Thousands Protest the Occupation and Flotilla Raid Across Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories

To mark 43 years of Israeli occupation, Israelis and Palestinians held protests throughout Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories this weekend. While many of these protests were planned in advance, many organizers and the IDF did not know what to expect since the Gaza Flotilla Raid has heightened emotions across all sects of Israeli and Palestinian society — Arab, Jewish, left and right etc.

Saturday, June 5th 2010

Tel Aviv

The prime minister drowns us all. We need to row to peace.

15,000 – 20,000 left-wing people peacefully protested the Israeli occupation and the “Gaza Flotilla Raid” in Tel Aviv (notice how the name of the Wikipedia article has now changed from “Gaza Flotilla Crash” to “Gaza Flotilla Raid”).  They were also joined by 200 – 300 right-wing people who came to oppose the left-wing protesters and support the occupation.

The number of protesters surprised many of the protest’s organizers who estimated that no more than 3,000 people would attend. “I thought that because of the flotilla incident that moderate leftists would not turn out, but I was very surprised,” said one of the organizers, Itamar Broaderson.  “Instead, because of the flotilla more people came.”

While the protest is held annually to mark the beginning of Israel’s occupation, when the Gaza Flotilla Raid happened, the organizers changed the title of the protest from “Protest Against 43 Years of Occupation” to “The government cannot sink us. We will continue rowing for peace.”

Several right-wing protesters spit on left-wing protesters and one person threw a smoke grenade. At the end of the protest, right-wing protesters attacked 81 year old leftist activist Uri Avneri, the head of Gush Shalom, and the police had to escort Avneri to his car.

The protest was organized by several left-wing organizations and parties including Meretz, Peace Now, Gush Shalom, Hadash and Physicians for Human Rights among others.

Friday, June 5, 2010

Nebi Saleh, Occupied Palestinian Territories

I went to Nebi Saleh with photojournalists Mati Milstein, Ben Kelmer and blogger Lisa Goldman. Seasoned blogger Noam Sheizaf was also there and I liked the way that he summed up the history of the village in his post about a series of demonstrations yesterday:

The Palestinians of Nebi Saleh try to regain access to a tiny pond that was taken over by settlers from the nearby Halamish settlement. As usual, the weekly demonstration started with a march toward the pond, which was stopped on the village’s main street by the Army. Then came some stone-throwing by several of the Palestinians, to which the soldiers responded with tear gas.

The weekly protest began with young village members blocking the main road into the village where the IDF enters with stones and lighting tires on fire. Less than five minutes later, the IDF arrived and closed the road for several hours.

The villagers (accompanied by no more than ten young international activists) marched down the hill slowly and cautiously and eventually exchanged stone throwing for tear gas.

Other than the journalists, Ben Gurion University professor of Chemistry Eyal Nir was the only person who came from the villagers’ protest to speak with the army. After several minutes of shouting passionately at the army to leave the village, Nir was taken into an army jeep for insulting a soldier with a racial slur (see pictures below).

When the IDF was shooting tear gas, more than one canister landed in a nearby house. After the tear gas exploded, a woman came out of the house and gagged repeatedly on top of the roof. There was no damage to the house, since the window was already broken from similar incidents.

I spoke with one of the village leader who along with his wife, who serves as a medic, monitor the young village protesters. He explained to me a bit of the village history = 1 family, 400 people and a culture of resistance. I took some pictures of the resistance art they’ve made and several of the women and children who stand on their porches weekly for the past six months protesting the settlers take over of their spring (see below). He also told me that the night before, three young villagers had been arrested in the middle of the night, after last week’s protests.

At the top of the hill in a small community building, several middle aged men debated their protest strategy hotly. They decided to call the protest off for the day because they said a woman in Gaza had been killed. Photojournalist Mati Milstein informed the IDF of their decision, resolving the conflict for the day.

Bil’in

At the weekly protest in Bil’in, Palestinian protesters constructed a model of the Gaza flotilla and were met with the usual tear gas. See the video here.

Highway 443

Hundreds also marked 43 years of occupation on highway 443 where demonstrators protest Palestinians’ limited access to the highway which runs through the west bank.

Tab for the Day:

This reporting took over 8 hours of work plus food and fuel. I rode in a car, which I cannot afford, shot pictures on a $1,000 camera and wrote this story on a $2,000 computer. Please do your part to support independent journalism in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Also free to join the lively, peaceful conversation here, on facebook or subscribe to receive Alison Avigayil’s Peace Dispatches via email.

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“Lynch”, “Attack” and “Massacre” – Shooting Down Words in International Waters

Words

The first post I wrote after I heard the news that 10 activists had been killed and several soldiers wounded on the flotilla headed for Gaza, was about how the media uses language to describe conflict. The headlines on the television, radio and web were all so drastically different. The words being used too accusatory too quick.

Everyone, from the IDF and traditional media, to independent journalists, bloggers and commentators must think critically about the words they are using. These are the words that will forever be found on the web, will be carried by friends, co-workers and family members and written into our collective histories.

