Israel Boycott, For Once, the Yes Men Say No

http://www.commondreams.org/view/2009/07/01-13
Published on Wednesday, July 1, 2009 by CommonDreams.org

For Once, the Yes Men Say No

by Andy Bichlbaum & Mike Bonanno

The Yes Men, co-directors of the new award-winning documentary film The Yes Men Fix the World, have decided to withdraw their film from the Jerusalem International Film Festival, in support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign:

Dear Friends at the Jerusalem Film Festival,

We regret to say that we have taken the hard decision to withdraw our film, “The Yes Men Fix the World,” from the Jerusalem Film Festival in solidarity with the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (http://www.bdsmovement.net/).
This decision does not come easily, as we realize that the festival opposes the policies of the State of Israel, and we have no wish to punish progressives who deplore the state-sponsored violence committed in their name.
This decision does not come easily, as we feel a strong affinity with many people in Israel, sharing with them our Jewish roots, as well as the trauma of the Holocaust, in which both our grandfathers died. Andy lived in Jerusalem for a year long ago, can still get by in Hebrew, and counts several friends there. And Mike has always wanted to connect with the roots of his culture.
But despite all our feelings, we cannot abandon our mission as activists. In the 1980s, there was a call from the people of South Africa to artists and others to boycott that regime, and it helped end apartheid there. Today, there is a clear call for a boycott from Palestinian civil society. Obeying it is our only hope, as filmmakers and activists, of helping put pressure on the Israeli government to comply with international law.
It is painful to do this. But it is even more painful to hear Israeli policies described as “fascist” – not just from the ill-informed and the clueless, not just from the usual anti-semitic morons, but from well-informed Jewish activists within Israel. They know what they’re talking about, and it’s painful to think that they could be right.
As we’re sure you know and deplore, the Israeli government has recently authorized the construction of new units in an illegal West Bank outpost – one that is illegal even according to Israeli law. On Monday, nine Palestinians were injured as Israeli authorities demolished their East Jerusalem home. Tuesday, the Israeli navy stopped a ship from delivering medicine, toys, and other humanitarian relief to Gaza, and detained over twenty foreign peace activists, including a Nobel Peace laureate. Meanwhile, a UN commission was in Gaza investigating much worse abuses committed early this year.
Whatever words are applied to such actions, our film mustn’t help lend an aura of normalcy to a state that makes these decisions. For us, that’s the bottom line.
There is certainly another way to do things in Israel/Palestine, and that is what we must fight for, however feeble our means. As for our film, there is another way for it to be seen in Israel… and in Palestine, so that the people most in need of comic relief, who would never have been able to see it at the Jerusalem Film Festival anyhow, will be able to see it too. Within the next few months, we will make this happen.
To those who want to see our film, savlanut and sabir (patience)! And for all the rest of us, a little LESS patience, please.
L’shanah haba’ah beyerushalayim,
Andy and Mike
The Yes Men

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Catholic college excludes Muslim woman who refused to remove veil

http://www.islamophobia-watch.com/islamophobia-watch/2009/6/30/catholic-college-excludes-muslim-woman-who-refused-to-remove.html

Catholic college excludes Muslim woman who refused to remove veil

Two pupils and their teacher were ordered to remove their face veils before they could make an official visit to a Roman Catholic school. The party were from an Islamic school in Great Harwood, Lancs and were visiting St Mary’s College in nearby Blackburn, which was staging its annual open day.

The two schoolgirls agreed to take off their niqab veils. However, their teacher refused and was taken into an office at the sixth form college and told she would not be allowed on the premises.

St Mary’s College yesterday defended the move, claiming that staff had requested that the trio remove the traditional Islamic veils because they are against the school’s dress policy.

Its principal Kevin McMahon said: “At the start of one of our ‘taster days’ for prospective students last week, some visitors did arrive wearing the veil. When the policy was explained to them, all except one were willing to remove it. This lady – a member of staff at the school – refused, and opted to leave the premises.”

Daily Telegraph, 30 June 2009

See also the Times, Daily Mail and Daily Mirror.

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How Israel’s naval blockade denies Gazans food, aid

from the June 30, 2009 edition – http://www.csmonitor.com/2009/0701/p06s02-wome.html

How Israel’s naval blockade denies Gazans food, aid

A boat carrying foreign activists and three tons of medical supplies was rerouted Tuesday. Meanwhile, the fishing industry – a key source of jobs and protein – has been crippled.

By Mel Frykberg | Correspondent of The Christian Science Monitor
 
Ramallah, West Bank

Bringing fresh attention to its blockade of the Gaza Strip, Israel on Tuesday turned back a boat attempting to deliver three tons of medical supplies to Gazans.

