How And Why I got 'On-Board' With The FREEDOM FLOTILLA To Gaza
By Eileen Fleming
03 June, 2010
I am an American without a drop of Arab blood within me and my org has been an endorsing org of the FREEDOM FLOTILLA, since I learned about it on the final day of the 27th annual American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee's Washington, D.C. Conference on 10 June 2007.
On the first day of the conference, I learned that among the invited speakers who did NOT show or send a representative were Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the Republican National Committee.
But, 86 year old, walker-bound Congressman Paul Findley, a moderate Republican blew me away when he addressed the luncheon crowd:
"I was here for the first convention 27 years ago and I still have a fire in my belly for the civil and human rights of Arabs. It is time to speak openly and honestly about Israel.
"But, in American politics, that is still forbidden.”
An audible gasp was heard from the crowd when he next remarked, "Israel is why we invaded Iraq! Were it not for Israel's influence and hard lobbying, we would not have invaded Iraq. It is time to understand that American complicity and undivided support of Israel was a main factor that led to 9/11.
"Neither Hussein or Lebanon were any threat to America, but Israel used USA donated ammunitions to slaughter 18,000 innocent civilians!
"President Bush's claim that 9/11 happened because they hate our freedom is absolute rubbish!
"The attack was payback for what we have done by our blind allegiance to and complicity with Israel in regards to Palestine and Lebanon.
"Only Israel pressured America to wage war in Iraq and only Israel is pressuring America to invade Iran.
"Pity that we cannot seem to shed our fear of Israel. We are afraid to speak out on Capitol Hill, for fear of losing the next election. They are more like trained poodles jumping through hoops than leaders!
"Why this fear? How did we get here?
"Forty years ago to this day, June 8, 1967 the change occurred, the floodgates opened and money poured into Israel as never before.
"When President Johnson heard about the U.S.S. Liberty being attacked by Israel he ordered the rescue fighter planes to return to the deck. The rescue mission was aborted and the survivors have said they heard LBJ's voice tell Admiral Giest, 'Get those planes back on deck. I don't care if the ship sinks, I will not embarrass Israel.'
"LBJ also threatened to court martial anyone who reported what had happened. Johnson accepted Israel's false claim of “mistaken identity” and he knew it was a lie. That is when the change began and Israel learned they could get away with murder of U.S.A. soldiers."
[LEARN MORE: LIBERTY means Freedom and "Never Give Up!" Read more...
The final speakers at the 27th annual ADC conference inspired a wave of hope amongst the SRO crowd in the Empire Room at the Omni Shoreham Hotel, when they announced the birth of the FREE GAZA Movement and their plan to sail ten boats through international waters to bring food, water, medicine directly to the people of Gaza.
Irish American dissident, [not a Jew, but had once been married to one] Greta Berlin, a proud member on the Jewish S.H.I.I.T.E. List- of over 7,000 Jews who have been labeled as "self-hating and Israel-threatening Ediots" by radical fundamentalist Zionists hatemongers-informed the crowd:
"We have been invited by the Palestinian Red Crescent Society of Gaza to go to Gaza. The people of Gaza expect us and will come out in their boats to meet us. We will fish together."
Co-visionary of End the Siege in Gaza, Dr. Paul Larudee, a former Fulbright-Hayes lecturer and piano tuner who had scheduled twenty piano tuning appointments throughout the West Bank during the summer of 2006, but spent two weeks in a Ben Gurion jail cell before Israel deported him, further ignited the crowd:
"So far we have raised the money for two boats, but we want to send ten. So far eighty people have committed to ship themselves to Gaza through international waters; we are not going through Israel.
"Israel claims Gaza is unoccupied and so, we are going to unoccupied territory, as soon as we raise another $150,000.00 for six more boats. We will embark in Cypress and disembark in Gaza. This can play out in many ways; we may get blown out of the water, we may get towed away, but we will remain nonviolent and exercise the sovereignty of international waters, for we are not going through Israel.
"We will not allow the Coast Guard to enter onto our boats; we will demonstrate nonviolently our solidarity with the residents of Gaza who invited us. We are taking food, water, medicine, but the issue is solidarity with the people of Gaza. If our rights are denied, we will remain nonviolent."
At that time in 2007, there were already scores of writers, teachers, medics, musicians, secretaries, parents, grandparents, lawyers, students, activists, actors, playwrights, politicians, singer-songwriters, web designers, international training consultants, and a Hollywood film industry worker and an aviator on board with the movement. They lived in South Africa, Australia, America, England, Israel and Palestine and all supported creative nonviolent action.
