Jewish responses to the Israeli massacre of international humanitarian aid workers

Two responses from Jewish sources who share everyone else’s horror at Israeli action on preventing aid reaching Gaza, shooting and wounding international aid workers indiscriminately.
1.J Street
John —
Like many of you, I am still absorbing the terrible news from the waters off of Israel and Gaza this morning.
Going into this weekend, we knew there were few good outcomes likely from the latest effort to break the blockade of the Gaza Strip in the face of Israel’s determination to prevent it.
But none of us expected the tragedy we woke up to this morning, a day on which we honor the memory of U.S. soldiers who served and died in prior wars.
As one of our supporters wrote to me this morning, “how many more people need to die, how many more children deprived of a father or mother, before this conflict is settled and people can live in peace and security, while devoting their energy to building better lives?”
With details still emerging and propaganda spinning furiously on all sides – one simple truth stands clear to us: today’s events are the natural outgrowth of the larger, ongoing failure to resolve this conflict peacefully through a two-state solution.
It is up to our leaders to turn this crisis into a real push to end the conflict between the Israelis and Palestinians now – otherwise events will spin even further out of control. We will have more to say on how in the days ahead.
In the meantime, feel free to share your thoughts with us by responding directly to this message and we’ll put together a webpage for feedback and reactions from the J Street community later on in the week.
Our statement reacting to the day’s events follows:
J Street is deeply shocked and saddened by reports that at least 10 civilians have been killed and dozens more wounded (including Israeli soldiers) this morning as Israel intercepted a naval convoy bringing humanitarian supplies and construction materials to the Gaza Strip.
We express our condolences to the families of those killed and we wish the injured a full and speedy recovery. We hope that leaders on all sides will take immediate steps to ensure that this incident does not escalate into a broader round of violence – in Israel, in Gaza, or in the region.
There will undoubtedly be calls in the coming days for a UN investigation into today’s events. A credible, independent commission appointed by the Israeli government should provide the world with a full and complete report into the causes and circumstances surrounding the day’s events and establish responsibility for the violence and bloodshed.
This shocking outcome of an effort to bring humanitarian relief to the people of Gaza is in part a consequence of the ongoing, counterproductive Israeli blockade of Gaza. J Street has been and continues to be opposed to the blockade – believing that there are better ways to ensure Israel’s security and to prevent weapons smuggling than a complete closure of the Gaza Strip.
We do not know yet what the impact of today’s incident will be on the just-restarted peace process, on Israel’s relations with the international community, or on the health of Arab-Jewish relations within Israel itself.
We do know, however, that today is one more nail in the coffin for hopes of ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict peacefully and diplomatically and for preserving Israel’s Jewish and democratic character. We urge President Obama and other international and regional leaders to take today’s terrible news as an opportunity to engage even more forcefully in immediate efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
We’ll be in touch,
– Jeremy
Jeremy Ben-Ami
J Street
May 31, 2010
Jewish Voice for Peace
condemns Israel’s attack and killing of members of the Freedom Flotilla aiming to bring much needed aid to the besieged Gaza Strip.
Before the flotilla was attacked, Yigal Palmor, an Israeli foreign ministry spokesman, said,
“If we let them throw egg at us, we appear stupid with egg on our face. If we try to prevent them by force, we appear as brutes.”
Israel has more than egg on its face. Israel has blood on its hands. At least 10 passengers have been killed by Israel and about 30 wounded in international waters. This is just another deadly escalation of Israel’s harsh repression of nonviolent protests against the occupation, paid with American tax-dollars.
The White House has stated that it “deeply regrets the loss of life and injuries sustained, and is currently working to understand the circumstances surrounding this tragedy.”
This is not enough.
President Obama should call for an immediate lifting of the siege of Gaza. He should support an international and impartial investigation into the tragic killing of civilians in a humanitarian mission. And he should suspend military aid to Israel until he can assure the American public that our aid is not used to commit similar abuses.
