“Lawfare” is the Latest Form of Israeli-AIPAC Attack on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla

June 16, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Ann Wright

Israel is hard at work to stop international citizen activists groups from 22 countries that form the Gaza Freedom Flotilla from sailing in less than 3 weeks to bring international attention to Israel’s brutal siege on Gaza. As a part of Israeli government propaganda, the civil society to civil society project is purposefully and wrongly portrayed by the Israeli government  as sending weapons and “material support” to Gaza’s democratically elected government headed by Hamas, a group Israel and the United States have designated as a terrorist organization.

Extensive investigations by the United Nations, Turkey and even the Israeli government concluded there were no weapons on any of the 6 ships of the 2010 flotilla and that the cargo was consigned to non-governmental organizations in Gaza.  But, the Israeli government never lets truth get in the way of its propaganda machine!

Israel’s massive diplomatic offensive on European countries, Turkey, Canada and the United States that strongly demands that countries not allow ships and passengers to sail has been followed by a new type of warfare called  “lawfare.”

Instead of direct military “warfare,” the Israeli government and its front organizations AIPAC and the Shurat HaDin Law Center are using lawsuits filed against insurance and satellite telephone companies that may sell equipment to the flotilla organizers and against citizen activist groups that have raised funds to purchase ships as strategies to attempt to stop the flotilla.

AIPAC joins Israeli government attack on the Gaza flotilla

On June 2, New York City corporate attorney Neal Sher, the former executive director of the most powerful lobby in the United States, the American Israeli Public Affairs Council (AIPAC), filed a lawsuit in Toronto, Canada against the organizers of the Canadian Boat to Gaza for “raising funds and providing material support to Hamas.”

The lawsuit was on behalf of a Canadian-Israeli citizen and asks for an interim and permanent injunction to stop the Canadian Boat to Gaza initiative “from continuing to raise funds, purchasing equipment or supplies, and purchasing or renting a vessel for the purpose of delivering goods or funds to the Gaza Strip.”  The lawsuit also wants to block the Canadian grassroots group “from sending goods, funds or any other material support, directly or indirectly, to Hamas or any of its representatives, and/or from aiding and abetting Hamas by assisting in bringing imports and exports to and from the Gaza Strip.”

In addition, the Canadian-Israeli citizen, 68-year old Cherna Rosenberg, wants  $1 million in damages “for trauma and injuries suffered as a consequence of the defendants’ conspiracy” from the time she lived in the Israeli town of Sderot, where she “endured the constant and relentless mortar attacks emanating from Gaza.”

The lawsuit’s aim is to continue the Israeli government’s six decade control over the economic future of Gaza by refusing to allow the export and import of goods by sea and the free movement of Palestinian people without the approval of either the Israeli or Egyptian government.

One would hope that a counter-suit by a citizen of Gaza would be brought asking for millions of dollars in damages for the daily attacks on Gaza by the Israeli Defense Forces “for trauma and injuries suffered as a consequence of Israel’s aggression on civilians” in all parts of Gaza where “they endured constant and relentless attacks by F-16s, Apache gunships, naval bombardment, drones, white phosphorus, dense inert metal explosive bombs and countless other weapons.”

Lawsuits in the US against companies offering services to participating ships A second lawsuit attempts to prevent the flotilla from sailing by bringing lawsuits in the United States against companies that provide services to ships in the flotilla.

Shurat HaDin Law Center, reportedly an independent non-profit organization but certainly supporting and working for the policies of the State of Israel, sent letters to worldwide maritime insurance firms and satellite communications companies, warning that companies that provide services that assist in the breach of the Israeli blockade on Gaza will be sued in the United States for aiding the Hamas terrorist organization.)

