the world”.

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No news about Jewish boat to Gaza on Monday morning (0830 am)

There is no news yet, at 0830 on Monday morning, about the progress of the Jewish Boat to Gaza — the Irene, which left Cyprus yesterday afternoon with some 10 passengers and crew on board, apparently all Jewish, with a number of Israeli citizens and one Israeli TV journalist.

There is nothing in the English-language Israeli media, either — in fact, it looks like a news blackout…

UPDATE: No news by 1400, either — 24 hours after the Irene left Cyprus, sailing towards Gaza, a 24- to 30- hour trip. It continues to look like a news blackout…

UPDATE TWO: It’s just after 1615, and there’s still no news, except for a report in Haaretz that spokesperson Miri Weingarten expects the boat to reach Gaza waters “late on Monday”… any time from now. About an hour ago, one of the Jewish Boat to Gaza support team sent out a tweet here, five minutes ago, saying “Reports that the IDF have boarded the Irene have proven untrue – they fired upon a fishing boat off the Gaza coast”… Is this code? Are they close enough to see or hear IDF firing on a [Palestinian, of course] fishing boat off the Gaza coast? Did they hear about this from other contacts they have, or other news sources? An hour ago, they tweeted this — with a slightly different wording: “Reports that the IDF have boarded the Irene have proven untrue – they just fired upon some fishermen off the coast of Gaza”.

UPDATE THREE: It’s just after 1825, and there’s still no news. However, on the website of the Jewish Boat to Gaza, here, there is a link to a Jerusalem Post website article which I otherwise did not see when browsing the JPost website. Clicking on the link takes you here, to a JPost article dated 24 September with the title: Hamas reports fisherman killed by IDF fire off Gaza coast. What is this supposed to mean? Is it just to draw attention to the hard reality of Gaza? Or, is it code?

UPDATE FOUR: It’s midnight on Monday, and there’s still no news. YNet reported earlier this evening that the Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, indicated that the Jewish Boat will not be allowed into Gaza:
“The procedure will be the same as with all other flotillas,” foreign Ministry Spokesman Yigal Palmor told Ynet. “First, radio contact will be established, and they will be asked where they’re headed….if they say they’re headed to Gaza, we will make it clear that the area faces an international blockade and arrival there is forbidden, and offer that they sail elsewhere. If they insist on Gaza, once they enter the forbidden zone they will be detained and towed to Ashdod,” he said. This is postedhere. CNN, however, added that the option of Al-Arish is also open: “The Israeli foreign ministry said Monday that when the boat nears, officials will ask for its destination. If they are told that the boat intends to go to Gaza, it will be told to dock at Al Arish port in northeastern Egypt near Gaza or Israel’s Ashdod ports. If the boat refuses, it will be intercepted and towed to Ashdod, said ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor”.  This is posted here.

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On Sunday night, the Jerusalem Post’s well-connected defense correspondent Yaakov Katz wrote that the Israeli Navy had gone on high alert, and was set to stop the small 30-foot catamaran. He quoted one senior Israeli defense official as saying: “We cannot allow ships to sail freely into Gaza, since they could be carrying weaponry … If the ships sail into Ashdod [Israel’s southern port], we will inspect the cargo and then allow it through the land crossings into the Gaza Strip”.

It seems quite clear that the likelihood of the Irene carrying weapons is less than zero.

Israel has maintained an announced and declared naval blocade of the Gaza Strip since the night of 3-4 January 2009, when it began the ground offensive stage of its massive military attack on Gaza, Operation Cast Lead [27 December 2008 to 18 January 2009].

One attribute of a legal blocade is that it be announced, and information about it published. Another, apparently, is that it be applied impartially to all ships.

Therefore, Israel could maintain its embargo by merely boarding the ship at sea for an inspection.

It does not have to insist that all ships divert to Ashdod, and have whatever is permitted of its cargo sent in whenever it is convenient to the Israeli military’s Coordinator of [Israeli] Government Activities in the [Palestinian] Territories (COGAT).

However, that does appear to be the state’s firm policy, at least at the moment.

Alternatively, a ship could apply to the Egyptian government to offload its cargo at Al-Arish port on the northern, Mediterranean, coast of the Egyptian Sinai.

But, the Jewish Boat To Gaza wants to go to… Gaza.

Katz wrote in his JPost report that “Israel’s policy is to prevent ships from reaching the Gaza Strip, but rather have them undergo an inspection of their cargo at the Ashdod Port. This policy – that humanitarian aid must enter Gaza by land – was supported by the international community last week at a donor conference for the Palestinian Authority in the US”.
This article can be read in full, here.