After a radio message asking the small ferry to turn back was ignored, the Israeli Navy boarded the boat and redirected the vessel to the Israeli port of Ashdod. Reuters quoted a police source as saying that the activists aboard, members of the US-based Free Gaza movement, would “likely be deported.”

“Yesterday evening the Israeli Navy contacted the boat while at sea clarifying that it would not be permitted to enter Gaza coastal waters because of security risks in the area, and the existing naval blockade,” the Israeli military said in a statement, adding that humanitarian aid would be sent to Gaza “subject to authorization.”

The naval blockade – part of a wider Israeli effort to seal off the tiny coastal strip controlled by the Islamist militant group Hamas – not only prevents such shipments, it is also devastating a key Gazan industry and source of food: fishing.

Citing security concerns and fears of arms smuggling, Israel has progressively tightened the blockade over the past 15 years. Once a thriving enterprise, Gaza’s fishing industry is now on the verge of collapse. Fishermen are cut off from the heavily populated shoals, and have seen total revenue drop by half in less than a decade.

“We are witnessing a huge crisis where the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen, associated laborers, and their dependents have been decimated by Israel’s blockade and closure,” says Erminio Sacco of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

Following the Oslo peace accords, signed in 1994 between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), Israel permitted the fishermen to go 20 nautical miles (NM) out to sea.

This was restricted to 12 NM in 2002, after the outbreak of the second Palestinian intifada in 2000.

This area was further limited to the current 3 NM when the Islamic movement Hamas wrested control of Gaza after an intense fight with its rival Fatah led to a collapse of a unity government headed by Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas.

Those fishermen who go further out risk being arrested, shot, and killed, or having their boats destroyed or confiscated. However, human rights organizations have reported that fishermen have been attacked even within the 3-NM zone.

Click here to read about fisherman Mohammed Hassuna, who says he and his crew were recently surrounded by Israeli Navy boats, shot at, forced to strip, and swim in frigid water to the Navy gunboat, where they were handcuffed, blindfolded, and their feet chained.

Catch dropped by two-thirds since 2007

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Israel’s restrictions undermined the sardine season, which started in March and peaked in mid-April.

The bulk of sardines are located beyond six NM, with the UN estimating that a distance of 12-15 NM off Gaza is the minimum required to access the larger shoals of fish for maximum economic benefit. Shoals closer to shore have been depleted and unable to replenish themselves.

“During March 2007, 248 metric tons of fish were caught. In March 2008 this figure dropped to 121 tons and in March this year, the catch was only 89 tons,” says Mr. Sacco.

A total annual catch of 2,700 tons was caught in 2008, down from nearly 4,000 tons in 1999, according to Gaza’s General Syndicate of Marine Fishers.

OCHA states that at the end of the 1990s, Gaza’s fishing industry was worth about $10 million annually. This represented approximately 4 percent of the Palestinian economy.

Nezar Ayyash, from Gaza’s fishing syndicate, which has 3,500 registered fishermen, says this figure was halved between 2001 and 2006.

“It has become too expensive for many fishermen to take the bigger boats out to sea, so only some smaller boats venture out,” says Sacco.

The cost of one fishing trip can vary between $125 and $625, depending on the size of the vessel, nets, and crew; many fishermen cannot cover these costs.

Fishing employed 45,000 Gazans

About 45,000 Gazans once worked in fishing and its associated industries, including repairs, onshore support, or as merchants.

With Gazans having an average family size of seven, the fishing industry used to help support many times more of Gaza’s 1.4 million residents. It also supplemented a diet critically short of animal protein.

Gaza faces chronic unemployment, poverty, and malnutrition in part as a result of Israel’s blockade, which now allows only food and medicine – but not as much as aid workers say is necessary to sustain the population. Everything from pasta to catheters have been turned back, frustrating aid workers who have been unable to obtain a list of permitted items. A ban on steel and cement, which Israel says can be used to fortify tunnels along the Gaza border that are used for smuggling, has prevented many Gazans from rebuilding after the war, with some resorting to mud bricks for their homes.

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Hamas criticizes world’s ‘silence’ at capture of Gaza aid boat

http://www.maannews.net/en/index.php?opr=ShowDetails&ID=38950

Hamas criticizes world’s ‘silence’ at capture of Gaza aid boat
Date: 01 / 07 / 2009  Time:  12:59
[Ma’a

Gaza – Ma’an – Hamas officials criticized what it called international indifference to Israel’s capture of a civilian ship carrying humanitarian aid to Gaza, officials said Wednesday.

Israeli’s navy intercepted, then took control of the Spirit of Humanity ship Tuesday afternoon, towing it to the Israeli port of Ashdod and arresting the crew. The voyage was organized by the Free Gaza Movement, which has already staged three successful journeys in defiance of an Israeli blockade.