Shurat HaDin’s Director Nitsana Darshan-Leitner demanded that mobile satellite services company Inmarsat, one of companies that provides communications and navigations services to ships that sail in the region,  refuse to provide their equipment and services to ships participating in the flotilla.  Darshan-Leitner said, “We informed them that if they do so, they will be in violation of the American Neutrality Act, which prohibits aiding a group in their struggle against the military of an ally country.  Since Imarsat has offices in the US, the law binds them.”
Shurat HaDin has also sent letters to 30 of the top maritime insurance companies in the world announcing the law center’s intent to sue if the companies provide insurance to ships participating in the flotilla.

Relentless campaign of false information used against the flotilla

In a relentless campaign of using the false information about the flotilla, including that there were weapons on ships of the 2010 Gaza flotilla, Darshan-Leitner said “…Maritime insurance companies insuring the boats utilized by the Gaza Flotilla surely have no idea that the passenger boats that they are indemnifying are being used by the organizers to run the coastal blockade, violently challenge the IDF and smuggle weapons into Gaza. No legitimate insurance company nor its shareholders would reasonably agree to insure an expedition like that.  We have begun to send letters placing the maritime insurance companies on notice concerning the Gaza Flotilla, and warning them that if they provide insurance (a necessary component in the effort to smuggle contraband to the terrorists) that they themselves will be legally liable for any future terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas.”

Lloyd’s, the world’s largest maritime insurance company, reportedly said that they would not insure ships participating in the flotilla.

Lloyd’s Senior Manager of International Regulatory Affairs, Andy Wragg  responded to Shurat HaDin’s letter, “As you correctly point out in your letter, Hamas is subject to UK and EU terrorist-financing sanctions. As such, any vessel identified as being owned or controlled by that organization would not be permitted to be insured by underwriters at Lloyd’s, or any other EU insurer. The Lloyd’s Market has robust systems in place to ensure international sanctions are followed, and therefore any underwriter identifying an insured or prospective insured acting on behalf of, or for the benefit of Hamas, would not insure such a risk.”

However, none of the ships of either the 2010 or 2011 flotilla have any connection with Hamas and no amount of false Israeli propaganda can change the truth.  Although the truth is not what much of the commercial media is concerned with.

Force is not the Best Way to Stop the Flotilla

Darshan-Leitner commented, “We ..think that the war on the flotilla should not be left for the Special Forces to fight alone. There is no need for Israeli soldiers to repel down ropes in order to stop the next flotilla – all that’s needed is some courage and original thinking.  There are various ways to prevent, postpone, limit and avert the danger – and force isn’t always the best way.”
We Agree-Force is not the Way to Stop the Flotilla-Ending the Naval Blockade is!

On this, we agree with Darshan-Leitner.

Force is not the way to stop worldwide condemnation of Israel’s blockade of Gaza.  The way to stop the flotilla is to end the naval blockade of Gaza!
Until the blockade ends, the flotillas filled with citizens from around the world will continue to challenge Israeli’s brutal policies and United States complicity in them.

Ann Wright

Ann Wright is a 29-year, US Army/Army Reserves veteran, who retired as a colonel and a former US diplomat. She resigned in March 2003 in opposition to the war on Iraq. She served in Nicaragua, Grenada, Somalia, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Sierra Leone, Micronesia and Mongolia. In December 2001 she was a member of the small team that reopened the US Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan. She is the co-author of the book “Dissent: Voices of Conscience.” www.voicesofconscience.com

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The STAY HUMAN Flotilla to Gaza

June 2, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

The Freedom Flotilla II, named the Stay Human flotilla, will sail for the beleaguered Gaza Strip of the Occupied Palestinian Territory in the latter part of June. The postponement from the originally scheduled March departure date is due to the complex logistics involved in campaigns to raise money for multiple sailing vessels and to outfit them properly and prepare them for their journey. Another factor is the political turmoil in the region, particularly what is happening in Libya and Syria.

