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June 2011, Week 4

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How Could I Not Go? - An American Jew Sails to Gaza; Alice
Walker video; State Dept Tells Flotilla Passengers Not to Go


1. How Could I Not Go? - An American Jew Sails to Gaza (Jane
Hirschmann)
2. New video statement from US BOAT TO GAZA passenger Alice
Walker
3. U.S. State Dep't to American flotilla passengers: Drop
dead

==========

How Could I Not Go?
An American Jew Sails to Gaza

By Jane Hirschmann

CounterPunch

June 20, 2011

http://www.counterpunch.org/hirschmann06202011.html

People often ask me why I am part of a team to organize a
U.S. Boat to Gaza that will be sailing this month with the
next International Flotilla to break the siege of Gaza. They
often make clear they are asking because I am an American
Jew, whose family survived the Holocaust with some surviving
family members ending up in Israel. And my only answer is:
How could I not?

My parents raised me with stories about what happened in
Germany and their family's escape. I came to see that Israel
represented for them a safe haven should there be another
attempt at annihilating Jews. And yet, at the same time,
they worried it was not so safe a haven given the animosity
and physical threats and violence in the area.

But no one ever mentioned the displacement of 750,000 Arabs
that was the result of the creation of Israel. I vaguely
knew there were people living there, but I was never curious
about who these "others" were. All I took away from my
family's history and the atrocities endured was that this
should never happen again to anyone, anywhere.

Growing up in the '60s, I became active in opposition to the
war in Vietnam, the anti-apartheid struggle and the women's
rights movement and later became involved in opposing the
wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. As a social worker, I was
focused on social justice issues but never questioned the
relationship between the U.S. and Israel and their policies
regarding Palestinians.

Then came the war on Gaza and a real political awakening for
me. Operation Cast Lead and the Goldstone Report were the
catalysts. In November 2008, the ceasefire ended: Israeli
soldiers broke it in a cross-border raid killing six members
of Hamas and, in response, rockets were launched into
Israel. Israel, fortified with American weaponry, attacked
the people of Gaza. Approximately 1,400 Palestinians, mostly
civilians, were killed compared to 13 Israelis. Gaza was
pulverized. Judge Richard Goldstone and his team did a
thorough report of the causalities on both sides. There was
no doubt that the people of Gaza were disproportionally
affected.

Right after the invasion in Gaza I realized I could no
longer remain silent. I became one of the organizers of a
group called Jews Say No! in New York City. We wanted to
speak out and to make clear that the Israeli government did
not speak in our name as they claimed. I began reading about
the occupation, settlements in the West Bank and East
Jerusalem, the building of the separation wall, Jewish-only
streets for Israeli settlers, special identity papers for
Palestinian citizens of Israel (one step away from wearing a
yellow star) and the other indignities endured by the people
of Palestine on a daily basis. And I saw the total collusion
by the U.S. government - its unconditional support no matter
what the Israeli government did, including giving them 30
billion dollars over a 10-year period for weaponry (F16s,
Apache helicopters, white phosphorous, Caterpillar
bulldozers used to destroy homes in Bedouin encampments)
used ruthlessly against the Palestinians. This was
intolerable for me.

I understand the fears and frustrations of Israelis being
fired upon by rockets and the resultant deaths and injuries.
But what about the thousands of Palestinians being killed
and whose homes, schools, hospitals, farms, mills, factories
and infrastructure are being destroyed? What about a people
living under a brutal occupation who are being denied the
right to live with dignity in their own homeland?

The siege and blockade of Gaza continue. The Israeli
government controls the land, sea and air of this small area
(25 miles long and roughly six miles wide) where 1.6 million
people live. There has been no movement in recent years
unless Israel allowed it. (Egypt's partial opening of the
Rafah gate to human traffic, though not to commerce, is a
positive sign if it is allowed to grow). Most people cannot
travel in or out of Gaza because of continuing restrictions,
61 percent of the population is food insecure, the
unemployment rate is around 45 percent, one of the highest
in the world, and exports remain banned with the exception
of limited items like strawberries and carnations for
European markets. Gaza is called an open-air prison even by
England's Prime Minister, David Cameron.

Given all this, I can remain silent no longer. Every day
Palestinians are confronting the Israeli government at the
wall, at check points, at demolition sites. They risk their
lives. Like the Freedom Rides our boat is sailing to call
attention to the illegal occupation and siege of Gaza.

My humanity and my Jewishness - Jewish history - demand my
being part of an organizing effort to end the inhumane
treatment of the Palestinians. The U.S. Boat, called The
Audacity of Hope, will sail in late June to Gaza as part of
the Freedom Flotilla 2-Stay Human. We will be approximately
50 individuals from across the U.S. committed to non-
violence, human rights and freedom and justice for the
Palestinian people.

To date, tens of thousands of individuals and over 80
organizations have endorsed this U.S. campaign and each day
more sign on to travel with us in name. We travel in peace
for justice, and I am proud to be part of this international
effort.

