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July 2011, Week 1

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Fri, 1 Jul 2011 21:25:15 -0400
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[To view a Democracy Now! live report from The Audacity
of Hope, see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7zZ4xoX0rbM
-- moderator.]

Non-Violent Protest Works - That's Why 'The Audacity of
Hope' Is Being Held Up in Greece

By Mark Weisbrot 
Aljazeera 
July 1, 2011

http://english.aljazeera.net/indepth/opinion/2011/06/201163017129356947.html

One of the most important foreign policy statements of
the year came from Ehud Barak, Israel's Defense
Minister, on May 16.  Responding to non-violent protests
at Israeli borders and military posts,  he said, "The
Palestinians' transition from terrorism and suicide
bombings to deliberately unarmed mass demonstrations is
a transition that will present us with difficult
challenges."

Indeed it does, and not just to the Israeli government,
but to every government that seeks to impose its will by
force and violence on subject populations. The Arab
Spring has inspired people who hunger for freedom and
justice throughout the world, and non-violent protests
have toppled the dictatorships of Egypt and Tunisia -
historic events that would have been thought impossible
less than a year ago.

The comparative advantage of the rich and powerful
against non-violent resistance has significantly
diminished in recent years. Although they still hold the
upper hand with the vast majority of the world's
communications resources, their monopoly over messaging
has been shattered by the Internet, social media, and
other new forms of competition. Just as the Arab
dictatorships have seen their power eroded to varying
degrees by new media competition, so too have the more
powerful governments and their corporate allies. It has
become much more difficult to hide and cover-up
massacres, or to keep people from empathizing with the
victims of state violence.

Now comes the Freedom Flotilla, a group of 10 boats
bound for the Gaza Strip, which is suffering under a
blockade by the Israeli government.  Its residents made
the mistake of voting "the wrong way" in 2006 for a
government that Israel and the United States didn't
want. So they are being subjected to collective
punishment, which is a violation of the Fourth Geneva
Convention - that is the expressed opinion of a broad
range of civil society, including the International Red
Cross, Oxfam, and Amnesty International, who are not
known for taking political positions on international
disputes.

A recent UN report found that in the fifth year of the
Israeli blockade, unemployment in Gaza is at 45.2%, one
of the highest rates in the world. "It is hard to
understand . policy which deliberately impoverishes so
many and condemns hundreds of thousands of potentially
productive people to a life of destitution," said a UN
official.

The most significant loosening of the blockade came
after last year's Freedom Flotilla made its journey.
This shows the promise of non-violent resistance but
also its dangers: the Israeli military killed nine
people on that trip.

Unfortunately, the U.S. State Department has increased
the risk to the men and women aboard the American ship
in this year's flotilla - aptly named "The Audacity of
Hope" - by issuing a travel warning to them rather than
announcing any concern for their safety. This is a very
disturbing abdication of the U.S. government's
responsibility to protect its citizens abroad. Of
course, it is not without precedent: Ronald Reagan's
first Secretary of State Alexander Haig responded to the
December 1980 rape and murder of four American
churchwomen by U.S.-backed Salvadoran soldiers by
speculating that "the nuns may have run through a
roadblock or may have accidentally been perceived to
have been doing so, and there may have been an exchange
of fire."  Ohio Representative Dennis Kucinich and five
other Members of Congress have written to Secretary of
State Clinton urging her to work to protect the
Americans' safety, but so far there has been no
response.

Now the Greek government is holding up The Audacity of
Hope, docked in Athens, since Thursday - under
allegations that it is "not seaworthy" and must be
inspected. Is this a result of U.S. pressure? Washington
has enormous leverage over the Greek government right
now, since it has the predominant say in the
International Monetary Fund (IMF). Together with the
European Union, the IMF will be deciding for quite some
time whether Greece will get the loans necessary to
maintain its debt payments, or will lapse into default.

Greece should let the flotilla go and deliver its
letters of support to the people of Gaza, which is
perfectly legal and threatens no citizen anywhere. And
the U.S. government should declare its concern for the
safety of these brave peacemakers, who like Martin
Luther King Jr. and his fellow civil rights activists
are putting their bodies on the line for justice and
humanity.

___________________________________________

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