The name Stay Human was chosen to honor the late Italian Palestinian activist Vittorio ‘Vik’ Arrigoni. His recent violent death, under circumstances still in question, left the Palestinian activist community stunned. Tributes poured in from all over the world, and people who knew him and worked with him and were touched by his charm and dedication could only work through their grief by rededicating themselves to his cause.

His favorite expression to his co workers was “Stay Human”, and thus the flotilla name.

“Our message of peace is a call to action, for ordinary people like ourselves, not to hand over our lives to whatever puppeteer is in charge this time round, but to take responsibility for the revolution. First, the inner revolution- to give love to give empathy; It is this that will change the world.”

Two activists who contributed to this article, veteran  human rights activist and International Solidarity Movement (ISM) member, Greta Berlin, and human rights activist, ISM co founder, and member of the Flotilla Steering Committee, Huwaida Arraf, were among the many who paid tribute to “Vik”.

Ms Arraf delivered a tribute at his funeral and Ms Berlin had the following to say: “Nothing that we can write can capture the man who was so full of the joy of life, a man with the pipe in his mouth and the captain’s hat always tilted at an angle on his head.The man with the big smile and gentle nature, someone who used his physical strength to hold small children in his arms, sometimes several at a time. His laughter and his last comments every time we saw him will ring in all of our ears as we board the boats to return to Gaza at the end of May.”

In the past the organizers of the vessels have worked with the government of Cyprus. This coming flotilla is and will be working with the Mediterranean governments of France, Spain, Greece, Italy and Turkey.

Ms Berlin urges all our readers to advocate for the flotilla’s safe voyage. People should call their representative, send an email, call the White House, and the State Department and inform them that the American people expect all on board the vessels to be safe.

Most of the monies raised were raised by grass roots fundraising. The only boat scheduled to leave from the United States, named The Audacity of Hope”,  was funded in part by activists going into the streets of New York with buckets and asking for contributions. The organizing group bought a 100 foot boat that will support from 50-60 passengers. Most on board will be from civil society with a few notables.

The boat will not carry cargo but will carry messages and letters from the American people, said Jane Hirschmann of the US Boat to Gaza. The relevant web site is: www.ustogaza.org. Americans who want to send a personal message should access the web site to find out the protocol.

Present estimates give the number of ships in the flotilla as between ten and fifteen. A number of the ships represent joint ventures. The ships are nation oriented though they are networks of national organizations and do not represent a government or an NGO.

There will be high profile people aboard these ships including members of parliament. For security reasons many are not currently named. It is known that they will include Colonel Ann Wright, Alison Weir of If Americans Knew, and Code Pink leader Medea Benjamin as well as Rugby star Trevor Hogan. Mr. Hogan has written an opinion piece in The Irish Herald in which he announced that he will be a part of the flotilla and will be aboard the Irish ship to Gaza.

Foremost among the cargo will be construction supplies, equipment for hospitals, water purification systems, and generators. Organizers would also like to be able to bring solar paneling for Green energy so that Gaza might become more independent  of Israel for its energy needs. However the costs are prohibitive. Individuals who want to contribute but hold back because the amount they can contribute is small should consider that their donation, along with others, will purchase a part of an important commodity. Please access the following web site: www.freegaza.org/donate.  

The International Solidarity Movement (ISM) in Gaza is in need of volunteers, and some of the flotilla passengers may elect to remain in Gaza to work with them. Huwaida Arraf cautions those who wish to remain that pre arrangement must be made with an organization including the ISM. ISM works with fishermen who challenge the limitations that Israel places on their right to move their fishing vessels – and therefore their livelihood – more than a few miles from the Gaza coast. Farmers with ISM help challenge the buffer zones imposed by Israel which zones prevent them from reaching their land.

People who must leave Gaza may be on the departing vessels. Again Ms Arraf cautions that they must have the proper paperwork required by the nations where they hope to be taken as this is an immigration issue that the Free Gaza Movement has no control over. While previous vessels leaving Gaza have dealt with the issue, the permanent opening of the Rafah border renders the issue moot.

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