Despite the humanitarian crisis at that time in 2007, the Israeli Government, who under international law is responsible for the welfare and needs of those they occupy continued and still does persist to control air, water and land borders that imprisons 1.5 million human beings-70% of whom are children under the age of 18.
"Missing from Israel's security framing is the very fact of occupation, which Israel both denies exists...and that 'security' requires Israel control over the entire country...rendering impossible a just peace based on human rights, international law, reconciliation." - America-Israeli, Professor and Co-Founder of Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions, Jeff Halper, “Obstacles to Peace: A Reframing of the Palestinian Israeli Conflict” Page 1.
Just before Greta and Paul spoke, Sara Roy, a senior research scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at Harvard University and political economist who has worked in Gaza since 1985 and had just returned from there informed the crowd:
"In 1948 we began with emergency food aid and we are still there. There is nothing new in Gaza, just more acute and the internal breakdown due to restrictions and 527 physical barriers and cantonizations make it impossible for Palestinian businessmen to move their goods and they have been forced to hire Israelis as middle men who are able to transport Palestinian goods over the 535 miles of roads that Palestinians have been denied access to. The few Palestinians who are able to access these roads have become a privileged class.
"This new class is also dependent on international donors who are not building new structures to challenge the occupation and this has resulted in the humanitarization of Palestine; donors and Israelis are not treating them as human beings with political rights.
"This has caused fragmentation, isolation, cantonization which will soon become worse. The physical impediments, roadblocks and required permits have caused most of the people to give up, for their efforts to move their goods increases their costs so much and since there is no guarantee that their efforts will result in them being able to transport their wares, many have given up.
"In Gaza there are literally streets under Hamas control and within a few blocks other streets under Fatah control. The neighborhoods have become so fragmented that my taxi driver kept changing his radio station and flag on his windshield so we could travel from block to block.
"There is a great sense that the people are robbed of their space and time and this has resulted in a de-development of the human being. The impact of the divisions in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank means the people can no longer carry the mantle of nationalism, they are so drained by just trying to get through the day there is no time for politics, so the mantle of nationalism is now being upheld by Arabs in Israel.
"Soon Palestinians will be required to obtain visas to move from one canton to the other and visas will also soon be issued at Ben Gurion for any foreigners wishing to enter the West Bank.
"The issue is no longer occupation but sovereign control...Palestinians have become interlopers in their own country. All vestiges of Palestinian presence is being destroyed by Israel."
Immediately after that prelude the conference crowd united with over 5,000 truth, justice and peace activists who had converged on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol for a nonviolent demonstration against the Israeli occupation on a hot humid Sunday afternoon to declare:
"40 years of Israel's occupation are enough!"
Mitchell Plitnick, Director of Education and Policy for Jewish Voice for Peace and also a member of the S.H.I.I.T.E. List; exclaimed,
"Forty years is not just enough; it is too much!"
Another truth telling secular Jew on the S.H.I.I.T.E. List, Phyllis Bennis, who is also a journalist, author, scholar and Director of The New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies whose specialty is the Middle East and United Nations issues whom assumed the role of M.C. at the demonstration stated:
"This day is historic and has global importance. While we say no to US support for Israeli occupation, our counterparts from all around the world are saying the same message to their own governments. From South Africa to Brazil, from Australia to Canada, from Britain to Malaysia, Ramallah to Tel-Aviv, today is a day of international action. The world says no to occupation and we say no to U.S. support of occupations...There are now 535 checkpoints and there are 535 members of Congress. Perhaps those checkpoints should be named for them."
Another member of the S.H.I.I.T.E. List, Rabbi Jeremy Milgrom, Co-founder and co-director of Clergy for Peace, an Israeli/Palestinian interfaith initiative of Christians, Muslims, and Jews working for justice and peace in the Middle East, who also completed three years of active duty and sixteen years of reserve duty in the Israeli Army- the last eight as a conscientious objector-and who worked with Rabbis for Human Rights informed the activists:
"Land theft devours its inhabitants, it devours its children. The majority of Israelis want the occupation to end. We have problems with our governments, not with people. We rabbis must empower those rabbis who are not here to speak to their congregations of American Jews. We Jewish people are small in number, but a few committed people can make a difference and we can make this happen. The occupation will end when we free Jewish hearts from fear and liberate their minds of propaganda."
The diversity of America was well represented in D.C. on 10 June 2007. We were individuals and members of over 300 sponsoring organizations who marked the 40th Anniversary of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza and East Jerusalem.
We came to raise our voice and demand that both Israel and America uphold International Law and Universal and inalienable human rights for the four million Palestinians who have been denied them.
Some media turned out, but the largest establishment forces manned the roof-tops of the Capitol and were well equipped by the Industrial Military Complex.