Join local activist in your area… Here are some happening right now…
(Additional protests here:
NY: 3 PM TODAY, Times Square. Assemble at 47th St. and 7th Ave. Look for the JVP banner to join our contingent.
SAN FRANCISCO: 12noon TODAY. Israeli Consulate (456 Montgomery St.) and march to Union Square, Memorial Day. Please be there! Bring your own sign! 1 pm at Market and Powell.
DC: 3pm TODAY: Assemble at the Israeli Embassy, 3514 International Drive NW (Van Ness Metro Stop), moving to the White House at 5pm.
SEATTLE: 1:00 pm TODAY. 5th Avenue and Broad St, Seattle Center near the Experience Music Project.
MIAMI: 5pm-7pm TODAY, at Torch of Friendship (Downtown)
Dear John,
When I got the news about Israel’s armed attack on the Gaza Flotilla at 2:30 am on the morning of May 31, I felt sick. I immediately called a dear friend in Jerusalem, one of the most committed activists I know. Across the ocean, I could hear in her voice that she was in tears. “The worst part about it, ” she said, “is that nothing will change.”
“No,” I replied. “I can’t believe that can be true. Things have to change.”
“Well,” she said, “then it is up to you, the internationals.”
She’s right. It is up to us, the internationals both here in the United States and abroad.
That is why I want you to send a message to US President Obama if you live outside of the United States, and to Obama and the US Congress if you are a U.S. resident, demanding the immediate release of the detained human rights activists, an end to the siege on Gaza, an impartial investigation of the attack on the flotilla, and a suspension of US aid until Israel abides by international law.
We still don’t know a lot about what happened to the flotilla of boats carrying some 700 human rights activists from around the world and over 10 tons of humanitarian aid to Gaza– Israel has kept the activists under a near total media blackout while sharing only its implausible narrative of events. What we do know is that Israeli commandos boarded a ship in international waters and killed at least ten activists, injuring dozens of others.
Israel insists that highly trained commandos were forced to lethally fire on activists, creating a new definition of self-defense. In the first alternative accounts to appear, an Israeli Knesset member and an Al Jazeera cameraman who were on board the ship at the time each described something different, a scene of chaos with civilians waving white flags and commandos using stun guns, rubber bullets and tear gas. Regardless of what actually happened when armed soldiers landed, Israel’s wanton killing of civilians is unacceptable.
We still don’t know the names of those who were killed or injured, or where they are from. And we don’t know the whereabouts or well-being of more than 400 activists still being held by Israel.
These deaths, and the attacks on the boats, have hit all of us around the world particularly hard. There were people from 40 different countries on board the ships, including Israelis and Palestinians. Israel sent armed commandos onto a civilian ship in international waters, a brazenly illegal act to enforce Israel’s nearly 3-year illegal siege of Gaza – a siege that has left 1.5 million men, women and children living like prisoners on substandard diets, deprived of the simplest things like potato chips, musical instruments, and toys. The flotilla wasn’t just about this one delivery of aid. It was about the right of Palestinians to have sea, land and air routes to the rest of the world and for the need to end the blockade.
I know that there comes a point in one’s life when you simply have to take a stand. You cannot sit by silently and watch ongoing and wholly unjustified destruction of life, tacitly supported by governments around the world, and simply do nothing.
The flotilla was filled with people just like you and me who finally decided it was time to risk life and limb to take a stand, to break through those prison walls, and we thank them for it.
Now, as citizens of the world, we owe it to the people of Palestine, and the people of Israel who want to live in peace, and the brave people on that flotilla, to build the movement to make Israel accountable to international law and standards of simple human decency – especially because our governments have failed us.
The response of the U.S. government thus far has been wholly inadequate, with a mild statement “regretting the loss of life,” without assigning any blame for the fiasco, let alone applying any sanctions for Israel’s acts. Please, join me in telling President Obama and Congress enough is enough
. US taxpayer dollars fund Israel’s occupation, and together with wall to wall uncritical diplomatic support have sent the message that any Israeli action, no matter how foolhardy, will be backed by the full might of the United States.