It was previously mentioned in an earlier JPost report [see our earlier post here] that this policy would be ratified by the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee of donors who met on the margins of the UN General Assembly high-level meetings in New York last week, and that this would be mentioned in a joint press conference by Israel’s Deputy Ambassador Danny Ayalon with Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad — which was called off by a dispute. The dispute was about an entirely different matter. It is not clear if this policy of having Flotillas go to Ashdod or Al-Arish is — or is not — endorsed by the Palestinian Authority.

And if it is not, then if this could have been another part of the disagreement between the two men.

Near-mythical Jewish Flotilla (one small ship) finally sets sail to Gaza — but says it won't resist if Israel tries to stop it

One small ship with ten passengers including crew [apparently all Jewish, and some are Israeli] quietly set sail, announcing its move only after departure this afternoon, apparently from a port in Cyprus.

This is the so-called “Jewish boat”, or “Jewish flotilla”, which was previously rumored to be much bigger…

The Jerusalem Post says the ship sailed from northern Cyprus, where the Turkish community has been protected, since 1974, by Turkish troops [which have become a settler community as well as an occupation force], heading in the direction of Gaza. Turkey is virtually the only country to recognize the Turkish Government of Northern Cyprus.

CORRECTION: The authorities in the internationally-recognized Republic of Cyprus [in the southern part of the island] were NOT apparently unaware of the departure. Marine Police apparently followed the boat out of the harbor, and boarded it at sea.

They previously vowed to prevent any ship from sailing from the island’s ports with the stated destination of Gaza, which they say is not an official destination. But, a photo published by the expedition’s organizers shows Cypriot police on board the boat, and a caption states that the Irene was allowed to leave on the condition that it “never come back”:

Photo from the Jewish Boat to Gaza website here:

Cypriot Police on the Jewish Boat to Gaza website

Still trying to check, but it seems that the photo above shows North Cypriot police, while photo below, posted overnight on the Jewish Boat to Gaza’s new Facebook site, apparently shows an un-uniformed Greek Cypriot Coast Guard subsequently intercepting the boat

Gaza’s maritime space is under an announced Israeli naval blockade, and Israel has vowed to prevent any breach of this blockade.

The ship, the Irene, is reportedly flying the British flag.

There are still British bases on Cyprus, and a long-standing UN peacekeeping operation which observes the line of demarcation between the Turkish and Greek sides of the divided island.

UPDATE: Marion Kozak, mother of Ed Milibrand, the newly-elected leader of the Labour Party in Britain [who ran against and defeated his older brother David Milibrand, Britain’s Foreign Secretary for three years, and still a MP — so she’s his mother, too], happens to be a member of Jews for Justice for Palestinians, one of the groups backing this expedition. The Jerusalem Post has a story, here, which highlights the support of prominent British Jews for the group, as well as the group’s use of a quote from Rabbi Hillel [see below] as their political solgan…

One of the organizers, Richard Kuper of the British group, Jews for Justice for Palestinians, part of the coalition mounting this expedition, said that the ship “won’t resist if the Israelis try to stop it”.

On a new press release posted on the main page of the Jewish Boat to Gaza’s website, here, Kuper is quoted as saying: “This is a nonviolent action. We aim to reach Gaza, but our activists 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”.

On 31 May, an Israeli naval assault at sea on six boats in a Freedom Flotilla left nine men dead on board the 600-passenger Mavi Marmara, including a 19-year-old American living in Turkey. The Mavi Marmara was one of three boats contributed by the Turkish humanitarian relief organization, IHH, which Israel says made deliberate preparations for a confrontation with its forces.

Since that Flotilla fiasco, Israel’s military has changed the regime of restrictions it imposes on goods getting into Gaza, as Major-General Eitan Dangot, head of the military’s COGAT [Coordinator of (Israeli) Government Activities in the (Palestinian) Territories] department, explained in an interview which we posted about here. Dangot said that before, only items on a [secret] list were permitted into Gaza. Now, everything is supposedly allowed in — except those items on new military lists. (Nothing is currently getting out of Gaza, though the Israeli military keeps saying this is under consideration.)

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Egyptian trial of policemen charged in blogger Khaled Said's death

The AP has reported two police officers went on trial Saturday in the death of Egyptian blogger Khaled Said on 6 June [was it 7 June?] in Alexandria. The one-day session will resume on 23 October.

Said was accosted, apparently by plainclothes policemen, while in an internet cafe. His battered body was found hours later in a nearby doorway. Police claim he died from a drug overdose, after swallowing a packet of drugs [or, a “joint”].

AP said that “After the public outcry, prosecutors charged the officers, Mahmoud Salah and Awad Ismail Suleiman, with illegal arrest and harsh treatment, although not with murder as the victim’s family had demanded”.

AP added that “At a trial session Saturday, the victim’s uncle, Ali Guindi, said hundreds of police supporters packed the courtroom, shoving and blocking witnesses for the prosecution and Said supporters from entering … Also, a television crew for the Al-Arabiya network said police confiscated their equipment and assaulted them while covering Saturday’s session”.

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