My mind was liberated over Gaza in 2006 when I read an article by Father Manuel, the parish priest at the Latin Church and school in Gaza who informed the world four years ago:
"Gaza cannot sleep! The people are suffering unbelievably. They are hungry, thirsty, have no electricity or clean water. They are suffering constant bombardments and sonic booms from low flying aircraft. They need food: bread and water. Children and babies are hungry...people have no money to buy food. The price of food has doubled and tripled due to the situation. We cannot drink water from the ground here as it is salty and not hygienic. People must buy water to drink. They have no income, no opportunities to get food and water from outside and no opportunities to secure money inside of Gaza. They have no hope.
"Without electricity children are afraid. No light at night. No oil or candles...Thirsty children are crying, afraid and desperate...Many children have been violently thrown from their beds at night from the sonic booms. Many arms and legs have been broken. These planes fly low over Gaza and then reach the speed of sound. This shakes the ground and creates shock waves like an earthquake that causes people to be thrown from their bed. I, myself weigh 120 kilos and was almost thrown from my bed due to the shock wave produced by a low flying jet that made a sonic boom.
"Gaza cannot sleep...the cries of hungry children, the sullen faces of broken men and women who are just sitting in their hungry emptiness with no light, no hope, no love. These actions are War Crimes!"
On April 3, 2009 the President of the United Nations Human Rights Council commissioned a fact-finding mission "to investigate all violations of international human rights law and international humanitarian law that might have been committed at any time in the context of the military operations that were conducted in Gaza during the period from 27 December 2008 and 18 January 2009, whether before, during or after."
The Council appointed the Jewish Justice Richard Goldstone, a South African Constitutional Court judge and the former chief prosecutor of the United Nations International Criminal Tribunals for Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia.
Justice Goldstone issued the 575-page report on September 29, 2009 and the Goldstone Report accused both Israel and Hamas of war crimes perpetuated during the 22 days of assault on Gaza which began two days after last Christmas day, when the Israeli military launched Operation Cast Lead; a full-scale attack on Gaza that killed 13 Israelis and 1,400 Palestinians.
Over 5,000 Palestinians were injured, 400,000 were left without running water, 4,000 homes were destroyed, rendering tens of thousands who are still homeless because of Israel's targeted attacks upon them, their schools, hospitals, streets, water wells, sewage system, farms, police stations and UN buildings.
The 22 days of Israel's attack on the people of Gaza was enabled by US-supplied weapons and we the people of the US who pay taxes provide over $3 billion annually to Israel although Israel has consistently misused U.S. weapons in violation of America's Arms Export Control and Foreign Assistance Acts.
America is the worlds largest arms supplier to Israel and under a Bush negotiated deal with Israel, we the people who pay taxes in America will also provide another $30 billion in military aid to Israel over the next decade.
During the 22 days of Israeli assault on Gaza, "Washington provided F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions, including white phosphorus and DIME. The weapons required for the Israeli assault was decided upon in June 2008, and the transfer of 1,000 bunker-buster GPS-guided Small Diameter Guided Bomb Units 39 (GBU-39) were approved by Congress in September. The GBU 39 bombs were delivered to Israel in November (prior to any claims of Hamas cease fire violation!) for use in the initial air raids on Gaza. 
In a 71-page report released March 25, 2009, by Human Rights Watch, Israel's repeated firing of US-made white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes.
"Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," provides eye witness accounts of the devastating effects that white phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza.
"Human Rights Watch researchers found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended in January.
"Militaries officially use white phosphorus to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It has also been used as an incendiary weapon, though such use constitutes a war crime.
“In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died." [Ibid]
During the 22 days of attack on Gaza, the UN Security Council, Amnesty International, International Red Cross, and global voices of protest rose up and demanded a ceasefire, but both houses of Congress overwhelmingly endorsed resolutions to support a continuation of Israel's so called "self defense."
What Israel did under the cover of night in International waters on America's Memorial Day 2010, to Citizens of the World with a Conscience who physically got on board the FREEDOM FLOTILLA, must be the final straw that breaks America's 'special relationship' with the Israel.
When will Obama get it, that it is in America's best interests to: End the Siege on Gaza, End the Occupation of Palestine and Honor and uphold Equal Human Rights for ALL!
Eileen Fleming, Founder of WeAreWideAwake.org
A Feature Correspondent for Arabisto.com
Staff Member of Salem-news.com
Author of "Keep Hope Alive" and "Memoirs of a Nice Irish American 'Girl's' Life in Occupied Territory"
Producer "30 Minutes with Vanunu" and "13 Minutes with Vanunu"