It’s time for that to stop.
We must also continue to build the already massive global people’s movement for justice, which has undeniably found its greatest impact in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement. This is about all of the ways, big and small, people can bypass their often ineffective governments to use economic pressure to make the Israeli government accountable to international law. After launching our energetic support for campus efforts to divest from the occupation, Jewish Voice for Peace will let you know soon about our own divestment campaign to help bring pressure on Israel to reach a just solution.
It is time for the United States, as Israel’s closest ally and most powerful nation in the world, to stop unconditional support for the Israeli government.Doing so will protect Israelis and Palestinians, American citizens, and internationals alike.
Click here to demand that President Obama and Congress call for an immediate lifting of the siege of Gaza,

an international and impartial investigation into the tragic killing of civilians in a humanitarian mission, and the suspension of military aid to Israel until he can assure the American public that our aid is not used to commit similar abuses.
Rebecca Vilkomerson,
Executive Director,
Jewish Voice for Peace

3. Gush Shalom: this night a crime was perpetrated in the middle of the
sea, by order of the government of Israel and the IDF Command
A warlike attack against aid ships and deadly shooting at peace and
humanitarian aid activists
It is a crazy thing that only a government that crossed all red lines can do
“Only a crazy government that has lost all restraint and all
connection to reality could something like that – consider ships
carrying humanitarian aid and peace activists from around the world as
an enemy and send massive military force to international waters to
attack them, shoot and kill.
“Noone in the world will believe the lies and excuses which the
government and army spokesmen come up with,” said former Knesset
member Uri Avnery of the Gush Shalom movement. Gush Shalom activists
together with activists of other organizations are to depart at 11:00
from Tel Aviv to protest in front of the prepared detention facility
where the international peace activists will be brought.
Greta Berlin, the spokeswoman for the flotilla organizers located in
Cyprus, told Gush Shalom activists that the Israeli commandos landed
by helicopter on the boats and immediately opened fire.
This is a day of disgrace to the State of Israel, a day of anxiety in
which we discover that our future was entrusted to a bunch of
trigger-happy people without any responsibility. This day is a day of
disgrace and madness and stupidity without limit, the day the Israeli
government took care to blacken the name of the country in the world,
adding convincing evidence of aggressiveness and brutality to Israel’s
already bad international image, discouraging and distancing the few
remaining friends.
Indeed, today a provocation took place off the coast of Gaza – but the
provocateurs were not the peace activists invited by the Palestinians
and seeking to reach Gaza. The provocation was carried out by Navy
ships commandos at the bidding of the Israeli government, blocking the
way of the aid boats and using deadly force.
It is time to lift the siege on the Gaza Strip, which causes severe
suffering to its residents. Today the Israeli government ripped the
mask of its face with its own hands and exposed the fact that Israel
did not “disengage” from Gaza. Real disengagement from the area does
not go together with blocking the access to it or sending soldiers to
shoot and kill and wound those who try to get there.
The State of Israel promised in the Oslo Accords 17 years ago to
enable and encourage the establishment of a deep water port in Gaza,
through which Palestinians could import and export freely to develop
their economy. It’s time to realize this commitment and open the Port
of Gaza. Only after the Gaza port will be open to free and undisturbed
movement, just like the Ashdod and Haifa ports, will Israel really
have disengaged from the Gaza Strip. Until then, the world will
continue – and rightly so – to consider the Gaza Strip under Israeli
occupation and the State of Israel as responsible for the fate of the
people living there.
Contact: Uri Avnery 0505-306449
Adam Keller, Gush Shalom spokesman 03-5565804 or 054-2340749
Coalition Against the Siege Yacov – 050-5733276, 09-7670801, Sebastian
Greta Berlin spokeswoman for flotilla organizers
הודעה לעיתונות 31.5.2010
4. Noam Chomsky

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