Eyewitness to History

August 11, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Susan Schwartz, TMO

During mid summer the attention of the world was once again focused on Gaza, often referred to as the world’s largest outdoor prison. Humanitarians had organized a flotilla to sail to Gaza from Mediterranean ports on the anniversary of last year’s attempt – an attempt which resulted in the death of nine people as Israel committed a barbaric act of piracy against the Turkish ship, Mavi Marmara.

The Los Angeles area was privileged to hear two first hand accounts of this year’s flotilla thanks to a  presentation titled: “Eyewitness Account of the Gaza Flotilla”  held this past weekend. Featured speakers were Yonatan Shapira and Mary Hughes Thompson. Mr. Shapira is from Israel and is a former Israeli IDF pilot. He is a Refusenik, a member of Boycott from Within, and a co founder of Combatants for Peace.

Ms Thompson is a veteran peace activist and a co founder of the Free Gaza Movement. She was on board one of the two ships that sailed simultaneously into the port of Gaza to break the decades long blockade in the late summer of 2008.

The event was one in a series of conversations about the Middle East and was sponsored by Jewish Voices for Peace (JVP); the Levantine Cultural Center; LA Jews for Peace (LAJP); Friends of Sabeel; Women in Black LA (WIBLA), and BDSLA.

Mr. Shapira began by giving his background as a child growing up in a privileged position in Israel, the son of a high ranking Air Force officer. He told the audience that the squad which dropped Israeli soldiers onto the Mavi Marmara in 2010 was his squad. He told of being disillusioned by Israeli targeted assassination attempts which killed innocent civilians, including children.

He addressed the audience and asked if there were persons present who held a point of view different than his. Two people raised their hands. “I want to hear what you have to say after the presentation” said Mr. Shapira
Mr Shapira said that he was on the American Gaza bound ship, The Audacity of Hope. He and others arrived in Athens at the end of June and immediately began training in non violent resistance.The ship was not permitted to leave Athens because of bogus claims that the vessel was not seaworthy. There were representatives of the press on board including CNN, the New York Times, and the Nation. Thanks to the heavy hand of Israeli and American pressure on the government of Greece,  the voyage was aborted. The ship was confiscated, and attorneys are still working for its release.

Mr. Shapira had been on a small “Jewish vessel” which tried to sail to Gaza shortly after the incident of Israeli piracy on the Mavi Marmara. The vessel carried harmonicas and was stopped by the Israeli navy.

Israel claimed that the vessel carried dual use items.

Mr. Shapira said that even if the voyage to the port of Gaza had been successful, success cannot truly be declared until Gaza is free.

Ms Thompson told briefly of her work with the people of Palestine. She chose to take the Canadian boat, Tahrir because of ties that she has to Canada. At first she had planned to skip the voyage but then thought of all the brave people who were going, and she felt she had to make another statement for her cause – the cause of Palestine. She rendezvoused with the Tahrir on the island of Crete where she also underwent training in nonviolent resistance. Israeli journalist Amira Hass was on board the Tahrir.
Ms Thompson spoke of the support of the Greek people for their cause. The Greek navy insisted on seeing every detail of paperwork. They declared the boat un seaworthy because, among other things,  the beds were too narrow, and the air conditioning did not work. When the handwriting was on the wall, the passengers found five men on board who were familiar with maritime engineering. The captain of the Tahrir was a Greek citizen and left the boat fearing arrest. He first instructed the five men in the techniques they would need to sail the vessel. Then the ship took off. Two people got into kayaks to create interference. The boat was physically prevented from sailing far, and soon the Tahrir were boarded. The boarding party found the wheel house empty and when the passengers were asked who the captain was, everyone raised his or her hand.

Ms Thompson mentioned the large amount of goods confiscated by Israel from the vessels of the first flotilla – cell phones, cameras, computers and other equipment. This material was never returned. This information brought a gasp from the audience.

“I never thought of that” said one woman “that adds the element of theft.”
Ms Thompson and Mr. Shapira agreed that the publicity the flotilla received and the light that was shown on Gaza and the conditions of the Gazans under the boot of Israel, rendered the mission of the Flotilla II at least partially successful. When non violence is a tactic, then the value of public opinion becomes increasingly valuable.

A lively question and answer session followed.

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Mordechai Vanunu on Israel’s Nuclear Blackmail

December 24, 2009 by · Leave a Comment 

vanunu
File: Mordechai Vanunu

By Hesham Tillawi Interview, Current Issues TV

Below is the transcript of an eye-opening interview that took place between peace activist Mordechai Vanunu and talk show host Hesham Tillawi on the television program Current Issues.

TILLAWI. `Well, I do believe that we have Mordechai Vanunu with us…Mordechai, are you with us?

VANUNU. Yes.

TILLAWI. Good Morning, I know that it is 4 o’clock in the morning there in Jerusalem. Folks, Mordechai Vanunu has spent 18 years in an Israeli jail for telling Israeli nuclear secrets. He was lured to Rome by Israeli agents and kidnapped and then sent back to Israel where he spent 18 yrs in prison and 11 of those years in solitary confinement. That is true, Mordechai?

VANUNU. Yes, that is right.

TILLAWI Now, Mordechai, I have a question for you. What was it that you really felt that you must tell the world about, what was it about the Israeli nuclear program that you felt to yourself, `you know I cannot continue like this, I cannot remain silent on this, I have got to tell the world about it.’ What was it?