[Jane Hirschmann is a member of Jews Say No! in New York
City and one of the national organizers of the U.S. Boat to
Gaza. Hirschmann has been active in anti-war efforts for the
past four decades. She is a psychotherapist and the co-
author of three books. More information about the The
Audacity of Hope is available at www.ustogaza.org ]

==========

New video statement from US BOAT TO GAZA passenger Alice
Walker

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7W_mzsjYelQ&feature=BFa&list=PL5F70010FC2A94EB9&index=17

June 22, 2011

0:32

Passenger Alice Walker talks about why she is going aboard
the US Boat to Gaza with the Stay Human Flotilla at the end
of the month.

Bio: Alice Walker is an internationally celebrated author,
poet and activist whose books include seven novels, four
collections of short stories, four children's books, and
volumes of essays and poetry. She's best known for The Color
Purple, the 1983 novel for which she won the Pulitzer
Prize-the first African American woman to win the Pulitzer
Prize in Fiction-and the National Book Award. The award-
winning novel served as the inspiration for Steven
Spielberg's 1985 film and was adapted for the stage, opening
at New York City's Broadway Theatre in 2005, and capturing a
Tony Award for best leading actress in a musical in
2006.Walker has written many additional best sellers; among
them, Possessing the Secret of Joy (1992), which detailed
the devastating effects of female genital mutilation and led
to the 1993 documentary "Warrior Marks," a collaboration
with the British-Indian filmmaker Pratibha Parmar, and We
are the Ones We Have Been Waiting For: Inner Light in a Time
of Darkness. (2009). Her work has been translated into more
than two dozen languages, and her books have sold more than
fifteen million copies. Along with the Pulitzer Prize and
the National Book Award, Walker's awards and fellowships
include a Guggenheim Fellowship and a residency at Yaddo. In
2006, she was honored as one of the inaugural inductees into
the California Hall of Fame. In 2007, her archives were
opened to the public at Emory University. In 2010 she
presented the key note address at The 11th Annual Steve Biko
Lecture at the University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South
Africa, and was awarded the Lennon/Ono Peace Grant in
Reykjavik, Iceland. (Walker donated this latter award to an
orphanage for the children of AIDS victims in East Africa.)

Walker's most recent works are: Overcoming Speechlessness: A
Poet Encounters the Horror in Rwanda, Eastern Congo and
Palestine/Israel; Hard Times Require Furious Dancing; The
World Has Changed: Conversations with Alice Walker; and The
Chicken Chronicles: Sitting With the Angels Who Have
Returned With My Memories, a Memoir. She also writes
regularly on her blog site at www.alicewalkersgarden.com

Walker has been an activist all of her adult life, and
believes that learning to extend the range of our compassion
is activity and work available to all. She is a staunch
defender not only of human rights, but of the rights of all
living beings. She is one of the world's most prolific
writers, yet tirelessly continues to travel the world to
literally stand on the side of the poor, and the
economically, spiritually and politically oppressed. She
also stands, however, on the side of the revolutionaries,
teachers and leaders who seek change and transformation of
the world. Upon returning from Gaza in 2008, Walker said,
"Going to Gaza was our opportunity to remind the people of
Gaza and ourselves that we belong to the same world: the
world where grief is not only acknowledged, but shared;
where we see injustice and call it by its name; where we see
suffering and know the one who stands and sees is also
harmed, but not nearly so much as the one who stands and
sees and says and does nothing."

==========

U.S. State Dep't to American flotilla passengers: Drop dead

by Philip Weiss 

Mondoweiss - The War of Ideas in the Middle East
June 22, 2011

http://mondoweiss.net/2011/06/u-s-state-dept-to-american-flotilla-passengers-drop-dead.html

The State Department has issued a new travel advisory for
Gaza warning Americans not to go there by sea because Israel
might try and kill them. With impunity.

Three dozen Americans are now preparing to travel to Gaza by
sea on the flotilla. But the State Department warning says:

    The security environment within Gaza, including its
    border with Egypt and its seacoast, is dangerous and
    volatile. U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to
    Gaza by any means, including via sea. Previous attempts
    to enter Gaza by sea have been stopped by Israeli naval
    vessels and resulted in the injury, death, arrest, and
    deportation of U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens
    participating in any effort to reach Gaza by sea should
    understand that they may face arrest, prosecution, and
    deportation by the Government of Israel... On May 31,
    2010, nine people were killed, including one U.S.
    citizen, in such an attempt.

That U.S. citizen was of course Furkan Dogan, a 19 year old
permanent resident of Turkey who witnesses said was shot
repeatedly as he attempted to photograph the commandos on
the Mavi Marmara. Ali Gharib says, "if you try to travel to
Gaza, Israel might kill you." And:

    During his recent visit to Washington, Israeli Prime
    Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked that "America has
    no better friend than Israel." As Matthew Yglesias
    pointed out , the statement is "absurd." This seems
    borne out by a travel warning that tells citizens not to
    try to get to Gaza by sea so that they don't risk
    getting shot by their country's "best friend."

Oh and here's Tablet echoing the State Department:
"Supporters of the blockade should be untroubled by the
prospect of Israel enforcing it with precision and
compassion." Huh?

==========

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