Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Gaza Roundup 2 PIRATES OF THE MEDITERRANEAN: State-sponsored villains and emerging heroes


By now, it's widely acknowledged that state-sponsored piracy did not die when Captain Kidd was hanged (thanks, Jim, for that illuminating comment). It's alive and well, and not just off the coast of Somalia or the Straits of Malacca. The Mediterranean is a thriving hub for high-seas crime, and as in the case of merry old England, there are state-sponsored buccaneers out there plying the waters, terrorizing the ships, and sending innocent souls to Davy Jones' locker. But the pirates aren't who you think they are. They don't wear billowy shirts or big feathered hats, nor do they strut around with parrots on their shoulders. They don't have wooden legs or eyepatches. They wear modern military uniforms. And they do their vile deeds (which can well be classified as terrorism) under the flag of a nation:

According to a report in The Guardian, an Algerian activist, who gave her name as Sabrina, revealed that Israeli troops pointed their gun at a one-year-old Turkish child in front of his parents to force the captain of the Mavi Marmara to stop sailing.

Many reports have emerged from among the 124 activists who crossed over into Amman, Jordan, yesterday.

In an interview with Sky News, IT professional Hasan Nowarah, from Glasgow, described the moments as the Israeli troops descended on the ship.

"All you could see was screaming and bullets. Out of the blue as I looked around our ship, all I could see were hundreds of Zodiacs. Hundreds of Zodiacs full of soldiers, and big ships, lots of ships, and I believe as well submarines in the sea."

Kuwaiti MP Walid Al Tabtabai said the Israelis were "brutal and arrogant".

"Israelis roughed up and humiliated all of us, women, men and children," he said.

Algerian Izzeddine Zahrour said Israeli authorities "deprived us of food, water and sleep and we weren't allowed to use the toilet".

"It was an ugly kidnapping and subsequently bad treatment in Israeli jail," he said.

"They handcuffed us, pushed us around and humiliated us," Egyptian MP Hazem Farouq, who was also on the boat, said and added what he witnessed on the ship "defied his imagination".

"It was hell on the sea. I saw Israeli soldiers killing activists in cold blood and then walking on their bodies," Farouq, who was one of more than 700 activists aboard the Freedom Flotilla attacked by Israeli commandos, said on Tuesday in Cairo.

"The Israeli soldiers sprayed bullets as if they were a mafia in an American film."

But the piracy is not going unremarked. Many heroes are speaking out against it:

Monia Mazigh, wife of Canadian abduction/torture victim Maher Arar. She worked tirelessly to secure his release and get the facts out into the public eye. His eventual return was not the end of her activism, but a beginning. Now she's engaged on behalf of the Palestinians, and was out yesterday demonstrating against the siege of Gaza and the piracy of the IDF.

Robert Scheer. He calls it an act of terrorism, and demands that Palestinians be treated the same as Jews. He also notes how hard it is to get major media, and even some "progressive" media, to be honest about Israel's crimes.

Ann Wright, former US army colonel and now peace activist and human-rights advocate. She was apparently seen being led off the ship by the pirates-in-uniform. Her cellphone is on, but so far, no one's answered. What do you bet it was one of the ones confiscated by the IDF to keep the facts from leaking out until the hasbara came out and was making the rounds?

Greta Berlin, a US-based co-founder of the Free Gaza Movement. And one of the first to dispel the hasbara lies.

Swedish author/activist Henning Mankell, who singlehandedly showed just what a joke the IDF's claims of a weapons cache on board the ships really is.

Rather surprisingly, Reporters Without Borders. The org has taken some time out from its usual Venezuela-bashing, and accurately reported the Israeli military's efforts to stifle independent reporting. A brief aberration from their usual pattern, I'm sure. They will probably soon enough issue an IDF-dictated "correction" and express "regret" for the "error". (Remember, you saw it here first.)

And if you're really in the mood for a good laugh, guess what this astute netizen found! "Weapons cache" photos dating back to 2003, 2006 and who knows when else. Gosh, who knew the Mavi Marmara could travel through TIME, as well as the Mediterranean? (Note: The IDF has since "corrected" the dates on the "incriminating" photos. Too late, the truth is already out!)