VANUNU Well, the most important point is that it was the same situation that we have right now, namely that these people continue to lie and to cheat the world as well as their own citizens by denying the truth, by declaring that they do not have atomic weapons while at the same time I was working there helping to produce them. At that time there were more than 200 atomic weapons, in 1986, and it was at that time that they started to produce the most horrible of all weapons, the hydrogen bomb…all of this in secret, in lying and in cheating the world and all of its citizens. So I said to myself `It is impossible to keep these secrets. I must report about them and to try and stop it.’

TILLAWI Mordechai, there are a lot of nations that have nuclear weapons. What is it about Israel having them that makes you so nervous?

VANUNU Because Israel wants to use them, to cause genocide and holocaust on other innocent citizens. It has always been a part of Israel’s secret policy. And also by having them, Israel will use them as a threat to avoid making peace with the Arab world as well as imposing her policies on those peoples. As long as she has them, she will continue on in her policies of not making peace, of occupation and of neglecting the Palestinian suffering caused by the refugee camps that have existed for more than 50 years.

TILLAWI One of the Israeli professors said a few months ago that ‘we have the nuclear capability of hitting every major European city,’ is that true to your knowledge?

VANUNU Yes, it is true. They can bombard any city all over the world, and not only those in Europe but also those in the United States, and by this threat what they are doing is to send a secret message to any leader and to any government that they have the ability to use them aggressively and to blackmail them, to blackmail Europe and the United States, everywhere, in every state around the world. It was Europe and the United States who helped them get this power, and now that Israel has it, she is coming back and saying to them ‘We will not obey any orders that you give us. No international law, no international agreement, no UN resolutions,’ and all because of these atomic weapons that they have. …

TILLAWI … What made Mordechai Vanunu betray his country and then change his religion?

VANUNU Yes, this is a very good question and very important. You are right, it is not usual to have a person come to these hard conclusions. As far as my conversion, it started at the very early age of 15 or 16. I was raised in the Jewish religion and in a Jewish family. Israel and Judaism were considered as one nation, one big family, one tribe. I began criticizing and rejecting Judaism over the point of view that these Jews are teaching injustice through their Judaism. In the same way that Jesus Christ also criticized Judaism 2,000 years ago, I was unwilling to accept what they teach, and later converted to the opposite of Judaism. The Jewish tribe teaches that there is only one Chosen people of God. They teach of their superiority, taking literally word-by-word the writings in the old bible. And I decided therefore that after 2,000 years these ideas were nonsense. There are 6 billion people around the world, and all of them are equal, all are part of the human race. There is no such thing as a super race. We should all respect and love each other, and that was the beginning of my rejecting Judaism and my accepting of Christianity, of following the teachings of Jesus Christ and of accepting humanity. I am not a religious man, I am not going to become a priest. I did all of this for my humanity and for my beliefs. So, I chose my own way and began criticizing the Jewish faith. Those who teach Judaism run the lives of those under them, telling them what they must do every hour of every day, issuing many orders about everything, from waking up in the morning to going to sleep, but at the same time they do not teach them to respect other human beings, to accept non-Jews and to believe that non-Jews are like them. They teach that only the Jews are the chosen people. So, this is Judaism, a collection of primitive traditions thousands of years old that have not changed. The world has changed in the last 2,000 years and the Jewish people need to accept and understand this change, and especially if they want a democratic country. You cannot have a state and run it as they did 2,000 years ago. They came to Palestine in the name of the Bible and in the name of their god and took this land that was promised to them thousands of years ago. In the name of this god, they took the land, expelled the people and gave them hard, cruel, barbaric lives for the last 60 years. This way of thinking, this faith cannot exist within this new age, and it was this that also led me to expose Israel’s nuclear secrets.

TILLAWI Mordechai, you have been living amongst the Palestinians for a while now. What do you think, are they the terrorists that we have all been hearing about?

VANUNU I have been living amongst the Palestinians now for 15 months, but I have been following the Palestinian situation now since the 1980’s. Now I am here living among them, watching them, meeting with them, eating with them, enjoying life with them and seeing how the Israelis have succeeded in portraying them all over the world as terrorists. But this is not true. They are very peaceful people and lovers of peace. …

TILLAWI So, why are we after Iran then to open its doors to inspections, but no one is asking Israel to do the same? Why is that?

VANUNU This is a very strange situation that has been developed and accepted by the Western states since the 1960’s. It goes back about 40 years. My view is that Europe and America are and have been under a long-term agenda of blackmail by the Israelis. In the first case, the Israelis constantly bring up the Holocaust and what happened to the Jews during WWII, blaming the West for it and then using this as the justification for possessing nuclear weapons as a way of preventing this from ever happening again. …(9) Mordechai Vanunu says Nazi Holocaust used as “propaganda” to blackmail the WestThe World Today (ABC Radio, Australia)Wednesday, 29 September , 2004

MORDECHAI VANUNU: Maybe the real fear is that my free spirit, my free belief to express my views in politics, in everything, not only nuclear secrets, I have many interesting views and I’m telling them without fear and expressing that to anyone in all the world, in all the media, and that is not good for Israel.They don’t like it, and also, the Israel Government and state have teached all the world, especially the west, Europe, United States, Australia, Canada, they teach them to fear and now to be under blackmail by Israel propaganda of Holocaust and all this propaganda.

http://currentissue s.tv/VanunuTranscript.html

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