Here is a roundup of other journalists calling us to be wise with words:

Sources

It is also critical that we look at sources. Currently, the majority of raw (or trimmed) video circulating online, is coming from the Israeli Defense Force itself (they learned about YouTube during the last war in Gaza). While some journalists are waiting to be deported in Ben-Gurion airport, according to Reporters Without Borders another 60 – 100 journalists that were on the flotillas are still being held by the Israeli army.

Reporters Without Borders has also learned that the Al Jazeera crew that was aboard the flotilla, including correspondent Abbas Nasser and cameraman Isaam Zaatar, was expelled yesterday.

Reporters Without Borders is aware of 16 journalists being held at Be’er Scheva detention centre. They are Svetoslav Ivanov and Valentin Vassilev of Bulgaria’s BTV, Muna Shester of the Kuwait News Agency, Talat Hussain of Aaj TV, Paul McGeough and Kate Geraghty of the Sydney Morning Herald, Mario Damolin of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, David Segarra of teleSUR, Ayse Sarioglu of Taraf, Murat Palavar and Hakan Albayrak of Yeni Safak, Sümeyye Ertekin, Ümit Sönmez and Ersin Esen of TVNET and Ashwad Ismail and Samsul Kamal Abdul Latip of Astro Awani.

In addition, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, “Othman Battiri, a senior producer at Al-Jazeera who was on board the Mavi Marmara and released on Tuesday, told CPJ that soldiers confiscated Al-Jazeera’s cameras, tapes, satellite phones, and mobile phones.” However, one video was released by Al Jazeera’s journalists before they were censored and several accounts from Freedom Flotilla activists who are in Jordon now are starting to surface.

With this flood of information, we must choose our words wisely, check our sources twice and support the release of all journalists, video tapes, cellphones and cameras in hand.

Journalists are increasingly being censored in Israel — making independent reporting more essential than ever before. You can help “break the blockade,” if you will, by supporting independent journalism now. Contribute one time or become a monthly subscriber. Feel free to contact Alison Avigayil for further details.

Also, feel free to join the lively, peaceful conversation here, on facebook or subscribe to receive Alison Avigayil’s Peace Dispatches via email.

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Demonstrations for and against Israel, the IDF and Turkey in Tel Aviv following Flotilla Incident

Demonstrators at the Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv, Israel

Two demonstrations were held in Tel Aviv today in response to the confrontation between the Free Gaza flotilla and the Israeli Navy in international waters, which left between ten to nineteen people dead and no more than ten Israeli soldiers injured.

The first demonstration was held at the Ministry of Defense and called for Jews and Arabs to stand together against the IDF and Israeli government’s actions. The second demonstration was held at the Turkish Embassy at 7:30 pm against the “attack from Turkey, the harming of IDF soldiers, latest mission to try to assist Hamas, the terrorist organization, under the umbrellas of “humanitarian aid.”’ According to several attendees, both demonstrations were spontaneously organized in response to the incident through telephone, email, facebook and Twitter.

Demonstrators in protest pin at the Ministry of Defense, Tel Aviv, Israel

The demonstration at the Ministry of Defense started at 7:00 pm and lasted several hours, drawing between 800 – 1000 demonstrators who opposed the IDF’s response and approximately 50 demonstrators who supported the IDF’s use of force. The demonstration was organized by several notable left wing organizations including Women for Peace, Rabbis for Human Rights, Gush Shalom and Anarchists Against the Wall among others. Many of the demonstrators had attended the recent protests against the eviction of Palestinian-Israelis from their homes in the Arab village of Sheik Jarrah in East Jerusalem.

Roni Hirsch, an twenty-seven year old Israeli citizen from Tel Aviv, called for Ehud Barak, the Minister of Defense, to resign and for Israel to be prosecuted for war crimes in international court. Several demonstrators also expressed their fear that the military actions against the flotilla will escalated the situation between Israelis and Palestinians even further.

“Now we will have to face the prospect of a third intifada and continued military conflicts …” said Arik Segev, an Israeli television writer from Tel Aviv. He attended the demonstration because he wanted the world to know that even though “the international media often presents Israelis as warmongers, the majority of Israelis just want peace.”

Segev, who identifies as a Zionist stated, “the best way to preserve Israel and Zionism is to support a Palestinian state.”

Someone at the window the Turkish embassy looking down at demonstrators, Tel Aviv, Israel

Like others at the demonstration, Mayan Dar, a thirty year old Israeli from Tel Aviv, noted how confusing the information about the incident was in the the Israeli media. She also said, “it doesn’t matter that the IDF made it clear before hand that they will use force if necessary…it was a brutal act of violence in international waters…and is a sign that the government should have ended the siege [on Gaza] long ago.”

The IDF left the Gaza Strip in 2005 as a part of Israel’s unilateral disengaged plan and along with Egypt continue to blockade the strip until today.

One demonstrator, Adar (who wished not to disclose her last name), traveled to Ashdod with Women for Peace, Gush Shalom, Rabbis for Human Rights and other notable leftist organizations earlier in the day to greet the flotillas. Witnesses of the demonstration in Ashdod said that between 250 – 300 people gathered in support of the flotilla.

