Monday, June 21, 2010

Thank you, Tim

If I was able to have more posts like this, I would be that much less inclined to post stuff like I just did. So thank you, Tim.

Tim is the guy responsible for Green Left Global News & Info and he linked to this, from the blog of the Monthly Review:
In Oakland, California, an Israeli ship was blocked by protesters [on Sunday] for the first time in history. 700-1,000 protesters blocked three different gates at 5:30 A.M. keeping dockworkers from unloading the Israeli cargo. ILWU members refused to cross picketline -- citing "health & safety" provisions of their contract. Management demanded "instant arbitration." The arbitrator took a look at the picketlines at each gate to the SSA Terminal and ruled that ILWU members were justified in refusing to cross. All dockworkers were sent home with FULL PAY.
The response from the anti-justice side was to try to mock the protesters on the grounds that "the [Israeli] ship did not arrive, and the crowd prevented workers from unloading a Chinese ship instead" - with several commenters at the YouTube posting of the video putting up "haha you are teh stupid" remarks, claiming that the picketers could not tell the difference between Chinese and Hebrew.

But in fact (and of course), the protest was set for when the Israeli ship was scheduled to arrive - but apparently it was delayed, the strong temptation is to think deliberately, and did not arrive until some 12 hours after that time. By then, most of the protesters had left. But the result of the late arrival is that the ship was not unloaded until this morning, 24 hours later than the original time. And since the protesters said in so many words that their intent was to "boycott" the ship for one day, it would seem that they had succeeded outright.

It does appear that in the wake of the murders - and that's what it was - of at least nine people on the ship the Mavi Marmara of the "Freedom Flotilla," the Israeli government has finally realized that it may have gone too far and has been taking steps to divert some of the growing pressure and increasing volume of international protest. For one prime example, some announcements have been made about easing the blockade of Gaza.

Still, words and deeds, words and deeds. The Christian Science Monitor points out that
critics warned that the decision does not address freeing up Gaza's agricultural exports to Europe, or the reopening of Israel's main commercial crossing into Gaza at Karni. The policy change also doesn't mention whether Israel will allow its banks to reestablish ties with Gazan banks, or whether civilians will be permitted to travel between Gaza and the West Bank.

"It is not the end of the blockade," says Sari Bashi, the director of the Israeli nongovernmental group Gisha, which has pressed to lift movement restrictions.
Diplomats, the CSM reported, are taking a wait-and-see attitude about how the rhetoric translates to actions on the ground. Perhaps they, too, have finally decided they have been burned too many times by promises.

And as Juan Cole tartly noted, the issue is not just what items are allowed in, but how much of those items. He quotes a report from The Voice of Israel radio saying:
The coordinator of government activities in the territories informed the PA tonight that as of tomorrow morning, the number of trucks crossing through Kerem Shalom will be daily increased by 30%.
But, as Cole notes, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that the amount of goods and aid going into Gaza amounts to just 17% of the goods routinely allowed in before the blockade began. If the increase is 30% of that, then even after the "easing" the flow still will be less than 23% of what it was before the start of the blockade. If that sounds less like "a security precaution" and more like "economic warfare," you're right and earlier this month the Israeli government admitted precisely that.
[T]he [Israeli] government has long said that the aim of the blockade is to stem the flow of weapons to militants in Gaza. ...

However, in response to a lawsuit by Gisha, an Israeli human rights group, the Israeli government explained the blockade as an exercise of the right of economic warfare.

"A country has the right to decide that it chooses not to engage in economic relations or to give economic assistance to the other party to the conflict, or that it wishes to operate using 'economic warfare,'" the government said. ...

A government spokesman, who couldn't be named as a matter of policy, told McClatchy [news service] that authorities will continue to ease the blockade but "could not lift the embargo altogether as long as Hamas remains in control" of Gaza.
Still, what's the big deal? It's all good. Just ask certified liberal Democrat Sen. Chuck Schumer, who told those assembled at an Orthodox Union event in Washington, DC on June 9 that it "makes sense" to "strangle [Palestinians] economically" until they behave in a way more to Israel's liking. Oh, and in case the point wasn't clear enough, Schumer noted that the Palestinian people "don't believe in the Torah, in David."

So as long as it falls just short of people "starving to death," that's just fine. Meanwhile, for a performer to cancel an appearance in Israel in protest of the attack on the flotilla, as The Pixies did, is, according to Israeli music promoter Shuki Weiss, "cultural terrorism." And author Margaret Atwood rejected a call for her to refuse an Israeli literary award as "a form of censorship," although how anyone is being silenced I'm at a loss to see.

And for Palestinians in the West Bank to organize a completely nonviolent resistance movement centered on a boycott limited to items made in the Jewish settlements, most of which settlements are illegal under international law? Unacceptable! Must be stopped! So at least 25 members of the Knesset have endorsed a proposal to make such a boycott illegal - in fact, it would declare any boycott of Israel of any form, anywhere, organized by anyone, as illegal.

It all "makes sense," you see, because nonviolent resistance movements, boycotts, canceling a rock concert, and turning down an award are so much worse than "economic strangulation" of 1.6 million people, half of them children under 16. Because, c'mon, the conditions may be "dire" according to the ICRC, which calls the blockade collective punishment and a violation of international law, they may be "bleak" according to the UN's International Labor Organization (ILO), data gathered by the UN's World Food Program and Food and Agriculture Organization may have found more than half of Gaza families to be "food insecure," meaning they can't be confident of access to sufficient nutrition for good health, the FAO and OCHA may say water in Gaza is "scarce and polluted" because of breakdowns in water and sewage treatment infrastructures due to the difficulty in obtaining materials for maintenance and repair, and a two-year survey of Palestinian children may indicate that over 13% of Gaza children show stunted growth as a result of malnutrition, still, I mean! No one is actually "starving to death." Are they?

(Many thanks to Juan Cole and Glenn Greenwald for leading me to those last links.)

Footnote: Israel has also promised to "investigate" the killings on the flotilla ship and has called on the UN to leave its own plan for an international investigation "on the shelf." Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak told UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon that
the five-person panel Israel has established, which includes two foreign observers, would be sufficient for now.

"We are moving ahead with our independent investigation, which we believe is clearly independent, reliable, credible and should be allowed to work," Barak said.
Right. So again the accused get to investigate themselves with their own hand-picked jury. And the two "foreign observers" are David Trimble, a Conservative member of Britain's House of Lords and a founding member of a pro-Israel caucus in Parliament, and Ken Watkin, a retired Canadian brigadier general. I can't say I'm really impressed.

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