Hamas spokesperson Fawzi Barhoum said, “The abduction of a ship carrying solidarity activists from 22 [sic] countries indicates that Israel is going too far with its criminal acts, and widening its range of aggression.”

Barhoum asserted that the Gaza Strip badly needed the efforts of all international activists and human rights groups to help women, children, the elderly as well as victims of the recent Israeli military offensive.

The Free Gaza Movement scaled the voyage down to one out of two ships intended to make the voyage. There were activists from eleven nations on board.

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Human Rights Group Says 29 Civilians Were Killed by Israeli Air Attacks in Gaza

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/07/01/world/middleeast/01gaza.html?_r=1&ref=world
July 1, 2009

Human Rights Group Says 29 Civilians Were Killed by Israeli Air Attacks in Gaza

By CHRISTOPHER DREW

Twenty-nine civilians, including eight children, were killed in what appeared to be six missile strikes by Israeli drones in Gaza in December and January, according to a report released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch. The group questioned whether Israeli forces had taken “all feasible precautions” to avoid civilian casualties.

Israel’s military has never acknowledged using the remotely piloted planes to fire missiles. In a statement released Tuesday, it said that it had used an assortment of weapons and technologies to minimize the risk to Palestinian civilians.

Lt. Col. Avital Leibovich, a spokeswoman for the Israeli military, said Israeli forces had also gone to extraordinary lengths to warn civilians during the Gaza offensive, and she questioned the credibility of some of the Palestinian witnesses cited by the advocacy group.

The report, based on interviews with witnesses to the attacks and an examination of the missile debris, represented the latest in a series of accusations about Israel’s conduct of the Gaza war. And it raised broader concerns about how carefully drones were being used, much like the complaints that the Central Intelligence Agency has encountered in its use of drones to attack suspected members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Pakistan.

The report was partly written by Marc Garlasco, the senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch, a New York-based group, who was a weapons-targeting official at the Pentagon from 1997 to 2003.

Mr. Garlasco has praised the American military’s use of drones in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying that their ability to hover over a target for many hours had improved the accuracy of many missile attacks and limited civilian casualties.

The group’s findings in Gaza suggest that “the weapon itself isn’t the problem,” he said in an interview. “It’s the way it’s used that is.”

He added: “The operators have the ability to distinguish between combatants and civilians and can even divert the missiles after launch. So it’s hard to understand how the Israelis did such a poor job of targeting.”

Israel has said that it uses drones to gather intelligence and to help provide target information for helicopters and other aircraft. But Mr. Garlasco said the missile impact marks and the highly fragmented debris in the six attacks matched the smaller missiles typically used by drones rather than the larger antitank missiles that Israeli helicopters were seen carrying in Gaza.

The report said one missile had hit a group of university students waiting for a bus in the center of Gaza City, while another struck a truck hauling oxygen tanks and a third smashed into a school sheltering people who had lost or left their homes.

In three other attacks, the report said, the victims were six children, ages 10 to 15, who had been playing on residential rooftops. Muhammad al-Habbash, the father of one of the girls who was killed, told Human Rights Watch that some of the children had been feeding chickens that the family kept on the roof when the missile struck.

At another house, Nahla Allaw said her son’s legs had been crushed and blood poured from small holes in his chest as he died.

While fighters from Hamas, the militant Palestinian faction that controls Gaza, often placed artillery spotters on rooftops, the group found no evidence of militants in the area at the time of the attacks, the report said.

When asked about the rooftop attacks, Colonel Leibovich, the Israeli military spokeswoman, said, “This is the first time I am hearing of these specific incidents.”

Israel has said that over all, 1,166 people were killed in the Gaza offensive. Of those, 295 were noncombatants, 709 were Hamas fighters and 162 were men whose affiliations could not be identified, Israeli officials have said. The Palestinian Center for Human Rights in Gaza has said 1,417 people were killed, including 926 civilians.

The Israeli military has conducted internal investigations into its conduct during the 22-day war, which determined it had operated in accordance with international law. The United Nations Human Rights Council is conducting an investigation into allegations of war crimes by Israel and Hamas.

After the attack on the truck, the Israel Defense Forces released video of the event, contending that they had killed men who were loading rockets. The military later acknowledged that the cylinders on the truck were oxygen tanks, though it also said they could have been used in rocket production.

Colonel Leibovich said few military forces had ever taken as many precautions to minimize civilian casualties as Israel did in Gaza, dropping 500,000 leaflets warning people that its forces were arriving and even making telephone calls to neighbors of those thought to be Hamas fighters.

“There were also numerous cases where pilots had to reverse the missiles because they saw civilians enter the area,” she said.

P. W. Singer, the author of a recent book on military robots called “Wired for War,” said Israel might also be finding that using the drones “certainly raises the bar of expectations.”