According to Adar, one bus from Tel Aviv was stopped and held at a checkpoint at the entrance to Ashdod, where a representative of the army told the demonstrators on the bus that it was a closed military zone. The army eventually let the demonstrators on the bus join the demonstration in the port.

Adar called for the Israeli government to end the siege on Gaza and to end the use of “collective punishment”. She also said that she wants Israeli civilians to stop being apathetic to the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and hopes that this incident will raise awareness about the continued siege, which she thinks many Israelis consider a “non-issue”.

Demonstrators at the Turkish embassy, Tel Aviv, Israel

Yoni Yosef, a thirty year old resident of Shimon Ha’Tzadik, North Jerusalem neighborhood that borders Sheik Jarra, and spokesperson for the Shimon Ha’Tzadik Association–a settlers organization that operates in East Jerusalem–attended both the demonstration in front of the Ministry of Defense and the demonstration at the Turkish Embassy. He said he came to oppose the left-wing demonstrators and support the IDF’s actions.

“Arabs just want to finish Israel by killing all the Jews…Everyone that is a threat to Israel has to be executed, and I’m not shy to say that.” he said. “All the Jews who are on the left want to be spies to the Arab world and Hamas. The Nazis had the same plans as the Arabs, to kill the Jews when they can.”

The demonstration in front of the Turkish embassy started at 7:30 pm and was organized by several right-wing organizations, including Im Tirzu and MyIsrael.org among others. Between 800 – 1000 demonstrators who supported the IDF gathered at the Embassy to protest Turkey for several hours. Many of the demonstrators waved Israeli flags, wore t-shirts distributed by MyIsrael.org and sung the Israeli national anthem and “Am Yisrael Chai”. No demonstrators protesting the IDF’s response or sympathizing with Turkey were seen.

Shaul Goldstein, the mayor of Gush Etzion, also attended the demonstration at the embassy in order to respond to the anti-semitism that he says the incident encouraged around the world. “[The IDF] used a necessary amount of force. I know two of the soldiers who were on the boat. They don’t want to hurt people…but [the people on the boat] did not want to act peacefully, they came with masks and weapons–they chose not to be peaceful. This proves that they were trying to hide something.”

Joshua Kahn, an Jewish-American-Israeli who recently finished serving in a combat unit of the IDF, came to join the demonstration. “The video from the IDF proves that the peace activists provoked a confrontation [of this level].  They came with knives, bars and Molotov cocktails… seven Israeli soldiers were injured.” he said. “If the activists really cared about the cargo, they would have followed the IDF’s orders…”

“The army needs to investigate the situation. The truth is not so clear and in the end the activists got what they wanted.”

“Nice that religious and secular people are coming together. The nation needs to come together in this time of crisis.”

Alison Avigayil Ramer is a freelance journalist, entrepreneur and communications consultant who specializes in using the internet to organize peaceful political dialogue and engagement. Please be aware that this article is the result of a full day of work–four hours of research and five hours of writing and reporting. If you wish to donate to Alison’s reporting efforts you can send a donation to her through paypal.

Roundup: At least 10 dead as Israel Intercepts Aid Flotilla headed to Gaza

As fast as I possibly could, I created a round-up of headlines and video from across the web. While events like this certainly feel urgent, at moments like this it is more important than ever for journalists, editors, PR professionals and bloggers to carefully choosing the words they use to describe what has happened.

At this moment, the only conclusion I can come to is that this is tragic for all parties involved — the number of people dead or what prompted this deadly situation is unclear. What is meaning of the word “provoke“, “attack” and “defend” ?

World

Israeli commandos storm aid flotilla; 10 killed – Associated Press

“Ten dead as Israel storms aid ships” – Reuters

“Israel Attacks Gaza Aid Fleet” – Al Jazeera

“Israeli Forces Storm Gaza” – Guardian

American Media

“Israel Blames Activists for Fatal Ship Raid” – Fox News

“Assault likely to rebound on Israel” – Financial Times

“At Least 10 Killed as Israel Intercepts Aid Flotilla” – NYTimes

“Protesters on ship bound for Gaza killed in rioting” – Jewish Telegraphic Agency

Israeli Media

“Barak: Gaza flotilla responsible for 15 activists killed” – Jerusalem Post

“…10 activists killed in clashes with navy” – Haaretz English

Haaretz Hebrew – “Defense Minister Ehud Barak: The organizers are responsible”- שר הביטחון, אהוד ברק: האחריות מוטלת על המארגנים

Ynet – “This is how it happened: A planned ambush on the Marines”  – כך זה קרה: מארב מתוכנן לשייטת על  ה”מרמרה

Government

“IDF Forces Met With Pre-Planned Violence When Attempting to Board Flotilla” – Israeli Defense Forces

The White House has not yet released a statement.

“Press Release Regarding the Use of Force by the Israeli Defense Forces Against the Humanitarian Aid Fleet to Gaza” – Republic of Turkey Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Analysis

A Special Place in Hell / The Second Gaza War: Israel lost at sea – Bradley Burston, Haaretz

A race to contain the damage – David Horowitz, Jerusalem Post

“Israeli attack on Gaza aid ship” – Richard Spencer, Telegraph

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