“Because you can target more precisely, people hold you to a higher standard,” he said.

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Israeli navy commandeers Gaza aid boat

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2009/06/30/AR2009063000788.html
Israeli navy commandeers Gaza aid boat

The Associated Press
Tuesday, June 30, 2009 2:05 PM

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — The Israeli navy intercepted a ship carrying foreign peace activists trying to break a blockade of Gaza on Tuesday and forced it to sail to an Israeli port, the military said.

A statement said the Greek-registered freighter Arion ignored a radio message from the Israeli military saying it would not be allowed to enter Gaza waters and ordering it to turn back.

The statement said naval personnel boarded the small vessel without any shots being fired.

The military said those on board would be handed over to immigration authorities on arrival in the southern port of Ashdod, and humanitarian cargo would be trucked into the Gaza Strip after a security check. The ship arrived at Ashdod port after nightfall.

An earlier statement by the voyage’s organizers, the Free Gaza Movement, said the vessel, renamed the Spirit of Humanity, left the Cypriot port of Larnaca on Monday bound for Gaza with three tons of medical supplies.

The 20 passengers include former U.S. Representative Cynthia McKinney, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mairead Corrigan Maguire and other activists from Britain, Ireland, Bahrain and Jamaica.

The ship was flying a Greek flag, but no Greek citizens were aboard. The Greek government issued a statement saying it sent a message to Israel demanding that it release the ship, crew and passengers.

Israeli Foreign Ministry spokesman Yigal Palmor said Israel was planning to free the crew and passengers. “Nobody wants to keep them here,” he said. “They will be released as soon as they are checked.”

The Free Gaza Movement has organized five boat trips to Gaza since August 2008, defying a blockade imposed by Israel when the militant group Hamas seized control of the territory from its Palestinian rivals in June 2007.

Two other attempts were stopped by Israeli warships during Israel’s three-week war in the territory in December and January. Nobody on board was harmed.

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Elderly asked to skip Haj

http://www.arabnews.com/?page=1&section=0&article=124197&d=1&m=7&y=2009

Elderly asked to skip Haj
Muhammad Humaidan & Samir Al-Saadi | Arab News
 

JEDDAH: A workshop on precautionary health measures during Haj and Umrah yesterday recommended that the old, the infirm, pregnant women and children not perform Haj and Umrah this year in view of the global swine flu pandemic.

Health Minister Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah said at a press conference following a workshop in Jeddah yesterday that the World Health Organization (WHO) experts who participated in the conference were satisfied with the precautionary measures taken by the Kingdom to prevent the spread of the virus among pilgrims during the Haj season.

“What the health authorities in the Kingdom are doing to prevent the spread of the disease by far surpasses what is being done anywhere else in the world,” Al-Rabeeah said, adding that the Kingdom was the only country which was implementing the system of quarantine recommended by the WHO. Experts from the WHO, other international agencies and Saudi Arabia attended the workshop, which was organized on instructions from Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah.

Asked by Arab News about the efficacy of vaccines against swine flu, the minister said there is no effective vaccine against the disease. “The available vaccines are yet to be evaluated and assessed, a process that might take months.”

The workshop recommended that Haj and Umrah pilgrims, local residents and service providers in the holy cities should be vaccinated against the H1N1 virus at least two weeks before their departure from their home countries, the minister said.

The workshop’s major recommendations were that Saudi health authorities and Haj delegations representing various countries stock necessary quantities of medication for treatment and prevention of the virus causing the swine flu.

Referral laboratories should have reserve stocks of reagents and trained manpower to deal with the large number of people in Haj. The pilgrims, residents and those in contact with them should also be vaccinated against seasonal flu.

The workshop also recommended that pilgrims take the new H1N1 vaccine when it becomes available later this year, before coming to Saudi Arabia. The workshop stressed the need for continuing the monitoring and checking of the spread of swine flu in the Kingdom. Practicing personal hygienic habits such as covering the nose while sneezing, coughing into tissues and washing hands with water and soap besides wearing masks while visiting crowded places were also recommended.

Quarantine facilities should be close to arrival lounges for Haj pilgrims, according to the experts. Recording and preserving accurate data about the disease for future reference was also stressed at the workshop. The workshop urged the importance of adhering to the health conditions issued by the Saudi Ministry of Health. The MoH and WHO annually prepare plans for awareness campaigns.

The minister said he did not agree with claims that the media’s focus on the disease was larger than the actual danger. “On the other hand, the danger of the disease comes from the absence of immunity and vaccination against it,” he said.

The WHO experts expect a considerable increase in cases of swine flu until a vaccine is found. At the same time, the ministry announced that six new cases of swine flu had been reported in the Kingdom, raising the number to 81.

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